Even though Sony’s recent scare of the used game patent a few short days ago got people talking and speculating one way or another, the one thing that it did do is to respark the debate about used game sales and why they are so controversial.
Though I’ve been a Sony fan for a while (since the PS1 when Nintendo decided to be too cartridge-loving), it doesn’t mean I approve of everything they do, and I do call out everyone that deserves to be called out. It should be no shock, then, that I think Sony’s recent issues with consumer relations have been lackluster. Say what you want about the Geohot case, but Sony knew they were in danger of losing that case, so they made sure Hotz didn’t have the resources to fight that case by dragging him all over the US to have to defend himself (and people on this site praised and rooted on Sony for doing that…funny how that works, huh?). No matter what you think of Homebrew and its community, thing is that Sony had said one thing about wanting to support the community, then turned around and did the exact opposite, closing the door on every single attempt made by the faithful that would actually accomplish that goal. We know all about the OtherOS issues and that class action lawsuit that was filed. Again, same deal with PR! And then came the PSN outage in 2011. How many times did we ask for at least a status report? But nothing doing from Sony.
So it’s no surprise that people are a bit squeamish to let Sony have the benefit of the doubt here, even if they are big fans of the company and would support them under normal circumstances. They, along with the likes of EA and THQ, have implemented the Online Passes, and Sony had thought about this technology back when the PS3 was still on its way. Add in the notion that the used game market has come under fire more than it’s ever been, and you got something that you should know will get some people crying foul.
Whether or not Sony even implements it (doesn’t look likely because it’d be corporate suicide), it has once again brought stores like Gamestop back into the forefront. Their stock dropped at the result of the patent news. That has to say something. Unlike other patents that make sure something silly is never made by anyone, this patent had some merit. It threatened to do something about a growing market that game companies hate because it gives nothing back to the developers. It’s a market that companies wish would just go away and never come back, and they have done everything to make sure that it happens. So yeah, though people may believe that we have nothing to worry about because 99 out of 100 patents are for things that never see the light of day, this is the one out of 100 that has the chance of becoming a reality simply because of what it seems to target and how hated said target is.
But why IS it hated in the first place, and why ARE we panicking to begin with? Second hand sales are a major part of the gaming industry, and it’s led by Gamestop. The business practices of Gamestop have been ridiculed for years now, and it is a laundry list of things that they have been doing. Most of the hatred that gamers have about the second hand market is not towards the used market at all, but a particular chain that is a part of said market. It’s the poster child for the market, so much so that no one thinks of another chain when they think of used games or trade ins. They probably should, but they don’t. So it’s very easy to identify Gamestop with the used game market, so much so that they don’t think any other form of the second hand market exists.
So when we ask for something to be done about the practices of one used game market chain, the game companies see this as an opportunity. We give them an inch, and they take a mile. I wish we would learn our lessons when we do this, but it happens way too many times. They do something way too draconian to deal with something that we asked them to even though the situation takes one thing that still employs consumer goodwill.
But is the used game market endangering the game industry in any way? Even with the recent fears about the existence of the market, is it something that should be feared? If you consider how long it’s been around, I would say it’s not something they should think is going to cripple the industry. Places like Babbages and EB Games (before they became Gamestop) and rental stores were around far before this generation of consoles, and yet, the game industry is continuing to thrive, generating more revenue now than ever before, and have hooked more people of more age groups and demographics than they have ever done. If the used game market was going to cripple the industry, it’s doing a really awful job (or very slow one) in doing so.
So yeah, Sony provided the scare, but it’s a patent that puzzles the mind of what it’s going to be used for, if for anything. We still don’t have any answer from the horse’s mouth (which is sort of troubling), and if it’s not going to be used for games, what will it be used for (it’s existence is reason enough to worry that it could be used for something like Blu Ray movies and that, which would be just as bad). Some fear that this is Sony shooting themselves in the foot again on the speculation that the PS4 is going to be announced soon. Others wonder why Sony would even need such a technology when there are things already in place that they have been using to make sure they get some revenue from the market they seem to hate. Whatever the deal, bottom line is that the patent did turn some heads, and not many can blame them for doing so given recent history.
Oh, and one more thing about the homebrew comment from Sony that I think is interesting. They said that in 2007 (when the PS3 first came out), and they then suddenly went back on their word and have done everything imaginable to prevent homebrew games from being played on the PS3. Didn’t Jack Trenton said they were not going to restrict used game playability on their systems? Wouldn’t the lack of staying true to their word be in play here, too? Just saying!
Oh, and don’t worry, Microsoft and Nintendo. You have become just as bad. Sony is just getting singled out because they filed the patent. Doesn’t mean the other two have been any better!