There's (Hopefully) Still a Future for Used, Rented and Borrowed Games

Oh boy. Once people had got past the news we'd heard about the next PlayStation Orbis' specs and release date, they got real angry about the fact it's likely to include some measure of "anti-used games" technology. Just like the next Xbox console.

That subsequently led to people thinking that they'll never be able to rent a video game again, or even borrow one from their friends.

I think people need to take a deep breath and calm down for a second.

While we're of course dealing with rumours, and what's about to follow is pure speculation based on those (and some common sense), it doesn't hurt to consider that for every negative possibility inherent in these console's new features, there's maybe - just maybe - a perfectly sensible explanation for it all.

Firstly, while I said this in my original report, I'll reiterate it here again: in all likelihood this won't stop you from playing a pre-owned video game. From what we've heard, all it's likely to do is limit the player's experience on an "unregistered" copy of a game. Maybe that'll mean it has no multiplayer, maybe it'll mean you can only play half the game, who knows.

Whatever form the limiting of content takes, there's only one reason they'd do that and not lock you out entirely: so you could then be sold the ability to re-register, or unlock the rest of the game.

What this is doing, in effect, is transferring the responsibility of the current system of "online passes" - which just about every major publisher now engages in - from the third-party companies to the platform holder itself, making it a far more streamlined and predictable system than the haphazard approach to the idea we have now.

This would keep publishers - and remember, Sony is itself a major publisher - happy, as if it's not cutting down on used sales they're at least making a consistent "unlock" profit on them, while also keeping retailers like GameStop reasonably happy as it's allowing them to continue to trade in games.

There's (Hopefully) Still a Future for Used, Rented and Borrowed Games

It would be bad news for consumers, especially if a $10 (I'm pulling that number out of my ass) unlock fee didn't in turn result in cheaper used games prices, but look at it this way: if one side in this used games argument wins outright, you'll be really screwed. A little screwed somewhere in the middle ground between both parties sounds like the best of a choice of raw deals.

As for renting games, I see a potential solution for that being even easier. We've heard that retail games will, in addition to being made available on Blu-Ray, will also be purchasable from the PlayStation Network. Now, at the moment, the technology already exists on the PSN to effectively "rent" games. It's what you're doing with PlayStation Plus titles; cease to subscribe and you can't play those games any more.

So I see no problem in renting. Rental outlets could get codes or vouchers that unlock a finite period of play, the codes go out with your game, you can rent games as you do now.

Finally, as far as borrowing games goes...well, that might be a little harder. The only way I can see to get around the Orbis' supposed "locked to one PSN account" policy is that Sony would allow you to sign in on other people's machines. So if you took a game to a friend's house you could login to your account, play the game on it there, then revert back when you leave. Sort of like how you can sign into your gamertag on a friend's Xbox 360 console now for multiplayer (though I admit there might be security problems in allowing you to enter password information inherent to your account's security on someone else's machine).

Now, I could be totally wrong on all of this. Consumers could be about to get screwed like we've never been screwed before. But given the internet's propensity to lunge immediately for the worst-case scenario and then fixate upon it, I figured some slightly less drastic possibilities inherent in "anti-used games technology" were worth pointing out!

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Those concerned with what this could mean for things like trade-in deals and rentals, check this out.