It's a simple question: "Can the PlayStation 4 play used games?" After nearly a year of rumors, speculation and mysterious patents indicating that Sony could limit the play of pre-owned titles on its next-generation console we're finally getting answers—answers that leave us with more questions.
Speaking to Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell following last night's console "reveal", Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida gave what seems like a concrete answer: "So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?" As Bramwell said, I think that's fine, but the roundabout path Yoshida took to get to that answer is rather puzzling. After being asked point-blank if the PlayStation 4 would block used games, Yoshida replied "Do you want us to do that?" He slides around the subject like an enigmatic mystic trying to pawn off a Mogwai, giving that seemingly definitive answer an air of uncertainty.
A Sony spokesperson speaking to Game Informer following the event gave a similarly cryptic, superficially positive answer.
"We are just now announcing the basic vision and strategy of PS4 and will have more information to share regarding used games later this year. But PlayStation has a long history of keeping its gamers happy and we won't make decisions that damage our relationship with them."
The fact that this spokesperson could not give a simple "yes" to the question indicates that issue is far from settled.
Perhaps the problem here is the question. "Can the PlayStation 4 play used games?" Yes, it can. Now what we need to know is "How does the PlayStation 4 play used games?"
Last March Kotaku reported on information from multiple sources that the PlayStation 4 would implement anti-used game technology. The most reliable of these sources suggested this technology would not block the use of used games altogether, instead letting them be played on a limited basis before requiring some sort of activation fee. Games would be linked to a specific PlayStation Network account, requiring registration before play. It's all rumor, of course, but it's definitely the sort of convoluted system that would allow for these ambiguously confirmative responses.
The only thing that's clear right now is that the issue of used games on the PlayStation 3 isn't one to be addressed by a simple yes-or-no answer. Perhaps we'll know more when Sony gets around to showing us the console we'll be somehow playing used games in.