We double-checked whether Sony is being cute with their DRM plans and might actually be matching Xbox One in allowing publishers to block used games—despite not blocking used games themselves.
We asked: Can third-party publishers restrict used games on PS4 even if Sony won't?
A Sony PR person, who told us they'd triple-check, told us this morning: “Our used game position for PS4 is exactly the same as PS3, which publishers and consumers broadly support today. In fact, all publishers we’ve spoken to are in agreement with our position.”
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Publishers can still do online passes to restrict multiplayer, though Sony has dropped that for their own games.
We'd love Sony to flat-out say publishers can or can't block the playing of used games themselves, but it seems that this answer is the best we're getting right now.
Take a tour through Sony's statements on PS4 used game DRM here.
UPDATE: Some readers have wondered what could possibly be vague about Sony's statement. Some have pointed to Sony's dropping of its online pass for first-party games as proof that the PS4 can't possibly permit third-parties from restricting used games.
So let's elaborate on this a bit.
Sony has said that the PS4 won't restrict used games. They're talking at a system level.
Just yesterday, John Koller, v.p. of hardware marketing at Sony, told me that third-parties could still do online passes, but that Sony won't. "Online pass would be up to a publisher if they wanted to continue it," he said.
In an e-mail we were then sent this Sony statement:
The Online Pass program for PlayStation first-party games will not continue on PlayStation 4. Similar to PS3, we will not dictate the online used game strategy (the ability to play used games online) of its publishing partners. As announced last night, PS4 will not have any gating restrictions for used disc-based games. When a gamer buys a PS4 disc they have right to use that copy of the game, so they can trade-in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend, or keep it forever.
We are in the age of ultra-confusing Xbox One policy statements, so we're looking extra-closely at any expressed policies from these companies.
So I e-mailed Sony PR the following note:
"Oh, ok. So we're still a tiny bit unclear. Could third parties independently block used games sales even if Sony isn't blocking them on PS4? Or is that option off the table? I understand what you guys are saying about charging for online, but we're trying to be clear on whether publishers can still opt to restrict sales of their used games on PS4, even if Sony isn't restricting them."
And that's the request, e-mailed yesterday after my interview with Koller, that Sony PR wanted to triple-check the answer. This morning, they e-mailed this response:
Our used game position for PS4 is exactly the same as PS3, which publishers and consumers broadly support today. In fact, all publishers we’ve spoken to are in agreement with our position.
We just want them to say that third-parties can or cannot restrict used games. We want to have that iron-clad for readers. And that's why we keep asking.
UPDATE 2: Here's Sony Computer Entertainment of America boss Jack Tretton to AllThingsD, making it sound like a done deal that all disc-based games, first and third party, will work even when they're used, for anyone:
Tretton: "Any game that is made for PS4 that is physical goods, whether first-party or third-party, can go into a PS4 and play regardless of where it came from. The first player will play it, no problem, the second player will play it, no problem. What I was referring to was the online proposition."
So maybe there could still be a loophole that publishers could try to restrict them? Even if there is, Sony's setting a pretty clear example of what they think is right on PS4 and how it should work by default, which is to not restrict used disc games. We may fear the worst, but there's good reason here to hope for the best.