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Think the PS4 will be best friends with used games? Not so fast

Think the PS4 will be best friends with used games? Not so fast

Rumors have been floating around about the possibility that the PlayStation 4 system would somehow limit the use of used games from being played on the system. This issue was put to rest when Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell asked Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida about used games. Bramwell stated that when someone bought a physical game, they did so thinking that disc would be able to be resold. “Yes. That's the general expectation by consumers,” Yoshida agreed. “They purchase physical form, they want to use it everywhere, right? So that's my expectation.” Yoshida paused and conferred with PR before answering the question about whether games could be resold. “So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?” he finally answered.

Revisiting the question

We revisited the topic during today’s roundtable with Yoshida, and his answers raised more questions about what Sony has planned for used games. He stated that used games would play on the system, but there seemed to be more to the story that he didn't discuss. “That’s my expectation. That a PS4 game will work on hardware,” he stated. “That’s my expectation.” The awkward sentence was likely due to Yoshida speaking in his second language, but he seemed to be indicating that used games will work on the PS4. It was an odd exchange, and he took a moment to find the words, and plan what he was going to say. Another reporter asked again: Used games will work on PS4, correct? “We have to really name our system and services for that, to be able to explain more about it,” Yoshida told the room. Let's unpack what was being said here, and how it was said. You'll excuse me if I begin to sound like I'm repeating “Back, and to the left” while watching the Zapruder film, but I do think it's worth digging into this issue. Yoshida used the word “expectation” in both conversations to describe the use of used games on the PlayStation 4. After conferring with PR, he then flatly stated that used games will work on the console. When asked about it for the second time, he again used the word “expectation,” which is much different than saying something is a sure thing. I'm expecting that my flight is going to leave on time, but I also know a lot can happen between the present and that actually taking place. When the point was asked again, Yoshida stated that they'd have to talk more about the system and the services for it in order explain how used games will be played. There's something going on.

The takeaway

I don't think this is a solved issue, and I'm uncomfortable saying that used games are going to work on the PlayStation 4 in the same way they do on current-gen systems. It could be true that you can sell your old games, or buy used games, but Sony has the possibility of introducing any number of services or technologies that would allow them to profit from the exchange. Maybe you need to buy an online pass-style update for the game to allow you to play used games. The online passes included in games are already meant to profit from the sale of second-hand games, and if Sony is simply going to make that process console-wide then Yoshida was safe in saying that used games will play. There could also be any number of wrinkles that Sony could put into the purchase and sale of used games, and everything about Yoshida's answers and reactions indicate that there may be more to the story. Or it's possible I'm simply seeing a conspiracy where there is none. But I was in the room during this exchange, and it did seem like Yoshida was trying to pick his words very carefully. The executive was very comfortable speaking off the top of his head and joking with reporters during the conversation, although he did ask for one or two questions to be repeated or clarified. This was the one time he seemed to take a step back and struggle with how to phrase his answer. The headlines are all telling us not to worry, that the PS4 will not block used games. That could be an accurate statement, but I'm not quite so willing to say that everything is fine, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was more to the PlayStation 4's relationship with used games that Sony isn't quite willing to discuss yet, or that they've finalized. Update: This is the statement Sony gave Game Informer, in a story also released today: “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.” So it sounds like there is something going on with PlayStation 4 and used games, and we'll learn more later in the year. Our reporting contains an image from this GameSpot story