Publishers could block used PS4 games online, Sony says

Sony has backtracked somewhat on its promise that'll you be able to play second-hand games on the PlayStation 4.

Sony has backtracked somewhat on its promise that'll you be able to play second-hand games on the PlayStation 4, saying in a statement sent to CNET, "Similar to PS3, we will not dictate the online used game strategy (the ability to play used games online) of our publishing partners."

It added that its current Online Pass (also known as PS Pass) system, which means only the first buyer of a specific game gets to use its online features for free, would not be continuing for its self-published, first-party games.

That sounds similar to Microsoft's assertion that Microsoft Studios games won't be controlled in terms of second-hand sales (although there are some minor restrictions on sharing), but other publishers can do what they like.

"PS4 will not have any gating restrictions for used disc-based games," Sony says. "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."

That's the key difference. So you'll able to sell, lend or trade any PS4 game from any publisher, but third-party publishers (such as EA or Ubisoft) may choose to restrict certain online features or charge you extra, and Sony says it can't stop that. Microsoft, on the other hand, is giving publishers tools to charge you money to use a second-hand game.

"If a third-party publisher wants to do something server-side with their own content, there's not much we can do about that," Sony's Jim Ryan told Eurogamer.

EA recently dropped its Online Pass system after widespread grumbling from gamers that it merely penalised legitimate customers.

"Basically what we're providing with PlayStation 4 is the same environment that existed with PlayStation 3," Ryan added, "and that model -- that Online Pass model -- hasn't been particularly successful, either in terms of the impact on the relationship between the publisher and their consumers or, from what we understand, in financial terms."

Sony's consumer-friendly approach and the PS4's low price tag have won widespread acclaim from gamers, and has left Microsoft with a huge battle to win back its fans. But if the big publishers choose to use the next generation of consoles as the point where they step up their online requirements, it doesn't seem as though Microsoft or Sony will stop them.

Then the only differences between the two systems will be price, the few exclusives either has, and Microsoft's silly online requirement. It would be embarrassing, but Microsoft could do a U-turn on that, and drop the price too. If it did, would it persuade you to consider the Xbox One? Have a bash in the comments, or on our neutral Facebook page.

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