After rumors about the PlayStation 4 not supporting used games flared up last March many gaming personalities chimed in with their support or disapproval. Things went quiet shortly thereafter, but it seems the discussion is about to heat up again. Sony has registered a new patent that can prevent or entirely eliminate the usage of second-hand games.
What at first seems to be described as a way to simply track a game as it's played on different consoles ends with a rather abrupt statement:
"Consider, for example, a case where used is a game package 200 distributed in the second-hand market. Then the ID of reproduction device for the game disk 210 differs from the legitimate use device ID stored in the use permission tag 220, so that the game disk can be reproduced in a mode which is predetermined for those bought and sold in the second-hand market. Also, for example, a content key may be supplied to the reproduction device 130 and the encrypted game AP may be decrypted using the content key only if the reproduction device ID matches a legitimate use device ID. Hence, use of game APs bought and sold in the second-hand market can be eliminated."
Essentially, this patent is able to track game usage by associating a tag built into every game with either a console or user account. Thus, if a different console or account tries to play said game, it can either be treated as a new, unpurchased product or blocked entirely.
Imagine putting a used copy of the Mass Effect Garrus spin-off prequel into your PlayStation 4 and instead of being prompted to purchase an online pass, you're prompted to buy the entire game. Sony's patent allows them to see that your used game is associated with some other dude's account. This dude is still playing the game, because he was able to redownload it digitally without a disk, but you... well, you got robbed.
Look forward to more exciting rumors and mysteries going into 2013 as we hear more and more about how our next gen consoles will take us into the future of gaming.