PlayStation 4 DRM
The PS4 is only “DRM-free” in the sense that Sony has chosen to not yet activate the incredibly extensive DRM capabilities built into it.
Sony’s patent filings reveal that the company has developed a new offline DRM system based on integrating a near-field communications security chip into every single game disc. This chip allows the disc to be permanently hardware locked to the first owner’s console ID (not PSN account), allowing for completely offline DRM lockout of any other user.
The PS4 can play used games only because Sony allows it, and only for as long as Sony chooses to allow it. The moment Sony decides they don’t want to allow used games anymore, all they have to do is arm the DRM that is already there, and BOOM. Every PS4 will refuse to play any disc for which you are not the original owner logged by the onboard security chip.
As for Sony proclaiming that it won’t require always-on Internet for DRM verification? The joke’s on you — Sony’s only saying that because they’ve invented a way to implement absolute DRM without Internet.
While this is possibly true, the alternative is a system which we KNOW won’t play used games without some extra fee - if even at all. Without more information about the chip and its real capabilities I can’t even say for sure it’s a threat. That chip could literally just be there to keep people from pirating games.
Given that most of the screaming over the XBox One comes from theoretical capabilities as opposed to anything Microsoft has actually announced, it is only fair that the PlayStation 4 should be judged on the basis of what its hardware is designed to do. Especially since Sony has a much, much darker history than Microsoft — remember the DRM rootkit scandal?
The PlayStation 4’s DRM capability is much more restrictive than the XBox One’s DRM capability. The XBox One’s DRM is tied to your XBox Live account, allowing games to be shared from a primary account to secondary accounts on the same XBox console and also allowing games to be played by the primary account on other consoles. The PlayStation 4’s DRM is tied to the internal per-account ID on the console, meaning it is hard-locked to one account on one console only — if Sony enables the lockout, you literally have to buy a new copy of the game for every single member of the household and you can’t play on any console but your own.
As for the restrictions on used games, they work exactly like PC games on a digital distribution service such as Steam or Origin, which I consider perfectly reasonable. There’s no inherent right to play used games, after all — console gamers may be accustomed to that luxury, but it’s not something they’re morally entitled to.
I’m not upset over the Xbox One’s theoretical abilities. I’m upset over what they have flat out said. I have been a loyal Xbox owner since 2001. I beta tested Xbox Live, and have been a subscriber for nearly 10 years (with one account change when I upgraded to the 360 in 2006.) I’ve given more of my money in subscription fees to Microsoft than I have spent on my World of Warcraft account (which was nearly 2 grand). I am not a Sony fangirl by any means, but I will at least admit the mistakes Microsoft has made.
To say that Sony has a darker history concerning DRM is denial in the purest sense. Consoles aside, Microsoft helped to pioneer the DRM movement in the PC community. To say “The PlayStation 4’s DRM is tied to the internal per-account ID on the console, meaning it is hard-locked to one account on one console only — if Sony enables the lockout, you literally have to buy a new copy of the game for every single member of the household and you can’t play on any console but your own.” is ludicrous. No console developer, no matter how greedy, would commit consumer suicide by forcing you to buy a copy of the game for everyone in your house. How would same-console multiplayer even function? That is pure conjecture.
That being said, yes used games are something that console gamers aren’t guaranteed, but it’s one of the points of owning a console. It has been a defining line between console gaming and PC gaming since literally the dawn of the NES. The ability to rent a game before you buy it, to see if you enjoy it enough to continue playing it, rather than suffer through “buyer’s remorse.” Not only that, but the game rental industry (not even counting used game retailers like Gamestop) is another source of income for console developers. For Family Video or Redbox to rent a game, they have to pay for the license to do so with each title. Unless console manufacturers have become that arrogant, they NEED that additional income, especially since most consoles themselves sell for a loss. The only place they make money is through the games.
I just want to point out that me defending Sony means that hell hath frozen over. It’s time to admit that Microsoft is trying to turn their gaming console into something else. Something else that consumers clearly don’t want. Anyone else is waiting for the last breaths of a dying giant.