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Polygonal Slant | September 16, 2014

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Sony and its Playstation 4 Chose Gaming Culture Over Profit

Imad Khan

Sony | Protecting Gaming Culture

E3 has passed, and in its wake stances have been made. Clearly, each console manufacturer is taking a fundamentally different philosophical approach in dealing with games and its distribution. With Sony’s stance on used games, many gamers are lauding them as defenders of consumers and resistive to corporate greed. Now, I say we shouldn’t put Sony on such a high pedestal, they are still a company, they still have shareholders, and they are out to make a profit. As Microsoft takes its stance on potential profit and defending the industry from potential losses with the Xbox One, Sony takes a much higher stance, the protection of gaming’s fundamental culture.

Xbox One DRM | Preventing the Free Flow of Information

Imagine a world in which children aren’t allowed to trade their goods. In this world, if a kid buys a comic book, only he himself may read it. If his friend buys a music CD, only she herself can listen to it. What would become of these kids, with relatively low income, not allowed to indulge in arts that they cherish so dearly? Would we get comic writers such as Brian Michael Bendis or Scott Snyder? Would we get musicians such as Jack White or even the Beatles? This is speculative, sure, but it can’t be denied that a fundamental shift in information sharing would have led them in potentially different paths.

Growing up, my cousin and I would constantly be sharing games amongst one another. Would my passion for gaming have flourished to the point where I literally blog about its cultural impact? Maybe, maybe not, but what is certain is that my experiences with games would have been more limited. I remember one time I was on a flight, and there I met a kid with a Gameboy Advance. We decided Microsoft E3 Haloright then and there to trade games. In doing so, I was given the opportunity to experience something totally new, something that I had been wanting to experience, but couldn’t afford. It’s moments like those that Microsoft will be hindering with their Xbox One.

Granted, rumors on what the Xbox One will do in regards to sharing and used games happens to be a bit up in the air, so the entire premise of this post may be moot. Regardless, some reports state that they will block all used games, some say that they will allow ten of your friends and family to play those games, but what we do know is that things are unclear. What is certain is that Sony won’t be doing that, but what’s more surprising is that earlier this year Sony had every right and opportunity to do so.

Sony Has DRM Patents but Decides Not to Use Them.

In January, Sony patented new technology that would link discs to consoles, and then to user accounts, effectively making the use of used games impossible. They own those patents, they invested in the development of those patents, but decided not to use them. They were given that power, but in the recent episode of Podcast Beyond, Shuehei Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios said that harming this relationship with consumers and retailers was detrimental for the industry, i.e. they want to keep things the way they are. They drew a line, they went out and said it’s not worth the potential profit to prevent the next Nate Fox or Cliff Blezinski from coming up. Trading, sharing, conversing is so intrinsically part of the gaming culture that blocking it would terribly damage that. The Xbox One may potentially do just that.

Sony Showing PS4

Overall I commend Sony, they made a very tough decision, one that brought a lot of pressure from publishers, investors, as well as personal desire to be more profitable. Granted, this could have been a major marketing ploy to gain the hearts and minds of consumers, but I personally have a gut feeling that they are more earnest in their ambitions. After listening to Jack Tretton and Shuhei Yoshida, they genuinely care about the gaming culture, and know that they hold a lot of power and responsibility in shaping that culture. They have chosen to preserve it with the Playstation 4.


  1. Godston (TechGoblin)

    My take on Sony’s stance was that it was a brilliant way to keep Blu-Ray relevant. I don’t think DRM was the target, day one game digital downloads was the true threat. If that starts off strong, their Blu-Ray business will be dead in a few years. Blu-ray is still a new consumer technology. It’s Only 7 years old. They’ve invested way too much in it to loose it over night. Even though Sony announced that they will have a digital service where you’ll be able to download game purchases, they weren’t exactly clear on when the service will be available. They just said we’ll have it 2014. when exactly in 2014? We don’t know. For all we know it can happen next summer if that’s the case. That viral video of them handing that physical game to another person, says it all. My question was then, “what if my friends live in different states?” How will I lend them games? I imagined that if MS was dependent on Blu-Ray, Sony would had implemented DRM. Why, because piracy is an issue & they know it. With the way the current systems are built & that includes the PS4, modding them will be easy. Pirated games will still flourish. Sony’s Blu-Ray business, with all their partnerships makes them billions a year. Why should they care if game developers loose a few millions. Remember also, it was the PS3 that won them the HD format war. PS4 I think was meant to carry on that tradition. They were hoping that Blu-ray would age well like how Cds and DVd’s did. The digital age threatens that however. Just my thoughts on it.

    • Imad Khan

      good points, I would also look into some of the compression techniques companies are using to fit more data on a blu ray. Right now you can fit a max of 50 gigs, there are companies working on different coding algorithms to fit even more data on that same space.

      • Godston (TechGoblin)

        As a simple consumer living in a modern society, I ask, who are they building it for? Every relevant modern city in the world will design their services on the foundation of outmost convenience. It’s all digital from here on to beyond. I’m not a economist, but if you are in this kind of business, there are enough people on the planet today that are plugged in and ready to take advantage of your all digital service, ensuring you maximum profits if your services are needed. You wont think to invest HEAVILY in physical medium, which is way too expensive, to satisfy those who aren’t. I mean we build cars knowing that not everyone will be able to afford them. Sony tricked everyone and they received praise for it. On a positive note, Sony’s plan put an end to that horrendous system, that would’ve excluded gamers who don’t have access to the internet from getting an Xbox One. That was only thing that didn’t sit well with me, even though it wouldn’t affect me. Oh well, in the end it’s all about the games and I’m stoked! No matter which console we choose this holiday, we can look forward to some great experiences.

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