Sony Computer Entertainment chief executive Jack Tretton is making no bones about it – the upcoming PlayStation 4 will work exactly like each of the company’s previous consoles in the way it handles secondhand games.
A report Thursday morning suggested that Mr. Tretton was retreating on that position, that Sony would only apply its policies to its own first-party releases, but third parties were free to block used games.
Mr. Tretton says he made those comments in regards to online portions of games, which some publishers already currently block in the secondhand market unless buyers pay an additional fee.
“We can’t control what the publisher does with their online rights. What I was referring to is if a person chose to, as they have historically, put something in that blocks access to the online gameplay, that is something that is within the publisher’s purview to do. We’re not going to do it,” he said.
“The best clarification is, it’s the same way it was on PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4,” he said in an interview at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “If you understand it now, then it’s exactly the same way going through.”
Mr. Tretton earned thunderous applause at Sony’s press conference Monday night when he announced that the new console, due this holiday season, will not have the same onerous restrictions on secondhand games as Microsoft’s rival Xbox One. That console will need to connect to the internet at least once a day for authentication, allow publishers to block second-hand games, and place limitations on who gamers are allowed to lend their discs to.
“In terms of physical play of discs, it doesn’t matter if it’s first-party or third-party, every game for PlayStation 4 will play not only for the original consumer,” said Mr. Tretton. “If you give it to a friend or sell it to somebody or trade it in to a retailer, the second owner will have no trouble playing it offline.
“I was saying it’s up to the publisher to determine the model, I was referring to online, but I didn’t literally say ‘online,’ so it was ‘Aha!’ ”
Sony’s policies have won favour with gamers and have placed Microsoft on the defensive. The company will either have to convince gamers that the Xbox One is superior to the PS4, or amend its policies before the November release. Microsoft will also have to contend with a cheaper rival – the PS4 will sell for $399, or $100 less than Xbox One, which at this point will come bundled with a mandatory Kinect voice and gesture sensor.
Both companies appear to have broad support from third-party publishers, who develop most of the industry’s biggest-selling games. Yet one key player – Electronic Arts – was missing from both Sony’s E3 press conference and its initial PS4 launch in February. Conversely, EA announced its biggest game at the trade show – the sci-fi shooter Titanfall – as an exclusive for the Xbox One.
Mr. Tretton denied that Sony is taking heat from publishers for its stance – in the case of EA, every one of its internally developed games, including its sports franchises, will be available for the PS4. Titanfall is an exception as EA is acting only as a publisher for developer Respawn Entertainment.
“At the end of the day, publishers realize that the consumer is king. If the consumer is happy and interested in your product and they think it’s good value, they’re going to buy it. If they’re not, you’re in trouble,” he said.
“I think the reaction we had at the press conference last night was a validation of that.”
Earlier this week, Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot suggested in an interview that rapid returns were harming the business. While he has no issue with gamers returning their purchases after a few weeks, publishers tend to lose new game sales when those trade-ins are made after only a few days.
Mr. Tretton said that if games are being returned quickly, that’s the publisher’s problem and not necessarily the consumer’s.
“If games are coming back in three days, you probably have a problem with your game whether there was a used games market or not,” he said. “People expect more than three days of enjoyment out of a software purchase if they’re paying premium price.”