Sony guns for second-hand market with PSN Pass

Sony has apparently declared war on the second-hand games market with plans to introduce the PSN Pass, a one-time-use code bundled with new games that unlocks the full experience.

The existence of the PSN Pass was uncovered when German gaming site Konsolenreff published images of a bundle box packing a slim-type PlayStation 3, a copy of Resistance 3, and a new logo for the as-yet unannounced PSN Pass.

While Sony has been keeping quiet on the matter - and has not yet responded to our request for comment - an unnamed spokesperson has provided details of the scheme to IGN, and the news isn't good for anyone who buys or sells games on the second-hand market.

"We are always evaluating new programmes for our online offering, and starting with Resistance 3 this September, we will be instituting a network pass programme for PS3 games with online capabilities," the Sony representative confirmed. "This programme will be game-specific. Games that are a part of this programme will include a single-use registration code that grants the account holder redeeming the code full on-line access for that title.

"This is an important initiative as it allows us to accelerate our commitment to enhancing premium on-line services across our first party game portfolio."

While Sony's language talks of enhancements, the evidence at hand shows the opposite: those who buy a title second hand will end up with a crippled copy featuring limited multiplayer content. Depending on the implementation, buyers may even find that they are unable to play their games on-line at all.

Sony's move comes as the latest in an apparent crackdown on second-hand games sales. With new titles costing upwards of £40, the habit of trading up - where a nearly-new game is played to completion, traded for cash or shop credit, and a new game purchased to replace it - is commonplace. Many high-street retailers such as Game even offer trade-in specials where new-release titles can be had for as little as 99p when certain other titles are traded in against it.

If the PSN Pass becomes commonplace, those kind of offers won't be around for long. It has been suggested that Sony will make the PSN Pass purchasable separate from the game - allowing second-hand buyers to 'upgrade' to a fully-functioning copy while providing Sony with some income from a market that currently offers it nothing - but with no pricing suggested, that might not be a popular option.

Sony's move will also harm the rental market. Many gamers who can't afford full-price titles - or who suffer from a short attention span - opt in to services like LoveFilm, which charges a set monthly fee for unlimited game rentals.

In launching the PSN Pass, Sony risks the ire of its fans: the PlayStation 3's somewhat poor on-line functionality compared to rival Microsoft's Xbox 360 has traditionally been excused thanks to Sony offering the service for free where Microsoft charges, but if fans see the PSN Pass as an attempt to charge by the backdoor they're unlikely to stay fans for long.