Ubisoft calls time on second-hand game sales

Ubisoft has decided that it has had enough of the thriving market for second-hand games, and will be providing a new service it calls UPlay Passport in an attempt to squeeze some money out of those who don't buy their games new.

UPlay Passport takes the form of a one-use code that will be provided with every new Ubisoft game. Whoever purchases that game can use the code to unlock extra content and features, getting the full gaming experience.

Those who choose to save money by buying a copy on the second-hand market, however, will be left with a crippled copy unless they shell out for a fresh code at a cost of £7.99. That cost comes on top of the cost of buying the game, of course.

While Ubisoft has confirmed that it will be giving consumers fair warning by featuring a UPlay Passport logo on all games to include the 'feature' - starting with Driver: San Francisco, the first game to include Passport - it is likely to be wording any accompanying text carefully in order for Passport to be seen as a blessing rather than a curse.

Ubisoft's decision to block second-hand sales by cutting off access to certain parts of the game comes in the same month that details of a similar programme appear from Sony. Dubbed PSN Pass, Sony's implementation is near-identical to Ubisoft's and has the same result: those buying the game second-hand will either have to shell out for a new code or live with a crippled copy of the game.

The PSN Pass and UPlay Passport programmes are clear evidence that the games industry sees second-user sales as a threat at least as great as that of piracy. It can be argued that the threat is even greater: while not every user who pirates a game would have bought it, every second-hand buyer has made the conscious decision to spend money that the publisher never gets to see.

So far, Ubisoft hasn't addressed how its UPlay Passport could affect the game rental market.