Recently there've been rumors that the next generation of Sony's console will restrict the playability of used games; when a game is first played on a Playstation Orbis console it will rewrite the coding on the disc, tying it to that console forever. If it's ever placed into another Orbis it will play only as a demo copy, unless you buy a patch from Sony.
Microsoft's next console, the X Box 720, could possibly be even more restrictive. As with the Orbis the disc will be rewritten, returning an "unreadable" error on any other 720 console it's placed in. Other rumors say that Microsoft is planning on doing away with their disc drive entirely and offering every game as download only.
At the risk of bringing a lot of grief on myself, I have to admit that there could be some good to come if they do this. Of course, there could also be a lot of bad, and it might not matter anyway. With that in mind I give you another installment of a feature I'm calling Knight Argues Ineffectually With Himself And Somehow Loses.
Why this could be good:
In the old days you had to know what a game was like before you bought it, because once you bought it that was it. You might get lucky and sell it at a yard sale or something, but aside from that the only way you could get rid of the game is to give it away or throw it away.
The ability to trade a game back in to Game Stop or Replay has made consumers less discerning. There's just no need for a gamer to know what they're getting before buying when you can just take it back if you don't like it. While shovelware games have been around since the Atari, now even our good games are starting to suck. Compare what's considered a good game today (Mass Effect 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) to what was considered a good game years ago (Final Fantasy 7, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) and there's no comparison. Even our best games today are released half-finished, a couple hours long at best, with key characters and plot points removed to be offered as DLC later. Developers can get away with this because consumers will buy a game without thinking, and consumers do that because if it sucks, who cares? They can take it back to Game Stop and get most of their money back guaranteed.
Not only that, but this will also lower the price of games. Not only does the game store keep 100% of the money from used games, they also take a cut from the new games too. This forces the developers to jack up the price of the new copies and is part of why we're paying 60 dollars for games. No used games means we could see the price drop back down to 40 dollars like in the old days, or maybe even less.
Why this could be bad:
Speaking of giving games away to your friends and family, some of you right now are probably wondering, do Sony and Microsoft even realize that sometimes more than one person in a household owns an X Box or Playstation, and might want to share games? Well, the answer is that they do, and as far as they're concerned if you let your brother borrow your copy of Mass Effect then you'd might as well shoot a cop and expose yourself to an underage boy too, because you're already the worst criminal in human history.
Here's a better question, though. What if your own console breaks and has to be replaced? Not only are you out the price of a new console, but now you have to re-buy all of your old games, which might cost you even more than the console, depending on how many you have.
Why it doesn't matter:
The May 2012 issue of Game Informer included a release from Microsoft saying that they will not restrict used games, and if you think about it it wouldn't make sense for them to do so anyway. It's almost certain that the first console to do so will crash and burn and the console manufacturers damn well know it. The only way any of them would be willing to take the risk is if all of them are doing it. With Nintendo already dominating console sales worldwide and having already said they won't restrict used games there's no way Microsoft and Sony will give up their share of the market.
The generation after next may very well see this restriction, but as for right now? There are too many technical, marketing, and diplomatic reasons why this is a stupid idea. Come back in ten years and maybe this will be an issue.