brave new world of console

New game console rumors are piling up -- and they're painting a pretty bleak picture. Is the future of console gaming something out of an Orwell novel?

By Jeff Bakalar, CNET

The next evolution of home console gaming is shaping up like a dystopian Philip K. Dick short story. Refueled by the latest PlayStation 4 rumor, signs continue to point to a future in which games are no longer really yours to own, instead just a virtual right to play -- just as long as you're connected to the Internet, have a unique ownership ID, and aren't playing a used copy.

This isn't the first we've heard of this either; a January report says Microsoft's next machine will attempt to thwart used games too.

Of course Sony hasn't confirmed any of these supposedly leaked details, but is it really out of the realm of possibility? The Vita is a prime example of the company's piracy paranoia. It's locked down and vacuum-sealed, made painfully apparent by how tedious it is doing trivial things like transferring files between device and computer. The reason for all the red tape? To combat piracy.

Given this recent display of aggressive protection, reading a rumor about a PlayStation 4 that's just as meticulously locked down isn't too hard to swallow.

Think this worst-case scenario is that far off? Think again. It's already starting to happen. Every EA game sold for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 now has anti-used game components built in. New games ship with one-time use codes that give the original owner access to online game play and features. If you try and play one of these titles without the code on a different console or gamertag, it'll cost you extra to get online.

The most infamous anti-used game controversy came with the release of last year's Batman: Arkham City. Players who bought the game used missed out on the entire Catwoman campaign as it required a unique code upon playing the game for the first time. Game reseller GameStop eventually made good on the incident by including codes for those who bought the game pre-owned.