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Sony Planning Serial Keys For PS3 Games? 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the keep-digging-that-hole dept.
Stoobalou writes "Rumor has it that Sony is looking to the PC games market to help solve its growing piracy problem on the PlayStation 3 — with the introduction of serial keys to its games. According to 'a very reliable source' quoted by PS3-Sense, Sony is attempting to address the recent revelation that it failed to properly secure the private signing key for its flagship console — leading to clever tinkerers producing third-party firmware that allows unofficial software and illegitimately downloaded games to run on unmodified hardware — by looking to the PC retail market for solutions. Unlike the PS3, the PC doesn't have a hardware DRM system built in to it — despite attempts by groups like the Trusted Computing Group, formerly the Trusted Computer Platform Alliance, to introduce such a thing — relying instead on software-based DRM and a surprisingly old-fashioned guarantee of a game's uniqueness: a serial key."
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Sony Planning Serial Keys For PS3 Games?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:34PM (#34955466) Journal
    From the article:

    Printed on the product's packaging, the key is a unique identifier that promises that the game is the real deal - and usually verifies itself with an online server

    So in order to play disc games you're going to require an internet connection?

    And, just as speculation, wouldn't it be possible for someone to figure out what the server is sending the gaming console as an acknowledgment code and then setup a local area network that directs the PS3's requests to that IP address to connect to your own computer and send the same key acknowledgment notification? Sure, it's more work but history has shown that just means a little more time.

    This just seems implausible and ineffective on so many levels ...

    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:36PM (#34955506) Journal

      This just seems implausible and ineffective on so many levels ...

      Unfortunately that is often not sufficient to prevent a given DRM scheme from being implemented.

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 21, 2011 @03:14PM (#34957270) Homepage Journal

        The only thing that will stop DRM is if people stop buying crap (yes CRAP) with DRM. We geezers did it in the late eighties; DRM on games disappeared entirly. Do you young folks have the balls? I'm guessing "no".

        • by dunezone (899268)
          Comparing today and 30 years ago is like comparing apples to oranges.

          I will assume you are talking about DRM on old computer software back when the home computer was not in everyone's home and those who owned them were those that were interested. The harder forms of DRM died because the market was very small and anyone who owned a computer discussed these issues with each other. Also it didn't really die it just wasn't as restrictive and abusive, for example looking up a code in the manual of your legall
    • So in order to play disc games you're going to require an internet connection?

      Yeah, and? How is this new? There routinely have been required updates that one has had to get to play new PS3 games or watch Blu-Ray movies.

    • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan&gmail,com> on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:08PM (#34956050)
      That workaround is the simplest one for DRM to avoid. Burn a public key into the game, have the game generate a random number and send it to the server, the server must respond with that random number, signed using the private key that matches the public key in the game.

      Of course, Sony doesn't seem to be competent when it comes to RSA... and there's still the fact that you should be able to modify the software to remove the DRM.
      • by lgw (121541)

        If that check were part of the game software you could just remove the check in the pirated version. If it were in hardware, you can still defeat that approach if you own the hardware that generates the random number, often by causing a temperature or voltage excursion while the random number is being generated (this is why FIPS 140 level 4 exists). Still, it would be a pretty easy way for Sony to significantly raise the bar on its copy protection without interfering with people who want to use the PS3 for

    • This just seems implausible and ineffective on so many levels ...

      This is going to be a total disaster. Console gamers have enjoyed instant on convenience, game sharing/lending/selling, and in general a concrete certainty that the disc they hold in their hands is guaranteed to work on any console without a hitch. You cannot turn around and change all that overnight without seriously ruffling feathers. Console gamers will expect these features implicitly--it's tradition!

      A recent game, Assassin's Creed:Brotherhood, came with a one time serial code which could be used to obtain downloadable content. Lots of console players simply didn't bother. The concept of typing in this alpha-numeric hieroglyph, originally designed for commercial office software, was simply alien to them. It goes beyond intelligence or capability, and enters the realm of culture and society. Console gamers simply don't work this way. This move is taking Sony into three shells [youtube.com] territory.

      This isn't going to fly. This is going to crash and burn. I foresee droves of console gamers being driven to console hacking by this move. The smart option is simply to place more focus on downloadable titles, content and network features in title, incentiveising people to stay on PSN, and not bother with all that complicated geek stuff. But when it comes to consumer relations, Sony never misses an opportunity to miss and opportunity.

      • by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Friday January 21, 2011 @03:02PM (#34957030) Homepage

        (I originally wrote this article for the PC Gaming Alliance article posted this morning... but since it's relevant to this discussion too I think I'll just copy and paste it again into this thread ;-)

        People keep harping about how useless DRM is against preventing piracy. And this is undeniably true; at best it might slow down people from copying games, but often not even that. So why, everyone wonders, do companies still insist on wasting resources, losing money, programmers, even loyal customers on a boondoggle that has been proven to be ineffective?

        Because DRM is no longer only about stopping piracy. It has oh-so-many other advantages.

        1) It kills second-hand sales.

        2) It enables forced obsolescence (kill the registration servers and you can't play the game anymore)

        3) It ensures a one-title, one machine policy. Own a lap-top AND a desktop? You can't play the game on both.

        4) Online activation requires a user to be online and transmit data to the publisher. You can use this to collect valuable demographic info (also, since the customer has to be online anyway, you might as well push advertisements down his way to earn even more cash!)

        5) It slowly pushes users to become more accepting of service-based licenses (e.g., subscription gaming) instead of single-sales.

        6) It reassures investors that the publisher is protecting their property.

        That it might have some minimal effect on slowing illegal copying of games is just an added bonus at this point. It's less a way of preventing piracy at this point as it is of maximizing the publisher's income. Don't expect it to go away anytime soon, no matter how much the customers hate it.

      • Thank God I bought a 360. Nothing like this I need to worry about there. Plus...got it hooked up to the Media Center Extender in the living room with a TV Tuner...so it plays games and I can watch TV...without inputting a code before doing anything.
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Friday January 21, 2011 @05:40PM (#34959406)

        This is going to be a total disaster. Console gamers have enjoyed instant on convenience, game sharing/lending/selling, and in general a concrete certainty that the disc they hold in their hands is guaranteed to work on any console without a hitch. You cannot turn around and change all that overnight without seriously ruffling feathers. Console gamers will expect these features implicitly--it's tradition!

        A recent game, Assassin's Creed:Brotherhood, came with a one time serial code which could be used to obtain downloadable content. Lots of console players simply didn't bother. The concept of typing in this alpha-numeric hieroglyph, originally designed for commercial office software, was simply alien to them. It goes beyond intelligence or capability, and enters the realm of culture and society. Console gamers simply don't work this way. This move is taking Sony into three shells territory.

        Actually, I credit Sony for the computerization of the console. Think about what Sony's done so far.

        After all, some PS3 games need to be installed (and it's a real installation, not like the 360's "copy to hard disk" feature. You can't play without installing). And those installers present you a nice EULA that you have to agree to.

        This is just furthering the cause - now you have to enter in your key code, just like a PC.

        My guess is that Sony's trying to make the PS4 one of their Vaio PCs - hey, PS3 gamers are used to installing games, agreeing to EULAs and entering codes, let's made the next-gen console a PC!

    • by rgviza (1303161)

      It's likely you'll only need to do this for playing online. Like you said, if the person doesn't have a connection, they'd be screwed otherwise.

      This most likely a bid to break the used game market as opposed to piracy concerns. Piracy is the excuse they will be using.

    • And, just as speculation, wouldn't it be possible for someone to figure out what the server is sending the gaming console as an acknowledgment code and then setup a local area network that directs the PS3's requests to that IP address to connect to your own computer and send the same key acknowledgment notification? Sure, it's more work but history has shown that just means a little more time.

      Sure, but even that is unnecessary. Pirates can just decrypt the executables on the disc, remove the check, and crea

    • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Friday January 21, 2011 @03:38PM (#34957616)

      wouldn't it be possible for someone to figure out what the server is sending the gaming console as an acknowledgment code and then setup a local area network that directs the PS3's requests to that IP address to connect to your own computer and send the same key acknowledgment notification?

      For gorram's sake, just buy the damn game and be done with it.

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      Well, when I installed AC2, it required me to perform a system update. So you pretty much have to have a connection anyway.

      What, should we all start demanding update disks sent to us, thus raising the costs to Sony? If I can't buy a single player game and play it without internet and without free updates, then there's some kind of collusion there.

  • Rentals? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ryanw (131814) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:36PM (#34955500)

    Lame.. what about game rentals or taking it over to a friends house to play for a few hours? NO way..

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Get a PC in a console form factor.

      Sincerely,
      The Last Remaining PC Gamer

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Don't worry, this isn't going to prevent that. It will, however, prevent you from playing the game on any console without an internet connection.

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      They don't like game rentals to begin with. Cuts into sales for them and their affiliated studios and publishers.

      It should be observed, though, that if they're going to that...what difference is there other than maybe some cost savings on the unit, between a PS3 and an HTPC?

      They honestly don't really want to go where they're going with all of this. It's not a pretty place for someone in the console business.

    • They probably think that if they kill the rental market, people will have to buy games. And with no used games market, they don't even have to lower the prices of old games that much. Seems like the perfect strategy to milk the market, so long as you don't stop to think about how much this would piss off potential customers, who would go elsewhere with their dollars. (but wait, call everyone pirates and win anyway?)
  • Real Old School (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RazzleFrog (537054) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:37PM (#34955528)

    "Enter the 5th word from page 35 of the instruction manual." Or maybe like SimCity which had the list of codes that couldn't be photocopied.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I liked the combination wheels. Monkey Island had 3 different sized circles on top of each other, rotate each one to replicate the picture on the screen.

      Test Drive 3 had something similar as well....

      • That was Monkey Island 2.
        • by jank1887 (815982)

          MI 2 had the mix-n-mojo code wheel. those were easy. you just photocopied each aligned option. turned a code-wheel into a 20 page pile of paper, but it worked. or so I heard... The dark red sheets with black text, though. those were a bitch. some had really esoteric characters on them. and not all photocopiers could be tweaked to get them right.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or maybe like SimCity which had the list of codes that couldn't be photocopied.

      I remember that. Didn't stop my dad, though; he copied the entire thing by hand, symbols and all, the entire list. Was one hell of a lot easier to read, at that.

    • by rograndom (112079)
      I had one friend that messed with the brightness/contrast controls on a photocopier for an entire afternoon and managed to get a readable copy out of the Simcity code list. The copy also copied very well I remember.
      • by hitmark (640295)

        Odd, i do not recall seeing a simcity version that required a code.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          I don't either. However I do remember Starcontrol 2 having a gigantic ass map that was colour coded and you had to use sector finding and input the name of the star. I think it took me all of 2-3 hours one afternoon to figure out a way around it.

    • Lucas Art's Sam and Max Hit the Road had you flip to a page and dress the on screen paper doll style characters up like they are dressed up on the manual page. The game has been replicated in Flash http://axigan.deviantart.com/art/Sam-and-Max-Dressup-game-77720716 [deviantart.com]
    • by Firehed (942385)

      That worked great before Google existed. /queue DMCA takedown notice

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:40PM (#34955576)

    When did rumors perpetuated by 4chan become news?? Someone posted this on 4chan a couple of days ago. Then it showed up on PS3-Sense and now it's on slashdot.

    Lots of trolling going on....

  • I don't know anyone who regularly plugs a USB keyboard into their console for any reason. Likewise, "typing" out a long number of string of characters using a controller seems exceptionally cumbersome. Also, having a serial code remains yet another way Sony can tie a specific game license to a specific console. Really, I don't see any way this could be convenient nor benefit gamers.
    • Umm what makes you think any of this is to benefit the gamer? If they don't tie it down to a specific console and make it so its like old half life/ counterstrike was (only one instance of a cd key can play online at a time) or which is the same thing steam is doing now it could be fine. Then if you pass it to someone you trust with the key they can play it too. But if you give it out on the internet then it will be unplayable because you will never know when someone is on. Now the only question is whethe
    • by mike260 (224212) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:06PM (#34956016)

      PS3 games are already spectacularly inconvenient, often requiring 30 minutes or more of downloading, patching, installing and firmware-updating before letting me actually play the game I just bought. Having to type in a serial via gamepad would be the least of it.

      • Or the better part of a day downloading updates, for people like me out in the sticks with coal-powered internet. It's to the point where I've resigned myself to just download the updates at work, throw 'em on a flash drive, and install when I get home, but you can't do that with the game-specific updates.

        I want to like the PS3, but Sony makes it so damned hard sometimes. And I'm sure with all these massive security holes being exposed (which I'm not at all opposed to in principal, mind you), I'm sure the u

      • by gorzek (647352)

        Are these game patches adding new content or just fixing bugs that should've been caught before release? I thought one of the biggest selling points of consoles was "no patches!" Adding features and content is one thing--that's a value-add for people with Internet connections. But if there are serious bugs at release time, what's the point of even buying a console? You can get the same "experience" on a PC.

        When consoles become indistinguishable from PCs not just in terms of capability but complexity of oper

  • Sounds like they're treating it sort of like how PC's are treated with respect to games.

    So much for their hypervisor and kill-off of OtherOS.

  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:45PM (#34955652)
    I stopped buying their stuff after the rootkit thing. By buying their stuff, people are only supporting the abuse that Sony seems to feel entitled to heap on its loyal customers.
    • by rgviza (1303161)

      Explain that to your 14 year old that wants gran turismo or Madden 2011 for xmas.

      I agree with you philosophically, but I tend to put my family first. You go around not letting them listen to music or play the games that everyone else is, for no other reason than "It's morally wrong to have DRM on your system" and you'll have a mutiny on your hands, quite possibly a divorce because your spouse will have to listen to the griefing. If your marriage is marginal (which may or may not be your fault) it could push

  • If the crazy guy yesterday is correct (Probably not but IF) then will any kind of DRM really work?
    • DRM is a logical impossibility regardless of such possibilities. The only thing it can already do is throw a couple roadblocks to delay the crackers - it can't actually protect the content.

      • Great logic. Problem is that the Peter Principle has promotes every simpleton who can't use login into a place of power.

        Do I sound frustrated? It's because I am. The world, especially the corporate world, gets more and more illogical every day.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday January 21, 2011 @01:48PM (#34955722)

    first kinect outsells the Move by 2 to 1 or more. now they have this plan to drive even more people to Microsoft. i have both and only game on my x-box. i was actually going to buy a PS3 game yesterday, but decided against it at the last minute. crazy systems like this will mean i'll just stick to my x-box

    why would anyone put up with this?

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Ah yes, because the 360 is *so* much more open than the PS3. Oh wait, it's not. There is no jailbreak for the 360, only a DVD firmware mod to play "backups" (for which they've banned thousands of consoles, if not more). There was never an OtherOS for the 360. There's no official support for 3rd party hard drive installation. It only plays MS-approved media formats. And if all that weren't enough, they also charge a FEE for online play, Netflix access, and other "value added" services that don't cost t

      • I would argue that MS (at least the X-Box division) is a bit more consumer friendly in that they never advertised an OtherOS feature or backwards compatibility with the original X-Box. Sony touted those features and removed them (remotely in the former and on a new edition in the latter). I have neither X-Box 360 nor PS3 but it seems to be that Microsoft cheated the customer less than Sony did.
      • by jank1887 (815982)

        arguably, they're charging you for the matchmaking service. you're (they're) just dumb enough to pay for it.

        • by StikyPad (445176)

          And taking advantage of dumb consumers is friendly how exactly? There are similar services for the PC that are completely free (GameSpy, Blizzard Net) that get by on advertising. MS not only charges money for it, but disallows competing networks AND still has advertising. Sorry, there's really no way to spin Live fees as anything other than anti-consumer.

    • by rgviza (1303161)

      1. RROD
      2. Sony hasn't implemented anything yet. Games you buy right now don't have this thing.

      I only get xbox only titles for xbox. I'm not buying another xbox and the one I have now is out of warranty, the refurbished one I got when my first one died. They're still dying...

    • by thrash242 (697169)

      I can do anecdotal evidence too!

      I have turned my 360 on about 2-3 times after I bought my PS3 which was at least a year ago and since then it's gotten a fine layer of dust from disuse. In fact, I sold all but 2 or 3 of my Xbox games and am strongly considering selling them all plus the console itself. My PS3 sees use virtually every day. I admit to not being your typical American gamer, (I got bored of FPSes about 10 years ago) but IMO, the PS3 and its games are better in virtually every way, and having

  • This will have the exact same effect on copying as... well... as every scheme the industry has concocted to try to stop copying.

  • you should not have to put up with something like this.
    • by alen (225700)

      x-box is simple

      buy game, play it. it just works. and tons of older and on sale games you can buy for cheap. and you can stream netflix on it and play DVD's. much better than buying a $300 to $400 graphics card that sounds like a jet engine and sucks up electricity. and doing it all over again in 2 years and having to buy a new computer as well because the slots are now different or something else changed.

      • by Shados (741919) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:13PM (#34956126)

        My video card is quiet, cost me 110$ 3 years ago and play most games on high settings, including garbage console ports. I do have most consoles of this generation (both portable and not), and i like them better than PC for gaming, but for other reasons. This isn't 2002 anymore. You don't need a powerful PC to game, and upgrades are often unnecessary. (Heck, it looks like my Nintendo DS will have to be upgraded more frequently than my computer to get all the bells and whistles, between the DSi for the store and now the 3DS for newer games)

    • Don't buy PCs either.

  • by Maltheus (248271) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:01PM (#34955942)

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    Woh5OoWo Zoh7zah0 Jong1tav OB1oliuy
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    You're welcome!

  • Have the PSN multiplayer code check for LV2 peek/poke syscall support, if it's found, they are using a JB dongle (or CFW modded for easier piracy) and backup manager to play (and are almost certainly pirates), so blacklist the PS3 from playing games multiplayer. This removes the people using a JB dongle.

    Have the PSN multiplayer code check some hash value of the EBOOT and the FW, and compare to known values. If the FW hash doesn't match, the user is running a CFW such as geohot's that isn't specifically ma

  • PS3 hackers have already decrypted game executables and modified them with custom values. Its not gonna be much harder for them to find these "internet key check" calls and jump over them. Given Sony' previous record though, they will probably do something stupid like implement this internet serial key checking function as a syscall which the hackers will just patch over to always return "the key is valid" leaving legitimate game owners the only ones who will have to deal with this crap.
  • I don't believe they'd ever do it. They can keep pushing firmware updates, blocking PSN accounts, detecting new modifications - just settle into the pattern like Microsoft have done! But to have to enter a long code for every PS3 game I buy? Is that before the long installation, followed by mandatory download and patch? Or after? And is that a one-time code meaning the same game can't be installed on a second PS3; would that be stomping on the used market at the same time? The PS3 is already the most

  • Dear Sony... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rinnon (1474161) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:46PM (#34956732)

    In any market, it is always advisable to be aware of what your competition is doing so that you can make sure you are offering a superior, or at least non-inferior, experience. Allowing your competition to stay leaps and bounds ahead of you in any market is a sure fire way to flush your business down the toilet! So who is your competition? Microsoft, and PIRACY. Yes, that's right, Piracy is a competitor, and don't you ever think otherwise. It's a competing distribution method that is cheaper and in some ways more convenient. Hope you have some great plans up your sleeve to prove that buying games is the most hassle free way to go; That buying games gets you a BETTER product!

    Let's take a look at what the you and your competition are up to shall we... oh, it looks like none of you require a constant Internet connection to play games, so you're all on the same page there. Wait, what? You WANT to introduce that? Won't that put you in a WORSE position than your competitors on the level of convenience offered by your product? What if people have flaky Internet, or god forbid, NO Internet! Fuck them you say? Oh, well, okay. I'm going to have to deduct you a few points for that one.

    Let's see... no one has CD key's either, so that's nice... wait, WHAT again!? You actually WANT to introduce these!? What if people lose their keys, or want to rent video games before buying? Fuck them you say? Welllll okay, it's YOUR business Sony. Of course, I'm going to have to deduct more points yet again...

    You know Sony, you're not really selling me on why I want to buy from you here. What? Fuck me you say? You know, I'll remember that.

  • Even if Sony has the better of possible intentions with this, they'll immediately be faced with publishers seeking to take control of the online authentication in order to lock specific games to specific consoles and hence kill the resale market. This is also likely to be more of a problem for even those who always buy new and never sell, since any activation limit is more likely to cause problems when they take their game round to play at their friend's house.

    Publishers seem even more pissed at the resale

    • by Junta (36770)

      They would have to say all used markets are 'wrong' to justify their whining about used games. Ford doesn't see money for a used Taurus being sold, a homebuilder sees no revenue from a used house sale, and so on for any random second hand thing on craigslist. Video games are not magically more entitled than any other industry.

      • by canajin56 (660655)

        Video games are different from cars and houses because they are copyrighted. So they don't have to say all used markets are "wrong", just that the Doctrine of First Sale is wrong. They would have had better luck in the past, when first sale wasn't actually law, just an unwritten guideline. But for a long time now it has been law. They've tried to get around it by saying "No see it says that the owner is allowed to resell, but we're the owner of the copyright, it doesn't actually refer to the owner of t

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