It is both misguided and irresponsible to think that any platform is completely secure.  There is no such thing as a unhackable system.  Recently its been widely reported that Sony’s PS3 had its root key exposed (and subsequently posted on the internet) opening up the system for a whole range of purposes.

Whilst the gaming world is shouting the “piracy” word, other people take a more pragmatic look at the whole scenario and consider maybe opening up the console to homebrew et al is actually a good thing.  The argument about open/locked down systems will have to wait though and I’ll just say that whilst I am an owner (and very supportive of the PS3) I was very much against the firmware “upgrade” which removed the facility to install Linux alongside the Playstation platform.  The reasons given by Sony I did not buy into and if security/piracy was a fear for having Linux running on a PS3 box, then its now shown (with the release of the root key hack) that even if it was, it made no difference anyway.

So whats Sony’s alleged solution?

Back to the subject at hand, Techeye reports that Sony may have a solution to this problem:

New games are expected to come with a unique serial key relating to that specific Blu-ray disc, which must then be entered on the PS3 for verification, much like standard serial keys for software and games on PCs. However, it can only be entered a maximum of five times, obviously to prevent further piracy, but it may cause severe restrictions for genuine gamers also.

Source: http://www.techeye.net/security/sony-plugs-ps3-root-key-hole-with-blu-ray-serial-keys

Which for me raises many concerns, some of these have been commented on by other observers.  First on my mind would be how would this serial scheme work if the end-user has no connection to the internet? Or what if like me, they had not connected to the PSN?  Whilst I have now moved to PSN (and love it to bits as a family entertainment suite) there are many people who maybe will not want to.

Secondly (and maybe most importantly) how would this effect the “pre-owned” market?  To me it appears that stores such as Blockbuster are struggling (like many other high street entertainment stores) and to cut off a revenue stream may be another nail in the coffin for them.  Whilst obviously Nintendo and Microsoft don’t have the same concern, if the serial number system proves to be effective,  you can guarantee they will follow soon after.

Open/Closed – and what of Piracy?

There is much FUD spread about more open platforms and one of which is the allegation of rampant piracy.  What is often ignored though is that a more open platform stimulates far more involvement from “the average joe” and introduces a wealth of contribution and creativity.  When the Apple istore previously seemed to have an issue with its users having a BitTorrent client, the more open Android has no such issues, emulation is another good example of where bedroom coders can produce entertaining packages for everyone to use, packages which, in all likelihood would not be allowed in places such as the Apple istore.

One could argue that should Sony intentionally leave their platform more open, it may experience a surge in popularity.  History shows us that end-users love an open platform,  history shows us that users are far happier not being “locked in”.

I would hope Sony keeps in mind that DRM/copy protection systems are very unpopular with end-users, we just have to look towards the PC to see the problems it can cause.  One of the many advantages of the consoles is that any DRM type systems are mostly invisible to the user who merely wants to run and use the software.  If you introduce a more PC approach and in doing so make that “plug-in and play” gaming more of a chore, I think you are asking for trouble.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

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