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Sony rumoured to be adding serial keys to PS3

Video GamesNews
, 21 Jan 2011News

Rumour 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.

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, preventing the game from running or accessing multiplayer features if the same key is in use elsewhere.

It's a solution that the PC gaming industry has been using for years, but if the rumour that Sony is looking to use it as a bandage for its thoroughly broken PS3 DRM proves true, it could have one major hurdle in its path: unlike a PC, the PS3 has no keyboard.

While the PS3 is compatible with USB keyboards, and has an optional Bluetooth-connected miniature keypad accessory, many gamers rely solely on the console's controller - using the on-screen soft keyboard for those rare occasions when text entry is required.

If every game that's purchased requires the entry of a code - and, given the code's requirement for uniqueness and high entropy, they're usually around 24 alphanumeric characters in length - it could soon prove a pain for gamers.

Worse, the move would effectively kill the rental market for PS3 games - and, if Sony decides to tie each serial key to a PlayStation Network account, could even block second-hand sales.

Sony, for its part, hasn't confirmed or denied the rumours - but it will certainly have to do something to get the genie back in the bottle.

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