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Latest Xbox 360 update heralds mass ban

The latest dashboard update for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console appears to have brought more than just a new user interface and support for Kinect to gamers, with reports of vastly increased protections against piracy.

Taking a leaf out of Sony's book, which has been working hard to stamp out piracy on its PlayStation 3 platform, Microsoft has added new checks that detect if the DVD drive in an Xbox 360 has been flashed with piracy-enabling firmware - the most common method of playing 'backup' titles on the console.

In worse news for those who dislike paying for games, it appears that the new checks - which will be built into game discs from here on out - will not only prevent pirated games from being played on updated consoles by bringing up a 'Dirty Disc' error, but will flag the hardware as suspect and get it banned from Microsoft's Xbox Live service - permanently.

Eurogamer quotes a member of the Xbox 360 firmware hacking scene, who goes by the name 'Commodore4Eva,' as claiming that the new protections have already been bypassed for the newly-released action RPG Fable III, but warns that Microsoft's ability to update the checks remotely over Xbox Live mean that pirated copies could stop working at a moment's notice.

If gamers choose not to update their consoles, they will effectively ban themselves from Xbox Live - only consoles running the very latest firmware are able to access the service, which allows games to be updated, new content and demos downloaded, and multiplayer matches. Those that do update, however, they would be wise to keep their 'backup' copies away from their console.

As we have seen with Sony's efforts against the pirates, it usually doesn't take long for the naughty modders to figure out a way around the restrictions - but it appears that Microsoft's AP 2.5 protections, as the new DRM is called, could be a tough nut to crack.