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Sony rumoured to be adding serial keys to PS3

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 (opens in new tab), 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. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.