Rumor: Sony considering serial keys for PS3 games

By on January 21, 2011, 12:43 PM
Sony may be looking to the PC gaming market to help solve its piracy problem on the PlayStation 3. That's right; the company may choose to introduce serial keys for its games, according to SKFU, a "very reliable source" cited by the Dutch website PS3Sense.

Since the PC doesn't have a built-in hardware DRM system, gaming companies rely on serial keys to verify a video game unit's uniqueness. The key usually verifies itself with an online server, preventing the game from running or accessing multiplayer features if the key is already in use. Could the PS3 be heading in the same direction?

The reason we're placing this neatly in the rumor box is that unlike a PC, the PS3 does not ship with a keyboard. Although the console can use USB and Bluetooth keyboards, many gamers only use the console's controller and have to rely on the on-screen soft keyboard when text entry is required. Serial keys tend to be very long alphanumeric strings to ensure that they cannot simply be guessed. As a result, entering a serial key could prove quite annoying for PS3 gamers.

Furthermore, since most games are not installed on the PS3, it's not clear when or how often such a key would have to be entered. Would entering an unused key install a small file on the console to allow playing? Would this mean gamers can't play their games on other PS3s? Would this destroy the rental market for PS3 games and block second-hand sales?

Whether this rumor proves true or not, one thing is certain: Sony needs to pick a solution, and fast. After the PlayStation 3 root key was released earlier this month, it quickly became clear that third-party firmware which allow unofficial software and illegitimately downloaded games to run on unmodified hardware would become prevalent. Suing the hackers is just a legal reflex, but the company still needs to make a bigger strategic move.





User Comments: 43

Got something to say? Post a comment
TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I'm not a console gamer, but if the serial key was a one-time entry, I don't see where it would be that big of a deal. But if you had to enter it in every time you played the game, I think that would be a deal breaker that would ultimately bring down the PS3.

vipor231 said:

i can see pc's having this but consoles? cmon its not gonna help piracy..how many times do they need to relize that

princeton princeton said:

vipor231 said:

i can see pc's having this but consoles? cmon its not gonna help piracy..how many times do they need to relize that

Yah it is bud. You do realize that they're going to consider this because that damn root key got released.

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It has to be one time entry. The problem with the free psn is that you cant "ban" effectively if a new account can be recreated without any cash outlay. One of the unseen benefits of Xbox live costing money per month although its not immune to piracy by any means.

Guest said:

I agree that a 1 time entry serial would be ok and not an absolute pain in the *** i guess. Why can it not help ? Kaspersky uses a serial system that seems to be pretty tough ? Or am I wrong? I know from years of being on the net that its blacklist system has annoyed many p2p users.

At the same time i am not sure if I would buy multiplayer games again. Geohot's code or hack w/e he said was not possible to use pirated games ? Well in that youtube vid that was on here thats what I heard... I could of got that wrong. But sadly there are sites sharing games for jailbroken ps3's geohots hack or otherwise ... Is it not geohots tho that can cause other hacks ? game hacks ? people cheating in online games ? i havent myself seen anything suspicious, but then i havent played much lately.

Seems to me if the code can cause hackers to be so epicly lame as they have to cheat to think they are cool and the most awesome ... when truly they suck and need cheats, well, then all ps3 games are fudged, and my system is pointless in the gaming sense.

If there are people haxing in games, i think they should just turn god mode on for all and then scrap the ps3.

If they werent such corporate a55h0les chargin an insane amount of money for games maybe people wouldnt steal games. But when you pay £40 for a game to find out its crap and completeable in 3 hours, you feel so ripped off. I dont believe games are worth more than £20 new, and anyone who says they are is a tool. Continue to bend over and let them rape you. And they say that 100million is lost in pirated games, well, that crap black ops made 1 billion and is overall rated at average 3/5.

Quite frankly the corporations feel they are getting fudged, well so does the consumer... i know i feel like ive wasted an epic amount of money on games that just dont deliver, and I end up going back to the same old games. Ironically my words of image verification, field and victim... well who is the victim in all this, cause i dunno. I want my money back for my ps3 and games.

Guest said:

It won't works very well. Because of rental and what if you borrow/lend/trade the game to one of your friend? When I was young, my friends and I always borrow by trade games for a few days. I am not sure how the serial will works with that?

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

i know i feel like ive wasted an epic amount of money on games that just dont deliver, and I end up going back to the same old games. Ironically my words of image verification, field and victim... well who is the victim in all this, cause i dunno. I want my money back for my ps3 and games.

I agree about wasting money on games that suck, but it goes back to the old adage, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. After being disappointed several times with buggy games, I pretty much stopped buying new games.

They announce the release date of games months ahead, and yet somehow always keep the schedule, and since people plop down the money for a pre-order, basically trading a bug free game in return for a bonus pair of camo socks that their character can wear in MP, they take away the company's incentive to put out a finished product.

Lurker101 said:

This is a punishment on paying customers and nothing more. In case Sony have been asleep for the past decade, they should have noticed that serial keys are a worthless piece of DRM which can be overcome with very little effort. This merely unishes the customers without any real hindrance for pirates.

Guest said:

i pretty much all of my 20 ps3 games require me to install them, so im sure serial keys could work. Plus i think they should introduce a security system where people with a ps3 eye can use it to show the ps3 a special bar code printed inside a game case!

princeton princeton said:

Lurker101 said:

This is a punishment on paying customers and nothing more. In case Sony have been asleep for the past decade, they should have noticed that serial keys are a worthless piece of DRM which can be overcome with very little effort. This merely unishes the customers without any real hindrance for pirates.

So lurker. Name us one AAA game from 2010 that would work fully online without the serial key.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This concept would kill rental and resale companies... And, of course, it implies that there is a connection to verify the game is valid, so I'd imagine it would use PSN much the same way that certain retail PC games are registered in Steam. Great in theory, but I'm sure it would cause such a backlash from customers and companies like GameStop, that it would implode on Sony.

Plus, you can virtually guarantee that, even though they would supposedly be fighting piracy and ensuring higher actual sales of their games, there would be zero financial trickle-down to the consumer. They'd get higher sales numbers, and the pockets would be lined with cash, but the games would still cost the same, even though there was no reselling option anymore.

mccartercar said:

Princeton said:

Lurker101 said:

This is a punishment on paying customers and nothing more. In case Sony have been asleep for the past decade, they should have noticed that serial keys are a worthless piece of DRM which can be overcome with very little effort. This merely unishes the customers without any real hindrance for pirates.

So lurker. Name us one AAA game from 2010 that would work fully online without the serial key.

Not from 2010, but last time I checked Borderlands requires no key for use on gamespy online...come to think of it most games that use gamespy dont need a key entered. And also most games for windows live 2.0 games can use just one gfwl key to activate any gfwl game. And when serial keys are in place most of the time if the game has a lan option that can act as online play through tunngle/hamachi to circumvent key use anyway for multiplayer.

If sony thinks serial keys for console games will stop the mad rush of pirates headed their way...they are just grasping at straws. Oh yea....what about that huge back catalog of games up until gt5 (which works jailbroken) that work as backups and online. How many games in the ps3's foreseen future could utilize this that would actually save sony and devs money? I'd say it will only deter sales as doing the same exact thing on a 360 will be less hassle and all that more reason to switch. I dont own an xbox Im just sayin.

/rant

Seems like this will be a wasted effort for surely if we can obtain some super secret, military grade protected, software key; why would we have trouble circumventing authorization of a game key.

I always like razor1911's fancy key generator app's and their tecno music.

princeton princeton said:

mccartercar said:

Princeton said:

Lurker101 said:

This is a punishment on paying customers and nothing more. In case Sony have been asleep for the past decade, they should have noticed that serial keys are a worthless piece of DRM which can be overcome with very little effort. This merely unishes the customers without any real hindrance for pirates.

So lurker. Name us one AAA game from 2010 that would work fully online without the serial key.

Not from 2010, but last time I checked Borderlands requires no key for use on gamespy online...come to think of it most games that use gamespy dont need a key entered. And also most games for windows live 2.0 games can use just one gfwl key to activate any gfwl game. And when serial keys are in place most of the time if the game has a lan option that can act as online play through tunngle/hamachi to circumvent key use anyway for multiplayer.

If sony thinks serial keys for console games will stop the mad rush of pirates headed their way...they are just grasping at straws. Oh yea....what about that huge back catalog of games up until gt5 (which works jailbroken) that work as backups and online. How many games in the ps3's foreseen future could utilize this that would actually save sony and devs money? I'd say it will only deter sales as doing the same exact thing on a 360 will be less hassle and all that more reason to switch. I dont own an xbox Im just sayin.

/rant

Seems like this will be a wasted effort for surely if we can obtain some super secret, military grade protected, software key; why would we have trouble circumventing authorization of a game key.

I always like razor1911's fancy key generator app's and their tecno music.

Razor's keys won't ever get you online though. Also borderlands was the only one I can think of too, and hamachi doesn't count. I'm talking official servers. I liked the BC2 approach where only server hosting companies got the files, but unlike Black Ops it isn't just one damn provider that is available.

MrAnderson said:

I would not mind as long as the keys are not stuck to a console and they can be transferable across a profiles email accounts ect with out issues.

My main issue is that they will become a problem when you want to go back and play your back log of games if there is some internet activation service needed. I take issue with that indeed. I don't want my ability to play my games on consoles to be dependent on having access to the web. Do it for PSN game content/multiplayer functionality if you will, but leave my single player game alone!

Guest said:

If this is going to work, it's going to have to assign the "key" on a user account level, ala Steam, as opposed to onto the console itself. I own 2 PS3s personally, I would be super pissed if I could only play a PS3 game I bought on one of them.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This seems like a waste of time, somehow someway somebody will find a way of getting around this, as is always the case.

And I doubt piracy on the PS3 will take off like it has on other consoles, given that it would take days/weeks to download a 10-20GB Bluray file.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It's hard to see it being very good or very bad. Fighting against piracy is obviously good, but the possible trapping of a game to one console and the possible killing of the second hand PS3 game market would be a disaster for the PS3.

I save a nice bit of cash borrowing a game or two off my mates (and vice versa), and i'de like to keep it that way

Guest said:

This is probably their best bet to fight piracy or at least to keep it off their PSN servers. The way I see it is serial numbers come in cases that need to be entered the first time the player tries to play online. After the serial is entered it is saved to the hard drive and no longer needs to be entered for that console. Serials can be entered on as many consoles as you want but serial verification occurs on PSN which only allows the serial to be used on a console at a time.

As far as rentals that can still work, either they don't give out the serial when you rent i.e. no online play or they give the serial and hopefully that serial hasn't been exploited by everyone that has rented the game.

It wouldn't really effect resales as long as you don't lose your case, sure the original seller still has the key tied to his ps3 but he cant play it without the disk.

A better way to fight piracy though would be to make sure the game is running off the bluray drive and not the harddrive. If its running off the hard drive ban the ps3's MAC address and that console can no longer access PSN.

princeton princeton said:

slh28 said:

This seems like a waste of time, somehow someway somebody will find a way of getting around this, as is always the case.

And I doubt piracy on the PS3 will take off like it has on other consoles, given that it would take days/weeks to download a 10-20GB Bluray file.

Typical PS3 games aren't 10-20gb. They're smaller than PC versions due to lower quality models/textures.

Guest said:

Also as long as you can get your hands on a disk it takes just a couple of minutes to back up a game straight to your harddrive using the ps3 itself.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

That would be one way to end the used game market.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

That's a stupid idea that's only going to lead people to pirating out of annoyance. If I was them I would definitely try to block multilayer functionality since most people buy games for the multilayer. There is no point to pirating MAG you know.

jsv004 said:

I don't see any problems with this, I'm sure they'll make it that you'll only enter the key once in the beginning if this is true. If you find it annoying and frustrated, then you only have Geohot to blame for forcing Sony to go this route LOL. People seem to be cheering for this guy and think he did something good for the mod community but all he did is make something that hurts the consumer more in the end.

Zecias said:

slh28 said:

This seems like a waste of time, somehow someway somebody will find a way of getting around this, as is always the case.

And I doubt piracy on the PS3 will take off like it has on other consoles, given that it would take days/weeks to download a 10-20GB Bluray file.

i dont think it'll take days/weeks to download 10-20 gb it takes me around a day to download 10 gb at 150 kbs. My internet connection is slow, or at the most, average.

Guest said:

Putting in serial keys like for the PC is an overblown reaction.

Fact is, 99% of people wouldn't bother hacking their PS3.... (kind like how most didn't bother with Mod Chip PSone and PS2 games).

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

slh28 said:

I doubt piracy on the PS3 will take off like it has on other consoles, given that it would take days/weeks to download a 10-20GB Bluray file.

Days to download 10-20GB?

I have a common speed ADSL 2.0 connection and frequently download full games via Steam that are as large as that. It does not take an entire day.

The problem Sony have is games can be copied and played on the PS3 now with no comeback on the user if they hack. This means less people buying the full price games because in effect the multiplayer is broken. They cant stop people hacking and playing copies of the games if they wanted to unless they come up with a new strategy.

I am glad I sold my PS3 3 months ago because it looks to me to be a very expensive paperweight. At least on Xbox, if you use a hack you might get reported and your account might get banned, costing you money to open another one to cheat again. With the PS3 it costs nothing to make a new account and there is a good chance a hack could keep changing identities of the account to facilitate relogging into any game that did attempt to ban a hacker. The possibilities are endless.

Serial keys could fix this especially if done like EA have done Fifa11. You create an account online with EA and then link the serial code to your account online. You can then play. This can work and if it gives Sony more sales and stops the complete collapse of their newest generation console then they should do it immediately.

Johny47 said:

I REALLY 'get' why alot of people pirate alot of games, because alot of them are just not worth near what they cost because of the lack of effort or thought that goes into them for example, Call of Duty in my opinion is the most 'milking a dead cow' or 'rehashed crap' in the game world and those games cost even more than the average new game.

But alot of games(usually exclusive on PS3 ) are brilliant and quite worth what they cost so I don't mind if Sony went along with this, I play PC and PS3 games and I have to put in a serial code for my PC games so having to do this for PS3 aswell it wouldn't really bother me, it's just a couple of letters and if it bothers people so much(lazy =/) then plug in a keyboard to input the seriel codes =P

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Honestly PS3 should release a firmware update to let PS2 games play on it because people are going to hack their PS3's to do that if they don't. I think word of rumor that it was hacked is going to boom hardware sales, however, i don't think actually system hacking will take place as much as PS2. PS2 lacked online today's console center feature is online, and multiplayer so most people won't bother hacking it and losing the most important part for free games. Some will but not as big I think as everyone is hyping it up to be. Look at 360 and wii, hacked years ago and there doing fine. Also bring back OtherOS it will not only give people less of a reason to hack their PS3 to downgrade it and then prob pirate games as a bonus but in lawsuit of pirating the PS3 they could argue that the main reason for hacking it is gone and now their doing it just for copyright infringement.

Guest said:

Price the games where it doesn't benefit anyone to copy them. @ $69 a copy it might be worth the while to circumvent protection but @$29 a copy why bother!

mailpup mailpup said:

IMHO, people who pirate games now will still pirate games regardless of how much they lower the price. Sure, there will be a few exceptions but for the most part, $69 or $29, it makes no difference. People will still want something for nothing. If they can do it, they will.

Richy2k9 said:

hello...

OT:

Princeton said:

slh28 said:

This seems like a waste of time, somehow someway somebody will find a way of getting around this, as is always the case.

And I doubt piracy on the PS3 will take off like it has on other consoles, given that it would take days/weeks to download a 10-20GB Bluray file.

Typical PS3 games aren't 10-20gb. They're smaller than PC versions due to lower quality models/textures.

1st i need to point that either this is a sarcasm or ignorance, but i'm sure the truth is out there!

anyway i do download 10-20 Gb games off steam in an overnight with a slow 1Mega connection, but some PS3 games exclusives are indeed 30Gb+, owners know that!

BOT:

hacking is bad, it leads to complications for everyone, so if everyone would do their part into talking their surrounding out of it, can help too, but it's not an easy task ... you can see i'm often flamed here for that,

- serial can work, only if it is used once or connected to a PS3 MAC Address, even if this one can be spoofed, there are other features than can be verified on it.

- i think a 'steam-like' system would be better & even if PSN is free, don't ban accounts, or ban account + flag their console / MAC & IP.

- developers should also lend a hand in the scanning & killing unauthorized or tampered connection to their server, how can blizzard do so ? well most of the time ...

- i don't think a good game isn't worth the price & i still don't understand how you get games at $69!!!? I don't get such prices ... well except if i'm foolish enough to buy in some local shops or hypermarkets ... in MU games cost around 60$ but i always pre-order real hits for 40-50$ or buy them when they are around 30$ less, mostly online & delivered within 1-2 weeks ... having a huge backlog i don't care about delivery time.

- a market depends on the demand, then the supply, if we as gamers buy scrap games for any price, then crap games would be supplied at high prise, teach those big corporates a lesson & don't buy their games, why do we deny our own responsibility in this!!? there's always a choice, to try a demo, wait for major reviews & even rent them (i said in former posts, this may come to an end of a new solution may be applied to it), i think those who buy games without knowing take great risk, but not all reviews help, i may love a game with bad review & don't like a major hit (like CoD & alike) ...there's always a way to check first, if you think it's a bad game you may like, at least wait for a price drop.

- hackers should become mature enough not to go the easy way for fame & i would agree if the government would allow the big corporates making business to make money (yeah shame on them) & giving people employment while releasing quite often (not always - you see, i'm realistic here) great piece of work for our pleasure/entertainment ... it's their job & we need to pay them for that, how about you don't get pay for what you do !?

- we, as gamers should grow up & see the impact of such thing, we want things for cheap or for free, well if you look well, you will find some & legal ones. there are ways to get things like that... if it wasn't for piracy i'm sure games will be slightly cheaper, don't say the console wasn't hacked, there's always a risk & multiplat games aren't always the best & yet pirated on 1 platform can kill all the others.

I wish SONY will go through the 'STEAM PORTAL' way, i.e. multiplat games are mostly available in such way, they can work with all major publishers for that. Serial Key is OK if can be attached to a unique account independent to the console or PSN account but maybe a valid international credit card even if access is free, just make it that all new games should be registered with a unique ID (printed on it), there's a risk for key-generators but hey won't be easy to dump, crack & upload a 30Gb+ ISO. Developers should add internal copy detection mechanism inside their games & would take a hacker a lot of time to find them all & release a full copied ISO on the net, maybe like playing for random hours then inside the gaming come a special lookup for specific location / file size / date & time / call home / internet check / minor forced update to a few times unlock & some times just add a piece to carry on, it will mean more work for same value & complications to end users but in the end protecting the games ( i remember a post where Batman AA for PC had a weird behaviour when using a copy) ...

yet i think the best will be that us, fellow gamers, on whichever platform should support our developers & buy original & the more would adhere to this, the less we will need fortified system for our own pleasure... just think like that: "don't do unto others what you don't want others do unto you" ... sorry for another long post.

cheers!

Guest said:

Why are people going on about the used game market? I benefits neither sony or the developers of the games.

The only people who benefit are gamestop and the other "worse than pirate" leechers in this industry

mailpup mailpup said:

Guest, that's a bit of a narrow view. The secondary game market benefits Sony and game developers indirectly. When gamers sell their old games or trade them in, they get money or credit so they are better able to afford new games. Of course, buyers of used games obviously get the benefit of saving money but it is also a relatively inexpensive way for new gamers to enter the fray, so to speak. Expanding the gamer base is good for game publishers and developers.

A healthy secondary market for games is beneficial in a similar way that a healthy used car market helps to sell new cars. Interestingly, new car manufacturers embrace and acknowledge the used car market. A selling point that is promoted by some new car manufacturers is the high resale value of their used cars. Ford has a commercial out now that compares the "projected" resale value of one of their cars to that of a competitor. The game vs car analogy is not exact or perfect but close enough to make the point.

PC nerd PC nerd said:

Well done Geohotz. You've killed the PS3. *****.

It's such a great console. It's a shame it's less popular than the Shitbox 360.

Putting in serial keys will destroy the PS3's sales.

grvalderrama said:

If I had enough of a game and I wanted to sell it for coins and then buy an ice cream, but I can't sell it because the serial number has already been used, then what? If I bought a piece of sh!t game and I wanted to sell it the very same day I bought it, then what?

aj_the_kidd said:

Forgive me if this a dumb question but how will this affect rentals, can it still operate effectively?

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Well done Geohotz. You've killed the PS3. *****.

It's such a great console. It's a shame it's less popular than the Shitbox 360.

Putting in serial keys will destroy the PS3's sales.

+1

I think i'de have trouble being without my PS3, it is literally a multi media machine (and it even makes a good foot stool sometimes aswell )...It was a tad pricey for sure, but i'de have to say it feels like i got my moneys worth in the end, almost certainly.

unrealmp3 unrealmp3 said:

My guess is that they'll ask you to register your CD-key within your PSN account. That would actually reduce piracy, and used-games sales..

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I really don't like the idea of a CD key for the PS3 games. If you go with the entry every time you want to play thats really annoying. But on the other hand, the one time entry means I can no longer pick up used games. At least 3/4 of the games I own are used. On top of that, I will grab my a game and head of to a friends house so we can both play it. I don't want to have to drag my PS3 over there because now that game is locked to that PS3.

Guest said:

This will never happen, at least not in a way that requires internet authentication. According to the most recent study I've seen 78% of PS3s are connected to the internet. Requiring some form of internet authentication would leave 22% of users out in the cold. I can't see Sony being that stupid.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Sony's bragged they've had the technology to only allow the game to be installed and played on the first machine it's come to for years..

With that said, the beat, (and blather), goes on about corporate greed, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Point being, Sony's modus operandi has been selling DVD recorders, making money from it, then invoking the strongest copy protection on their motion picture property. Kinda renders their DVD recorders less utilitarian, now doesn't it?

I believe Sony was on the side of making VCRs legal, in opposition to the copyright lobby, when VCR first became available at the consumer level. That's Sony, on the side that makes Sony money. Actually, Sony's on both sides at the same time, making money from each.

At one time, the were setting root kits in CD buyers computers in the name of DRM.

With this knowledge, it seems implausible that people continue to buy their nonsense. Especially, their game offerings, which seem to be at the heart of the controversy.

Oh well, if you stop buying their games, and everybody you know does the same, then progress on price and DRM could be made.

Pity though, consumerism is an every man for himself endeavor. Divide and conquer doesn't have to be planned by the game makers, they just let the gamers implement it themselves.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

I believe Sony was on the side of making VCRs legal, in opposition to the copyright lobby, when VCR first became available at the consumer level. That's Sony, on the side that makes Sony money. Actually, Sony's on both sides at the same time, making money from each.

Universal Studios sued Sony for copyright infringement with the Betamax back in the early 80's. Case went to the U.S. Supreme court where Sony won because it was ruled that they were merely time shifting content. You are absolutely correct, Sony was originally opposed to what we now call DRM but now that they're on the other side of the fence it's a whole different story.

Guest said:

Deal with it Sony. You'll never win. Just look at M$.

I know it hurts your feelings that you won't be able to rape people for overpriced video games any longer but thats the way its going to be!

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.