How the PS4 might combat piracy

1 min read

Computer Says No

Though the PS4 will place a fair bit of emphasis on digital distribution, Sony’s confirmed that the system will still largely use discs for the foreseeable future. That brings with it the potential for piracy – something Sony may already have found a way around.

A patent filed by the company  (via Darkzero) in 2011 has gone live, showing a method of comparing the load times on manufactured discs to those on copied ones, going through a series of checks and preventing said copies from booting.

Here’s what the patent says:

A system and method for detecting piracy of a software product that is distributed on a particular media type is described. Embodiments of the invention track a title load time of a software product that is distributed on a particular media type, and compare it against a benchmark load time for that media type. This comparison is used to detect if the title may have been illegally transferred or pirated to another, unauthorized media type.

It’s all shown off by this handy flowchart.


That sounds like a suitable solution to me; as it’s one that doesn’t negatively impact legitimate users’ experiences; no activation keys requiring internet connectivity and no silly NFC tags that are tied to the system. When it comes to DRM, the less impact on those who’ve paid for their games, the better.

The only problem I do foresee is if drives start acting up, but apparently the patent says the system contains a “backup validation cycle that would account for load time errors due to hardware issues.”

Microsoft already uses a similar system, in conjunction with a number of other systems to determine whether games or copied, which it uses to determine who to ban in their regular console banwaves.

Fat lot of good it’s done them.

Last Updated: February 25, 2013

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • This is fantastic news! I do hope that they are 100.1% sure that their backup validation cycle works. This must also be why it’s not backwards compatible.

    • The lack of BC is largely because the architecture betwixt the Ps3 and Ps4 is so very, very different – largely making emulation based BC impossible. they could throw in the Ps3’s innards for BC as they did with the first PS3’s – but the console would be way, way too expensive.

      • OVG

        At least they have not promised anything this time. Now that the PS2 has proven that the PS3 can still make a profit for another 5 years expect BC to be a thing of the past.

        Collecting consoles and games only to be stored away every 5 years is the norm.

        Unless one games on a PC and just pop in games from the 90s. Im thinking of divorcing the console, I have to many generations of console gaming seeing no action as the consoles are all broken.

        • I’m keeping all my consoles. I’m trying to build a display unit, but my dad won’t let me use his power tools and I’d rather spend money on video games than a drill…

          • OVG


        • mornelithe

          Their promises worked out just fine for me on PS3 (early adopter ftw) trololol.

      • I see! Thanks, clarity for the clueless! 🙂

  • OVG


    Darn… I knew I should not have installed the latest firmware update to make my games load faster 🙁

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    Well that works a little better than some Draconian DRM’s I’ve seen. Now let’s hope they can properly implement it

  • Compu’er says no!

    • Admiral Chief Erwin


  • What an awesome idea… it’s so simple it’s beautiful

    • I can never tell if you’re being sarcastic or not… in any case if it’s just a matter of load time checksum isn’t it also simple to have the “hacker” implement a pause function that’s the same length as the original? maybe I’m not thinking this through properly… stupid question?

  • silverscorpio

    I like this but as with all DRM, it is going to bite some ligitimate user. I am worried by that “Collect user identification information”. Will this thing phone the cops with all your details if you try to pirate. Scary thought.

    • mornelithe

      The only people who’d have to worry about that, are people who are pirating. Do the crime, do the time.

  • Kromas

    Whoops my disc got scratched. Sorry for you!

  • This will only work if the load time takes longer on the copied media, otherwise you could just put a long NOP slide, of sorts, in the code (it is going to be x86 of course) so that the load time falls within the correct parameters… Then again, the number of NOPs may have to be adjusted on a per media basis so that wouldn’t be perfect but this isn’t going solve the problem of piracy…

    • DrKiller

      Tbh, it doesn’t really matter on the disc.. When you install the game, it doesn’t really load the game from the disc 😛 Did they ever think about that?

  • Purple_Dragon

    I thought the PS3 was pretty pirate proof?

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