One need only look to torrent sites to see how piracy has infested the games industry. Check out the recently released Modern Warfare 2, one of the most anticipated games of all time. Just one torrent of the PC version of the game had already been downloaded nearly 50,000 times just days after the game’s release, with another 20,000 leechers waiting for their stolen copy to finish downloading.
Just a single Xbox 360 torrent (and there are many, released by different ‘groups’) of the game had been downloaded over 4,000 times, with another 4,000 leechers ready for their copy to be completed, and this despite the recent banning of many consoles from Xbox Live for piracy (more below). That’s nearly 80,000 soon to be complete, illegal downloads of a game that’s been out for less than 2 days, and that’s only counting 2 of the many torrents.
So how about the PS3 version of the game? Nada. No torrents, no illegal downloads, no lost revenue. In fact, while the prequel WAS put up on P2P networks, it wasn’t downloaded a single time, for obvious reasons; it’s currently of no use to anyone. The PS3 remains un-hacked, and backup/pirated copies unplayable.
How to Stop a Pirate Without a Cannon
Sony has accomplished this through various means, many of which are overly technical and I won’t go into (and I don’t claim to know the half of it). Suffice it to say, the console uses a system of checks and balances from various different devices within the system, including an untouchable 7th Cell, that have rendered the attempts of hackers to infiltrate the system futile. This isn’t even touching on the inherent security measures found in Blu-Ray media, which proves challenging to crack in its own right.
While these tactics have proven useful against hackers up to this point, there are no guarantees they will for long, so Sony will need to constantly look into new ways to defeat piracy. I mentioned in the wishlist article that one thing I didn’t want to see with the PS4 was a download online distribution model, as I would rather own a physical copy of the game. This method though could effectively be put in place to help shut down, or at least limit piracy.
The Brazilian console Zeebo (which is currently planned only for developing markets at present, and is a significantly cheaper and less powerful console than the other current systems on the market) uses this model for content delivery, with games purchased and downloaded wirelessly being ‘locked’ to the console, and not copyable. With piracy being especially prevalent in these developing markets, the pirate-proof console was all but a necessity for developers Tectoy and Qualcomm. While the jury is still out on whether or not the games are truly pirate-proof (after all, the iPhone functions using a similar model, and yet iPhone game piracy is very much a reality), it’s a step in the right direction perhaps.
Microsoft Sinks a Million Pirates With One Shot
Just today, Information Week reported that Microsoft banned over 1 million modded consoles from using its Xbox Live online service, a major blow to the Xbox 360 pirating community. While some gamers may be content to play games solely offline, online play is where gamers increasingly spend the majority of their time gaming, so the disruption of online services effectively eliminates the desire of many to pirate, as even legitimately bought games will not be playable online through a modded/banned console.
Though few gamers have bothered to try and mod a PS3, the ones who have connected to the PSN with tampered consoles have quickly been perma-banned as well. Though the PlayStation 3 has not yet been hacked, it may only be a matter of time before it is, and this only speaks to the fact that there is little console manufacturers can do to prevent the hacking of an offline system. What they can do is set up checkpoints to their online networks that test the integrity of a system connected to it, as Microsoft and Sony have both seemingly managed to do quite effectively.
However Sony decides to tackle piracy with the PlayStation 4, whether it be through complex, multi-faceted security architecture, unbreakable media, digital distribution, or some other method, it’s certain that the topic will be at the forefront of their minds, as well as the minds of the developers planning games for their console. Let’s hope Sony can continue to stifle piracy, making the PS4 a safe and profitable place for developers to ply their trade, and ensure that those developers continue to bless us with great games for years to come.
What measures do you think Sony should take to prevent piracy on the PS4? Will the PS3 ever get hacked? What do you think of the piracy issue in general? Let us know below and on the forums.