DRM schemes were introduced to curb piracy, and they’re increasingly being deployed as weapons against used-game sales. While most have been cracked or otherwise bypassed, a new approach developed by Sony could be more difficult to thwart. The PlayStation maker is working on a DRM system that combines optical media with a programmable ROM chip and RFID tag. The extra components would be used to tie the contents of the disc to a specific playback device or user account. They could also be employed to restrict access to certain on-disc content, such as pre-loaded DLC.
As Ars Technica points out, the scheme should work without an Internet connection, eliminating one point of contention for DRM detractors. Gating access to the contents of an optical disc using ROM chips and RFID tags would certainly make life more difficult for the Yarrr crowd, since piracy would entail more than downloading an image file and burning it to off-the-shelf media. Locking content to specific devices or users could also restrict used game sales that might otherwise be considered legitimate. Presumably, the usage permissions would be flexible enough to let developers choose how much of a game could be resold—and how many times.
The DRM scheme is outlined in this patent application, which was filed last fall and published today. The application is still awaiting approval, and it’s unclear whether Sony is far enough along to put this kind of technology in its next console. Odds are the RFID tech won’t be used for PC games, since that would require additional hardware in every system. Besides, hardware-based authentication has been cracked on the PC before. I suspect most PC gamers are moving towards digital distribution services like Steam, anyway.