Sony Has A Patent Filing For Determining Whether A Game Is Pirated From Its Various Load Times

Hopefully it takes into account dodgy lenses.

In 2011 Sony filed a patent for determining whether a game is pirated based on its load times.

It’s an interesting idea – it basically monitors certain known load times per game (perhaps time to get to the Start screen, or to load the first level) and then checks them against a central database. If the load times differ by too much, the game is blocked.

Or, crucially, the user is blocked.

The patent is quite specific. “For example, if an authentic game title is distributed exclusively on BDs having a total benchmark load time of 45 seconds on a game console BD drive, the acceptable range of load times could be from 40 to 50 seconds,” it says. “Thus, a total measured title load time of 4 seconds would be outside of the acceptable range of total load times for a legitimate media type.”

It also tracks seek times (so it gets around those using USB sticks) and data throughput. It’s not limited to Blu-ray games, either, the patent highlights way to do a similar job with PSN downloads.

An interesting tactic. Whether this is for PS4 or not isn’t known, but it’s certainly likely. Sony’s PS3 encryption was hacked with considerable effect, but this looks like being able to manage the whole situation better than just relying on private and public keys.

Thanks GAF.

24 Comments

  1. I can see a lot of Bethesda’s games getting banned due to their long load times, once you reach a certain save file size. Too soon?

    This sounds like a good idea but i suspect pirates will find a way to trick the system. I do hope that they will take into account that open world RPGs can have long load times due to the console having to load the area and can result in different load times. It can be quick to slow to JUST FECKING LOAD YOU BARSTEWARD(that rarely happens as most gamers would have reset the game) It’s far better then using keys or even worse, that always online, but if we go down, feck you for buying this game DRM.

    On the other hand, if Sony cocks up with load times, they will have a PR disaster on their hands or get sued by a lot of angry PS4 customers.

    • It’s not about long load times, it’s about unusual load times. The patent describes a system that matches your load time result against a benchmark load time result to determine whether you’re in an acceptable range and ultimately whether or not you’re using illicit software. Even if you fail this test despite running a legitimate copy of the game then it only leads to a “secondary validation”. If you pass the secondary validation then your system will resume playing the media. This is all made clear in the patent which was linked in the original article.

  2. A combination of this and other patents could prove very important for Sony now that they’ve moved to a PC based architecture.

    Surely easier to hack and crack, so they’ll have to step up their own efforts to combat it.

  3. This sounds like one of the better approaches to tackling piracy. Hope it works

  4. Really this is all they can come up with? This would surely be easily to get around?

    • Not really. The placement of data on a disc is optimised for loading (or at least, it should be). When copy the data of a disc and then copy it back on – eg, rip it, make a torrent and burn it again – the data on the disc is still the same data but it will be in a different location on the disc, so load times will vary slightly.

      You would have to create an exact duplicate of the disc, which is actually quite hard – even doing a disc to disc the means the data has to flow from one disc, in to the memory of the PC, then back out again.

      • Or you could run a custom firmware (which is required to play pirated games anyways) and tell the system to check a fake database that has a valid load time range between 1 and 1000 seconds. Am I missing something?

      • Yes you are missing something in that statement. The fact that ‘Custom Firmware’ is blasphemy against Sony :P

        I doubt Sony will let CF be introduced without a fight and a few hack attacks.

      • Yeah, but the point is, if it is possible to run a CFW, then the patent is useless. If they manage to keep the system safe from hacks that enable CFW, then the patent is useless, too because nobody is able to run pirated games in the first place…

  5. If a hacker can get a load time down from 45 seconds to 4 seconds Sony should be employing them!

    • It’s called a HDD Rip, and it’s a novel approach by Sony.

      That said, most patents are registered to stop OTHERS using them, rather than the registrant.

  6. What if the game crashes though and it takes 10 mins to load, I’ve known xmb hangs to alter the loading times for games if I’ve been trying to send a message whilst the game is loading. 8GB of ram though so it better not happen with the PS4!

  7. This could work if they factor in lens-degradation, but what if I fit my PS4 with an SSD?

  8. One of the big concerns in a report a saw over the weekend was that the idea would work fine when when the console (or other hardware) is new but as they age the hardware can take longer to read the code due to small faults in the electronics and/or the decoding software. That said anything that stops pirated games is welcome.

  9. well, i can’t see that ever going wrong.
    end sarcasm mode.

    and what if you’ve got an SSD in your console?

    combating piracy is a noble goal, but only if they can guarantee that it won’t punish legitimate users.

    • I would hope the software would check read/write speeds of the drive then come up with the time range.

  10. I’ve had a few incidents when a game has decided to perpetually load, yet not properly crash or freeze. So I’m sure there would’ve been at least 3 incidents over the course of my PS3’s life in which I would be banned under this system.

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