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Sony Moving to Serial Numbers with PS3?

Edge Magazine reports that an unnamed source claims Sony will use serial codes for all future PlayStation 3 game discs. The news arrives shortly after iPhone hacker GeoHot discovered and published the console's root keys which allows developers and pirates alike to sign unauthorized code as genuine Sony software, bypassing the console's security.

The possible movement to a serial code system isn't surprising. The PC gaming industry already has this method of DRM in place to prevent piracy, consisting of a long, annoying combination of numbers and letters players must manually insert with a keyboard. Some titles prevent the game from installing without the code-- others simply lock the player out of the multiplayer portion. But as we've seen over the years, the system isn't fool-proof, as hackers usually find a way around the system by launching key generators or replacement executables.

Although Sony has yet to confirm the movement to serial code usage, the unnamed source indicated that the company already uses a similar system with the PlayStation Network. Gamers typically purchase a game code, sign on to their PlayStation Network account, and enter the code to receive the product which is in turn tied to the user.

The source also said that gamers can use the code only five times. This in itself could have an impact on the used games industry, as retailers will have no idea how many valid codes still remain on a possible PlayStation 3 game trade-in. Owners of a specific game will also seemingly have a limit on the number of friends who can "borrow" the disc in its lifetime.

As with PC gaming, hackers will eventually find a way around this particular type of DRM. It's surprising that Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft haven't already implemented a serial number system given the complaints from the industry about piracy and second-hand sales. But as Edge Magazine points out, gamers most affected by serial codes would be those who buy legitimate games and cannot trade in or sell them at a later date.

Currently Sony has not provided any feedback on the report.