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PS Vita Hopes To Prevent Piracy With Closed Memory Format
PS Vita Hopes To Prevent Piracy With Closed Memory Format
December 2, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

December 2, 2011 | By Eric Caoili
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    22 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



The proprietary (and costly) memory card format for Sony's upcoming PS Vita has many up in arms, but the company says the new format will prevent another PSP piracy disaster.

Sony Computer Entertainment's Muneki Shimada claims the PS Vita-exclusive memory cards -- which are used as a substitute for internal storage to hold game saves, downloadable content, and other files -- will "ensure the security" of the handheld, according to a Japanese Impress Watch interview.

The company plans to not allow users to hook up the memory cards to their PCs as "mass storage" formats, meaning that they will not be able to transfer and organize their files without using a special content management program, unlike how one manages files on a standard SD card or other devices.

While the PSP requires Windows-only utility Media Go to transfer games to Sony's proprietary Memory Sticks, users could still use them as mass storage devices for other files. This led to hackers eventually devising a way to load custom firmware, circumvent security protections, and play pirated games on PSPs.

Shimada argued that this approach for PS Vita will be more convenient for users, as they will not have to deal with folder structures on the cards -- similar to a program like iTunes, the content management software would take care of that. Some, however, might argue that this takes control away from users.

Mac owners will also take issue with Sony's utility, as the content management program will only be available for Windows when it launches in Japan (December 17, February 22 elsewhere). Andriasang's translated report of the interview says the company intends to release a Mac-compatible version soon.

PS Vita's memory cards have come under fire recently from consumers after U.S. retailer listings revealed prices considerably higher than standard memory: $24.99 for 4GB, $39.99 for 8GB, $69.99 for 16GB, and $119.99 for 32GB. PS Vita system purchases ($249 for Wi-Fi only, $299 for 3G) will not include the cards.


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Comments


Tom Baird
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You'd think after the Hotz-PS3 fiasco, they'd realize that just not disclosing the method of circumvention in no way protects it from being circumvented.

Paul Shirley
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Seems to have worked (so far) for the SDcard DRM scheme, so far not broken and the key remains secret.



To be fair, only Microsoft seem to use it (to lock cards to WP7 phones) so there's not been much need to break the DRM yet! Unless WP7 sales pick up doesn't look like that will change ;)



Very possible Sony will get a couple of years before it's broken. And annoyed users till then, probably frightening a few away completely.

Rodolfo Rosini
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Proprietary memory formats are the future.

Joe McGinn
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Darn it, you broke my sarcasm detector, the flipping needle flew right off!

kevin Koos
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Good thing they aren't pricing themselves out of the market.

Niko Saariniemi
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What prices did people expect?



A cheap 32 GB memory card with a transfer speed on 4 MB/s cost around 35$.

Faster memory cards with a transfer speed above 60MB/s cost above 100$.



Normal people don't see the difference between a memory cards. So Sony has chosen to have proprietary memory format, so everyone has the same experience a person with official could in theory load a game in 10 seconds and with cheapest memory card it would take around two and halft minut to load.

Shawn Covington
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They realize all this means is a new slot on 9001 in one card readers, right?

james sadler
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I doubt memory will be the issue that kills the platform. Like they hopefully learned from the PSP, they need to get killer titles on the platform for it to succeed, especially in an era where mobile phones have taken over much of the portable market.



One game I saw a glimpse of at E3, though I can't remember the title, was a game that had a PS3 version and a PS Vita version. The player could play on their system at home, save to "the cloud" and then play their same game on their Vita on the go. Brilliant move and I hope to see more companies use this tactic as it will really be the thing that will bring back this kind of platform.

Joe Wreschnig
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Demos like that convince me that Sony still doesn't really understand it. The percentage of games that play equally well on a console and a portable device is small. If I'm "on the go", my time constraints are going to be different; even if I'm not (and I do play a lot of portable games at home in bed or on my couch) what works on a big TV and full audio system a few meters away isn't the same on a small screen close to my fingers and face and small, barely stereo speakers. Ergonomics and haptics are not abstractable by game design.

Lyon Medina
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@James



Great games only help if people can afford the game system to play the games. If a million dollar console came out with the three best games ever that everyone wanted. Alot of people would still not be able to buy it.



You need to have a balance and a understanding of your audience. It's becoming clearer Sony is losing touch with every move they make.



One of the reasons I couldn't play " The Bouncer" on the PS2 with friend of mine is because, we were both too broke to buy a mermory unit, after we bought the game and the console.

james sadler
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I think that if a game is done well it can cross the console and portable divide. I'm not saying one would get the same experience but it could be done.



Yes the memory is expensive, I wasn't trying to elude that it isn't. i was just saying that it isn't the thing that will sink the vita ship, not having good games is what will. Having a proprietary memory unit will just make it harder for people on the fence from picking it up. I'm a pretty late adopter to these kinds of things anyway. I personally think that they should at least include a 2-4gb memory unit with the system since its pretty required.

Dave Long
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@ Joe - you're taking a bit of a 'all games are the same' approach here. There are console games that play well in short bursts, and there are 40+ hour RPGs that have been successful on portables. Suggesting that no games could be successful with crossover is a bit narrow-minded. Granted, not everyone will want to, and not every game should play across both (Sony are on record as saying they want a good number of games on the Vita to not be on console and be exclusive to the system/to handhelds).



Further, there's been a fair bit of positive buzz about this kind of thing. Sure, it's not for everyone, but it's not for no-one either.



@Lyon The price point for the Vita is about standard for a launching handheld at the moment, going by the 3DS. Sure, not everyone will be able to afford it at launch, but that's the case for pretty much every consumer electronics device - and definitely not an argument for not launching in the first place! Yes, these cards on the pricey side, but at least we're all well aware what it'll cost, and can budget accordingly (something it sounds like you and your mate should have done with the Bouncer - at the launch of the PS2, pretty much every non-cartridge-based console needed a memory card, and had done for some time - not budgeting for that was a strange decision in the context of the time, and suggests some more forethought may have been in order).

Lyon Medina
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@ Dave



I get you Dave I really do. My arguement is knowing the audience though. Today I could afford "The Bouncer" and any game I "really" want, back then being I think 2000 I was only 14 years old. I had a very limited income, so budgetting???



We saved up everything we had to buy that game, but we forgot one important detail we never knew we had to remember. Alot of people are going to be irritated when they realize the same as my friend and I learned that day. Even though we just spent all this money to play a game. We still need to spend more just to play the game "correctly"



I will not blame Sony, but give us a accurate pricing on stuff though. If I knew I would an extra 30$ I probaly woiuld have said screw it, bought something else with my money. Rather than having to have it just sit there for like 3 weeks and then playing it while scaving more money from other games I wanted to buy too.



I think in these types of situations even though Sony is taking a huge risk and I know they are, but they need to to take away the risk from the consumer, or at least make it look like if the platform does fail the consumer still wins in the end. Nobody wants another NGP, Dreamcast, Sega CD ect. where they lose their investment because a business was trying to place the risk on the consumer.



Its a "If people buy our product then no one should have nothing to worry about" mentality that gets companies into trouble.

Brandon Maynes
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LoL this is like the 500th time Ive seen a game company boast the 'Un-Pirate-able' game system. Who wants to bet, within 6 months, there will be a card reader and a fully working rooted os with a ton of pirated games. They should spend more time making games IMO.

manou manou
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I bet $1 that it will happen sooner :)

Lyon Medina
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@Brandon



You mean spending the money you make from games to make more games? Crazy talk.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Wyatt Epp
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Jesus, just let hobbyists write code for the thing and the people who actually do the real security work won't bother! Is it really that hard to understand?

Joe Wreschnig
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I can't imagine this is really about piracy, or if it is Sony still doesn't understand how to prevent it. PSP PSN encryption was broken because the encryption algorithm was bad, not because people had access to the media. DSi hardware was cracked because people wrote insecure save game loaders, that it was on an SD card was only tangential. 3DS software is on a regular FAT32 SD card and to my knowledge is still uncracked.



This measure stops save game hacking (which is ridiculous to work against, unless you have a totally incompetent online service that trusts the client software - hi most of PSN), and stops unlicensed code execution - which is tangentially related to piracy, but more about homebrew. Plenty of systems get pirated games long before they get their encryption cracked, because the pirated games come from ripping media that are already encrypted and signed.



In other words, if this is their anti-piracy strategy it's not going to work because someone will have a reader/writer ready in a few weeks. And if they have real encryption on top of this, this is entirely unnecessary. This is Sony trying to squeeze money out of people, plain and simple.



It's also the latest in a long line of companies trying to conflate piracy with any unsigned code execution.

Jorge Ramos
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It's like they're actively trying to goad people into hacking and pirating their system, if for no other reason so that people could actually AFFORD to play.

Joe McGinn
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Jeebus wept. Sony console-release safety preparation manual:

- Fire!

- Aim!

- Ready!

Ujn Hunter
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Nice excuse for charging more money than necessary for a proprietary memory solution. Does this mean that as soon as this "Closed" memory format is hacked (a week... 2 weeks? before the Vita launches), Sony will sell them for reasonable prices? Probably not. Great way to rip people off though!


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