Sony’s forthcoming smaller PlayStation 5 will make the disc drive swappable, allowing owners to remove or connect it as they wish. However, a new leak of the upcoming slim redesign points to an internet connection being required for the Blu-Ray player’s initial setup, igniting fears it will one day become an obsolete solution for playing old PS5 discs.
The surprise requirement was discovered through a new leak of the PS5 slim’s box as retailers begin stocking the console for its November launch. Shared with Call of Duty news account CharlieIntel, the images show a disclaimer on the box that reads, “Internet connection required to pair Disc Drive and PS5 console upon setup.”
As the requirement began circulating online, it struck some as unusual and pernicious. “Uhhhh…if this is the case, that is highly concerning and very strange,” tweeted Digital Foundry’s John Linneman. “Hardware connectivity shouldn’t be determined by a server that may not always be available.”
It’s not immediately clear if the internet connection requirement will truly be a one-time thing needed only the first time the console and disc drive are paired, or if it might be necessary every time the drive is taken off and reattached. One concern is that the requirement could make new PS5s unable to read discs at some point far in the future, if the servers utilized by Sony for the pairing are eventually taken offline. If so, it would be another big blow to video game preservation as the medium goes all-digital.
Read More: PS5 Slim Is A Lot Smaller Than We Thought
It’s possible that the requirement is just the company complying with an archaic bit of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act intended to prevent piracy. As pointed out by Lost in Cult CEO Jon Doyle and others, Section 1201 of the law makes it illegal to “circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work.”
That includes optical drive firmware, and it’s long been a thorn in the side of right to repair advocates. As Wired reported back in 2020, the language has led a lot of older consoles to end up in landfills rather than get resold or re-gifted. Section 1201 was re-examined by the U.S. Copyright office in 2021. While some protections for repair were expanded, it stopped short of adding a full exemption.
According to Dealabs’ billbil-kun, the slimmer PS5 will officially release on November 8. While the standard model with the disc drive will be $500, the all-digital one will cost $450 with the stand-alone disc drive priced at $80. Sony has confirmed that once all current stock of launch PS5 consoles sells out, the slim models will be the only ones available.
Update 11/10/2023 4:31: PS5 slims are now out in the wild, including its detachable disc drive. So how exactly does the DRM work? Well in addition to needing to sync it to the console online first before it can be used, it apparently has to be reconnected to the internet everytime the PS5’s database is rebuilt, something players do from time to time to keep the system working well or because an update or reset demands it.
As the preservation account “Does it play” wrote, “In this scenario, once the service you need to connect to is gone, you can no longer use the disc drive.”