A Firmware Issue Threatens to Make PS4 Games Unplayable

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Unless one thing modifications, a difficulty lurking in older PlayStations’ inside timing programs threatens to ultimately make each PS4 sport and all downloaded PS3 video games unplayable on present {hardware}. Right now, it isn’t a matter of if however when this drawback will happen.

This ticking firmware time bomb has been identified in sure PlayStation preservation and hacking circles for some time. But it is gaining new consideration amid Sony’s lately introduced determination to shut down the net shops for PS3, PSP, and Vita software program. While that impending retailer shutdown will not impression gamers’ talents to play and re-download beforehand bought software program for now, the eventual wider shutdown of PSN servers for these growing old consoles may have a way more drastic impact on the playability of a large swath of video games.

The root of the approaching subject has to do with the CMOS battery inside each PS3 and PS4, which the programs use to maintain monitor of the present time (even once they’re unplugged). If that battery dies or is eliminated for any motive, it raises an inside flag within the system’s firmware indicating the clock could also be out of sync with actuality.

After that flag is raised, the system in query has to examine in with PSN the subsequent time it wants to affirm the right time. On the PS3, this on-line examine occurs once you play a sport downloaded from the PlayStation Store. On the PS4, this additionally occurs once you strive to play retail video games put in from a disc. This examine has to be carried out no less than as soon as even when the CMOS battery is changed with a contemporary one so the system can reconfirm clock consistency.

Why does the PlayStation firmware care a lot about having the right time? On the PS3, the timer examine is used to implement any “time limits” which may have been positioned in your digital buy. (As confirmed by the error message: “This content has a time limit. To perform this operation go to settings date and time settings set via internet.”) That examine appears to be required even for downloads that do not have any precise set expiration date, including a de facto one-time on-line check-in requirement for programs after their inside batteries fail.

On the PS4, although, the timing examine is outwardly supposed to be sure PSN trophy knowledge is registered precisely and to forestall gamers from pretending to get trophies sooner than they really had. You’d assume this examine could possibly be segregated from the flexibility to load the non-trophy parts of the sport, however participant testing has proven that this appears to be a requirement to get PS4 video games to load in any respect.

None of this can be a big drawback for many PlayStation house owners proper now. Yes, the 10- to 20-year life span in your common CMOS battery is slowly operating out, particularly for the earliest PS3 {hardware}. But changing the battery and resyncing the inner timer with PSN is a comparatively minor annoyance in the interim (assuming you will discover a Wi-Fi scorching spot and PSN is not struggling considered one of its uncommon outages).

But nothing lasts endlessly, as Sony’s latest selections concerning older PlayStation on-line shops present. At some level sooner or later, whether or not it is in a single yr or 100 years, Sony will shut off the PSN servers that energy the timing examine for {hardware} it not considers necessary. After that, it is solely a matter of time earlier than failing CMOS batteries slowly cut back all PS3 and PS4 {hardware} to semi-functional curios.

Sony may render the issue moot comparatively simply with a firmware replace that limits the system features tied to this timing examine. Thus far, although, Sony hasn’t publicly indicated it has any such plans and hasn’t responded to a number of requests for remark from Ars Technica. Until it does, sophisticated workarounds that make use of jailbroken firmware are the one choice for making certain that growing old PlayStation {hardware} will stay absolutely usable nicely into the longer term.

This story initially appeared on Ars Technica.

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