This article has been update to provide additional technical information.
The upcoming optional disc drive for the PlayStation 5 will require an internet connection to pair it to a console for the first time.
As spotted on the back of the box for the upcoming Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 PS5 slim bundle, small print confirms that players who purchase the new model with the optional drive will be required to connect to the internet when pairing it to a machine for the first time.
It’s likely that this is a security measure in order to ensure that the disc drive is a legitimate one and not a third party. However, it has raised some preservation concerns.
Because the accessory will require an internet connection for verification, there will potentially come a time when the servers needed to verify the license will no longer be operational.
It’s possible that by the time this happens, Sony will release an update that removes the requirement, and in any case, it’s likely to be many years in the future, long after the PS5 is Sony’s main console.
The issue appears to stem from the way that both Sony and Microsoft pair their consoles’ disc drives with their motherboards.
As explained in a 2020 article by Wired, each disc drive has a daughterboard that pairs with the console’s motherboard, essentially creating a handshake unique to that specific pairing.
In the article, Wired removed the disc drives from two launch PS5 consoles and swapped them over, but the consoles would refuse to recognise the other drive despite them being identical hardware.
This may be partly due to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says it is illegal to “circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work”, which in this case is the firmware on the disc drive.
As such, in order to prevent piracy (and also perhaps third-party repairs), Sony and Microsoft use the pairing method to ensure that each console can only work with the specific disc drive assigned to it, meaning users can’t modify or replace the drive.
The initial online connection requirement for the external PS5 drive, then, may be a security check designed to verify the drive then create the unique pairing between the drive and the console.
Sony’s new PlayStation 5 model will launch this November in the US before rolling out elsewhere over the following months. The new model will come with 1TB storage for both editions.
Unlike the current model, those who purchase the PS5 Digital Edition will be able to add a Blu-ray disc drive later, as it will also be sold separately for $79.99 / €119.99 / £99.99.
A horizontal stand will be included with the new PS5 model. Also a new Vertical Stand compatible with all PS5 models will be sold separately for $29.99 / €29.99 / £24.99.
“To address the evolving needs of players, our engineering and design teams collaborated on a new form factor that provides greater choice and flexibility,” said SIE’s Sid Shuman.
“The same technology features that make PS5 the best to play are packed into a smaller form factor, along with an attachable Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Drive and a 1TB SSD for more internal storage.”
Once inventory of the current PS5 model has sold out, the new model will become the only one available.