The 1st November launch of the new Kinect-capable dash brought about an unwelcome surprise for Xbox 360 pirates: new copy protection tech is included that looks set to lock out "backup" games from Xbox Live and - for the first time - stop copied games from loading.
Hackers refer to the new checks as "AP 2.5" and while details are scarce about how it actually works, the current thinking is that specific challenges to the DVD drive's firmware are embedded into the security sectors on the game disc. If the correct responses don't come back from the firmware, the console is flagged for banning on Xbox Live and the game refuses to load with a "dirty disc" error. Original copies of the game continue to work fine, even once the console is flagged.
Xbox 360 firmware hacker "Commodore4Eva" claims to have already isolated the AP 2.5 checks embedded within Fable III, but in theory any number of challenges could be embedded onto new game discs, and connection to Xbox Live could see randomised changes to the codes used. Should this be the case, in a best-case scenario, his could mean an effective end to Xbox 360 piracy but in the worst case it may restrict "backups" to running offline only.
The release of the new dash puts pressure on 360 owners unwilling to buy original copies of their games. They can either update their consoles now in order to continue using Xbox Live, running the risk of bans kicking in should they run pirated copies of games using AP 2.5 software, or they can remain on the current dash and lock themselves out of both Live and future games supporting the copy protection mechanism. Kinect support is obviously off the table as well.
The AP 2.5 measures will almost certainly bring about another mass wave of Xbox Live bans from those who have run pirate copies of Fable III, and will once again continue the cat and mouse game played between the platform holder and the hackers.