Sony is shutting down the PlayStation Stores for the PS3, PSP and PS Vita. It’s not an unfounded worry that the PS4 may suffer a similar fate at some point. As it turns out, the previous generation console may very well suffer a worse fate than its predecessors one day. A process in the way the console works can render it completely unable to play games. And this will apply even if you have physical copies.
Like PC motherboards, the PS4 keeps its internal clock running with a CMOS battery. This is not a clock that users can freely adjust, unless you mod the console. When this runs out, the console will try to connect to the PlayStation Network to get the internal clock updated. And failure to do so will result in an error code CE-30391-6. And the error will prevent you from even playing offline games.
What happens in the future when the CMOS battery in your console dies and the servers are unreachable? We fear it could have serious implications for software preservation.
— Does it play? (@DoesItPlay1) March 26, 2021
This internal process was discovered by Does It Play, a Twitter account dedicated to video game preservation and accessibility, last month. Another Twitter user Forest has verified this by getting a new PS4 Slim, removing the CMOS battery and reinserting it, and booting a game while remaining offline. The tweet with the video of the process has since been removed, but another one with a still of the result still exists.
Another case of DRM making legitimate games unplayable
Another Twitter user, Lance McDonald, known for his 60fps Bloodborne patch, also chimed in. He said that this is a side effect of not letting users keep their PS Plus games once their subscription has ended. The reason it bricks your PS4 is because this form of DRM is also tied to the trophy system for all other games. Sony can fix this by sending out a patch that lets you play games offline but disable trophy earning. But it remains to be seen when, or even if, this will happen. Oddly enough, this doesn’t affect the physical copies of games on the PS3 or PS Vita.
The tweet I originally quoted has been deleted, but if you want a bunch of explanation for why the PS4 is bricked when its clock battery dies until you not only replace it, but re-activate the clock using the PSN servers, I wrote up a lot of info here: https://t.co/8OObr8ndFd
— Lance McDonald (@manfightdragon) April 13, 2021
On the bright side, the CMOS battery in the PS4 lasts a very long time. It’s much like the one on a PC motherboard. In the same way, Sony is unlikely to switch off the PS4 store so soon. Though it’s definitely an eventuality that owners will have to prepare for.