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Saturday, December 13, 2003
Microsoft planning non-standard media for next Xbox?

A job advertisement which has appeared on Microsoft's careers website suggests that the company may be considering moving to a proprietary disc format for its next console, in an effort to make piracy on the device more difficult.

According to the ad, Microsoft's Xbox team is seeking an engineer "to manage the design and development of the Xbox Game Disc for the next generation Xbox console," with the job description going on to mention anti-piracy as the first in a list of key factors for the new game disc specification.

Although it's possible that the role will simply involve devising a copy protection mechanism for games on existing DVD media, similar to that used by the current generation Xbox and the PS2, the description of the role hints strongly at the company developing a more proprietary format.

Microsoft may be planning to follow in the footsteps of Nintendo, whose mini-DVD format which has been highly successful in preventing piracy on the GameCube. It's widely expected, however, that whatever media the next Xbox console (codenamed Xenon, apparently) uses will be the same size as DVD media, since the system will be expected to play back DVD movies and provide backwards compatibility with Xbox games.

Although preventing piracy which results from the copying of game discs is obviously an important consideration, Microsoft will also be thinking very hard about how to prevent piracy which uses the hard drive on the system. Many mod chips for the current generation of Xbox allow users to copy games to their hard drives and then play them without the original game disc, or simply download copies off the Internet directly onto their console - a new avenue for piracy which has potential to be hugely damaging if it becomes popular.

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