In scrutinizing the photos, X user @Thunder_clart noticed something curious in the fine print. “Internet connection required to pair Disc Drive and PS5 console upon setup,” reads the disclaimer on the box. Yes, being able to use the add-on optical disc drive will, at least at the time of setup, require an internet connection. Since authentication servers could go down at any time, this caused consternation among video game preservationists.
A December 2020 Wired.com article seemingly explains why this is happening, albeit in the context of repairing broken drives on the original Disc Edition. “The root of the problem is that Microsoft and Sony lock down the software they use to pair their disc readers with their consoles’ motherboards,” wrote iFixit’s Kyle Wiens in the article. “Shops like Replay’d could easily replace those drives by accessing the software pairing the drives with the boards. Instead, the repair industry is cowering in fear of a relatively obscure provision of copyright law banning the removal of digital locks that’s kept everyone from gamers to farmers and hospitals from fixing the devices they own.”
To wit, Wiens explained how, during iFixit’s teardown of the PlayStation 5, they tried swapping the optical drives of two Disc Edition consoles that they had. Attempting to load a disc-based copy of “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” on both swapped consoles resulted in an error message that said the game “isn’t supported by the PS5.” This was rectified by switching the drives back to the consoles they shipped in. In other words, it looks like installing a new optical drive requires an internet connection to create the software handshake that allows a stock PlayStation 5 optical drive to work properly.