There’s been an interesting little mini-drama surrounding the PS5, which has easily-replaceable plastic body panels. Sony’s threatened to sue companies that make alternate replacements. dbrand, a company whose bread and butter is user customization, is calling Sony’s bluff. It’s now selling matte black panel replacements for the PS5’s white shell. They’re available for $49.
The “Darkplates” can also be bought with a vinyl skin wrapper for the middle portion of the PS5, available in black, white, neon yellow, and a few pattern options. Right now the plates are only available for a the full-price PS5 with a disc drive; a version for the PS5 “Digital Edition” is coming later. The plates were quickly back-ordered, and at the moment the fourth wave is shown as shipping in May of 2021.
dbrand’s promotional website includes a cheeky bit of text at the top left: “Go ahead, sue us.” The rest of the promo page is at about the same level. Here’s what it says about the pattern printed on the underside:
When you look at this microscopic texture inside the Darkplates, what do you see? If your answer is ‘a familiar-but-legally-distinct apocalyptic spin on the classic PlayStation button shapes,’ you might be one of our lawyers.
While it seems clear that Sony designed the PS5’s panels to be easily removable (there’s a currently unused M.2 storage slot beneath the top), the company hasn’t shown any inclination that it intends to sell its own decorative replacement panels. It’s possible that the design choice was made to easily enable special editions of the console, often boxed with major game releases.
It’s also not at all clear whether Sony would win a legal battle against a seller of body panel accessories. It certainly has a design patent on the PS5 itself as a whole, but selling accessories and replacement parts for retail products is a widespread practice. Replacement housings for video game hardware, including Sony’s own consoles and controllers, have been widely sold for decades. If Sony wants a fight, it seems like dbrand is ready and willing to give it one.