I’m a big fan of home-brew games. These are games that people have worked on themselves and are usually distributed either free or extremely cheaply. They’re usually quick fun ideas executed in ways that are perfect for mobile gaming. To me they’re one of the best reasons to get a handheld games machine, because there’s a lot of fun to be had very cheaply.
This creates a problem for manufacturers though: do you let people make these games run easily selling more base units, or do you try and block them and sell more full-price games?
Well, the answer that $ony has come up with is that they want to make their money out of games, so the PSP (PlayStation Portable) automatically upgrades its internal software occasionally whenever a new hole in its defences against home-brew software is discovered. That’s the problem for home-brew creators: they need to hack the console to let it play non-official releases. Its a real battle of the titans, on one side you have a whole planet of determined hackers who want to get the best out of their machine and use it to play the things that they want to (which is fair enough, if they own it they should be able to do what they like with it – although I suspect that’s not the legal perspective) and on the other side you have $ony trying to patch up holes as soon as they are found.
The firmware (the software inside the PSP that makes it tick) version 1.5 was found to have a flaw that home-brew programmers could use to get their code onto their machine. $ony have now upgraded the firmware to version 2.0, which automatically installs itself onto the machine through numerous official sources, so the holy grail for home-brew creators is to find a way to downgrade a machine from 2.0 to 1.5. Some people have worked out how to do this, but unfortunately for others, some hackers decided to put a trojan on a down-grade download saying it’s from ‘PSP Team’ which turns your swanky new PSP into a useless lump of silicon, AKA a brick. Current theories aren’t sure if the machine is recoverable from that state either. Very, very nasty.
The paranoid person in me suggests that maybe $ony did this themselves to scare people off from using home-brew software and to guarantee people don’t get to use anything that’s free on their PSP, but the voice of reason tells me that they’d have a lawsuit the size of Texas if they were ever found out and so the risk is too great. Still, it’s a nice conspiracy theory, and I always enjoy a good one of them.