The Average Gamer

PSP firmware hacked – widespread piracy to follow?

Cartoon pirate brandishing cutlass Hackers have managed to break the security on Sony’s PSP console, allowing homebrew software to run on firmwares up to and including 2.6 (Previously you needed firmware 1.5 or lower to run software not licensed by Sony). This could also mean that it would be possible to run pirated software on any PSP with firmware up to v2.6, a headache for games developers and publishers alike, no-one wants to give away hard work for free.

However the reality is likely to be much less doom and gloom. The homebrew software is made up of a mix of game emulators (like the ones you can get for the PC), homemade games and software tools (like movie players). The emulators on the whole run pretty slowly and are a fun novelty for most people, much as on the PC, and shouldn’t harm game sales (especially as the games emulated tend to be from the 1980’s to mid 1990’s). Homemade games fall into the same no-retail-impact area as emulators. The application software however is much more useful stuff, DivX movie players and e-book readers make the PSP a much more user friendly device, which is great for the user (making the iPod video look prehistoric by comparison) but could hurt UMD film sales. Remember though, Sony happily lets you play ripped music from 1Gig memory sticks on the PSP, so it could be perceived a little odd to expect you not to do the same with your dvds.

Finally, when it comes to the scary concept of free-for-all game piracy, well… it’s not all that scary for the moment at least. Yes game rips would load faster from a memory stick and draw less battery power than the original UMD version, but for starters most won’t fit onto 1Gig cards (costing about £60) and for those that do they actually contribute strongly to the death of the memory stick (the constant read-writes). Most importantly the current hack requires the user owning a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for their PSP, and it’s a slightly awkward process to get things running (see this how-to: ). Popping a retail game in the drive beats that sort of hassle anyday.

There will doubtless be more hacks and exploits to come in the future, but in the meantime the PSP should safely continue to grow its userbase, which once large enough should be impervious to piracy. Much like its older brother, possibly the most pirated console currently available, which happens to also be the most successful, the PlayStation2!