Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Custom PSP Firmware

The aggravation with the new DSi reminded me of another issue that's been coming up lately - Sony's actively been trying to fight custom firmware by assuring that recent game releases won't work it. I've been out of the loop for awhile, because outside of the custom firmware functionality - mostly the homebrew stuff like emulators and SCUMMVM - I've only barely found a use for the thing lately. (I know they're touting a resurgence, but yet more "remakes" and portable versions of franchises which weren't interesting in the first place don't count.) I first found out about it when the domestic version of Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!, shuttered to the PSN release ghetto, reportedly wouldn't work on hacked PSPs, but apparently Ys 7, which just came out last week, won't function either, even if you have the UMD. It absolutely requires OFW 5.55. This isn't a case of it requiring the new official firmware for functionality - it just does a simple check to make sure it's in the clear, and proceeds as normal. The recent US releases of Persona and Soul Calibur are said to be the same way, and word on the street is that the new Gran Turismo will require the new OFW 6.00 too.

It's actually pretty easy to play Ys 7 on a custom firmware PSP - you can either (a) make a Pandora battery, switch to official firmware to play it, then switch back, or (b) download a hacked version, when (or if) it becomes available. This is actually pretty funny, because it shows some level of ignorance on Sony's part. It might be long forgotten, but about ten years ago, Sony was encrypting Playstation discs so if it detected a mod chip, it wouldn't boot. (The first major release was the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII. I think the domestic version of Dino Crisis even had it too.) Never mind that some (almost definitely not the majority, to be honest, but some) people had chipped Playstations to play imports. The easiest solution was simply to download a hacked pirated version and be on its way. (Pro Action Replay codes worked, too.) It did nothing to stop anything, it actually encouraged piracy in a roundabout way, and they cut it out pretty quickly. But history repeats itself, and Sony is none the wiser. Ys 7 currently isn't hacked to my knowledge, but considering you could shell out $40 for a copy of Soul Calibur and have it not work, or just download a hacked version for free, which one makes more sense?

It's not like this corporate bureaucracy is anything new. I got my PSP modded in the first place so I could take screenshots of games, which is useful, given that I run a video game website based heavily on media. It'd be nice if they included such a feature already, but they won't, for stupid copyright reasons, mostly likely. There are a very few number of games which let you export images, but they all stick an ugly copyright notice on it - not the worst thing they could do, but considering you can do the same thing on Windows with any number of third party programs (and even built in Windows itself to an extent) it's weirdly restrictive. What's the worst you can do with a screenshot? Something really bad, I'm sure the lawyers think!

All of this points for Sony's - and, indeed, any console maker's - obsession with having a closed system. I understand the corporate reasonings behind this, and I understand the need to eliminate piracy as much as possible, but from a consumer standpoint, all they're doing is creating a stunted product - which isn't anything anybody should be happy about.


  1. Yeah, I had this same problem last night. I wanted to play the demo of Half-Minute Hero and Persona and couldn't. I realized that I really didn't use the emulation on the thing (my main attraction) so I just installed the official firmware. It just became too much of a pain. Will this deter me from playing on emulators? Absolutely not. Maybe just my PSP for the MOMENT.

  2. They close their systems as an attempt to increase profitability, at the expense of consumer power, simply because They Can.

    The patch check is, simply, a punishment measure against people with custom firmwares. There can be no other reason for it. It's just a fuck-you to people who dare mod the systems they bought. It's done to make it seem to them like they've "broken" their systems through their acts.

    If this seems anti-social or spiteful, then you're not thinking like a huge corporation that has purposely engineered for themselves a position of power by creating the hardware platform games are played on. Sony is not a moral entity beyond what they have to be to avoid consumer backlash and avoid legal liability. Neither are any of the other console manufacturers. That is just the way of business.

  3. honestly, I dont mind giving my money for a game I like, not really into pirating but really im only interested in playing games that im interested in paying for, I suppose theres some meh games that might entertain and ide grab them, that said I have nothing against people who do pirate except maybe they should pick up a few games that i especially like to add more sales and increase the chance of other games coming, this mostly being in cases of NIS/GUST or other import/translated titles though

    I have been moderately interested in emulation on my psp though followed through with it, ide love to be playing PCE, or any other console shmups on my psp, man playing touhou on my psp would rock but i doubt the screen really allows for that too well without the aspect being waaay too squeezed in at the sides

  4. I guess all we can do is wait for the CFW to be updated to combat this.

    What's the new Ys like anyway? I'd forgotten it was coming out!

  5. I was able able to play the Half-Minute Hero demo and Badman and I'm running CFW 5.50 GEN, just change your version.txt

  6. I was going through this debate over whether or not to update my PSP to OFW 5.55, and for Persona I will. It's mostly just annoying because it's such a hassle to downgrade the PSP Slims again.

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