“Vita is bridging a gap between the PS3 and the PSP, not only from Sony’s point of view, but also because hackers from both the PS3 and the PSP are interested in the new device,” Half-Byte Loader creator Wololo told us back in April, “For now there, there is no Vita homebrew, just PSP homebrew made compatible with Vita. People are excited to try and use the full power of the Vita though, but that hasn’t happened yet.” Sony’s reprieve is over, though. As of Thursday, the PlayStation Vita has been hacked. The homebrew is on its way, but will Sony’s aggressive anti-piracy measures stop basement tinkerers just as they’re getting started?
Yifan Lu, a capable hacker that’s built tools for jailbreaking Amazon’s Kindle as well as Sony’s first PlayStation certified smartphone the Xperia Play, discovered an exploit in the PlayStation Vita that could be used to make the device’s first homebrew loader—a tool for launching unsigned applications like homemade games, apps, and, yes, pirated games.
Back in April, a couple of PSP games available in the Vita’s PSN Store could be exploited to launch Half-Byte Loader so at least PSP homebrew software was running on Vita. Sony immediately removed Everybody’s Tennis and Motorostorm: Arctic Edge from its storefront in Japan and the US to block even PSP homebrew from its platform.
Sony’s great fear of course is piracy. Software pirates savaged publishers that supported the PSP. Dissidia: Final Fantasy for example was downloaded illegally an estimated 5.2 million times during its first year on shelves. Publisher support for Vita is already so weak, that Sony is naturally paranoid that this handheld will suffer the same fate as PSP.
Indie developer Wolfgame confronted Yifan Lu on Twitter saying that the exploit he’s discovered is an “open door… for people who want to destroy us.” Lu responded, “I apologize, but what can I about what others may possible do in the future?” That’s a familiar response from hackers when they’re hassled by the makers of software and hardware that don’t want their goods tinkered with.
What else can they say though? People are naturally inclined to tinker with gadgets for no other reason than the joy of it. “Jailbreaking” a device to run homebrew software is also perfectly legal according to the US government. It’s the responsibility of users not to steal things.