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Simple PS Vita homebrew exploit gives access to hobbyist-created games, apps

PlayStation Vita owners now have access to a suite of hobbyist-created games and apps thanks to a recently discovered exploit that enables support for homebrew software. The hack is also compatible with Sony’s PlayStation TV, greatly expanding the device’s catalog of compatible games.

Describing itself as “akin to jailbreaking your iPhone or rooting your Android device,” HENkaku is a simple homebrew exploit for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV devices. In its current state, the exploit is surprisingly easy to use — players simply need to visit the HENkaku website via the PlayStation TV or PS Vita’s web browser, then click an “install” button to enable homebrew software support for their console.

HENkaku requires 10MB of free space on a PlayStation Vita memory card, and users must also have access to a PC running an FTP client in order to transfer software over to the portable console. Unlike similar hacks for Sony’s PlayStation Portable, HENkaku requires no custom firmware, and is compatible with the PS Vita’s latest Sony-issued system software.

The exploit has its drawbacks, however. HENkaku support for the PlayStation Vita is automatically disabled when the device is powered off, requiring players to re-enable it via the software maker’s website. HENkaku also requires Vita firmware version 3.60; it’s likely that Sony will issue updates in the coming weeks to address the console’s recently discovered exploits.

“It is important that you never update your Vita past 3.60 if you ever wish to use HENkaku now or in the future,” creator Team Molecule explains. “If you do update, all your installed homebrew will no longer work and you cannot install any homebrew in the future.”

HENkaku’s creators also emphasize that the exploit can’t be used to play pirated PS Vita games. The hack does not bypass Sony’s DRM restrictions, and players need to own legitimate physical or digital copies of Vita games in order to play them, regardless of whether HENkaku is installed.

Despite its limitations, however, HENkaku stands to benefit longtime fans of Sony’s all-but-abandoned portable console. The exploit enables support for emulators originally coded for the PlayStation Portable, giving users access to complete software libraries for the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, and Sega Genesis, among other supported legacy consoles.

PlayStation TV owners will also want to give HENkaku a shot if they own any Vita games that aren’t compatible with the device. PlayStation TV support is an option that normally requires software updates and Sony licensing, rendering many early Vita games incompatible with the microconsole. HENkaku removes these restrictions, effectively making nearly all PS Vita games compatible with the PlayStation TV.