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PSP piracy threat looms as hackers break protection

Hackers have succeeded in making the PlayStation Portable play pirated copies of four commercial games from the Memory Stick slot, in a worrying development that could lead to widespread piracy on the platform.

Hackers have succeeded in making the PlayStation Portable play pirated copies of four commercial games from the Memory Stick slot, in a worrying development that could lead to widespread piracy on the platform.

Amateur programming teams working on the PSP had already succeeded in making the machine run unauthorised code, and a large number of "homebrew" games and emulators for older systems are being circulated on the Internet.

It's only in recent days, though, that hackers have managed to make the PSP boot pirate copies of games - and now four titles, namely Mercury, Lumines, Coded Arms and Puzzle Bobble - can be downloaded from pirate sites and played off Memory Stick.

The exploit, which uses a bug in certain versions of the software that ships with the PSP to circumvent the machine's protection system, has already been addressed by Sony in more recent versions of the system software, and will almost certainly not work on European models when they arrive in September.

Indeed, a SCEE spokesperson this morning dismissed the suggestion that the exploit is "seriously bad news", saying that it is "more another string to the bow for arguing against grey imports."

Original Japanese consoles, which shipped with the 1.0 firmware, and later Japanese and early American consoles, which shipped with version 1.5, are susceptible to the exploit, which requires no modification to the hardware and is easy enough for even users who aren't particularly technically competent to use.

However, anyone who has upgraded their firmware over the Internet won't be able to use it - and Sony is planning to ship automatic firmware upgrades on future game titles, which should also lock out the exploit on many consoles.

The fear now, however, is that rather than simply locking down the PSP with the upgrades, this scenario could turn into a war of attrition similar to Microsoft's attempts to lock down on Xbox mod chip users with updates to the Dashboard software - efforts which have largely proved futile.

It's not just game piracy that is a concern on the PSP, however. Freely available software has also been created which can rip DVDs into formats that can be played back from Memory Stick, raising the prospect of widespread movie piracy on the device as well.

Author

Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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