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The PSP piracy arms race

The PSP piracy arms race

Over the Fourth of July holiday, PlayStation Portable hackers unveiled the first working pirated PSP games, no doubt casting a pall over Sony's otherwise successful company barbecue. As you may have read elsewhere, the PSP hax0rz were able to run ripped copies of Lumines, Archer Maclean's Mercury, Coded Arms, and a handful of other titles by exploiting a known loophole in unpatched PSPs with leaky v1.5 firmware. Sony's response? Future PSP games will require newer firmware to run, thus closing the backdoor that makes this and other hacks possible.

Of course, there's just one problem, which is that hackers don't need to run protected UMD games, they just need to read them. So long as they can keep dumping pirated games onto their hard drives and creating patches to remove the higher firmware requirements (something PC gaming pirates have been doing for years), they'll have no convincing reason to upgrade. The result is an ever-escalating piracy arms race, in which Sony releases firmware updates, only to have hackers release their own patches a few days later. It's a situation that the PSP coding scene will relish as a challenge but that Sony will rue as a perpetual drain on resources.

My suggestion to Sony is this: Ignore the pirates because you can't beat them on their own terms. Instead, dedicate those resources to putting out a firmware upgrade that's actually useful. The PSP has its problems, and an update that gives customers a Web browser, WPA support for Wi-Fi, or full-resolution Memory Stick videos would provide more than enough incentive to drop the hackable v1.5 firmware for good.