March 22, 2006 - After a long ongoing conflict between Sony and the homebrew PSP development community, Sony has publicly announced that PSP Firmware 3.00 will enable the use of homebrew software, in an attempt to appease the community and restore consumer faith in Sony.
At the Japanese launch of Sony's Playstation Portable handheld system, each PSP had Firmware 1.00, firmware being the basic version of the unit's "operating system." The PSP was designed to play mp3 format music, view jpeg format images, watch mp4 format video from the memory stick, as well as play UMD games and movies. In addition, the PSP was also designed with a proprietary format of software in mind, called EBOOTs. These Eboots would be placed in the GAME folder of the PSP's memory stick, allowing Sony to eventually release downloadable game demos of upcoming games, or more importantly, allow users without WiFi acess to download updates from the internet in the form of an eboot. Eventually, however, homebrew developers learned how to make their own eboots, and popular homebrew software appeared, such as emulators, ebook readers, and special applications to make up the lack of features in the initial firmware. However, this also lead to piracy of UMD games, allowing anyone with firmware 1.00 to download these games illegally from the internet and play them on their PSP without owning them. In order to prevent any further piracy, Sony released firmware 1.50, which was supposed to allow only eboots signed by sony to run. However, shortly after the American launch of the PSP with firmware 1.50, homebrew developers discovered a way around this, causing homebrew to explode in popularity. After two new security fixes (1.51 and 1.52), Sony released firmware 2.00, which included a wireless web browser, support for AVC video, most image formats, atrac3 and wav audio, as well as a custom background feature. This firmware was seemingly unhackable, causing many homebrew gamers to voluntarily remain at lower firmwares, creating a gap between Sony and their consumers. In order to try and bring people to 2.00, newer UMD games forced updates to higher firmwares, putting pressure on the homebrew community. However, a hack was eventually found that allowed most, but not all of the homebrew software available, to run on firmware 2.00, bypassing the security check. Sony was quick to release a fix for this as well (2.01) and soon released 2.50, a firmware many gamers believed didnt have enough good features to justify an update, unlike firmware 2.0, which was a great deal better than 1.50. In addition, many gamers noticed several glitches in firmware 2.50 resulting from poor bug fixes, another reason not to update. After the release of 2.6, which allowed WMA music playback and RSS feeds, a new exploit was found, allowing the launch of unsigned eboots via a crash in the save game feature of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which was oddly enough the very game that brought many people to update to 2.00. This exploit eventually allowed homebrew all the way up to 2.6. Becoming more and more desparate, Sony made their biggest mistake yet by releasing firmware 2.7. This firmware was originally designed to counter the save game exploit. Instead, however, users of the firmware resulted in corrupting many of their hard-earned game saves.
After thousands of complaints from PSP owners, Sony finally announced this morning that they would begin working on a new firmware from scratch, including all the features of 2.6, Macromedia Flash plug-in support for the web browser, and the ability to run certain homebrew applications, in order to try and regain credibility. This is what Sony Representative Fake Japaneseman had to say:
"None of us wanted this to happen, but now that it has their isn't anything we can do but pick up the peices and start over. We are by no means condoning piracy, and will do all we can to prevent it on our system. I am willing to say that I was wrong about the homebrew community. There have been many very unique applications for our product come from these developers, and I give them the highest praise. Their software will be welcome on Firmware 3.0."
The new Firmware will include a new kind of security check concerning eboots. According to Japaneseman, unsigned eboots will run in a special environment that lacks the features required for certain "offensive," (presumably UMD Piracy) applications. When questioned about emulators and what Nintendo might think of people running their games on a PSP, Japaneseman made no comment. "It was never right for us to censor the homebrew development community," states Japaneseman. "There is a lot of potential for homebrew development, and we aren't going to stunt their growth any longer. We encourage these developers to continue their work, and we are now providing the tools for these developers to truly shine."
When asked whether or not he was worried about future hacks to enable the use of piracy on newer firmwares, Japaneseman had this to say: "Those who wish to steal our games best stick to 1.5. We are willing to allow any homebrew software on newer firmwares, as long as it does not allow piracy of our own software. That is our gift to you, use it as you wish. But do not expect to play illegally downloaded UMD games on any future firmware. We will continue to place forced updates on our newer games, and we have already put in place new forms of encryption that prevent the ripping of UMDs. We may never be able to shut down the downloads that are already on the internet, but we CAN make sure that no more games are added to that list. If you want to be able to enjoy homebrew applications as well as our great new lineup of UMD games, then its time to give up the fight." Japaneseman went on to add, "You don't have to be afraid to update any more."