Defeating gaming protection on popular gaming consoles

Gaming consoles are great for multiple reasons. First the obvious reason - you get to play a lot of games, and every one of them look as advertised, runs smoothly, and without performance issues. And then there are the additional benefits: A gaming console is basically a very beefed - up computer. Wouldn't it be nice to run it as a full blown computer?

But gaming console manufacturers need to make the users use only their software with the console - that is how they generate profit. So all console manufacturers lock their consoles through a firmware protection mechanism that allows only signed code to run on the consoles.

And a lot of people attempt to bypass these protection mechanisms in order to run custom code, also known as homebrew code. Naturally, all bypassing methods are illegal, but we are going to discuss the success of bypassing for different consoles

  • Xbox 360 - Xbox 360 is well protected. can run homebrew only if you make a hardware modification to the Xbox. There are subvariants on modding the Xbox for playing music, using large USB files which are much easier. But since Xbox is a full blown computer, the aim would be to run a full computer operating system. Unfortunately, this falls under the domain of homebrew, and can be achieved through hardware modification. But the Xbox is currently quite outdated in terms of total computing power compared to current new computers. The only thing that stands out is the PowerPC CPU, but not so much to merit a hardware modification. Therefore, xbox 360 is not a very popular homebrew platform.
  • Play Station Portable (PSP) - The PSP is my favorite example. It started with a buggy firmware that allowed for all kinds of exploits, and the users could install their own custom firmware. Then SONY stepped up to the plate, and fixed a lot of things, and made the newer versions much stronger in terms of protection. The exploits were limited to exploiting flaws in legal games and then injecting a code that will run the homebrew as if part of the legal game. But then things got horribly wrong. On 02 January 2011 it was revealed that the master signing keys were uncovered. You can now sign more or less anything for PSP.
  • Nintendo Wii - Similarly to PSP, Nintendo Wii can run homebrew by exploiting a installing a 'Homebrew Channel' application which bypasses the copy protection. The architecture of the Wii is based on the Nintendo GameCube. Because of this, most of the homebrew tools from Nintendo GameCube can be used for Wii.
For anyone, choosing a gaming console is primarily based on the choice of games and the gaming experience. But it is always nice if you have the freedom to try other things on your gaming console.

Talkback and comments are most welcome

2 comments:

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