Sony’s PlayStation Vita is not doing well. It upsets me, because it really is a lovely bit of hardware – it just has very little in the way of games. The one game I thought might save the machine, Call of Duty, looks like it’s shaping up to be pretty damned awful – and is unlikely to help sell much hardware. The system could be getting a shot in the arm from an unlikely source; hackers.
A developer by the name of Yifan Lu has started something he’s calling the Usermode Vita Loader, with the aim of enabling homebrew on the Vita. According to Yifan, he’s found a Vita exploit that’ll allow this to happen – but it’s in the early stages, and requires the help of several other developers. This differs significantly from the hacks already available on the Vita, which allows for unsigned PSP code to run in the system’s sandbox. Should this come to fruition, homebrew developers would be able to run Vita native code – with access to all of the system’s features.
My own PSP, which largely sat gathering dust came in to its own after the advent of custom firmware and homebrew. It found a second life as one of the finest handheld multi-system emulators available – and the Vita would only make an even better one (that beautiful AMOLED screen AND buttons? Yes please!). Homebrew and hackery certainly helped the PSP with regards to hardware sales though it did little to help where it counts – the sales of games. Unfortunately, the custom firmware brought with it easy-peasy piracy and a perpetual cat-and-mouse firmware update game between hackers and Sony.
Yifan Lu’s exploit apparently won’t open up the floodgates to piracy – so it might be in Sony’s best interests to let it slide (for a while at least) before patching everything up. The only problem is that if piracy does take off on the Vita, it’ll drive away developers who’re already wary of the device.