Although the Sony console has been deemed by most hackers a nonviable platform to hack, because it is extremely similar to a PC, thus not entirely interesting, hackers managed to make the PS4 run Pokemon and Linux, hopefully opening up the homebrew scene for the console. The hack itself was unveiled at the 32nd Chaos Communication Congress, a conference revolving around hacking and computer security.
Homebrew games have been at home on the previous Sony handheld, the PSP. However, being hacked roughly a couple of months after its launch, the console was eventually doomed to fail, without any major companies developing games for the PSP because of the fear of pirated games. You could even play a homebrew version of Guitar Hero, called Guitarway To Heaven, because a similar game was not present on the PSP.
These types of games can be considered shareware, or software that comes free of charge. The group that hacked the PS4, the Fail0verflow, have also hacked in the past the Nintendo Wii, eventually leading to PS3’s software modding scene that brought a plethora of pirated games to the console. This made Sony change its systems completely, ditching Linux support entirely because of its vulnerability towards hacking.
The hack itself consisted of opening the PS4 browser and loading up Linux. After this, by using a GameBoy Advanced emulator, the team was able to play Pokemon from the leisure of their couch, without any effort what-so-ever. This was possible because PS4’s browser runs on the WebKit platform which has an open-source nature.
The idea of pirated games, even if completely hated by game producers and developers, is still a rather interesting topic that gets brought up countless times, especially on the PC side of the market. Although the subject is rather taboo in some instances, pirated games do not necessarily impede the selling of the game. For example, if you want to see if the game actually runs on your computer, or if it’s any good to begin with, you could opt for a pirated version of the game. Most players that really enjoy their time spent playing a pirated game will choose to buy the original version as well because they consider that the game is worth the money.
Some indie developers have even used pirated games to their advantage, releasing their games on torrent sites, with small modifications. The No Time To Explain platformer had everyone wearing pirate hats if you downloaded the game from Pirate Bay or any other torrent site. Hotline Miami developer, Dennaton Games, have also released their game for free on torrent sites because the game was banned in certain countries, like Australia. By doing this, they effectively let fans of their games enjoy the crazy and bloody Hotline Miami freely, no matter their country of residence.
In regards to game emulators, their concept is controversial as well. Even though Nintendo views this as egregious to say the least, you can no longer purchase Gameboys or simply play very old versions of Mario or Pokemon on other consoles. By allowing users to enjoy these old games in our present time, the games’ longevity gets exponentially increased, even though Nintendo doesn’t make any money from these games anymore.
The fact that hackers managed to make the PS4 run Pokemon and Linux doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just do what the group did and hack your own console at home. This is due to the fact that the hack itself was done on an older firmware version, 1.76., with normal consoles being at version 3.0 and higher. Either way, this paves the way for homebrew games for the PS4, and eventually, we might even see the console completely modded in order to run pirated games as well.