How to install Netflix on your Japanese VitaTV, or “The case of KoalaVita, the Vita region lock, and the pkg installer”
The Vita scene has been boiling recently with the work of a new “hacker group” on the scene, going by the name of Koala. Word on the street is that they have found a hack that lets them bypass region-locked applications such as Netflix (trusted sources were able to verify that claim), and that maybe they have the hardware and software ready to sign any Vita app to whatever account they want (read: OMG, piracy!). Although the discovery made by the Koala crew is a nice little trick, we wouldn’t go as far as calling it an “exploit”. Again, it has its usefulness, but let’s explain how it’s done and what this really does.
Some applications on the PSN store have a loose license mechanism that lets them being installed with less limitations than others. Some of us refer to these apps as “DRM free”, others call them apps with a “free license”. They are technically free apps, and even though they are still tied to your account when you install them on your Vita, they have less restrictions than your typical Vita game, from a security point of view. such apps include for example Netflix, or the eReader app from the Japanese PSN.
If you’ve tried, you know that it’s “impossible” to download the Netflix App on a Japanese account, or, on the other side of the coin, the JP eReader on a US account.
What Koala achieved is exactly that: the possibility to run these free apps on an account that was not supposed to run them because of the region lock.
The process to achieve that is actually fairly simple, and we’ll explain it below. Let’s say I have a VitaTV and want to install Netflix on the vitaTV’s Japanese account. There’s basically 3 steps:
- Acquire the Netflix package app
- Install and activate the package for my Japanese account on a “special” PS Vita
- Backup the result with CMA, then transfer to my VitaTV again.
People among you who’ve tinkered a bit know that step 2 is the “difficult” part. We’ll get there in time. Let’s start with the first step
1. Acquire the Netflix package app
The pkg file urls are easily obtained by using a proxy such as charles proxy or SKFU Pr0xy to get the link (create a US account, download the Netflix app from said US account through the proxy, the proxy gives you the url of the pkg file)
In fact here ya go, the Netflix pkg file for PS Vita, straight from Sony’s servers.
2. Install and activate the package
Part 1 was easy, and although it might not be widespread knowledge, has been known for a while since the same is true for PS3 apps. Part 2 is the trick part: how to force install a package on a console?
All Koala is doing is using a built in feature of the kiosk Vita firmware (which Koala’s confirmed owning) (kiosk Vita is also referred to as a demo unit)
From what I have read I believe that KoalaVita is simply login in on his demo unit with the account of one of his “testers”(and I use that term loosely), then using the demo unit’s content downloader option he installs the Netflix pkg.
This option lets the user install apps such as Netflix and other free demos on any account, which technically bypasses the region lock. It appears the region lock is only enforced in the “selection” we have access to on the PSN (e.g. the JP PSN does not show you Netflix, making it technically impossible to download, therefore to install… but since we have access to the package in step 1 above, that’s not a real issue), but not really in the packages or the apps themselves.
The content downloader therefore lets us install Netflix on a JP account, through a Vita demo device.
An important note here is that although the content downloader doesn’t seem to check for any form of region lock (which is why it accepts to install free apps such as Netflix), it still performs drm/license checks, and will therefore refuse to install a commercial game that is not tied to your account. In other words, people who said/believed this could lead to piracy, or crazy things such as signing one’s own packages, are dramatically misled and/or misleading.
Once Netflix is installed for my JP account on the Kiosk Vita, the remaining step is pretty trivial:
3. Backup the result with CMA, then transfer to my VitaTV again.
We acquired the Netflix package in step 1. In step 2, we managed to install this package for a JP account on a Kiosk Vita through an option available on these demo units: the content downloader. The last step is simple: we make a backup of the app through CMA (remember, the app is now installed from my Japanese account, the same as my Vita TV!), I can then fire up my Vita TV, load that backup onto the VitaTV, and done, I have Netflix on my Vita TV’s Japanese account!
So was it all you hoped for? Only useful thing you can do with it is install Netflix on non US accounts, I did try to get the DLNA app and PSO2 into my US account but sadly they do not work ;_;
Below is a video from Ice(Kankertje on our forums), He shows the IDU (Internal Demonstration Unit) option on a kiosk Vita.
Don’t get me wrong, getting Netflix on a VitaTV is a pretty nice thing to do. Our concern here is how this nice trick was announced as a “giant hack”, showing that the people behind it either don’t understand much what they’re doing, or they are trying to pretend they have something bigger than what they really found.
Besides the VitaTV, this is not so useful in the grand scheme of things: all the applications you can install through this trick are also available to you for free on your Vita as long as you create an account in the right country. Want the Japanese eReader: create a Japanese account, and get it for free.
The one inconvenience this solves here is the need to switch accounts on your Vita (which is a painful process) every time you would want to use such a free app.
So what’s your verdict? Useful, or not? Clever hack, or simple trick?
[Note from wololo: thanks to the bloggers and mods here who all contributed to piece this explanation together, also to The Jay Doctor who initially wrote an article about this, which didn’t get published due to unfortunate timing. We are intentionally leaving some details out]
[Additional note from Wololo: Before publishing this article, we contacted the Koala team who told us this explanation was incorrect, and that they could indeed make this work for commercial games. When I gave them the benefit of the doubt and personally asked them for proof, their twitter account vanished within 12h.]