Is piracy a prerequisite for a striving homebrew scene?
When they hacked the PS4 to port Linux to it, Fail0verflow were very clear that they will be trying to steer pirates away from the console, by making “native” hack development less appealing to the masses than Linux gaming or even things such as SteamOS.
The idea is that if Linux runs solidly enough on the PS4, developers will focus on that more than trying to create native hacks and a Custom Firmware. Native hacks would be the first step to piracy, while Linux would not. Don’t get me wrong: one needs a native hack to install & run Linux, meaning that if we want Linux on the PS4, someone will have to make the first step no matter what. But a striving Linux on PS4 community could steer coders’ attention away from trying to break “more” into the PS4 security. If the skilled people all focus on non piracy stuff, pirates will have no available option/tools.
It’s a nice dream to have, but, forgetting for a moment that once the PS4 is Jailbroken, *any* dev could decide to work on native hacks and enabling piracy, I wanted to reflect on the fact that a tiny devs community focusing on an “elitist” (pardon my french, intentional flamebait) OS, will fail to attract the masses.
As a matter of fact, Enigma85 brought this topic to my attention in the comments section of the blog. He says:
These Linux on ps4 updates are great and all, but kind of pointless until they release an exploit. Scenes that worry about piracy always die. That’s part of the reason the vita scene has died I’m sure. When piracy is available for a scene, sure it poisons the water, but it also opens the scene wide open for homebrew. You’ll never deter piracy. If you can’t beat them join them, or at least don’t worry about that side of the scene.
I tend to agree with this comment.
As much as I want to love the Rejuvenate native hack on the PS Vita, it’s a euphemism to say it never really took off. The Revitalize homebrew competition, my personal attempt to kick-start the whole Rejuvenate homebrew community with $1000 in cash prizes, attracted a total of 13 homebrew entries. That’s not a lot. Compare that to the PSP genesis competition which we ran in 2011 and attracted more than 120 entries! Don’t get me wrong, quantity doesn’t trump quality, but still.
There are several reasons Rejuvenate did not attract the masses. Running the hack was not a very “user-friendly” experience. Having to “check in” every day on our site to keep the certificate up and running isn’t great, and there’ not much we can do about it. And having to stay on a low firmware “only” for homebrew isn’t really attractive either.
But let’s face it. If Rejuvenate had been “piracy enabling”, a bunch of Vita owners would have suddenly found very compelling reasons to stay on firmware 3.51. And if they get homebrew games and emulation on the side? Sure, why not.
This is where developers come in. At the end of the day, developers like technical challenges but many of us also like people to actually use our product. If I’m developing a homebrew for a population of 10 potential users, I’m going to lose my motivation fairly fast. And I’m sure if one could map the migration movements of the hacker species from Vita to, say, the 3DS, one could easily see some general trend here over the past 12 months.
Yup, Vita hackers and developers have massively migrated to friendlier places. Why? Because the tools are better maintained, the community is bigger, they get better support and more encouragement from their peers. And why are the tools better? Because the community asks for more updates, because the community is bigger and more alive, because the community (the users) flocked to the gates of “the other console” because piracy was there, and piracy is much, much more attractive than homebrews.
Yes, if you read this blog, you’re generally not the guy who wants piracy, I get it. You’re the guy who likes emulators, homebrews, and cool technical achievements. I’m like you: this is why me and others shelled $1000 of our own money to host the Revitalize competition.
I’m not saying piracy is the only reason people want hacks and homebrews. I’m saying it’s the best way to gain (then keep) momentum with a large user base, that justifies working more on the hacks and build the right tools that attract more developers (rookies and veterans alike).
A large user community for the hack is what builds momentum and keeps developers around. The “reason” these users came for in the first place is irrelevant, but there has to be some critical mass here. If they got attracted for piracy, it kinda sucks but what matters here is that there is now a significant potential audience for the devs’ work.
The Vita does not have piracy. So users did not come. Some devs got bored in part because of the small sized community and the lack of momentum resulting from it. As a result the tools don’t get improved or maintained, and you’re in a vicious circle before you realize it.
It makes total sense to assume that Linux on the PS4 could have the same fate, unless a handful of developers keep working relentlessly on it. However, The PS4 has a much larger user base than the PS Vita, hackers are much more interested in the PS4 as a whole, and Linux in itself is a very widely known project that could keep them onboard. This could gain momentum large enough that it could be a viable project, even without the piracy users.
But, as Enigma85 stated, I believe that piracy, when/if it happens, is the thing that would bring the masses to PS4 hacking. It’s easy to picture many will come for piracy, and a significant amount will stay for homebrews and development. “Nobody”* is going to stay on a lower firmware (whatever that firmware might be today, it will be a lower firmware at some point in time) for Linux. But if piracy is involved, many will consider it very seriously.
I’m personally super excited for the future of the PS4 scene no matter what happens, obviously.
* “Nobody” here meaning 95% of the user base. I know, you and I are the odd 5%.