Is it ok to sell a console hacking service?
Ah, drama. Hadn’t seen you in a while, I kind of missed you.
Recently scene website hackinformer have been selling a service to install VHBL and other tools on PS Vita with firmware 3.60. The whole thing is done through their private forum, but they’ve been advertising it for a while on their twitter account, and this caught the attention of several veterans of the scene.
The console hacking scene has always had two “sides” to it: the ones who try to unlock devices for free, and those who try to make money out of it. Hackinformer, until now, had been part of the “free” movement so far so it was weird for me to see them on the “wrong” side of the fence.
After chatting with Hackinformer himself, his point of view is that the process takes 3 to 4 hours per console, and that as such he deserves to be paid for his time (I agree, but see below). Additionally, the process on how to do it “yourself”, he said, is explained on his website and available to everyone for free. I checked, it’s kind of true: all the basic elements are here for people to try, but there’s not a full tutorial taking you from point A to point B, you’d have to connect the dots (note how the tutorial says it takes 10 minutes. You’ll have to figure out for yourself what the steps are for the remaining 3h50, through the other tutorials and with some googling). More importantly, installing the hacks on a device requires a secondary hacked PS Vita, or a PS3. Not everyone has those, so Hackinformer say this is an other reason people are willing to pay for the service.
On the other side of the argument though, is the group of people who designed the hacks and tools that team hackinformer are installing, for a fee, on people’s devices. As one of the original developers of VHBL, one of the main tools being installed through this service, I can’t help but feeling that some people are paying hackinformer for some work I did. I’m definitely not the only one: through the service, Hackinformer installs customized themes that they did not create, without the explicit consent of the creators of the themes.
— Neur0Nerd (@Neur0Nerd) April 23, 2016
It’s a rhetorical concern: are people paying for the installation service (that’s Hackinformer’s point of view), or are they paying for the tools such as VHBL (that’s the other point of view)? If the latter, then technically Hackinformer’s team are charging users for other people’s work, including mine. Since I’m not getting a cut of the deal, I feel cheated. In general, I feel that since the developers of the hacks were not made aware of it, it’s kind of uncool. And yet, if it was any other random dude doing it, I wouldn’t care. But since it’s one of the “good” and bigger scene websites, it annoys me, because this could be setting a new kind of acceptable precedent I (personally) don’t want to see on the scene.
At the end of the day though, if someone is providing a paid service, and we (members of the scene) are not happy about it because it “should be free”, the best way is to provide the same service for free. If some of you are up to writing a tutorial explaining all the steps (wink wink, we have a tutorial contest where you can win a $10 PSN gift card for submitting cool tutos!), then maybe this could be the best answer to defuse that kind of scene drama. I was going to suggest good souls on our forums to provide the service for free if they can, but since the process involves receiving the PSN ID and password of the user who wants hacks installed on their PS Vita, I’ll pass. Last thing I want is knowing people’s passwords, or have people on my forum exchange it like it doesn’t matter. If some of you are fine with trusting this information with the Hackinformer staff,then it’s on you 😛
Don’t get me wrong, Hackinformer have been (and still are) one of the “good” scene sites in my opinion. Hackinformer himself is a good guy and I would be the worst possible person to judge him for trying to monetize this work, given that we have ads on this site. The perception of that paid service, however, is different from advertising: It’s not really the amount that matters, or the fact that they’re willing to make money, but that the path chosen seems to be inappropriate. As a matter of example, if someone compiled some of Hackinformer’s online tutorials in an eBook and started selling those on Amazon as a “service” (and would rightfully be paid for the effort of compiling the tutorials into a nice, alternate format), would hackinformer’s team feel OK with this? I assume not.
I’ve seen much much worse on the scene, I just feel there are better ways this could have been done. Hackinformer are clearly advertising for this service on their twitter, so it’s not really like they’re just “doing it only for friends and family”. On the other hand, if nobody else is willing to provide the service for free, then maybe Hackinformer’s got a point. And “hacking services” like this one have existed for as long as there’s been a hacking scene… the only problem here I feel is that it’s coming from one of the big news sites.
What do you think?