Why HENkaku is such a massive success
HENkaku was released two weeks ago, and if Yifanlu‘s statistics are to be trusted, this has been a massive success for the hacking community, with more than 25’000 installs in the first week. By comparison, the former hack Rejuvenate had about 10K installs in its entire lifespan of more than a year.
That’s not surprising, those of you who have tried Rejuvenate know that the hack, despite being promising, was not convenient at all. It required your PS Vita to be plugged to a computer in order to launch every single homebrew, required a daily email to be sent to your Vita in order to refresh your “license”, a limitation that did not come from the hack but from the tool it was relying on: PSM. The PSM dev app was required to run the hack, and of course Sony pulled it off its PSN store shortly after the release.
In comparison, HENkaku is a bliss to install and comes with virtually no limitation. It also runs on firmware 3.60, which although not being the latest firmware, has basically all the latest functionality of the Vita.
Rejuvenate was a ray of hope, but it was just a sparkle that died quickly. It wasn’t due to lack of effort on the scene’s end though: I drove a homebrew competition with $1000 in cash prizes for the Rejuvenate hack, but that wasn’t enough to bring more users to the hack. That effort wasn’t in vain though: It’s thanks to the revitalize competition that we had native Vita homebrews such as VitaQuake, Snes9XVita and SMSPlusvita available on day 1 for HENkaku. The winner of the Revitalize competition, VitaShell, was used as the base for HENkaku’s main program MolecularShell.
In hindsight, it’s almost as if everything’s clicking together right now, not because the stars aligned, but as if Yifanlu and team molecule had prepared their masterplan for years: release a semi-successful hack first to get the first tools in place (SDK, an early list of emulators and homebrews,…), then release the perfect hack with a bang and an existing library of homebrews.
Of course it probably didn’t completely happen this way, but it’s still nice to think it did.
Nevertheless, the major success of HENkaku is mostly due to the professional level of the hack: the release was executed flawlessly, the hack is easy to install and does pretty much everything automagically, which is something I had never seen before in the PSP or PS Vita scene. Installing homebrews through VHBL on the PS Vita was a pain due to the many limitations we had to work with in the PSP emulator.
Sure, HENkaku is a native exploit and can probably remove many of the limitations easier than what happened in former hacks. But Team molecule could have stopped at the exploit level: release a webkit proof of concept, and call it a day. Lots of hackers do that.
I’m someone who has fought for a very long time about the importance of releasing something that’s easy to use and provides direct value to the scene, rather than a half-*** hack telling the users “Here, I’ve done the work, now go figure it out yourselves” (my disappointment when my hack of game Patapon was leaked before we had a polished version of HBL available for the PSP can be seen here). It had always been essential to me that HBL, on the day of its release, would be able to play a majority of homebrews, in particular the popular ones. As such, I’m impressed with the work that Team molecule has done here. Their passion for the system and the scene shows.
It’s important now that we, the scene, do not drop the ball on this one. We’re given this one chance at reviving the PS Vita in 5 years since it was released, and we’ve been given the tools to do it. I’m seeing lots of great activity in the scene so far, and I’m sure you can feel my excitement as well. (Nowadays my part is to make sure people stay up to date with the latest news on that front, and I’ve been trying my best to do that, which means I’ve been spamming your rss feeds, if you haven’t noticed).
Vita homebrews are just getting started, there’s lots of improvements coming down the road for emulators, lots of homebrew games and utilities that can be made, lots of discoveries in the Vita system too. So if you were thinking of working on a programming project this year, now’s the best time to get started!