The PlayStation Classic was a great idea that was disappointingly executed. Not surprisingly, hackers have been hard at work trying to crack the novelty console as they’ve done already with Nintendo’s NES Classic and SNES Classic.
The job’s been made easier, the hackers claim, thanks to Sony reportedly housing the key to decoding the PlayStation Classic’s firmware on the device itself, rather than utilising a private key held by Sony. The underlying code that runs on game console is encrypted to prevent people from tampering with it, but in this case the tools to unlock and start changing how the console operates were available to anyone who dug through the code by copying it onto a PC. As first reported by Ars Technica, console hacker yifanlu pointed it out on Twitter late last week in-between streaming his attempts to break open the console’s digital architecture on Twitch. So far they’ve been able to play unincluded PS1 games like Spyro using a thumb drive and are currently working on getting other emulators working on it as well.
“There really isn’t any security on the device at all,” yifanlu told Kotaku in an email. “Sony managed to accidentally include their firmware update private keys on every console.”
While it might take a little more time for homebrew developers to start changing how the PlayStation Classic’s menu system works so it displays new games and box art, simply playing them on the PlayStation Classic was easy. “The 20 included games are stored on the device in standard ISO format,” yifanlu said. “There’s no additional checks, so you can just replace the files or redirect the mount to somewhere else (like a USB drive).” In effect, you can get the PlayStation classic to load games and programs from other devices because there aren’t any security checks to stop that from happening.
In the last few days, yifanlu and others have been testing out games like Crash Bandicoot 1 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, some of the PS1’s most recognisable titles that never made it onto the PlayStation Classic.
Currently, hackers have been able to load games off USB drives by substituting them for games already on the console. Actually expanding the interface to display more than 20 games will require some more fine-tuning. One homebrew developer, Pat Hartl, is currently working on a program called BleemSync that would be the PlayStation Classic’s equivalent of hakchi, the software used to install ROMs on the NES and SNES Classics. Of course, playing around with any of this stuff always brings the risk of bricking your console.
For yifanlu’s part, they’re more disappointed by the PlayStation Classic’s lack of security more so than the fact that it’s missing Crash Bandicoot. “My opinion is that Sony doesn’t really care about this console,” yifanlu said. “Everything about it was cut corners including the security. It was a bit of a shame how easy it was to hack considering the Vita was one of the most secure consoles ever released.”
Sony did not respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.