(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Sony Repeats Aibo Mistakes With The PSP

from the the-importance-of-the-developer-ecosystem... dept

Ah, Sony. They tell us they had learned from the past and yet they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Remember in 2001, when people were getting a huge kick out of hacking their Aibo robotic dogs? They made them dance and do all sorts of neat tricks. It really made the Aibos a lot more interesting and worth having, and was a great value-added offering for Sony -- which Sony had to spend exactly nothing on to have. Yet, Sony, in their short-sightedness squashed the hackers with DMCA claims, turning the Aibo into just another boring robotic dog. So, now that the PSP gaming device is out -- and doing quite well, indeed -- some developers have been out there hacking the device as much as possible to let it do much more than Sony originally intended. Does Sony encourage them, knowing that it will make the device even more valuable? Nope. They upgrade the firmware to block out these hacks, and then try to force users who want to play new games to upgrade the firmware specifically to block out these hacks. Apparently, Sony hasn't realized that by creating a platform and letting the enthusiast community make it more valuable for free, they'd be in a position to sell even more of the devices.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Nathan, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 11:58am

    One Great Example

    You'd think a company like Sony would sit back and look at some other examples of how letting the user community run with your offerings is a great way to make money and extend the shelf life of the product FAR beyond what anyone imagined.

    A perfect real-world example of this would be Valve's behavior with respect to Half Life. They released SDKs and fostered a sense of community which kept the original Half Life selling like crazy, far beyond what the market would normally bear...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 1:09pm

    Re: One Great Example

    HMMM ...

    Guess I made a good decision not to buy a PSP this weekend @ Circuit City.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Cshark, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 3:04pm

    No Subject Given

    The flip side to that is that Sony does sometimes encourage enthusiasts to hack and modify their product. A good example was the Linux Playstation project which yeilded and entirely new way to work with and utilize playstation hardware.

    The weird thing about Sony though is their inconsistant approach to this sort of thing. Maybe it all depends on who's in charge of what when.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Tim, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 4:17pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Sounds like it depends whether they think they stand to gain more, to me :/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    TJ, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 5:57pm

    A pattern

    Sony has a history of stupid business decisions. Clinging for dear life to BetaMax, one unsuccessful proprietary music format after another, pushed Minidisc so hard and ignored the MP3 player until the iPod became the new Walkman. Lots of smart engineers at Sony, but particularly bullheaded decision-makers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    David Trammell, Jun 7th, 2005 @ 6:55pm

    No Subject Given

    But why wouldn't Sony want to lock out hardware hackers? Over the course of its lifetime, a purchased PSP will provide much more profit to Sony in the form of game and movie royalties, than from the initial sale of the unit. That's all these game systems are - new platforms on which to play purchased content. If the hardware hackers co-opt the device, then at best Sony sells extra PSPs to a bunch of folks who then never purchase extra games/movies (because they bought it as a cheap, portable way to play their own full-length movie rips and surf the net wirelessly), and at worst, once the DRM protecting their games is defeated, they "lose sales" to free-trading pirates.
    Please don't think I'm apologizing for them - I just think its important to understand their motivations, instead of simply saying "Sony is stupid!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Paul Kalupnieks, Jun 8th, 2005 @ 9:00am

    Locking out pirates

    It seems to me that Sony is throwing out a small # of indie developers while trying to eliminate the possibility of executing pirated games.

    If you allow arbitrary code to run, you allow the potential to run 'crack' software to allow games that were pirated to run.

    The relative # of people that will buy the PSP to develop for it is small compared to the potential people that will buy it because they can pirate games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Permanent4, Jun 8th, 2005 @ 9:12am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Excellent analysis, David. That's the thing that keeps getting forgotten here -- game sales mean far more profit in the long run than console sales. Sony doesn't want the PSP co-opted by hackers and homebrew designers, because that may mean fewer games and movies sold, and thus, fewer royalties. They don't want people to plug the PSP into a TV, because that means sacrificing potential PS2 and DVD player sales. They don't want people to use SD cards in the PSP, because they want to sell Memory Sticks that make money for Sony.

    Does that make it right? Doesn't matter. It's just how the business works. This is a specific device for a specific set of tasks, and those tasks need to maximize profit for Sony. Otherwise, they would charge as much for the PSP as Archos does for the PMA430, which is quite hackable and quite expensive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Mike (profile), Jun 8th, 2005 @ 9:31am

    Re: No Subject Given

    You assume, falsely, that a hacked PSP will never sell games. That's not necessarily true at all. People like the PSP for everything it can do, including playing games... you'll notice from the article what upsets so many of these people with the hacked PSPs is they CAN'T load the new, legally purchased, games, because it forces them to upgrade the firmware.

    So, the basis of your explanation doesn't hold... Making the device more valuable should help them sell more, no matter what people are using it for, and that's an opportunity.

    I agree that you're probably right in what Sony's thinking -- but it's likely to do more damage to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    David Trammell, Jun 9th, 2005 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Can't play new games

    I didn't say hacked PSP = no game sales. I said hacked PSP = less game/movie/whatever sales due to "other" uses, and (eventually? certainly potentially) piracy.

    And I'd like to remind you that anyone with a hacked PSP can load the new games, as long as they're willing to give up their backdoor. Obviously this is going to upset folks that have already started discovering new uses for their PSPs, but we all know Sony cares less about that then it does about reaffirming that they won't sell games to an unprotected device. This should surprise nobody, given Sony's history with proprietary technology. I would fully expect them to fight this tooth and nail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Mike, Nov 3rd, 2005 @ 3:59pm


    Dude, they aren't trying to stop hackers from making the PSP do more than they intended, they are trying to stop hackers from makignt he PSP run a UMD emulator which would turn the PSP into another XBox or PS2 where the iso's can be found on the net and run freely. Not that I support Sony, but what they are doing is saving themselves.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    s.l, Jul 18th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    psp hack

    ive read everything u guys have said, and in a way your all right... i myself am a big fan of hacking psp's and i can do things that only a laptop can do, such as hacking passwords and hacking into camras (NOT THAT I DO IT) but what im trying to say is that sony knows all these things, if sony is doing a few things here and there to stop this thats just a way of making us believe something thats really not. if they wanna put an end to this hacking i know they would have already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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