Surely much to Sony's chagrin, those clever hackers have done it again. SonyXTeam has released a Firmware Downgrader for the PSP that will downgrade version 2.0 firmware to 1.50, which enables gamers who have recently bought the system to downgrade their firmware and use homebrew PSP utilities and play homebrew PSP games. This allows new PSP owners to join the rest of us playing Game Boy Advance games while we wait for something decent to come out. It sure beats watching movies on the thing!
The major downside to the development for Sony and mainstream game developers is that what is good for the homebrew community tends to be good for the piracy community. Last summer game pirates were able to work out a method to easily rip and trade PSP games online. This is probably the primary headache the firmware downgrader utility will create for Sony and game publishers.
However, much of the homebrew and mod community is not about serious piracy; rather, various groups of clever programmers have created a startling array of utilities for PSP. These range from text and PDF readers, to expanded media players that play more formats of audio and vidoe, and even to entirely new programming languages such as LUA, which facilitates easy and rapid development of games and apps for PSP. Many open source and shareware programs such as Doom and Quake have been ported to PSP as well, and with the recent open sourcing of Quake III by id Software, we have high hopes for this trend to continue in the future.
One popular genre of PSP homebrew has also been emulators for other gaming systems. These emulators range from the extremely popular systems (GBA, NES, SNES, Genesis) to less well-known systems such as PC Engine (called TurboGrafx 16 in the US) and Wonderswan (Bandai's handheld which has never reached American shores). PC gamers will appreciate support for Commodore 64 and Amiga emulators as well as a SCUMM VM port, which allows gamers to play roms of classic LucasArts adventure titles such as Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max.
The announcement of the firmware downgrader by SonyXTeam is accompanied by confirmation by other noteworthy PSP homebrew/hacking websites (http://pspupdates.qj.net , http://ps2nfo.com
). If you're sick of waiting for Liberty City Stories and bored with playing Lumines, check out some of those sites for a whole world of funky experimentation happening. It's not the mainstream experience we thought we were getting with the PSP, but right now it's all we've got.