Imagine the ability to unlock the true power of your video games console, being able to play pirated games that cost 1/10th of the RRP, or downloading custom software off the Internet to use on your console. Imagine having the ability to do things the manufacturer of the console never intended. All this is possible through a process known as "chipping" - installing modification or mod chips, that allow gamers to run imported games, homebrew applications or pirated games that would otherwise be unable to be used because of the consoles protection schemes.
A coalition of unlikely allies, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have banded together to combat "chipping". Waving the DMCA flag, a set of laws preventing copyright breaches, the alliance has taken on manufacturers and distributors of mod chips. In Canada, a man who sold Sony PlayStationmod-chips was fined $US11, 000 and sentenced to one year of probation.
A small victory for particularly Sony, and the alliance. However, elsewhere the coalition has not been so successful as Sony failed to convince an Australian federal court that mod-chips violate any copyright laws.
Many gamers understand the need for copyright protection of software like games, however many draw the line at the hardware or the game machine itself. Professional console hackers argue that the sole reason for mod-chips is not just to play imported or pirated software. The ability to run custom software on a console is an attractive concept to many that wish to do more than play games. However this approach also presents a problem for console makers as they sell the console at a loss, hoping to re-coup on software sales. "They've set a business model that relies on making money on game sales rather than box sales. That's part of their problem." Says...