Stir: Console Hacks And Mods

Chris Forbis | MensaDadTwitter |

Modding / Hacking of consoles has been in the forefront of the news in the past year.  The PS3 was succesfully modded, the 3DS was jailbroken soon after its release in Japan and Microsoft continues to police Xbox Live for modded hardware.  Here are just a few of the headlines and coverage from this past year:

When refer to modding I am specifically talking about modifying the console hardware or software so it will perform differently than the manufacture intended.  I’m not referring to case modding – which I am convinced is art and I have displayed several examples in the inset pictures.  I’m focusing on running homebrew software or rigging the hardware so copied or pirated games can be played.  While not all modding is related directly to piracy, piracy relies on modding, and therefore used as a profiling flag to detect pirates.  But is this fair?

When you purchase a gaming console, you own the hardware (the physical machine).  What you do not own is the software or operating system that makes the machine a usable gaming console.  The software is technically licensed for your use with a long list of provision that you agree to in order to use the software.  These provisions are in the small print that was probably disposed of as soon as it came out of the box.  Here are some of the terms you have agreed to:

PlayStation 3 (Via Sony)


Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, all System Software is licensed to users solely for personal, non-commercial use on the PS3™ system in the country in which the PS3™ system was designed by SCE to operate. To the extent permitted by applicable law, your rights to use or access the current version of the System Software will cease upon installation of a newer version of the System Software onto your PS3™ system, whether such installation occurs through manual or automatic download by SCE through SCE’s online network, or otherwise. SCE does not grant any license to System Software obtained by users in any manner other than through SCE’s authorized distribution methods. Your use or access to open source software or freeware included with the System Software is subject to additional terms and conditions set forth in the instruction manual or documentation for the PS3™ system or at Such additional terms are hereby incorporated by reference. You do not have any ownership rights or interests in the System Software. All intellectual property rights therein belong to SCE and its licensors, and all use or access to such System Software shall be subject to the terms of this Agreement and all applicable copyright and intellectual property laws. Except as expressly granted in this Agreement, SCE and its licensors reserve all rights, interests and remedies.

Also –


If SCE determines that you have violated the terms of this Agreement, SCE may take all actions to protect its interests, including denial of any services such as warranty services and repair services provided for your PS3™ system and termination of your access to PlayStation®Network, implementation of upgrades or devices intended to discontinue unauthorized use, or reliance on any other remedial efforts as reasonably necessary to prevent the use of a modified PS3™ system, or any pirated material or equipment. SCE and its licensors reserve the right to bring legal action in the event of a violation of this Agreement. SCE reserves the right to participate in any government or private legal action or investigation relating to your conduct.

Xbox 360 (Via Microsoft)


(a) The Software is licensed to You, not sold. You are licensed to use the Software only as pre-installed in Your Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory, and updated by Microsoft from time to time. You may not copy or reverse engineer the Software.

(b) As conditions to this Software license, You agree that:

(i) You will use only Authorized Accessories and Authorized Games with Your Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory. You will not use Unauthorized Accessories or Unauthorized Games. They may not work or may stop working permanently after a Software update.

(ii) You will not use or install any Unauthorized Software. If You do, Your Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory may stop working permanently at that time or after a later Software update.

(iii) You will not attempt to defeat or circumvent any Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory technical limitation, security, or anti-piracy system. If You do, Your Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory may stop working permanently at that time or after a later Software update.

(iv) Microsoft may use technical measures, including Software updates, to prevent use of Unauthorized Accessories and Unauthorized Games, and to protect the technical limitations, security, and anti-piracy systems in the Xbox 360 S or Authorized Accessory.

(v) Microsoft may update the Software from time to time without further notice to You, for example, to update any technical limitation, security, or anti-piracy system.

For all the complaining that goes 0n about users being banned or consoles being bricked or even someone being sued for making software available that directly violates these contracts between the corporations and the consumer,  the rules are spelled out clearly enough.  And yes, you agreed to these terms simply by using the system software on the console.

Now, Sony doesn’t just go after anyone who uses their PS3 for more than just gaming.  In fact, the military has a supercomputer (The Condor Cluster) build from a matrix of 1,760 interconnected PS3 systems.  I’m guessing they are not running the standard system software on Condor – and have probably been banned from PSN. <Grin>

I moved from PC gaming to console gaming which gave everyone the same platform – and I’m good with that – and I won’t be jacking around with my console in order to bypass anti-piracy measures – I’ll buy my games.  It’s a small price to pay to be able to pop in a game, jump on-line and play with my friends without trying to out hack them or stay ahead game updates (the early days of Diablo II come to mind).  I’ll stay operationally stock – but I wouldn’t be opposed to having this sick Iron Man Xbox 360.

All of my inset photos are of some fantastic gaming console case mods I have admired and chose to share with you.  If you want to know more about any of the case mods pictured here, links to all of my sources are at the bottom of this post.


Jon Barajas | DZRK1345 | Twitter |

As a long-time PC gamer and MMO addict, the idea of modifying hardware and software to create a more desirable playing field is not at all foreign to me. I personally use a mouse with programmable keys, a keyboard with macro buttons and a gamepad that does, well, whatever I am intellectually capable of telling it to do. I have always believed modding to be a defining component of PC gaming and PC gaming only.

But, why the double standard? Why is PC modding okay and console modding not? I’ve always seen consoles as the device that put everyone on the same level. Everyone utilizes the same graphics card, the same hardware and – generally – the same peripherals. It was for people who did not want to invest in computer gaming equipment to be on par with other players. Console modification takes away this equality. I had hosted several Halo tournaments during my high school years and every single time, I was forced to check the controllers and consoles of everyone who entered with their own controller and console.

Console mods, as I’ve seen them online, can allow for players to alter certain components of online games; seeing hacked Call of Duty lobbies during the Modern Warfare 2 days were not particularly uncommon. We also saw the rise of modified controllers during the Halo 2 and 3 eras that were designed for the sole purpose of making use of an exploit in the game to take down enemies exponentially faster. With this in mind, it is obvious to see why mods are something that should be entirely barred from a multiplayer gaming experience.

Single-player use with mods are an entirely different struggle altogether. People who are jailbreaking their PS3s or PSPs and individuals who wish to change their Xbox 360’s settings should be free to do so – within limits. The process of jailbreaking a console can allow for players to do virtually whatever they want with it. With original settings overwritten, this just opens up a whole new world of possibilities – one obviously potential issue is that of easier piracy.

All-in-all, I’d have to say the basic concept of modding itself is far from negative; that being said, it’s how people are using their ability to mod that affects my personal opinion of the notion.

Anna Douglas | FemaleAlert | Twitter |

I am quite willing to admit that when I first started out on the original Xbox I did have it modded to include a 160gb hard drive and access to the Apple Network to view movies and trailers.  The first night on Halo 2 online, I got banned.  To be honest I thought this was fair enough- I modded my console and I would have to live with the consequences!  I have never again thought about doing any modification to my console, perhaps because I have become a bit more serious about my gaming but probably above all because I would like to be able to continue playing my favourite games.     The recent spate of cases against hackers is not doing anything for the gaming industry.  Now that’s not to say that I agree with the hackers but by bringing a lawsuit against individuals what are the gaming companies really going to achieve?  Microsoft have got it right.  The modifications I had on my original Xbox are now available through Xbox Live on the Xbox 360 and the larger hard drive ; development tools for Kinect have now been given to developers after it was hacked.  I would like to point out that there is a difference between modding and piracy- I don’t agree with modding consoles purely to avoid paying for games but some of these hackers are able to think out side of the box when it comes to looking at the capabilities of the consoles and it can only be expected that some of these ideas will be seen in our future consoles.

Bobby Gonzalez | nerdygonzo | Twitter |

Considering that the majority of mods are in order to steal games and that everyone I’ve known with a modded console did it just to steal games, I’m against them. If your modding is to do something cool or fun that won’t affect anyone else, go for it.  If your modding is to steal or cheat online, you’re an asshole.

Gamers get mad at companies’ efforts to stop pirating.  Gamers should get mad at the pirates that are pushing them to extremes in order to stop them.

Justin Keplinger | NinjaGabe | Twitter |

Honestly I have never had much interest in modifying expensive console systems, though I don’t have anything against people who try different ways of improving their home experience with their system. So long as the owner isn’t using the modification to steal from the manufacturer in some way, be it by pirating software or stealing from an online store I don’t take issue with modification.

Where I do take issue is with people who modify their consoles to give them an advantage in competitive gaming.

A player employing illegal modifications to enhance their standings in the competitive arena is nothing new, and yet it still has significant consequences.

If too many of these modifications occur amongst players of any competitive game, the game makers suffer for it, as well as the rest of player community. If a game gets a reputation for being filled with “cheaters” then it will drive away both veterans and newcomers alike, thus hurting the game and the developers of the software as well.

It is for this reason alone that I support actively monitoring for illegal modification among console users.

The people who employ this form of modification don’t seem to realize that the more they promote this form of abuse, the more they push the game into an early grave.

As long as players feel a need modify their consoles in this fashion there will be a need for oversight.

The sad thing with the need for oversight is this that it does prevent people from being creative and trying to further improve their home consoles, but until some other balance is found I’m afraid developers and companies have no choice but try limit modification.

Stewart Loosemore | Stigweird85Twitter |

The answer to console modding is neither black nor white. Some artistic and talented people have modified a console to suit their style, or show appreciation of a particular game(The Xbox with the Halo logo cut into it comes to mind)  Others have hacked the PS3 to re-enable a feature which they had bought and paid for before Sony removed the feature(although that is a topic for another day) while these modification didn’t allow for unfair advantages they are still deemed the same.

Personally, I think Sony are being rather heavy handed with their dawn raids and lawsuits. Their money would be better spent finding a solution rather than chasing those who they believe caused the problem. You plug the hole in the damn before you find out why it’s there. In my opinion think have the better stance of the two for the community; They don’t condone or endorse modification but if you do it they ban you from Xbox live. The console still works and will play pirate games offline but the online community doesn’t suffer should something use a mod to cheat.

Piracy will happen, it has happened with all entertainment mediums and in some circumstances the same companies that complain about piracy makes the equipment the enables it. Trying to prevent piracy is futile and is the equivalent of a door with a lock. The lock won’t stop people from getting in indefinitely, the best you can hope for is that it will make it harder to do so when someone tries.

Jim Magers | jimmagers |

It’s about time someone hacked the PS3, now I can go to Hong Kong and start buying $.50 PS3 games. In all seriousness, what’s the point of hacking? Because I really want to know. Seriously. Anytime I see something is “hacked” it usually means that you can get something for free. While some of you may complain about the prices then go to Gamestop and buy a used copy! Jailbreaking as well really ticks me off because most of the developers are small one-man studios. If you can’t afford to buy a $1 game then maybe you should try to find a “real” job and actually find out how hard it is to make a living with a measly salary. IMHO the only way to prevent users from buying or hacking machines is to do what Microsoft did and ban Gamers from their network. Sony should do that and so should Apple.

Mike Murphy | Chibi_Mike | Twitter |

Mods are fine by me. I’m very much of the philosophy that if you spend $200-600 on something, you should be able to do whatever the hell you want to it.

We’re living in a time when the idea of “leasing” a company’s product, therefore making it still their property, is fast becoming the norm. And that scares me. A lot. That people are ok with this concept, and go so far as to even defend it scares me even more.

It’s you’re money you’re spending. That makes it your property. What you do with it is no one’s business after that.

Cayci Phillips | Meridian |

Modding can be a beautiful thing when it’s done right. There are some really talented people doing some really impressive things with the hardware available to them, and that’s great. Many of us have seen the YouTube videos on the types of things that can be done with the Kinect. What’s better is that Microsoft is encouraging it, giving the consumers a chance to creatively express themselves without causing any harm to the rest of the community. And not to mention software. A large sum of mods made from World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Half-Life, etc. hardly fall short of perfection. But what these companies and developers realized is that you have to have a set of ground rules to make sure that any modding done is enjoyable by the rest of the community, and doesn’t threaten the integrity of that company/game/console in the process. Now I don’t own a PlayStation, so it’s hard to really comment about what on earth is going on with the recent hacking. All I know is that hacking is selfish and inconsiderate. Because of one person, Sony now has to take drastic measures that seriously affect the other players fun. I’ve joked before saying that hacking the “Tactical Nuke” of the gaming world. It’s awesome for the person using it, but it ruins the fun for everyone else.

Ross Phillips | Ross77 | Twitter |

I personally think you should be allowed to do what you want with your own property – that includes rooting it or hacking or whatever you want to call it.  At the same time we know the manufacturers like Apple, Sony & MS don’t like you doing this – we all know it so people shouldn’t complain if they get banned from Xbox Live or PSN.

I did at one point look into having my SNES chipped to play Japanese games – required a “switch” being added to near the video output to play the import games @ 60hz…  But no one in my local area did such modifications sadly so had to stick to a cartridge jumper thing that stuck out the top of the game slot so a UK game was placed at the back and the import game at the front.

Didn’t need to bother with Gameboy as it was region free in terms of cartridge shape and chip security from the off-set.

Did eventually get my PS1 chipped after the warranty ran out.

Patrick Talbert | AzraelPC | Twitter |

When you buy a console, you should be able to do with it what you wish–to the console. You shouldn’t expect to be allowed to use that modified console online whatsoever.

I like that Sony is banning modded PS3’s from PSN.

I liked that Microsoft banned modded Xbox 360’s from XBL.

You can do with the HARDWARE what you want. Turn it into a grill. Run Linux on it. Just don’t expect to be able to use it to (effectively) cheat online.

As far as Sony pursuing the people that ‘jailbroke’ the PS3, I don’t think that’s needed. Sony should have understood that products are modified when they are released. It’s just a known fact. Console-modding is almost an industry itself.

Take away their ability to cheat, Sony. No need to punish innovation.

Ross Wigg | LostPoetB24 | Twitter |

It all depends on how you look at the mods if it is a mod that is meant for cheating purposes then I don’t agree with it. Mods as far as ones that change only your home system to me should not be scrutinized. Saying if I am for or against the whole thing is hard because on one hand it provides a great opportunity for people to learn. Sadly too many people take advantage of having a modded console then using it for personal gain. Being able to burn your games that were legally purchased is a great thing especially if you have kids.

Sadly hacks have become all the rage with online players with no end in sight. Sure watching that first guy fly across the map was amazing until he was god like as you were shooting at him. Yes it is fun to use a hacked lobby with a whole bunch of friends sadly too many people are using it for personal gain. Games like Modern Warfare 2 on the PS3 have become completely un-playable because of so called hackers.

On a final note GeoHotz makes me laugh that he hacked the PS3 then had to run out and cry for help when he found out he might be in over his head.


I pick a topic and ask the Platform Nation writers, editors and staff to send me their opinions.  Thanks go out to all the Platform Nation writers who contributed to Stir this week.  They are all part of the best writing team in the industry and I couldn’t do this without them.

Image Sources:

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