Wii U 'has been JAILBROKEN' via legacy games, say homebrewers
Backwards compatible with backdoors
A squad of techies claim they've cracked Nintendo's anti-piracy defences in the Wii U days after the games console hit US shelves.
The hack, the gaming equivalent of jail-breaking, allows home-made games, pirate copies of titles and other unauthorised software to run on the Wii U, according to wiiuhacks.com. The attack appears to involve exploiting security holes in old Wii games when a Wii U is running in legacy Wii mode.
The team has compiled a list of authorised games that can be hijacked to launch unofficial titles.
The group has also produced a seven-minute video of what appears to be a Wii U playing homebrew games after running the "Smash Stack" exploit from a disc. Nintendo, like other console makers, locks down its machines so, in theory, they can only play cryptographically signed software; hackers usually have to exploit security holes in the system or endorsed games to defeat these protections.
Chris Boyd AKA PaperGhost, a senior threat researcher at GFI Software and an expert in gaming security, said major Wii homebrew communities such as wiiubrew.org are yet to hack the Wii U.
"We have not been successful in running homebrew on the Nintendo Wii U. But running code in Wii Mode is possible," wiiubrew.org stated.
"It's the same story elsewhere, even on sites with dedicated modding and homebrew sections," according to Boyd.
He added that it's one thing to get old exploits working in legacy Wii mode, but another to develop exploits for vulnerabilities exclusively present in new Wii U systems. He is cautious of the wiiuhacks.com team's boasts.
"There is one video on YouTube where the uploader claims to be successfully running homebrew on the Wii U using an older exploit designed to load unauthorised code on the original Wii console, but I've no way of verifying if the video is genuine," Boyd told El Reg.
"Additionally, there are groups picking through the back catalogue of programs and exploits from the original Wii - some of which no longer work on certain versions of system menu - to see if they can uncover a blind spot in the new console."
The Wii U console is backwards compatible with most Wii games and accessories, which explains why older exploits for the previous console still work, up to a point, on the next-generation machine.
Nintendo pushed a firmware update to Wii U consoles less than a day after the system went on sale on Sunday in the US. The sizeable upgrade does not block the Wii U Smash Stack exploit, but future updates could, wiiuhacks.com warned. Attempts to interrupt the lengthy Wii U update process once it starts can leave the console as useful as a squishy brick, as Nintendo itself advised. ®
Re: Mixed feelings
>Why companies just don't embrace hackability
Because most consoles are sold at a loss and make back the $$$ in online subscriptions and licenses to games companies.
People using their Xbox/Wii/PS3 as media players tro to play pong are costing Microsoft/Nintendo/Sony $$$ - which is the best reason for doing it !
"The hack, the gaming equivalent of jail-breaking, allows home-made games"
Awesome. I am all for this.
"pirate copies of titles"
Not so much this.
"other unauthorised software to run on the Wii U"
Awesome. I am all for this.
One of the best techy things I ever did was jailbreak (softmod) my old xBox. Became a pretty nifty media front-end. Why companies just don't embrace hackability with the caveat "You break it, we ain't mending it!"
Re: My Wii is jailbroken
Ahh, Mr knowitall is back. (I wonder how he explains the success of the original DS and the Wii against more powerful hardware from the competition. That's right. Just like the Wii U, they offered a slightly different and new way of interacting with games, for which in all instances, other companies followed suit)
Re: Mixed feelings @ Yet Another Anonymous coward
The Xbox 360 was NOT sold at a profit or even break-even at launch. It really didn't become profitable before attached software sales until the Slim model. That isn't factoring the RROD problem, which screwed up the business plan considerably over the original intent.
An Xbox 360 sales wasn't nearly as big a squirt of red ink as the PS3 at launch but it did go down in the debit column. Sony had a ridiculously ambitious concept that had to be revised late in the design cycle to include a dedicated GPU rather than having multiple CELL chips being assigned graphics tasks at the coder's whim. On top of that, Sony want backward compatibility but didn't come up with a practical means to implement it.
On the PS2, the chip that ran PS1 software also performed jobs like reading the controller input and a lot of other very necessary jobs. Thus it was well integrated into the PS2 and didn't add much cost for the portion that was solely needed for PS1 games. On the PS3 the PS2 support was entirely bolted on and completely separate from the PS3's operations, making it pure added cost to have the chips onboard to run PS2 games. If the original multiple CELL concept had survived they might have gone the emulation route and had only a one-time cost for developing the software rather than an added cost to every machine produced.
Sony overcame those problems but it did mean it took a lot longer to start seeing some return on the staggeringly huge investment. Likewise, if Microsoft had only had their intended testing system ready when Xbox 360 production started, the RROD problem would have been detected and fixed far sooner, saving a huge amount of money and damage to the platform's reputation.
Funny thing, Sony sells plenty of Blu-ray decks and a streaming video box that all handle MKV very ably. It feels redundant to have a Blu-ray deck in addition to my PS3 but it handles a bunch of stuff the consoles cannot, solely for lack of the software support. Apparently, the different divisions at Sony have different opinions on the issue.
Loss leading is a risky model
If you want to try it then you have to accept the risk.
The question is, if you were to make the platform open and not locked down would you (a) sell more platforms in the first place - cutting production costs and maybe creating a profit, (b) with more platforms out there sell more games (especially if they were priced slightly better so you make $1 a million times instead of $10 100 times?
PC manufacturers have been managing to ship product without preventing you adding your own software for years, and making a profit.
Theres a lot to this drm stuff, its technically clever etc etc, but just because you can do something doesn't make it morally right, economically justified or good publicity to do it.