Homebrew (video games)

The term homebrew (English for home-brewed beer) usually referred created by individuals computer programs for consoles and handheld systems, which are not intended by the manufacturer to perform self-produced programs. Homebrew programs usually offer additional features and often circumvent copy. Unlike the home computer era reach computer games from the homebrew scene due to increased complexity of current game consoles only very rarely the quality of commercial games.

  • 2.2.1 Gameboy
  • 2.2.2 Playstation Portable
  • 2.2.3 GP32 and GP2x
  • 2.2.4 Nintendo DS ( i)
  • 3.1 Sony PlayStation 3
  • 3.2 Microsoft Xbox 360


Consoles and handhelds are usually closed and for-profit systems. Often the equipment is sold under the production price, so the manufacturer can make a profit only on the sale of software licenses. The manufacturers assume that buyers of the devices buy less or no official software title if free programs can be used. In addition, homebrew software may bypass the copy protection commonly used, which may reduce the profits from software sales is also the view of the manufacturer. Therefore, security mechanisms are generally incorporated in the devices, which are designed to prevent the execution of privately created programs.

The security mechanisms sometimes have gaps, so it is possible to run homebrew software. Depending on the device and firmware to install a modchip or the insertion of a specific module is required for this.

There are different views as to whether this restriction on official software titles is legal by security mechanisms and their circumvention. This monopoly could be a confiscatory interference with the rights of the customers and in its discretion restrict customers inadmissible. The right of the end-users to freely use ( within the law ) is compared to the gain in the system provider from the further sale of software.

On the other hand, may increase the attractiveness of a particular device platform a magnified through homebrew software titles offer. There is therefore manufacturers do not put in security mechanisms. Thus, for example, significantly increase the functionality of some Internet router or print server.

Homebrew sees herself as a legal and anti-piracy faithful. The legal situation in Germany prohibits the circumvention of technological copyright protection measures. However, it is unclear whether the homebrew software and modifying existing device software bypasses copy protection or just a useful protection - which is not prohibited. The homebrew scene therefore moves in a legal gray zone. However, should the customer console manufacturers do not dictate what they do with the consoles or handhelds. Thus, the circumvention of technical protection measures and use of homebrew is legal. Most homebrew titles are created as freeware, which may be distributed freely. Is clearly forbidden in Germany the dissemination of copies of commercial games.

Homebrew on different systems

Game consoles

Nintendo Gamecube

For the Nintendo Gamecube, there are several options:

  • Method 1: The soldering a modchip. An enlargement of the drive is not necessary since the Gamecube can read self-burned mini- DVDs.
  • Method 2: The loading of unauthorized code. This is by modifying the network traffic between the Gamecube and the Phantasy Star Online server. On passing the connection to the PC, it is possible to execute streaming copies and other unauthorized code.
  • Method 3: The SD Media Launcher. The simplest method is to use an SD card adapter into the memory card slot B. By a boot CD from the manufacturer to run unauthorized code and copies is possible.
  • Method 4: Modifying the MIOS. This method takes place in Gamecube mode, the Wii. By modifying the authorities responsible for the Gamecube mode program, it is possible to start copies of USB and mini - DVDs. Dump is also possible. Homebrew in the literal sense does not support the method.


The Xbox allows you to run your own software after installing a mod chip, which is flashed with an alternative BIOS. Alternatively to a MOD chip, there are also software modifications. For the Xbox appeared emulators, media players and other programs. In addition to the Xbox Development Kit later appeared with OpenXDK an open source development kit. Since the OpenXDK 360 reached a reasonable degree of function after release of the Xbox, only a few projects have been programmed with it. The homebrew developers have no license to use the Microsoft XDK, yet appeared countless private programs created for the Xbox.

Sega Dreamcast

The Dreamcast Sega allows to play CD - Rs without MOD chip or other modifications thanks to the compatibility of the hardware to MIL- CD format. Because of this peculiarity ( and the powerful 128 -bit hardware ) is a vital scene has come together of enthusiasts who so far has generated nearly a thousand programs and provided free on the net.

These programs are usually as simple files ( "Plain Files", for example, using the Windows-based BootDreams on CD- R discs) or as a full CD Format Disc Juggler CDI offered. Another common format is called SBI (SBI for " Self Boot Inducer "), which makes it possible to burn multiple programs on a CD.

The range of published software ranges of ports of countless emulators of early 8 -bit computers to 16 -bit and 32- bit consoles, via multimedia applications to complex original developments such as Alice Dreams or drill.

Many of these publications have been legally developed by the free software library KallistiOS. In contrast to the official Xbox development kits were used only in a handful of the earliest publications, for example in QuakeDC of 2000, based on WinCE.

The use of KallistiOS and replacement of the required boot sector ( IP.BIN ) by an equivalent and legal replacement file (written by LiENUS and published January 15, 2002) also allowed for commercial releases of games such as Feet of Fury (2003), Inhabitants, Maqiupai (both 2005), Cool Herders (2006) or Last Hope (2007) for Dreamcast on the independent labels GOAT Store Publishing and redspotgames. The publication of Cool Herders enabled the developers Harmless Lion Studios, to distribute a port of the game on Nintendo DS on Alten8.


With the Wii, although no official developer kit for homebrew offered, but for want Nintendo with the so-called Virtual Console ( by which you can be classic from the old days to download for almost any console) make homebrew options " unattractive ". In addition, Nintendo is also counting on the new WiiWare channel, can develop for the smaller development studios without requiring a huge starting capital. Also playing MP3s or videos is via photo channel on the Wii possible - on newer consoles with Version 1.1 of the channel, however, only in the AAC format.

However, these possibilities do not want to develop your own homebrew applications or just playing GameCube ISOs, etc., instead of both homebrew developers and software pirates. Since February 2008 it is possible to play homebrew without the help of a modchip on the Wii. Initially this was a savegame hack in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess feasible. This possibility was made ​​more difficult by the subsequent firmware update 3.4, but not entirely prevented. Only with firmware version 4.0 the hack could be successfully prevented. Through the publication of the firmware update 4.2 all homebrew has been deleted from the updated Wii consoles. With varying exploits it was some time later possible to execute unsigned code on the Wii and install. The firmware 4.3 was long ungeknackt and you could run 4.1 homebrew only through a complicated downgrade to the version. Now, however, it is possible to homebrew run on 4.3.

Meanwhile, an exploit was released, which allows on all firmwares (from 3.4) Homebrew.

The homebrew software enables the use of the Wii console as a media center in the living room. Open source programs have already been written for Wii For many areas.



Companies like Bung developed hardware flasher with which it was possible to secure ROMS or play through flash cards directly on the Gameboy.

Playstation Portable

The Playstation Portable ( PSP) with no problems, it was possible to the original, Japan - exclusive firmware (1.00), run custom code. In the following firmwares Sony tried to eliminate all bugs and exploits, with which it was possible to start unofficial programs. The homebrew scene responded by she sought new opportunities again and again ( and found ). Finally, so-called Custom firmwares were even developed on the basis of the official firmwares; with them you have all the features of the latest official firmwares without having to dispense with the use of homebrew.

The homebrew scene of the PSP is great; example, there are emulators for the Sega Mega Drive ( Pico Drive) or the Game Boy Advance ( gpSP ), and there also programs such as Bochs, DOSBox and ScummVM has been ported to the PSP, it is also limited possible PC programs on the PSP use. It also interpreter of individual programming languages ​​(eg Lua, Python ) have been developed for the PSP to allow other hobby programmers to program in their simpler language. In addition, there are many useful programs such as the cheat program TempAR or some word processing programs.

GP32 and GP2x

A completely different path followed by the Korean company Game Park with the GP32. This handheld was only intended as a competitor to the Game Boy ( and others), but was then relatively fast open-source, so playing homebrew was very easy. The successor - the GP2X - on the other hand is open source since its release in November 2005. Since then appeared countless smaller games, emulators and other programs for the GP2X.

Nintendo DS ( i)

Homebrew for the Nintendo DS ( i) are to be started by a conventional NDS (slot 1) or GBA Flash card (slot 2). They are written about various libraries in the programming languages ​​C / C and Lua. To run its own program code of the internal protective mechanism of the DS must be switched off. This is done with modified firmware ( FlashMe ) or a variation of PassMe. In the Slot 1 variant, this feature is already integrated. Also for Nintendo's handheld, the Nintendo DSi, there are already those flash cards.

In early July 2009 the team Twiizers managed the execution of homebrew in DSi mode. Following posted on the programmer " Wintermute " a great success. He developed a "Save Game Exploit " for the DSi, with which one " assembly code " in a file with stored savegames ( " savegame file") of "Classic Word Games" type and these can then run on the DSi. With the release of firmware version 1.4 for the DSi all flash cards have been successfully blocked temporarily. However, some cards can be used after updating the flash card software.

In December 2009, Nintendo suffered a setback in the fight against flash cards for the Nintendo DS. The manufacturer has gone against the French Divineo Group in court to prevent the sale of the modules, the request was however rejected. Furthermore, the judge criticized the closed nature of the handheld console. Maxconsole, the console of the portal Divineo - owner, claims that private developers have no choice other than to circumvent the DRM system to program software for the console can.

Official homebrew options

In the past, often bundled software pirates and homebrew hackers join forces to get access to the systems. In the current seventh generation of consoles is an upheaval in the policies of the manufacturer suggests. In order to reduce the group of attackers numerically, manufacturers offer hackers an opportunity to bring their own software to run.

Sony PlayStation 3

The most here was Sony with its PlayStation 3, which allowed it to firmware 3.21 to install an alternative operating system, like Linux. However, an alternative operating system could not access the graphics acceleration here, as this was blocked by the hypervisor to make the development of homebrew games unattractive as a competitor to licensed titles. This protection, however, was broken up, see Geohots website.

At the current Playstation 3 slim possibility was removed to install an alternate operating system. As mentioned above, was the possibility of an alternative system to use for firmware upgrade to Version 3.21 for the normal PlayStation 3, is also removed. Prior to this version installed operating systems were automatically deleted by the update. As justification for this approach Sony stated cost reasons and security concerns.

Some PS3 hackers announced that they would release their own firmware version 3.21 and with all the official features as well as the ability to access alternative systems.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Microsoft offers its Xbox 360 special development kits (XNA Game Studio ) and licenses ( Xbox Live Arcade ) that which develops its own games and can be marketed online. Here, the developer receives a fee full access to the power of the engine by means of. NET languages ​​.