Sony’s official support for the PlayStation Vita is at an end. PlayStation Plus support for it ends in February 2019. Cartridge production will end before the 2018 fiscal year ends on March 31, 2019. We have not seen a major first-party game since 2015. But even though the company that makes the handheld has abandoned its child, fans have not. Rather, it will be hackers and homebrew developers that will extend and continue the system’s legacy.
This comes as a result of the latest exploit. PlayStation Vita owners lamenting the state of the system can now turn to h-encore. This is a fully-chained kernal exploit for the system that opens it up. It is the most notable exploit so far, because previously people could only hack into the handheld if it was running firmware. 3.60. With h-encore, it makes it possible to crack into systems with 3.65, 3.67 and 3.68, though only 3.65 can offer a permanent solution that does not have to have reinstall.
Now, most people will see this exploit and think, “Hey, free games!” Which sure, is absolutely a thing. A lot of people will see hackers and homebrewers use exploits like this to allow people to pirate games or pop emulators on the Vita so they have access to as many retro games as possible. But this is more important than that. This is about fans using the exploit to give people who own the handheld things that they have wanted from Sony for years, but never came through because the company basically abandoned the console.
The biggest thing for me is the impact h-encore can have on the Vita’s memory. I always keep my system on the latest firmware for work purposes. However, the proprietary memory card situation on it is ridiculous. A 32GB card, the biggest you can get outside of Japan, will still cost you over $60. To compare, a 32GB micro SD should cost you around $10. I paid $100 for a 64GB card from Japan in 2013 and, after four years, it died on me. Those who loved the console and have technical know-how have added micro SD support to the system, provided someone gets an SD2Vita adaptor that can cost as little as $3 on eBay. Fans offered this cheaper and more practical solution, one that will last long after the Vita-specific memory cards are no longer produced, not Sony.
It also frees you from the Content Manager Assistant. Anyone who has a Vita and decided to backup games, have their save data someone more secure instead of the cloud, or transfer screenshots over has had to install this program onto their PC. Instead of just dragging and dropping things, which is easy and makes sense, you need to go through this whole thing that involves making decisions on the actual Vita regarding what is backed up. Things like h-encore lets you use an FTP client or just do the drag-and-drop method to get things done. It is a big deal.
But the best part is what the fans have done for the PlayStation TV. If the Vita is a red-headed stepchild in the PlayStation family, the PlayStation TV is the third cousin twice-removed. Sony did not support it the way it should have. As a result, there are lots of Vita, PSP and PS One games that do not work on it for no good reason. (We get why something like Little Deviants, with touchscreen and panel support, would not work. But why not World of Final Fantasy?) Fans who have stepped in and used exploits like the h-encore adjust that list of games that will and won’t work, moving titles from the blacklist to the whitelist. You can even plug an external USB storage device into the PlayStation TV and use it instead of those dreaded proprietary memory cards. Considering this system was going for $20 at one point, that is a pretty helpful.
Fans have been taking care of the Vita when Sony hasn’t. By finding exploits, they have found ways into the system to do things the company never bothered to. They offer ways around the expensive memory cards, mandatory backup programs, and lists that keep those who invested in PlayStation TVs from playing games. Even though official support is at an end, there is a way to keep things kicking.