Bill Gates actually asked how they could encourage homebrew.
Mod chips are a sticky issue. Ask many of the people who have installed one in their PlayStation 2 or Xbox, and the responses range from a desire to play imported releases and running homebrew software -- constantly refuting the idea that many are actually playing pirated videogames. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many people do engage in piracy on a daily basis, leading to the strong distaste for mod chip talk from the hardware manufacturers.
Xbox platform strategy group team member and former Xbox Live director Andre Vrignaud is one of many Microsoft employees with an active blog. We've linked to Vrignaud's comments about the industry before, and last night he tackled mod chips, examining each of the excuses typically stated by mod chip users for their existence.
Unexpectedly, he concludes mod chips can't work within the videogames industry, as hardware manufacturers utilize the 'razor/razor blade model' and take a loss on selling systems in the hopes of making up for it via software and accessories. "At the end of the day, the cost difference needs to be made up somewhere, and that's why we need to you buy those razor blades," he says.On Piracy:
"...at the end of the day every game not legally purchased is simply stealing money from the creators. Some people attempt to justify piracy by pointing to the perceived high price of their hobby and/or games, but the argument just doesn't hold up. You don't steal a Ferrari that you'd love to drive simply because you can't afford it, right? Same thing."
On Import Games:
"The desire to play import games is at least a reason I can rationally understand, but cannot condone. ... But sometimes companies have good reasons to either not release a title into a region or release it at different dates. It may be because of the time and cost of localization, marketing plans, ad buys, cultural considerations, or perhaps even because of the impact of piracy in the region."
Vrignaud's most interesting tidbit, however, comes at the mention of Microsoft head honcho Bill Gates being shown a PSP running homebrew software. Gates was apparently impressed with what the community had independently developed, and wondered if there was a way they could encourage such development "without damaging the business."
Good form, Gates, good form -- even if it isn't feasible (yet).