A new amendment to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act law in Japan ostensibly meant to combat cheating has put a serious barrier in front of certain specialty activities in gaming, particularly console modding and save editing. While the fallout of the change is still being explored, it has had an immediate impact on sales of at least two products.
While non-Japanese speakers in the modding and emulation communities are still trying to decipher what exactly is happening, there are some early details (this change appears to be very fresh). A developer on the Libretro API and RetroArch software, Brad Parker, has been the major reference point so far. According to him, the following are currently understood to now be illegal:
- Distribution of tools and software that modify game saves
- Selling product keys or serial numbers online (unofficially)
- Services for altering game saves or modding consoles
Console modding isn’t as big today as it used to be in terms of things like import gaming (most contemporary consoles are region free), but console modding is still very much a big part of the retro gaming community, especially when it comes to making older hardware cooperate well with modern TVs and monitors. The game save editing is also relevant to PlayStation 4 users, as (along with Pro Action Replay) Cybergadget’s popular PS4 save editing software (pictured above) can no longer be legally sold and appears to have been discontinued already.
For now, this seems like a case in which a law seeks to solve a problem, likely things like hardware modification meant to disrupt current esports competition, and inadvertently disrupts adjacent activities that aren’t relevant to the original problem. That said, it’s important to note that this law impacts services, but doesn’t bar anyone from modding their own hardware.