Owners of Microsoft Xbox 360 game consoles are making a beeline at electronic shops in Greenhills Center in San Juan City to have their units modified to play illegal copies of game titles.
A few shops at the newly built V-Mall in Greenhills are offering modification of Xbox 360s.
Most of these shops have been modifying game consoles for years. Among the units they modify are Sony Playstations 1 and 2, Nintendo Gamecubes and the first Microsoft Xbox.
A videogame retail shop owner who wishes not to be named told this reporter that the modification of Xbox 360s has been around for months since Microsoft launched the console late last year but the method only arrived in the Philippines in late July.
By modifying the console chipset, players can use copied versions of the game, some of which cost from 400 pesos to 600 pesos, compared to original boxed games that cost from 2,200 pesos to as high as 3,000 pesos.
The shop owner explained that there are two types of modifications. First is a method called "flashing" of the console's chipset while the other is placing a new chipset or "modchip" on top of the unit's original modchip.
"But what is being done here is the first method since I haven't seen the modchip yet," the shop owner said.
In the first method, only the chipset of the console's HD-DVD (high definition digital versatile disc) drive is flashed; its pre-installed application is erased and replaced with a new application that reads copied games.
Incidentally, the chipset can still be reverted to its software prior to flashing.
The flashing method requires a special connector called serial ATA (SATA) and a flashing software.
While SATA is a standard PC drive connector, the software is not available off the shelf.
The copied games themselves are not directly copied to a blank disc from an original source disc but are installed with corresponding software that identifies them with the new HD-DVD chipset application.
The shop owner said all of the HD-DVD drives are either from Samsung or LG.
The only risk is that if the drive itself is damaged, a replacement drive will be impossible to find since there are none being sold commercially.
"But so far, none of the units I have modified were returned to me for repairs," the shop owner said.
However, copied games cannot be played on Xbox Live, the online gaming service of Microsoft, since it asks for the original game's unique serial number.
Xbox 360s retail for about 21,000 pesos to 30,000 pesos. The modification itself cost 3,000 pesos.
Technically, flashing or modifying chipsets is not illegal unlike selling of copied discs, which is punishable by law.