In Japan, it is now illegal to modify your game consoles or save files in basically any way.
It’s not a super common practice, but modifying consoles to do something other than what the manufacturer intended is definitely a thing that happens. Since PlayStations and Xboxes are little more than computers with fancy bodies, they can be repurposed to do anything that a computer can do if you’ve got the technical know-how.
In most places, such modifications are a legal way to use a game maker’s hardware, but that’s not true in Japan any longer. A December revision to the tiny island nation’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act has outlawed console modding and save game editors in one fell swoop.
According to Reddit user bparker06, who identifies themselves as a developer for RetroArch, the amendment has caused the following practices to become illegal:
“-Distribution of tools and programs for modifying game saves-Selling product keys and serials online without the software maker's permission-Game save and console modding services”
We’ll hit each of these bullets one by one, starting with the illegality of tools that modify save games. There are certainly products out there, such as Pro Action Replay devices, that are now definitely illegal based on the wording, but not every save file requires specific technology to modify.
Some games save their data in something as simple as a text file, and text files can be modified by any word processor worth its salt. This amendment is so broadly worded that it essentially makes all word processors illegal.
Selling product keys without the developer’s consent makes sense for retailers, but again, the wording here would also make it illegal for someone to resell a code they obtained lawfully from a retailer. That’s definitely not cool for sites like eBay, where reselling game codes are a big part of their business.
Game save and console modding services aren’t exactly a huge market here in the US, but in Japan, there’s a lot more of that sort of thing going on, and once again the wording is very broad. This means that something as innocuous as painting your console a different color is now illegal as it modifies the original console.
Here’s hoping that Japanese lawmakers eventually narrow things down so that these wide-reaching laws start targeting the illegal behaviors that Japan actually wants to outlaw and not the harmless fun that it currently also outlaws.