Console modding and save game editors are now illegal in Japan. A recent change to the “Unfair Competition Prevention Law” (不正競争防止法) has added three new restrictions for gamers in Japan (and some hefty fines for violating them).

Fans have been modding consoles and emulating games for several decades, but a recent change to Japanese law [Japanese] has made things a little more perilous. The changes to the law make three significant changes according to a Reddit submission on /r/emulation.

Firstly, save game editors are no longer legal in Japan. Secondly, any services that provide save game editing or enable console modding (ostensibly for playing pirated games or imported games) are also forbidden. Finally, the resale of serial keys for games without the express permission of the developer/publisher is no longer allowed.

Violation of any of these new restrictions on console modding and save game editors can result in five years in prison and/or a ¥5 million (≈$45,875) fine. Violators of these changes to the Unfair Competition Prevention Law may also face civil action including remuneration for any financial loss and any additional damages.

The new changes to the law involving save game editors and console modding also appear to be worryingly vague. (I must take a moment to mention that I am not a lawyer—much less a Japanese lawyer—and this does not in any way constitute legal advice.) As one Redditor on /r/emulation points out, a simple hex editor arguably runs afoul of this law. While it can be used to alter game saves in certain formats, it also has plenty of other benign uses in programming and other computer-related fields.

A handful of companies are expected to be affected by this law. We’re not just talking about stores selling console modding services, mind. Save game editors are often a physical product that can hook into gaming machines. Cyber Gadget’s PS4 save editor (which released in March 2017) and other devices by the company run afoul of these changes to the law, to the point that they appear to be discontinued now.

The Unfair Competition Prevention Law previously kept their restrictions to the illicit copying of movies, music, and software. From what we can tell, this seems to be Japan’s equivalent of the DMCA, a law which has occasionally been used to prevent modding in the West. Hackers, modders, and pirates will unfortunately find that the law just got a heck of a lot tougher.

What do you think of the new Japanese restrictions on save game editors and console modding? Do you think the new Japanese laws are sensible? Let us know in the comments below!


Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!