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Homebrew is a term used to describe games and other software developed by consumers of proprietary computer hardware platforms, such as game consoles, that have hardware restrictions and are not usually user-programmable. The development of homebrew software is often for the purposes of expanding the function of the restricted hardware device, such as making a game console do more than just play games by enabling DVD playback or serving as a home theater PC (HTPC).
Homebrew is a term that for all intents and purposes means hacking, specifically hacking closed computer systems and opening them for other functions and producing homemade software for that platform. This practice was started by enthusiasts looking to stretch their technical muscles, by hacking and successfully developing software for old game consoles that do not have any developer support and do not anymore have developer kits available; consoles such as the Atari 2600, Fairchild Channel F and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to name a few.
The term became more widely known to the general public when the Homebrew Channel was released for the popular Nintendo Wii console. The Homebrew Channel, which was not created by or endorsed by Nintendo, allowed the Wii to play DVDs, a function that it was never intended for, as well as to play games from other storage sources such as USB drives, which meant that games could easily be pirated by simply copying the contents onto a USB drive and playing it on a Nintendo Wii running the Homebrew Channel. Because of this, console manufacturers are putting more safeguards in their consoles that prevent the running of homebrew software as well as threatening litigation for anyone who attempts to do so.
Because of the hurdles being faced by "homebrewers" and the fact that there are better and easier open systems on which software can be programmed, such as Android systems, Raspberry Pi and the Ouya, homebrewing enthusiasm on newer game consoles such as the Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One is dwindling.