DS Cracked. Cards and Writers available, ROMS Proliferate

Nintendo’s handheld piracy woes continue.

Posted by Staff
Nintendo Company Limited will be reeling today as it sees widespread plundering of its Nintendo DS handheld platform explode across the Internet with the sad news that full-scale piracy is now well underway.

Nintendo DS Flash cards are now available, along with USB writers. This situation is compounded by the fact that ROMs of DS games have become widely available on Internet piracy sites and, private FTP servers, and via peer-to-peer networks - a damaging blow to Nintendo’s new handheld console.

Nintendo has struggled with piracy for its portable products since the first Game Boy launched almost 15 years ago. Within months of the original machine’s launch, cartridges from China and Taiwan offering up to 30 games each were available for around the price of a single official game. This problem continued through the days of the Game Boy Color and persisted on the Game Boy Advance, with card writers and associated peripherals remaining available throughout Nintendo’s battle to regain control of the situation.

As you may remember, Nintendo acted aggressively and successfully against Hong-Kong-based Lik-Sang, forcing the well-known online games store to withdraw its line of Game Boy ‘development’ tools. Nintendo DS emulation software is also now widely available, with reports claiming to have a near perfect clone of Nintendo’s machine running on PC with software to boot, as it were.

A typical package being offered to potential home pirates consists of a 512MB card, a USB card reader, a Game Boy Advance Flash card and associated software, including emulators for Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, PC Engine and GameGear. The asking price is generally a shade over £100 for this package, a worryingly tempting proposition for technically-minded gamers, already with a proven appetite for such systems.

SPOnG contacted Nintendo for clarification of its position on this news but was unable to get comment at time of going to press. We expect feedback later on today and will update this news piece accordingly.
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Comments

Ditto 9 Jun 2005 14:19
1/12
It's quite ironic that Nintendo has produced a near piracy-proof home system, yet continues to produce handheld consoles that are far too easy to misuse.

We need to remember, however, that people do use these kits for homebrew development and have no intention of emulating titles they don't own.

I don't believe that real gamers are software pirates. With the greatest respect for those SPoNGers that do this, if you emulate games you haven't paid for and thus endangering future game production, especially from innovative companies such as Nintendo, you really don't deserve any rights and I hope that Nintendo take large-scale legal action against you and all of your equipment and/or ROM suppliers.
OptimusP 9 Jun 2005 15:00
2/12
So they cracked the system, but can they also copy the games? Making it run on the DS?

And the GameCube is the only complete pirate-free console ever, i don't think they can even emulate it with its unique architecture.

In the long run it probably won't hurt the DS as much as the PSP-hacking will hurt the PSP (hurt...i mean cripple it to a slow death).
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Radiant 9 Jun 2005 15:18
3/12
The Cube is wide open now in terms of piracy.
Before you had to sort of stream stuff off of a pc into the cube to get pirate copies to run.
Now they have a chip much like the ps2 or xbox chip which allows games to be run either off of a full dvd or a hard to get gc mini dvd (to run full dvd it needs the owner to take a saw to the gc to get it to fit).

It's quite ironic that the PSP is the piracy free console but that will change if Sony release recordable UMD media and equipment. (Running things off of the memory stick is possible but at 200 pounds a pop for a sony branded 1gig stick you might as well buy the damn game 4 times over).
kid_77 9 Jun 2005 16:00
4/12
Radiant wrote:
It's quite ironic that the PSP is the piracy free console but that will change if Sony release recordable UMD media and equipment. (Running things off of the memory stick is possible but at 200 pounds a pop for a sony branded 1gig stick you might as well buy the damn game 4 times over).

Well that could change soon. Someone's created a UMD ISO dumper. You just run a binary and it dumps whatever game's in the drive to memory stick. They can't play them yet, but they reckon it's only weeks, if not days, before they figure out the encryption.

And you can get 1Gb sticks for about £100 now.
fluffstardx 9 Jun 2005 16:16
5/12
It's ironic that this same article was in Games magazine when it came out weeks ago...

Anyway, piracy always catches up in the end. It's the idiot-proof scenario; the better the piracy-proof equipment, the better the pirate. It is massively disappointing, but inevitable.

Heck, go on eBay and you can get a 1GB flash cart for the GBA and adaptor for £100. That's around 256 GBA games on a cart, plus battery backup and a realtime clock so as not to lose features in games like Pokémon. And when you get bored of the games, remove a few and change them. It is quite horrendous, really.
Joji 9 Jun 2005 17:58
6/12
We'll see Nintendo wrath kick in eventually but this was always gonna happen. Because some people actually like to create their own content for the DS and that's great. Nintendo should encourage homebrew development but at the same time quash piracy with a big crackdown.

I really don't think it will hurt Nintendo much since DS games are cheap on import anyway. When games for GBA and DS are about £18-20 some places why bother getting dodgy goods that could well mess up?

I'd rather have official Nintendo licensed products be they home or imports.

mrnull 9 Jun 2005 20:52
7/12
A few quick corrections to the main article..

- It's a 512Mbit card.
- Only the pros can dump the roms.
- The USB linker is still in development.
- You need a pass-through of some sort to execute code off the GBA slot.
- I think there's only 2 roms out.
soanso 10 Jun 2005 02:46
8/12
Well this was always going to happen at some point wasn't it?
It's sad that this will happen. when you'll get people that make really nice well crafted and original games and then get ripped off and make nothing back from it. I doubt that the ds roms will affect the sales as much as say pirated ps2 games probably do but considering something like electroplankton only sold about 6000 copies in japan, who's to say that losing sales to piracy won't put people off making risky games like that.

But there is the other side of it too. I am no stranger to downloading roms. I have a stack of them, of games that never got released in Britain (CHRONOTRIGGER!!) or games that I always wanted but could never get a hold of a copy, or of capcom arcade games where I always felt disappointed in the home console conversions, they never did FEEL right.

Or then there is something like WarioWare inc. which I downloaded and played on an emulator. LOVED it so much that I went out and bought the real thing as soon as I could (and the follow up). So through piracy it actually got Nintendo several extra sales.
way 10 Jun 2005 18:28
9/12
What were you guys thinking, publishing an article like this. You make everybody seem like they are some gung-ho pirate, while totally ignoring the legitimate primary use of these "real" "development" devices. Sure the pirates need to get dealt with, but throwing the baby out with the bath water is hardly sensible. I would not be surprised if opposition to this is mainly just a move to own the software channel, not content to be happy with profit on console sales, or their own titles, they have to own a piece of everybody else's development work, so they can jack up the price of software that you people pay for with hard earned cash. It is really a question of the immorality of stopping competitive development and market share of home developers.

If you look at the history behind many GBA flash carts and software downloaders, which are used extensively by the home software development community, you will find an number were designed by people in the homebrew game community primarily for people in that community. I know I have been to that development community when they have been introducing these things.

It takes a lot of money up front, and effort downloading, to own and use such systems for piracy, hardly the average DS users ambition in life, who would prefer pre-loaded games that they can buy and plug straight in and use. I suggest this is where the game companies should spend their time and resources on battling. The loss through a normal development equipment should be minimal, but what they should worry about is illegal copies of pre-fabricated games, even with many games on one each cartridge, individuals offering a custom cartridge service, and any cartridge device where the user can grab his mates cartridge, plug it into the cartridge, and have instant auto download and walk away with a unpaid for game. Please, manufacturers, leave the more legitimate development tools alone. Even if the odd user uses it to legitimately collect all his pre-paid games on one cartridge, for convenience, that should be his privilege.

The industry can easily deal with all these issues by decreasing hackability and supporting homebrew efforts with tools that can't be used for copying legitimate software. The second thing is to move to small form factor cards, like SD cards, and provide the ability to plug in and switch between multiple cards, even offering cartridge sized card switch boxes for 20 or so cards, in the back of the machine. There was a card standard, I think it might have been the original Multi-media card version, where you could physically stack the cards one on top of another to form an extensible Plug and Play bus. Using something like this, the data of the active card simply goes straight through to the machines normal decoder security circuit, as it does through the normal data pins, preserving all known security. This would offer users a truly convenient alternative to buying a flash cartridge, and then copy and download games to. But the other aspect is carrying around 20 cards, of hard earned cash, and getting them stolen is a big risk, and another reason to have a flash cart. But if the machine had a finger print lockable/indestructible/self-erasing switch box, and a fingerprint activatable console, then it would be useless for most thieves to steal it.

Solutions are what is needed.

I reserved rights to all these ideas, and offer/declare them publicly, which means they are now unpatentable (so they can't lock it up to themselves) by any single company (unless still by me, or already patented).

Way

--
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VideoGamerJ 10 Jun 2005 20:49
10/12
Spong, for the longest time, I have stood by your posts and whether or not they became true or false, I respected the rush of news you have provided, and always having it out before anyone else it sometimes meant that it may not be true. People have attacked you and I have stood up saying, "It's what they have to do to get credibility, to stand out. To post news as early as possible is the risk that it may become untrue."

However, today I write with a full offset. Have you completely lost your mind?

"This situation is compounded by the fact that ROMs of DS games have become widely available on Internet piracy sites and, private FTP servers, and via peer-to-peer networks - a damaging blow to Nintendo’s new handheld console."

I'm working in the DS development scene, and I've done a share of developing and pirating in other scenes. Wifime and passme methods are becoming more and more widespread for the Nintendo DS, but roms? Don't be abserd. Where are you finding this. The one flashcart that is available can hold older roms like the GBA and older extensions, but you cannot rip DS roms and upload to them. Perhaps in the future it may be a problem, but as it stands now the only purpose it serves is homebrew development, which is rapidly progressing.
way 13 Jun 2005 19:48
11/12
I suggest you link to this article in the news, quiet revealing statements on the home-brew community:

http://www.tomshardware.com/hardnews/20050609_164739.html

Thanks
Joji 13 Jun 2005 20:12
12/12
If that's the case with PSP (from the article) I see no reason why security updates couldn't be pushed for the DS too since it's capable of getting updates too.

Now that the DS has been out in the U.K and U.S for a while it's down to Nintendo to begin the demo/software update stuff from kiosks and games shops etc. This kind of stuff has begun in japan but I'm wondering how long it will take for these options to reach outside of japan?

The PSP for piracy is obviously gonna be similar to the GC, very low because the disk format makes it so hard and pointless if you manage it.

All Nintendo have to do to encourage legit sales is some homework and advertising. Also give punters something with a game sale that piracy can't offer. Tokens for discounts off games or something.
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