News Article

Japanese Import Ban on R4 Cartridges Becomes Law

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Only years too late

So, R4 cartridges. These are the devices that allow gamers to circumvent the security measure on a DS to run custom code — often referred to as homebrew — and illegally download copies of games. While the former reason often provides the grounds for defence of these cards, there are also a lot of people who used them to access dozens (possibly hundreds) of games to play for free, essentially stealing the content.

The cartridges have been illegal to import, advertise or sell in the UK since July 2010. In Nintendo's homeland, meanwhile, it's been illegal to sell the cartridges for three years, though the first arrest related to that law only took place this Spring. Meanwhile, it's been confirmed this week, by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, that it's now law that the devices can't be imported into Japan; this closes another loophole.

Nintendo was naturally at the forefront of lobbying efforts to enforce this import ban. Though it'll no doubt be a positive for the company, we can't help but feel that what seems like limited enforcement of the sales ban, and the delay before the banning of imports was formalised, mean that this change has come into effect after the damage has already been done.

At the moment there aren't any devices that do similar things on a 3DS, so it seems that the prominence of homebrew code and illegal game downloads on Nintendo handhelds is well and truly on the decline.


From the web

User Comments (33)



MetroidMasher17 said:

This is very good news. Maybe someday this sort of device and its brethren will be totally eliminated.



AlbertoC said:

The first paragraph is very well worded. As a defensor of legal homebrew (media players, book readers, organizers) fair enough.



rayword45 said:

Nintendo needs to make an easy indie development kit. Those who make homebrew never do it for profit, they just do it as a hobby. And with those expensive 3DS kits, a hack is to likely come soon.

Trust me when I say no groups other then those who make flashcarts for seedy profit seek hacks for piracy.



Moguri said:

There were people that used this cartridges not to steal, that used them for homebrew or programming purposes. In a similar way, not all people with Homebrew Channel installed on their Wii's use it to pirate games. But pirates always outshine the people who use this tools for legal purposes.



Muzer said:

Indeed. For the Wii, and in the early days of DS homebrew too I believe, the key players in the scene were all anti-piracy, and it was at first thought by some that there might never be any piracy. Sadly, this was not to be. A console on which you could run homebrew out of the box but not pirated games might do rather well - after all, the first PS3 hacks only appeared after Sony removed Linux support, then piracy developed from there.



Scribbler said:

@MetroidMasher17 That's right! This act of criminalizing a device intended for legitimate use will forever end the scourge of piracy in one fell swoop! Forget the ROM dumpers, counterfeit software, console emulators and torrent archives that makes software piracy possible without even having to TOUCH the console! THIS is the REAL evil at work! Thank goodness it will be stamped out for good!

[sarcasm mode off]

I'm sorry, but anybody who thinks this is a positive step towards anti-piracy and NOT a shot against consumer ownership needs to take a few steps back and get a clue.



Hyperstar96 said:

It's good to see that some people here acknowledge that flashcarts and modding can be used for things besides piracy.



MKCustodial said:

Fact of the matter is a DS game costs around 30 bucks, which would be around 60 bucks here in Brazil. However, those same games actually cost 130 bucks down here, which would be 65 dollars. Most people are not trying to be "smart" when they download games, they're trying to circumvent the crazy amount of taxes their countries use to exploit them. I don't like doing it and I'm not saying others should do it. I'm just explaining what happens sometimes.



TheDreamingHawk said:

Thank god... Guys, regardless if you have the game, Piracy is still piracy that is illegal. I do like the idea of using it yo make your own games though, but sadly 95 percent of flashcard owners usually pirate at least once.



ieatghosts said:

Hackers are still trying to figure out how to dump 3DS roms , but haven't yet. It's only a matter of time.

Hackers aren't evil and I will continue to support them — as I will continue to support and BUY good Nintendo titles.



theblackdragon said:

Please, guys, we are not here to discuss the specifics of hacking and/or your pirating habits, we don't need to know what you've personally done in your spare time, and we definitely don't need to start whippin' 'em out and comparing one flashcart against the other. Please take that sort of discussion elsewhere, it is in no way relevant to the article at hand. Thank you in advance :3



Tsuchinoko said:

I'm not surprised that it took this long. Japanese politicians are usually fairly slow to react to this sort of thing, but they are getting more strict on it these days.

The hacking problem here isn't as prevalent as it is in countries like the States or China, and it is good that Nintendo is taking steps (even small ones) to protect their assets.



TromaDogg said:

Well, hopefully this sort of thing shouldn't be an issue anymore with the much tighter security measures on 3DS and firmware updates to cut off exploits. I do feel it's 'shutting the stable door after the horse has already bolted' though as far as R4 cards for the original DS go. The only thing that really mystifies me is why Nintendo let the flashcart situation go on as long as they did and didn't clamp down on it a lot sooner? Could it be that they were too busy enjoying the increased DS sales at the time, eh?



9th_Sage said:

So, is it just R4 carts or is this being used as a generic term for the even more generic term 'flashcarts'? If it is just R4s, it's not like there aren't a weirdly enormous amount of clones and such that are called something different. Thankfully 3DS seems a lot more secure, on that note I'm sure the WiiU is as well.



theblackdragon said:

@9th_Sage: I'd guess it's just being used as a generic term or there's something lost in translation; it would make no sense to ban only one type and leave the rest not nailed down too.



rayword45 said:

If it's not being used as a generic term, then this news article is redundant. The original R4 hasn't been supported since 2008 and doesn't even work with the DSi let alone the 3DS, so this ban would affect literally nothing except perhaps small children.



Sforzando said:

@rayword45: Amen and hallelujah to that! (the devkit) I don't see why they don't do it. They could release a separate download platform, or section of the eShop for homebrewers to publish their game for free or even for profit. They could even support prolific homebrews for the system. Doing this would remove all rationalization and need for flashcarts, provided they don't put ridiculous limits on the homebrew devs.



StarDust4Ever said:

You do realize that an ill-formed homebrew app could potentially brick the console if it attempts to overwrite the firmware or boot sectors. For retro game consoles like the NES, SNES, N64, GB, GBA, and even Game Cube, bad code can not brick the console because there's no rewritable firmware. Yes, Game Cube does have a boot ROM, but I don't believe it's possible to brick it like it is with DS and later consoles.



Gridatttack said:

Well its nice and all that they banned them for good viewpoint, but isnt like killing homebrew too?
I mean, I remember people who were bragging because their PSP could play music and videos and the DS not, and a certain homebrew app (which is better than the 3ds music player) could do that, so it shut up those PSP fanboys.

Also there is a pleathora of these carts, so maybe they should ban those as well? The original R4 has been dead since some time...



cfgk24 said:

I'm glad to support Devs to get better games but also prefer to pay for downloads from the Eshop to get rid of high middle man costs (GAME, HMV etc - I'm looking at you!) after all a game on Amamzon is £29.99 when it is £39.99 in the shops.
I love my Shelf of 3ds ( and some DS classics)



Squashie said:

There's some good Homebrew titles out there, but I guess these cards have to be banned...



TruenoGT said:

I agree that the notion of Nintendo releasing a rudimentary, easily accessible method for users to make/run non-commercial software would be a good method to combat these devices. It would benefit Nintendo as it would also be a good way for newbie coders to get familiar with Nintendo hardware to perhaps eventually become licensed developers and make money for both sides. It also gives a chance for more things like homebrew titles evolving into popular commercial software like when Colors! started as homebrew which lead to the awesome Colors! 3D on the eShop.



LittleKing said:

@TruenoGT So, essentially, make the eShop like iTunes, where anyone can just download the tools they need and get off and running.



cherrysunburst said:

@ieatghosts There already is a way to dump 3DS roms. There just isn't a way to play them yet.

I don't banning them is the right solution. It'll work to some extent, but there will still be people dumping roms and distributing them on the interwebs.

There will still be homebrew, but in the form of Petit Computer programs, which isn't so bad, but it's a bit limiting.



SyFyTy said:

It amazes me how many people are unaware of the new law(s) (precidence) that was set in the UK IIRC,Judges decided this: that once you buy a game from the manufacturer or retailer, that game , and its, container & code becomes YOURS to do with what you choose even to resell IN ANY FORM you choose....yes it includes rom form too. A shocking law to be sure.. This precidence was set before it ever came into question regarding ownership of code and the like as a questioned law, only recently BTW.



Windy said:

I am glad to see that these cards haven't come into effect the 3DS so far. If the gaming industry ever crashes these cards and piracy will be the main reason as to why it happened. Dreamcast is a perfect example and is the reason sega is no longer in the race



warvad said:

Can't believe they made these things illegal. Is freedom even a thing in Japan and the UK?



R-L-A-George said:

@warvad I know there are homebrewers that are honest but it makes some sense the r4's which are quite common in comparison to others. Piracy is a pain in the butt, if people were not pirating. We would of had a region free DSi.

On the other hand, if they made a affordable DS/3DS dev kit. Homebrewers wouldn't need the flashcarts and the only people that would be using flashcarts are pirates.



DarkKirby said:

If Nintendo would stop region locking their games and systems I wouldn't care about homebrew.

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