News Article

Nintendo Wins Another Court Battle with R4 Cartridge Manufacturers

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Nintendo and others to be paid nearly $1 million in damages

The DS family of systems has long since been replaced by the 3DS, but almost as an ironic tribute to the slowly grinding gears of legal systems, Nintendo and around fifty other companies have just been awarded nearly $1 million in damages; this will be paid by two R4 device sellers based in Tokyo. Still, a late victory is better than no victory at all.

As most will likely know, R4 cartridges were devices that allowed the circumvention of security measures on the DS systems, allowing owners to run homebrew channels but, more tellingly, download and run illegally acquired ROMS. Some will argue that the homebrew scene and legitimate backups of software justified these R4 carts, but they also allowed rampant piracy and those with enough savvy to acquire those ROMS for free without buying games at retail. Whatever the good intentions of some, the negatives of the devices led to the inevitable efforts from Nintendo — not always successful — to ban and block these carts.

Legal steps did come into action during the lifespan of the DS family of systems, as it became illegal to import, advertise or sell R4 carts in the UK in 2010, while selling them was illegal in Japan in 2009. Actual prosecutions took years to come to fruition, however, and it was only last year that it became illegal to import R4 carts into Japan.

Joined by major Japanese publishers such as Konami, Capcom, Square Enix, Level-5 and Bandai Namco, Nintendo has now successfully claimed compensation from two of the offending distributors in its homeland. The big N has managed to keep the 3DS far more secure, to date; not so long ago a company produced evidence that it had developed a functional flashcard for the 3DS, but then had to announce it had been blocked by a recent 3DS system update before it had even begun to sell its product.

While Nintendo continues to duke it out with those that made hay from R4 flashcards, the 3DS remains secure to date. Let us know what you think in the comments section, but please stick to the Community Rules and discuss the topic at hand.


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User Comments (54)



Kewlan said:

Good Guy Nintendo, brings case to court at the end of the DS's life.
I'll admit, I did use the R4, but I'm more grown up now and understand the consequences of pirating, so I'm ok with this.



cbkummer said:

I will admit to using an R4 - for about 4 months. Then I realized I was STEALING GAMES just as much as if I'd walked into a store and stuck one under my coat. I'm really glad Nintendo is taking steps to combat this, it hurts the entire industry. As a side note, I now own every game I downloaded when I used an R4, since I felt so bad about it.



wicked636 said:

I dont know much about this kind of thing only what i read recently on here but i hope they continue to keep the 3ds secure so theres more of a chance u know if u got a fake game online.Something i wonder about sometimes unless its directly through amazon or somewhere else.Im mainly refering to third parties on amazon sometimes and people on ebay.



AJWolfTill said:

The only industry positives I can attest to with the R4 card is that I am now invested in far more franchises which I have subsequently purchased copies from. I probably wouldn't have been turned onto the Zero Escape, Phoenix Wright or Fire Emblem franchises. However I eagerly await these releases now.
In the end I used the R4 to listen to OCR albums more than anything else. It does seem somewhat shamefull that the only way to get music and video players on the DS Lite was through illegal software.



SmaMan said:

It's not only sad that this case against the R4 is just now going to court, but that R4 is just one of many "homebrew carts" out there for the DS. Nintendo only really squashed one bug. A million dollar bug, yes, but the hive is still alive and well.

I myself once used one by Datel. Honestly, all I used (and really all that would work on it) was a media player, essentially turning my DS into the Video iPod I never had. (except you clould also play SPCs on it and stuff like that! )

'Course then I got an iPhone and abandoned it altogether.



Dambuster said:

Maybe Nintendo could give the money to the 8 year olds who worked in the factory where the wii u was made! ( They got paid just over one dollar a week)



Dambuster said:

Now Nintendo have the money for the lost sales, in essence they have been paid for like any other copy of the game, are ROM's ok now?



SmaMan said:

Of course not. By your logic would be like finally paying off your credit card only to overcharge your credit limit once again. If anything this court decision reaffirms that ROMs are illegal.



DualWielding said:

Good for Nintendo but as a lawyer I don't know what the legal basis for this decision are (I don't know japanese law). In principle you should be allowed to sell any device that serves a legitimate purpose even if it can also be used for illegal purposes as long as you do not advertise the potential illegal use.

R4 cards have 3 legitimate uses, private backup, homebrew and getting rid of region lock..... Sure they were in practice mainly used for piracy but device makers are not responsible for that, only the people who did....

Under the same logic VHS, audio tape recorders, and CD burners could be banned because they can be used for piracy despite having legitimate uses. You would argue that those are used more for the legitimate purposes than for piracy but the actual legitimate to illegal use rate does not matter. The principle is that the maker of a legitimate device cannot be liable for what the users decide to do with it



bahooney said:

@jestermx6 Same here, my friend. There are so many obscure games from the consoles that you mentioned that fetch high prices on ebay and that the developer sees no compensation from. Shantae is a good example! Now that it's coming to 3DS VC, I /have/ to pick it up to show my support. I did the same thing with the Oracle games.



chiefeagle02 said:

I played with the DS homebrew scene for a while and I saw some really good games and apps within that community (MoonShell, DSReader, GeoWars, MegaETk, Still Alive, et cetera), all perfectly legal. This makes me want to get a new card (old one was blocked by a DSi firmware update) before they become illegal here in the states, as there is still homebrew coming out (albeit slowly).



unrandomsam said:

Flash Carts are less bad than counterfeit games. (Of which they are loads when it comes to the DS at least 90% of the games on Amazon that say cart only no box are fake.)
There are some games that it is just too risky to get. (The incentive to make fake versions is high because the value is the game is high).

Neo Geo has the same problem (As does TG16) some of the games on the AES are over £500 (Wii has them in 50hz for me so I cannot do that) but you can transplant the chips from the much cheaper MVS cart into another AES cart put a fake label on it and then make £400 in the process.

I have seen counterfeit games for sale in Grainger games (Marked DS Lite only - looks 100% legit other than that).

I don't see what Nintendo would lose by the DS games that are out of print (And heavily counterfeited) putting them on the eshop the price isn't really the problem. (Fairly sure they can do with DS games the same they do for the ambassador GBA games).

The best service is the best way to beat piracy.

(The last 2 open box games i have ordered from Amazon Warehouse Deals have had the wrong game in it. Most of the time they don't even sell the game new.)

The DS Neo Geo emulator works better for playing Metal Slug than the Wii Metal Slug Collection (Of which I own the UK junk version and slightly better Jap version).

The Neo Geo X hardware is awful but I might get one if there was a version of final burn alpha for 3DS. (The roms are just standard .fba ones). The 3DS has the right number of pixels for it to be done decent.

Also where are the TG16 Virtual Console games ? (Announced at launch but still not here). I want Magical Chase on my 3DS but not at £1000 (For either Gameboy Color or English TG16 version).

I would pay up to £20 for a rom / emulator for a game I actually really want. (There is quite a few DS carts I have never touched that I bought because I played translated versions on emulators years ago. Dunno whether I will continue doing that as Square Enix are being about as customer unfriendly as possible. Dragon Quest VII is the one 3DS RPG I actually want).



hamae said:

I wonder if R4 will care to pay, especially when they have no more business now on 3DS. It may just go bankrupt and no one will get any money.



ivanmata said:

This is great, I am completely against piracy, we want the companies that make our games to have profit so they can keep making them.



unrandomsam said:

@ivanmata What about those people selling DS versions of New Super Mario and Mario 64 on ebay. (in plastic case that looks fairly similar to the original gameboy ones). It is not as simple as you make it out to be. (Developers don't want to reprint them because they think it won't pay due to the R4. Counterfeiters will do it because they are not available then that money goes to them. People think they are doing the right thing but they are not.)

I think the original flashcarts used proprietary Nintendo code dunno whether they still do or not that might effect their legality in some places.

The way Ebay and Amazon look the other way when it is obvious people are selling fake goods annoys me much more than flashcarts.

Only solution I have is sell stuff that is not available new on the DS from a reputable seller on the eshop. (I am sure they can do it same way as GBA works for ambassadors (They should sell me them I bought the XL at RRP when it first came out) and probably will do when they remove DS compatibility on a 3DS revision).



Shane904 said:

"those with enough savvy to acquire those ROMS for free"
Wouldn't say you'd need savvy. Downloading ROMs is as easy as downloading homebrew.

I don't think the manufacturers should be to blame for piracy using their device. That's like suing the maker of a blank DVD because people recorded pirated shows to it.



unrandomsam said:

If at some later point the only way for me to play Jap 3DS games is an illegal one (Other than getting a Jap 3DS) I may or may not take it. (I will see what happens I had no problems just buying DS games when I could run them fine).



ivanmata said:

@unrandomsam Yes that needs to be addressed by Nintendo as well, but in those cases you have some people buying the games thinking they are originals, it's slightly different, but I agree they also need to control this.



shinpichu said:

I agree with what @ferthepoet said, sure people use flashcards for piracy but they do have legit uses. Though I'm pretty sure even the manufacturers know that the main draw is piracy.

Not like this stuff is gonna stop piracy. People who don't wanna pay for games aren't gonna pay for games, simple as that.



ToastyYogurt said:

That's a shame.

You heard me, it's a shame that R4's and other flashcarts are banned from most of the world.

Actually, let me rephrase that: It's a shame that R4's and other flashcarts have to be banned from most of the world. I am highly against piracy, I've been asked if it was possible to pirate Portal 2 on Steam before, and hearing that there was some sort of option for that, I told the asker that I didn't support piracy and that I didn't know of a solution anyway. The thing is, I don't think Nintendo would be so hard pressed to get rid of these things if they didn't allow people to pirate games.
People seem to forget that these things aren't completely evil. They were originally intended (at least, what I believe them to be originally intended) to run homebrew and store a collection of games that a person had legally paid for so one didn't have to swap cartridges to play a different game. But since anything the flashcart can run is fair game to the flashcart, people use them to pirate games.
I'm not saying all pirates are evil, there are the few that pirate games to try them before they go out and buy the games, and those that do it to play rare games that don't go for cheap on eBay (Earthbound being a prime example). Heck, I'm part of the latter group, and I'm trying to be as ethical as possible with the policy; I stopped playing Earthbound via emulation once I heard it was coming to Virtual Console.
So, to rap that all up, I blame the pirates that do it because they don't want to pay for the games at all for ruining flashcarts for all of us that would like to use them ethically. Don't blame the people selling them, it's not their intention to take money away from Nintendo, just to make money themselves, or better, because they want people to use the carts legitimately.



Araknie said:

Finally, really this was going on from too long.

What i don't like, that i discovered after a bit of research, is that Sony has never spoken about banning piracy.

With the PS4 coming out they should really say it out that the cloud will be constantly keep secure and updated, really recently hackers attacked the clouds of Ubisoft France and Nintendo Japan...i hope they did something this time in Sony's house.

Even if looking at people talking about homebrews for the PSVita is not a good sign.
Man i shouldn't have done that research right now, i don't like when a company stays silent on a big issue like this.



unrandomsam said:

@Bulby Wouldn't have made any difference. (Look at what Retro City Rampage had to do for wiiware and that was when the rules were relaxed a little bit). Nintendo only seems to like indie developers that worked for big publishers before hand. (They are not indie as far as I am concerned same as indie bands that are signed to an indie label (That is part of a major label).

Nintendo has lost it when it comes to new super mario bros. (They have had over £100 from me for being worse than Super Mario Bros 3 / World. I am quite happy due to the riivolution mod's for the wii version but if it wasn't for that I would be very angry.



aaronsullivan said:

All the issues can be summed up by serving yourself and developers by doing this: Just buy the stuff you like in order to support it. If you don't, people won't be able to continue making what you like. (If you can't buy check out the ads on ad supported sites and games)



JoostinOnline said:

I bought mine solely for developing homebrew (hard to believe, I know), but it got blocked with the last update. I lost interest in DS homebrew quickly anyway, it wasn't nearly as fun as Wii homebrew. Also, libnds is weird.



ecco6t9 said:

There really is no reason for Homebrew these days when Nintendo has made it easier to put indie games on the eShop.

Let me pay you talented garage developers $5-$10 for your neat indie game that I am interested in.



devomaniacle said:

@Dambuster You know the company, FOXCONN, which makes their components also make the iPhones, the Xboxs, Samsung products, basically, if it is an electronic, it is made there. So yes, it is terrible that they aren't paid well, A) Nintendo doesn't control how much FOXCONN pays their child slaves, and B) if the big companies were to blame, it wouldn't just be Nintendo.



mikeyman64 said:

@ferthepoet "In principle you should be allowed to sell any device that serves a legitimate purpose even if it can also be used for illegal purposes as long as you do not advertise the potential illegal use."

Now there's a decent basis for an argument about another, more recently released, product. But, to adhere to the rules, I'll stay on topic.

Nintendo was probably able to provide evidence to show that they had suffered significant losses over the creation and sales of these devices. Not to mention there were several other companies claiming the same shenanigans. I'm no lawyer though, so I couldn't say.

I really wish there was a way to conduct an honest pole to see how many people actually make "backups" and and use "homebrew." I used to meddle with homebrew applications back in the early DS days, but the community was anything but flourishing.



GamerZack87 said:

Gone are the days when pirates sailed the seven seas, drinking rum and singing shanties whilst the Jolly Roger rustled in the wind, letting other seafarers know to fear them as they pillaged for treasure...



skyyye said:

Well, I'm mixed on this. On one hand, I strongly oppose piracy (of any game that is available for sale), but on the other hand, I really want to play Super Metroid on my 3DS. If Nintendo sold it for even $20, I'd snatch it in a second, but if not, I hope someone can find a way to get a good SNES emulator running on a flashcart.



Selene said:

I was considering getting an R4 thingie for my DS. Am very glad I didn't. Emulators are great for discovering new games I wanna buy, but playing ROMs on a Nintendo system goes too far! In fact, I don't even use emulators anymore cuz I like getting my first experience of a new game on the system it was designed for.



Sforzando said:

I think Nintendo should allow anyone to self-publish games on the eShop, with some reviewing process, of course. The main enemy in the way of this idea is ESRB...maybe if gamers submit "ratings" of games they download? Like, 98% of people who played this said it should be rated "E."



SyFyTy said:

from the R4 Sellers? Ha, I doubt they'll see dime 1 from these slim change chumps. I'll wager it get's written off in taxes. However the publicity they've [already] recieved(win or lose) is worth many times that... win(?).



SyFyTy said:

@mikeyman64 I agree because it is the age old question in repeat... Do guns kill or the people that weild them?! Do flash carts steal or the people that use them (some of them.) Most quick--to-mouth-off Jonnies don't realize that flash cards [of various types] were around BEFORE the Ds was even invented. They were not invented FOR the DS. Though I am NOT defending piracy, let's be clear about that.



Morpheel said:

@DarkmarkUnited because the discussion of devices or methods that can be used to illegally play games on current gen hardware is not allowed in the forums.

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