News Article

3DS Region-Free Hack is Hacked by Hackers

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Irony goes into overdrive

Not so long ago we reported on a hack that utilises a flashcard and edits to a launcher to enable a 3DS to play legitimate cartridges region-free. Intriguingly, the tweak made the launcher itself unable to play ROMS and illegal game copies, but did mean a 3DS could run games from anywhere in the world, though admittedly with limitations such as restricted or hobbled online play; there was also the fact that the 3DS systems in question had to be fairly out of date — in terms of system updates — to be utilised in the initial setup.

Though never likely to become a mainstream activity — by any stretch of the imagination — it was intriguing that the region-lock had been circumvented, and we were interested to see what, if anything, Nintendo would do to block the limited use of this tool. It seems Nintendo didn't need to act, as the team behind a launcher utilised for this mod has apparently included code in that software that eventually bricks systems with unofficial changes applied. What we have, essentially, is the producer of software designed to mod hardware and run illegal ROMS taking on those modding that software for additional purposes. Hence the slightly silly, yet we think accurate, headline.

We've learned of this via the relevant gbatemp forums, the same source of that original region-free story. This move by the team behind the launcher in question affects various things beyond that region-free hack, but we won't be naming names or attempting further details here.

The crux is that the region-free 3DS workaround appears to have been blocked off by the threat of the modified launcher bricking the system. There is a certainly delicious irony at play — a modding team defending a sort-of copyright on software that bypasses Nintendo copyright — that, ultimately, leaves very few winners among the minority that do manipulate their 3DS systems in this way.

It's a twist, in any case. When discussing this topic below bear in mind our Community Rules, sticking to the issues raised in the article and refraining from posting any links or information that is inappropriate.

Thanks to zip for the tip.


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User Comments (67)



9th_Sage said:

"The crux is that the region-free 3DS workaround appears to have been blocked off, and on top of that those behind the launcher appear to have implemented code to brick systems that have already been hacked in the first place."
Wow, they're freaking jerks. At least the region free hack has a legitimate use, their card pretty much is only good for piracy (let's be honest here...since it's one game at a time and no homebrew or anything that can be used, that's the size of it).



Corleonis88 said:

It was actually put in place to brick cards and 3ds of companies that were stealing (irony) and selling copies of the original one. I think that the region free patch was just an unfortunate secondary effect



Gioku said:

So... they blocked their own mod...? That's what I'm getting out of this.



6ch6ris6 said:

this is too twisted for me. i dont understand it. who did what? hack the hack???



SheldonRandoms said:

Yo dawg, we heard you hacked the 3DS, so we put a hack inside your hack, so now you can't hack what you already hacked, that's not wiggy wack, that's a fact.



cfgk24 said:

Pirates at war with each other lol. Everyone wants to be the best pirate , good pirate or bad pirate. Ha ha.



ThomasBW84 said:

I've modified the second last paragraph to make more sense:

"The crux is that the region-free 3DS workaround appears to have been blocked off by the threat of the modified launcher bricking the system."

I'd got myself in a twist with the original text!



zip said:

Well, it's more like bad hackers (the chinese flashcart makers) have released a firmware to play pirated games and good hackers modified this firmware to add region-free and remove the ability to play pirated roms. But the bad hackers basically have included a timebomb in the firmware (to fight off clone makers), that once modified, it will blow up. The good hackers actually identified the timebomb and defused it before they released their region-free hack, but sadly there was another timebomb in there that the good hackers missed, which means if you installed this region-free hack, there is a good chance that your 3DS will brick at some point.

At this point, if you value your 3DS you should avoid the region-free hack and flashcarts at all cost. It's just not worth it to risk your $200+ machine and all its downloaded eShop games for the opportunity to play games region-free. Once bricked, your 3DS is gone for good due to the malicious nature of the brick code.



9th_Sage said:

@PrincessEevee9 I never said piracy wasn't illegal, I also never said I was 'in favor' of piracy or some such thing (in fact the hardcore pirates out there piss me off). I get it though, you just wanted to complain, this is the Internet after all. I know it's the thing on Internet forums/news sites to respond to things without actually reading them fully, but please read a little more closely next time.



AlbertoC said:

At first glance, and without delving further, this sounds like a conflict of interest to me.



Zodiak13 said:

@Hyperstar96 For a site that is of course about Nintendo, NL does a good job of trying to be balanced. I don't think any of the writers on this site are silly enough to think the Big N has no flaws, nor disregards what the rest of the industry is doing. I'm a huge Nintendo fan, but I have come to love the fact that some of the articles on here say "things are not as rosey as they appear". In fact they had an article about how we should be worried about the 3rd party issue just in the last week. The only real bias I believe is that the folks that write for the site want Nintendo to suceed and make great games, and why wouldn't they?? I generally loathe Sony, so why on earth would I write for Push Square?? Sorry about the rant, I love the site and the commentor community even if we don't always agree.



AlbertoC said:

@Zodiak13: In fact, that's exactly why I only frequent this site over all gaming sites. The content is seriously documented within their own rules and the staff is amazingly friendly yet responsive. If it were other gaming sites, I'd bet this article would have witty comments, to put it somehow appropriate, all over it.

The rules against piracy and all are not because lack of "freedom of speech", but to avoid any kind of issue with Nintendo or any other party in the first place. Like when certain pokemon site got a cease and desist note from Nintendo for publishing screenshots of the then-unreleased in the west Black and White pokemon games for documenting fifth gen pokemon. The webmasters had to replace everything with Ditto (claiming that pokemon isn't eligible of copyright due to its nature).

It's complicated.



ACK said:

@zip Thanks, that's a much better explanation. I can finally uncross my eyes after reading this article.



AlbertoC said:

About the picture... I don't know what that thing is, but how about this one?



unrandomsam said:

The launcher was written by the Gateway 3DS flash card people. They put something into it to stop cloners ripping off their work. The guy taking their loader and making the mod for it didn't notice.



banacheck said:

Good article it's quite funny when you think about it, another funny article was that make your XboxOne backwards capability which would brick the console. Funny in a sense you wouldn't believe anyone would believe it, but the problem was some people did.



AVahne said:

Well, now I'm disappointed. Guess it's back to playing my officially region free PSP and saving up for an officially region free Vita.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

Okay, that's nothing too bad. Just get the last working version of the flascart firmware (hopefully saying this doesn't violate any rules) and be done with it. The very fact that Gateway tries to block this other mod is just wrong. They already got their money, so what's the point? If anything, they're gonna get some bad reputation for this, since there would've been a lot more interest in their flashcart if importers bought one to play their imported games (like me).
The irony is strong with this one, but maybe this will be the beginning of an entirely new war: pirate hackers vs. tool hackers.



OptometristLime said:

The article text is completely beyond my discernment; the emphasis on silliness comes through before I get a chance to get a handle on the topic.



DarkKirby said:

It's not really irony, the original developers made the region free hack not support ROMS on purpose likely not because they themselves had a personal issue against ROMS, but to make a point to Nintendo that this hack wasn't about "piracy" and not to go after them for it, which one might worry Nintendo would do as Nintendo is infamous for being the most publicly active at stopping "piracy" at any cost.



R-L-A-George said:

@Gioku no, it's more like Nintendo blocked it or the system itself already had the code. That was apparently used to kill flashcarts or illegal game copies.



divinelite said:

I don't understand, if we cannot discuss hack and piracy, why would the article posted and cpmmentable?



Tasuki said:

@dvinelite: Because this article doesn't say how to do it or have links to sites that provides it etc. We all know its out there but they dont need to go into detail on how its done. I mean your local news station reports on murders but it doesn't go into detail how to commit a murder.



MikeLove said:


"Because this article doesn't say how to do it or have links to sites that provides it etc."

It links directly to to a post on a forum called "3DS - Hacking and Homebrew" where everything about hacking and emulation can be found.

Using your analogy, it would be more like a local news station reporting a murder, then airing a link to a website that has a photo of the accused, but which also contains videos of the murder itself.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Pittsburg and Tampa Bay go to war! Pirates vs. Buccaneers! Roberto Clemente rolls over in Davey Jones's Locker!



Drawdler said:

So, I skimmed through that 'temp topic. I'm not totally clear on this, but- the Gateway makers put some code-check thing in in to stop other flashcart makers from copying/modifying/etc. (and subsequently profiting from) their pirating software, if I've got this right...?



Sionyn said:

what happened the use of a logic bomb. A logic bomb is a piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met. For example, a programmer may hide a piece of code that starts deleting files.

what happened here was the developers of this flash card device implemented code that destroys the 3DS firmware when activated in case on after a certain date when exit settings. It dose this by 0 all the data on chip which stores the 3ds firmware.

when the 3ds is broght out of reset the reset vector (the physical memory address FFFF*** proceeds to look for the 3ds system software once the bootstrapper (hard coded) has booted and jumped to entry point containing the 3ds system software.

essentially the device manufactures coded a bomb that purposely destroys a 3ds if it thinks its software has been modified.



axeman said:

HACKERS GOAL: First? Destroy the WII online gaming experience, permanently offline may, 2014. Then? Destroy any other online game the general public finds enjoyable.
Finally? Hack your credit card at target.
No difference as far as I'm concerned.



KaoruxChan said:

@zip thank you for explaining it perfectly! poopoodoodopcacapooppledooples this article needs to be fixed made everyone up in here feel so damn stupid @A@!! ugh so much hacking its like a war , aw man Nintendo why you have to loving region lock the damn 3ds! we gamers love your Japanese 3ds games! D:!! we wants to play it and hey your making allot more money when you have free region on the 3ds , because allot of people i know damn well will buy 3ds Japanese and have fun playing it , instead of loving buying a damn Japanese 3ds which is very expensive plus a one 3ds Japanese game?! that's like a one way high robbery! damn it! , ugh ; w ; not cool Nintendo i grew up with you people and this is what you do to me and other gamers who love your country's games! Sigh i'm just gonna go and feel in a corner ; w ;! and no i don't like to be rude and use these sorts of words im just very pissed off at them for doing this, making they're 3ds and other 3ds games region lock its just not fair for us and especially this damn fan
Please watch the profanity — TBD

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