Today marks the launch of the much-hyped NINJHAX exploit, which allows 3DS owners a backdoor to run unofficial software on their consoles. The hack is the work of 22-year-old student Jordan Rabet, and is so called because it requires a copy of the obscure puzzle platformer Cubic Ninja in order to work — a game which has suddenly shot up in value.
More interesting is the fact that the game has been subsequently removed from the Japanese eShop in an effort by Nintendo to prevent NINJHAX from working, which proves that the company keeps a keen eye on the homebrew community and any attempts to break the security of the 3DS.
However, Rabet maintains that his work isn't intended to promote piracy on the system, but instead to encourage homebrew developers to bring their projects to the console.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Rabet said:
It's very dangerous. If you release an exploit that's too powerful you might let people do whatever they want with their console - which can be great - but you also have the possibility of piracy... which isn't so great.
I don't care if people pirate in their private lives, but I don't want to be a part of it. I don't want to release something others can use to steal someone else's intellectual property. That's not what I want. I wouldn't release something that could be used for piracy... it's just not something I want to do.
Right now I'm hoping the loader attracts more developers and people start building more homebrew games. I'm working on the 3DS version of Minecraft and a bunch of people are working on emulators. I'd really like to see how far we can push the 3DS.
Of course, emulation is still considered a form of piracy by many companies, Nintendo included. It makes money from selling old games via its Virtual Console service, and even if NINJHAX doesn't allow 3DS owners to pirate retail titles, the fact it potentially takes money away from its download services will be reason enough to slam the door shut.
For Rabet, playing old games doesn't constitute piracy — within reason:
I would say the emulator itself definitely isn't piracy, to me. Pirating ROMs is definitely not legal or morally responsible - but if you own the game and want to play it on the go, I don't see anything wrong with that. I guess there's the argument that emulators may hurt Virtual Console sales but, honestly, the homebrew scene is pretty small. Cubic Ninja is not a game that was sold a lot and now it is being sold at super high prices, so it's not going to cause any significant damage.
Rabet — who deliberately held NINJHAX back when the New 3DS was announced to ensure that Nintendo didn't patch the exploit in the revised system — feels that it's only a matter of time until the Kyoto giant responds more decisively, and if you're thinking of buying Cubic Ninja for the sky-high prices it is currently selling for, you might want to reconsider:
I think they're going to try and patch it out as soon as they can. I don't know how long it's going to take them - the problem is I've already been talking about this for a couple of months so its possible they may have figured out what I've been doing.
It's just a vulnerability in a game to access a vulnerability in the system firmware. All they'd really need to do is patch the firmware and then the game doesn't even matter.
What do you think about the NINJHAX exploit? Do you think Rabet is doing 3DS owners a great service by allowing them to run more games on their consoles? Or is this kind of hack something you're not keen on seeing? Perhaps you have your copy of Cubic Ninja primed and ready to run the hack? Whatever your stance, share it by posting a comment below — though please remember to observe our Community Rules while discussing this topic.