Nintendo went big on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at this year's E3. There were demo pods everywhere, each one running the game as it stands at this present moment in time. With so much unreleased code floating around, it's perhaps unsurprising that a rumour has begun circulating online that a hacker targeted the event in an attempt to "steal" Breath of the Wild.
While it all seems like some hollow brag, famous hacker NWPlayer123 has confirmed that the heist did indeed take place. The hacker in question is a 17-year-old who has previously mucked about with Mario Kart 8. They have since been in touch with Kotaku, and have revealed some of the mechanics of this particular "job".
According to the hacker, all that was needed to steal the demo was access to one of the demo pods and its GamePad. Tools are available which allow hackers to "dump" the game data from any Wii U console, and using another tool - called TCP Gecko - they can connect the system to a PC and begin a transfer. This process apparently takes a few hours, but the game continues to run as normal.
The creator of TCP Gecko, A.W. Chadwick, backs up this claim:
The user would navigate to a special webpage which tricks the Wii U into running code not developed by Nintendo (we call this arbitrary code execution (ACE)). Once the user has achieved ACE, they can then cause the Wii U to do almost anything they would like it to.
Like most tools however, my tools can be used for both good and bad purposes.
However, the hacker's audacious plan was thrown into disarray when they arrived at E3, as the units running Breath of the Wild were not retail ones. A rethink - and a re-code - was required, according to the hacker:
Having to code stuff last minute was a sort of stressing ideal. Mainly [because] you never know how long or how much testing one might need to do before it works, and [there being] a very strict timeframe made the situation worse.
Day two presented another issue - the units at E3 were not connected to the internet and this was a requirement for the hack to work. According to the hacker, a secret button combination was found which allowed them to access to the menu on the development unit and turn on the internet connection. Then another issue arose - TCP Gecko copied the wrong files. This is where NWPlayer123 enters the story, as she helped tweak the tool to fix this issue. It was all going down to the final day.
Sadly for the hacker, this tale has a rather downbeat ending. Arriving on Friday, they found that all Zelda demo units were booked for the day, meaning they wouldn't get the chance to fiddle with the unit and work their magic. Breath of the Wild's secrets remained secure.
Is this story true? There certainly seems to be a lot of evidence which suggests something shady was going on, but Nintendo has (predictably) refused to comment. TCP Gecko creator Chadwick has told Kotaku that while he doesn't know for sure, it's possible that the rumour is in fact true:
I can't say for certain it is the case, but it seems quite plausible...my gut reaction is that there is no reason at a technical level to disbelieve what they've posted.
Do you think there's any truth in this tale? Would you have been interested in playing the E3 demo had it been successfully distributed online, or do you think this kind of activity ruins things for everyone else? Share your feelings and thoughts with a comment below.