Nintendo Thrilled To Have Game Copy Devices Found Illegal In France

from the why-adapt-when-you-can-litigate dept

Earlier this week, Nintendo published a press release announcing that France has joined with several other nations in banning what it terms ‘game copiers’ (pdf and embedded below), by which it means mod chips. This news really comes as no surprise as console manufacturers have done a pretty good job of convincing politicians around the globe that such console modding devices have no legitimate use outside piracy.

While the ruling only deals with the importation and distribution of these devices, it has not stopped Nintendo from spreading FUD among game consumers regarding these devices. According to its anti-piracy faq on mod chips:

Are infringing devices such as game copiers for Nintendo Handheld systems or mod chips for Nintendo Wii console illegal in the U.S.?

Yes. Game copiers that are used to copy video game software without authorization onto any type of memory device or the hard drive of a personal computer are illegal. They enable the user to make, play and distribute illegal copies of video game software, which violates Nintendo’s copyrights and trademarks. Mod chips are also designed to circumvent the copy-protection security system and deem the detection process inoperable, enabling the console to play pirated or illegal copies of Nintendo games downloaded from the Internet. Based upon the functions of these devices, they are illegal.

Sadly, this completely avoids the fact that such devices are capable and are used frequently to run software and games that are completely free and legal. This type of misdirection is abundant on that website. These devices do what Nintendo has failed to do — open up the platform to a wider variety of software and games.

As for Nintendo, it’s continuing its efforts to fight these modding devices rather than recognize and adapt to what the consumers of its devices want. With the introduction of the iPhone and Google’s Android, consumers and developers are getting accustomed to (fairly) open marketplaces for apps and games. Yet, Nintendo is still holding strong to the idea that its platforms need to be locked down and any effort to open them up to the greater development community should be stamped out. Nintendo almost fell when it refused to adapt to changes in the market before. If Nintendo isn’t careful, it could end up falling once again. Who knows if it will survive that fall?

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Comments on “Nintendo Thrilled To Have Game Copy Devices Found Illegal In France”

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76 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: At times like this

UEFI, Windows 8, locks..

They’ve threatened this before (TPM) but it hasn’t happened yet.

Even if they did it they would (probably) still look relatively better than the others – although the margin would be much smaller.

Microsoft is a more diverse company than (say) Apple and their actions will depend on the outcome of political fights within the company. So far the “good” guys have mostly prevailed.

Look at it this way – a company with the level of market power that MIcrosoft has could have behaved a whole lot worse and if the above mentioned competitors had had it then I think they almost certainly would.

We’ll see what happens with Windows 8 even if MS go ahead with their plan a lot depends on the behaviour of hardware suppliers and retailers.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: At times like this

a company with the level of market power that MIcrosoft has could have behaved a whole lot worse

I see it differently. I think it is because Microsoft is so big that they haven’t been really bad. They don’t want to get roped into another anti-trust trial, so they mostly stay relatively good. Apple doesn’t have to worry about that, so they are jerks. If Microsoft fell in its OS market share to say 50% and Apple rose proportionately, then we’d have two major players who could (and probably would) be jerks without fear of anti-trust litigation.

That’s why it’s so important to have a healthy market. Monopolies are bad but can stay somewhat decent for fear of anti-trust laws. Oligopolies are worse, however, because they have no fear of anti-trust lawsuits.

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: At times like this

The key phrase here is “have been.” They are now trying to be part of the “Cargo Cult” of Apple, I guess because of Apple’s huge market cap. They have completely forgotten they own 90% of the PC market, and the lion’s share of the Enterprise sector. Now, they are changing their entire line to chase the consumer market, and in my opinion, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
You want to give people a different UI? Go ahead. But leave the old one, and see what user’s use. Don’t just change for the sake of change.
The other thing is – Microsoft is a software company. Hardware agnostic. That alone keeps them more open than the others. They do, however, attempt to lock software platforms, with Directx and the new .NET. The new .NET is no longer platform-independent, thanks to hooks into the Windows API. Windows 8 looks to mark a particularly dark turning point for Microsoft.

anonymous says:

no different to any of the other console makers, game makers, entertainment industries or ‘uncle tom cobbley’, for that matter. each of these industries is so afraid that they may lose $1, they wont give customers what they do want that would then earn them $100. if someone can educate me as to the sense in that, please do so. i wonder if it is more to do with control than money, but then, who am i to have an opinion? only a paying customer, that’s who! and if i cant get what i want from those industries, i do the exact things they dont wont me to do. they seem to forget that we, as customers, have choices that can greatly affect them!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because it is never the loss of 1 dollar, it is the loss of everything they ever owned.
The $1 is multiplied by every person who ever looked at one of their consoles, and suddenly your talking about them loosing billions.

If they start listing to customers now, they might want value and bug free product shipped that does not require waiting 3 months for the patch that makes level 2 stop crashing…

And for every angry consumer, there are so many who have to buy the new thing made by company x because its new and this time it will be different.

flubaluba (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the one time i sort of support the industry.
Yes the r4 cards are very useful for the development industry, but for the general public it would only be used for downloading and playing games they do not want to buy.
There is no excuse like making backups etc as the cards much more durable than a cd/dvd/blu-ray disk.
But then i look at the price of games and i can understand why people would use an r4 card. You can easily fit a few thousand dollars worth of games on one card for nothing, so what is the incentive to buy.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is the one time i sort of support the industry.
Yes the r4 cards are very useful for the development industry

They are essential for anyone who wants to write their own game and can’t afford the exhorbitant price of becoming an official developer.

That is not a minor issue (think about the education of new developers) and so I think your support for the industry is misplaced here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

This is a weaker argument I think. All _concepts_ you would learn developing for console X could be done in a PC environment.

Having said that, I don’t disagree that you should be able to tinker with what you own but its a complicated issue to talk about. The laws say phones can be tinkered with, but not game consoles? That doesn’t make sense. What happens if they start to lockdown PCs (they do with tablets)? Obviously that would upset a lot of people. But what about your car ECMs? Should you be able to tinker with settings for engine emissions and safety control software?

Gray areas for sure.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

All _concepts_ you would learn developing for console X could be done in a PC environment.

I would like this to be true – but it isn’t.

But what about your car ECMs? Should you be able to tinker with settings for engine emissions and safety control software?

Yes – but whether – you should be allowed to drive on the public road afterwards is another matter. Your insurance company will manage that one – but if you want to use your car on a racetrack you should be allowed to do what you want (subject to the rules of the race of course!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Not trying to be argumentative, but can you highlight where concepts are only available on consoles? I can’t think of things exclusive to “gaming.” Parallelism, concurrency, hardware acceleration, multithreading, 3D graphics, i/o, etc are all topics I would think would be involved in gaming. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this specific realm, but I do know quite a bit. As for the ECM topic, having software locked down to specific functions is more than just environment related. Validated software will be critical as cars become connected, not just validated during development, but validated during field use.

Some Other AC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You make valid arguments. And in reality, you can already tinker with the ECM in your car(or at least some cars). Many people who wish to extract more performance from their car/truck already do so. There are many companies, some “approved” by the manufacturer and some most definitely not approved have software and OBDII cables that can hook into your car and you can use the software to tweak timing, fuel management, air management, and possibly even disable some of the newer safety features like traction control, stability assist, etc…
Like you said, these are gray areas, but if the customer wants it, the customer is going to get it one way or another. It is about time the manufacturers stop relying on outdated business models and start working with the consumer base.
Hell, Samsung gave versions of the Galaxy S II to CyanogenMod just so they could develop/produce their version of the Android environment for the phones. And please lets not get into the legal World War that the mobile phone manufacturers are waging at this time.

Cloksin (profile) says:

But Honestly....

Who really cares, the Wiimote was a nice novelty, but that wore off real quick. 90% of the games for the Wii are aimed at the under 10 crowd. While I admit that is a large market share, those aren’t the games I want to play. Trying to use the Wiimote like a normal controller for the games I DO want to play is just horrific. I’ll stick with my 360 thank you.

GunSheep (profile) says:

Re: Re: But Honestly....

I can tell you why I switched to the 360. My less technically minded friends all have them. So when a new game comes out that we want to play…Gears 3 for example….we group up….drop in the disk…and play.

No driver updates. No hours spent tweaking. No weird command line additions. No upgrade treadmill.

Yeah, the graphics don’t stand up to a ‘modern’ computer..and I can’t install mods..but frankly…I don’t care. They are good enough for the games we play. And as a bonus I don’t have to spend any time trying to figure out why game X looks like crap on my newest wondercomputer…

Anon01 says:

R4 Cards

Hi,

Thought I’d add my 2 pence worth into the debate. Anyone acting like these cards are wholly legit is clearly ignorant of the quantity of these cards being sold and, therefore, the value of the business. I was even considering setting up my own R4 operation for Christmas!

I work in the memory card industry in the UK and I supply memory cards (Micro SD) to R4 sellers throughout Europe. Based on the number of cards we’ve sold over the last couple of years I would estimate that in Europe alone, easily over 2 million R4 cards have been sold. If you are trying to pretend that there are that many ‘developers/home brewers’ then you are wrong. Personally, this is going to cost me around ?3-4,000 and my customers millions. However, the POTENTIAL gain to Nintendo is hundreds of millions, hence why they’ve done it.

I expect Germany, Italy and Spain to follow suit soon.

RIP R4 – You were fun while it lasted.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: R4 Cards

I would estimate that in Europe alone, easily over 2 million R4 cards have been sold. If you are trying to pretend that there are that many ‘developers/home brewers’ then you are wrong.

To pretend there are that many pirates is also wrong.

Additionally, I am not saying that all those people are developers, but I am saying a large number of those people use these to put MP3 players, ebook readers, video, and a number of other useful and legal tools to their DS.

Anon01 says:

Re: Re: R4 Cards

There may well be people using it for those reasons but if so they wouldn’t be taking such a high percentage of 2GB cards. Less than 2-3% of the cards we sell to go with R4s are above 4GB.

Actually, thinking back, 2 years ago, when they were legal in the UK, Our largest UK customer was selling over 100,000 R4 cards PER WEEK over Christmas period. That is purely parents buying R4s for their kids to save money on buying the original game(s).

I can’t prove/disprove exactly how many cards were/weren’t used for piracy but all I’m saying is that the problem was (and still is) MASSIVE for Nintendo. The amount they are losing from all of these ‘lost sales’ completely dwarfs what legit developers are bringing to them.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: R4 Cards

Maybe – but they are using an extortion based business model that should itself be illegal.

If they would just sell the hardware and let others supply software for it without strings (as in the PC) then they would not have a problem in the first place.

What they are trying to protect is their own ability to tax the game developers.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 R4 Cards

It’s a luxury item, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still people’s property. I didn’t buy my nes game or ds or whatever so some jackass company could get laws made so I can’t use my own property. I paid good money for my game and it doesn’t belong to them to tell me I can’t use the things I bought unless I pay them for restricted access to my property.

Anon01 says:

Re: Re: Re:5 R4 Cards

Not sure how Nintendo are stopping you from using the game you paid good money for. They’re trying to stop people who haven’t paid for games downloading and playing them.

In reality, the average man/woman/child has nothing to fear. The only ones they are going after are the e-tailers selling the products.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 R4 Cards

That is exactly what they are doing, they are telling me I can’t use the things I bought how I want to. They want laws to prevent me from listening to my vinyl in the car or playing my nes game on the bus.
Your “nothing to fear” to me is total bullshit that translates to “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out “

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 R4 Cards

Not sure how Nintendo are stopping you from using the game you paid good money for. They’re trying to stop people who haven’t paid for games downloading and playing them.

That isn’t working… At all. People are just finding different methods to find cards than ebay or even directly from vendors.

The only ones they are going after are the e-tailers selling the products.

That’s how it starts. The only reason that they won’t ever go after downloaders is because the RIAA tried. It failed miserably. I’m sure no one else will try a similar strategy. It should be noted here that Nintendo believes in the Pro IP Act and is funding it as well. They’re trying to control the market. It’s not just about going after e-tailers who have a legitimate product.

If flash cards, SD cards, and other types of memory are legal, then there’s no reason the R4 should be banned.

Please tell me how many prosecutions (successful or not) of individuals have occured in any of the countries where R4s are now ‘illegal’?

Don’t you think that’s a little misleading? “I can’t rebut the argument about how the law is changed to make a legal good illegal, so I want to know the number of prosecutions under this law.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: R4 Cards

Nintendo makes most of its money on hardware not the shitty games who for the most part are from 3rd party developers who suck ass at developing games.

“That is purely parents buying R4s for their kids to save money on buying the original game(s).”
So? The money goes back into the economy. Like much latter when they’re forced to spend it on the “new edition NDS” which comes out almost every week. I don’t own 5 NDS’s for just playing shitty overpriced games (as anybody who’s actually ever owned a Wii or a DS can tell you).

Nintendo’s profits wouldn’t be so high (and they can claim all of the “massive” loses they like) in the first place if it wasn’t for the homebrew and flashcards use. I keep my entire collection (most of which are old gameboy games) and saves on a few of those cards. Saves space.
The fact that they are making billions with all of these ‘loses’ is just sheer luck I guess right?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 R4 Cards

Nintendo makes most of its money on hardware not the shitty games who for the most part are from 3rd party developers who suck ass at developing games.
No – the consoles are generally sold at a loss especially early on. Most of the profit for Nintendo comes from the games – because developers have to pay a sub to Nintendo for every game sold.

If Nintendo made it’s money from hardware then piracy would be a plus for them!

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: R4 Cards

“I can’t prove/disprove exactly how many cards were/weren’t used for piracy but all I’m saying is that the problem was (and still is) MASSIVE for Nintendo. The amount they are losing from all of these ‘lost sales’ completely dwarfs what legit developers are bringing to them.”

Two things.

1) If the regular price on a UK game is ?29.99 then that’s about $50. $50 for a regular handheld game does not make much sense. It’s only a $10 difference from buying a console game. There’s no way in hell that most people believe that $50 is convenient for a first party game.

2) Nintendo’s stance on gaming price drops is quite clear. Obviously, if more people are willing to pay for r4 cards at $12.99, saving the extra $12 for other expenditures, it’s obvious that Nintendo’s prices are too high. To say that these are lost sales are quite ignorant of the fact that this is merely potential sales that Nintendo lost with their too high prices.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: R4 Cards

“Anyone acting like these cards are wholly legit is clearly ignorant of the quantity of these cards being sold and, therefore, the value of the business.”

So… the volume of sales determines the legitimacy of the product? Interesting.

“However, the POTENTIAL gain to Nintendo is hundreds of millions”

Only if you buy the bullshit lines that all of those cards were used to pirate, and all of the people who used to pirate will now buy new games instead. I suspect neither is an accurate statement, and by a significant margin.

Hell, in terms of the Wii and 3DS, people are probably not allowed to play the games they want, thanks to region coding. If R4s and mods were really being used just to pirate, it probably has something to do with sought-after games being unavailable legally, by Nintendo’s own decree.

Anon01 says:

Re: Re: R4 Cards

I thought this might happen.

Try and make a point about the size of the R4 industry (not whether it’s right or wrong) and a bunch of people jump up to say how the games are ‘shitty’ and not worth the money or how people pirate because they “are probably not allowed to play the games they want.”

“”However, the POTENTIAL gain to Nintendo is hundreds of millions”

Only if you buy the bullshit lines that all of those cards were used to pirate, and all of the people who used to pirate will now buy new games instead. I suspect neither is an accurate statement, and by a significant margin.”

I never said that all the cards were used for pirating. However, from my own experience that less than 3% are buying anything over a 4GB MSDHC would suggest that they are not the “people use these to put MP3 players, ebook readers, video, and a number of other useful and legal tools to their DS.”

Anon01 says:

Re: Black Market

They are still being sold in their (tens of) thousands in the UK, illegally, of course.

Like I just posted above, they will be going after the big retailers/e-tailers not little Jimmy’s mum who got Jimmy an R4 for Christmas.

When one of the UK companies I worked with got raided by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs they had close to half a million cards apparently….

Now, as most TD’ers will know, you can’t always equate that to one lost sale per card or even 5 lost sales per card but that’s several million ?s worth

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Black Market

“Now, as most TD’ers will know, you can’t always equate that to one lost sale per card or even 5 lost sales per card but that’s several million ?s worth”

Every time someone compares things like this, it is still misleading. We don’t know what the potential of the cards were and the math on it usually pertains to filling games to the maximum, then calculating it, inflating the piracy numbers.

Anon01 says:

Re: Re: Re: Black Market

The actual retail value of the R4 cards themselves was several million. I assume anyone buying them for piracy is doing so because it is cheaper than buying the games they want. As I explain above, my reckoning is that over 95% are buying for that reason.

I have an economics degree so I fully understand all of the arguments against the industry’s figures on how much ‘piracy’ costs the economy etc etc.

My main point is that the R4 industry is worth hundreds of millions worldwide and I can’t blame Nintendo for wanting a slice of it back. Like I said, this ruling is costing me a few thousand per year so I’m not in favour of it!

Lord Binky says:

Stupid companies

I can’t see how setting up deals to get money from say Coca-Cola company for every game sold because in the game instead of using health potions you use Coke Classic. Drop the cost of the game by the amount made up by advertising income per unit and offer up as a digital sale item. Make the same game using classic items such as health and mana potions, and offer it at an un-subsidized price. See what consumers really want, lower price games with some kind of advertisements or untainted full price games. At least TRY and LEARN. Use the internet to your advantage, since you never over produce digital content you have many options to find out information from the consumer base as a whole.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Stupid companies

Adding a negative aspect to the game (ads/poor tie-ins), without letting it be compensated for by a larger positive aspect (reduced price) is just making something worse.

Ubisoft is a decent example since it comes up with all sorts practices that make their product worse for consumers, without doing any other practices to make the product better or make up for the inconvience to their customers. This simply makes people cheer for the day the company goes down.

I think that bit of logic is in the part of the brain that is removed when a person recieves their MBA.

Donnicton says:

At least from what that statement says, Nintendo seems to understand the difference between stealing and copying.

They did on one line say “We recommend that parents discuss issues of piracy and theft with their children.”, but by way of “piracy and theft” they at least made a distinction of two separate concepts. I didn’t see any other mention of stealing or theft in their FAQ.

Even if it’s a little misguided, I’m actually slightly impressed.

DCX2 says:

The Wii doesn't need a mod chip

You can soft-mod a Wii, of any system menu version, using system menu exploits. It never has to be taken apart. Nothing has to be soldered. You don’t need to own any exploitable games.

Wii softmods have a variety of uses. One of them is allowing cheat codes to be used in games. This is perfectly legal (see Nintendo vs. Galoob court ruling). The same apps also let you play games from other regions (e.g. Xenoblade Chronicles, which was released in the UK so it clearly has an English translation, but not released in the US). One of the Wii hackers even managed to make F-Zero GX into a 3D game, by finding the address of the camera in memory and manually wiggling it every frame.

There is also an app called Riivolution, that allows you to load your own custom files from an SD card and replace them on-the-fly while playing a disc-based game. The community uses this to load custom textures, custom songs, and custom stages.

Anonymous Coward says:

The console devlopers typically LOSE MONEY on the consoles themselves for many years before the economies of scale allow the consoles to be produced at less cost. People would not be willing to pay the full price for the consoles because they would be shocked by the price point. Instead, Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, etc.. sell the consoles below cost knowing tha they will make up the difference in game licensing fees. If you don’t like the way consoles are marketed bring your own console to market and try selling it for what it costs to make and allow people to pirate your games, see how long you stay in business that way. I bet you wouldnt make it a full year before you discovered it was an unsustainable business model.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

,I>If you don’t like the way consoles are marketed bring your own console to market and try selling it for what it costs to make and allow people to pirate your games, see how long you stay in business that way. I bet you wouldnt make it a full year before you discovered it was an unsustainable business model.

Of course you cannot compete with someone who uses a business model that ought to be illegal.

If DRM were illegal – as it should be – then selling the hardware at an honest price would be perfectly viable.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“try selling it for what it costs to make and allow people to pirate your games, see how long you stay in business that way. “

Of course, most consoles are actually sold at below cost, and despite their best efforts the games are still pirated. I guess your assumption is a little faulty.

“If DRM were illegal – as it should be – then selling the hardware at an honest price would be perfectly viable.”

This seems to be completely at odds with the assertion in the first 2 paragraphs you wrote.

hmm (profile) says:

Nintendo

Nintendo is a dead company anyway.

The Wii U is a failure and doesn’t work in the way they’d hoped. the controller loses connection randomly even when only a few feet from the console and there is massive lag between the two.

Nintendo has been keeping secret its internal staff problems for a while now as the major talent has leaked away to microsoft, apple and google.

Now they only have the dregs (and a few ‘famous’ faces to parade in public).

I don’t WANT Nintendo to fail but at this point its inevitable.

At their next shareholders meeting the shit will hit the fan as they have to finally admit they’re dead in the water.

SEGA did the same thing, holding out on giving the bad news until it was too late to do anything.

You should see just HOW MANY people have given their notice.

Nintendo has also been involved in paying for peoples silence as the slow brain drain continues.

Basically here is $xxx if you leave quietly and don’t make a fuss on where you’re going.

Anonymous Coward says:

As I have said before, I cannot blame Nintendo for doing this. They are merely looking for the sustainable competitive advantage. Competition can be crippling to an industry (but good for the rest of us) especially in a bad economy like this one because there are many people willing to work very hard to earn very little just to survive. I cannot blame Nintendo for trying to do this. I BLAME OUR POLITICIANS AND OTHER GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIALS FOR ALLOWING IT OR NOT FIGHTING IT MORE VIGOROUSLY.

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