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Nintendo Battles Makers of the R4 188

Posted by kdawson
from the another-victim-of-moore's-law dept.
eldavojohn writes "A neat little device called the R4 allows for homebrew on the DS ... and as micro SD prices fall, it is becoming easier and easier to put on these cartridges binary dumps of games people don't have the right to play. Which is why Nintendo will see them in court. Note, it's not just the console maker pressing charges, it's also Capcom, Koei, Square Enix, Tecmo, Bandai Namco, and Sega. Is this truly a case of fighting piracy, or is it also an attempt to stop homebrew from stealing the market?"
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Nintendo Battles Makers of the R4

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  • by Goaway (82658) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @05:48PM (#24392475) Homepage

    Is this truly a case of fighting piracy, or is it also an attempt to stop homebrew from stealing the market?"

    It is truly a case of fighting piracy. Anybody who thinks otherwise is severely delusional.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spykk (823586)
      While I do believe that the primary goal is to fight piracy, these devices have legitimate uses as a conduit for homebrew and backups. Being able to choose a game from a list that contains your entire library sure beats carrying a backpack full of cartridges around...
      • by Neoprofin (871029)
        Backpack? A normal size lunchbox could probably hold a copy of every DS game ever made...
    • Well, I don't know anything about using R4 for pirating, but I do know that with the right homebrew software, the DS is a cheap portable art tablet par excellence.

    • Devils Advocate Fair use argument:

      I have 10-15 DS games. Traveling with them is a real PITA. Either I am hauling around a manpurse or pockets full of cartridges.

      The ARRRR4 would allow me to load all of my games to a single cartridge thus reducing the risk of theft, loss, or damage. Sure I can always lose it too but I find its generally easier to keep track of one thing, especially when that one thing "lives" in a larger one thing than it is to keep track of lots of little ones.

      For the record I am not deluded. I know that one of the primary uses for these things is piracy, however that is not their ONLY use. Further arguments on that subject would be semantics.

      • by ivan256 (17499)

        The question, though, was:

        "Is this truly a case of fighting piracy, or is it also an attempt to stop homebrew from stealing the market?"

        It's obviously the former. Nintendo doesn't care about your use of this device. You paid for your games. They're trying to stop the people who *don't* pay for their games. People like you are a small enough portion of the market that they really don't care if you can't media-shift anymore.

        I use things like this for the same reason (I don't have one yet for my DS, but I had

      • I have 10-15 DS games. Traveling with them is a real PITA. Either I am hauling around a manpurse or pockets full of cartridges.

        The ARRRR4 would allow me to load all of my games to a single cartridge thus reducing the risk of theft, loss, or damage.

        Wow. You want a lot, don't you? Next you'll be wanting to carry your entire music collection with you -- "hold everything", as it were. What a bizarre notion.

        What do you think this is, the 21st century?!?!?

        HAL.

        Sure I can always lose it too but I find its generally easier to keep track of one thing, especially when that one thing "lives" in a larger one thing than it is to keep track of lots of little ones.

        For the record I am not deluded. I know that one of the primary uses for these things is piracy

    • While I'll agree, it is very dangerous to concede to the "It can be used for bad things... who cares about the legitimate uses". Imagine other things taken on if this becomes ok... alcohol, guns, gambling, motorcycles, bleach, linux, dogs, sharp pencils, etc. You may think some of that is a bit off the wall, but once you let the bad guys into the building, good luck telling them what rooms they can go into.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Goaway (82658)

        While I'll agree, it is very dangerous to concede to the "It can be used for bad things... who cares about the legitimate uses".

        I was taking no moral stand at all on its uses for any purpose. I was merely answering the silly question posed by the article: Whether Nintendo was suing to stop piracy or because it was afraid of homebrewers. The answer to that is blindingly obvious, no matter what you think of the worth of products like the R4.

      • Interesting thing is though, that these things are used for piracy most of the time. Yes, I know that there are many many people who use it for homebrew, and I applaud them for it. But everyone I know personally who owns ones uses it exclusively for piracy.
        If you check the forums you will see how so many morons can't figure out how to copy roms save files to an SD card.
        I don't think they should have to stop making them, it's just that Nintendo has my full understanding wanting to do something about it.

        I don

    • by xtracto (837672) * on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:10PM (#24392795) Journal

      It is truly a case of fighting piracy. Anybody who thinks otherwise is severely delusional.

      Wow, I feel personally offended by such comment.

      I do develop homebrew programs for the DS. I am specifically developing a translator (based on the dicts.info dictionaries) using PAlib.

      There are several *really good* homebrew apps for the Nintendo DS like Moonshell, DSOrganize or games like Lemmings (all the levels of lemmings for the DS, REALLY good). The DSLibris game is also a *very* good piece of software which allows you to read XHTML ebooks.

      I am also in the process of doing a TIF image "reader", with the idea of converting PDF files directly to TIF multipage (monochrome for now...) via ghostscript and then being able to read them directly in the DS. This, after having played with the idea of porting xpdf or other programs... unfortunately the PDF and RTF are too complex for the tiny DS...

      I don't have an R4 but a CycloDS Evolution and it is a really neat piece of technology.

      So, as you can see, there are pleny of opportunities for a device like the DS. It is really a neat piece of hardware, and the touchscreen makes it more versatile.

      • by drcagn (715012) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:20PM (#24392955) Homepage
        He never said that there wasn't any good homebrew on the DS. He said that the reason why Nintendo fighting the R4 is piracy.

        I really doubt Nintendo would go this far over homebrew.
      • by Kamineko (851857)
        >games like Lemmings (all the levels of lemmings for the DS, REALLY good)

        You're too kind. =)

        Here's the Lemmings DS website, for anybody who wants a look. http://lemmings.mrdictionary.net/ [mrdictionary.net]

    • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:13PM (#24392843) Homepage Journal

      I have to agree. On certain gaming boards/sites I visit with lax rules about content, it's not uncommon to hear people talking about their R4.

      I can recall one time when someone asked about homebrew. This is contrary to the 500+ times someone has asked what games to load on it first (and sites to get them from).

      I like the R4 as a product for convenience. I would love to be able to load up the info for my moderate-sized collection of GBA games (actual cartridges, not some ROM folder) and take them all with me in a convenient package. However, the primary use of the R4 is pirating and, as suggested by the OP, anyone telling themselves (or others) that the push against it is for its homebrew ability is delirious.

      Honestly I'm surprised it took this long for Nintendo et al. to react. Though from what I hear, the R4 (and its close cousin, the M3) is on the way out and some other card with similar functionality is on the rise.

    • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:40PM (#24393195)
      I decided to get an R4 chip for our Nintendo DS. The kids love it, as I loaded it up with things like Colors! [collectingsmiles.com], which is a touch sensitive drawing program. It also nicely plays music and home videos. My kids were both mesmerized by family movies I took of them from a couple years ago.

      There is a long list [wikipedia.org] of homebrew software out there. And yes, you can even get your DS running Linux.
    • by jkerman (74317) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:13PM (#24393573)

      So are blank DVD's then?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by retroStick (1040570)

      My company recently produced a single-purpose application for the DS, best described as a "virtual schedule" for a conference our client was holding. Since it was for a private customer as opposed to a retail application, we made it entirely using homebrew software and distributed it on M3 flash carts - almost identical to the R4 ones. Shipped about 1,500 of the things as I recall.

      If those flash carts are now banned, I doubt there would be legal repercussions for our company distributing them - but the pr

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      To an extent, I agree that these cards are for piracy.

      I have an M3DS Real, and the launch menu clearly has a slot named NDS for commercial games and MyCard for homebrew stuff. (It also has one called GBA, which can be used for both commercial and homebrew.) It is clear that one of the purposes of these cards is to run commercial software. Depending upon the owners actions and the definition of piracy, this card is made for running pirated software. If it's purpose was to run homebrew, they would not hav

    • It is truly a case of fighting piracy. Anybody who thinks otherwise is severely delusional.

      Although I don't own a DS, I can say I do know some owners and they are using hacks to allow the use of pirated games. Sure one or two of them are using the hack to use Linux, but I doubt that's what most people are using them for. One of the reasons cited is that if they were to pay for all the games they played they would be broke.

      If SD chips are really getting that cheap, why don't magazines start including them wi

  • I had bought a MiniSD SuperCard for my Gameboy Advance SP some time ago. Due to the SP's form factor I can take it just about anywhere, so I always have a robust arcade in my pocket. GBA games, Gameboy and Gameboy Color games if you like, as well as full NES and Game Gear emulation!

  • by VoxMagis (1036530) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @05:54PM (#24392589)

    I just see this as Nintendo seeing what happened to the PSP and homebrew and getting it under control before it's too late.

    It's sad - both systems should have some level of a 'code pack' that lets people write apps and such for their portable toys, but the level of flat piracy that the homebrew community has created for the PSP is really affecting it's viability as a game platform for developers.

    http://www.pspfanboy.com/2008/03/09/ridiculous-psp-piracy-numbers/ [pspfanboy.com]

    • by Shados (741919)

      Its already too late. At this point, the PSP has it -better- than the DS... There -is- a reason why the PSP made a "come back". It was originally the one of the two that was pirate-land... but now that the two are (and the DS doesn't even require custom firmware), PSP looks better from a publisher's point of view than it did originally...

      You're right though. I'm sure console makers would like nothing more than to give us a cool SDK and tools... it would raise the value of the machine enough to sell it at a

    • by Perseid (660451)
      Flash carts have existed almost as long as the DS itself has. Originally people were flashing the DS to trick it into booting DS code from the GBA flash carts. This has been going on for years and until now Nintendo has done nothing. In fact, I still think Nintendo doesn't really care. Nothing's going to bring them down at this point. There are literally dozens of these carts out there now, so I think this is just a show for the publishers.
  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Robert1 (513674) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @05:54PM (#24392599) Homepage

    I can't tell if the article summary comment is tongue-in-cheek or actually serious. I should hope that it isn't the latter, its tough to believe people are really that delusional. How can a game written by 3-4 teen/early 20 year olds hope to compete against games that REQUIRE dozens of designers/artists? The cost and man-hours necessary to complete a modern game have effectively shoved small time developers out of business. Its not like they were muscled out, the technology and cost just ran away from them. Today, an amateur game maker can realistically hope to make games equivalent to those seen 15 years ago. How much market share will the 800th clone of pong or snake or RPG Maker-esque rpg really take away from licensed games? How fun is it, really, to play yet another generic 2d platformer?

    Don't lie to yourself, nobody's clamoring to buy this to play any of those games. This is designed for piracy. I guarantee >95% use it exclusively for getting non-homebrew games.

    • by AuMatar (183847)

      Far more fun than to play yet another FPS, a genre that hasn't had anything new to it since deathmatch.

      Look at the kind of numbers simple games like popcap, yahoo games, and similar flash games sites get. Those can easily be written by 1 man in a few weeks. And people play them like mad. So yes, there is a market out there for simple yet fun games that the majority of publishers ignore. Graphics and art are not required for fun gameplay.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kipman725 (1248126)
      you do know that you can play quake on a DS right?
    • by The-Bus (138060)

      How can a game written by 3-4 teen/early 20 year olds hope to compete against games that REQUIRE dozens of designers/artists?

      I'll play Devil's Advocate here, but I've played the crap out of Line Rider [wikipedia.org], Porrasturvat [wikipedia.org] and Desktop Tower Defense [wikipedia.org], all games made (initially) by a single person (or a very small group). DTD is a lot more fun and challenging than most blockbuster games.

      • I'll play Devil's Advocate here, but I've played the crap out of Line Rider, Porrasturvat and Desktop Tower Defense, all games made (initially) by a single person (or a very small group). DTD is a lot more fun and challenging than most blockbuster games.

        Would you have paid $35 per title to purchase any of those games as a commercial cartridge, without having had the opportunity to playtest them first?

        If not, homebrew can't really be considered a threat to the game publishers. Which leaves concerns over pir

        • by jmorris42 (1458) *

          > Would you have paid $35 per title...

          Who cares?

          > Which leaves concerns over piracy at the motivation for Nintendo,
          > et al, in filing suit.

          Who cares? By your logic the Supremes would have ruled against Sony in the Betamax decision, because most VCR use was piracy. Especially if you buy the argument that recording TV was infringing use. And thus the whole home video revolution would have been stillborn. You can't ban technology because it MIGHT be used for ill, you can't even ban it because MOST

          • by KGIII (973947)

            I think you might want to qualify that a wee bit more.

            Look at, for instance, the death of many of the P2P clients being sued for enabling copyright infringement successfully.

            Not saying that it is right or anything but, well, they managed to do it.

            It isn't that they can't, it is that they shouldn't. They *can* if they get the right judge it would seem.

            • by jmorris42 (1458) *

              > Look at, for instance, the death of many of the P2P clients
              > being sued for enabling copyright infringement successfully.

              A few differences. Most of those cases involved arguing that the operators were actively encouraging infringement. Screenshots on Napster's old site filled with copyrighted works didn't do em much good. Note that there are still a lot of P2P networks still operating. It required a fair amount of greed and stupidity to get into legal trouble.

              > They *can* if they get the righ

              • by KGIII (973947)

                I agree entirely but, well, they *can* which was my idea. They may very well do so. Didn't Sony do something about mod chips (again not entirely the same but who knows what a judge will understand and then rule on) a few years back?

    • Well, it would be a real shame if that 95% ruined it for the rest of us. I have an R4 and I'll be using it exclusively for a VNC-like application I'm writing so I can run programs on my desktop computer remotely. (Originally I wanted to use DSLinux, but it turns out that without a GBA cartridge to expand the memory capacity, it can't run very many programs--not even ssh. And the web browser in DSOrganize was a letdown as well.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Paralizer (792155)

      Don't lie to yourself, nobody's clamoring to buy this to play any of those games. This is designed for piracy. I guarantee >95% use it exclusively for getting non-homebrew games.

      I suppose they should also sue anyone who makes the microSD cards since they are the medium stores any copyright code the R4 may use. Now let's expand that to include Sony, Maxwell, and all the other companies that make blank CD-R's and DVD-R's because they can be used to copy copyrighted material.

      This is utterly ridiculous.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        I suppose they should also sue anyone who makes the microSD cards since they are the medium stores any copyright code the R4 may use.

        The "should" not do that, because they'd lose in an instant. They are going after the R4 because they actually have a chance of winning that one.

        You speak as if this was some kind of question of ethics. It is not, it is simple business.

        • by Paralizer (792155)
          All I said was it doesn't make sense to sue someone who makes something that can be abused and used for something it wasn't intended for (eg microSD cards). The R4 was not designed for piracy, it is a developer tool plain and simple. It is simple common sense.

          Perhaps Nintendo thinks it can go around and sue anyone for anything because they lost that ridiculous law suit over joysticks?
          • by Goaway (82658)

            All I said was it doesn't make sense to sue someone who makes something that can be abused and used for something it wasn't intended for (eg microSD cards). The R4 was not designed for piracy, it is a developer tool plain and simple. It is simple common sense.

            Er.

            1. It makes perfect sense to sue someone for making that, if you think you can win, and if you want to prevent piracy, both of which are true here. Intent doesn't matter to the party that is trying to prevent piracy, the damage (perceived or real) is done no matter what the original intent was. Like I said, business, not ethics.

            2. Even so, the R4 is designed for piracy! If it weren't designed for piracy, why would the firmware updates specifically address problems with specific commercial games? See the

    • How can a game written by 3-4 teen/early 20 year olds hope to compete against games that REQUIRE dozens of designers/artists?

      Well, here's three ways:

      (1) You're ID is just over half mine. You should know by now about this whole F/OSS thing that lets people build on other's work. A F/OSS project can (not always does, but can) use a lot less man-hours than a proprietary job that has to re-invent the wheel.

      (2) Games that REQUIRE dozens of designers/artists usually end up being very unoriginal, because whomever has to fund the whole thing does not want to take a risk (and justifiably so). Homebrew stuff, with very small inves

    • by Inda (580031)
      My daughter spends hours on a 'Paint' homebrew game and sometimes passes the time away with a falling sand game. The games don't need to be big budget.
    • by gauauu (649169)
      Shameless self-promotion, but as a counter-example, my homebrew Nintendo GBA game Anguna [tolberts.net] has received pretty good reviews, and thousands of people downloading it to play it. Sure, it's not quite up to par with a commercial release, but I like to think it's pretty good.
    • by grm_wnr (781219)
      Nobody but a couple of geeks care about DS homebrew, and the rest of the world will instantly see that DS flashcarts are used almost exclusively to pirate games (which is, in fact the truth, don't even try to deny it). This isn't a PR disaster for Nintendo at all.
  • .. since there are plenty of R4 clones, and successors out there.
    • There are guides to build your own. I'm sure it will deter the casual pirates, but I doubt they have that much to spend on games anyways.

  • When I was over in Asia last year they were everywhere. They also enable your DS to play MP3s, videos (after conversion), and function as an E-Book Reader and PDA. How many people use them for those functions can be debated, but there are legitimate uses for the devices.
  • Not only has the R4 been superceded by other carts, but the no$gba emulator [emubase.de] has fairly reasonable DS support. Nintendo has basically no chance of stopping piracy on the DS.

    Rob

  • Is this truly a case of fighting piracy, or is it also an attempt to stop homebrew from stealing the market?

    Are you fucking kidding me.

    Many of the plaintiff companies here -- Nintendo, Capcom, Konami, et al -- have traditions of excellence in video game design dating back nearly THREE DECADES. Who in the homebrew community, though I do love and support them, is going to beat them at their game?

    • by jdogalt (961241)

      Playing mp3s/oggs, datebook, email, voip, without being chained to proprietary software and service. This is a threat to nintendo that the r4 combined with homebrew and OSS enable. Or home automation (think touchpad lighting controls and voip intercom panels located throughout the house that can display video from wifi security cameras).

      This may well be about piracy. But even if piracy were impossible with this device, I wouldn't put it past Nintendo to crack down because they want the control to deliver

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @09:18PM (#24394687) Homepage

    The Nintendo DS is homebrew heaven. There are dozens of mod chips [modchipstore.com] for the DS. And many, [dev-scene.com]many [gbadev.org] forums and libraries [palib.info] for homebrew [palib.info] applications. There's several development [bottledlight.com] wiki's [tobw.net] and some must have [dev-scene.com] applications. [dragonminded.com]

    This is not a tool for piracy. If they want to stop piracy, they need to stop the people who are dumping roms. And you won't find tools to dump roms quite so easily. Attacking the companies that make legitimate devices lazy and anti-customer.

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