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Forced Nintendo 3DS firmware updates to combat piracy

by Steven Williamson on 4 October 2010, 08:24

Tags: Nintendo (TYO:7974)

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Piracy on the Nintendo DS has long been a problem for the Japanese manufacturer, but when the 3DS launches next year it plans to force security firmware updates in a bid to combat the widespread problem.

Nintendo president Saturo Iwata says that mandatory firmware updates will take place in one of two ways. Firstly, security updates will be placed on ROMS, which will have larger capacity, so when you insert a new game the firmware will install. Secondly, the updates will install via the wi-fi connection, which autonomously connects to approximately 1,000 U.K. based hot-spots, even when in sleep mode.

The news comes from Andriasang, who reports that the new Nintendo DS service SpotPass, which can automatically detect wi-fi signals and download content automatically, makes it possible.

"As part of the functionality of SpotPass, we're looking into having automatic system updates via the internet," says Iwata.

The Nintendo DS launches in Europe in March 2011 and will produce 3D effects without the need for any special glasses.

HEXUS Forums :: 14 Comments

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This could be interesting.

I've often wondered what would happen if a hardware manufacturer came up with a foolproof way (which this may not be) of preventing piracy. By how much would software sales go up, and conversely, by how much would hardware sales go down?

My feeling, and it is just a gut feeling, is that the bulk of the piracy that happens would not be replaced by sales. You might be able to prevent the piracy, but I doubt sales will replace most of it. Instead, those that can't afford or won't pay for games will migrate to another platform. And if those people think piracy is going to be very hard or unreliable on a new platform will they just avoid the new platform?

Mind you, as a confirmed cynic, I'd suspect this is a great pre-Christmas way to boost sales of the existing platform, and maybe this idea will be quietly dropped, or a “technical fault” in the proposal be discovered before launch.

As I said, it could be interesting.
I agree Saracen, I don't think that it would boost sales at all..if anything it would reduce hardware sales; which for nintendo is a bad thing as they are one of the only console manufacturers to actually make money from hardware sales as opposed to just software (in the first few years until economies of scales correct that).

Regardless its a moot point here as this won't stop piracy - They have a similar thing in place with the Wii in that specific games enforce an update before they will work, and this has been circumvented. There will also be ways to disable forced updates whether by a custom firmware, or a “blocker” type patch..it will happen one way or another. The ROMs that are distributed will also have their updates removed.

The only real limitation therefore will be the lack of online play, but I think this is something that people are getting used to now if they pirate games. Personally aside from the fact that i've grown out of wanting to pirate video games and I totally disagree with it, the lack of online play on current consoles/games would make them worthless to me anyway..call me sad but I like achievements, competition, multiplayer..and taking that away ruins many modern games. I think that this limitation has the potential to reduce piracy more than updates.

Nintendo missed this trick with the DS as they could not detect when you were using a pirated game and playing online, so pirates could use a pirated game exactly as if it were a legitimate one. You did not get banned for it..so there was no incentive to not pirate other than moral grounds. Hopefully they will correct that here.
Likewise I don't think every pirate game will translate to one sale.

With that it will just be a game of cat and mouse with Nintendo, with that that game of cat and mouse will put many off as things don't work and you need to update all the time.

Right now the DS roms just work and the average mum can do it for little jimmy, take that simplicity away and mum won't know how to do it anymore.
The more complex it is the fewer people will bother… there comes a point where the time invested to crack open your console is not worth it compared to Ā£20 for a game…

Personally I've bought everything I ever played, many on sale or 2nd hand - but some money went to the developers at least. I've grown out of downloading music as well, it's so convenient to buy online now (per track, rather than a whole album for 1 good song) DRM free or rip from a CD in mins (rather than hours when I were a teen) and I don't worry about the money anymore. I think piracy can be mostly tackled by making it much harder (not necessarily impossible) and offering a cheap & easy alternative. There will always be some die hard cheapskates who think the world owes them everything for free, can't get rid of them, but we should probably stigmatise them.
I also agree with Spud, Saracen and Percy. The reason people pirate is usually because they can't afford the game in the first place and/or don't want to wait to get it. If piracy is stopped, will that change the financial status of those people who would obtain a pirate copy or download a rom, of course not. OK, some people will wait to buy the game if they are forced to and it's a game they really want it. You also have to remember that many people who buy R4 cards and the like are parents, who aren't really aware of what they are or do. The NDS is a very child orientated hand held. Granted they are branching out of that area. So if a child was to ask a parent for an R4 card, saying they could get the games free from a friend, i.e copy the rom. Many parents would look at the price of a game and the price of an R4 card and buy the R4 card for their sanity, keeps the children from asking for expensive games eh.

Anyway the connect wifi thing wouldn't be too difficult to stop, any metal covering like tin foil would do. Well I am not entirely sure if the wavelength of 802.11g/n/b would be stopped by tin foil, but there must be something to stop it.

Besides if there is a challenge for hackers, they always tend to rise to it. I bet if they impose firmware updates for game, people will make custom firmwares to sort it. Or if it requires a check to be done. Some hacker will design a way of making a false positive, possibly by routing the connection through a computer.