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Hardware Hacking Nintendo The Courts Build Games

DS Flash Carts Deemed Legal By French Court 267

Hatta writes with a snippet from MaxConsole: "Nintendo has today lost a major court case against the Divineo group in the main court of Paris. Nintendo originally took the group to court over DS flash carts, however the judge today has ruled against Nintendo and suggested that they are purposely locking out developers from their consoles and things should be more like Windows where ANYONE can develop any application if they wish to."
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DS Flash Carts Deemed Legal By French Court

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:11PM (#30320368)
    Please excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is a flash cart?
  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st ( 1388939 ) * on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:16PM (#30320404)

    At least the result is right.

    A famous Chinese proverb: "I don't care if it is black cat or white cat. If it catch a mouse, it is a good cat."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:19PM (#30320420)
    You can buy an Apple with OS X and program on it. You can't (couldn't) do that with Nintendo.
  • by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:23PM (#30320448)

    I am usually not one to ever stick up for Microsoft.. But you HAVE to admit this is a cheap shot..

    Besides free OS's, is there one more open? Mac?

    Windows is infinitely more open than all the major consoles across all spectrums.. even legally. Too bad Xbox just doesn't run regular Windows..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:27PM (#30320484)

    Having worked in the game industry, I can attest that this may not be the best solution. The current measures are in place to hoard revenue for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, but a side benefit of this is usually higher standards of quality in the games (not content, but code...trust me, you'd be surprised). First party requirements for many of these new systems are very stringent and help, in many ways, to protect consumers and the products they buy. As it stands all games published for an Xbox 360, a PlayStation®3, or a Nintendo system must be tested and approved by the companies' own QA team. Does this catch all bugs and potential issues in a game before it hits market, hell no. It does, however, ensure that a lower number of games are released with game-crashing bugs, progression stoppers (bugs that leave a player unable to finish the game no matter what they do), and bugs that can damage the system's internal software. If the format is opened to anyone who can make a flash cart, etc., you will, most likely, begin to see a higher number of games with these show-stopping bugs hitting the market in the rush to lower standards in order to maximize profit.

    Does one automatically follow the other, not at all. The chance, however, is a high one. Potential backlash from this could see a return of the "Nintendo Seal" type of licensing for other game companies for games that were actually published through the first party, which would cost more to pass through QA process and in turn raise the price of the game. Opening the field for other companies isn't a bad thing, but people will definitely have to be more careful as to what software they buy for their game consoles. With fewer first party blocks in place I would expect to see a game on the market within six months that at least corrupted system software. I've seen software like that in my job already, and the companies may not be willing to fix things like that on their own.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:42PM (#30320596) Journal
    Systems that impose costs and delays in exchange for higher quality/safety arguably have their place. I'm quite happy, for instance, that the aircraft that is supposed to be taking me from Boston-Logan to London-Heathrow has been well vetted. Same goes for the anesthesiologist, and whatever curious compounds he is injecting.

    Here, though, we are talking about video games running on cheap consumer hardware, in the era of the internet, where bad reviews and news can spread very quickly. I'll take the risk of having a glitched quest on level 15 if that is what it takes to avoid the system producer taking its pound of flesh. If the system producer wants to have an endorsement program, where compliant titles receive the smiley gold star of approval, that is fine by me. If the system producer wants to cryptographically enforce that endorsement program on hardware I have purchased, and own, they can take that idea and shove it somewhere anatomically implausible.
  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark.a.craig@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:45PM (#30320614)

    Somebody should thank the folks who write these judges' paychecks, thank them for having the ethics to not make them sing somebody else's tune in return for their supper.

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki@[ ].net ['cox' in gap]> on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:46PM (#30320626)

    Wider availability of development tools will allow more developers to develop, that doesn't mean that the games ecosystem will be automatically better.

    There may be more games out there, but the ratio of crap vs gold will still be the same.

  • by Gadget_Guy ( 627405 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:50PM (#30320662)

    People who develop WGA cracks get hounded like crazy.

    Actually, it is the distribution of the WGA cracks that will get you hounded. If people only developed these cracks for their own use then Microsoft would bother trying to stop them.

    Similarly, Nintendo wouldn't care about the DS flash cartridges if people only backed up games to which they physically had access, because that kind of piracy doesn't have a great impact on sales. But when the ROMs are so easy to find on the net, it has got to make them pay attention.

    Mind you, DS titles feature very well in the game charts, so they still make a hell of a lot of money. It's hard to feel too sorry for the publishers.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:51PM (#30320666)

    The current measures are in place to hoard revenue for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, but a side benefit of this is usually higher standards of quality in the games (not content, but code...trust me, you'd be surprised)

    You mean the fact that Star Ocean III managed to fail to work on some PS2s? (http://www.rpgamer.com/news/Q1-2003/030803a.html) the general bugginess of most games, etc. Yeah, they might have better code, but for $60+ I'd better hope it works with any software, from an iPhone app, to an OS, to a game.

    I'd settle for a simi-buggy game for free compared to a $50 game with a few bugs.

    If the format is opened to anyone who can make a flash cart, etc., you will, most likely, begin to see a higher number of games with these show-stopping bugs hitting the market in the rush to lower standards in order to maximize profit.

    Yes, but with flash carts come patches and cheaper games. Yeah, I'd like a bug free game, but paying less for a game and getting more (ability of patches, etc) may be a good tradeoff.

    Opening the field for other companies isn't a bad thing, but people will definitely have to be more careful as to what software they buy for their game consoles

    Because they don't already? How many people are conned into buying the $50 video game from $MOVIE that is complete crap. Yeah, they are generally less buggy, but that doesn't mean that they are good games. A buggy game with a good plot, storyline, price, and enjoyability is much better than a bug-free crap game.

    With fewer first party blocks in place I would expect to see a game on the market within six months that at least corrupted system software.

    And if you look at home console homebrew which is a whole lot more risky, you can see that its generally safe. Plus, with the opening up of the consoles, you can actually fix some of the software, and over time console makers will use failsafe firmware that is found in most newer devices.

  • by CSMatt ( 1175471 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @12:21AM (#30320800)

    I would not call the iPhone platform "open" in any sense of the word. The software is proprietary, you have to use Apple's tools, and you can only distribute your application* if Apple gives you the go-ahead.

    *I'm not counting jailbreaking and alternative locations here. Apple disables this kind of thing by default, so your users will be required to take extra steps that complicate things for them both now and in the future.

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @12:28AM (#30320832)

    As someone who actually was part of the video game crash, let me offer you a different perspective. If Atari had been able to legally keep out competitors, the best Atari 2600 games would never have seen the light of day.

    The tactic that Nintendo eventually used had been considered by the industry earlier, but was not adopted because it was thought to be illegal. That's the way it should have stayed.

  • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @12:36AM (#30320870)

    So now we don't own our physical products either, they're licensed? Please.

  • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nar Matteru ( 1099389 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @12:43AM (#30320910)

    win-win so far as I can see.

    If this is done against the wishes of the console-maker, than you can claim, that they are "winning" too. However unreasonable their wishes may be, they ought to be respected, period. They created the product, they licensed their use to others (of whom nobody was unduly coerced into agreeing) on certain conditions.

    You — or this judge — then coming around and saying, you know, we think, those conditions should be changed, and we are going to force you to change them, is just not how things ought to be done in a free society.

    But its completely OK for a console maker to force me NOT to do things with something I outright purchased with my own hard earned money? Since when should their wishes be law?

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @12:55AM (#30320978)

    The tale about a glut of games causing the crash fails the litmus test when you look at computer games. Anyone can develop, no fees required. Hasn't ruined PC gaming.

  • Stockholm Syndrome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@NOSPAM.beau.org> on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:08AM (#30321050)

    > If this is done against the wishes of the console-maker, than you can claim...

    What in the wide wide world of sports does the 'wishes' of the console maker matter? I have never understood how this came to be. I though we (here in the US at least) had already had this fight. Atari v Activision supposedly settled this matter. Atart couldn't decide who could or could not sell software for their system. Case closed, the Supremes had SPOKEN.

    Then the video bust came and a few years later Nintendo introduced the NES and it was like nothing had ever been decided, they blessed your title or you didn't ship, and f**k the Supreme Court if they don't like it. And they got away with it and it has since been thus on the console market and now the handset market, the home video market and if the major players ever thought they could get away with it on the PC as well.

    And now on the console (but especially Nintendo fanbois) and with Mac the users have been abused so long they have fscking Stockholm Syndrome or something and not only accept it they LIKE getting hosed by their vendor now.

    Clue time. When I BUY a computing device off the shelf I BOUGHT it, I didn't LICENSE it and I couldn't give a good god damn what the vendor of that product WANTS me to do with it. If I want to hack it up and use the individual components in a project I'll do that. If I wanna put NetBSD on it thats exactly what I'll do and screw em if they don't like it.

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:10AM (#30321056)

    Anyone can develop, no fees required. Hasn't ruined PC gaming.

    DRM and unreasonably high system requirements, on the other hand...

  • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sparr0 ( 451780 ) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:16AM (#30321072) Homepage Journal

    I am relatively sure that Nintendo never licensed me to do anything. I *purchased* a piece of hardware from them. It is now mine to do with as I please, within the confines of the law. That law being set by the legislature and later by judges, as this judge is doing.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:21AM (#30321096)

    Consoles make very little money on the hardware. In fact, some of them even take a loss. If you look at the money made through hardware sales, they'd really not be a worthwhile proposition. Way to risky given the meager returns when they succeed compared to other consumer electronics.

    Where consoles make their money is games. Every copy of every game sold generates licensing revenue for them, because you need to be licensed to produce games. That's where the cash is. Game sales far outstrip console sales and the license fees they collect are little cost to them.

    So, unlicensed development would be a real problem. Previously, it might not have been such a big deal. You could probalby strong arm a lot of retailers in to not carrying unlicensed games. Ok but now, those games could be sold over the Internet. You buy the game online, download it to your flash card and go. It would be rather easy to bypass Nintendo entirely.

    Yes I realize people can and do use the carts to copy games but who really cares? All systems suffer from people doing that, back in the SNES days people did it with cart to floppy copiers. Copyright infringement is a fact of life on all platforms, and they do fine even so. Look at the PC, the one that is the easiest. It still has over double the games revenue of the biggest console platform.

    The real concern for Nintendo is that they'd lose control on their platform and lose out on license fees.

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:21AM (#30321100)

    > The market became so over-saturated with games that the public became disgusted with them.

    Not quite. At the lowest point after the crash, members of the public were no less enthused about them than they were a year or two earlier. It was MERCHANTS who wouldn't touch videogames with a dirty twenty-foot pole, let alone sell them.

    I've noticed that the perception that videogames "died" after "the crash" is strongest among people who were already adults when it happened. For those of us who were in middle school, the "crash" was an irrelevant abstraction. We got C64s, then Amigas, and were largely oblivious to the perception that videogames had somehow "gone away". Most of us had more games than we knew what to *do* with, and probably had more game discs laying on the floor around our beds than the total number of unique game cartridges for the Atari 2600, Intellivision, Atari 5200, Odyssey 3, *and* Colecovision that had ever existed since the dawn of the videogame era. If videogames went away in 1983, someone forgot to tell us ;-)

  • by Jarjarthejedi ( 996957 ) <christianpinchNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:28AM (#30321138) Journal

    And even as a programmer having the source to your OS isn't all that useful or needed. I've got both linux and windows machines, and I do most of my development on windows, because the end user doesn't care if your code is perfectly integrated with the source code of some distro of linux, they care if it runs on windows. And with the current trend towards cross-platform code having the OS code is only going to get less and less important to programmers.

    Realistically the only people who care about having the source to their OS are in the open-source community. Your average individual, and even your average programmer doesn't care because it doesn't matter on a day-to-day basis.

  • Re:Excellent. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:42AM (#30321208)

    I certainly agree that it may not have been the best course of action, but it was an effective defense against the flood of bad games that were unprofitable. It's definitely a good example of a company clinging to a possibly obsolete business practice, but I wanted to illustrate that there was a very good reason for Nintendo to take this stance, and it has worked well for them over the years. In fact, I think they're still around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:48AM (#30321234)

    Nintendo never sold the wii as a loss-leader. (like the ps3 or the 360 did). I believe the ps3 and 360 are no longer loss leaders. (or if they are, it is by choice and price drops to encourage greater adoption).
    The DS has so far been through 3 hardware revisions, and is effectively an augmented GBA. Many years after release I believe the DS is no longer a loss-leader (if it ever was to begin with being a hardware upgrade on already years old designs).
    This generation Nintendo have come up with a really different method, augment old technology to be better, but not a generational leap better and sell cheaper (yet still at a profit) makes for a remarkably healthy market when done right.

    Also, the argument that "there could be heaps of trash games!!!!" fails utterly. The PC has no restrictions on who can develop / market / sell games. People aren't quite as stupid as many seem to imply by constant references to the game-crash of the 80s.

    Here's a few things that people forget:
    - Do you have to pay microsoft for a windows devkit.
    - Does the lack of such a devkit equate to a market so full of computer games you couldn't tell which you wanted to play?

    PSST heres a tip; theres this new fangled thing called the internet, that lets people find out whats good, and whats shit. (the fundamental difference between now and the 80s)

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@NOSPAM.beau.org> on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:53AM (#30321514)

    > So, unlicensed development would be a real problem.

    You are correct but your point doesn't matter. It is true only because the vendors built their business model around something that should not be, nay that the US Supreme Court had already (supposedly) shot down. The world doesn't have to alter reality and everybody doesn't have to bend over to protect a business model that should have never existed.

    So lets work to do away with it and force the console industry to adapt to a sane world. All it would mean is that this hardware generation would get stretched out another year or so until the next generation could be sold at a profit from day one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @10:40AM (#30323530)

    Posting anon because I moderated.

    With the DS, they had to break the encryption to even get the Flash cart to boot. So from there, the hard work of loading a pirated game is done. Plus, there is real valuable benefit in doing so: I have a Flash cart with nothing but games I've purchased. I find the ROM on a pirate site and download it. Saves me from carrying a bunch of carts around. Plus, I lost my Mario Kart game when I went on a week-long trip, but I can still play it. So it actually worked as a legitimate, legal, backup. I still have the original box to prove my purchase.

  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Friday December 04, 2009 @10:53AM (#30323678) Homepage

    This is a rather dangerous precedent. A completely open system would eliminate any need for licensing which is the console manufacturers bread and butter. Most consoles at least in the first couple years sell at a significantly subsidized loss. The PS3 for instance was broken down by isupply shortly after release and was determined to cost around $800 to manufacture, its alot cheaper now as parts and components have come down in price but still supposedly sells at a small loss. How many console manufacturers are going to want to sustain a product model with no clear way to make a profit? If they changed the model to something more like the computer industry will consumers be able to accept at $1000 gaming device?

    Homebrew is great, but for the vast majority its just an excuse for piracy. If homebrew were the be all end all...the gp32 would be the top selling handheld in existence rather than a platform no one outside the geek community has heard of. So far no attempts at a truly open console have been successful. I havent seen people beating down the doors to own a Pandora or Evo yet, and if the past is any indication they will never amount to more than an interesting footnote in gaming history.

    If anything the only thing that will happen if this holds up is consoles will move even further towards a physical media-less system. Downloads only will eventually replace disks and cartridges eventually being replaced by streaming services like OnLive as manufacturers and developers try to maintain some semblance of control. In the end the "everything should be open" crowd might win but the result would be that we all loose.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:55PM (#30328720) Homepage
    The fact is 99.99% of the people using them are doing so for piracy. Just like anything else, people aren't interested in the little guy's efforts. They're interested in pirating the big name popular stuff. This is why, despite how easy it is to discover new and legal music, most people are downloading shit from Beyonce and Brittany Spears.

    Secondly, saying people should have free access to develop on the system, like a PC, ignore the fact that PC gaming is dying. Part of the reason for this is piracy and part of this is because anyone can do anything on it and we receive a glut of half baked titles that just plan suck or won't be any good until they're patched.

    I know the pre-Nintendo days of console gaming had some decent games but forgetting the rose tinted glasses, there was a glut of utter shit out there and that sank console gaming (just as it's killing real PC gaming).

    Bill Gates was so certain he could beat consoles with PCs but I think MS realised it was working against them to have a platform where any numbnuts can release something and the decided to give in and go down the console route.

    It would be nice to have freedom and in an ideal world the PC would be on top. It would have an excellent wide spread system to promote good games from people while allowing people, if they so choose, get onto Google and hunt down the rubbish as well. There were decent sites, even ages ago (like Happy Puppy) that helped find good games but I don't think, like the games, there were too many shit sites.

    France has good intentions but this decision was a cock-up.
  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:57PM (#30328740) Homepage
    Nintendo has always sold their hardware with a profit unlike the competition so you can't say it can't be done. The problem is that no one has done it well. Even an open platform like the PC, isn't all that great and that's with backing from numerous large hardware companies and Microsoft.
  • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @06:17PM (#30329796) Homepage

    For example, suppose that someone produced an M-rated game with adult content for the Nintendo Wii console and marketed the game as "Wii Wanker". Wouldn't that harm the family-friendly image that Nintendo has so carefully cultivated and protected? If it does, shouldn't Nintendo at the very least be compensated for you harming their brand?

    Only in-so-far as the term "Wii" is trademarked, and thus Nintendo could simply sue.

    But as long as the term "Wii" isn't included in the title, frankly, I don't see what the issue is. After all, you don't think less of Dell just because their laptops can be used to browse for porn, do you?

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