To use flash carts like the R4 or SuperCard, no modding, soldering or risky installs are necessary. Even buying them is relatively painless, thanks to a number of international web resellers and protected PayPal orders. Through a home computer, users drag-and-drop games and programs onto a microSD card, which fits into the flash cart. Plug that into one of the DS's cartridge slots, and you're able to navigate to your data through a touch-screen menu.

Flash carts are advertised for their compatibility with homebrew programs (e-book readers, emulators, e-mail readers and so on). But arguably their most popular quality is nearly 100-percent compatibility with game ROMs, the raw data from a retail game cartridge. A flash-cart combo - hardware and memory - runs about $50 at most resellers. Some sites currently sell a 1 GB solution for roughly $30. At that price, a DS owner can carry over a dozen games in a single cartridge for the price of one new retail title.


Most game consoles eventually face piracy issues, but they typically have serious barriers to entry like warranty-voiding hardware mods or online validity checks. Flash carts avoid both these hurdles, and though Nintendo openly warns against using "unauthorized devices," flash carts do not damage or change a DS hardware unit.

The only other recent console with such a high degree of vulnerability is the Sega Dreamcast, released in North America in late 1999 and cracked by the summer of 2000. Sega went to great lengths to block CD-burning piracy with the GD-ROM, a proprietary disc that held almost double the capacity of conventional CDs. But the Dreamcast had a backdoor issue with multimedia CDs in Japan called Mil-CDs, which hackers co-opted to burn fully working game copies.

By 2000, much of the Dreamcast's target market of 18- to 35-year-old gamers had broadband connections and CD burners, and the era of Napster and Gnutella spread pirated game copies far and wide. It's difficult to find official figures on the number of Dreamcast pirates, and Sega had other issues like lackluster third-party support and public relations woes. But the piracy unease has been credited at least in part for the Dreamcast's demise only a year later in favor of the better-protected PlayStation 2.


DS piracy has likewise had a considerable impact, though measuring exact numbers again proves difficult. On one public torrent site, which caters largely to English-speaking users, the top DS download is a dual-release of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, downloaded over 144,000 times since its April 2007 release.

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