That number doesn't count private/international torrent sites, P2P services or "sharing sites." You can easily find these depositories by Googling the phrase "DS ROMs." These sites take advantage of file-sharing destinations like RapidShare and FilePlanet not only to upload retail ROM files but also to shift potential legal blame to other parties.

Based on those download numbers, "hundreds of thousands" is a safe estimate of flash carts sold worldwide - certainly at least 200,000 and perhaps verging toward a million or more. South Korea alone had fewer than one retail game sold per its 800,000 DS consoles as of December 2007, an indicator that DS owners there may find the bulk of their games through more questionable means.

The highest estimates of DS piracy are still table scraps compared to the handheld's worldwide install base of over 80 million, but flash cart publicity has amplified the issue. Popular gaming sites like Joystiq and Kotaku frequently post stories about DS flash carts. Mainstream outlets have given the topic time in the spotlight as well, thanks to the popularity of carts like the R4 at major Japanese electronics stores. And Nintendo has actively pursued cart makers and resellers, sending legal success stories across the PR wire after every major bust.

Yet Nintendo still hasn't blocked the devices. A major ROM-squashing attempt in 2007 was quickly nullified by the so-called "ARM7 fix" (named after one of the DS processors). Last month, an early leak of the hardcore fan favorite Chrono Trigger DS had a new piracy block defeated in less than 24 hours, according to flash cart information site GBATemp.net. And pirated DS games can play just fine online, because Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service has never been able to sniff out flash carts.

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If a release like Pokémon Diamond & Pearl lost sales to flash carts, few would notice. Nintendo must be happy with that title's worldwide sales of over 14 million, and most of their largest releases have broken the million-sales barrier with little incident.

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But look carefully at Nintendo's first-party DS titles for the past few years, and a trend emerges. In 2005, when flash carts were still new, Nintendo took risks with acclaimed, hardcore-leaning titles like Meteos, Metroid Prime Pinball and Advance Wars: Dual Strike. By 2008, the number of hardcore-leaning games published by Nintendo diminished: fewer RPGs and gritty action games, more safe licenses and Touch! Generations titles that cater to older gamers and novices.

In previous generations, longtime Nintendo fans blamed the company's "kiddie" focus for their perceived neglect. Is that the case here? A public gaming showcase like PAX says strongly otherwise, as do the sales numbers; both reflect a savvy, "hardcore" demographic that enjoys franchises like Castlevania and Final Fantasy. As with prior Nintendo consoles, third - party developers have stepped up to provide diversity for the DS's core audience. But this time, shoppers haven't returned the favor.

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