179: The Slot-1 Secret

The Slot-1 Secret

Simple, cheap methods of piracy have made the Nintendo DS the most vulnerable portable console ever. There's a reason why Nintendo doesn't care.

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A lot of the info is outdated.

A 2gb flashcart + memory combo, compatible with everything except Chrono Trigger North America, goes for 17.05 USD right now. With shipping to the EU, US or Canada.

And the DSi has already been cracked.

So flashcarts are the reason all the store shelves are clogged with shovelware? Damn you, flashcarts! Damn you!

I think Nintendo do have a claim to campaign against flash carts because of the piracy, but I think they should have really took a step back before they damn them completely, because imo flash carts did a better job with the DS than Nintendo itself.

Software that's open with loads of customization, allowing people to download games, play music, use their DS as an organizer, a multimedia device greater than a cheesy DSi anyday. It's endless to the amount of creative applications and uses it can achieve, which is really what makes homebrew interesting.

Using a flash cart just for the sake of piracy though doesn't sit well with me, I wouldn't download a game like Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney because I enjoyed it so much and Capcom deserve all the revenue they gain from it.

I can sympathise with people who hate the overpricing of DS games, I've played some new releases on the xbox arcade for half the price of some of the DS games that were better. Ideally I'd like to see DS new releases at 2/3 of the price they are at now, but with sales typically a lot less than home consoles they sometimes need to squeeze every little bit of cash out of the videogames they release.

This is how you should have made the DS Nintendo, maybe even with a small fee for downloadable releases or an imitation of MS points but it would have been a lot better than what we have now.

Now I normally don't complain, but the white man with the games in his hands/bag (obviously stolen), with the black man's face photoshopped ontop of it, is very obvious racism, and quite offensive at that.

Interesting article. It's hard to get conclusive information on the rates and effects of DS flash cart piracy, but it is surprisingly widespread and easy.

I'm quite saddened at the Contra IV numbers, it definitely deserved more success than that, despite being on the extreme side of hardcore appeal in its difficulty and presentation. Like Plasmatizer, I try to support as many good DS games as I can, but I do think it's somewhat ridiculous to charge $40 for many of the prestige titles, like the Square remakes of Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger. Even a brand new critically acclaimed title like The World Ends With You probably shouldn't have been at that price point.

Didn't realize Guitar Hero: On Tour was the #1 seller all year long! I'm not looking forward to more of these game/hardware combos, but the peripheral and brand name were enough to push it, I suppose.

Valalvax:
Now I normally don't complain, but the white man with the games in his hands/bag (obviously stolen), with the black man's face photoshopped ontop of it, is very obvious racism, and quite offensive at that.

Uh, no. It's a white man with a stocking on his head. Look at the picture *before* making your animal-like grunts.
Also, I'd never even heard of these until now. Maybe they're just not as well known in my part of Europe? Or maybe just not by me.
I like the idea of user-created, unwarrantied software but not the idea of all the good designers leaving the DS to work on say, the PSP. I'll stick to paying for stuff, even if I'm paying too much.

Good read, it's funny to see the DS is starting to show the same symptoms as the PC market. If people are just going to steal whatever you try to publish for it, then developers are going to quit making games for it.

Interesting angle on the casual market emphasis though. It never occurred to me to think of that as a solution to the piracy issue but...the developers can just stop making games that tech savvy gamers are going to be interested in stealing. Yet another fact to rattle at the pro-piracy crowd claiming they don't hurt video games.

This is similar to what happened with World of Goo, most of the people who own it (around 80% by some figures) have pirated it. A lot of people who talk about sticking it to The Man just make The Man change his target audience. Most of the people who pirate games just don't want to pay money for them. This creates an environment where you have people clamoring for better games, but unwilling to pay for them. This makes the entire hardcore audience mad because Nintendo won't make them because piracy results in a large amount of revenue lost, but then gets yelled at by people because they won't make non-casual games.

Anti-piracy tech is hard to implement anywhere because even if you have a team of ten thousand people working to make something secure, the number of people who are going to try and crack it is going to be larger.

Example:
If a standard team is fifty people, compare that to the number of DS owners who would like to play Mario for free (say 90%, or about 72 million), now maybe only a tenth of those people have the time and skill necessary to understand what is going on with the code (7.2 million). Now assume that only a tenth of those people have the equipment/funds necessary to work on cracking the code (72,000). Even if you cut this number by ninety percent you still have 720 people who are going to be working to undo the work of fifty. Those are not favorable. The fact that flashcarts are a safe way to pirate software makes it even more attractive to people who want to make money from doing so.

I have a problem with everybody wanting everything they own with a power cable to be a multimedia center. This results in the attempted hacking of everything that you can think of. Nintendo didn't make the DS a multimedia device because they didn't want it to be one. Insisting that everything plays MP3's just makes everything more complicated. People have home computers, laptops, iWhatevers, cellphones, and countless other ways to do that. Cracking software to add functionality may have been the intent, but if you tell people how to do it easily, then most of them will simply use that work to steal stuff.

Probably the worst part is that the flash carts were a fluke. A combination of untraceability along with working almost flawlessly on brand new hardware, a lucky break with getting access to the hardware, and ease of implementation have made flash carts a huge success, to the detriment of Nintendo, and as a result, it's customers. Nintendo has always worked hard to bring good games to the market, but if they can't make money doing that, then they will try something else. This is the same thing that happens with PC games: good games get the crap pirated out of them, so developers are hesitant to spend the resources to make a good game. While a game may make money in spite of pirating, loosing 200,000 in unit sales makes for a Bad Financial Decision.

Games have gotten more expensive because of inflation and because we have demanded that they have more features and better graphics every time. A game like Pokemon is going to cost more to develop because that is the nature of high profile games. Most games, however, don't have a fan base that has been established for over ten years. This leaves Nintendo in the awkward position of either losing a large amount of money on every game they make, or to make games that most people won't pirate. Then we lambaste them because the hardcore audience is neglected. If you had the choice between small-budget games lots of people will buy or big-budget games that some people will buy, others will steal, and then all will complain about, which would you choose?

[/rant][/lecture]

The thing I find most amusing is that the large majority of non-PC pirated games I see people play were made for a Nintendo platform.

its not realy the same thing as PC piracy tho is it, this is much easier and personally i think nintendo deserve it more... they dont care about people using them...they make appauling games and then charge prices i wouldnt even dream of spending on a console game.

or am i talking about the wii?

at least PC are trying to stop piracy...even if they are failing, they try like they try when making a decent game, and nintendo try with neither now...

There is a better way to respond to software piracy and it's summed up beautifully by the dev team at the Paradox Interactive forums. Those devs put extra weight in comments given by anyone who's actually bought and registered their games; you don't register (and really, with there being no DRM on their releases, registering is the least you can do), you don't get a voice.

The net result of this for Paradox has been a fanatically loyal fanbase that is given early access to betas, patches, and added content, meaning that everything the company releases is tailored to the sorts of people who actually buy their games.

So much of the "hardcore fanbase" in gaming is comprised of pirates that I don't blame companies for saying "y'know what? Screw you guys, we can't make any money off you so why bother developing games for you?"

The difference with Nintendo is that you can't offer those same incentive because of the nature of the hardware. Copying a CD (legally or not) is cheap and affordable for almost anybody. Copying a cartridge is more complicated and anybody dedicated to doing so and don't care about stuff like this.

It is still a realy cool way of doing something about piracy, though.

L.B. Jeffries:
Interesting angle on the casual market emphasis though. It never occurred to me to think of that as a solution to the piracy issue but...the developers can just stop making games that tech savvy gamers are going to be interested in stealing. Yet another fact to rattle at the pro-piracy crowd claiming they don't hurt video games.

This may be true - but as with the Playstation 2's success, the overall success of the DS system has granted possibilities for more hardcore titles released due to the base numbers being large enough to support them. This year alone we've gotten big critically acclaimed genre titles (Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, The World Ends With You, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Etrian Odyssey 2, FFTA 2), nostalgia-based remakes (FF IV, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest IV) and others like Rhythm Tengoku and the non-game Korg DS-10. These aren't aimed the same market as Nintendogs. These are the games I would want to steal (and can't afford to buy most, if I wanted to!) if I was pirating.

So even though Brain Age gets all the press, the market is large enough to benefit hardcore titles as well, even if they only sell a fraction of those bigger titles. Perhaps next year there will be a dearth of hardcore titles, but at least in 2008 there wasn't a shortage. This problem does seem to be true for the Wii, though, which isn't very piratable, but instead the hardcore games are developed for Xbox 360 and PS3. At least, there hasn't been a shift from DS to PSP in developing hardcore titles.

I do believe that Nintendo could have done a better job with the DS in terms of streamlining things. Right now, the DS has more than 3000 "games" out. After subtracting the number of re-releases in different languages and things that are Japan only, there's STILL a ridiculous amount of games out there. If I have a DS, and maybe as little as 1% of the total games available, that's STILL going to be 5-10 games and boxes.

So you're telling me, on a portable system, that I'd have to carry around a bunch of boxes or otherwise be stuck with just one? I'm one of those people that's out and about a lot, and usually I have my DS with me. I'm not ashamed to admit that I do have a flash cart: the number one thing I do with my DS isn't play games. It's reading (with DS Reader)! Heck, I check my e-mail and listen to music more than I play copies of games I already own (I have about 15-20 games btw, so you can imagine what a PITA it would be to lug them all around).

I do realize that the majority of flash cart users use it solely to pirate games, but Nintendo hasn't made it easy for people like me (who value the portability of a handheld over most everything else). If the DSi successfully manages to incorporate everything BACK into a single portable device (and still manage to encourage homebrew), I'll give/sell my flash cart to someone. The DS is a great device, but I feel like it's lost it's portability roots, and I know that I'm not alone in how I feel (I know more than a few people that only use flashcarts to carry everything around).

L.B. Jeffries:
Yet another fact to rattle at the pro-piracy crowd claiming they don't hurt video games.

Although potentially misleading. There is still a real shortage of data concerning to what extent sales are improved by blocking piracy. That is, unless you believe one can count pirate copies and equate them to missed sales (clearly absurd since many pirates are kids with no income).

The dangers of targeting the casual market have been made very clear on the Wii. I expect you've read the articles all over the web. But the appeal is nothing to do with pirates. It's simply a numbers game. Insofar as casual and hardcore demographics really exist, the former outnumber the latter.

Dom Camus:

L.B. Jeffries:
Yet another fact to rattle at the pro-piracy crowd claiming they don't hurt video games.

Although potentially misleading. There is still a real shortage of data concerning to what extent sales are improved by blocking piracy. That is, unless you believe one can count pirate copies and equate them to missed sales (clearly absurd since many pirates are kids with no income).

The dangers of targeting the casual market have been made very clear on the Wii. I expect you've read the articles all over the web. But the appeal is nothing to do with pirates. It's simply a numbers game. Insofar as casual and hardcore demographics really exist, the former outnumber the latter.

*edited 12/10/08*

What danger? That if you make games that anyone can play you sell more of them? Just because companies aren't as experienced at making appealing casual games as Nintendo doesn't mean the concept itself is flawed.

I agree that there is an extreme lack of hard data but I also think developers are going to do precisely the kind of gut deduction that I just made. Huh, people are stealing these games. Huh, we're not really selling that many. Well, why not make games that the audience stealing them isn't going to like?

I'm not arguing anything about the actual effects, I'm arguing human nature.

insanelich:
And the DSi has already been cracked.

Yeah, Nintendo really invested millions in the anti-piracy protection for the their last console. *cough* -_-

The real question is if the majority of devs and pubs can make money and survive by basing their business on such a system.

Thinking a bit laterally here.

Why haven't Nintendo established an itunes or Steam style site to distribute proper, paid for DS games to Flash cart users? The market is clearly there, although people using carts may be less than willing to pay for their games even if the option is present.
Yiou could attract a new market as an ipod style store removes having to stand in line clutching a little piece of brightly coloured plastic, something teens tend to dislike.
A DS cartridge is only 256MB so download times would be reasonable.
It would (or should) give them better access to cart manufacturers, meaning they could put some kind of anti piracy software on the cart's operating systems instead of the DS itself. Surely a much more cost effective solution than having to update the hardware constantly?

Also it would save people like me who use flash carts legitamately (I use Colors and MP3 playback on mine, no pirated games) having to wait for cracks and workarounds to arrive.

Lastly, the SDhc card in my M3 has 16gb of memory to play with, it cost 40 + 40 for the M3. That's (potentially) a lot more DS games than 80 would get you in store.

randommaster:
A combination of untraceability along with working almost flawlessly on brand new hardware, a lucky break with getting access to the hardware, and ease of implementation have made flash carts a huge success, to the detriment of Nintendo,

Yeah, Nintendo have taken a real caning on the DS. Poor old Nintendo. I hear they've had to spend a fortune - on two enormous new aircraft hangars to store all the money they've made from the DS in.

Did you actually read the article at all?

Wow, great article. Interesting read, and I like the theory about Nintendo casualizing their market to avoid piracy problems. It's hard to say if that's really the case (maybe Phantom Hourglass was just too much new with the controls, and it's a coincidence that their tapping the new markets), but even so, it's interesting stuff. I'm curious about looking into flash cards myself, with all the capabilities they seem to bring.

fix-the-spade:
Thinking a bit laterally here.

Why haven't Nintendo established an itunes or Steam style site to distribute proper, paid for DS games to Flash cart users?

Your hopes may come to pass with the DSi's online store. That store should allow you to save games to an SD card; for piracy's sake, those SD games would have a console-specific encryption key, just like on the Wii. Seems Nintendo has finally stopped fearing selling games that go directly to an external disk.

L.B. Jeffries:
What danger?

Making the choice to create a far simpler class of product for what appears to be a much larger market, then discovering that because the product is simpler it's more-or-less commoditised from day one and so sales are terrible.

A quick link to an article discussing some actual data on the subject:

http://www.gamedaily.com/articles/news/wii-games-discounted-at-a-faster-rate-ndash-eedar-/?biz=1

...so it's not like the whole market's proven non-existent or anything, but I wouldn't recommend any developers head in that direction for easy money. Right now, it's oversupplied.

I actually think that there's a lot of lost potential when console makers lock out the ability to create homebrew software. As much potential as it would (annoyingly) have for piracy, homebrew software could also make the Nintendo DS into a truly convergent device. With the two ARM processors, a lot of popular software from other ARM forms of Linux could be ported easily (see the DSLinux project for one interpretation of that idea), and there's clearly enough processing power to allow the device to do some pretty impressive things, even if the lack of memory limits it somewhat.

If you produce a computing device, somebody out there is going to try to hack (or crack) it. It's been happening since the earliest computers, with even the gargantuan scientific and military computers being programmed to play games. I don't like the fact that the people involved in cracking the DS use it for illegal purposes, but then, I'm not in favour of restrictive software in the first place. I'm an open-source advocate, and I feel that there's potential being lost every time somebody adds another layer of restriction onto a consumer product.

Very intersting article. I had no idea about flash carts before hand, so this was a very good read.

Task:

Valalvax:
Now I normally don't complain, but the white man with the games in his hands/bag (obviously stolen), with the black man's face photoshopped ontop of it, is very obvious racism, and quite offensive at that.

Uh, no. It's a white man with a stocking on his head. Look at the picture *before* making your animal-like grunts.
Also, I'd never even heard of these until now. Maybe they're just not as well known in my part of Europe? Or maybe just not by me.
I like the idea of user-created, unwarrantied software but not the idea of all the good designers leaving the DS to work on say, the PSP. I'll stick to paying for stuff, even if I'm paying too much.

Ok ok, you're right, I THOUGHT that would have been a pretty bad photoshop, I was like "Wow, you left the ENTIRE freaking neck" but now I see the excess cloth on top of the head, I guess you see what you want to see..

It's quite disheartening to know that we, the hardcore crowd, are to blame for Nintendo shunning us. Ever since E3, we've been condoning Nintendo for selling out to the casual crowd, when in reality they were snubbing us as thieves. I'm very much anti-piracy: we live in a capitalist society that ideally rewards good producers with profits. With piracy, we're giving a big "fuck you" to good developers such as Konami and Intelligent Systems who are losing money in appeasing the hardcore crowd.

I currently own a DS lite and have no plans to upgrade. If Nintendo wants to nip this problem in the bud, they have to capitalize off flash carts. They should sell compatible flash carts for the lite so we don't feel burned when the DSi crowd can instantly buy and download the newest games steam-style.

While there are a number of great points here, especially concerning straight up piracy, I have to disagree with removing these devices altogether. I myself own an R4 but I use it for a very different purpose. I like to switch games frequently while I'm out but I don't have the space to carry my entire library of games with me. This usually forces me to pick one or two games to take on my excursions into the outside world and I often get bored of them fairly quickly (There's only so many times you can play brain age in an hour before it gets repetitive). However by putting a game I've purchased on my R4 I can carry all of my games with me without filling any extra space. It's this convenience that is the main draw of slot-1 devices to me and I'm sure to others as well.

I think we can all say that all of us owners want to be able to carry all our games together. I will gladly pay a few extra bucks if Nintendo would give us the option to do so.
..well.. as long as they let me listen to my music, and use my DS as a day planner. Honestly, why include a calendar, ability to draw and write, but not make it so people can save these things? The DSi now plays music, hooray! Now go all the way, dammit!

I understand that Nintendo wants to be different from the PSP, and thus wouldn't allow their "game console" to be useful in other areas, but dammit--the functionality is practically there. Just say you can use this to keep track of your table top game or something if you want--that way the organizer/calculator functionality would fit neatly into the "gaming" category.

R4 revolution is most popular slot-1 card for Nintendo DS out there on the market (list others if you think otherwise). R4 SDHC recently came out which supports up to 32GB sdhc memory - thats plenty to store a lot of games. For those who are interested in getting one i suggest visiting this online store for their special deal on r4 + 4gb memory to get you started.

i still do not get why the DS is so popular
1. it has almost no good games
2. the grafics suck
3. the gameplay usualy sucks
4. the screens are very small

i figured the PSP would have won out over the DS...

pyromcr:
i still do not get why the DS is so popular
1. it has almost no good games
2. the grafics suck
3. the gameplay usualy sucks
4. the screens are very small

i figured the PSP would have won out over the DS...

Note: I am not a Nintendo fanboy. I own both a Sega Dreamcast and a Playstation 2 and am working on getting a PS3 and XBOX360. As far as handhelds go I would consider buying a PSP if I had the Spare cash to do so.

With that being said I offer an explanation/rebuttal to the claims made by you, Pyromcr.

1. Good game is a relative term. What one person considers a good game can differ greatly from what others would choose. Most every console has at least a handful of decent games and certain consoles will have a higher concentration of games that a specific individual enjoys. This is why a variety of gaming consoles is preferable. It provides a greater amount of choice. There are a wide variety of games on the DS that appeal to many different varieties of gamers.

2. While graphics can be an important part of gaming there is a difference between bad graphics and less detailed graphics. Take for instance Pac Man. The graphics on that game are extremely sub par when compared to, say, gears of war or halo 3 (there are probably better examples but those are the two that spring to mind) yet the game remains playable and enjoyable to this day. What really matters is whether the graphics get in the way of gameplay or not. Assuming they don't, anything else is merely extra.

3. Similar to 1, "good" gameplay can be very subjective. I myself cannot get into turn based strategy games yet they are one of the most popular genres (Heck, Starcraft is essentially the national sport in Korea). On the other hand I do enjoy puzzle games such as Picross that many would consider boring and repetitive (Note: this isn't the only genre I enjoy. It is merely a single example). Again this is where variety is such a good thing. The more that is out there the more there is to choose from, which provides a better guarantee that individuals will find games that they will enjoy.

4. While I can't speak for your experience with the DS (assuming you have used one), I personally have never had any problems playing on a DS screen due to its size. The way the screens react to natural lighting on the other hand...

To sum up the DS may not be the right console for everyone but that doesn't mean it isn't the right console for anyone. No console will ever "Win" (nor should it).

Hopefully this answers your question as to how the DS has gained such popularity.

Sam Machkovech:
The Slot-1 Secret

Simple, cheap methods of piracy have made the Nintendo DS the most vulnerable portable console ever. There's a reason why Nintendo doesn't care.

Read Full Article

See what bothers me about piracy numbers is they never address the fact that some people pirate games that they own.

Why?

Well look at it this way.

I own about 20 DS games (some I regret haha but hey it happens).

I have 2 options.

I can carry around X cartridges (all the way up to 20) each costing between 20-40 dollars and possibly lose them.

OR I can carry around one cartridge at 30 bucks and if I lose it oh freaking well.

In fact there are ways now to move your saves from the rom to your actual cartridge so when you are home you can keep on going (heck you can go both ways haha its rather wonderful).

So I think its erroneous to equate 144k piracies to 144k copies of a game lost.

Pokemon Pearl alone I've redownloaded probably 15 times and I could take a picture right now of me holding my legitimate cartridge and case (likewise I'm registered on nintendo with the product) :P.

At least in the DS world its almost unreasonable to not do that to protect your games, especially since places like PAX have a tendency of magically causing people's stuff to vanish.

Don't get me wrong I LOVE PAX but I've had stuff disappear while I was there (and likewise know many people who experience the same). Lots of hands and not enough eyes haha.

Note: I explain the above because I don't feel what I'm doing is illegal. Not anymore than burning a copy of a game you own so that you can play that instead of the original copy. Which my father used to be quite fond of because he had a pension for leaving his original copies out on the top of his PC and they'd become unplayable from scratches.

I sort of equate it to a personal DRM system. I'm protecting my investment from my own incompetence much like game companies.

Also...

To anyone saying the DS doesn't have any 'good' games (which I admit is subjective).

Disgaea DS
Final Fantasy Tactics A2
Rune Factory
Rune Factory 2
Harvest Moon (the first DS one not that new thing...)
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy IV
Pokemon Diamond
Pokemon Pearl
NEW Super Mario Bros
Super Princess Peach
Children of Mana
Mario Kart

If I didn't have to keep getting up to read the damn boxes I could probably name another 5-10. I love both the PSP and the DS for what they do but I can name more for the DS than for the PSP.

In the end the old adage "To each their own" applies.

I think flash cart is a problem to the third party developers (specially). I know a lot of people here who owns NDS, but none of them spent a single penny on original games. Everyone have their flash cart - including me (though I have Portrait of Ruin cart). And everyone use it mostly for playing ROMs. A few people use it as a PDA or something.

Some people pirate it because they don't have the money to pay for new games - if you think games are expensive in US or Europe, you should see our prices... - and others pirate it for the sake of doing so. The last one are the kind of people who would never pay for original title if they can obtain them for free or 10/100 of the original price (Im talking about PS2 and XBOX 360 games here). When Chrono Trigger DS was released a friend of mine asked me: "have you got CT?" I answered no because I hadnt the money (and I still dont). He said something that could be translated as "You dumbass! Im not talking about buying! Dumbass! haha"

So, whatever Nintendo had a online store or anything like it he would not use it - as many other people I believe.

On the other hand, I know a few people from other cities who participates on the same forums I do that use flash cart and ROMs for seeing if a game is worth buying. And, of course, you have some rich people who can afford 2 or 3 original games each month - but they already belong to a minority of Brazilian's society. There are even a dedicated internet forum for those who are against piracy here.

And though I have a flash cart and play ROMs on them, I only play a game per time. Im finishing Zelda right now and I must say Im glad I did not buy it when I had the opportunity - Im not enjoying it as I did with other Zelda games I bought (Ocarina, Masks and Link to the past). Sometimes this game really annoys me with its full-time stylus control + browsing sea. Im eager to finish it, but if I do I will do without having completed half of the side-quests and getting all the heart containers. But this is not a topic about Zelda, so, no rant over it.

Cheers!

 

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