UK Court Rules Blank Nintendo DS Cartridges Illegal

Building home brew video games for the Nintendo DS (and any form of modding for that matter) just got a lot harder for UK residents. A UK court ruled that blank cartridges such as R4DS are illegal and that retail stores are banned from selling, marketed or importing such cartridges in the UK. While many stores have shut down as a result of the ruling, reports suggest that others are defying the court ban and still selling such cartridges.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Blank cartridges such as R4DS are, “Nintendo DS storage devices are some of the devices used to store a licensed developer’s work-in-progress images, homebrew video games, or downloaded commercial games, since the Nintendo DS is not sold with a rewritable storage medium.”

In short, it’s related to the video game modding community. The Telegraph reported the following:

Nintendo welcomed the ruling, and said it had bought the legal action against two retailers, Playables Limited and Wai Dat Chan, on behalf of the thousands of video game studios that depend on legitimate sales of games for their financial survival.

“The court affirmed that game copiers first circumvent Nintendo’s security systems before any non-infringing application can be played on Nintendo’s hand-held products,” said the Japanese games giant in a statement.

This is an interesting comment considering modding is the least of Nintendo’s concern if it wants to remain profitable. According to a Canadian Press article just days ago, the gaming giant posted a quarterly loss due to a stronger Yen and fewer new titles. As great as Legend of Zelda and Super Mario was, core titles such as these can only go so far when boosting interest for their console based gaming systems. To me, what was cited in the Canadian Press is what Nintendo needs to be worried about, not someone who has actually paid money for the hardware and actively choosing to do some modding, forgoing any warranties that would otherwise come with their console or handhelds.

It’s unclear at this time what this means for homebrew developers, but some retailers are apparently ignoring the ban on R4 cartridges.

“Despite this week’s ruling that saw the illegalisation of nearly all devices aimed at allowing the running of homebrew and pirated games on the Nintendo DS,” reports MCV, “MCV has confirmed that some outlets are still selling the accessories.”

Ultimately, it seems like a ruling like this only creates a more secretive underground market for game modding in the UK. Given the lucrative nature of selling blanks, someone is always going to be bold enough to try and keep selling such devices in the UK. Wherever there is buyers, there will always be sellers.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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