Nintendo Taking Bowser To Court For Switch Hacks

Nintendo sure gets mixed up with a lot of Bowsers all the time. Aside of being the iconic villain in the Mario franchise, the legendary Reggie Fils-Aimé was replaced by Doug Bowser as president of Nintendo of America - and now, Gary Bowser is being sued for producing and selling hacks for the Nintendo Switch console.

Team Xecuter is a hacking group allegedly led by Bowser, described by Nintendo in the lawsuit as a “an international pirate ring”. They specialized in developing, manufacturing and selling "modchips" for the Switch, which are small custom PCBs designed to be installed inside the console to circumvent the hardware's security measures, allowing the use of pirated games.

Just one of many Bowsers

The modchip business is a pretty big deal, with pirating games on consoles being much harder than on PC. Gary Bowser and fellow Team Xecuter member Max Louarn were arrested last year and charged with 11 felony counts, and now Nintendo is seeking to sue them on trafficking and copyright infringement charges.

A company known to be extremely protective of its IP and routinely shooting down fan projects, it makes sense that Nintendo is also particularly harsh on pirating practices. Bowser, living up to the villainous nature of his namesake, has been involved with pirating activities related to Nintendo devices for a while now, at least since 2013 when he worked on and sold a 3Ds modchip.

The current lineup of Team Xecuter modchips, including the SX Pro, SX Core, and SX Lite all designed for the Nintendo Switch have already incurred previous lawsuits from Nintendo, and the company has attached detailed documentation of how exactly these modchips work and a timeline of Bowser's development efforts.

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This is just the newest prong of Nintendo's continued attacks on the various strata of game piracy, as previous tactics usually focused on other distributors of the modchips and other hacking devices rather than the source. Over the last year, the company sued several resellers including one operating via Amazon that were distributing such modchips. They've won several of these lawsuits, resulting in major damages payouts and more importantly the shutdown of the entities responsible.

This is what a modchip looks like

The full text of the lawsuit is available to view online, which describes the modchip market and piracy in general as a “serious, worsening international problem" while stating that Team Xecuter's on-going business would “continue to put more than 79 million Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite consoles at risk from piracy" if not shut down.

Video game piracy has become the center of the discussions surrounding video game preservation in recent years as things like DRM, always-online requirements in single player games and digital distribution being tied to storefront servers have put conservation efforts of newer titles in jeopardy, with piracy being the only reliable way to properly 'save' some modern games for posterity.

Even so, Team Xecuter has generally never been considered one of the 'good guys' due to their aggressively for-profit business model and shady practices, as well as the fact that their modchips for the Nintendo Switch don't do much for game preservation as an endeavor.

While Nintendo isn't seeking the two arrested developers' Xecution, the company is looking to get $2,500 for each modchip sold, $150,000 for each copyright violation and the permanent closure of the business.

Aron Gerencser
Gaming at least as long as he's been walking, Aron is a fan of all things sci-fi and lover of RPGs. Having written about games for years, he's right at home reporting most of the breaking news in the industry and covering the happenings of the e-sports world. When not writing, editing or playing, you can find Aron on Facebook.