Nintendo DS piracy rampant in the US?

Ninety per cent of American Nintendo DS gamers are criminals. That’s according the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) in the UK, which reports that nine out of every ten American DS owners are downloading games illegally from the web.

DS piracy is made possible by the Chinese-made R4 chip. It slots into the Nintendo DS’ cartridge reader and bypasses the anti-piracy protocols of the console. The practical upshot of this is that owners of these R4 chips can download games from the web onto standard SD memory cards, plug them into the top of the R4 unit and then play the games.

It’s the ease with which this is all possible that has lead the ELSPA to believe that nine in every ten DS gamers are pirating games.

Do you steal DS games?

"Legitimate business is at serious risk from the R4 - retail, wholesale and manufacturers," ELSPA manager, John Hillier, told the Sunday Post.

"It gets around the protection built into the Nintendo DS to prevent playing of unauthorised games. The R4 in effect blinds the console and makes it think it’s seeing a genuine game. Trading standards and police are finding these devices in raids on people who sell pirated games, including in Scotland.”

It’s actually illegal to sell the chip in the UK because of our fairly strict copyright laws. However, crucially, it’s not illegal to buy them. Meaning that any DS owner in the UK can freely order one from abroad.

“The implications are massive. In America it’s thought 90 per cent of Nintendo DS users are playing pirated games because of R4s. Takings from Nintendo DS games in the US are lower than any other console and no doubt it will have a similar impact here [in the UK].

“That’s the real danger - you may think you’re getting a good deal but using the R4 is risking the future of the games industry. Crucially, the R4 has shifted balance of power in the piracy industry to the consumer - and that is hugely worrying. That’s why we intend to stop trade in these chips wherever we can.”

Nintendo not bothered?

Interestingly, the one company that isn’t making a big song and dance about the threat posed by the R4 chip, is Nintendo itself. This could be because by speaking out publicly against the R4 chip, more DS gamers will become aware of the device and order one from China.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of DS gamers out there pirating games with the help of the R4. However, the ELSPA's figure of 90 per cent of US DS gamers seems ludicrously high to us.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.