Real-Life Bowser Pleads Guilty To Selling Nintendo Hacks, Could Score 10 Years In Prison
When you think of "video game piracy," you probably think immediately of PC games. That's not really a fair association, though; console game piracy has been going on as long as there have been video game consoles, and it's a bigger market than you likely realize. Perhaps not as big as it once was, though, as famed console hackers Team Xecuter are currently facing the long arm of the law.
Team Xecuter, for those unfamiliar, was one of the largest and longest-lived creators of "circumvention devices," known more colloquially as "mod chips." These devices, whether hardware, software, or firmware, modified console game systems such that they would play copyrighted game content without verifying if it was legitimate, essentially circumventing copy-protection and DRM built into the machines.
It was allegedly big business for Team Xecuter, which has been reported as earning the group "tens of millions of dollars" through their illicit sales. The group charged a license fee for its products, specifically to unlock the ability to play pirated games. It's likely that fee that ultimately cinched the US Federal Government's case against the group, as they were directly profiting from enabling users to play pirated games. That earned them the ire of many game companies, most prominently Nintendo, whose investigations prompted federal charges against three members of Team Xecuter last year.
The consumer-facing side of Team Xecuter was a 51-year-old Canadian hacker named, coincidentally, Gary Bowser. "GaryOPA," as he was called in the community, ran Xecuter's web operations, including promotion, sale, and support for the group's devices. He initially plead "not guilty" to the charges against him, but now has changed his plea on two counts as part of a deal that sees nine other charges against him—including conspiracy to commit wire fraud—dropped. He also reportedly has to pay some $4.5 million USD to Nintendo, and faces up to ten years in prison.