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Gaming News

Spooked By Nintendo, Popular ROM Site “Changes” After 18 Years

August 8, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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EmuParadise, one of the world’s longest-running and most popular emulator communities, announced today that in the face of recent legal action against pirate sites it will be “changing”, in effect ceasing to offer ROM versions of Nintendo’s (and any other company’s) old classics.

MasJ, the site’s founder, says:

It’s not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years. We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble.

EmuParadise has been running since 2000, and it’s a good bet many of you have visited the site from time to time (it’s easily one of the most popular ROM and emulator destinations online) to download a classic game from your childhood that you felt like catching up with again.

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While the site isn’t technically closing down, it is ceasing to distribute ROMs of other people’s games:

Thus, we have decided to make a new start. We will continue to be passionate retro gamers and will keep doing cool stuff around retro games. But you won’t be able to get your games from here for now. Where we go with this is up to us and up to you.

You can’t blame MasJ, or his team members, for reacting like this. Jacob Mathias, the owner of LoveROMs, currently stands to lose millions if a court decides in Nintendo’s favour, and while old video games are cool and fun, hosting some on a website is not a hill anyone wants to financially die upon.

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Yet it’s hard not to also feel sadness at this trend, if not a little anger. Yeah, playing these games for free is technically illegal, but companies like Nintendo have been so bad at making their back catalogues easily available that ROM sites have long been providing a level of service that video game publishers have been unable (or unwilling) to match.

It’s kinda like the music piracy argument from the 2000s, when record labels fought a losing battle against consumers who preferred the convenience and accessibility that piracy provided. Only it’s hard picturing companies like Nintendo and Sega ever reconciling that a Spotify/Netflix-type service for their back catalogues is the answer to their current legal crusade.

Also worth noting is the preservation benefits sites like EmuParadise provide, which Frank Cifaldi puts so well here (please read the whole thread).

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You can read MasJ’s full statement here.

Tech News

Notorious Denuvo gaming cracker Voksi arrested in Bulgaria

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anti-piracy tech company Denuvo isn’t messing around when it comes to game hackers. It touts its digital rights management (DRM) tool as uncrackable and for the most part, it held up for years. But in 2016, a Bulgarian games cracker called Voksi managed to break the system, and now he’s been arrested.

In a post on CrackWatch, a subreddit focused on removing copy protection software from games, Voksi explained that his hacking website REVOLT had gone dark after police raided his house and took him into custody. “It finally happened,” he wrote. “I can’t say it wasn’t expected. Denuvo filed a case against me to the Bulgarian authorities. Police came yesterday and took the server PC and my personal PC. I had to go to the police afterwards and explain myself.”

According to a statement seen by Kotaku, the arrest was down to the combined efforts of the Bulgarian Cybercrime Unit and Denuvo’s parent company Irdeto. “The swift action of the Bulgarian police on this matter shows the power of collaboration between law enforcement and technology providers and that piracy is a serious offence that will be acted upon,” said Mark Mulready, Irdeto’s vice president of cybersecurity. The statement confirmed that a 21-year-old man had been arrested, and that investigations are ongoing.

Voksi, meanwhile, told CrackWatch that his cracking career is probably over. “Sadly, I won’t be able to do what I did anymore,” he said. “I did what I did for you guys and of course because bloated software in our games shouldn’t be allowed at all. Maybe someone else can continue my fight.”

Gaming News

Renowned Hacker Arrested For Cracking Denuvo Anti-Piracy Tech

July 25, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Denuvo’s notorious anti-piracy tech used to be seen as uncrackable. It held up against hackers’ best efforts for years, contorting itself into obtuse new shapes every time anybody broke through. In 2016, a Bulgarian hacker calling himself Voksi came along with a breakthrough that revitalized the whole Denuvo cracking scene. He’s been a pillar of it ever since. Now he’s in deep trouble.

In a post today on CrackWatch, a subreddit dedicated to removing DRM and other copy protection software from games, Voksi explained the sudden outage of the website of his hacker group, REVOLT. Yesterday, he got arrested, and the police raided his house.

“It finally happened,” Voksi wrote. “I can’t say it wasn’t expected. Denuvo filed a case against me to the Bulgarian authorities. Police came yesterday and took the server PC and my personal PC. I had to go to the police afterwards and explain myself.”

In a statement sent to Kotaku, Denuvo said that Voksi’s arrest came about through the dual efforts of Denuvo parent company Irdeto and the Bulgarian Cybercrime Unit. “The swift action of the Bulgarian police on this matter shows the power of collaboration between law enforcement and technology providers and that piracy is a serious offence that will be acted upon,” said Irdeto VP of cybersecurity services Mark Mulready.

Denuvo’s statement also included a quote from the Bulgarian Cybercrime Unit, which said: “We can confirm that a 21-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of offenses related to cybercrime and that computing equipment was confiscated. Our investigations are ongoing.”

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Voksi declined to reply when reached for comment by Kotaku, but on Reddit he lamented that this Denuvo-cracking days are almost certainly behind him. “Sadly, I won’t be able to do what I did anymore,” he said. “I did what I did for you guys and of course because bloated software in our games shouldn’t be allowed at all. Maybe someone else can continue my fight.”

Gaming News

Nintendo Suing Pirate Websites For Millions

July 23, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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On July 19, Nintendo filed suit in an Arizona Federal Court against the operator of two popular retro gaming sites, which had been hosting ROMS of some of the company’s most famous games.

The suit alleges that the two sites, LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co—both owned and operated by Jacob Mathias—are “built almost entirely on the brazen and mass-scale infringement of Nintendo’s intellectual property rights.”

“In addition to Nintendo’s video games”, the suit says, “Defendants reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform a vast library of Nintendo’s other copyrighted works on and through the LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites, including the proprietary BIOS software for several of Nintendo’s video game systems and thousands of Nintendo’s copyrighted musical works and audio recordings.”

“Defendants also make extensive use of Nintendo’s registered trademarks, including the Nintendo logo and the most recognizable Nintendo video game characters, to encourage visitors to download and play unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s copyrighted works.”

As you can see below, Mathias’ sites made no effort to conceal the fact they were using Nintendo’s property. Everything from company logos to box art to console branding was employed so that people knew exactly what they were playing when they visited the sites.

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A screengrab of a Nintendo game appearing on Loveroms.comImage: Case 2:18-cv-02282-SPL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA

Nintendo claims in the suit that Loveroms “receives 17 million visitors each month”, and that “Such visitors are drawn to the website by the widespread availability of free, unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video games and other highly valuable intellectual property.”

The company is asking the court to award “$150,000 for the infringement of each Nintendo copyrighted work”, and “up to $2,000,000 for the infringement of each Nintendo trademark.”

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With well over 100 games having been playable on the sites, that adds up to a lot of money.

Since the suit was filed last week, Loveretro has been taken completely offline (above), while Loveroms posted on its Facebook site yesterday that “All Nintendo titles have been removed from the site”.

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Via TorrentFreak

Gaming News

Amazon Temporarily Sells Pirated Copies Of Popular PC Games

July 16, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Frostpunk

Over the weekend, people shopping on Amazon thought they’d hit the jackpot: popular recent PC games like Frostpunk and Surviving Mars for the price of a cup of coffee. Problem: these copies were pirated.

Word of the dubious deals first got out in a Reddit thread on Saturday. “I think this is a screw up from them [Amazon], I dunno if someone wants to try it though,” read the thread, which linked to a $2.99 copy of Frostpunk whose seller was listed as Amazon Digital Services. The ice-encrusted management game usually sells for $29.99. Other users surfaced similar listings, like Surviving Mars—which usually goes for $39.99—for $3.99.

One user, CodependentlyWealthy, did some sleuthing. “I decided to pay $3 to play detective,” they said of Frostpunk. “It’s piracy. Someone took the GOG version of the game, repackaged it with their [sic] own installer signed and published by ‘Ace Media Group LLC’ and submitted it to Amazon. The installer looks fairly legit but the uninstaller doesn’t work. They left GOG-specific metadata files and Galaxy64.dll (for GOG Galaxy client integration) in the install dir.”

GOG is a PC gaming platform whose greatest claim to fame is its lack of DRM. On one hand, it’s nice to be able to purchase games sans invasive software riding in the passenger seat, but it leaves wiggle room for exploitation. In this case, it seems that the pirates took GOG copies of games, added their own custom installer, and claimed them as their own.

Users reviews of these game listings include similar claims. The offers are no marked as “currently unavailable” and can no longer be purchased. Surviving Mars’ developers, meanwhile, took to Twitter to address the issue:

“This is not a sale we’ve approved and we’re suspect of the legality of it,” they wrote. “We can confirm that no updates will work with it and we’d advise steering clear of it.”

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Amazon, so far, has said nothing, though some users have reported managing to get refunds. Kotaku reached out to Amazon for comment, but as of publishing, the ethically questionable inventor of fake holidays had yet to respond.

Posters on gaming message board Resetera point out that Amazon has failed to police video game listings before. Last October, fantasy RPG Lords of Xulima popped up on the all-consuming mega-store for $1.99. At the time, the game’s developer said it was trying to get the listing removed, but Amazon’s demands made that difficult.

“We are trying to remove that seller, but Amazon seems to require lots of documents from us,” Xulima developer Numantian Games wrote in its Steam forum. “It seems that you can sell a pirated game without any problem, but if the owners complain about it, they have to present a lot of very complex documents. What a shame.”

Gaming News

The Fight Between Switch Hackers And Nintendo Is Ramping Up

June 25, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: Nintendo (Super Mario Odyssey)

People love their Switches. Some people love them so much they want to break them open and make them do things they’re not supposed to. That means Nintendo has to respond. The back-and-forth between Nintendo and hackers reached fever pitch this week.

First, some background: In April, Switch hackers found a way to jailbreak Switch hardware that they said Nintendo would have no way of patching. The bug being exploited was at the hardware level, meaning it could apparently only be fixed as new consoles were manufactured, not through updates to firmware.

At the end of May, a number of Switch hackers found that their accounts had been banned from Nintendo’s online service. That means no more online play, the eShop, orother Switch features. Users believed the bannings might have had something to do with them violating the terms of Nintendo’s content distribution network to download Switch updates to PC for reverse-engineering and research purposes. It recalled a ban wave that hit 3DS hackers last year around the same time for similar activities. This shows that Nintendo, which has yet to publicly comment on Switch hacking, was still paying attention in certain cases.

Nintendo Can Detect Pirated Games

On June 18, one of the recent banned hackers, a prominent one named SciresM, detailed in a Reddit post how Nintendo was using a new, sophisticated system to detect pirated games. According to his research, Nintendo uses unique certifications for every individual Switch cartridge and copy of a digital game, then checks to see whether those match up with the account that first played them. As a result, pirated games will get flagged because of the mismatch, leading Nintendo to easily detect and ban the offending consoles from accessing its online service.

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“tl;dr: Don’t pirate games,” SciresM wrote. “These are extremely strong anti-piracy measures — Nintendo did a great job, here. … In the digital game case, Nintendo actually perfectly prevents online piracy.”

Hackers Can Change Their Switch Avatars (To Porn)

Later in the week, there were reports that Switch hackers named Scionae and Pragma had found a way to run the system’s developer software, called DevMenu, on standard, non-developer Switch units. Images of DevMenu, used by developers to create and optimize games for the Switch, have been widely circulated for a while, but this is the first time there have been widespread reports of the software running on normal commercial units. The upshot of this is that people would, among other things, be able to directly load games onto SD cards or create custom avatars for their user profiles.

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Console hacker Reisyukaku was able to change their avatar to a character from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, something a fellow hacker was able to replicate, sharing it on Twitter with a photograph of their own. Switch owners can only choose from a preset library of different avatars for their profile, and being able to upload any old image would be a truly groundbreaking thing for a platform as feature-limited and tightly controlled as the Nintendo Switch. In response to the thread, one user tweeted “Next step: adding NSFW images and watch out for the big N hammer”—that is, for the inevitable smackdown from Nintendo’s tech team.

On June 22, someone wrote a now-deleted post on on the Switch subreddit talking about their child finding pornographic content in Super Mario Odyssey’s Balloon World mode thanks to the avatar hack. In Balloon World, players can go online to hunt for balloons hidden across levels by other people. The balloons have the avatar of the player who placed it on them, meaning that if someone could hack their avatar to make it a picture of [insert human body part here] it could theoretically appear in other people’s games.

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A second post, widely reported on by different gaming news sites, alleged something similar, including links to two blurry images as proof. However, when I tried to reach out to the user behind the second post through Reddit, I was immediately contacted by several other members of a homebrew Discord group saying the context of the post was fake. While the images themselves might be legitimate, they said, they weren’t discovered by someone’s child or being shared by an angry parent. According to them, and screenshots of the discussion in the Discord, the Reddit user in question was just trolling.

A number of Switch users have in fact managed to switch their avatars to something explicit, one of the Discord users told Kotaku, and some of them had popped up in Mario Odyssey—but how widespread it is, and Nintendo’s means for dealing with it, remains far from clear. Nintendo did not return a request by Kotaku to for comment on the matter.

It’s clear from this week’s goings-on that Switch hacking is going to be an endless game of Mario Tennis between hackers and Nintendo, with each side aggressively attempting to shatter the other’s racket on every volley. The big question is, will hackers force Nintendo’s hand and get it to officially support the sorts of features that players want to add? Something like custom avatars, a feature the Xbox One has, might not seem like that big a deal. But they, like voice chat, speak to how robust the Switch’s overall user experience is or could be—and how various hackers’ insistence to make it happen, whether Nintendo wants it or not, could affect how the company decides to improve, refine, and grow its online community in the future.

Tech News

Nintendo can quickly ban Switch pirates from online play

June 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Nintendo has implemented some pretty stringent anti-piracy measures for the Switch, and according to one console hacker, it has already started banning game cart certificates. In a lengthy PSA on the SwitchHacks subreddit, “SciresM” said Nintendo can now quickly detect if the game you’re trying to play online has been legitimately purchased, whether it’s a game cart or a digital copy. The gaming giant performs server-side checks, so you can’t bypass them — if it determines that you’re playing a legit copy, it issues an authorization token that can’t be forged. In case it catches you trying to play a pirated copy, it will prevent your game from connecting and could even permanently ban your console from being able to access the Nintendo network.

Looks like we’ve got confirmation that Nintendo is banning gamecart certificates (I guess people aren’t taking my advice…). The relevant error for trying to use a gamecard with a banned cert is 0x1F727C — 2124-4025.

— Michael (@SciresM) June 20, 2018

These strict anti-piracy measures come after the rise of hacks on the Switch following the discovery of an exploit that allowed hackers to run arbitrary code on the console. While it’s easy to dismiss them if you don’t actively play pirated games, you may still want to keep them in mind if you buy second-hand game carts. Try to check if the copy works and isn’t already banned before playing it on your console if you can, so as not to risk getting locked out of online play.