Nov 26

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

R4DS: Homebrew on the Nintendo DS, Not Just Piracy


R4DS (Revolution For DS) lets you load and run Nintendo DS applications from your computer. These applications, either pirated or homebrew, are loaded in via a microSD card.

The Times Online article The R4 chip is only small - but it looks like a giant pirate to Nintendo is focused solely on the pirating aspect, ignoring the rich set of homebrew uses for R4DS. It discusses the chip spreading from China to Japan via Akihabara's electronics shops. The articles closes with an ominously-framed quote and comparison:

“We are keeping a close eye on the products and studying them. But we cannot smash all of them,” a Nintendo spokesman said. Some believe the R4 may have the same disruptive effect on Nintendo’s business model as early music file-sharing sites such as Napster had on the record industry.

Before going any further, I'd like to point out that Napster was a free download and was brain-dead simple to use and share music with. It also provided almost instant gratification for almost any music search. The R4DS, while well-designed and within the reach of Radar's readers technically, is not available to many computer users. It requires a lot more work to load games onto it. I do not think that R4DS is going to be the Napster of Nintendo. Even if the majority of R4DS users are using it solely for pirated games, it will not make a noticeable dent in Nintendo's revenue.

I first became aware of the R4DS at Where 2.0 2007 when Dennis Crowley showed off a prototype version of Area/Code's Plundr on the DS Lite. Andrew Turner pointed me to online stores (no need to go to Akihabara), more hardware hacks (there's also a motion-sensing card), and the various dev sites. I bought an R4DS this summer and it was stolen (along with a number of other items) before I got a chance to really dig into it, but using and loading applications and games from the homebrew catalog was easy enough to do (writing this is prompting me to go buy my replacement).

quake on the ds

If you're not familiar with it, the DS Lite is a small, slick device that has become really popular with geeks. It has two screens (one a touchscreen) and Wi-Fi. It's also seriously lacking in sanctioned applications that take advantage of its potential usefulness beyond games. In the homebrew applications directory you'll find mapviewers, IM clients, media players, email and RSS readers, and remote controls. There are also a ton ofhomebrew games -- including Quake and Sudoku.

Nintendo and the producers behind its sanctioned games and applications would do better to learn from the homebrew community rather than "smash" it whether they can or not.

tags: geo, web 2.0  | comments: 15   | Sphere It

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Comments: 15

  Tom [11.26.07 08:37 PM]

As some commenters on the Times story have noted, the R4 is nothing new. The M3 has been around for years, and the SuperCard (in various incarnations) for even longer. Flash carts date to the original Gameboy -- the technology has simply evolved as new Nintendo handhelds have been released, adding support for removable media, figuring out how to work via PassMe devices and finally moving to the DS slot 2.

If there's an imminent threat to Nintendo's bottom line from this attention, it's solely due to this inexplicable new press attention.

  brady [11.26.07 08:47 PM]

I meant to point out that the commenters were three steps ahead of the article's author.

Has had momentum and continues to build it. It's inevitable that that it would get mainstream press sooner or later. I don't think that press is going to hurt Nintendo or the R4.

  Kahuki [11.27.07 02:29 AM]

Nintendo should see it as a nice add on, that could help them selling more units of the DS

  Vincent van Wylick [11.27.07 02:37 AM]

If anything is contributing to piracy, it's that Nintendo allows for these cards to work with the DS. This is just another argument for content-producers to work with proprietary media as users can clearly not be trusted to respect the business models of some pretty cool companies.

That said, I still believe in the theory (!) that those that pirate are people that would not have bought the product anyway.

  Rainer [11.27.07 06:27 AM]

Why blame Nintendo? Isn't that exactly the attitude that made Microsoft a giant?
It's not allowed - but we don't act. Wait until masses are on the technique, make them addicted - and then cash in with the next version or "service pack"!

  brady [11.27.07 10:38 AM]

I don't think that Nintendo would let these cards work if they could stop them.

  Open English [11.28.07 07:56 AM]

I think it's time to accept that if you have a big product, someone is going to find a way to pirate it one way or another. I think it's time to start going with the flow rather than trying to "smash" the actions of people who might actually help your sales in the end.

  Andrew Turner [12.08.07 01:31 PM]

The point here isn't about piracy, that is a side-effect of the efforts to open the platform for developers to "hack", or tinker with and create new a compelling applications. The fact that 4th party (outside even 3rd party devs) can do such innovative things as adding motion is more of an indicator to companies that there is huge benefit in them *supporting* this type of development.

There are many devs out there that will buy the hardware and build applications for no cost to nintendo, in essence opening a whole new market to them.

  ms G [12.11.07 08:38 PM]

Lets face it without those device or add-ons no one would buy NDS. Thats probably one of the good things that this thing can offer, if they stop those people will be moving to buy PSP. (i mean what is NDS compare to PSP?)

I had it because there is a lot things to do with it and thats makes it fun. Nintendo should be thankful to these people who develop devices for NDS. And i dont believe that their going to hurt their sales.. thats greedy and lame if they are going stop these devices on NDS. its like they dont want other people to earn money. those people help them a lot big time making NDS popular.

(Think about this, Why would a lot of people buy PC rather than MAC?)

  dave [01.30.08 12:13 PM]

the r4 is a really nice product ,and i dont think that it will interupt sales for nintendo ,becuase only people that are really interested in hacks/homebrew/piracy are going to buy an r4.

  Langers [02.05.08 10:51 AM]

i know they probably wont see this, but I bought my ds for one reason, The R4.

I have a GBA SP, and a micro. my son and I play together on them and for what we do they are more then adequate.

The systems are great for games, but when it comes to anything resembling video, they are horrible. The DS on the other hand, WITH AN R4, is exceptional. and on those long road trips, just convert a few of your kids favorite dvd's or even your own, and you have instant cheep entertainment.

oh and since i bought the ds and R4, i have purchased more then 5 official carts, something I wouldn't have done without the R4.

  dario [02.12.08 01:44 AM]

the r4ds is a pretty good cartridge cause is uses micro sd memory card .It attually let u put other game along with videos and music.

  Matt [02.27.08 10:52 PM]

Well i use the ez5 with moonshell and it's great. Video,mp3,txt,jpeg playback as well as homebrew and other great things. In addition the new m3 real is high capacity compatible which brings in great possibilities. Having all your media and games on micro is amazing. Nintendo released ds opera after people's use of ds organize browser and okiwi and the seeking of a nds browser. Know what you call a company that learns from homebrew releases and popularity? Smart very smart because it's supply and demand and the demand is surely there so follow and supply they will.

  ken [04.12.08 04:11 PM]

I just bought a new ds lite just because of the homebrew applications, i'm not into playing games, but used my sp to play video's and read e-books where i couldn't take my laptop. the DS with more homebrew applications will greatly expand what i can do when i can not take my laptop with me.

  Hitokiri_Ace [07.29.08 07:19 PM]

I think the R4 may harm businees.. a little. Face it, if you have a product.. big or not.. someone will hack it.. you won't ever be able to keep a bored programmer from tinkering, it may get harder.. but it won't work. maybe instead of focusing the negative impact.. embrace it nintendo, and sell online DL's of games like you do with the wii emulator. if you try to make a smoker quit by taking it away? ya right.. give him something else to replace it, better for him.

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