Nintendo wasn’t far behind Sony this week in releasing firmware updates for their game consoles in an effort to stifle the use of homebrew applications. Unlike their competitor, however, Nintendo may have taken their customers a bit more off guard by their actions.
Reports began surfacing Wednesday that not only Nintendo Wii consoles, but also DSi handheld gaming systems, were receiving updated firmware versions.
New firmware for Wii was launched on September 7th with release notes stating that it was “An update that provides behind-the-scenes improvements to Wii Menu 4.3.” The first thing that users noticed about the update was that it did not change the firmware version number, which is certainly an oddity. The second, more important discovery was that the update wiped out users installations of the Homebrew Channel and possibly other system hacks as well. Nothing new appeared to have been added to the console’s menu after the update was installed.
The DSi version 1.4.1U update was accompanied by similarly vague release notes saying that the firmware “provides behind-the-scenes improvements to system performance.” Users soon began noticing, however, that they were no longer able to use some flash carts used to run homebrew applications and illegally downloaded games on the handheld console. Acekard 2i, Supercard, DSTwo, M3i Zero, iPlayer and the DSTTi have all been reported as disabled, while the EZ-Flash Vi, iSmart DS and Hyper R4i flash carts are reportedly still functional.
While piracy has run rampant on Nintendo consoles, especially the DS and DSi, since shortly after the systems’ release, many hobbyists also use tools like the Homebrew Channel on the Wii for creating and running custom applications.
Unfortunately, the way copyright protection laws have evolved throughout several countries, even if you have not illegally downloaded a copy of a game, it is still considered illegal to break DRM even if it’s simply to run a custom-made personal application on the console you own.
I do wonder if users will begin to be more wary about spending their money on homebrew tools just to have them rendered inoperable at any time. While that was always a known risk, console manufacturers seem to be responding more quickly lately to shut down new hacks.