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Nintendo has an image as a fun, friendly company that makes cute games the whole family can enjoy. Just don’t get on Nintendo’s bad side. Canadian hacker Gary Bowser (no relation) has found that out the hard way. After spending the last few years making and selling Switch modding kits, Bowser has agreed to pay Nintendo $10 million in damages to settle a civil lawsuit. This is in addition to the restitution he was ordered to pay following his criminal conviction. 

Bowser was the principal character behind Team Xecuter, a hacking group that released mod chips for the Switch, 3DS, NES Classic Edition, and more. These products allowed owners to unlock the hardware and run custom games. In practice, most people bought Team Xecuter’s kits so they could play pirated games. 

There were several things working against Bowser in the civil case. First and foremost, he’s already pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to pay Nintendo $4.5 million in restitution. Prosecutors also uncovered evidence that Bowser made changes to products specifically to aid piracy, and he considered hosting pirated ROMs himself to make his products more popular. The activities of Team Xecuter were also potentially illegal from the start. Like it or not, US law prohibits circumventing copy protection schemes, and that’s what you’re doing when you install a mod chip. 

The mod kit that got Bowser in hot water required adding a new circuit board to the console, allowing users to run the ROM of their choice.

Many in the modding community prefer to keep their efforts open source and free, simply because turning mods into a business makes a group more likely to face the ire of federal authorities. Team Xecuter was selling Switch mod kits for about $50. Nintendo initially demanded $2,500 in damages per sale. 

Altogether, Bowser will pay Nintendo at least $14.5 million in damages. This may be more of a symbolic number — it’s unlikely Nintendo will ever be able to collect what’s owed. Bowser says he only earned about $320,000 from his work with Team Xecuter, and he will most likely spend the next few years in prison earning little if any money. This case will probably serve as a warning to others in the mod community who will no doubt want to avoid Bowser’s fate. 

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