The R4DS is enabling the use of writable media on the Nintendo DS. This leads to piracy but also brings new opportunities to the system. This article looks at the concerns and opportunities brought by the R4DS.The R4DS is an adaptor to connect a Nintendo DS to a flash memory card. It’s very easy to use and unlocks a lot of potential for the handheld console. Despite this, it’s one accessory Nintendo fears appearing on Christmas wish lists. Regardless of the many just uses of the device, Nintendo are only concerned with one.
It is a use that you won’t see advertised in the stores where it sells for less than the cost of a single DS game. The fear is that the device enables video games piracy. Video games piracy is fairly common on systems that use media available to consumers in writable format. This includes PC games copied from the original DVD onto a writable disc. Slightly more difficult to pirate are games for consoles which run games from DVDs. The disc can be copied in the same fashion; however the hardware must be altered to bypass anti-piracy mechanisms.
The Nintendo DS is one system that has until now be free of piracy because of the use of cartridges which cannot be written to by commercially available products. On the other hand, flash memory cards are simple to write to and the R4DS allows the Nintendo DS to interface with a flash memory card, therefore enabling piracy. As with advocates of illegal music downloads, video game pirates claim they are being charged too much for games, with many games being reworks of existing titles from older systems and blaming corporate greed.
The opponents fight back arguing that number of hours entertainment from a game balances out the costs. Nintendo are expected to fight the pirates by improving anti-piracy technology in the cartridges. The likelihood is that a few months later the pirates will have found a new way around this. It is very much an on going battle. The legal issues that surround the R4DS have detracted from the more honorable reasons to purchase the device. It makes possible the use of unofficial software which does not infringe on copyright. This is the sort of software which is taken for granted on personal computers. When a Dell PC is purchased, the consumer is not tidied only to using applications endorsed by Dell. Under the current market, software for the Nintendo DS is only produced by large organisations if they believe they can recover the hefty costs of production, publication and distribution. This leaves no room for helpful application but not so profitable applications. For example a translator or a handwriting recognition driven word processor on the DS would be useful, but not enough for it to become a profitable venture.
With the use of a device such as the R4 3DS these possibilities are opened up. In addition to this, applications which would be popular on the open market but have not been developed by mainstream producers are available for download and play through an R4DS. Some examples of R4DS applications allow the DS to be used as an MP3 player, PDA and even a mobile phone (using VOIP technology with the support of the DS Wi-Fi connection). Another ability unlocked by the R4DS is the capacity to have all the software belonging to a DS owner stored on a single piece of media.
This allows users to swap between games and other applications without the need to swap cartridges, meaning there is no need to carry separate cartridges around with the DS. Software produced independently of large manufacturers adds great value to home computers and mobile devices. The possibility of this for the Nintendo DS and other handheld consoles is an intriguing one. Although most discussion on the R4DS is currently about piracy issues, it should be considered that the device has many legitimate purposes akin to the purposes of CD/DVD-RW, which when first made available also seemed like a tool for software pirates and is now an essential component of any home computer.