What just happened? The unfortunately named Gary Bowser, a member of the Team-Xecuter hacking group, has pleaded guilty to charges relating to the sale of hardware and software that allowed people to play unauthorized or pirated games on various consoles, including several from Nintendo. It comes after Nintendo of America, which has both a president and a famous character named Bowser, launched a lawsuit against the hacker earlier this year.
Described as one of the world's most notorious videogame piracy groups by the Department of Justice, Team-Xecuter sold various tools that allowed buyers to circumvent console makers' security measures.
Nintendo claimed in its lawsuit that Bowser has been creating and selling Nintendo hacking devices since at least 2013 and has sold them for the DS, 3DS, and the Nintendo Wii; the organization is well-known its Nintendo Switch modchips. He was arrested at the same time as Max Louarn, another member of Team-Xecuter, last October and charged with 11 felony counts.
Team-Xecuter previously claimed it is not "a copyright-infringing ring of software pirates" and that its products allow users to make legitimate backups of cartridges and play homebrew games. It also accused Nintendo of censorship, monopolistic control, and legal scare tactics. Those who make the consoles and games didn't agree with this view. Nintendo was especially annoyed, and was joined in its pursuit of Team-Xecuter by the US government last year.
Canadian national Bowser, 51, was arrested in the Dominican Republic in September 2020 before being deported to the US. He initially denied the allegations against him but, in a plea agreement, later admitted to conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and trafficking in circumvention devices, both of which carry maximum sentences of five years. He has also agreed to pay $4.5 million in restitution to Nintendo and help locate any remaining Team-Xecuter assets.
48-year-old French national Max Louarn was also "arrested abroad in connection with the charges in this case" last year. The US government is seeking Louarn's extradition to America so he can stand trial in the country.
"Imagine if something you invented was stolen from you and then marketed and sold to customers around the world. That is exactly what Team Xecutor was doing," said Raymond Duda of the FBI. "This is a perfect example of why the FBI has made the prevention of the theft of intellectual property a priority. These arrests should send a message to would-be pirates that the FBI does not consider these crimes to be a game."