Piracy is the number one enemy gaming companies have tried and repeatedly failed to defeat. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, three of the biggest gaming companies in the world, have often found themselves no match for the cleverness of hackers and pirates.
The Switch, Nintendo's hybrid machine that's currently swamped in excellent momentum, has recently been hacked, and the perpetrators of said hack described the exploit as rooted in hardware. In other words, it's unpatchable and Nintendo can't do anything about it.
What Nintendo Is Doing About The Switch's Piracy Situation
Well, Nintendo is doing something, even without formally addressing the Switch's burgeoning piracy problem. At the end of May, a number of Switch owners found that their hacked consoles had been banned from Nintendo's online services. No more eShop, online play, or other internet-related Switch features. It was reminiscent of the company's ban wave for hacked 3DS consoles last year for the same activities. It shows that Nintendo is quietly working to identify and essentially "brick" hacked consoles.
Then on June 18, one of the banned Switch hackers, SciresM, wrote in detail how Nintendo was using a new, comprehensive identification system to detect if a game had been pirated. According to SciresM's research, the company looks at certifications — which is unique to every individual game cartridge and digital copy — and checks if those match with the account that first played them. If Nintendo identifies a mismatch, the console will promptly get banned from accessing online services.
"These are extremely strong anti-piracy measures — Nintendo did a great job, here. ... In the digital game case, Nintendo actually perfectly prevents online piracy," write SciresM.
Nintendo won against hackers this round, but as is always the case in piracy circles, that win may not be for long. There will eventually be more sophisticated methods and tools that end up bypassing Nintendo's anti-piracy measures, and the Switch piracy circle will only get bigger, gaining more knowledgeable people that'll work to exploit the system.
The Switch Piracy War Begins
It's at least reassuring that Nintendo is clearly trying to avoid this scenario. If the Switch piracy scene is filled with highly intelligent hackers, then it's easy to imagine that the company has its own in-house team of similarly intelligent developers all working to buff the console's anti-piracy protections.
From this, it's clear that there's going to be an all-out war between hackers and Nintendo, with each side aggressively attempting to outpace the other, as Kotaku notes. Interestingly, it's entirely possible that not all hackers want to pirate games — perhaps some just want basic customization options, such as the ability to upload custom avatars, which Nintendo doesn't allow. Will Nintendo end up negotiating with hackers and enter into a compromise with them? Time will tell.