Gary Bowser is a 52 year-old Canadian and a (presumably former) member of a group of hackers called Team-Xecuter, which specialised in 3DS and Switch modification devices. Last month we reported on him pleading guilty to two charges in a case brought by Nintendo: “conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and to traffic in circumvention devices” alongside other members of Team-Xecuter, and “trafficking in circumvention devices.” This saw Bowser facing a potential ten years in jail and fined $4.5 million.
Now Gary Bowser, who is no relation to the Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, nor the King of the Koopas Bowser, has been slammed with an additional $10 million in damages, thanks to a separate civil suit brought by Nintendo (thanks, VGC).
This case is distinct from the federal lawsuit, which even the US Justice Department is involved with, which could still see Bowser end up in jail. Bowser’s plea deal offered Nintendo $4.5 million, as well as promising to help find other members of Team-Xecuter, in exchange for which the prosecution waived a bunch of the other charges: Nevertheless, the judge warned that Bowser may yet face prison time for the two counts he’s pleaded guilty to, each punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Bowser was arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020 and extradited to the US to face 11 felony counts, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. You can certainly see why he’s tried to cut a plea deal: And let’s be real, unless the guy happens upon an infinite block of gold coins, he’s unlikely to end up paying Nintendo $14.5 million in total, especially if he does go to jail.
It’s the sentence you never thought you’d see: Nintendo is making an example of Bowser. The company’s devices have been prime targets for piracy, and it’s not like Nintendo was ever tolerant of it, but the experience of Nintendo DS and the R4 card in particular has seen it on the warpath against the makers of such devices for the last decade.
Gary Bowser wasn’t a dabbler in piracy: He took part in Team-Xecuter’s activities (which operated under various fronts including Axiogame.com and Maxconsole.com) from June 2013 until his arrest in September 2020. Team-Xecuter created and sold various “illegal circumvention devices” that allowed buyers to play illegal ROMs on their consoles, the most notable being the SX Pro modchip that allowed ROMs to be played on the Switch. It also created a custom firmware called SX OS which was sold through a network of resellers.
Bowser was in charge of the Maxconsole.com site, which served as a central hub for marketing the devices and customer support. He also administered a site containing ROM libraries that offered illegal copies of 13,630 games.
Some of his partners-in-crime have yet to face the US charges. Team-Xecutor member Max Louran has been arrested in Canada but is yet to be extradited, while Yuanning Chen has been indicted but remains at large. While Team-Xecuter is the main focus, Nintendo has also been pursuing third-party retailers who sold the group’s products: Tom Dilts Jr, the Ohio-based operator of the website Uberchips, sold Team-Xecuter products until Nintendo filed a lawsuit in May 2020. Dilts Jr subsequently took the site down and agreed to pay Nintendo $2 million in damages.
The arguments here seem pretty cut-and-dried: While the whole ‘preservation of game history’ is a good case for messing around with older hardware, no-one could seriously argue an outfit like Team-Xecutor was out to do anything but enrich itself at Nintendo’s expense. The scale of the response in this case is what makes it remarkable, and something of a warning note from Nintendo: As well as, of course, the fact the guy’s called Bowser. I did check, incidentally, and am sad to report that none of Nintendo’s lawyers is called Mario.