Close up of hands playing a Nintendo Switch via a separate controller.

Nintendo’s Extreme Punishment of This Hacker Seems Unnecessarily Cruel

While it’s not unusual to see a multi-billion dollar company bring down the hammer of the law against those who get on their bad side, it seems like Nintendo may be taking things a tad too far when it comes to this Canadian hacker.

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A member of the game jailbreaking group Team Xecuter named—incredibly—Gary Bowser helped the group promote and sell a modchip that gave users the ability to hack the Nintendo Switch and play pirated games on it. The scheme, which made Bowser over $300,000 in profit according to Axios, had been a target of Nintendo’s ire for years. But in February 2022, Bowser pled guilty to federal piracy charges and was sentenced to 40 months in prison by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. And though Bowser is being released early due to a combination of time already served and good behavior, he is still paying restitution for the civil suit brought by Nintendo—and there’s no end in sight.

According to Kotaku, Bowser has to pay Nintendo about $10 million in damages and the company will be able to “take 25-30% of his ‘monthly gross income’ for the rest of his working life.” In addition to the $10 million in damages, Bowser also has to pay $4.5 million as part of that criminal case. And, at the time of reporting, he has only paid back about $175 of the $14.5 million thanks to the barely-paying jobs he had while serving time at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Washington. During an interview with podcaster Nick Moses, Bowser explained that Team Xecuter earned “at least tens of millions of dollars of proceeds,” but he only received a tiny fraction of those earnings. But now he will have to come up with millions of dollars to pay back Nintendo.

I’m not saying that Bowser shouldn’t pay for his crimes—he did help to sell an illegally manufactured product that would take away from some of Nintendo’s potential earnings. However, I don’t think the punishment fits the crime at all. Bowser already served his time in prison, which is all (and often arguably much more than) we can ask of criminals who plead guilty. Nintendo is a billion-dollar company—they don’t need a random man from Canada to keep the lights on. They’re doing just fine. However, this seems like Nintendo just wanted to send a message to any other hackers who are thinking of crossing them. But, in helping to carry out this punishment, Nintendo just looks like a cruel and greedy company wanting to flex its power against the little guy. Bowser paid for his crimes—maybe don’t take the shirt off his back too, Nintendo.

(featured image: John Keeble/Getty Images)

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Kayla Harrington
Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a staff writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or cuddling with one of her four pets. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.