Any time an ecosystem is locked, it creates an external ecosystem of pirated content. This is not to say that it's a good situation, but it has always happened. The music industry refused to adjust to digital players and Napster, Morpheus, and Kazaa were born. Apple refuses to allow an open mobile operating system and jailbreaking was born. One industry that has remained locked down to try and prevent cheating, however, has been gaming, and it is also a big target for piracy. One group of notorious gaming pirates, Team Xecutor, is facing some steep penalties for their activity.
Who is Team Xecutor?
The group is known well for its Nintendo-focused piracy. They operated sites for illegal ROMs, including rom-bank.com. On these sites, people could download games that they didn't own to be played in emulators or on Nintendo hardware that had been broken to allow stolen content. But, the stolen content isn't that useful unless you've also got the hardware to play it on. That's where the group's real goal was - unlocking hardware.
Team Xecute also sold hardware whose intention was to unlock Switch consoles. This hardware is illegal for a number of reasons, but the primary being that it facilitates the circumvention of copyright protection on the Switch. The group has long promoted the hardware as an essential piece of the homebrew community, which is something that most gaming companies have ignored. The problem for Team Xecute, however, was their ROM sites, which made their true intentions clear.
The fate of Gary "GaryOPA" Bowser
GaryOPA was one of the core team members on the project. In fact, he acted as the voice of the team and as the chief salesperson for the schemes. Because of the notoriety of the case, combined with the high profile of GaryOPA, it has been decided that he will serve as an example for anyone else who might think about getting into a similar scheme in the future.
The ironically named Bowser has already pleaded guilty for his involvement in the Team Xecutor piracy ring. He has also agreed to pay Nintendo $4.5 million from the criminal charges and another $10 million from a separate civil case. But that's not enough for prosecutors. They are looking for 60 months in prison in addition to everything else.
Defense argues that 60 months is overkill for his involvement, as he was not the creator nor the leader of the gang. Defense has suggested that 19 months would be a more appropriate sentence considering his actual role in the project. But, prosecutors believe that this case has the potential to prevent future groups from forming to circumvent copyright. In fact, as Nintendo is often a target of this type of thing, it's possible that the company is involved in this s attempt to set an example for future would-be pirates.
Only the court knows how this will go, but it would not be a surprise if the court followed the recommendation and made an example of Bowser, the real-world villain of the Nitnendo universe.