A few years ago, a group called Team Xecuter began releasing mod kits for the Nintendo Switch. That’s nothing new — cracking game consoles to run homebrew software has been common for ages. However, most people modding their consoles do so to play pirated ROMs, and Team Xecuter made the mistake of leaning into the piracy angle in private while publicly promoting homebrew development. With the feds in possession of some damning emails, one member of Team Xecuter has pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement and will pay Nintendo $4.5 million in damages, according to documents reviewed by TorrentFreak.
Team Xecuter started its Switch project with a USB dongle that could load the custom SX OS on the device, but that only worked on early units with a flawed Tegra chip. Newer hardware required a mod chip that you would install inside the console. Nintendo sued to stop the sale of these devices, but that is separate from the criminal investigation that ensnared Gary Bowser, known online as GaryOPA. The 51-year-old was arrested last year, along with French national Max Louarn, who is still awaiting extradition to the US. A Chinese national named Yuanning Chen is also sought but is most likely beyond the reach of authorities.
Bowser, who shares a fitting last name with Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, has pleaded guilty to two of the original 11 charges; conspiracy to traffic in circumvention devices, and actually trafficking in them. Key to the government’s case was email correspondence in which Bowser admitted he was spending time developing “underground” stuff for SX OS that would make popular pirated ROM repositories easier to use. He also explored hosting ROMs on a secure server to further streamline the process. This undercut Team Xecuter’s public claim that it was merely providing tools for running homebrew software.
Nintendo claims it lost between $65 and $150 million due to the Xecuter scheme, but that’s impossible to know. Some people probably did only want the SX kits to run their own custom software or backed-up content, but SX OS still circumvented copy protection systems. Like it or not, the law is pretty clear on this sort of endeavor.
While Bowser says he only made about $320,000 for his part in Team Xecuter, he’s agreed to pay Nintendo $4.5 million in damages. Bowser could also get slapped with another $750,000 in criminal fines at sentencing. The court could also impose up to five years in prison for each of the two guilty pleas. Bowser hasn’t been officially promised leniency, according to sentencing documents.