Nintendo has been in the news recently—not for their video games—but for some high-profile crimes that have taken place and the way they handled punishing the perpetrators for it.
Crimes happen all the time, but it isn’t so often that news-worthy crimes take place centered around a video game company most well-known for its games centered around younger audiences. Nintendo has been popping up with a couple of stories about a hacker named Bowser (no relation) who owes Nintendo millions, as well as a Pokémon card thief trying to sell the cards second-hand from the factory.
Starting off with the hacker, Gary Bowser was sentenced in 2021 to 40 months in prison (along with a $14.5 million fine) for his role in the notorious hacking group, Team Xecuter. He has been released from jail, but what’s making the headlines is how he must still pay back those millions of dollars owed after only paying back $175 thus far. The hacking ring sold chips that would allow users to play pirated games—jailbreaking the Nintendo Switch system they were placed into.
Even though Bowser and two other members were charged, only Bowser ended up being tried and convicted, as the others could not be extradited. Initially given 11 felonies, including wire fraud, conspiracy to circumvent technological measures, trafficking in circumvention devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, Bowser pled guilty to two of the charges from Nintendo.
Now that Bowser is out early on good behavior, he’s looking for a job, but Nintendo is asking for between 25-30% of his pay to be docked until the $14.5 million he owes is paid, which could take the rest of his life. The $175 he’s reportedly already paid was taken out in $25 monthly increments from a job at the prison library. While this infamous hacking group supposedly made “at least tens of millions of dollars of proceeds,” Bowser only made a small fraction conducting PR and marketing for the group.
From there, these past few weeks have only gotten weirder. A photo began to make the rounds of a table covered in rare and holographic cards, from the Pokémon TCG series Fusion Strike. With how rare these cards are, it was not normal to see thousands of these cards sitting in one place, which got the attention of tons of fans across the globe.
As people began to dig deeper, the person who owned the cards in the photo reached out to a Dallas-based company called Trading Card World in order to try to sell the cards. The staff was immediately suspicious, as the number of cards he had was astronomical, which is when he let it slip that he worked for a Pokémon card printing company and that’s where he got the cards. The Pokémon Company was alerted, and things escalated, as the cards were recovered from the would-be seller, and law enforcement is now involved in what would be the largest theft in the game’s history.
Additionally, since its release in 2021, lots of players think that this particular expansion had lower than normal pull rates for the rare cards. While there’s never been any real proof, the idea has gained real traction among Pokémon fans, which has only skyrocketed after the release of this photo. Could it be this alleged thief was swiping cards off the assembly line, causing the packs to be light? The Pokémon Company has refuted that, but fans are speculating.
The full statement from The Pokémon Company International can be found below:
“We take the protection of our IP and associated products very seriously. This matter remains under investigation and we cannot comment on details at this time. However, we can confirm that Sword & Shield booster packs and products were shipped to retail as intended and we have no indication that the integrity of the products were impacted by any confirmed or unconfirmed theft. Furthermore, we continue to significantly invest in both the production and security of our TCG business. We value the faith our fans put in us and our products, and these investments are intended to help us continue to maintain their trust.”The Pokemon Company International
Nintendo, who owns a 32% stake in The Pokémon Company, has historically been extremely aggressive when dealing with anyone that violates its copyright claims, having previously used the law to go after influencers, modders, ROM sites, music channels, and even other video games. While the Pokémon card case is still under investigation, it’s safe to say the punishment for the hacker is stiff, but with its history, Nintendo seems to like to make an example of perceived ne’er-do-gooders.