Anti-piracy measures come in a few forms like DRM or bugging the player through goofy inconveniences, but some penalties are much more strict. Some recent user reports show that Nintendo is punishing Switch piracy by banning the individual game cartridge itself if the player tries to play the game online. In addition to the moral ambiguities that come with piracy, it can also inconvenience legitimate secondhand buyers.
Looks like we’ve got confirmation that Nintendo is banning gamecart certificates (I guess people aren’t taking my advice…). The relevant error for trying to use a gamecard with a banned cert is 0x1F727C — 2124-4025.
— Michael (@SciresM) June 20, 2018
This news comes by way of Twitter user SciresM as they tweeted about the ban after their first warning a few days earlier. When people play Switch games online, the console looks if it can connect to the internet, gets the signal that you are not banned, then authorizes the Nintendo account, and finally gets “an application authorization token for the specific title being played,” according to SciresM’s post on Reddit detailing the process. The last step is where Nintendo’s piracy steps into gear.
Every physical game cartridge has a unique code which acts as its certificate and holds encrypted information about that card. Nintendo is then able to detect if the user has data from an authorized card for the right title. If not, the console and/or game card can get banned from going online.
Digital Switch games, as SciresM claims, are perfectly protected. He states that “tickets cannot be forged” and that Nintendo can see whether or not the “device ID in the ticket matches the device ID for the client cert connecting (banning on a mismatch), as well as that the account ID for the ticket matches the Nintendo Account authorizing to log in.”
Banning specific cards is a new practice and has rippling effects for the secondhand market. There’s no way to know if a specific cartridge has been put on Nintendo’s blacklist, meaning your recently purchased used copy of Splatoon 2 might end up being half the game you thought it would be. As the system gets more online titles, including the next Smash Bros. game, Switch piracy could grow and be an issue for unsuspecting players.