What just happened? The long-running saga of unfortunately-named Nintendo hacker Gary Bowser has come to an end with a 40-month prison sentence. The Team Xecuter member, who isn’t related to Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser or the Mario antagonist, was charged with two piracy-related federal felonies, for which Nintendo has publicly thanked authorities.
Bowser had been a member of the Team Xecuter hacking group—the DOJ called him a “prominent leader”—that had been creating and selling Nintendo hacking devices since at least 2013. The tools allowed buyers to circumvent security measures, enabling them to play illegal ROMs on consoles/handhelds such as the Switch, 3DS, and Nintendo Wii.
Bowser was arrested in 2020 along with fellow Team Xecuter member Max Louarn on 11 felony counts of piracy. In April last year, Nintendo of America launched a lawsuit against Bowser, asking for $2,500 for each trafficked device and $150,000 for each copyright violation. He initially denied the charges but changed his plea to guilty a few months later and was ordered to pay Nintendo $4.5 million.
Bowser was also facing a civil suit from Nintendo. Given that he had already pleaded guilty to the criminal case, he ended up settling with the company in December for $10 million. In court documents, Bowser said he was paid $1,000 a month to market and distribute the hacking devices to retailers.
The US government’s prosecution argued that Team Xecuter’s actions resulted in $65 million in losses for Nintendo and asked for five years imprisonment for Bowser. His defense said he was the “least culpable” of the three arrested members and asked for 19 months, which would have seen him spend 3 months in prison given his time served. The US District Court for the Western District of Washington sentenced him to 40 months.
The DOJ also charged the other Team Xecuter members, Louarn (of France) and Yuanning Chen (of China), but neither are in custody.
Nintendo gave the following statement in response to the sentence.
Nintendo appreciates the hard work and tireless efforts of federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to curb illegal activities on a global scale that cause serious harm to Nintendo and the video game industry. In particular, Nintendo would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for their significant contribution and assistance.