Recently I’ve got my hands on a cool little add-on for Nintendo DS. It is called R4DS (Revolution for DS), and, basically, is a device which allows you to run DS homebrew applications from a standard MicroSD card. The device has a form factor of a standard DS game card, and acts as an adapter for MicroSD card. It has some sort of a shell software onboard, which allows you to easily access data on the flash card, to start programs etc. It is really an extremely cool gadget.
Well, it seems that Nintendo is not happy about the device at all. Nintendo spokesman is being quoted to say “We are keeping a close eye on the products and studying them. But we cannot smash all of them”. This, I think, in general summarizes the feelings of all closed-platform device producers towards homebrew.
On one hand, I can understand the reasons behind their position. R4DS and similar devices are being considered to be used mostly for game pirating – and, I have to admit, running “backup ROMs” is extremely easy with R4DS. So, the device seems to pose a threat to Nintendo and to all companies who officially develop games for DS.
But let’s look at this issue from a little bit different angle. DS is an amazing device, which is capable of many things (it has touchscreen, stereo sound, built-in WiFi), but currently locked almost exclusively to games. If you look at a homebrew directory, you will see a multitude of useful applications there – IM messengers, mediaplayers, email readers, communication tools - all written by enthusiasts. Just think – how all these applications would increase the appeal of DS to the customers, would they be officially accepted by Nintendo! Instead of alienating the enthusiast programmers crowd, Nintendo could help them, and, by doing this, simultaneously improve its public image and significantly increase their customer base. They could manufacture and sell devices like R4DS by themselves - another stream of revenue for them! Yes, the number of pirated game users will, probably, go up. But I strongly doubt that the change would be a significant one. After all, as all experience shows us, people who would run pirated games will do it this way or that, regardless of the existence of the official tools.
Situation with Nintendo is not unique. Generally speaking, homebrew scene for all platforms is always being frowned upon by the official platform producer. But I think that it’s time to change this attitude. Instead of fighting the enthusiasts, the manufacturers should join forces with them. This will lead to more and better software on better devices, which, in the end, is beneficial for all.
Technorati tags: nintendo, ds, r4ds, homebrew