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A Guide to the Wii U Hack – Is It Really Curtains for Nintendo?

The news that the Wii U has been hacked came out earlier this week, and there seems to have been confirmation of it. Things seem to have gone from bad to worse with Nintendo, with low sales, a lack of software and now piracy stopping their latest console from growing. That’s what the detractors are saying, anyway. The reality is completely different.


Can the Wii U Play Pirated Games?

Did you know that the Dreamcast can play CD-R disks burnt from your computer? All you have to do is download, find a game that has been modified to fit onto a CD-R, stick it in your Dreamcast and press play. Devices that easily ran pirated games on the original PlayStation were cheap and easy to install (working much in the same way as the Xplorer cartridges). 

These were issues that SEGA and Sony could do very little about, and which any old idiot with the internet could take advantage of. This is not the case with the Wii U at the minute. Even long-time hackers – people who currently have the Wii mode modified on their Wii U – can’t do anything with this new information. Nobody is playing pirated Wii U games now, nobody is loading downloaded disc images from SD cards. If you’re worried that piracy is suddenly going to be a big issue on the Wii U, you’re wrong.

Does WiikeU/WiikeÜ Work?

First of all, you have to understand what WiiKeÜ is. Like the predecessor from the same team, WiiKey, WiiKeÜ appears to be an optical drive emulator. These trick the console into believing that the .iso you’re loading is actually a disk in the console’s drive. This will likely be a specifically made device which end users will need to buy if they’re interested in playing pirated Wii U games. There are two things to say about this: first of all, there’s not really any stone cold evidence that this is as big a deal as the WiiKeÜ creators (and other journalists) are making out and, secondly, it would take time for a device like this to make it to the market.

If Nintendo release a patch this week and force it as part of the new automatic update feature, it may be months or years before the folks at WiiKeÜ manage to get it working again. Although ODEs are usually pretty hard to “undo,” the creators are being pretty blatant about this, and until Nintendo make a move, it’ll be tough to know what the deal is. Even if they’ve managed to play pirated games on a Wii U, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is suddenly doomed.

Third party studios will be watching carefully, but until I can buy a device for less than a single full game which allows me to play everything the system has to offer for free, whilst being undetectable by Nintendo, there’s no reason to panic that this is any sort of nail in the coffin. WiiKeÜ DOESN’T work in that way – at least not yet.

Is this the Beginning of the end for Nintendo?

The Wii U has been hacked after less than a year at market, Nintendo SHOULD be worried. Technically, the actual Wii mode was hacked far sooner. There was very little effort put into the anti-piracy side of this console, and with each minor success, more people are becoming hopeful (or even helping develop) a full-on hack. With that depth of interest and with a variety of talent attached to breaking the Wii U, added with Nintendo’s seemingly lax attitude towards protecting it, it’s only a matter of time before someone cracks this and it becomes possible to play Wii U games illegally, probably even from your computer.

It’s not going to break the company though, and it’s definitely not going to cause the Wii U to be a financial or critical failure. What this may have done is illustrated, like so much else in Nintendo’s recent history, that they need to get a move on with great titles and features for the hardware. They already knew this. The PlayStation 4 is on its way, and the next Xbox won’t be far behind. Nintendo will do everything they can over the next twelve months to build a firm foundation upon which to survive these new consoles.

Add to this the fact that each Wii U game is over 20GBs – padded as an extra form of protection, I suppose – and there’s no reason to think this will become a bit issue any time soon.

What are the Hackers Saying?

Despite this being a big win for those that want to play free Wii U games, there’s only been a couple of posts at the WiiKeÜ website, and on a few forums, and nothing seems overly official or even very excited. The biggest killer of the Wii U piracy scene seems to be that there’s very little worthy of being pirated, whether  because of a general lack of games, or because homebrew programmers haven’t had the time or opportunity to work on anything for the system as of yet. Some are seeing it as an exciting first step towards a more open Nintendo console, but most are holding their judgement or are closer to the anti-WiiKeÜ side of things than perhaps the average Nintendo/Wii U supporter might think. 


Your console isn’t suddenly worthless, and Activision, Square Enix and Ubisoft aren’t suddenly going to stop supporting the Wii U. This is largely just another horror story in a long line of horror stories designed to freak you out about buying the latest Nintendo device. Even if the WiiKeÜ ends up being a working, easily available, cheap way of playing pirated games, there’s no reason to think the software will suddenly dry up any more than it currently is. Nintendo have made mistakes, but this isn’t going to immediately add to them.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming months, but be careful not to jump to the wrong conclusion, and start panicking for the state of your console investment.



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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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