Opinion: “Stargate 3DS” marketing highlights a major flaw with the scene
Update: this article has triggered more reactions than I thought it would, and has not always been understood the way I thought it would. I’ll blame my poor writing skills on this one. In particular people called me out for what has been perceived to be overly positive comments on what commercial flashcards can actually provide. So I wanted to surface some of these people’s comments, and reply when I feel it’s necessary.
This article was showing the flashcards in a positive light that many people think is inaccurate. This was not my intent: I’ve showed multiple times my opinion on commercial flashcards and hope I don’t have to prove on which side of the fence I am. I vastly prefer to use community based, free, and open source solutions when they exist. In the case of the 3DS, these solutions do exist.
People in particular pointed to the excellent 3ds.guide which has everything you’ll need if you want to hack your console.
It was also emphasized that the apparent simplicity of these flashcards is only on the surface. In practice, people say it is as complex to install and maintain the required games and utilities whether you own a flashcard or use the available open source software. On that topic, my point was not necessarily that these hardware mods are easier to use, but that they use this as a selling point. Whether they are actually easier to use than the available community software is up for debate. My point was (and remains) that because of how complex (yes, see paragraph below) it is to hack one’s device with the existing software, these companies leverage that fact to sell their product.
Last but not least, some people have told me it is extremely simple to hack a 3DS, pointing at the guide I mentioned above. I’ll have to disagree on this one. It is indeed easy to hack a 3DS if you are very well aware of where to look, and willing to take the time to understand the process or follow the guides, which, despite being clear, still require some intellectual involvement. This can not be compared to a commercial solution that promises (whether it’s true or not) to be plug and play. If you’re a hacker and have been involved in hacking the 3DS for months of years, IMO it’s very likely that you forgot how confusing the hacking community (for any console!) can be to noobs.
The original article below:
“No need for complicated processes. No programming skills required. Just Plug & Play”. This is how Stargate-3DS, an upcoming flashcart for the 3DS, is being advertised on the official website.
It goes on: Compatible with all consoles models & versions, all games formats whether they are designed for DS or 3DS, emulators and more, there is simply nothing StarGate 3DS won’t do.[…]. No need to check your console version, no need to mess around with dangerous hacks, just PLUG & PLAY.
The device promises to be an all-in-one solution for all the things you want to do on a hacked console. It emphasizes the piracy possibility, of course, as these devices always do.
This simplicity of use will come at a price: the Stargate 3DS is available for preorders at about $100.
The competition, on the scene side, is a disorganized ensemble of free (mostly open source) software. The 3DS has a collection of Custom Firmwares to choose from, a bunch of individual tools and utilities, a loose collection of links to download homebrews, etc… In that context, even I am tempted to give a try to these “out of the box” hardware solutions. And my hobby literally is the hacking scene! So I can only imagine how complex it must appear to anyone who just wants to “hack their console” without spending hours to learn about the process.
Yes, you can definitely achieve all of what these dongles promise, for free, with a little bit of research and effort. But some people are, apparently, willing to pay for a device that does all of that out of the box.
The same problem is true on all consoles (I’m just calling it out on the 3DS in the context of this flashcart), and I’m not pretending I have a solution.
User-friendly hacks such as Henkaku on the Vita, or the Homebrew Launcher on 3DS are the right way to approach this in my opinion, but not every hacker/coder on the scene also happens to be a seasoned software engineer with strong interest in building a very polished product. Many of us just care about putting something out there, hoping others will make it better with time. In practice, what I’ve seen happen a lot is that instead you get a dozen forks of the work, none of which is able to ultimately claim the throne.
The result, however, is that dongle manufacturers will keep making money as long as they offer something that’s easier to use than what the scene provides for free. We can be ok with it, or we can think it’s uncool. But the only way to fight it in the long run would be to provide better value, for example with hacks and homebrews that are easier to install/run, extremely polished and user friendly. And although some people are willing to do that for free for some time, ultimately they always move on.
What do you think about flashcarts and other paid homebrew/piracy devices. Good, bad for the scene? Necessary evil? The best thing since sliced bread? Leave your comments!