For those hackers out there, looking for some extra cash?
Nintendo wants you.
Specifically, they want you to hack their 3DS and then tell them how you did it.
The oldest video game company in the world (which began its life in the late 1800s selling card games) has been at the forefront of gaming advances for decades, pioneering mobile gaming, physically interactive gaming and, most recently, 3-D technology.
Their 3DS is one of the only auto-stereoscopic devices on the market (machines that provide 3D with no glasses), and the company wants to make sure that it remains ahead of the technological curve.
To this end, Nintendo has offered a cash bounty to players or hackers who can report weaknesses in its system security, incentivizing mischievous tech wizards to come to them first, instead of posting their cracks online.
Successful cracks of the Nintendo 3DS system will now be worth between $100-$20,000, in accordance with the significance of the hack and thus the potential cost to the market for Nintendo's mobile gaming market.
It's possible that the company is playing some catch-up here, since in the last few months hackers have released applications and instructions exploiting multiple vulnerabilities in the system.
This has allowed users to skip on by the security systems and run their own code on the machines, or in some cases play pirated versions of Nintendo games, impacting the company's bottom line.
To combat this, Big Mario releases frequent updates to the 3DS firmware, blocking out any security bugs as they are detected or reported. Nonetheless, it's a constant battle, as clever gamers or code-wizards are always finding new ways in, whether they're hacking Cubic Ninja, Legend of Zelda, or the 3DS YouTube app and web browser.
One strange hack even involves running the Windows OS on the device, which seems like it might be fun, if you're into creating business spread-sheets in style.
The goal of Nintendo's new bounty approach is to stem the leaks before the water damage floods and hits their numbers too hard - prevent each potential crack from costing them millions, and putting some money in the hands of enterprising and clever coders.
It's a strange, Mario style backflip - essentially hiring the robbers instead of allowing them to distribute their stolen goods. Nintendo has explicitly requested "functional exploit code" from these malware writers, so they can figure out the level of danger, create patches, and remunerate the hackers appropriately.
“The reward amount depends on the importance of the information and the quality of the report... A report is evaluated to be high quality if you show that the vulnerability is exploitable by providing a proof of concept (functional exploit code is even better).”
The company doesn't promise they will pay, though, so the new program is not a guaranteed money maker, although it's clearly an intriguing opportunity for those with the right skills. You've got to figure there's an outside possibility that a really successful hack could even open the door to a job with the international gaming company, still a leader in the field.
“Nintendo will determine at its discretion whether the vulnerability information qualifies for a reward as well as the amount of any such reward."