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Why it doesn’t matter that the NES Classic Edition was hacked

It’s a fun story, but that’s pretty much it

NES Classic Edition teardown gallery Polygon

The NES Classic Edition has been hacked, and it’s now possible to expand the number of games that can be put on the device. This opens the door for many new ... OK, no. Let’s take a step back.

This doesn’t really change anything of substance, and I’ll explain why.

Can you buy one?

If you can’t pick up one of these devices, you sure as hell can’t hack it. The biggest story of the NES Classic Edition remains the fact that Nintendo still hasn’t been able to meet the demand for one of its most popular — yet relatively simple — products. There’s not going to be a huge wave of hacked devices until there is a huge wave of hardware for people to actually buy.

Is this something you really want to try?

There are videos and online instructions that detail how exactly you can open up your device to add more games, but the process is a bit intimidating if you’ve never done this sort of thing before. I’m not saying it’s a very difficult thing to do as much as I’m pointing out that there’s enough friction there that most casual fans will give up before they even get started.

And if you’re comfortable enough to try this sort of procedure, you’re already comfortable enough to build your own emulation box for less money and more flexibility. It’s not like this is a new or novel idea.

You could also just buy a second-hand NES system and the games you want to play and have the real thing. It’s unlikely that most players are after the rare games, and most popular titles can be tracked down for a few bucks. There are easier, not to mention less ethically gray, ways to play NES games if that’s your only goal.

There’s a bit to be said for Nintendo’s plastic shell that looks like a tiny NES, along with the original controller, but again ... it’s not like you can just go into the store and buy one. And even if you do track one down and want to hack it?

Nintendo has already made its money

Nintendo not only knew that its system would eventually, if not quickly, be compromised, a programmer left a message inside the device’s code for the people who would go looking for ways to open it up.

By the time you’ve bought a system and started to work on adding more games, Nintendo has already made more money on you than it would have if you pirated all the games you wanted to play and used third-party hardware for your emulation box. If Nintendo thinks about these hacks at all, I doubt the company is actively worrying about it.

Wouldn’t Nintendo have done better if it would have added a way to officially buy and add more games? It’s possible, but turning a “dumb” box that works without any fuss into an internet connected system complete with a virtual storefront for NES games might have actually dinged the popularity of the product while increasing the initial cost of the whole project.

So it’s kind of neat that this hack exists, but it’s not going to impact Nintendo outside the bubble of a few enthusiasts and people who read gaming news. Nor will it likely impact the design and launch of any subsequent Classic Edition releases from Nintendo.

Outside of hopefully convincing them to make a few more.

A look at the NES Classic edition