A hacked DS, as photographed by BAMCAT.

Homebrewed game music has an uneasy relationship with the mainstream game industry. Running or developing DIY music software isn’t possible on the Nintendo DS without special hardware – hardware that’s also favored by pirates. Nintendo is now suing the makers and sellers of that hardware, because they (correctly) point out it’s being used to pirate — but that could impact the homebrew music software scene, as well. And against that debate, we have a major leak of the Korg DS-10 cartridge, the one cartridge that is official and runs like a normal DS game. The twist: the "pirate" DS-10 music mix sounds fantastic, and should be a terrific argument to go buy a legitimate copy, right now. In fact, this should be a golden age for game music, provided the interests of developers large and small can be balanced. And, ahem, provided we all go buy that DS-10 cartridge so it isn’t the last legit game synth we ever see.

Nintendo Goes After Flash Loaders

For lovers of 8-bit music and mobile music, Nintendo DS flash cart loader hardware is all about the ability to run homebrew music software – seriously. Despite the snarky comments you might see on tech blogs, there really is an audience for whom running and/or developing home-built software, not piracy, is the primary reason to buy these gadgets. An entire music scene uses portable game systems exclusively, dating back ten years ago to the emergence of Nanoloop (and later LSDJ) on the original, 8-bit Game Boy. And it’s not just about piracy: because of the stringent requirements for developing for a game console, there’s simply no other way to write or run oddball music apps on the DS.

The appetite is certainly there. Running homebrew software on the DS is arguably more challenging than on any other mobile device, but paradoxically the DS has become the richest mobile platform for unusual, home-built music software. The DS is blessed with trackers, step sequencers, hacked hardware MIDI support, wireless communication with computers and other game systems, cellular automata synths, stylus scratching, and many other tools. All of this is possible because of the ready availability of flash loaders. The hardware tricks the DS into running homebrewed software by exploiting backwards compatibility features integrated with the device.

Nintendo themselves have been known to informally acknowledge the coolness of the chiptune scene, even as that same group of artists has used tools Nintendo identified with piracy. There’s never been any formal or official position, but the big N has weighed in on the occasional music events or written up artists in their Nintendo Power magazine.

Of course, I’d be naive if I pretended that homebrew software alone was the primary market for flash loader hardware. I do know gamers who use these tools to manage media on their device and backup cartridges so that they don’t have to carry a lot of carts around, people who truly do buy every game they run. (I personally love that feature.) But the main market for manufacturers and resellers of the gear is software pirates, because flash loaders so easily facilitate running pirated ROMs. (Desktop computer software, because it doesn’t use cartridges, has no such impediment to piracy.)

Flash tools for sale in Shanghai. Photo: Josh Bancroft.

So I was saddened to hear that Nintendo this week was suing the manufacturers and makers of this gear, because it comes at the moment flash loaders and DS homebrew software had become easier than ever to use. And while it first appeared this might impact only the Japanese market, Nintendo says it’s targeted some eleven countries, and hopes to block more. Meanwhile, sales have not surprisingly spiked sharply.

Some good coverage of what’s going on:

Nintendo no friend of homebrew market, sues DS cart makers [Ars Technica]

Nintendo Sues Piracy-Enabling R4 Cart, R4 Sales Predictably Skyrocket [Gizmodo]

Nintendo sues DS flash cart makers [Boing Boing Gadgets]

I don’t think this in itself poses a significant threat to game music – there are DIY solutions, though not as friendly or durable as some of the commercial products. (Whatever their motivation, the R4 and its ilk actually work wonderfully as products for non-pirates, too.)

But curiously, the Nintendo lawsuit came at the same time that the Korg DS-10 music cartridge we’ve been eagerly anticipating was leaked to the Web in the form of a pirate ROM.

The DS-10 Leak


The DS-10 is a rare exception to the rule of niche music making and mainstream gaming. It’s a real music app released on an official cartridge – not a toy or an art piece like ElectroPlankton or a music game like Guitar Hero (nothing against those things). Doing officially-sanctioned development and cartridge distribution is an expensive proposition, so sales are critical.

But the DS-10 wasn’t out for long before a leaked ROM was online, available outside Japan in advance of the official cartridge.

Then again, the situation isn’t as simple as it might appear. I heard unofficially via Korg Japan that they’ve sold tens of thousands of DS-10s in the opening days of its exclusive availability on Amazon.co.jp. Anecdotally, I know American buyers who bought the DS-10 via Amazon, but downloaded the pirated ROM while waiting for the official cart to ship. It’s impossible to tell what the ratio of pirates to would-be buyers to real buyers may be, though the one safe statement to make: this cartridge is ridiculously hot. It might not be Mario Kart popular, but it’s surprisingly successful for a vintage synth emulation that’s not a game.

…Makes Some Inspiring Music

In the meantime, chip musicians took the opportunity to use the first 24 hours of its availability, starting July 28, to make music with the DS-10 – albeit via the pirated ROM. I was all set to launch into a big rant about two trends I think can be negative: the online obsession with newness, and the danger that rampant piracy could destroy important development projects. Then I listened to the tracks, which sound, frankly, fantastic. And the artists include some of game music’s best artists:

xcen /// cornelius soul trader /// starpause /// white kundalini /// deep cuts from detroit /// submliminal labs /// aliceffekt /// evan morris /// rhinostrich /// nitro2k01 /// a_rival /// tibitekutyan

Links to the download are available here:

diplodocus / mp3death

So I’ll close by saying this. I think there is an easy solution here, and it’s to make sure that flash loaders support homebrew development, and that we support game developers doing great stuff by buying their software. The easy antidote to the potential damage of the leaked DS-10 ROM: going out and buying the DS-10, too, when it’s available. (You can even join those buying it from Amazon Japan.)

Piracy isn’t a problem so long as you also buy the darned cartridge. And please, if you can, go make inspiring music with the bought cartridge. Then everyone’s happy.

That doesn’t solve Nintendo’s problems, though. In terms of how the Nintendo flash loader lawsuit will impact the vibrant homebrew scene, all we can do is wait and watch. (And if you do have a chance to pick up a flash loader, you, um, might indeed want to do it now.)

  • Wilbo

    Play-Asia.com shows as having the DS-10 in stock. $65, but seems very worth it. There's going to be a USA release right?

  • I think it's a shame that Nintendo can't find a way to embrace the home-brew culture. Perhaps if there was a way to manage it and provide support for it they may all be able to co-exist together peacefully.

    There is a ton of game talent who get started on home-brew and supporting home-brew teams though art and audio and design. A lot of these people go on through this experience to gain roles in commercial developers and bring new ideas and techniques to game and application development.

    Dealing with Piracy is another issue all together and it's sad that we have to link the two together. It's always been policy of home-brew channels to stomp out and actively ban piracy talk and activity.

    I think $65 for a portable synthesizer is a steal. Please buy the software, don't steal it! People have to make a living to create this software.

  • Or maybe they can sell the rom via digital delivery? I think most of the aritsts into this are already making plans to buy it, but I think this comp will sell more copies then were "pirated"

  • another quibble: the comp isnt exclusively chipmsuic artists (mobile music is probably fair) and ALL ds roms are pirated. Its a mark of pride amongst the crack crews to get every (numbered) rom on the net asap. So I wouldn't take it personally, ds-10 devs.

    Get it to the us!

  • Wilbo

    I knew I was going to buy one the second I saw the original announcement. Even if I can snag the ROM and play with it ahead of time, I'll buy it just to add one more sale to the stats in the hope that others will try something like this. God bless you Korg!

  • dead_red_eyes

    I was a bit pissy that it almost cost me $70 to get a copy of the Korg DS-10, but I'm pleased with the results tho. My copy came in the mail yesterday and I stayed up until 3 a.m. playing with it. It's pretty sweet I must say, but I really wish that the step sequencer went up to 32 steps … but 16 is still workable. I'm amazed at how good this thing actually sounds. I wonder why it's taking an extra 3 months for it to come out over here (US). I just couldn't wait until October … or take the chance that it wasn't going to be released here at all.

  • For those with the Japanese version, is not reading Japanese going to be a hindrance in any way? I've heard everything in the software is in English anyway.

  • dead_red_eyes

    foonsnark, the instructions & labels are all in English … which is why I'm stumped that it's taking until October to see a US release.

  • Dan

    Play-Asia.com got my ds-10 delivered to Australia in about three days. I can't wait to get home and pick it up…

  • Thomas

    "Piracy isn’t a problem so long as you also buy the darned cartridge. And please, if you can, go make inspiring music with the bought cartridge. Then everyone’s happy."

    Everyone is content with bashing piracy and waging intellectual war about copyright issues until a legitimate reason to use piracy or the methods used by so-called pirates comes up (torrents, bootloaders).

    Downloading ROMs or disc images of games, or any media, is illegal. No matter how defunct the market is.Usually these sorts of things can be overlooked with time, say with dreamcast. That doesn't mean they aren't still illegal.

    Only this time its not victim-less. We have no idea where the money is going to after we buy an R4 or any other form of cracked software/hardware. For all we know it could be going to drug cartels that steal and murder. This isn't the same thing as a college student downloading more mp3s than he has time to listen to.

    The people who make this hardware decide how their hardware is used. If you crack an Xbox 360 to run linux, no matter if you are pirating or cheating, Microsoft can ban the console from Live and cancel your warranty.

    I think its funny how people will point the finger at 'pirates', but when they decide they want to crack an iphone or buy a bootloader then its all okay.

    Lets not forget that the same people who make the R4 and other bootloaders are the same sort of people that crack Ableton Live and Reason.

  • Thomas, you've completely lost me.

    First, hacking a piece of hardware you own to enable functionality is not piracy. It's the prerogative of the company who made the device to say you shouldn't do that, or void your warranty, or ship updates that prevent you from doing it. I suppose you could even argue it's unethical (I would vigorously disagree, but that's a reasonable debate). It's not piracy until you download a ROM you don't own.

    And as for this:

    "We have no idea where the money is going to after we buy an R4 or any other form of cracked software/hardware. For all we know it could be going to drug cartels that steal and murder."

    Look, let's not get carried away. These are electronics makers. If you want to go down that road you may wind up too paranoid to buy anything.

    Sony, Nintendo, and others have said their beef is with piracy; they've never openly criticized the homebrew development community. And that's my point — the issue here is that, because we can't separate the two, what's happening is that the piracy crackdown threatens a legitimate, benign form of development. I think that's inevitable given the technology used, but it is nothing if not unfortunate.

    Of course, you are feeding our addiction to electronics / synths / (for me) coffee, but that's another story.

  • As for the US release, I'd blame the difficulty of distributing legitimate cartridges. Of course, that also suggests that it'd be great — just dreaming here — if there were a legitimate avenue for developers not necessarily looking to do a full release.

    Incidentally, I've heard from tons of people with the ROMs and not one of them hadn't also bought the cartridge. I think this particular community, at least, is very supportive of this software.

  • bliss

    Well, I don't think that fearmongering is the solution to copyright infringement or piracy. Personally, I don't give a damn where my money goes after I buy something. I have no control over it — and it's none of my business. Cash is still negotiable even if it has dirt and blood on it. That's why humans have yet to lose faith in it.

    Buying legitimate copies of what one uses is the best solution. It renders copyright infringement meaningless and discourages the spread of piracy.

    As for Nintendo, I suspect that they will have a difficult time if cases go to trial. No doubt that those who make flash carts will argue that their products have uses besides copyright infringement and piracy. They will compare flash carts to every multiple use object in the book; aircraft hangers, car batteries, conventional flash drives, external and internal hard drives, handbags, knapsacks, kitchen knives, personal computers, single and two-car garages, U-Haul self-storage facilities, video and audio recorders… New York City's subway system, and the game slot of the DS itself. For sure this is an interesting story to watch.

    Anyway, I hope KORG and Nintendo make money on the DS-10. It really is awesome software. No doubt Nintendo will sell more DSs because of it. I'm in line for both.

  • I have no idea what the law is in the countries in which Nintendo is challenging the flash loaders — Japan, for instance. I think the question isn't necessarily whether the devices allow piracy so much as whether they violate Nintendo intellectual property and licenses — but I really don't know the local laws in this case.

    Maybe someone who knows better has some idea?

  • vinayk

    Wow – I was considering getting a DS for on the go gaming on holidays/airports and what not… but after listening to those demo mp3's – i think i'm being pushed over the top (not to mention the reasonable price tag of the DS in the first place)…

    i'm just wondering why I bought that ps2 earlier this year… i'm still bad at singstar! hehehe

  • k.

    well, as someone who is in the chiptune aswell as the homebrew scene for quite some time, I can tell that Lawsuits and sueing companies won't change anything.

    There have been Flashcarts for the Super Nintendo, the original Gameboy and virtually any system that is around, and what happend?

    You can easily see that the (DS) Homebrew Scene of today is larger than anything else we got before.

    Nintendo should do something about it and open the DS for homebrew. You dont have to make it run pirated roms but at least homebrew. The demand is there and they could even make some money selling your their flashcards (for homebrew only).

  • 7oi

    I don't have a DS, but reading these news made me go and order one of these cards just to be safe. Being in Iceland, these things are hard to find. I'll probably never be able to buy the DS-10, but fortunately a friend of mine is on his way to japan. So, I'll have a DS-10, a cycloDS card for homebrew… Now I only need to buy me a DS.

  • why not an AppStore a la Nintendo for approved HomeBrews ???

  • dead_red_eyes

    Human Koala, it's a great idea … it really is. Sadly, I don't think Nintendo would even consider it, even for a second.

  • k9d

    great article peter, you painted the landscape far better than i could have. a few additional thoughts on software life cycle and distribution:

    one of the best things about being a musician into homebrew software is that my feedback to developers has a chance of being implemented. if features i want are implemented, i can download the new software and play it in minutes on my flash cart (or simple sd card for open systems like the defunct gameparks).

    unfortunately that is not the case with ds10 software, since it was released as a cart we will never see the softwares shortcomings addressed. our only hope is that AQ Interactive, Inc. (the developers) are successful with the ds10 and create a follow up product … so buy the cart and leave AQI feedback on their blog!

    alternatively, maybe AQI could spin off a follow up product where people could pay to download updated versions of their synthesizer software. even if that kind of move would land them squarely in the doghouse with nintendo!

  • k9d

    @Human Koala

    an all-free AppStore just home brew would solve the problem of distributing unlicensed software, but the home brew developers would still need some tools for writing that software.

    the barrier to entry for nds development is very high (cost of a development console, licensing fees, etc). carts like r4 make developing for nintendo consoles inexpensive and easy. emulators are the same.

    besides that, many home brew developers prefer to stay away from the business side of software. their homebrew projects are just for fun and they leave business behind at the office.

  • @k9d: Good point. You know, all this points to the need for an XNA-style, hobbyist-friendly developer solution for mobile devices. (XNA is a developer framework for Windows and Xbox that doubles as a distribution route for developers, minus the usual certification required for the console.)

    Of course, even XNA isn't the greatest example, as XNA support on Xbox 360 has been sometimes unpredictable. Then again, maybe Microsoft has the right idea for a compromise — I'd be willing to pay a fee to access any homebrew software I wanted, legitimately, without having to rely on shady distributors of custom hardware.

  • tobamai

    Some of you guys are right on the money when you say this won't really change anything for piracy or for homebrew. Nintendo pursues the manufacturers of these devices with every hardware platform they produce. In most countries they're perfectly legal, skating by on the fact that they do have legal purposes despite the fact that they can be used for illegal purposes (loaders can be compared to a baseball bat). In some countries, particularly those where loaders are produced and popular, the copyright laws are so loosely enforced that it doesn't really matter if they're illegal or not (anyone been to Korea? the pic from China is perfect.)

    Nintendo pushes legal action with every system for two reasons: to make people think loaders are bad and to spend money in court.

    That first point can be compared to the war on drugs in the US. The United States doesn't expect to eliminate all of the drugs in their country, that would be absurd. They expect to deter people from pursuing them. Demonizing drugs serves to keep good law abiding citizens from trying them. (There are other purposes of the war on drugs, but this discussion isn't about it, I just wanted to use it to make the comparison right there) Making loaders look illegal in the press keeps parents from purchasing them for their kids and good law abiding patrons from thinking this is okay. (Remember, this is Nintendo's goal, not mine)

    The second point up there is Nintendo's most powerful way to combat the manufacturers of loaders and other devices. The guys making these things aren't running drugs or murdering people on the side. There's much better money to be made actually running drugs or actually killing people. No, designing a loader is the complicated task of an engineer. It involves intensive reverse engineering as well as legitimate engineering to design the final product. My point is that it's the job of an educated person and it isn't cheap. We see the bottom line of $65 USD and get a tiny piece of plastic and circuits and think we were over charged, and this is big enough business that they make them, but rest assured that they aren't making nearly as much money as big N. In just about every country where Nintendo has pushed for legal action, the manufacturers will need legal representation and it will be expensive. It won't make them close their doors right away, but it could easily soak up the capitol they need for developing their next release (which means, there won't be another). Many of these companies fold after a couple of years because they just don't have the money, legal action is a great way to force them to spend it.

  • Well, right, and Nintendo actually gives us a clue as to how low-run these devices really are. They say that, total, they're blocking somewhere in the range of 30,000 devices *total* — that's including more than one manufacturer. For a device of this kind, given the economies of scale necessary to bring cost down and the fact that there is some degree of support, etc., that's not that huge. It also tells you that the actual amount of piracy associated with these devices is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of DSes shipped. By comparison, the legit DS-10 cartridge itself sold more units than the number of flash loaders Nintendo believes it's blocked.

    It may be important to them, legally speaking, to take these efforts so there's a precedent, to cover them if something were to get out there.

    But that brings me back, on the homebrew front, to saying we really haven't gotten there yet. I could believe as indie development becomes more desirable — with the likes of Nintendo and Sony eager to attract the oddball, indie, lone developer — we could see some avenue created for homebrewers some day. In the meantime, keeping the homebrew scene alive and talking about what's happening there is important. And clearly, we've got about 100% of the folks here on CDM interested in both the official DS-10 and the unofficial homebrew software alike. I certainly plan to run both. 🙂

  • jim warrier

    ordered myself a copy off ds-10 off playasia can't wait to get my hands on this.

    been using nitro tracker for a while.

    homebrew was the sole reason i brought a DS

  • 7oi

    if homebrew didn't exist for DS, nintendo wouldn't be getting my money either. well, the ds-10 is desirable and i'm most certainly getting one of those, but i don't think i'll ever be running games on the ds.

    well, maybe super mario bros for nostalgia reasons…

    besides, eliminating these loaders means eliminating quite desirable features that it makes possible. i'm not only talking about homebrew there, but also the possibility of using DS's as media players. i know, "who needs another media player?", but the thing is it's nice to have many ways to kill time and also explore your creativity in one small device, isn't it? it certainly seems to be everyone's goal to put everything on those smaller devices available, like the iPhone/iPod (and with linux hacks for iPod it doesn't matter which generation iPod it is), DS, smartphones and even PSP. it's certainly nice to be able to fit a small studio/stereo/entertainment system in your pocket…

    i just think that instead of suing the loader manufacturers, they should employ them to make official, super compatible loaders and get in on that action, since it's out there already. then they could offer downloadable games and to avoid illegal distribution they could possibly have something like we see with licencing of software in pc's. it could be in the form of nintendo downloading software for your pc where you can buy games and transfer to your registered loader (some id code embedded into it or something) or DS or something. of course, it sounds awfully restricted, but it's still something. and it would result in more loaders available, which leads to lower prices and more availability, and it would reduce their cartridge production costs if it would become popular, which would lead to cheaper games and still more profits for them, and it would enable the normal DS user to travel around with one cartridge for all their games, rather than millions of them. better for everyone, including the current loader manufacturers, since they'd be doing it for nintendo and getting real money for it!

    but of course nintendo are not going to do that because someone else thought of loaders before them. then they only want to pursue legal action!

  • 7oi

    i went to wash some dishes and even more arguments came to my mind for nintendo to manufacture loaders themselves.

    making games cheaper and more easily accessible via internet downloads would kind of be like sticking the middle finger in the air towards the pirates. of course, it would never ever stop the piracy as it will always exist, no matter how many lawsuits they can conjure, but it would certainly provide an affordable and tempting solution for people not willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a few games and lead them more into using legal ways, rather than resulting to piracy. what would you rather do? if you really enjoy the software you get through piracy, don't you feel bad not supporting it's developer, even if they are filthy rich already?

    also, to have these downloadable games/software licensed on, lets say a particular DS is also very profitable for nintendo. single cartridges get traded over and over in the nintendo DS community without any profit for nintendo. if they're all licenced to a particular DS they won't be tradeable, nor would the user need to trade them because it can live peacefully along all the other games/software on the loader with options to get more games without spending too much money.

    i mean, this would be an awesome option for me, at least, as i can buy 2-3 games here in iceland for the price of a whole DS, not to mention that the selection here isn't so great…

    I know all this sounds like big corporate talk, but it should make sense for nintendo and not be so bad for us consumers either…

  • bram

    i'm with jim.

    i just bought my ds two days ago for the sole purpose of developing homebrew. i better get my flash card asap, eh?

  • Great article, Peter! This sums up my feelings pretty well too. It's not easy to find a solution that makes both us homebrew coders / users and Nintendo happy.

    What if someone manufactured a flash card that only allowed for running homebrew software, but not pirated ROMs? (The GBAMP v2 is such a card, but a pain in the ass to use compared to the R4.) They would not be sued by Nintendo, because Nintendo tolerates homebrew (There was actually an officially Nintendo sanctioned seminar on Game Boy music using homebrew at a Nintendo exhibition in Koblenz, Germany). The question would be if such a card would sell good enough the be profitable, because (wild speculation follows) the interest in ROMs is higher than the interest in runing homebrew.

    Also, I'm nervously peeking out the window every few minutes waiting for the postman to bring my DS-10. This will certainly serve as a great inpiration for NitroTracker or potential future "products" 🙂

  • Downpressor

    Guess I'll do the devil's advocate thing again. While the idea of some kind of official boot loader or homebrew enabling cart seems appealing to many of us here, at the end of the day Nintendo has to look at this as how it affects the bottom line. How much does it cost to develop such a thing and keep it reasonably pirate proof? What kind of network and computer software development is needed? Do they support only Windows, or expand into Mac and Linux as well? How would they implement the sales channel? What forms of payment processing would be used? Global rollout or by region? etc. etc. etc.

    Its very easy to say "they should do X" but getting X done isnt always as easy as it looks.

  • phattfoniks

    This is true gold, i really hope they expand on this software for the DS. imagine a whole range of synths! The touchscreen really makes this app, i don't think someting like this would work on the psp, though the psp rhythm team have managed to milk a decent control setup from the limited buttons 🙂

    I really love the way the keyboard records in between steps! thats genius. Will buy as soon as i see it in a shop. This will be added to my

    music software shelf 🙂 PLEASE buy this if u like it.. i want to see more of this kind of shizznit. 😉

  • So after playing with the pirated rom more in depth, I ordered a DS to run this and other musicbrew. I too intend to buy the cart when it is available in the US later this year, maybe we can get a korg branded bundle on sale in guitar centers for xmas, like the guitar hero package 😀

  • Mars

    For what it's worth, I would have fought my way to the front of the line if I'd had the opportunity to purchase the DS-10 here in the states. I still plan on purchasing it when it actually is released. Chalk another one up for the white hats, I guess.

    As a brief aside, I'm more-or-less a disenchanted gamer. Been playin games so long that I figured I might have more fun doing something else — making music. I bought a DS the day after I learned about ProteinDS and NitroDS. I don't even play games on my DS anymore — my cart is full of homebrew and samples!

    Nothin but love for Nintendo, hopefully some creative organizational guru can craft a happy ending to this madness.


  • Mars

    Hum … the Cyclo DS website has been seized as well. Lame.

    Ps. — by "samples", above, I mean 100% creative commons/not copyrighted material, naturally. Biggups FreeSound Project!

  • 7oi

    yeah, i noticed that with the cyclo ds website. ordered my loader from the ohter side of the globe, that is australia. couldn't have picked a place further away from iceland…

    but nintendo would kind of have to find a solution to this. i don't think anyone wants wants death to homebrew, not even nintendo executives. the ds is so fantastically perfect for homebrewed applications.

  • Mars


    Weeeell they kinda did. Sue. It's the easiest recourse they have when we've provided them the structure for it (IP law is an American 'innovation', is it not?)

    I view this issue in the same light as generic music copyright infringement cases (and I'd expect many of you to agree, as homebrew users). Basically, I'm of the mindset that we couldn't reasonably expect Nintendo to keep to themselves as piracy gains popularity — and it's not going to become any less popular, as the population keeps growing in both volume and technical-knowledge. Also, we can't reasonably expect the world-police to decide that software IP protection is 'un-just' (I haven't kept up on the Google case …). Sooo what are our options?

    Well .. we could either hobble along with Nintendo's lawsuit and vulture whatever technology is left over after the battle. That might work.. and historically, seems to be what humans do.

    Or …

    Judging by the popularity of these homebrew sites … maybe .. just maybe .. we've got the clout to figure out our own operating hardware. I mean, I know some pretty bright guys, but I'd bet my extremities (fingers, people fingers!) there are some people out there with some mad electronics skills — enough to at least reverse engineer the hardware. Software might come later … It might take a while but … well .. Linux is still alive! Also, cell phones are moving toward open platform pocket computing … OpenMoko.com or HTC.com … DS is great and cheap and all .. but who says we can't use a system created by people who won't cry about how we use it? What if we create it ourselves?

    *deeeeep breath*

    That would be awesome.



  • Mars

    Oh snap, i shouldn't have used GT or LT signs.

    That was a response to the comment "… nintendo would kind of have to find a solution to this"

    mah bad

  • Mars

    As an after-thought:

    As a neo-hippy binary-tree huggin cosmic-energy minded fellow, I am also of the view that the open source camp (gpl/gnu/cc/whatever) and the proprietary camp will always be mortal enemies. It's no surprise that homebrew cultures have never been as praised/utilized/bolstered/exploited as much as they could have been.

    Dreamcast was simply amazing for the time. I'm convinced Sega could have made more money by providing support and encouraging development, than relying on sales of their product(s). Maybe I'm way off there but it's a funny thought 😛

  • Downpressor


    IP law is an American ‘innovation’, is it not?

    Its an English invention. See Statue of Anne.

  • @Downpressor If Nintendo built a flash loader that looked like the current devices then, yes, it might be difficult to protect against piracy. But I expect if they did their own, it might look different.

    Online distribution would be an obvious way to go. The PSP has done that already, and it works really well. What's missing is hobbyist developers via that outlet. And that was the big question with XNA, Microsoft's development framework. If you pony up for the XNA Creators' Club, I believe you can run any XNA game. But there isn't a mainstream Xbox 360 route for very many games over there, either — and XNA is disappointing in sound capabilities. (Otherwise I'd advocate replicating that model on the DS or PSP online stores.)

    It'd be fantastic if there were a way to distribute hobbyist games — no particular development framework needed — as ROM images, via some online method that checked against pirated ROMs. Now, I expect the reason this wouldn't happen is not because of piracy, but because handheld manufacturers are concerned with "quality" — never mind that some of the homebrew software is perfectly stable and far better than some of the official games that get distributed.

    But, anyway, that's the problem.

    And yes, as Downpressor says later, the US did not invent intellectual property law. There have been all kinds of laws over time. We did have some significant breakthroughs in this country. And I would regard it as an innovation, as when copyright and patent law were created, there were really horrible abuses that literally robbed the people creating stuff of their livelihoods. It's not the same as the situation we have today. But that's what you expect; the nature of laws is that they have to change and adjust over time.

    @Mars: I think you're talking about different issues. The homebrew scene isn't the same as the open source camp; the essential quality of homebrew is, I believe, individual developers doing stuff on their own. Naturally, there's some crossover, but it's a different issue.

    And while what gets reported tends to be people at the extreme of the proprietary / open source debate, I think you'll find that these groups aren't as polarized as some argue. Open source (and Free Software) are built on copyright law. They wouldn't work at all if they couldn't protect, under that law, the ownership of what they're creating. (In fact, that's why it's so important that they do have restrictions that prevent abuse of what they want that work to accomplish.) And while consumer software tends to be more balkanized, the simple business reality in spheres *other* than music (like servers) is that a mix of proprietary and open source is just a fact of life.

    The business models of consoles (eg Dreamcast) is probably a whole separate discussion. But, sure, I'd love to see mainstream hardware makers supporting development. With the online Xbox, Wii, and PS3 stores, that's happening to some extent, and certainly there's a renaissance on right now in indie gaming that even the "majors" have noticed. But I don't have an easy answer for these players when it comes to things like odd music sequencers. I think it may be up to us to figure it out, because we care, and they don't. But if we keep caring, then eventually perhaps they'll notice.

  • @Mars: I do agree, absolutely, on the open platforms. But the thing is, you develop, now, for what you have now. So I fully encourage this PSP and DS development, because right now there isn't equivalent hardware that runs Linux. (GamePark is one option, and it works for some, but not for everyone. And that ignores the sheer number of DS and PSP units already out there.)

    I agree that someday there will be more mobile Linux (and now Symbian is open source, too), but then, based on what I know of the development of many of these other apps, it wouldn't be such a big deal to port to a Linux box when that happens, because they're largely C/C++ projects and based on cross-platform guts.

  • Mars

    Downpressor: That was ignorant of me! Thanks for the correction, I guess my mouth just ran off with me … if you couldn't tell by the triple post >.<

    Peter: I totally feel that notion .. I suppose my suggestion was more along the lines of "lets deal with this problem entirely, after which we'll be able to create freely". Hey, a guy can dream eh?

    I guess I'm playin with my DS in the mean time 😛

    and a dusty electronics book …

  • Downpressor

    Peter Kim

    there were really horrible abuses that literally robbed the people creating stuff of their livelihoods. It’s not the same as the situation we have today.

    Talk to some folks running small labels actually trying to sell their product or make any sort of business with it and you may find that opinions vary. Some of those Russian mafia run MP3 sales sites have sold more copies of my records than I have.


    Dont worry, its not common knowledge outside of copyright law geeks.

  • @Downpressor: (it's k i R n… darned poor screen fonts and you can't see that)

    But yes, absolutely … the point is, intellectual property law is there for a reason. Prior to any kind of protection, no one could make anything. I think it is different today, partly because of those protections. But that does require enforcement. And it may also require new flexibility in adjusting the law to allow people to protect those same livelihoods.

  • Jersey Jim

    I bought 2 copies of the DS-10 from this New York based store:


  • Two days ago, I downloaded the DS10 ROM and put it on my Nintendo DS to evaluate and put it through the ringer.

    Today, I just placed an order for *3* more DS's, and 4 copies of the Korg DS10 cartridge.

    If Nintendo can somehow gain control over this process – first, evaluation through pirating, and then purchase as a result of the inspiration – then they can get through the pirate nightmare. The fact of the matter is, I would've had to have waited 6 months for the Korg DS10 release, and as a musician on the bleeding edge of technology, that is just not cool.

    I freely admit it, I pirated DS10 because it simply wasn't available to me any other way. But as soon as I knew it was cool, I bought it – not just once, but 4 times!!! Nintendo, realize this: you can participate in this software style, if you just *get cool* about it. We know you can, where so many others have failed!

    And I, for one, welcome the prospect of new soft synths running on the DS platform. In fact, heck, the DS is a hell of a computer; I welcome the idea of all sorts of wild and wacky apps popping up for it. Just give me a way to get straight to the facts, evaluate whats up, and then get honest. Please.

  • Downpressor

    NCSX is still around? Wow! I used to source some stuff through them back in the mid 90s.

    Jay Vaughan,

    I'm assuming you bought the extra DSen and carts to get more synth voices? Let us know how that works out.

  • robman84

    It's a crying shame that, in this age of ultra-cheap flash memory, we still rely on cartridges for our portable consoles rather than embracing the idea of legitimately carrying around 8 gig of software on one cartridge. I hate the fact that buying a new piece of software for my DS means another package to keep/recycle, and another cartridge to find storage space for and another piece of software that cannot be updated. When I bought Jam Sessions (guitar "sim" for DS) I was simultaneously amazed by the sound and horrified by the ridiculous limitations that could have easily been fixed with a small update. But to update it would require the makers to produce another cartridge, and me to spend another 20-odd quid to buy it again!

    What is stopping me from buying an import of DS-10 is the shortcomings I have read about in other reviews (only 16 patterns per song, very limited patch storage etc) and the faint glimmer of hope that before the UK launch the coders are able to solve some of these issues. Of course hearing the demos makes me want it right now though!!

    Now, if the makers would offer a downloadable ROM for DS-10 instead I'd pay the full cartridge price and they'd make a bigger margin, as would Nintendo. They could also offer me updates. I suppose it would be harder for Nintendo to trust the software makers to provide legit sales figures for downloads unless it was done through a Nintendo-run app store.

    For now I'll carry on playing the awesome homebrew music stuff on my DS. The latest GlitchDS rules!

  • Mars


    There might be some limitations of the DS-10 compared to like an Electribe, sure. But this is just a software version of an MS-10. I haven't used one… maybe someday when I find one at a garage sale or something. But I read that it had a single oscillator. At least the DS-10 has two! Thats pretty nifty of this little device. After all, you aren't paying for a full-fledged DAW in the first place 😛

    I think the DS-10 is amazing for what it is! I saw someone post a stateside point of sale, I'm totally ordering it tonight!

    And well .. yeah the latest glitchds is also amazing!


  • Downpressor

    Actually, it has 6 (digitally simulated)oscillators. The drum track is really just four more oscillators.


    For under 5,000 Yen, I dont feel the right to complain about "only" 16 patterns per track. Your standards of value judgment are your own of course, but I think this is a heck of a value.

  • robman84

    You might be missing my point a bit. Not complaining about anything in terms of its technical ability or sound quality or price. Just seems somehow odd that you can only save 16 patterns and a small-ish number of named patches. Why not 32? Why not 64? Why not 128? Maybe these are technical limitations of the DS or maybe they were more arbitrary limitations – no idea. The point I was trying to make is that with downloadable software, if the developer decides to make some improvements you simply download a new version, but with a cartridge you are stuck with what you've got. Even Xbox360 and PS3 games seem to get free downloadable enhancements on a regular basis.

    But back to DS-10. The price is incredible, and it truly sounds amazing, and if there's no chance of them raising the storage limits for a US or UK launch then I'll import. And if Nintendo feels like offering it as a legal purchased download for flash cart owners, I'll do a merry dance.

    On a technical question, for those who own or have used it, is the song mode limited to triggering a numbered pattern in sequence, or can you record changes to patch parameters, effects, track muting/volume etc as the song plays?

  • Mars

    Downpressor: Oh yeah I forgot about counting the drum tracks. And I was thinking about it … technically they aren't oscillators either, they're synths! there are many oscillators in there! 😛

    robman: Ah I see. Well yeah, I'd totally love it if Nintendo offered a downloadable application service. Keyword: application 😉

    The song mode can play one pattern at a time, linearly. You could 'program' (a measure's worth at 1/16 per pattern) synth effects (note, gate, volume, pan, kaossx & kaossy). Or you can 'record' notes on the virtual keyboard. However, the synth is a collection of oscillators, and the output of some of those oscillators can be used as parameters to affect the sound of the synth. You can't really record oscillator effects like you would in the popular audio dev platforms.

    But then again .. it's like having more basic tools like this force you to approach making music differently … like trackers. Woot!

    And the moral of the story is … I love it and I'll buy a second DS and Ds-10 when I can afford it! And I'd rather download it! *glances at the nintendo rep in the room*

  • Mars

    Oh yeah you can also record using the Kaoss pad as an arpeggiator, with gate, volume, pan, peak, and cutoff abilities.

  • http://www.amazon.com/Korg-DS-10-Synthesizer-Nint

    US preorders! Time for Pirates to prove their word!

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » DS-10 US Preorder Available; US Ship Date 9/30()

  • So what does a digital software synth to do with "8-bit music" or "chiptune"?

    OK I'll reply – nothing!

  • Buy Korg DS-10! It's cheap and loud. To prove that I composed an album with it, check http://www.mp3death.us