Nintendo can "brick" the 3DS using a system update.
Nintendo reportedly has a kill switch in place to disable the new Nintendo 3DS handheld if users are caught playing illegal games stored on unapproved SD cards. The news arrives by way of Japanese retailer Enterking who warns consumers about the possible 3DS "bricking" by Nintendo itself.
In a letter to customers who plan to re-sell their Nintendo 3DS in the future, Enterking suggests that SD cards be formatted before bringing the consoles into the shop. "If you use equipment which is illegal or unapproved by Nintendo or if you do customisation which is unapproved by Nintendo, there is a possibility that Nintendo 3DS becomes non-bootable by system update."
"Because of terms of agreement above, Enterking refuses to buy 3DS system with a record of illegal or unapproved equipment," the company added, indicating that the 3DS might actually keep a record of what's is currently on the SD card and what was previously loaded on later dates.
Although the measure of bricking the system seems rather harsh, it's not at all that surprising. Previously Nintendo had a huge problem with the R4 flash cartridge which could store hundreds of pirated Nintendo DS roms downloaded from the Internet. The R4 cartridge was eventually banned in Japan in 2009, and was later outlawed in the UK during Q3 2010.
Naturally Nintendo wouldn't comment on the kill switch, saying that it doesn't discuss product security details or countermeasures. "Nintendo 3DS has the most up-to-date technology," a spokesperson said. "The security has been designed to protect both the creative works in the software and to protect the Nintendo 3DS hardware system itself."
The Nintendo 3DS is slated to hit the North American market on March 25, 2011. In the meantime, the portable console's stiff security has reportedly already been hacked over in Japan by the team behind the R4iDSN flash cartridge. The team managed to get the 3DS to read flash cards that were previously blocked out.