Nintendo is notoriously secretive about its development process, but we just got a glimpse of how the sausage is made thanks to a massive leak of data from the Nintendo Wii and N64. Among the thousands of files posted online in recent days are the source code for the Wii operating system, detailed design documents, and software demos for the Nintendo 64.
The files first appeared on 4chan, a largely unmoderated online forum that has given rise to Anonymous, QAnon conspiracy theories, and uncountable memes. We won’t link to the leaked Nintendo data, but it’s easy enough to find with a Google search. We don’t know who posted the files (4chan is anonymous by default) or if it has anything to do with the recent hack of Nintendo’s online service. The timing is suspect, though. However, online chatter points the finger at a company called BroadOn, a company that worked with Nintendo repeatedly over the years and did much of the technical design work to make the Wii a reality.
Emulation fans and developers will probably be overjoyed about this leak. It should be possible to improve game emulation significantly with access to the full source code for the Wii’s operating system and SDK. The leak even contains block diagrams and Verilog files for every part of the Wii. Verilog is a text format for describing electronic circuits and systems — someone with the right know-how could basically recreate every component of the Wii from this data. Of course, Nintendo’s lawyers will probably be racking up billable hours to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
Also contained in the 3 gigabytes of leaked data are several documents and files from the Nintendo 64, which dominated gaming in the late 90s. There are functional demos for the N64 that show off what, at the time, were groundbreaking 3D rendering techniques (see above). This is a fascinating glimpse of this pivotal time in gaming history, and there may be a lot more to come. There are even a few documents relating to the development of the 2001 cult-favorite Gamecube console.
Some sources on 4chan claim this cache of data is just a taste of what’s out there — there may be as much as 2TB of stolen Nintendo data in the hands of hackers. If true, it’s only a matter of time before it’s laid bare on the internet.
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