Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's Happening to the NDS R4/DSTT/Edge Market?

So what's been happening to the NDS cartridge supply recently? For those who don't know the commercial hacking scene for the NDS has a very convenient product. It's most commonly known as the "R4." The R4 is a very advanced way to play free games on your Nintendo DS. It is the size of a NDS cartridge, and has a slot inside it for a microSD card that can hold hundreds upon hundred of NDS games. 

Now, a lot of mods for consoles involve a lot of technical knowledge for most people. Even opening up a console is a risk many do not want to take. Soldering chips onto DVD drives or motherboards is a step many people are just not prepared for. I believe that even soft-modding (hacking without hardware) for the xBox takes enough equipment and different steps that numerous people are just unwilling to take the plunge. 

But the NDS carts are just nothing but easy, you just have to drag and drop files onto the card, and put it into your DS without hassle at all. They all have nice interfaces and work seamlessly with every game. Some games don't work immediately, and the mod-chip makers have to update their firmware (easy to do) to work around the newer games' protection schemes.

I've only recently discovered the excellent DealExtreme which is a very good source of very cheap Hong Kong goods for consoles and some other neat/cheap products. They sell (or sold as you will see) for cheaper than any other supplier I've ever seen and have free shipping. One thing I find interesting is how well built the site is, it has integrate comments by users. 

I personally bought some stuff from them and it cost me next to nothing for it, and it came really quickly. If you wanted to buy a DSTT (a Top Toy DS, which is like the R4) it would have costed you double if you bought it from somewhere like Divenio PLUS SHIPPING. 

I believe that DX is somewhat built like DX offers a amazingly large amount of products, many of them cheap pieces of crap; but they still have a lot of products. Therefore it's my belief that they cannot have a huge warehouse with so many products. I think there is evidence of this on their site. They have numerous items for sale on the site that are "sold out." And I mean numerous, things that I imagine they hardly ever sold many of. But they don't remove them from the site. 

Why? A few months ago I bought some DSTTs from them. I wanted to see what they were like so I gave it a go. They were pretty neat, so I wanted to order a few more, but unfortunately they were sold out suddenly. I waited patiently, and then saw that a new cartridge, the "Edge DS" was there, but sold out. I had heard about there being raids on Wii mod-chip factories by Nintendo, and how it was illegal in Hong Kong now. But I was hoping this wasn't why it was sold out.

However it, the DSTT, and all other mod chips were "Sold Out" at DX for over a month with no word from the company on being re-introduced. 
I found some articles about resellers and stores being raided in places like Singapore,
but they are merely resellers, not producers. Illicit discs in India, Hong Kong and Mexico have also been reported. This is again not the same thing, they are not making electronics cards. Here's a good article on the Supreme Manufacturing Company which was raided in Hong Kong. It apparently made DS and Wii chips.

A email to VolumeRate, DX's sister site for bulk orders yielded that "... the whole market is short of these products." So what I feared was true, it looks as if a major part of the mod-chip supply was in Hong Kong, and most of them were just not being made anymore. VolumeRate said it was due to "... factory production problem."

I saw the raids reported on different blogs, but they don't seem quite so aware of the shortage  that is happening because of it. I think there just isn't enough knowledge of who the players are in this industry. I think there are several similar chips which are made by the same company. Guess more well-known places like divineo have stock piles that are not yet empty, while DX seems to have been hit almost immediately. DX now has a chip called the N5, which started at 30$, and is now 35$ in a little more than a week. They posted a explanation on their site, how it will go in and out of stock, and that they will have unpredictable price fluctuations. Looks like Nintendo is making it hard on the Chinese modding market. 



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