A counterfeit GBA ring operating out of my car hole! Er, ebay!

June 3rd, 2006 by Tommy Gun

I realize I’m a bit late to the party here, as this has been written about many times before on the net, and even Nintendo has their own site about it. Unfortunately, I never saw any of those sites until after I got burned. I frequently scour ebay for good deals on games, particularly handhelds. One such good deal was a used copy of “The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap” for a crazy-low Buy-It-Now price of about $14 including shipping, when the stores sell it used for $27! I’ve gotten a lot of DS games for really cheap, and they’re all in great condition complete with box/manual, so I thought it was just another good find. I grabbed it right away, being totally unaware that there are tons of GBA scammers out there.

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After playing for a couple hours and getting through the first dungeon, the game froze up on me when I entered the “Trilby Highlands.” “Okay, maybe it just overheated, or maybe it’s a dirty cartridge,” I tried to convince myself. Well, it happened every time I went there, even after cleaning. I looked closer at the cartridge, and sure enough, there were enough differences that I could tell something was a bit off. I googled it just to make sure, and found the sites mentioned above. They list many differences, but the ones I noticed on my own (when comparing to a genuine cartridge) were the logos and the size. It fits fine in my GBA SP, but you can feel the pain of my DS trying to fit it in the GBA slot. The engraved logos are clearly different — the line thickness of the letters varies on each one, like a bad scan. The Nintendo logo on the back was so bad I didn’t even have to compare it, I’ve seen it enough to know what it looks like.

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I honestly had no idea this went on — console games, sure, discs are cheap to make, but cartridges? It seems like more trouble than it’s worth to copy a cartridge and actually manufacture the things, not to mention the cost involved. Nintendo makes tons of them, so their costs can’t be too high, but a small scammer company replicating them? I guess if you make enough of them you’ll make a profit.

Some people have said their copies work perfectly despite being fake, but that wasn’t the case with me. It worked flawlessly (no glitches, no slowdown, saved fine) until that one point, but I can’t get past it. I’m at least a little glad that it froze relatively soon, rather than when I was 80% through the game or something. I’m still way more pissed about the 2+ hours I’m going to have to do all over again than I am about the money I lost, although I am mad that the money went to scammers. If I’m going to pay for a game, the money damn well better be going to the people who made it (I know, it was used, but someone still would have had to buy it originally if it were genuine). If you’re thinking about getting a GBA game on ebay, and the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Read the description carefully, and if it gives you a bad vibe, avoid! It really isn’t worth it. If you think about it, even with a low paying job, you’d make enough money in those two hours I “wasted” to pay for a brand new copy.

The seller lives in the US, has perfect feedback, wasn’t selling much else (i.e., didn’t have 300 copies of this game up for auction)…it all seemed legit. Afterwards I emailed him asking if he had played the game, or if he was just a seller. He responded right away, saying it was his kid sister’s game and she was stuck and got bored, so he sold it. He refunded the money (minus $4 shipping) and let me keep the cartridge. Good enough for me. I actually wanted to keep it anyway, just to have a fake for reference. I asked where his sister got it, and he said he bought it for her from a seller in Hong Kong.

The funny part is that the label on the cartridge isn’t even the right color! The real one is solid red with triangles, the fake is white, as you can see in the above photos. Too bad I didn’t know that at the time, plus the ebay photo was a stock image, not an actual photo.

I won another copy (seen above) for $17 including shipping, and this one is definitely real. It’s kind of hard to see, but on the circuit board it says “(c) 2001 Nintendo”:

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Update: Well, it turns out they’re starting to make bootleg DS games too!

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