The massive E3 demo for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was certainly impressive. So impressive in fact, that it seems somebody tried to pinch it from the show floor.
This is, at this stage, nothing more than a rumour based on the words of a few hackers – but take a look at what we know, and decide for yourself.
First, a relatively famous Nintendo hacker known as NWPlayer123 confirmed that the “heist” did indeed go down.
NWPlayer123’s credentials are certainly solid – she leaked Splatoon DLC before Nintendo even announced it, and has data-mined a ton of big Nintendo games, including Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
She claimed that the hacker behind the (failed) E3 Zelda heist of 2016 was a 17-year-old previously known for hacking Mario Kart 8.
This 17-year-old/would-be criminal mastermind has since been in touch with Kotaku to reveal the details behind the job.
It should also be pointed out that the hacker had been tweeting about E3 long before the event, asking if anyone was willing to help distract attendants.
According to our hacker, all they needed to nab the game was access to a demo pod and a Wii U GamePad. From there, tools are available which allow hackers to “dump” the game data from any Wii U console.
Then, using another tool (called TCP Gecko), they can connect the system to a PC and start the transfer. This process can take a few hours, but the game will continue to run as normal, meaning nobody is likely to notice anything amiss.
The creator of TCP Gecko, A.W. Chadwick, verified the above:
The user would navigate to a special webpage which tricks the Wii U into running code not developed by Nintendo (we call this arbitrary code execution (ACE)). Once the user has achieved ACE, they can then cause the Wii U to do almost anything they would like it to.
But unfortunately for the hacker, disaster struck. The Wii U units running Breath of the Wild were not retail ones, meaning a hasty bit of re-coding was required.
The hacker told Kotaku:
Having to code stuff last minute was a sort of stressing ideal. Mainly [because] you never know how long or how much testing one might need to do before it works, and [there being] a very strict timeframe made the situation worse.
Returning on day two, the hacker learned that the units at E3 weren’t connected to the internet – presenting an obvious problem for the intended hack.
The hacker apparently managed to find a secret button combination which allowed them to access to the menu on the development unit and turn on the internet connection, only for TCP Gecko to copy the wrong files.
At this point NWPlayer123 stepped in to help tweak the tool and fix this issue, meaning the hacker had only one day remaining to get what they needed.
But as you’ve probably gathered from the headline, this story ends in defeat. Despite arriving early on Thursday, all the demo units were already booked for the day – The hacker never got a chance to get in and do what needed to be done as a result.
Once again, there’s nothing concrete to say that this story is true, or what the hacker would have done with the files if they had been successful. For her part, NWPlayer123 claims that she was only interested in the music files.
I suppose we’ll just have to wait till The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild launches in 2017 before we can finally play it. At least then, it’ll be legit.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.