Sunday, December 21, 2014

Should you Buy Cubic Ninja and is it Worth Anything? No.

Recently, everyone in the 3DS and homebrew community have been freaking out over one game, Cubic Ninja. Never heard of it until recently? Yeah, me neither and I write articles on obscure video games for a living. So just what exactly is Cubic Ninja? It is a crappy, shovelware title first released in 2011 that has languished on bargain bin shelves ever since its initial release. The gameplay, graphics, controls, and sound were all very unappealing. Everything about this game was extremely subpar.

The game sold poorly and all the extra stock ended up in retail clearance limbo, being sold for as little as $5 new in some stores. This all changed on November, 17 2014. In a single night, the game became a sensation thanks to the release and publication of a programming exploit found in the game's level sharing feature. 

Student and hacker, Jordan "Smealum" Rabet developed NINJHAX, a neat little exploit that allows a Nintendo 3DS, 2DS, 3DS XL, New 3DS, or New 3DS XL console to run unsigned code. This means the console could now be used to run homebrew applications such as games, tools, and emulators. The exploit was incredibly easy to use, all you had was load a boot file onto the 3DS's SD card, and then use the level sharing feature of Cubic Ninja to scan a special QR code depending on your hardware's firmware. Scanning the QR code causes the homebrew program to download and run, and even saves the data from it to the game's save file.

This means you can finally play all of your favorite SNES, NES, and other ROM's on a 3DS. You could even mess around with all the Minecraft clones people have been making for the system. What is most interesting about the publication of this exploit is that Smealum waited until November to release all of this, when he had actually had the entire exploit working way back in July. Why wait? Well, he figured Nintendo would patch out the exploit as soon as possible so he waited until the latest iterations of the 3DS hardware were launched, the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, in Australia. He was right on the money about that.

Nintendo released the 3DS firmware update 9.3.0-21U on December 8, 2014 which (in their words) added:
  • A Shuffle Favorites feature has been added under Change Theme in HOME Menu Settings. Users can choose multiple themes and have their theme change when the system is left in Sleep Mode from the HOME Menu or turned on after being off
  • Available software updates can now be downloaded from the HOME Menu
  • Users can now capture screenshots with both the upper and lower screens included
  • Further improvements to overall system stability and other minor adjustments have been made to enhance the user experience
What they didn't list in their description of the update is that it also "fixed" the exploit. This was effectively a death knell for exploit but between November 17 and December 8, the price for Cubic Ninja skyrocketed. There was a run on the market and buyers, collectors, homebrewers, and the just-plain curious all got in on the action. Prices for the game went from single digits to as high as some copies selling for $500. Even GameStop got in on the fad, raising the price for a used copy to $39.99, despite the fact that their website still lists the price of a new copy of the game at only $19.99.

Needless to say, people lost their minds during this brief time and snatched up as many copies as they could, either to horde themselves or scalp on eBay (I personally restrained myself and only resold five copies). However, as general excitement died down and Nintendo patched the exploit, the price has plummeted back to the modest normal levels of about $10-20. You can still use the exploit as long as you don't update the firmware on the system to 9.3.0-21U or higher.

Despite all the notoriety and press about this little game, I foresee the price continuing to fall as the novelty wanes and more people move onto better ways of exploiting the 3DS hardware, especially as flash carts for the system are become more available. This game really isn't worth much anymore but it will surely have a long-standing niche somewhere deep inside the 3DS homebrew community. And for that, we thank you Cubic Ninja. You snuck into our lives just as quickly as you snuck out of it. You will be remembered.
The face of a market fad.


Paul S. said...

I saw the posts about the exploit from my game store office, called out to my lackeys to grab the copies we had in stock, sold them on eBay for $30+ each, and promptly stopped worrying about it. One buyer bought three copies, presumably to flip. If you're already in position, quick action can allow you to capitalize on events like these, but if you've got to chase it, you're probably going to be a bagholder. I wonder if my buyer unloaded them before they plummeted back down?

matt said...

You sound like a dick

Anonymous said...

This ^^ :)

Anonymous said...

Nah, he's just smart.

Unknown said...


Oh, die out he said....

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