A Legend of Zelda fan has been arrested in Japan for modifying and selling save data for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and what appears to be a victimless crime turned out to be a copyright violation.
According to SoraNews24, a Tokyo-based news site for English-speaking readership, a so-called “Zelda hacker” was arrested by police in Japan for selling modified Breath of the Wild save data, turning a hefty profit from his illicit enterprise. Chinese national Ichimin Sho initially posted a listing on a Japanese e-commerce site back in April, selling save data for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is the franchise’s flagship installment for Nintendo Switch – the most popular handheld console of all time. Additionally, Sho labeled the said save data as “the ultimate save data” because it boosted the player’s stats, abilities, and chances of obtaining rare items and loot.
Sho listed the data for 3500 yen (approx. $32) and managed to attract two interested buyers outside of Tokyo. However, Sho also managed to attract the attention of Niigata Prefecture Police, which arrested him on July 8th for violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, to which he confessed. His statement also reads that he’s been selling modified video game data since December 2019, earning about 10 million yen (approx. $90,000), in the process.
Gaming enthusiasts, at least those familiar with “premium cheating software,” are now wondering how selling modified save games violates an Act that protects secret information and “trade secrets”? Especially when it comes to a game like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which doesn’t feature any kind of competitive multiplayer aspect. Well, trade secrets were, in fact, Sho’s downfall. According to Japan’s Association of Copyright for Computer Software, Sho provided services that circumvented technical restrictions Nintendo placed on Switch, thus committing copyright infringement. There might be a mitigating circumstance to Sho’s case, as he didn’t actually mod the software but only facilitated its sale. The actual data alteration was done by Sho’s accomplice, who still remains unidentified.
Incidentally, this only goes to prove just how popular 2017’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is, more than four years after its release. The game earned critical acclaim upon its release, with many calling the game a masterpiece and one of the greatest video games of all time. It was a highly-anticipated game that broke all sales records for a Nintendo game launch in multiple regions, selling over 14 million copies. Considerably better than the franchise’s sixteenth installment, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which is now offering serious upgrades on Nintendo Switch.
And while it’s the latest case of arrest, Ichimin Sho’s case isn’t the first arrest related to modified save data for Nintendo Switch games. Last February, Japanese police arrested a 23-year-old man in Nagoya for selling custom-designed Pokémon for Pokémon Sword & Shield, which was this year’s second arrest related to illicit Nintendo Switch data sales. In other words, it’s always going to be safer to grind through Zelda and Pokémon, than to cheat.