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InsaneNutter

PSA: How Pokemon GBA Distribution Cartridges Are Replicated and Sold For €1000’s

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pokemon-gba-distribution-replicate-fake.jpg.f35fbd956a58c6deaf5a80c6f4698124.jpg

For several years now Pokemon distributions for the Gen 3 GameBoy Advance games have been turning up on sites like Ebay.

With that in mind you might think it’s controversial I have recently shared how these official GBA development flash carts these are been sold on can easily be re-flashed: Flash / Write Official GBA Development Flash Carts With An Nintendo DS

This means GBA prototypes and Pokemon Distributions can now easily be duplicated, with replicas sold on as the real thing for significant amounts of money on Ebay.

The Problem:

Although not talked about, the sad reality of the situation is method of re flashing GBA devcarts has been exploited in certain circles to keep selling clones of rare Pokémon event distributions for many €1000’s on Ebay, passing them off as originals.

Myself and others in the Pokemon community have long since suspected this was been done, however no conclusive proof has ever been obtained on how this was been done. Even asking on communities such as Assmebler Games which deal with obscure development hardware revealed little to suggest it was easy to clone these distributions, or the official GBA development hardware was readily available to purchase.

With that in mind people have been happy to purchase these distribution replicas, sometimes for as much as €2000 on Ebay, believing their genuine and were used at past Nintendo events.

When certain Pokemon distributions have been dumped it been possible to see remnants of what was previously flashed to the card, as these Official GBA Development Flash Carts are much larger than the actual Pokemon event distribution software.

In one such example we can see Mortal Kombat Advance had simply been overwrote on this particular cart.

This was always suspicious as we very much doubted Game Freak has been using second hand development cartridges obtained from Midway Games, although not impossible.

What is somewhat ironic is myself and others had basically worked out how GBA devcarts were been re flashed a long time ago, it was just never possible to test the theory.

It's possible to Flash / Write Official GBA Development Flash Carts With An Nintendo DS using the FAS1 homebrew application, as shown in the video below:

I’d personally been using FAS1 to flash my old Flash2Advance flashcard for years, using an Nintendo DS Lite. I knew later versions of FAS1 were supposed to have support for GBA development flashcards, although at the time I had no compiled binaries of newer versions of FAS1 or even a GBA development flashcard to test this theory with.

That all changed earlier this year when a compiled version of FAS1 was was obtained and two different GBA development carts were purchased for testing.

Needless to say re flashing a official GBA development flash cart now took less time than it did to make a good cuppa tea.

Genuine Pokemon Generation 3 Distributions:

Now you might be thinking real distributions must have been on the market at some point for the distributions out there today to be dumped. You’d be correct, some of these sold in 2012 on Nintendo Age, these were of course sealed in a GBA.

To assist you with potentially identifying these in the future here are images of original GBA Pokemon Gen 3 distributions that we know of, sealed in their respective units:

10 ANNIV:

10ANNIV-pokemon-distribution-hardware-3.thumb.jpg.2afc3be3de33138693046b209658531c.jpg10ANNIV-pokemon-distribution-hardware-1.thumb.jpg.aeac074d07894d0c9e88fac875330580.jpg 10ANNIV-pokemon-distribution-hardware-2.thumb.jpg.89bbe719e45c7c9fd22a6dbd32158e00.jpg 10ANNIV-pokemon-distribution-hardware-4.thumb.jpg.0a1462c8b82dd8e9aa6676fc427e1f92.jpg 10ANNIV-pokemon-distribution-hardware-5.thumb.jpg.2fb91a21da2058496e680691a8cfe558.jpg

Aura Mew:

aura-mew-pokemon-distribution-hardware-1.thumb.jpg.73c325be3c4cb6bc22de845e79974d9b.jpg aura-mew-pokemon-distribution-hardware-2.thumb.jpg.397ea31618e0da8329bb21e4e04ba539.jpg

BFG Shiny Zigzagoon:

bfg-shiny-zigzagoon-distribution-hardware-1.thumb.jpg.265abbe9217e4687d08be4e865c13034.jpg bfg-shiny-zigzagoon-distribution-hardware-2.thumb.jpg.4433ddd752b904cc5db54a6f5faa41a5.jpg bfg-shiny-zigzagoon-distribution-hardware-3.thumb.jpg.6908019378440b1ee796cbb453a52eae.jpg

US Aurora Ticket:

us-aurora-ticket-distribution-hardware-1.thumb.jpg.f031263e4391b3670ceda04d51a7fc31.jpg us-aurora-ticket-distribution-hardware-2.thumb.jpg.97cfaf8e12283da23c6209e015097149.jpg us-aurora-ticket-distribution-hardware-3.jpg.6f5d73ac56fc617088987cac8a914bc6.jpg

EU Eon Ticket: (Probably dumped, however not dumped / released that I know of):

eu-eon-ticket-distribution-hardware-1.thumb.jpg.8b7a8123889a7f3208b4e03302bf762c.jpg eu-eon-ticket-distribution-hardware-2.thumb.jpg.603af17415abef735441687b2cccc979.jpg eu-eon-ticket-distribution-hardware-3.jpg.1e744ddbc5ba47c18c9382a207e48a24.jpg eu-eon-ticket-distribution-hardware-4.jpg.eb9215236cf2f3f310b0837d1f7abbc2.jpg

 

Where is the conclusive proof?

You'd be right in thinking I've made a lot of claims and not posted much proof, I honestly don't have any interest in all the drama that comes with that. If you wan't to believe me thats great, if not that's cool, I'd sooner people just know how easy it is to clone Gen 3 Pokemon distributions that are on development hardware and have as much information as possible to enable them to make an informed purchasing decision in the future.

Myself and various people in the Pokemon event community have seen said proof of such activities earlier in the year, so its out there and if you ask around i'm sure you will also find it.

Conclusion:

I think I've shared enough information on how its been done to bring widespread awareness to the practice, which will hopefully make people think twice before spending a lot of money on a distribution which has already been dumped and released just to "own something original".

In the event something genuine does surface you have a good idea of what it might look like from the above images, certainly i'd be a lot more inclined to believe its an original if it was sealed in a GBA.

So at least now the information is out there people can make an informed decision before purchasing a Pokemon Distribution in the future. If it’s a standalone devcart please think twice before purchasing it, hopefully meaning theirs less chance of a replica getting passed off as the genuine thing on Ebay.

Approximately 5 or less sealed units of each GBA event should theoretically exist, other than clearly not accounting for as many that have been sold over the years, no one with the original unit in their right mind would destroy the seal to dump the rom when there are ways to do it via the link port if they did some research.

In addition anyone wants to develop homebrew for the GBA and has an official GBA development card can now make use of it and easily write their own homebrew to it, just as developers did all those years ago.

Credits:

@Deoxyz and @YoshiMoshi significantly contributed with a lot of the information / research in this post.

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I am very relieved that this information is finally going public. In late 2018 and early 2019, myself, YoshiMoshi, and a couple others unnamed decided to put in full effort to dig up the proof of what ourselves and community had suspected for years in regards to the GBA distribution carts being sold on eBay. YoshiMoshi and I took upon the task of rewriting a devcart, and the two unnamed dug into the actual sales market. Well after a ton of work being more lengthy than I can even remember to detail, so much information had been compiled to prove every aspect of this dirty and manipulative market that we suspected was being monopolized by individual( s ) since approximately 2014. Basically if you were one of the elite few private collectors or hoarders with access to an ultra rare rom, and happened to either have fully working rare official dev hardware AND software, or with a lot of digging found an obscure compiled custom fork of FAS1 (un-compiled source code was very old and required proper knowledge to modify and update in order to compile yourself), all you'd have to do is buy a cheap GBA devcart for approx $100-$400, then sell it anywhere between $1000-$3000 for mass profit.
 
I don't really need to go into what I've been telling people one-on-one about this, InsaneNutter's post is pretty much a mirror of that. Key things I will reiterate which you should keep in mind: One, approximately 5 or less devices per event should exist, as before Gen IV distribution carts were not mass produced for nationwide events, rather held at select few cities around the world. The vast amount of 10ANNIV and Aurora Ticket cartridges that have sold over the years certainly does not account for this very simple fact. Two, the carts used at the events were sealed into a GBA/GBA SP via a screwed on metal brace and secured with official Nintendo non-tamper tape. No one in their right mind would physically damage the device and its physical value in order to dump the rom, when with a bit of research during that time period it can teach you how to dump the rom via the link port. Even with the possibility of a fool decision by an owner, it still certainly does not to account for all the loose carts being sold. How many sealed units have you ever seen for sale? Most likely none. How many pictures have you seen of a particular event's device that was not from the same photo session? Most likely one set. How many loose carts have you seen for sale? Many if you've kept an eye on this stuff for a long time. The nature of this market speaks for itself when you consider all the facts. Do not buy loose GBA distribution carts if your goal it to obtain something original or a piece of history. If you are a physical collector, suffice with finding a cheap devcart to rewrite, you'll save a ton of money and the insult of being scammed. I hate to say it's a lost cause if you want an original sealed unit, but all I can say is I wish you a ton of luck, they never pop up for sale and I think all have settled with permanent owners for many years now. They all appeared originally on NintendoAge around 2012, supposedly after the Nintendo HQ in Germany had its physical properties liquidated. All were seemingly sold and I think most never showed up for sale again, other than maybe an occasional private deal behind the scenes.
 
With my retirement in March, I left an infodump containing the devcart writing details and some rather controversial market information with the preservation team and told them to make it public sometime in 2019 when they were ready. I figured the last thing I could do to benefit the community before calling quits is doing what was necessary to finally get the filthy sales market to start imploding, and to help people from being scammed, all by providing the knowledge we had obtained. With time and more public exposure that would surely happen. Look what happened with Mystery Mew FireRed cart sales since the savefiles were finally publicized in early 2016. Very few pop up for sale anymore, and when they do they do not sell quickly and sit for a long time, until the listing is either pulled or an uneducated person comes along, and usually not sold at high prices. Initially these types of things being public allows scammers to jump on a train and make some money for a small window of time, but with that they could also flood the market and raise suspicion to the cautious buyer who will then do research. With time and more and more public exposure, these dirty markets will eventually be destroyed. You can't always cry about not doing something like this because of the potential negative risks, someone HAS to take the first step towards balancing the scales. Like InsaneNutter said, at this point the damage has already been done over the last 6 or so years, keeping this information private only benefits the scammers to keep doing what they've been doing.
 
Certain aspects of the information obtained related to the sales market I had also initially hoped to be public, but it is indeed controversial as it would be severely and directly attacking a particular individual who has indulged in these activities. As InsaneNutter said we're not about causing drama, only providing knowledge. As InsaneNutter also said, the diligent person can find this information if they really want to, as it is in private circulation. Despite the knowledge it would provide, it would be rather inappropriate and unprofessional for us to post that stuff on the forums. Myself personally, I do not want to be responsible for putting anyone under direct public attack, regardless of circumstances. They may not have a conscience but I do. What is absolutely necessary to know has been made public with this thread.
 
The photos InsaneNutter provided above are mostly new to the public, we found those as well. As noted earlier, very few sets of photos exist of these devices. I wanted to leave off this post by pointing out the European Eon Ticket. This was something I initially wanted to maybe try tracking down in 2019, but the flame of interest for Pokemon and video games at that point was fully gone for me. Suffice to say no one has found it yet, I'm not even sure if any effort had been put into it because the loose leads toward it were ancient and unlikely to yield results. However this proves it does indeed exist with a private collector, so the rom is more than likely dumped and out there. Do not give up hope for preserving more distribution software in the future. With Christmas next week, the final distribution project I worked on from 2018 will finally culminate over a year later with it's publicity on the 25th. This stuff is out there, and when we think we've hit the end, things always pop up again and again. A recent example being the Gen 2 and 3 PCNY softwares. I recently even heard a rumor about another GBA rom that may be out there. It's also wise to keep an occasional eye on auction sites like Mercari Japan and Yahoo Japan, where YoshiMoshi found the first publicly known Japanese distribution cart in 2018. I'd like to think that public preservation of Pokemon rarities will continue for many years to come, it's essential to the future of the fanbase for decades to come. That's true whether you realize it or not, and one day in the distant future this data will be too long past for anything new to have a chance of showing up, despite what the lack of existing publicly is robbing of the fans that will, and already have, come and gone.
Edited by Deoxyz
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