For the first time since his release from prison, Nintendo pirate Gary Bowser has gone into detail about his experience and his ongoing struggles to pay fines to the company.
In an interview with The Guardian, Bowser spoke to his life before, during, and after prison. Bowser first got involved with piracy in the late 2000s, when he began to work with Team Xecuter on bypassing anti-piracy measures. He was something of a “middleman” between the programmers breaking code and the testers who would troubleshoot devices.
He was arrested in September 2020, while living in the Dominican Republic. Bowser said, “The day that it happened, I was sleeping in my bed, it was four in the morning, I’d been drinking all night, and suddenly I wake up and see three people surrounding my bed with rifles aimed at my head … they dragged me out of the place, put me in the back of a pickup truck and drove me to the Interpol office.”
He was then imprisoned in several jails. Because he was transferred during the height of COVID lockdowns, each transfer had COVID protocols that required him to be alone. Despite this precautions, he did catch COVID and spent two weeks incredibly sick.
Bowser was charged with fraud and hit with a civil suit from Nintendo. Although Bowser claims he could have combated the case, he would have taken lots of time and money. He says it was easier to plead guilty and be punished for fewer charges. Outright prison time is unusual for internet piracy cases, but Bowser claimed the case was made to make an example. He said, “The sentence was like a message to other people that [are] still out there, that if they get caught … [they’ll] serve hard time.” Nintendo representatives have also said as much. He now must pay 20-30% of his income after paying for necessities like rent to cover part of the 14.5 million he owes Nintendo.
Bowser has elephantiasis in his left leg, which was exacerbated by his prison time. He goes to physical therapy three times a week, which further contributes to his financial struggles. He is estranged from his family and relies on help from his friends (via GoFundMe) to make ends meet.
Bowser was sentenced to 40 months in jail in February 2022. He was charged for his involvement with the aforementioned Team Xecuter, which created an homebrew OS that allowed altered Nintendo Switches to play pirated games. Bowser was let out early in April 2023 for good behavior, but was required to continue to pay fines to Nintendo.