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Monday March 04, 2024

Gary Bowser: Who is hacker owing $14.5 million to Nintendo?

Gary Bowser was released last year from 40-month sentence on confirmation of good behaviour

By Web Desk
February 01, 2024
Gary Bowser gestures for a photograph. — Andrew Francis Wallace
Gary Bowser gestures for a photograph. — Andrew Francis Wallace

Gary Bowser, the Nintendo hacker, was released from prison in April 2023 after serving 14 months of a 40-month sentence owing millions to the gaming giant.

His jail sentence was shortened by good behaviour but his possibilities are now restricted. He was spending some time sleeping on a friend's couch in Toronto, according to the Guardian.

He didn't have a job, and the weekly physical therapy treatments he needed to relieve his severe pain were expensive, costing hundreds of dollars each week. And he would have to start writing checks to Nintendo soon. Bowser is likely to spend the rest of his life repaying the $14.5 million (£11.5 million) he owes the creators of Super Mario.

Tinkering with electronics has been Bowser's lifelong passion since he was a young child. He learned how to wire up model railroads and mod calculators from his father, a mechanical engineer. He already had a computer business as a youngster since Bowser helped him and his father, who had retired, had passed away when he was fifteen.

Later, Bowser operated an internet cafe where customers played video games like Dance Dance Revolution and Counter-Strike and made a living by repairing electronics. During a career repairing gaming systems at flea markets, he was briefly involved with the authorities and almost got in trouble with sellers who sold unlicensed films. 

In 2010, he eventually relocated to the Dominican Republic. Despite his lack of Spanish for years, he had always enjoyed the island because, as he remembers, it could be travelled from one end to the other in around 12 hours. It was at this point that Bowser—who, in a situation of nominative determinism that is almost too obvious to mention—started to take on the role of the protagonist of Super Mario games and the face of Nintendo piracy.

Because of his affiliation with Team Xecuter, Bowser was accused of fraud. Nintendo also filed a civil lawsuit against him while he was in detention. In the civil and criminal proceedings combined, he has been asked to pay $14.5 million.