The original R4 DS cards were designed to allow users to store various versions of the games they are playing, but as the console itself had no memory function manufacturers quickly began to create DS compatible cards. It is believed that there are around 20 available different brands of R4 cards available on the market at the moment, a number unlikely to increase as Nintendo tries to stop the manufacturing and retail of the cards.
The history of R4 cards is far from uneventful and despite the manner in which it has revolutionised the Nintendo DS and massively increased it’s ability to compete effectively with the likes of the Sony PSP, Nintendo have fought hard to get the technology banned. The R4 cards have nevertheless transformed the Nintendo DS giving users the opportunity to use it not just as a games console but as a video and music player, even an eBook reader. With the likes of the PSP and the new Sony Vista, Amazon Kindle, the iPod touch and iPhones, the ability to listen to music, read books and watch videos is becoming increasingly standard amongst portable devices. This makes it even more important that the Nintendo DS users can access these services, because if they couldn’t the console would quickly become extinct - ending Nintendo’s last grip on the portable gaming console market. It is the R4 cards that maintain this ability to access video, music and other multimedia files on the console so whilst Nintendo fight the existence of the cards, they may also be fighting the existence of the console.
The R4 cards and technology have not enjoyed an entirely controversy free existence, with many companies - namely those effected such as Nintendo - claiming that whilst it does make the users experience better, it also acts as a platform through which gamers can download and play pirated games, subsequently losing money for the game manufacturers. In fact Nintendo, a Japanese company, successfully sued an Australian company who were selling the R4 card in Japan and obtained a ban on the sale of the technology within the country as well as a settlement from the distributor. For a company with a trillion dollar turnover, the $500,000 settlement will make very little difference - certainly a lot less than the amount they will have lost from the pirated software as a result of people using the R4 cards - but it acts as a deterrent for others who may consider selling the cards, whether online or in a store.
Within months of their victory in the courts of the Japan, Nintendo went after another of their biggest markets, the United Kingdom, successfully appealing to the high courts for a ban on the sale or import of R4 cards into the country. With 100,000 believed to have been seized by the UK authorities by the end of the year, the Dutch and German authorities were also quick to follow suit.