In December, Japanese lawmakers pushed forward an amendment to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act that effectively bans save game editors and similar console mods, which now can result in a hefty fine if broken. Other changes resulting from the amendment also makes it illegal to sell product keys for games without the software maker's permission.
The changes to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act are detailed in this official Japanese site, but according to a Google translated version, the following actions have become illegal as a result of the December amendment:
- Act 1: Transfer of tools and programs to remodel save data of game software etc.
- Act 2: Selling or posting on the internet serial code and product key that the software maker does not license.
- Act 3: Perform remodeling of save data
As explained by developer Brad Parker on Reddit, these changes have resulted in the discontinued sales of products like Pro Action Replay and Cybergadget's "Save Editor." Nintendo Soup is also reporting that potential fines for breaking these new laws could reach as high as 5 million yen (~$46,000 USD).
One popular example of save edits is in the Pokemon games, where hex edits allow hackers to mod different Pokemon to have specific stats and attributes. Even Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee were hacked via this method soon after launch. Modder OatmealDome even warns that the SplatHeX tool is now illegal in Japan as a result of the new amendment.
Modifying game save data is now ILLEGAL in Japan due to a new law passed by the government. If you are using SplatHeX in Japan, please be aware of this.https://t.co/2qFEpZRIhi— NewYearmealDome (@OatmealDome) January 2, 2019
Meanwhile reselling keys is outright banned in Japan, signaling one of the strongest legal actions against the practice from a major video game market. The murky legality of key resellers has made the proposition of fighting the practice in western markets vague at best, though key resellers frustrate many small to mid-size developers.
It'll be interesting to see how, if at all, Japan's recent changes will reverberate outwards to other major game markets like North America, Europe, and the rest of Asia.