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The man who owes Nintendo $14m: Gary Bowser and gaming’s most infamous piracy case

The hacker whose involvement with anti-piracy software ended in a jail sentence has emerged from prison struggling to make rent as he starts paying his fine. ‘It could be worse,’ he says

In April 2023, a 54-year-old programmer named Gary Bowser was released from prison having served 14 months of a 40-month sentence. Good behaviour reduced his time behind bars, but now his options are limited. For a while he was crashing on a friend’s couch in Toronto. The weekly physical therapy sessions, which he needs to ease chronic pain, were costing hundreds of dollars every week, and he didn’t have a job. And soon, he would need to start sending cheques to Nintendo. Bowser owes the makers of Super Mario $14.5m (£11.5m), and he’s probably going to spend the rest of his life paying it back.

Since he was a child, Bowser’s life has revolved around tinkering with electronics. His dad was a mechanical engineer, and he learned from him how to wire up model trains and mod calculators. As a teenager he already had a computer business: his mother died when he was 15, his father had retired and Bowser supported him.

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