Cooking Mama: Cookstar Rumoured To Be A Cryptocurrency Mining Scheme After Online Delisting

Cooking Mama: Cookstar Rumoured To Be A Cryptocurrency Mining Scheme After Online Delisting

Cooking Mama: Cookstar hit retail stores last week — but the game was never launched digitally. According to reports, it was briefly listed in the U.S. Switch eShop, but was swiftly taken down. But before you buy the game in Australia, be aware that there’s accusations the game was harbouring a cryptocurrency miner.

According to IGN, Cooking Mama: Cookstar was delisted from the U.S. eShop and scrubbed from the eShop completely in late March. In Australia, it doesn’t appear to have been listed at all — not even as a ‘coming soon’ title.

Kotaku Australia reached out to Nintendo and publishers Planet Digital Partners earlier this month to confirm the digital release status of Cooking Mama: Cookstar, but neither party has responded to multiple emails about its lack of listing so far. Information on the Cooking Mama: Cookstar is extremely hard to come by and it’s unclear who represents the title in Australia.

The reason for this secrecy may have been uncovered recently, with Twitter user @MorshuMmm sharing screenshots from a private Discord server in which it was alleged Cooking Mama: Cookstar uses Switch consoles to mine cryptocurrency and personal information of players. It’s important to note that this claim has not been confirmed and the source is currently unknown — but Cooking Mama‘s interest in blockchain technology is not unheralded.

The original 2019 press release announcing the game’s arrival emphasised the blockchain elements of the game. Publisher Planet Digital Partners highlighted new modes for the game in the release alongside the fact that each game would have a ‘unique blockchain private-key’ that allowed for improved DRM, nebulous rewards and an ‘enhanced multiplayer experience with dual expression’ which would make every copy of the game unique. It’s now alleged this meant the game would install cryptocurrency mining software on user’s consoles to discretely mine bitcoin for unknown parties.

As Siliconera reports, the game allegedly caused Nintendo’s network severe problems and led to Switch overheating issues for some players, which is what alerted Nintendo to the problem and caused the original delisting — but again, these rumours are currently unconfirmed.

A report from Twitter user @Toadsanime seemingly contains a response from the developers of the title — but the tweets do not list who exactly the developers are. The official statement from this mysterious party reads as follows:

“As the developers we can say with certainty there is no cryptocurrency or data collection or blockchain or anything else shady in the code. The Nintendo Switch is a very safe platform, with none of the data and privacy issues associated with some mobile and PC games.”

When asked to respond to the 2019 press release, they had this to say:

Twitter user @DoesItPlay1, an account dedicated to providing relevant information around physical media, confirmed that the game works offline, without a linked user account and on formatted consoles seemingly debunking the cryptocurrency mining theory. The account speculated that if the currency or blockchain technology did exist in the title, it has since been removed.

The current status of Cooking Mama‘s blockchain tech is thus far unconfirmed.

Despite these concerns, the title is still freely available at retail stores in Australia, with both EB Games and JB Hi-Fi listing stock online and in store. If you’re planning on purchasing the game, it might be best to wait until this whole mess has been sorted out first.

Comments

  • Nice work. I’d heard about the whole crypto-side of things and I was hoping Kotaku would report on it.

    Now, someone tell me what a blockchain is and how it could be positively applied to a videogame experience because I have no idea.

    • Put simply a blockchain is a chain of blocks of information that use cryptographic hashing to both identify a user and to establish the history of the chain. To mitigate the chances of someone tampering with the records or having a collision if two transactions are made at once, every transaction in the block chain is discussed among a committee of machines that all have their own copy of the chain. If they all agree the transaction block is added, otherwise it’s rejected.

      In terms of positive applications to games the only example I’ve seen are things like Cryptokitties where the chain is used to store things like genetic history and ownership. It’s a very exclusive game though and all transactions are done in Ethereum, a Bitcoin alternative.

    • A blockchain is essentially just a shared transaction ledger with the property that there isn’t a single party with authority to update it.

      Compare this to systems like the Visa or Mastercard network: they also maintain a shared ledger of transactions between every card holder and merchant, but those systems make Visa or Mastercard are the sole party that can add new transactions to the ledger.

      Blockchain systems allow multiple parties to write new transactions to the ledger, while ensuring that old transactions are not lost. This often involves a “proof of work” system so that it would be prohibitively expensive to create a forked version of the ledger that would be trusted by everyone else. This is also one of the things that causes the Bitcoin network to use so much electricity.

      It’s really not clear why blockchain tech actually benefits most of these games. For DRM purposes, it would be just as easy for the publisher/store owner to maintain the ledger of who owns each copy of the game. And for many of these blockchain systems, you still can’t authenticate a copy without the publisher’s cooperation.

      In most cases, it looks more like the publisher is running an “initial coin offering” scam. They invent a new cryptocurrency that will be used to buy and sell copies of the game or in-app purchases, and then sell a bunch of the coins with the promise that they will be worth a lot more once gamers need them to buy the game. It’s a way of raising capital without giving up equity in the company.

      • “Blockchain” is the current buzzword that attracts investors. So saying that you use “blockchain technology” for DRM could attract venture capital investments.

    • A blockchain is a kind of database that anyone can read for free and write for a small price; in which all history of transactions is there for everyone to see; and that no one can falsify because of smart cryptography.

      Now, how that is useful for games, … I guess it all depends on your imagination. Maybe the game should store something that in the future the players will want to check and be sure that no one cheated on them – like the initial hands dealt in a poker game. Maybe your instance of the game can have/use/generate something unique that someone else might want to exchange/buy while making sure that no one else has it. Maybe you want to store forever the top scores in a world-wide, verifiable way.

      How any of that applies here in particular… no idea.

  • there’s tons more info online about the game which would make some of this a lot less mysterious if you spend the time to look – like the developer and source of those posts, unedited footage of the game on youtube from people that got physical copies etc. – the crypto claim was based on rumors from a pirated copy running on a hacked switch on 4chan and was all a bunch of bs – confirmed in multiple places

    • I have a physical copy of the game and can confirm that it doesn’t drain battery or get super hot whilst running connected to the internet. I think these claims of the game mining cryptocurrency in the background are surely false, as the evidence they have provided for their case so far have all been false.

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