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Report: Cooking Mama CookStar Rumored to be Illicit Crypto Currency Miner

Cooking Mama: CookStar

CORRECTION: Bill Koch has no involvement with Koch Media, or those in this article. Koch Media makes no mention of being affiliated with Bill Koch, or the Koch Brothers (Charles G. Koch, and the late David H. Koch). Koch Industries does not own Koch Media.


Update 2: ScreenRant reports that (according to an alleged developer of the game who wishes to remain anonymous) the crypto currency was never a part of the game, and the developers would not have been capable of doing so.

“The statement about crypto-currency was all buzz words. The head of planet entertainment knows very little about these things… he just put some fancy language to get potential investors who like that stuff. As for the crashes/ overheating. That would be because the game is made in unity. By many people working on their first game… it’s not the best product but it made it through several vigorous reviews by nintendo and Sony. There is no way crypto-mining stuff could get through those tests. I doubt anyone at 1p would even be able to make such a thing.”

The claim of the head of Planet Entertainment not being knowledgeable in the blockchain technology his company was pushing is rather shocking. Moreso considering the pedigree of the individuals involved with the company.

The “several vigorous reviews by nintendo and Sony” would seem to indicate the game was planned for PlayStation 4 at some point.

Regarding how the Cooking Mama IP was being used, the source claims “There is a legal battle between the publisher, planet entertainment and the ip holder, office create.” It should be noted Office Create are now known as Cooking Mama Limited, changing their name in May 2009.

The dispute came about as planet entertainment released the game against a request by office create to keep polishing the game, or perhaps even canceling it.” The lack of communication between the publisher and developer was said to be “pretty standard.”

The business relationship between Cooking Mama Limited (still referred to as Office Create by the source) broke down, and when they discovered the game had been published without their consent, they contacted Nintendo to pull the game from the Nintendo e-Shop and stop production of physical copies.

“At one point the japanese official create clients came to oversee development. An argument started and the clients were told to go home if they weren’t being ‘constuctive’. Once they found out that planet entertainment released the game, they used their nintendo contacts to pull it from the e-shop and stop production of cartridges.

Overall, everyone at 1p loves the cooking mama franchise and did their best to make the best product considering the interference from the higher ups. I think the game is far from perfect, but would have done fine without the publishers stumbling so constantly…”

The source was asked if the game had been released without any of the development team knowing in advance. They stated that the last they knew, the game was launching in March. The source also revealed that Planet Entertainment is suing Cooking Mama Limited.

It’s hard to say. We were told the game was coming out in March. That’s all anyone knew. The boss at 1p, tobi, keeps that kind of thing to herself mostly stating she doesn’t want to stress us with the details… Advertising was blocked by office create too. There were youtube ads, websites, and even tik tok ads that never came out.”

As I understand planet entertainment is sueing office create having it removed for money lost. It’s hard to say if it will ever be released properly.”

If all of the above is true, our new conclusion would be that Planet Entertainment were producing a Cooking Mama game, but not to the satisfaction of the IP holder. When communication broke down, Planet Entertainment still released the game against the developer’s wishes.

Planet Entertainment seemingly attempted to court investors using blockchain terminology, even if it was never intended to be in the game.

As such, there is more doubt cast over Planet Entertainment. What else have they lied about? Why are they silent at this time?

We will continue to investigate.


Update: The game’s developer, 1st Playable, have replied to requests for clarity made by users on Twitter.

They state they were frustrated by the situation with the game’s distribution, and denied any claims of “cryptocurrency or data collection or blockchain or anything else shady in the code.”

Regarding the earlier press release from Planet Digital containing the mention of block chains and crypto currency based terminology, they state that they presume it was hypothetical. They also state it was never discussed with them, and “were entertained to hear about [it] in late 2019.”

They also state they were “not directly involved with the eshop issue,” and refute claims of the game having any issues with causing the Nintendo Switch to overheat or quickly drain its battery.

You can find their replies archived here [1, 2], and below.

“Yes! As per the box and the credits. We’re proud of the game, and frustrated as everyone with the distribution situation. But copies are out there and we’re loving the shares!”

“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.”

“This is a release from Feb 2019, and we presume hypothetical like most releases about blockchain are. Blockchain was never brought up to us developers, and we were entertained to hear about in late 2019. Not happening anytime soon.”

“Those are all rumors. The game is fine. We’ve playing it for months, the team just got our retail copies and they work as expected. There’s no technical issues with the game, and although we’re not directly involved with the eshop issue we are hoping it will get sorted out soon.”

We have reached out to them for additional information.


Original Story:

Serious yet bizarre claims have been leveled at Cooking Mama: CookStar, stating the game uses the Nintendo Switch as a crypto currency mining machine.

The claims are also backed by bizarre behavior surrounding the game’s launch and publicity.

The Rumor

The rumor came from a singular tweet, of a screencapture from a Discord message.

Cooking Mama: CookStar

The message appears to have a screenshot of yet another Discord user, allegedly “Cybershroom“. In summation, they claim that the publisher (Planet Entertainment) did not receive permission to produce the game from the owners (Cooking Mama Limited). The company’s headquarters also said to be a residential home.

They further claim a press release described the game as having “blockchain-based DRM”. The game does not launch unless you are online, and when you do “Switch network traffic skyrockets, battery life craters, and the thing overheats in about half an hour.”

Another user “UHOHBRO”, claims this is so the game can be used in crypto currency mining. In basic terms, crypto currency mining allows users to generate virtual currency, in exchange for their computer being used to transfer data.

Doing so without a user’s consent is illegal, usually due to involving hacking, or not disclosing the true purpose of a program and its risks.

Is it True?

Relying on the testimony of an anonymous message on the internet would usually be laughable. Even illicit attempts to use a computer for crypto mining would usually focus on more powerful systems, and a more stable internet connection (such as home computers). More processing means more “mining”.

However, some claims appear to be true. Cybershroom replied to our inquiries, stating that the image “was an out of context screencap of me just dumping info from a [sic] original 4chan thread.”

Across August 2019, numerous smaller outlets and Twitter users noted a press release the company launched [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. One of these people (Twitter user Daan Koopman) provided an archive of the webpage the press release was on. This same archive was also shown to us by Cybershroom on Twitter.

The press release states that the game will be “one of the first three games in Planet Digital’s portfolio that is funded by digital preferred shares. Planet Digital will democratize game funding for investors, who for the first time ever can own equity in a portfolio of console games.”

The President of Planet Digital Partners, Steve Grossman, also used some rather confusing terms to describe how blockchain technology itself would help generate profit for investors.

“Gaming is a $135 billion dollar industry with little opportunity to invest outside of the large public game publishers. We are using blockchain to add new innovative gameplay that investors can now have equity in. Putting aspects of Cooking Mama on-chain will take the user experience to a whole new level, reinvigorate a popular game franchise that many grew up with and give investors an opportunity to make handsome returns, through a digital preferred share offering.”

The blockchain would also allegedly enable the following.

  • “Unique Blockchain Private-Keys – Each purchased copy of the game will have unique IDs which will be managed directly through the game’s internal wallet storage. Players will be able to focus on Cooking Mama’s user experience rather than cryptographic key management.
  • Private-Key Enabled Balanced DRM – Traditional DRM limits the ability to copy games, while private-keys on blockchain protocols allows easy registration. These combined items provide greater proof of ownership to legitimate owners of a game, while also allowing them to resell games both digitally and in traditional retail outlets.
  • Enhanced Multiplayer Experience with Dual Expression – This feature, when enabled, makes every copy of a game subtly different and personal to a user. It utilizes the private-key to change expression algorithms for characters, ingredients and cooking methods.
  • Securing Online Events – For promotional events, player records and participation can be tracked while maintaining privacy. In addition, hashes of the running game can be recorded to ensure the game has not been altered to create an unfair advantage.
  • Digital Assets, Rewards, Recognition – Users will be rewarded with in-game currency (or points, experience, and other items) or earn recognition and certificates. These could be provided by the game, other players, or third parties that host tournaments or other promotions.”

While this may be biased with hindsight, it appears the press release is confirming that investors will be able to make profit via crypto currency, especially with terms such as “internal wallet storage.”

Combined with the phrase “Players will be able to focus on Cooking Mama’s user experience rather than cryptographic key management,” it seems the game is designed to be played, without players having to focus on managing the crypto currency wallet (such as passwords and verification).

The news most likely went unnoticed due to the aforementioned websites being focused on crypto currency, blockchain technologies, or websites with smaller communities. The press release itself was does not appear to have been shared on press release websites such as GamesPress.

The press release also states the company is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. It also appears to be an office, rather than residential areas. The staff page (as of this time of writing) now leads to a 404 error.

Editor’s Note: The Planet Entertainment website produces a security warning on most browsers when accessed. Reader caution is advisedWe have used archived links for this article.

The press release states “Planet Digital Partners represents an all-star team of video game industry leaders including the former PlayStation Europe President, the founder of Take 2/Grand Theft Auto, the former CEO of Guitar Hero and hit-maker developers of Halo, Quake, and NBA Playgrounds. Brands including Bass Pro Shops, Cooking Mama and Cabela’s.”

One of the four people listed out of 12 employees on the company’s LinkedIn profile (which lists the company as being based in Fairfield, Connecticut) is Chris Deering- “president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe from 1995 to 2005 and of Sony Electronics Europe from 2003 to 2005” [Wikipedia].

The LinkedIn profiles of Dean Simcock, nor Michael Stiegelmeyer would seem to indicate involvement with Guitar HeroHaloQuake, or NBA Playgrounds.

The founder of Take 2/Grand Theft Auto” most likely refers to Kelly Sumner. Even so Ryan Brant would be technically more accurate as he founded Take-Two Interactive, while Sumner became CEO of Take Two.

An article by BlockChain Gamers confirm Sumner’s involvement, along with Planet Entertainment’s goals to “democratize the process of video game publishing, development and investment.” Another article by Breaker Mag explains Grossman’s proposal to use blockchain for the Bass Pro series (such as fish being finite).

As an aside, Sumner and Brant were sued by Take-Two Interactive in 2010 for fraud and insider trading. In the case summery, Sumner was one of 15 alleged of selling “some of their own stock while in possession of inside information” of a “backdating scheme”. However, the case was ultimately dismissed.

11 of the 12 employees were listed in an article by TechRaptor in January 2019. These include David Rosenbaum, Matt Karch, Andrey Iones, Michael Maloney, Jeff Hilbert, Edward Williams, and Patrick Baron. All names involved seem to be major figures with in the video game or blockchain-based industries.

Planet Digital

The Planet Entertainment website (as of this time of writing) does not list the press release, or any trace of the game on their website [1, 2]. Even the game’s news page is entirely blank. Their official Twitter profile has also remained dormant since February 2019.

The announcement of the game was also strange. The game was (and still is, as of this time of writing) listed on Amazon Germany, and the Koch Media Shop [1, 2]- around August 2019 (judging by the Gematsu article’s publication date).

The game was also shown to be on PlayStation 4. Neither box mentions online DRM [1, 2], though curiously the PlayStation 4 version of the game shows Ravenscourt on the logo (a division of Koch Media), rather than Entertainment Planet.

A seemingly official Twitter account for the game made no mention of a PlayStation 4 version of the game, and also had very limited activity (only three posts in March 2020).

The game’s Facebook, and Instagram profiles also made little to no activity. Neither they, nor the game’s official website make any mention of the game being on PlayStation 4, or any form of always-online DRM.

The official twitter accounts [1, 2] and websites [1, 2] for Cooking Mama (Japanese and English) also make no mention of the game as of this time of writing.

The game’s announcement trailer leaked on February 19th. To our knowledge, this game was never officially shown by Nintendo in trailers or Nintendo Directs. An official account later uploaded the video on March 27th.

The game was listed by GameStop, though the PlayStation 4 version was taken down. This is supported by the 4Chan thread, where a user claimed “the pre-order for the game was dropped minutes after I saved the image.”

The image in question was of the PlayStation 4 box art. According to images taken by Wario64 (a Twitter account dedicated to video game news), the PlayStation 4 version states the game requires an internet connection on the box. Planet Entertainment is also on the box again, rather than Ravenscourt.

Cooking Mama: CookStar

Around March 2020, people began to raise the alarm about how strange everything surrounding the game was, especially the original press release [1, 2, 3].

One YouTuber (Purple Pocket Pirate, who we shall refer to as P3) states that when he tried to access the game’s official website (on March 11th or prior), it lead to a GoDaddy page, offering the domain for sale (as the website was not active a week before the game’ then March release date).

P3 also highlights the videos on the official Planet Digital Partner’s YouTube account seem designed for investors, and have incredibly few views and subscribers considering who is involved.

He also highlights an interview Kelly Sumner gave to CNBC Africa, where he mentions using blockchain technology being used for Cooking Mama in February 2019, along with Cabela’s The Hunt, Bass Pro, and seven others.

P3 also takes issue with how the company appeared to have formed around 2019, yet the official website for the company was seemingly founded in 2018.

According to a later video by P3, YouTuber GameTim (with a series focused on recreating recipes from the Cooking Mama series in real life) had played the game on March 25th.

In the video focusing on the “rainbow grilled cheese” recipe, GameTim states that not only had a copy of the game early, but that he even “got to help out with development” of the game.

This is not elaborated in the video, nor the name of the developer or publisher who would have sent him the game (with YouTube having stricter terms of service in recent years, about reviewers not disclaiming when they were given a product).

P3 contacted GameTim. GameTim explained he had played a production build of the game, from a development kit.

“Planet entertainment reached out to me last May to help consult on it, mostly on a content and gameplay level (recipes, controls, look/feel, etc). It was really cool getting to work with that team, especially with a producer that has been with the franchise for over a decade.”

Considering the game is Japanese, and none of the staff shown have been involved with Cooking Mama Limited or any publisher of any game- it only raises more questions. Other than that, GameTim had no other new information. The video description also has an Amazon affiliate link, where the game can be purchased in the US.

A source (with no affiliation with any of the involved parties) also contacted us, explaining the game had seemingly been sold and distributed physically.

They claim that physical copies of the game can start, even when offline. They propose the physical editions of the game had the always online “feature” removed.

One of the aforementioned Twitter users who raised the alarm (DoesItPlay), states a physical version does exist, with another Twitter user sending them photos, along with other users.

There are also claims that those who have hacked the game found no crypto mining codes within, along with claims that the game works without an internet connection.

As of this time of writing, the official listing for the game on Nintendo.com now leads to an error page. IGN (citing Reddit and Twitter users) report the game was briefly available digitally, before being taken down. IGN also notes those selling the game on Amazon are third-party sellers.

GoNintendo (citing another Reddit post) report that the game was briefly made available digitally on March 26th. In another post, the user made no mention of any lag.

IGN also state they “tried to work out if Planet Entertainment could be the development arm of Planet Digital Partners, and looked up its listed company headquarters – it’s just a sizeable house in rural Connecticut.” However, they do not cite the Connecticut address, nor have we been able to find it.

The Verdict

This has to be one of the strangest cases we have ever seen, more akin to something during earlier times when the industry was less regulated and documented.

It appears that Planet Entertainment or Planet Digital Partner somehow managed to fly completely under everyone’s radar despite the people involved. While not a titanic franchise, a new Cooking Mama game from people that important should have made waves.

If the allegations of crypto mining are true, it seems those features were hastily removed, and the game was then unceremoniously dumped onto stores and anyone who would take it. Though claims of the game causing the console to overheat are bizzare.

If there was a scam in place, it begs why those involved did not use a more powerful system like the PlayStation 4, or better yet, home PCs. Or use a franchise that had a dedicated fan base (like Pro Bass fishing), but with more believable use of constant online play (rather than a puzzle or party-like game such as Cooking Mama).

Even falsely using someone else’s IP is bonkers, considering it puts more eyes on you. A cheap battle royale game made quickly, and advertised through YouTubers or other “influencers” would generate less bad press (until the crypto mining was discovered).

The sheer incompetence of all involved (in the scam’s concept and execution) is what raises so much doubt. Yet, attempting to sabotage a company with false claims is also nonsensical, considering how “cancel culture” tends to focus on crimes and abusive behavior.

If this game was damaging, its amazing Nintendo would not warn others and issue a recall (to protect itself), or if the game is now safe, sell and promote it officially. It is also amazing to think anyone would believe Nintendo would not check software it distributes does not utilize malware or violates the law.

Combined with the unclear mission statement of Planet Entertainment (or Planet Digital Partner), and how Koch Media are involved, we are left spinning our wheels. We have no idea what Mama’s been cooking with, but something is off.

Image: YouTube (thumbnail), Bitcoin.org

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Ryan Pearson

About

Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.