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 came from a singular tweet, of a screencapture from a Discord message.
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.”
As an aside, they also claim Planet Entertainment is owned by Bill Koch. This would be the third brother of the Koch Brothers (Charles G. and David H.) of Koch Industries, who in turn own Koch Media, who’s video game publishing division are Deep Silver.
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”.
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. In attempting to prove if Bill Koch is involved with the company, 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 advised. We 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 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.
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 (another 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.