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Old 10-03-2012, 07:55 PM   #1
Talon87
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DS cartridge contacts corroding

When I popped Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney into my DS the other day, I noticed that its brassy contacts seemed to be a bit discolored with dark little specks all over. It concerned me at the time, all the more when I put the game into my DS and the system refused to recognize the cart until the fifth or sixth attempt, but soon after it became apparent to me that those issues were being caused by a different surprise failure* I put the problem out of my mind until beating the game. Well, after I beat the game today, I decided to remove the cartridge and give it a second look. Sure enough, there were dark brown specks along the contacts. "I wonder if any of my other games look like this, " I wondered. So I took a look at my collection.

Half of my games look brand new, I would say. The trend is definitely towards the newer purchased paks but that's not a hard and fast rule. For example, Pokemon Pearl is one of my oldest and more heavily played games and it looks brand new. The other half are all displaying signs of what can only be described as possible corrosion of the contacts (dark brown speckles) or an unexplained wearing away of the contacts (the green motherboard underneath is beginning to show through in some places in the form of tiny green specks). Happily, a few of the green specks were removable with a Q-tip suggesting possible copper corrosion; but most of them don't go away when wiped with a Q-tip and, as far as I can tell, are the underlying motherboard peeking through at me.

Question 1. Has this happened to anybody else? I've never noticed this on any of my cartridge-based games. Then again, it's not like the contacts are usually as visible as they are on DS gamepaks.

Question 2. Is this normal? Or are there abnormal conditions which have resulted in some of my games seemingly deteriorating like this?

Question 3. What tends to be the main culprit? Humidity? Temperature? Age? Exposure? The thing is, all the paks are stored together inside of an official Nintendo travel bag. So I have no idea why some of them are faring so poorly while others look brand new. While there is something of a trend towards older being more screwed and newer being less screwed, some of my newest DS games show the bad signs while some of my oldest DS games look immaculate. Also, I've 99% mostly kept my DS games either in my apartment or in someone else's house so the humidity has been very low and the temperature very temperate.

Question 4. Is it a trivial matter to lay down new metal as a contact in the event that these contacts wear away? In other words, can a gamepak whose contacts have corroded or worn away be patched? Or is it pretty much a bricked gamepak at that point?

You guys should check out your gamepaks too. Look for any discoloration or wearing away of the brassy metallic strips on the back. For everyone else's sake I hope I'm the only one with this problem though for my own sake I'd like it if this was something that happens to like 90% of DS owners and I'm only just now finding out about it. Either way I'm not happy though. I was planning on these games lasting for the next 20+ years. That doesn't seem likely now if the contacts are already corroding less than six years after I got my DS.


* Apparently my DS Lite's cartridge bay is dying. I have to insert gamepaks in a very precise manner now or else they don't work. I looked inside the bay without dismantling the unit and the pins all look perfectly fine. I have no idea what the cause is but it's very noticeable. I have to fight a lot of frictional resistance when inserting gamepaks now.
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Old 10-03-2012, 11:55 PM   #2
deoxys
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Odd, not sure what to tell you. I just looked at all of my DS games and even the oldest and most played ones look to be in perfect shape.

I would venture a guess it has to do with how some of them had been handled or inserted/removed from the DS, if any of them were purchased used, or as you suspected, humidity or temperature. There's really nothing else I could think of, especially if the ones that look damaged had been stored with the ones that don't!

Edit: Just saw what you said about the cartridge bay and I would almost think that that has everything to do with it.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:04 AM   #3
Talon87
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It can't be the cartridge bay though.

1) Phoenix Wright hadn't been touched since January 2007 but for one time in Summer 2009 when I copied my NDS .sav file over to a flash cart. The damage to the DS cartridge bay literally just happened inexplicably four or five days ago. I noticed the damage to the PW cartridge before popping it in.

2) Other games which I had not placed in there since 2009 or older showed damage too.

3) My flash cart, which has been stuck in there the longest of any of them and has been removed and reinserted many a time over the years, shows no damage whatsoever.

Also, I know this is just the internet and words are worth as much as grains of salt, but I'm no gorilla: I've always handled my electronics delicately. That includes inserting and removing DS carts.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:23 AM   #4
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I'm such a slob. I throw DS cartridges on my desk and lose them from time to time under piles of stuff. I also eat at the desk so I wouldn't be surprised if they were messed up.

After just now making a quick glance at some of them (Pokemon Diamond/HG/Black), I don't really notice any so called spots. I do see markings where the DS contacts the cartridges, but I wouldn't really call that outside the norm.

My flash card has what looks like smudged dust and when I gently scratch it, it comes off.

So from my tiny sample size, ranging from fairly old (Pokemon Gen4) to newish (Gen5), it doesn't look like there's a lot of corrosion.

Brass corrosion is typically greenish like in copper (since it is a copper alloy), but depending on the zinc content, it tends to be somewhat resistant to corrosion.
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:05 AM   #5
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I figured some pictures would help. Unfortunately, the only cameras I have are a terribad iPhone 3G camera and a barely better digital camera from 2000ish. So you'll have to forgive how bad these are. But I'll guide you through them with my eagle eye assessments from real life examination of the cartridges.

Exhibit A. Professor Layton 2

Take my word for it: the contacts look as immaculate IRL as they do in the photo on the right. Didn't bother to provide a size-400 version of the back of the cartridge because of this. Just trust me: it looks flawless. Looks even better than it does in the picture. The cartridge was probably last touched circa Summer 2009.

Exhibit B. Luminous Arc

This one exhibits one of the two problems I talked about. This is the discoloration which is darker in color but still brassy metallic. Can you see it along the left contacts? Unfortunately it doesn't look in the photo like it does IRL but this is good enough. What I can tell you to modify, now that you see this picture, is to make the dark lines a heck of a lot thinner, less tall, and more speckled looking. But from the picture you can at least appreciate that there is dark, brownish brass along with the usual bright brass. On a few game paks this dark stuff appears to wipe off (albeit incompletely) with gentle application of a Q-tip to the back. But for most of them there is no effect.

Exhibit C. Phoenix Wright 2

This one exhibits the other of the two problems I talked about and the one that's definitely a lot more worrisome. This is the mysterious "evaporation of brass" phenomenon where it looks like the brass has just ... evaporated away, inexplicably, revealing the green motherboard beneath. Now, you might be thinking, "I don't really see it in the picture you provided, Talon. " Well part of the problem is the camera. It just doesn't want to turn up right. But in that photo, you can at least see some of the discoloration. The other part of the problem ... is that that's not the best/worst picture. ^^; The best/worst follows below inside the spoiler box:

Spoiler: show

Do you see the hints of green in the middle of each of the brassy contact strips?


So what is going on here? Depending on how I rotate the cartridge, you see, the damage appears less bad or more bad. And believe me, it looks 20 to 30 times worse IRL than it does in these pictures. When I rotate the pak at this one angle I can see like 75% green beneath where the contacts should be, the remaining contact brass looking like soup oil circles on the top of a bowl of soup. -_-; You can appreciate this best in the fourth picture I've provided inside this spoiler tag. Keep in mind, this is all the same gamepak. Specifically, my copy of Phoenix Wright 2. The last time I ever put that game inside of a Nintendo DS would have probably been the last time I posted in the PW2 thread here on UPN. It's been safely (?????????????) sitting inside of a Nintendo travel case along with all my other gamepaks all the years since then. And yet just look at it! Look how much green is showing! That ain't natural!

So yeah. There's some photo evidence. Maybe when you all look at your own gamepaks now you'll notice similar stuff? [/misery loves company] But I do hope for your sakes you don't. I have no idea why I'm the unlucky one in that case but better it's just me, I guess, than that it's me + others. But this sucks. You do everything right -- dry, cool environment, official Nintendo storage case -- and this is what happens. Not cool.

Last edited by Talon87; 10-04-2012 at 01:26 AM.
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