Introduction: Hacking Guide to the Wii GiftCard

Picture of Hacking Guide to the Wii GiftCard

Target is handing out Wii GiftCards in anticipation of Nintendo's release of this remarkable console. The cards are a bit thicker than your regular credit card and house some pretty nifty electronics. Pressing the button on the outside of the card turns on a ominous blue Wii glow that lasts about ten seconds. I'll pop the case on this little thing and check out the internals. After that we'll add a bit of functionality to the LEDs.

Gather up some tools...

#0 Phillips Screwdriver
Small Flat Screwdrivers
Soldering Iron & Solder
Forceps or Needle Nose Pliers

and lets get started!

Step 1: Crack the Case

Picture of Crack the Case

On the back side of the card are four #0 Phillips screws to remove.

Carefully remove the backplate and observe the four light diffusers on the edges of the card.

Stash the backplate, diffusers, and screws somewhere safe.

Step 2: What's on the Inside

Picture of What's on the Inside

Now that you've got the thing open lets take a look at the innards.

-Six blue LEDs are mounted on the corners to illuminate the edges of the card and two more are pointed into the Wii logo at the center.
-The diffuser bars only fit into their spots one way, notice the larger area of plastic extending towards the outside.

Remove the circuit board.

-Note the button mounted in the front plastic cover, it lines up with the metal button on the board.
-On the circuit board there are several key spots that I highlighted. Most important is the little black glob just right of center on the bottom. This is most likely a 555 timer IC, it controls the delay that keeps the LEDs lit.
-There are three 10ohm current limiting resistors on the board to protect the LEDs from high currents. The one noted on the top regulates the inner LEDs, the two on the right side of the board regulate the left and right sets of wired LEDs.
-The transistor switches on the LED circuit when the middle pin is connected to ground. This is needed because the current draw of the LEDs is to great for the little blob IC. The right pin runs to the LEDs, the pin on the left, to the positive rail.

Step 3: The Batteries

Picture of The Batteries

Depending on how many people have played with the card before you got it you might have to change the batteries. Target made this surprisingly easy to do. The circuit bard holds three G10A (LR54) coin batteries. Each one provides 1.5V and the board is designed to run them together in series for a total of 4.5V.

To remove the batteries, bend the tabs on the outside edges of the battery holders. You may have to pry them up with a small screwdriver first and then grip them with pliers. Be careful not to break them off.

Next, push the battery out and slip in your new ones.

At this point you could solder some wires to the noted contacts and power the card from a 5V wall adapter. You'll have to short out the two resistors to the right of the blob to make the LEDs stay lit.

Step 4: Don't Read the Fine Print!

Picture of Don't Read the Fine Print!

The back of the card lets everybody know that you found it at Target, it's a gift card, and its copyrighted. It would look a lot better just clean and white. It took me awhile to figure out exactly how to git rid of the text. The top part is printed in a dye, as is the copyright in the lower left. The center bar code and the stuff on the bottom right is stamped with some kind of non-reflective ink. I think this prevents people from changing the bar codes and, unfortunately, erasing them too.

I thought that acetone might be a good approach as it eats plastic, sadly I was wrong.

Next I tried a Dremel buffer wheel, nix that plan too. The wheel gets too hot and burns the plastic randomly.

The best way to remove the text ended up being a simple razor blade and some patience. Start at one side of the card with the razor blade vertical. Scrape the blade softly across the surface of the card and you should start to see the writing peal off. This'll leave the card a bit dull and scratched looking so you might have to sand it down with some 600 grit sandpaper. You can usually find sandpaper this fine at hobby stores.

If you want to take it a step further you could spray paint your own logo on the back with a stencil and then finish it off with a protective gloss.

Step 5: Cutting Out the Logo

Picture of Cutting Out the Logo

Say you don't like the Wii and you still want a flashy card to show off to your friends. The front of the card is a sticker, easily pealed off and tossed aside.

Once you've done that, flip the card over and take a look at the clear plastic piece in the center. This is held on with a couple of melt rivets that can be cut off to pull the clear insert out of the front.

After this, start up your Dremel and cut out the rest of the plastic in the center window.

Step 6: Some MOD Ideas

Picture of Some MOD Ideas

I mentioned that you can power this thing from an external source and turn it into a cool night light or some other static art piece, but static just doesn't cut for me. So here's some Ideas to get you started...

Change the LED colors -
The LEDs are 3mm standard size and run at about 3.3V. With the current limiting resistor at only 10ohms we can assume that these LEDs are of the "Super Bright " category. Any color led of that takes a 3V 20mA input should be fine here. I "photoshoped" a little preview below.

Attach a lanyard -
Kinda simple, but definitively a necessity. Pierce a hole in one of the corners to attach a small cord to, or make a loop that attaches to some other lanyard.

I went a bit over the top and decided to add a PIC microcontroler to the card and flash some Morse code over the LEDs. I'll show you exactly how to do this in the following step.

Step 7: PIC Morse Code

PIC microcontrolers are programed in assembly and can be a bit tricky to learn. I don't really have the time to show you the ins and outs of programing PICs, but I can start you off with a little Morse code program I wrote for the Wii release. You'll need to program the chips before you solder them into the circuit becasue the programing lines are going to be used by the card.

To send a Morse code string use the subroutines "S" for a dot, "L" for a dash, "CS" for a letter separator, and "WS" for a word space.

The sleep command will keep the PIC in a low power state until the button is pressed on the card. Just before sending the PIC to sleep I read the status of the port into the "sandbox" register so that the chip would know how the button changed.

The following code was written for the PIC10F202.

start	init	movlw	b'00010101'			; Configure options (weak pull-up, wake on change)	option 	movlw	0x00				; Future button variable	movwf	state	movlw	0x08				; Set GP0-2 to outputs	tris	GPIOWii	call	S					;WII	call	L	call	L	call	CS	call	S	call	S	call	CS	call	S	call	S	call	WS	call	S					;FOR	call	S	call	L	call	S	call	CS	call	L	call	L	call	L	call	CS	call	S	call	L	call	S	call	WS	call	L					;THE	call	CS	call	S	call	S	call	S	call	S	call	CS	call	S	call	WS		call	S					;WIN	call	L	call	L	call	CS	call	S	call	S	call	CS	call	L	call	S	call	WS	movf	GPIO, W				;Check GPIO for Sleep	nop			sleep	goto	Wii;-------Subs-----------L							; Dash	bcf		GPIO, 0	call	Delay	call	Delay	call	Delay	bsf		GPIO, 0	call	Delay	returnS							; Dot	bcf		GPIO, 0	call	Delay	bsf		GPIO, 0	call	Delay	returnCS							; Space between letters	call	Delay	call	Delay	returnWS							; Space between words	call	Delay	call	Delay	call	Delay	call	Delay	return;------Delays-----------Delay			;199993 cycles	movlw	0x3E	movwf	d1	movlw	0x9D	movwf	d2Delay_0	decfsz	d1, f	goto	$+2	decfsz	d2, f	goto	Delay_0			;3 cycles	goto	$+1	nop			;4 cycles (including call)	return	END                       ; directive 'end of program'

Step 8: Adding a PIC

Picture of Adding a PIC

The PIC I chose to use for this project is one of the smallest DIP microcontrolers you can find, the PIC10F202. Microchip makes surface mount versions of this chip that I would have liked to use but at 2.6mm I couldn't reasonably work with them.

You can leave the casing of the card "as is" and still have room for the PIC in the center, right underneath the Wii logo. I did this with my versions and and didn't have a problem.

You'll need to start by cutting a trace on the board that runs from the button to the little blob IC. We're going to tap into the button and avoid adding another. You'll want to make the cut close to the black blob so that we can solder a wire directly to the remaining trace. You'll know that the cut worked when you can't press the button to turn on the LEDs (when you insert the batteries, the LEDs will still turn on for ten seconds).
{picture coming soon}

Once you've cut the trace, scrape off a little bit of the solder mask coating the trace. This is where you'll solder the wire to your PIC.

Now we need to add wires to bring power off the main board and to the PIC. Remember the two pads that I pointed out for ground and +4.5V. You'll need to solder a wire to each of these pads.

The final wire you'll need should be soldered to the bottom right resistor on the board, this is a current limiting resistor for the transistor. Solder to the side of the resistor closest to the black blob. There isn't really a need to cut a trace here since we already disabled the time by cutting the button trace.

Now your ready to place your PIC.

Solder the two power lines to the corresponding pin on the PIC. +4.5V should go to Vdd(Voltage drain) and the ground should go to Vss(Voltage source).

Solder the wire from the LED transistor to the PIC's Port 0.

Solder the wire from the button to Port 3 on the PIC, thats the input only port.


hrodriguez7 (author)2012-01-31

why not just spraypaint the back white?

bsdbf (author)2010-08-25

can some one tell me how i can get one PLEASE

friedpope (author)bsdbf2011-08-07

Target stopped producing these once the Wii was released a few years ago.

Keep an eye out for some of the other crazy gift cards they make, I don't think they have anything electronic right now. Nevertheless they are pretty creative in the gifting department.

bfloobis (author)bsdbf2011-08-06

i want to know too...

lolcat360 (author)2008-12-30

If it's a gift card, why would you want to scratch off the bar code?

khaos4ng31 (author)lolcat3602010-09-20

No... He used Gimp and Blurred it so nobody would try and use it, because it is possible to reactivate a used gift card and track someone with it.

seabananers (author)lolcat3602010-05-26

maybe he used it all ready like if it's empty

maxpower49 (author)2007-07-11

wot is the point of this?

Bert99 (author)maxpower492010-06-03

the point is to change the color on a gift card and make it seem complimicated.

hassannaeem101 (author)2009-02-11

do they still sell em

Kikurimu (author)hassannaeem1012009-02-12

They stopped selling the wii ones a while back, but they just started selling Blu-Ray giftcards which are exactly the same. (I guess they just had blank ones and printed Blu-ray instead of Wii on them.

ReCreate (author)2009-01-25

wow the pictures are...awesome they look soo professional

Xynck (author)2008-07-05

So.. What does it do? As far as I can tell, you took apart a card, changed the lights, and did something with Morse Code.

heaveN (author)Xynck2008-08-25

Funny comment; 'morse code' Besides that; what a cool giftcard. Looks neat :]

Colonel88 (author)heaveN2008-11-26

I cant find them anymore. I have a wii but noo gift card

caclark (author)2007-01-31

This gives me an idea, but I'm not too circuit savvy.
What would I need to solder in to allow this to run from a 12v source?
If you're wondering where I'm going with this, look at --> this.

I've got a blue car with a blue interior - so this would be cool. But I'd never pay $80-100 dollars for this.

Thanks to anyone who can help.

spork969 (author)caclark2008-06-06

12v leds ftw

royalestel (author)caclark2007-02-01

You just need a large resistor to drop the voltage to 5v. Then solder the 5v power to the positive and negative points on the board mentioned by friedpope above (and remove the batteries) and you should be good to go.

CaffeineHouse (author)royalestel2007-07-19

you could also use a 7805 voltage regulator chip.

royalestel (author)CaffeineHouse2007-07-20

Can you program the 7805? I might have need for a dual-voltage output circuit in the near future . . .

CaffeineHouse (author)royalestel2007-07-21

no, the 7805 puts out a constant 5v+, but there are other similar chips which do the same thing but output different voltages. here is an adjustable one:

royalestel (author)CaffeineHouse2007-07-24

Thankee! thankee!

friedpope (author)royalestel2007-02-07

That's an excellent schematic. Your right about the PNP resistor, the anodes of the LEDs are connected to the emitter of the transistor. When you see that it means that a positive voltage will go from the transistor and into the LEDs, a PNP will do that when you bring the base to ground.

royalestel (author)friedpope2007-02-08

Oh, I get it. Thanks so much for the explanation. I'm learning a little bit every day. :)

xoClaire (author)caclark2007-05-28

...thats pretty rad.

marc92 (author)caclark2007-04-29

You have a sweet car

doomduc (author)2008-03-14

Hey! I've got that exact same knife. Good people know good tools.

ojochris (author)doomduc2008-04-11

agreed, I have it also. But did you get yours in a set or a single? I have 4 of the kind(just diff. blades)

friedpope (author)ojochris2008-04-13

Just a single, my grandpa had an identical knife for most of his life.

ojochris (author)friedpope2008-04-13

This set was my first, my grandpa gave it to me, I was 8. (I'm 15 now, and they are all in near perfect condition, and are used.) I practice my karate with them(I think I'm a little crazy) lol I'v got soooo
many scars from those knifes it beyond funny.

doomduc (author)ojochris2008-04-12


ojochris (author)doomduc2008-04-12


led235 (author)2008-01-26

does target give them away anymore?

he3r0 (author)2008-01-24

Instead of a razor, get a fine grit sand paper in sheet, than lay your GC on that sheet and sand it down

Jr Hacking kid (author)2008-01-11

hay could i buy one from you

cotton (author)2008-01-11

you are buts becasue this is nutes it is not the bad nuts it is the good nuts lol i love it

Amon2 (author)2007-12-24

How do you short out the resistors? And do you stick the wires in those holes? I dont wanna screw up on my wii target think so please reply.

hp_bierbaumer (author)2007-11-29

a smd led driver could be used to control each led individually (but would be quite some work to rewire the board)

Hawaii00000 (author)2007-11-09

What does it do?? I'm very confused.

Jr Hacking kid (author)2007-10-29

i cant find one do u guys want to sell me one

the_first_place_loser (author)2007-07-27

You mentioned the non-reflective ink. I won't claim to be an expert, but maybe this is so that the black bars show up more easily to the scanner. If I'm correct, the barcode scanner looks for areas that arent reflecting. But hey, what do I know...

Chris Tucker (author)2007-02-05

Just bought one off eBay. This will be the heart of my Aqua Team Hunger Force Ignignokt fiber optic button. Yes! I will cause havoc where ever I go in Boston & Cambridge with my "suspicious device" button! Will there be an Instructable? Oh, yes! There will be pictures!

It's aqua "teen", actually.

Indeed it is! Of course, I could claim that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought about by the fear and terror induced by the Mooninites doing it as had as they could to the City of Boston.

haha, fear the mooninites! i must say though, your post inspired me to create my own mooninite badge, although i decided to make Err. I am hoping to have an instructable up soon!

Llewner (author)2007-04-24

An industrial grade orange cleaner works on most screen printed text on plastic. It can eat into polystyrene though.

shadus (author)2007-04-02

Try a sugar cube next time, it works for removing most text from plastic without damaging the plastic... like the razor it takes a bit of time and patience though.

ThumbsUp (author)2007-03-06

i have a very uneducated question:

is it possible to use IR LED's (1.7 forward voltage with a peak current of 50mA) in this set up?

If you combine this project with this gift card project, you could get something portable, adjustable, and aesthetically pleasing (seeing as the gift cards sport the Wii logo already)...

Punkguyta (author)2007-02-16

What about dropping the leds all together and installing a high quality el wire? I'm sure they use less power and definatly aren't as "fragile" to power requirements.

royalestel (author)2007-01-30

Hey there, friedpope, et al., I'm trying to learn about electronics and I thought I'd reverse engineer the Wii giftcard. I drew this schematic, (is it right?) but I'm having trouble figuring out if the transistor is NPN or PNP type. Do you happen to know? Everything I'm reading is getting so confusing I just don't know what to do next. Any help at all would be appreciated.

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