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ELSPA: Up To 90% Pirate DS Software In U.S.
ELSPA: Up To 90% Pirate DS Software In U.S.
January 31, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander

January 31, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

John Hillier, manager of the UK's Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association's intellectual property crime unit, believes that up to 90 percent of Nintendo DS owners in the U.S. play pirated games.

Hillier also fears that a similar level of widespread piracy could spread in the UK, where ELSPA supports the police in cracking down on software piracy.

Speaking to the Sunday Post, Hiller expressed concern in particular about the Chinese-made R4 chip that enables users to play downloaded DS games. UK copyright and patent laws make it illegal to sell the R4 chip or to download games using it, punishable by fines or two years' jail time, Hillier said.

“Takings from Nintendo DS games in the US are lower than any other console and no doubt it will have a similar impact here. That’s the real danger — you may think you’re getting a good deal, but using the R4 is risking the future of the games industry," Hillier concluded.

He added: "Crucially, the R4 has shifted balance of power in the piracy industry to the consumer — and that is hugely worrying. That’s why we intend to stop trade in these chips wherever we can.”

[UPDATE: Speaking to UK site, ELSPA has distanced itself from the comments, suggesting that a genuine conversation with Hillier on the availability of the R4 cartridge in the UK did take place for the article, but explaining of the controversial comments:

"The quotes from The Sunday Post were ascribed to his name from another article which originates from a website in Singapore. This, it appears, is where The Sunday Post first found out about the supposed R4 situation and for some reason unknown to John have quoted him on what this article said."]

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Nathan Tompkins
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I think this figure is way, way off base. Considering the casual focus of the DS market, it's probably safer to say that (at least) 90% of users aren't pirating games. It's one of the most outrageous statistics I've seen in a while for this industry.

That's not to say piracy shouldn't be a concern....

Shan Makor
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I know at least 10 DS owners and only one of us have purchased the R4. I think they should measure the lower sales against a used game sales statistic. Personally, I've only bought 1 new DS game.

Barney done taught us to share our games!

Joshua Criz
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I know plenty of DS owners and I've had mine for years, and this is the first time I've ever even heard that there's a DS-piracy product out there. I guess I must be making up for everybody else, because I've bought maybe 10 DS games plus two more in Japan. I'd like to know where that 90% guess comes from - it's far more likely that those with the R4 go on a mass downloading spree and therefore pirated copies comprise a large percentage of total game images out there...

Chris Cates
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I must agree - this is the most unbelievable "statistic" I have seen anywhere related to this industry. It's hard to imagine making up a number out of thin air and having it feel as off base as this does...

ben skott
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This may truly be the stupidest thing I have ever seen an analyst say. He should be fired for incompetence. I would be very surprised if even 30% of DS owners knew there were mod chips out there, much less own one.

Mark Thurow
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I'm not at all surprised that the R4 exists, but I didn't know about it until this article. And I have a DS, and I (like most here) am in the games biz.

So, yeah, that 90% figure is ludicrous. I'd be surprised if it was as high 5%.

Richard Strother
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I'm going to go out on a limb and be overtly candid. There is a healthy pirate community for the DS out there (but nowhere near 90%!). There's a simple reason that stems from a flaw in the business model... demos for DS games are difficult to come by and the chronic influx of substandard games makes purchasing new games the equivalent to financial Russian roulette. Some games are well worth their price point and offer both entertainment and value, but the bulk are shelf filler. I'm certainly for diversity and I anxiously await the day that the DS titles in North America are as varied as the selection in Japan... that being said I think the developers as a whole truly have to take a cold hard look at their product to see if what they're offering the marketplace offers any substantial value over what's currently there. Innovate, keep the standards high, make products that are truly worth paying for rather than just another "brain game", "tetris spin-off", "sudoku puzzle set", "bland platformer", etc.

Ryan Quintana
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I completely agree with the fact that this is one of the most propaganda centered statements that I've heard in the game industry. This just goes to show what the media can do when their ignorant of video game knowledge. Kinda reminds me of the scandal the media is centering around Mass Effect and the so-called sexual scenes.

Jamie Brewer
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I hang with a crowd that is more likely to be aware of devices like the R4 than the average person. The primary use that they talk about? Productivity/inernet apps (alternate web browsers, IRC chat, organizers), multimedia apps (movie and music playback) and occasionaly homebrew or emulated games. (Some of these invoke legal grey areas of their own but they're seperate issues). This is not to deny the existance of a pirate community but to suggest that a large precentage of people who use the R4 are using it for legal activities.

@Richard: I can walk into my local Wal-Mart, bringing my DS and acces their download station for a number of playable demos. And of course many games support local multiplayer play through a single copy of the game which is also sort of a demo mode. And IIRC the Wii will soon offer demo download functionality. Considering that before the DS this level of functionality in a handheld was nearly unheard of outside the cell phone and PDA market, I'd say the DS is doing pretty well for demos. Agree that there is a lot of shelf filler (Nintendo handhelds are lucritive magnets for things like mediocre licenced IP tie-in games) but what worries me more is the number of strong titles from barely a year ago that are no longer readily avalible (and the used market puts a hefty premium on them). Some are even first party titles (Tetris DS or all things.) I allready knew about how cutthroat the competition for shelf space is but having just recently bought my DS this makes it really sink in.

Mike Reddy
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OK, in an ideal world what I am about to say would be unnecessary. I am an R4 owner. I wish I didn't have to be, but there it is...

Why? Because I teach games development. We have XBox 360s (donated by MS with free access to the XNA Developer Club), we have PSP Dev kits (bought after approval from SCEE), and thank you to both of them for giving us this. However, after a year or two trying to build links with SN and Nintendo, we are no further forward with getting access to anything like a dev kit for the two leading platforms, and possibly the best for innovation from a learning perspective. We came close with the GameCube but EU legislation prevented the sale of a dev kit a few weeks before we managed to source the funds to pay for them.

So, I recommend to students interested in creating games for the DS that they purchase an R4 and download homebrew software. Yes of course it can be used to access pirated ROMS; we do discuss at length the ethics and legalities of IP, by the way.

Music companies tried to stop the compact cassette, with accusations of piracy. Of course, a tape could be used to copy your mate's CD collection, but it could also contain that budding young band demo that lands on a record producer's desk.

Brandon Van Every
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I don't find the 90% statistic automatically ludicrous. This is a website for game developers, not the general public. As a group we're inherently biased towards paying for games. Both in terms of ideology and the cash we have to spend.