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Nintendo: Piracy 'Heyday' Could Be In The Rear View
Nintendo: Piracy 'Heyday' Could Be In The Rear View
January 26, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander

January 26, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander
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    19 comments
More: Console/PC



Nintendo is implementing increased anti-piracy measures for its upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld -- "one of our best pieces of equipment in that respect," according Nintendo UK general manager David Yarnton. He believes that better protection methods and more consumer awareness are having a real impact on the overall piracy problem, too.

Nintendo, logically, hasn't enumerated the technical specifics of its anti-piracy measures. But, says Yarnton to CVG, "There are a lot of things we've learnt over time to try and improve the security and protection - not only of our IP but of our third-party publishers' IP as well."

As Yarnton goes on to explain, tech is only part of the anti-piracy equation; consumer support for the idea of intellectual property and governmental willingness to act on IP rights issues are key tools. And these, too, are improving and evolving, believes the exec.

"...On a global basis many countries and governments are recognizing that the IP of creative industries and such needs to be protected," he says -- noting that it's always unwise, a "red rag to a bull" to claim that any system is uncrackable, as it just tempts challengers and risks protection efforts.

Respect for the industry and its works as a factor in anti-piracy should not be minimized: "People are aware that video games, music and movies make massive contributions to the economies of countries," he notes.

But despite his caution for making vaunted safety statements about either the 3DS or the game industry as a whole, Yarnton does believe it's possible the most virulent days for piracy could be in the rear view now thanks to the evolutions in protection and enforcement.

"I think perhaps there's been a 'heyday of piracy' and we've now seen a lot of rules come in to stop it," he says.

Last year saw a number of high-profile anti-piracy victories for Nintendo, particularly against the notorious R4 cards on which a community of homebrew developers and software pirates alike relied to copy DS games. Notably, R4 cards were ruled illegal to import, sell or advertise in the UK last summer, just after a significant Dutch court win against online retailers who sold R4s and similar mod chips.

"This now makes a precedent that potentially in the future it won't be a viable thing for people to do," says Yarnton.


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Comments


ron carmel
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even if nintendo's actions have stopped all piracy on their systems, i bet they still would have been better off financially not lifting a finger.



the cost of those legal battles surely outweighs the revenue increase that would result from preventing all piracy... which i would argue is around zero. people either buy your game or they don't. the typical "pirate" doesn't look for a free copy and then goes and buys a legit version if they can't fine a pirated one.



but the whole argument is moot, really. it is impossible to stop "piracy" unless your game is server based.

Jason Mathias
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Are you sure about that? I think that is only true for die-hard pirates, the ones that just download stuff for the sake of having it and playing one of the dozens they download at a time. Nintendo's point is not to stop those people - We know they'll just do it anyways.



The point is to make the average consumer - the person that is interested in buying the game - feel like it's much harder or riskier to get the pirated version. Look at PC vs 360 piracy - On the PC, a 'pirate' just adds a No-CD crack or some other simple file, so anyone that is considering paying for it just thinks 'well, it's just as easy to get the file free.' But piracy on the 360? You have to turn that thing into a pirate, if it ever breaks you can't get it repaired, if you're found online your system can rick or be stopped from playing online....



Sure, a hardcore pirate is fine with these problems, but the people that aren't hardcore pirates say 'screw it, i'll just rent or pay for it.' And so, Nintendo stops those people from having a free alternative for getting the things they want, stop them from saying 'Hey, i wanna play Mario Does Stuff 17,' and hearing 'well, you can just get it for free, you know...'

Jonathan Osment
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The problem is that the average consumer is still a consumer, where as those pirates generally are not regardless. This means if they are interested in a game, they will most likely buy it regardless. These are the minority of those who pirate in my opinion...of course China is another matter.



The real money loser is in used game sales which actually involve consumers, people willing to shell out money to begin with, but of which they money does not go to the publisher but rather the retailer. In this area, used game sales actually have a worse impact, a greater impact, than any sort of piracy.



There is also this non-enforcement of license agreements. The general public thinks or have been allowed to think they own a game after purchasing it, rather than the right and license to play it. It is not something that can be passed off person to person usually.



The Autodesk vs Verner is an interesting case to study considering the implications of the future on used game sales and licensing.

Jonathan Jennings
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I have always hated that argument the used game purchaser is more detrimental than the pirate. Now sure in terms of developer contributions the final result is the same the developer doesn't get the money for their product however I would argue in the overall economic sense the Used game buyer certainly contributes more to the economy than the pirate. the pirate is a non-factor fair enough they probably wouldn't have bought the game anyway. however the gamestops, best buys, ebays, amazons, and even individuals on craigslist recieve a benefit for repurchasing an item.



even moreso if we measure the potential positive financial benefit lost on a used game versus a pirated game I feel the pirated games are more damaging. one person purchases a used game which can go through dozens of users but to be honest it will usually be over an extended period of time. one pirated game on the other hand goes through Thousands of users hands so to speak.



So while their is typically an initial purchase of say $60 in both cases the number of people who experience a pirated copy of a game versus a used copy of a game is FAR larger from what I observe . Say 10 individuals over a multi-month period for a used game versus 1000 individuals in as little as a week over pirated copies.



if anything though the success of the used game market can be counteracted unlike piracy. if we agree pirates will not buy the game AT ALL than I think we should also agree most used purchasers will purchase the same game form a retailer at a reduce cost. which means that you can actually fix used game sales unlike piracy.

sean lindskog
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Quote: "the typical "pirate" doesn't look for a free copy and then goes and buys a legit version if they can't fine a pirated one."



I couldn't disagree more. Just look at the music industry.



Not too long ago, the vast majority of music purchases were legit copies, bought from a store. Sure, some people burnt CD discs or made copy tapes, but this was far less widespread. Plus, there is at least some cost associated with buying blank CDs and Tapes. And just go back a little further to vinyl records, and this didn't happen at all, because there was no easy way to do it.



More recently, it has become commonplace to download illegally for free. We're not talking about leet hakker pirates here, we're talking the same "regular folks" who used to pay for their music.



Claiming that the convenience and availability of pirated software doesn't affect software sales is ludicrous.

R G
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While a commendable act, piracy will never end.



And I agree with Jerry, this is just an open challenge. I'd pull a Sony, not say a word and let the hackers take 5 years to crack the PS3.



Heck, I know if someone challenged me on programming something, I'd bite.

Wyatt Epp
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Strange as it is to admit this, Microsoft's strategy is looking more and more sane in contrast to its Japan-based contemporaries. Extend the olive branch and work out ways of accommodating the hackers and they help you prevent piracy.

R G
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True that.

Kelvin Bonilla
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There are measures...



There's no such thing as an uncrackable system. However, just because you cracked something doesn't mean you can use it. One of the most successful methodologies for anti-piracy is simply the use of monitoring.



I remember asking John Romero once what he thought would be an ideal method against piracy, and all he said was "MMO's". I was like >_> but I knew where he was coming from.



Why can't people pirate MMO's? Because all they have is a client, they need to log into some place where the game is stored because they don't own that software, which means they need credentials to use, which means their sessions can be tracked and monitored. Of course, there are work-arounds like private servers and what not; there will always be work-arounds, but the point is that it won't give you the experience that you're meant to have, thus encourage you to buy the game if you want the real thing, or simply live with a watered down version of the experience. Think about those cracked games where online multiplayer is cut because even though it's hacked, you still have to connect to a server that refuses your incoming connection.



Bottom line is, there are ways to prevent people from pirating with monitoring, but people freak out when they hear things like "you are being monitored" or "your session is being recorded", which is funny because most people like privacy when they have something they want to keep to themselves, like for example the fact that they're using pirated software...

Todd Boyd
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Some of us like privacy for the sake of privacy--and to not have all of our demographics and activities farmed by faceless robots in the name of marketing.

Chris OKeefe
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It's tough to monitor every iteration of a game being played. The sheer cost of monitoring a million single player games would be much higher than the potential revenue recouped from possible piracy. Monitoring means a lot of ongoing fees. The nice thing about MMOs is that the connection and the ongoing fees are already required as a function of the MMO. 'Monitoring' is really just an automatic side-benefit of that.



And besides, Ubisoft has learned that constant monitoring doesn't just come with a fiscal cost, but also a public relations cost as well. Ultimately people don't want to require an internet connection to play a game that they purchased, just so the publisher can inconvenience you while they try to inconvenience potential pirates.



Ultimately there's no perfect solution, and there won't be until there's some kind of global wifi. Internet connections are becoming increasingly accessible, but until they are globally free(sometime in the distant future), tacking on an internet requirement to a single player game is beyond silly.



The clever developers justify the 'monitoring' by providing features that require a connection. Spore, for example(if not a great one), used that constant connection to provide content from other players. A feature that arguably increases the value of the game, rendering the 'monitoring' aspect relatively benign. The problem only starts when publishers make no attempt to pretty up their monitoring by giving back to the player for their trouble.



Sadly(or happily, depending on your perspectie) not all games or genres lend themselves well to online components.



Suffice to say, I think your first comment was on the mark. 'There's no such thing as an uncrackable system.' It's ultimately true. People will go to great lengths to crack systems. They will rip them apart and rebuild them if required. It's really only a matter of time. But Nintendo doesn't have to stop people from cracking the system, they just have to make it enough of a hassle that everyone except the most dedicated individuals would give the piracy thing a pass.



All you've got to do is put a significant dent in piracy, you don't have to kill it altogether.

Tom Baird
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"But Nintendo doesn't have to stop people from cracking the system, they just have to make it enough of a hassle that everyone except the most dedicated individuals would give the piracy thing a pass."





This I think is important.



Everyone hopefully knows it's dumb to try to stop piracy altogether. It's like trying to stop a fire hose with some swiss cheese. The actual issue is casual piracy. Someone will always crack the system, but the real issues arrive when anyone can download a little app or update to enable piracy, making it not just free, but incredibly easy and convenient for anyone of varying skill/knowledge levels.

Kelvin Bonilla
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Well said Chris.



I agree with what you say, and just to add an extra cent, when I mentioned monitoring, I was referring to what you mentioned:



"The clever developers justify the 'monitoring' by providing features that require a connection. Spore, for example(if not a great one), used that constant connection to provide content from other players. A feature that arguably increases the value of the game, rendering the 'monitoring' aspect relatively benign. The problem only starts when publishers make no attempt to pretty up their monitoring by giving back to the player for their trouble."



Also, I like how you stated:

"People will go to great lengths to crack systems. They will rip them apart and rebuild them if required. It's really only a matter of time. But Nintendo doesn't have to stop people from cracking the system, they just have to make it enough of a hassle that everyone except the most dedicated individuals would give the piracy thing a pass."



I had left out a detail I wanted to present which is that piracy cannot be removed just like theft cannot be removed. We buy alarms and locks in our cars, but it doesn't mean they are impenetrable, same thing goes for our homes. In the end, those who want to break in will always be able to do it, it's only a matter of making it hard enough that it's not worth the effort.

Luis Guimaraes
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"But Nintendo doesn't have to stop people from cracking the system, they just have to make it enough of a hassle that everyone except the most dedicated individuals would give the piracy thing a pass."



"In the end, those who want to break in will always be able to do it, it's only a matter of making it hard enough that it's not worth the effort."



I'm all with this way of thinking.

Thomas Lo
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Piracy can be stopped effectively only both with a carrot and stick. Going after piraters is always going to be a requirement in the industry (otherwise we would all be out of jobs). At the same time, adding value to the game after purchase can also effectively deter privacy. There are many 360 users who do not pirate because they prefer to use their games freely on xbox live. Many people want to play the legitimate copies of many games with a multiplayer element because they prefer to have servers that are policed, where cheaters are banned instead of hacked servers where it's the wild west.



Etc. etc. Piracies heyday is, by no means, in our rearview mirror. Piraters will always have incentive to pirate. It is the goal of developers to use all the means at their disposal to clamp down on piracy as well as maintain incentives for players to continue honestly purchasing games.

Kamruz Moslemi
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One of the biggest undressed problems of piracy is how to handle things once the inevitable happens and your system is cracked wide open. History shows that once this happens trying to release firmware updates to close the holes is as effective as Don Quixote's endless assault against the windmill.



But here the hardware manufacturers become so focused on the thought of continuing their impotent assault relentlessly that they forget the most important casualty of this hopeless tow game. The legitimate users, who are then constantly prompted or forced to go through cumbersome and annoying update procedures without any personal gain. Not to mention developers.



SONY is the worst here with their devil may care attitude to users who grow quickly weary of the constant barrage of updates, and the draconian lock down enforced lest they comply. That fact that whenever a new PSP game is put into the device and booted up chances are that it will require, before play is made possible, an immediate firmware update is a common complaint with users of that device.



The PS3 fares no better with SONY's rather disorganized scatter shot approach to putting up updates whenever a small completed feature warrants one, and this before their system had even been breached. Now users are not even getting that small, often unwanted feature with the constant updates. And here once again, they are locked out unless they comply.



As hardware developers it is time to start giving a lot more weight to the issue of firmware update and game patching procedures to make them as fast and seamless as possible.

Sean Farrell
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http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2653-Pi
racy



Nuf said.

Luis Guimaraes
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Nice video.

Joe McGinn
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While I understand the desire to combat piracy, I do think it's over-emphasized by these companies. In my opinion 90% or more of pirated games are not a "lost sale": the pirate would never have bought the game at retail price.



That said, this focus on security has actually deterred my sale. Not because I pirate, but because it's a handheld and I travel - and this also means that Nintendo's aggressive region-locking will be difficult or impossible to circumvent. So the console basically has no function for me, since in many places I will simply have no way to buy games for it.


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