As you most certainly know, China is a haven for piracy. Whether it’s an XBOX game or a movie DVD, everybody buys it pirated. To say it’s tolerated is an understatement: it’s a way of life.
One console that had escaped piracy so far was the Nintendo DS. Since I bought my own DS a few months ago, I enthusiastically purchased legal copies of DS games, even though they cost 30 times(!!) the price of a pirated XBOX game. Well, it was only a matter of time: since last week, I now own a pirated cartridge loader, for the grand prize of $30 USD, plus the price of a 1 GB SD card. I feel a bit bad ending my long run of legitimacy with Nintendo, but considering I own 16 legal NDS games, I figure I can get away with playing pirated versions of games I would not purchase at full price anyway.
This may seem weird coming from a game producer; the truth is, China is not much of a market for non-MMO videogames at present. It seems that console makers just can’t get around piracy however hard they try; two years ago, Nintendo launched the iQue in China, which required you to contact a central database at the store when you wanted to add games to your storage card. The idea was that you couldn’t get around centralized identification to purchase new games… a security stratagem that was cracked within one week of release.
Exotic storage media is not an option. Consider the Nintendo GameCube, with its minidisk format; GameCube minidisks actually spin in the opposite direction to the standard DVD, since they are burnt from the outside in. This would seem to be a major deterrent to piracy, right? Well, I own a pirated GameCube, complete with pirated minidisks. So much for exotic media.
The X360 is next on the hit list, with rumors already flying of a mod chip available soon. Microsoft went to great pains to protect their hardware (including hardware encryption in the core) but as the DeCSS debacle has shown, there’s nothing hackers/crackers like more than a challenge.
Personally, I don’t care so much about videogame piracy, inasmuch as the videogame industry is very healthy even with rampant piracy in the US and abroad. Companies might whine about ‘loss of revenue’ all they want, but I’m not convinced that videogame piracy will hurt the industry any more than Napster killed the music industry. My feeling is, with greater access to a multitude of games, gamers become more astute, and will eventually shell out the money for a game they really like.
Videogame piracy driving the industry to a greater focus on quality? Hey, one can dream…