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Why developers and publishers are only hurting their paying customers in their attempts to stop the pirates

Uh-oh, Steve has heard that he might not be able to play and trade new titles for the next-gen consoles and has a bitter aftertaste.

Before I go off on a tangent about how the current affairs with anti-piracy laws and other related matters are really starting to grind my gears. I want to firstly take this opportunity to say that I do not condone nor in any way promote piracy, but on the flip side of that coin I also do not support the fact that paying end users and consumers are suffering as a result of what I will refer to as: Greed.

Since taking the reins of the tech site I’ve spent hours trawling the internet looking for news, leaks and any other type of information I can bring to the table to satisfy the needs of our readers.

However of late I have seen a lot of talk about the next generation of consoles and their features. More specifically the fact that there are numerous rumours, I have to emphasise these are rumours to which I have no solid evidence to say that these rumours are fact or fiction. Although the internet is alive with talks about the next-gen consoles i.e. the PlayStation 4 code named Orbis and the XBOX 720 Code named Durango, are both rumoured to NOT support the play back of pre-owned games. It’s not entirely clear how this will work as some rumours state that users who do buy a pre-owned game will have the option to pay a one off free or a re-registration fee to be able to play the game, other rumours state that users will be able to play the game as a time limited trial with the option to pay full retail price for the game after the trial expires. One report has stated that developers may lure game buyers into buying the games new with additional content, DLC for example that you wouldn’t be entitled to if you purchased the games pre owned. This is one angle that I think could work and possibly work quite well. The rumours are all a little too varied to focus on one and use that as a basis for assumption. However one key thing that these leaks and anonymous reports always mention is the inability to or inconvenience of playing pre-owned games.

Let me just say that it is arguable that the reason end users are being inconvenienced in this way is as a direct result of the evil pirates and their distribution of their pirated material. Which could also be argued is a result of new titles carrying price tags that not everybody may be able to afford. It’s a vicious cycle that is perpetually kept in motion and results in each side blaming the other.

One thing that is starting to get to me is the fact that we are all too familiar with the term Copyright Theft. Theft being the keyword used to describe what happens when somebody downloads a game or streams a movie online. But this terminology is fundamentally flawed, because Copyright Infringement is very different from the theft of a physical item. But it seems using the term ‘theft’ makes it easy to accept ridiculous court decisions and unreasonable government legislation that greatly over powers what copyright is actually supposed to cover. But this is about more than just legal jargon or semantics.

Piracy - A Handy Guide.

Piracy - A Handy Guide.

















Delving back into my childhood I remember the days of shoeboxes full of floppy disks with plain white labels and permanent marker titles scrawled all over the top, sat at my computer desk with my Commodore Amiga 600 armed with my X-Copy disk and a plethora of blank floppies I would sit make a copy of a friends game for my own use. Never at the time was I fearful that a team of angry solicitors would write to me summoning me into a court of law or worse a team of police officers bursting into my home and seizing my equipment. Oh how times have changed.

The game industry has taken many different routes into attempting to stop the pirate scene in its tracks and bring an end to piracy, but all the game industry has achieved to date is to inconvenience its paying customers and give the pirates something else to do.

There have been some key attempts to deter PC game pirates which have done nothing more than result in genuine paying customers suffering as a result. Star Force is one to note, it’s a security system that installs its own drivers onto your system to check for genuine disks. However reports were made that stated that StarForce drivers caused drive degradation and even rumours around it causing security vulnerabilities in certain operating systems. The forums flooded with users experiencing issues with the StarForce drivers and their original disks scanning as fake, leaving end users unable to boot or launch their games. The pirates however? Well they simply had to wait for the scene to release a crack. Many owners of the original games who actually purchased titles featuring StarForce copy protection even resorted to installing the No CD/DVD cracks for their original games to bypass the problems caused by StarForce.

Once StarForce was dubbed StarFarce and written off as a poor choice for digital copy protection SecuROM hit the scene, featured and used in titles such as BioShock, Mass Effect and Spore to name but a few.  SecuROM used in Mass Effect in May 2008 required end users activate the software every 10 days, after multiple complaints EA removed the 10-day activation but kept SecuROM tied to the installation. Re-releases of Mass Effect have SecuROM omitted. How did this affect the pirates? Again they simply had to wait for the scene to release a crack.

Not to mention UbiSofts latest blunder with their solution which requires the owner of a legitimate copy of the game to remain online constantly to verify and validate the legitimacy of their game, resulting in people who purchased the game being restricted to only having the ability to play the titles supporting this method of ‘Anti-Piracy’ with an active internet connection, no internet connection, no game. The pirates however have removed this code string and are able to play the game where ever they please, on their laptops on the train or where ever else they please without the requirement of an internet connection.

I could go on all day about how the measures taken have thus so far proven to cause problems for the paying customer and merely slowed the pirate scene down.

So it seems developers and publishers alike have decided that slowing down the scene doesn’t prevent copyright infringement nor does it stop the perpetual cycle that is the pirate scene for more than a couple of days.

So what should you do when you can’t get money out of the people who don’t want to give you it? Get more from the people who do want to give it to you, obviously! This is not a forward thinking mentality and unfortunately I fear may result in more people turning to piracy than ever. Let’s face it, times are hard and as the cost of living goes up and wages remain the same it’s difficult to imagine the game industry actually has its finger anywhere near the pulse on this one. Look at companies like CEX and GameStation for example, companies whose primary demographic was the used game market. I’m sure more and more people are trading in their older titles to help raise funds for the latest Resident Saints Grand Theft Motorsport 7 and this option is allowing end users to splash out on the latest titles without the worry of breaking the bank every time. I for one like to complete titles as quickly as possible and get rid of them. I’m not one for going back and playing over content, I like to sit and play till the story is done trade it in and get something new. This option is what allows me to keep playing the latest titles without having to justify to the accountant (also known as my adorable girlfriend) spending £45 + every month on new titles. In fact thinking about it, it took me less than 9 hours to complete Fable III so I’d probably be buying 2 or 3 titles each month. It soon adds up, luckily at the moment I have the option to walk down to my local CEX hand over my games for some in store credit and pick up the new titles. I simply could not afford to feed my gaming habit if pre owned titles weren’t an option.

I’m not quite sure how to draw this blog post to an end, I know it’s more a rambling than a blog post and I’m unable to suggest a solution or alternative option for the game industry to try and take. It’s easier to dismiss somebody else’s idea than it is to come up with your own. But I’m sure we can all see that IF the next generation of consoles do not support the option to trade and sell games, the future doesn’t look too bright in my opinion.