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Scurvy Dogs

Mike Moehnke

Recently I had a conversation with a good friend where we got to talking about our respective DS collections. My friend suggested that I invest in a flash card with multiple games, citing our favorite DS graphic as the reason to do so. Certainly, Nintendo is doing just fine monetarily right now, and I can comprehend not wanting to feed the company's ego by dumping more money into its coffers. Piracy, however, has two key aspects that I cannot get behind. Nintendo would not feel the effect of my piracy so much as smaller companies such as Atlus and Aksys, while the old slogan "you get what you pay for" does in fact apply to pirated games.

The financial argument is the one cited by my friend with regards to using ROM files on a DS flash card. Certainly, at a glance this makes sense: Nintendo does charge a fee for any publisher to release a game on its system, as do Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo also takes a little off the retail price of games released by other publishers. The problem with using a 'Nintendo is losing out on its money' approach to justify not paying for games is that Nintendo is not the only one to lose out on money. I'll take a title localized by Atlus as an example here, but Square-Enix, Aksys, Xseed, Konami, and any other publisher without a console of its own is ruled by the same logic. These companies get their money exclusively from the games they make, and buying those games is the only way to persuade them to make more. Want more Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation games in English, as I do? Atlus needs the income from those games in the series it has released to justify bringing more across the Pacific. Using piracy to acquire such games kills the ability to release more.

Economics of the gaming industry aside, there is a second reason to be wary of pirated games, and that is the lack of quality is often apparent. When I first bought a Game Boy Advance, I went on a game acquisition spree via eBay. Several games that (at the time) seemed incredibly good deals were cheap for a reason: they were bootlegs. Chinese/Hong Kong bootlegs don't look any different from the genuine article in an eBay photo, but their boxes seem a little cheaper, their manuals are pathetically thin things with little useful information, and the games themselves aren't made as well as the real thing. Super Mario Advance is supposed to have a long-lasting battery for saves, but the one I got died within a year, meaning that when I came back to try the game some more all the save data was gone and nothing else could be saved. This story illustrates the fundamental problem of operating in a black market for games: let the buyer beware. Stripped of any standards imposed from above, bootleggers can get away with something that looks just good enough to pass a cursory inspection.

Particularly if the economy is hurting you, justification for piracy is easy to come by. Games do cost money to acquire, and the temptation to get around that hurdle exists. Legal ways of getting around the high prices of new games include online bargain hunting, and waiting for the inevitable price drop that all games. I won't go into the legal or ethical reasons not to pirate games, because those can be ignored by anyone who doesn't care. There is a real risk of being responsible for dealing a deathblow to companies that make good-but-niche games by not buying their products. The high likelihood of getting an inferior version of the product is another good reason not to start buying bootlegs. The developers and publishers of the game industry will thank you for it.

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