Gamasutra: “3DS piracy is a problem – because publishers say so”

I wish I were making that up. I’m not.

No, according to Epic Mickey developer Peter Ong, apparently the very fact that publishers believe that there might be piracy on a platform will drive them away from it. It’ll mean that publishers will force developers to put out naught but casual-focused games, since casuals don’t pirate, and avoid regions (read: Eastern Europe) that are more piracy-heavy.

You may ask “um…PC? Hasn’t Steam meant that Gabe Newell is swimming in money despite PC piracy being omnipresent? He’s even put Steam in Eastern Europe!” You’d have a good point. Gabe’s building his third money bin, last I checked. The indie scene on PC is also so healthy that it’s become cliched to mention it.

It wasn’t addressed.

You may also ask “wait…casuals don’t pirate? Haven’t I seen a flood of people ‘jailbreak’ their iPhones who aren’t exactly the nerdly type?” You’d have a good point there, too. Breaking DRM on cell phones is so common that people stopped referring to it as “piracy” because the association was kinda inconvenient. (Also, Android.) It’s a cottage industry that the Library of Congress made exceptions for even while DS piracy chips have been made nearly universally illegal.

It wasn’t addressed.

You may also ask “who the hell cares? The real threat to the 3DS isn’t the marginal number of people who pirate but the vast hordes that have smartphones and don’t see the point of a separate handheld game device! Or the fact that 3DS games are tenfold more costly than iOS/Android stuff!” Good point! You’re pretty smart!

It wasn’t addressed.

You may finish by saying:

“desperate publishers and their financial backers are looking for any lame excuse to chase after mythical mobile riches, and ‘piracy’ is as good an excuse as any. Developers always have the option of going independent, though, and taking a bit of a swim in Gabe’s money bin, unless and until Nintendo makes it viable to do independent digital distro on the 3DS. You’d be better placed to jump on the mobile train than they are anyway, if it comes to that.”

You’d be right!

It wasn’t addressed.

No, none of the enormous problems with this argument were addressed. The interviewer, Mike Rose, didn’t follow up on any of these things at all. The comments thread on Gamasutra is an absolute riot of people calling “BS” on Ong’s reasoning. So why didn’t Rose? I checked to see if maybe he was just reporting on someone else’s story, but that didn’t seem to be the case. It seems like he interviewed Ong personally (or at least by email.) So where was the follow-up here?

The whole thing reads less like an argument against piracy and more like an argument against publishers. It implies that we have a choice: either quake in fear at every dumb thing that a publisher may or may not do, or just ditch the whole “publisher” thing as a bad hangover from the days when distribution was an actual problem and sort out alternative solutions for financing and promotion. I’m pretty sure I know which option the market will pick.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that publishers can play a useful role. I think they do play a useful role. But it isn’t 1993, it’s 2013. Times have changed, and they have to accept that they need us far more than we need them.  Writers like Rose should recognize it, too, and for the love of God follow up a bit on such dubious answers.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: