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Video game piracy

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Piracy is no party!

Video game piracy is a critical issue in the video game industry. Most video game data can be taken from the original medium and distributed for free. However, this often requires some method of circumvention to play. Common methods are an emulator, modchip, custom flash card, or modified firmware.

While this crime of copyright infringement causes millions of dollars in damages each year, it is both hard to prevent and prosecute. Damages are often measured from number of downloads for the torrents online, though there are several reasons why this could be inaccurate.

Many video game companies are taking several steps to improve their systems to keep piracy from occurring, but past attempts have been largely unsuccessful.

Bad Qualities

  1. Righteous video gaming industries lose millions of dollars because of this illegal and unethical activity, because they're losing sales of legitimate copies. This makes good developers and other workers lose their jobs and can potentially kill a good console.
  2. Pirated discs damage your console entirely over time and makes it more likely to eventually fail.
    • Pirated discs make the console's laser work even harder to read the disc, making it prone to get damaged over and over again.
    • Pirated discs tend to get scratched faster.
  3. It's hard to enjoy a game properly if you're playing a pirated version of a game that constantly updates. As there's no guarantee that the pirated version will be updated along with the original version.
  4. You void the console's warranty if you hack or mod it, unless it has been long discontinued.
  5. Hacking, jailbreaking or using mods on a console will get you banned from its network (such as Xbox Live, PSN or Nintendo Switch Online) unless preventative measures which aren't always guaranteed to work are taken (like making sure the console isn't connected to the internet).
  6. If you wonder why most video games, especially on consoles, only exist in English (and in some cases Japanese, Spanish, French, Italian or German), that would be because those are the languages of the countries that are the most respectful and profitable for the industry. Translating games into other languages is not considered viable because of the low sales' expectations and rampant piracy in the target market.
  7. Fake (bootleg) games like Bomba Patch, Grand Theft Auto: Rio de Janeiro, Dragon Ball AF, KOF2002 Magic Plus II, Pokémon ROM Hacks, unofficial ports and "1 million games installed on memory" are rampant on the gray market, and have the potential to steal the original (legit) franchise's success. Due to the misinformation of the consumers.
  8. Trying to search on websites like The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents or generic Blogspots can be tedious, as these sites tend to bombard users with a constant stream of banner ads for stuff such as pornography, gambling, currency trading, fake "Congratulations!" prizes, rogue antiviruses, ransomware pop-ups which impersonate police, etc. Sometimes, Adblockers may not work properly for these sites, and some may even have measures in place that prevent Ad-Blockers from working entirely.
  9. Be careful when downloading or installing, because some files even have actual malware in them.
  10. If you purchase counterfeit copies, you're supporting criminals, unless you do it on accident without checking.
  11. Some countries like Japan and Germany have extremely enforced laws and harsh penalties for piracy. If you do this in these countries, expect a heavy fine, like a thousand Euros.
  12. And even if the developer in question doesn't care or even encourages it, law enforcement will still think otherwise, such as penalties mentioned above.
  13. Nowadays many developers are using DRM like Denuvo Anti-Tamper to stop piracy but it actually hurts those who purchase the game.
  14. It is responsible for the birth of microtransactions, especially in China after they suffered from piracy and even spread it to mobile gaming after they dominated the industry. This ruined mobile gaming as a whole, and even encouraged more piracy to be done by mobile gamers and modders rather than stopping it.

Good Qualities

  1. Some games (like those on consoles such as the Nintendo Gamecube) can be very expensive or hard to find, especially in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. For non-collectors who just want to play the game, pirated copies can be a reasonable alternative. More so if it's for a discontinued console because the company isn't making money from it anymore anyways.
  2. Because of how many companies use DRM on their games, it ironically makes the pirated and official DRM-free versions superior, as these versions do not require a constant online connection. The righteous player should buy the game to support the developer, but play the pirated version instead.
    • In Spore's case, the DRM can be so absurd (EA said that it would include a DRM system that required authentication every ten days, and also that the game's product key for each copy could only be used up to three (later five) times) that it'd be better just to pirate or purchase the game off GOG.com, which has no DRM installed.
  3. Many games are usually released only in Japan and sometimes as time passes, fans would make an unofficial translated version instead that you can pirate and play.
  4. You can pirate games just to see if it is a really good game and if it'll work on your PC just in case there's no demo to download online, then buy legally.
  5. Some games equipped with anti-piracy measures by the developers to prevent players from playing a pirated version of the game such as shooting chickens out of the guns in Crysis, Niko getting drunk throughout the entire game and damaging the car upon entering in Grand Theft Auto IV, and removing pick-up items, adding punishing traps, and have Zoe (the fairy) telling Spyro that the game will not proceed because you have a pirated copy of Spyro The Dragon games. In the earlier (SNES) days, the game would just put up a warning sign upon loading and would not boot the game normally, although EarthBound had many additional layers if it does get bypassed. While copyright protection generally takes a week or two to bypass for hackers, it's generally worth it to implement these protections, as the majority of sales a game makes are in the first couple of weeks (unless if, again in Spore's case, as stated above, make the protections hinder legitmate customers).
  6. While not common nowadays, but back then some games/consoles are region locked (Persona 4 Arena on the PS3 or the 3DS in general), therefore if you bought it from a region not the same as your console it won't work. So unless if you're okay with rebuying the game again, it's better if you pirate the game.
  7. Sometimes, in cases of games banned or parts of them being censored out in certain countries, piracy can be justified as a method of protest not only to the country's strict censorship policies (China, for example) but also to the publisher's strict policies of requiring games to be rated by the country's age rating system. This is a very common method especially to Steam games which are notorious for geo-blocking games that have been banned in certain countries, such as Postal Redux, which is geo-blocked in Germany, and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which was geo-blocked in Australia after it was refused classification by the ACB, which ultimately banned the game from sale in the country, and the producer encouraged Australian gamers who were concerned about it, to "pirate it". In the earlier days such as NES and SNES, the game would refuse to load if a game from a region was loading on a console from a different region (ex. a PAL cartridge will not play on a NTSC SNES console and vice versa).
  8. A study shows that piracy does not have such an important effect in games' sales (but it obviously does affect indie games), this is even more true with Epic Games paying for games to be exclusive to their store.
    • In addition, some developers can be so consumer hostile that some would rather pirate their games than support such behavior.
  9. Piracy, for the most part, is the only way to play games that were delisted from official storefronts. This is especially true for licensed games, most notably Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (before it got officially re-released on modern platforms) and the old Angry Birds games (not the original anymore, unless it's for levels made between 2013-2017), or consoles which had their online stores shut down, such as all of the Nintendo consoles' eShops before Nintendo Switch and the PSP version of the PlayStation Store. Other such examples can be found on a website appropriately named Delisted Games. This also helped save them from being lost to time.
    • As strange as it sounds, sometimes piracy can help people find games that were considered lost. A good example of this is the pre-9/11 version of Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro. The first batch of the pirated non-censored copies were widely distributed in some places like Latin America, and one of these copies was dumped by the Argentinian user "ElVicioGamer" 14 years after the game was originally released.[1]
  10. Many developers would prefer you to pirate their games instead of buying it from shady key resellers like G2A.
  11. Because microtransactions are a threat to mobile gaming, there has been a tool called Lucky Patcher which is not only used to bypass pay to win sessions, but also ads that interrupt gameplay.
  12. Some developers do not care if you pirate their game; Notch of Minecraft fame is a notable example, even being part of the Swedish Pirate Party.
  13. Believe it or not, sometimes piracy does help turn pirates into buying customers or at least give attention to the game and attract customers to buy it, one notable example is the Vita game Super beat Xonic, which was pirated a lot that it made some people love the game and bought it instead which led to the developers thanking the fans.

Various Methods Made to Counter Piracy

  • When you play a pirated/cracked version of the (currently unfinished) full version of Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning, the "BadSum" screen will appear instead of the normal title screen. When it is bypassed, it will trigger anti-piracy effects such as Baldi running fast after 2 notebooks, 2 Principal of the Things, no cool-down time on Gotta Sweep, and finally, the game will crash at random times. The Kickstarter Exclusive Demo of the game first implemented this feature.
  • If one plays an illegally downloaded or cracked version of Serious Sam 3: BFE, a miniature version of the Adult Arachnoid enemy known as the "Immortal Scorpion" will spawn, as it's name suggests, this enemy is completely invincible to all of the player's weapons and can only be stunned or removed with the "Kill All" console command, it's also extremely fast. Even if the player completes a stage by evading this enemy, it will continue to chase the player in the next level. And even if you managed to get through several levels with the Immortal Scorpion hot on your six, the camera will eventually lock up in an "up and to the left" position, forcing you into running around in circles. However, some players seeking challenges may on purposely enable the Immortal Scorpion in their playthroughs or speed runs.
  • Pirated versions of Game Dev Tycoon are nigh-on unwinnable because the player's studio will eventually go bankrupt after a few hours of gameplay because the game informs you that "too many people are choosing to pirate your game", leading you to learn little to no profit. As the developers of the game stated "If, years down the track, you wonder why there are no games like these anymore, and all you get to play is pay-to-play and social games designed to suck money out of your pockets, then the reason will stare back at you in the mirror."
  • Playing a pirated version of Far Cry 4 removes the Field of View control in the options menu, which can disturb some people. Funny thing is that Ubisoft didn't tell anyone about this until gamers pirated the game.
  • If you're detected to be playing a pirated version of Mirror's Edge, the game will on purposely slow down your speed, making it impossible to make jumps that require high speed to pull of.
  • While most SNES games simply start up by putting up a warning sign upon loading and would not boot the game normally if its pirated, EarthBound had many additional layers if it does get bypassed. First of all, checks to make sure the cart only has 8 KB of SRAM, which is the part of memory that holds save games. Bootleg carts and cartridge copiers tend to have more (so that it'll be easy to slap any game onto them), so if it notices that there's more than 8 KB, it will freeze the game and forces you to hack the cartridge in order to bypass the check, doing so and the enemy encounters will be increased drastically, greatly slowing down the pace of the gameplay. But the best part is just before the climax, a pirated version of the game will freeze just before that and then promptly delete the save file.
  • In the pirate copies of Crysis Warhead, the player would've found it impossible to progress as their weapons will shoot chickens instead of bullets. And of course, the chickens, as amusing as they are, cannot damage the enemies at all. But neither can you lose the game because even the enemies are stuck shooting chickens!
  • Pirated versions of GTA IV will start up normal, but then after a few minutes, Niko will be permanently stuck in drunk mode, making the camera extremely wobbly and the game very difficult to control. Also, any vehicle you've entered will take massive amounts of damage (smoking and close to exploding) and will automatically accelerate and become stuck at going at the same direction.
  • Try to start a pirated version of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, and enjoy the very sight of all of your in-game units completely terrorized by the unknown.
  • Alan Wake doesn't exactly have a set of proper anti-piracy programming, however, every pirated version of the game has Alan wearing a pirate eye-patch. The same happens in Quantum Break.
  • A pirated version of Batman: Arkham Asylum is virtually unplayable, as the game disabled the crucial gameplay mechanic of gliding, so you can enjoy the sight of Batman flapping his arms and falling unceremoniously to the ground.
  • In pirated versions of The Sims 4, the pixelation that's normally reserved to cover up nudity will cover up the entire screen.
  • Any Japanese gamer who logged into Dark Souls before the official launch date will find their game invaded not by rival players, but FromSoftware themselves, with max level Black Phantom characters!
  • If you play a pirated version of Alpha Protocol, the menu selection sounds will be replaced by grunting sounds (as if someone is getting hit) and the game will boot you back to the menu after the opening cutscene.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon has multiple layers of anti-piracy traps that can give EarthBound a run for its money. If you launch a pirated version of the game and ignore the fairy at the beginning of the game scolding you for piracy, you'll eventually find out that the game has purposely removed some of the collectible items such as gems and eggs you'll need to find to progress. Patched that out? Great! Now your ability to pause the game is gone, you cannot use portals anymore, and your menus are now in German! Patched all of that out? Where here's the final fuck you from the devs: attempting to attack the final boss would immediately send you back to the beginning of the game, and ALL of your save files will be erased.
  • In Quantum Break, playing the pirated version simply makes Jack wear an eyepatch with a skull and crossbones emblem. This isn't the best anti-piracy method (it's just Remedy telling you that they know you pirated the game), especially since players who had bought a legit copy but weren't logged into the Windows store while playing got the same treatment.
  • In Zac McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders, if you fail in inputting the correct sequence of emblems (known as the Visa Exit Code in game) at the beginning of the game (which is included in the manual and most pirated games don't come with manuals), your character will be thrown into "pirate jail" and the prison guard will give you a long winded speech about anti-piracy.
  • Spear of Destiny also has a similar method which requires you to answer a few questions (such as name the pictured enemy) whose answer can be found in the manual. However, id Software included a few secret answers such as "a spoon?", "snoops", "joshua", "bite me!" and "pelt".
  • Pirated versions of Bohemia Interactive's ARMA series and Take On Helicopters will degrade over time, first your weapons will become wildly inaccurate, then the vehicles will become unresponsive and stop without warning, then the landscape will warp like you're on an acid trip, and finally your character will be transformed into a bird, then it displays the message: "Good birds do not fly away from this game, you have only yourself to blame."
  • On first sight, it appears that a illegitimate version of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is identical to the normal, legitimate version, well, that is, until you get on the train. In a normal version, you'd have been handed the controls of the train, but in the pirate version, the controls of the train are removed entirely, so the moment you encounter your first obstacle (which is very soon), you'll be unable to progress.
  • Playing a pirated version of the DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience will not cause any notes to appear, and the music is drowned out by vuvuzuelas.

Trivia

  • Many fake video game anti-piracy screens, sparked from Joey Perleoni's YouTube success from his Mario Party DS anti-piracy screen videos, that was intended to make anti-piracy screens even scarier, became internet memes.

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