Piracy’s lesser known influence

A year ago or so I purchased a game called Battle Mania Daiginjou from eBay. It cost me quite a lot actually, around 200 dollars or so. At the time it was something around 150€, so the price wasn’t that bad for a rather rare Sega Mega Drive game. The game’s still awesome and it’s the most played game in my Mega Drive next to Thunderforce VI and Alisia Dragoon. How I got into Battle Mania is a simple and rather common story… in a way.

It’s no secret I have a soft-modded Wii for multiple purposes from backing up my saves and NAND, as well as other low-level stuff that I’ve forgotten. I really should play Monster Hinter again… Still, I wanted to try out the many emulators that Wii has, especially the PC-Engine emulator for some shooting game goodness. I had popped in numerous random games to the SD card to test the emulators, and the Mega Drive one was just a package of Seven recommended obscure Genesis games or the like. One of these games was Battle Mania Daiginjou. When I first time gave it a go, it didn’t think much of it. It kinda was there. The rest of the games were what I already had on the shelf; Sonic 3, Thunderforce etc. but after some few hours of testing out the modded Wii I came back to Battle Mania again. Something just kept drawing me back to it. It wasn’t just the music or the gameplay, but the overall feel of… light hearted comedy and overall awesome content that made me smile. It was like playing a Dirty Pair game with converted mini while shooting down demonic trucks that run on mice.

I noticed that I started it playing it almost daily and after time I played it I got a little bit farther, until I beat the game. Battle Mania was awesome, and I felt a lot of remorse that I wasn’t able to pay for it. I searched what other games the development team had done, and I got naught. So, the next best thing is to buy the game physically, even if used. Naturally I went for the best Japanese second-hand ‘net stores I could, but I found either no-sales or that they didn’t sell to foreigners for some reason. eBay was my last point, and naturally I was really hesitant to purchase this game. I bode my time for some three months until I made the purchase. And when the game came in, I concluded the matter as followed; best game purchase over 100€ I’ve ever made. Also the only one.

You might be wondering why am I telling you this. Am I searching for some sort of absolution or the like? I wasted hundred bucks in your eyes to a game that most of you haven’t heard about and don’t care about? Due to piracy I was introduced to a great game series by a chance. The same can be said of those PC-Engine shooting games that I tried out. Most of them has been released on Japanese PlayStation Network, and all of them were worth the money. I recommend checking out Soldier Blade, and if you’re into pinball then Devil’s Crush is what you want.

Piracy has had this kind of effect before, where “free” content has found its audience and leads into sales. I am one example of it, and a research Swiss government did some time ago can testify further. What the industry usually ignores when comparing the number of sales and the numbers of pirated products is that how much they overlap. There is also the question how much sales would be lost without piracy. You never hear the industries speaking of this.

In a sense it’s wrong to think piracy as just stealing. In the end it has common grounds with libraries as well, where people are able to loan books, music and videos without paying anything. How does the industry see lost sales from this end? Honestly, I’ve yet to hear anything from here. Most of the time the music and videos from the library end up being ripped to a hard drive. Well, the media are there for public use, so I guess it isn’t that long stretch to see this as a sort of proper use, albeit underhanded and all that. Illegal thou? Depend on the country mostly.

If piracy also encourages people to keep historical record, then I guess it also encourages people to try out new things, which seems to lead into more sales. As such we could assume that the best form of marketing could be free products, and allow people to decide whether or not they wish to pay the price for said product. This would also weed out low quality products in the best situation. We’re seeing this in the video game and film industry to an extent. I know at least one women who watches a film or two per day, and most of the time says I could buy this and the following she has five or six new DVDs on her shelf. That’s pretty much the only decent thing she does otherwise in her life.

The industries have fought against new forms of media before. The film industry tried to stop VHS, VHS rental stores and all that from spreading. Now the film industry’s basically all into DVD and they’re putting home versions out faster than ever before. Piracy has existed in pretty much every form imaginable, but Internet is perhaps the first time piracy existed before valid commercial channels. Freeware has existed since the dawn of the Internet, and perhaps this is one of the causes why the industries proper have stayed away from non-physical markets until rather recently.

If you won’t believe my word that Internet can be positive advertisement, you might want to listen this guy below me.

Now don’t get me wrong; piracy’s still illegal and all that, but for every two bad things it does, it does one and a half good thing.

Pirates and value

As we all know, the Internet is being shut down if the SOPA bill goes all the way through in the US. This bill made my friend ask Why does piracy exist? Because people want some things free, I answered. Why would they want a film free that they could buy less than ten euros? he continued. To this I replied that for some films even three euros is far to high price. Then what could the film industry do to stop piracy other than SOPA? Give their films more value and do less films like Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.

I’m not defending piracy. It’s illegal and mostly does harm to the producing industry. Piracy has existed pretty much always, and here I also mean bootlegging and so on. Even in the ancient Greece there were people producing fake pots in order to get higher price. However, nowadays Internet piracy can bee seen as a statement as well. There is a slew of people not willing to pay on a product that has very little to no value. The forementioned Transformers 3 was the most downloaded movie in the history of piracy, and for a good reason: nobody really wanted to pay money for it. I haven’t seen Transformers 3, thou I’d like to see how bad it really is. I saw the first live action movie in the theatres at least twice, and looking back at, it’s the best in the trilogy. It’s a perfect brainless smash, but if you happen to think even a little, it all falls down.

The question how we could stop piracy without resorting into these drastic actions like censoring the Internet or banning websites etc. is a tricky one. One way that would benefit everybody would be to give the products more value. People will go watch a movie in theatres that they find value in, and will buy the said film on DVD/BD if the film has a proper transition to said medium with all the extras. Have a proper inside booklet included, have some neat extras like Making of and so on and plaster that 20€ price tag there. When there’s enough value in a product with correct price, it’ll sell.
Let’s take an example on a product you can’t pirate; the Wii Remote. The price of a Wiimote is about 60€ in the local stores here. That’s far too high price for a controller, something that’s essential for one to play games. Naturally they can rack up the price because of that, right? They’re partially right if the cheaper alternatives wouldn’t exist. You can a buy third party Wiimote next to the official one around 20€ without a hitch. Would the customer give their money for this 20€ controller than for the 60€ one? With the Internet we can find the exact same official controller around 25€ if we’re looking hard. With postage it’s about 30€. It’s half the price you’d find from the local store.

We can apply the similar mindset with piracy. You’d look for cheaper alternatives, and piracy is by far the cheapest option. People are willing shelling their hard earned money only for products that they see value in, and that’s why I’ve shelled about $330 on MuvLuv during these past few months.

MuvLuv Altered Fable comes with a TBT (turned based tactical) game named Faraway Dawn, also known as Get Raped By The BETA: THE GAME. I should get used to see this screen

While many people do find the same value in MuvLuv as I do, they have no access to the same products. It is, in the end, Japan only franchise. Piracy is an easy way to get your hands on some rare stuff. I’m getting off course here.
Take a look at your DVD collection. How many of those films are in your shelf simply because you think they’re actually good, and how many of them are there just for laughs? Then think of the movies you’ve seen in the past, but you wouldn’t pay any money for them. You might be surprised to know that I do now own The Dark Knight, and I have no intention of purchasing it. I saw it in the theatres when it came out, but I have no wishes to support this kind of Batman stories.

The word support is important here. There exist a vast number of people pirating videogames, films, music and literature simply because they do not wish to support the industries. A modern game industry is a filled with these life-style game designers that do not do any real work, film industry is filled with similar kind of directors who only do films that they want to disregarding the audience, and the same can be said of both music and literature industries. There are exceptions in every industry, but enough people are just too full of products that simply have no real value.
The best thing these industries could do is to start producing products that people do find value in. There will always be people who are unsatisfied with the current trends and products, and with these people piracy will exist.

However, the industries will refuse to change for the simple reason that it would take some effort on their parts to change what they’re doing and these creative minds and artists never would step down from their high place to serve the commoner below them. For the industry it would be easier to have a legislation that prevents the customer from using drastic and illegal measures to get their voice out, a voice which goes ignored.
Adding DRM or the like to the discs, region coding all that is just throwing oil into fire rather than water. There was some talks that DVD players should have an ethernet port for Internet connection, so that the DVD discs could have a form of confirmation that the disc was legit and the customer could play it.

Rather than keeping the customer at bay and watching his every motion by limiting what he can get and how, shouldn’t the industry give the customer more and allow him freedom to work his own ways with the product he has purchased?