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As hackers tear into 3DS, one studio considers looking elsewhere
As hackers tear into 3DS, one studio considers looking elsewhere
January 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose

January 3, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    27 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"If piracy gets bad on the 3DS, we will have no choice but to stop supporting the platform with new games."
- Jools Watsham, co-founder of Mutant Mudds studio Renegade Kid, discusses his concerns over Nintendo 3DS piracy.

Over the last couple of weeks, hackers have apparently made several breakthroughs in breaching the handheld's copy protection, with one claiming that he has discovered an exploit to take full control of an unmodified system.

Watsham is worried that the 3DS will now suffer similar piracy to its predecessor, the Nintendo DS. "Piracy on the Nintendo DS crippled the DS retail market, especially in Europe," he says. "We'll never know how/if Dementium II landed in as many hands as the first game, Dementium: The Ward, due to the rampant piracy at the time."

The original game sold over 100,000 copies on the system, while the sequel managed less than half of that -- and Watsham believes the ever-expanding piracy rates were to blame, at least in part.

"The good news is that Nintendo has the ability to put up a good fight against pirates due to 3DS system updates and such," he adds. "Let's hope this is enough to stop piracy."

And the Planet Crashers dev has some select words for those people who believe piracy is not an issue on Nintendo handhelds.

"Some say that piracy leads to more game sales, claiming that it enables players to try before they buy. Bullshit," he says. "The percentage of people who will spend money on a game that they already got for free is surely very small - especially with so many 'free' games already in the market. The line between what should/should not be free is getting very blurry."


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Comments


Lars Doucet
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Piracy competes very well with retail because buying games at retail is a huge PITA compared to buying it digitally. Maybe Nintendo should put more effort into their fledgling digital distribution services if they really want to compete with piracy.

I don't condone piracy in the slightest, but you have to be realistic about how to fight against it.

E Zachary Knight
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So does this guy have plans to completely abandon game development then? I know of no platform that is not plagued with piracy. PC piracy is even worse than DS piracy. At least with the DS you needed a dongle in order to pirate. That means going way out of your way to do it. On the PC it is just download and go.

Michael Wenk
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It seems more an excuse to me than a real reason. I'm guessing its more the limited 3DS adoption than the piracy.

Ardney Carter
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Just to be clear, Watsham is referring to Piracy on the DS and its alleged effects on the sales of their game. This has nothing to do with the 3DS' adoption rates or any other kind of 3DS-centric data yet because the cracking of the 3DS has only just occurred (assuming the reports are accurate).

Adam Bishop
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What limited 3DS adoption? The 3DS has sold more units in North America than the DS had at this point in its life-cycle (7.38 million vs 5.90 million) and more in the rest of the world other than Japan and NA (6.88 million vs 6.13 million). It's not done as well in Japan, but since Watsham appears to be talking primarily about Europe, the adoption rate of the system doesn't seem to be an issue.

Greg Noe
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Wow, what an overreaction, the "hackers" haven't even revealed which game breaks security. And I love how the guy complains about how his niche horror FPS game on a handheld "only" sold 50k copies. Maybe he should be looking elsewhere... like the PC.

A W
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He'll Find that no matter where he goes piracy exist. Can't get away from it. Also he will find that the majority of people who pirate are with in a certain age group. About grade school age to highschool age. Us single gamer adults don't have enough time or make enough money to get everything we want given our service and government jobs. So games Like Dementium don't get a second chance if the first impression is not good.

Scott Reiling
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A W, do you have any links to studies supporting the notion that piracy is rampant in those age groups? I ask, because anecdotally, I can tell you that I know adults (myself NOT included) who pirate games and movies, with no remorse. Furthermore, these are well-educated adults, with an income that would allow them to buy retail games. I have even pointed out Steam to these individuals, in an effort to highlight the fact that there are plenty of great games at low prices, and the high-profile games with large sticker prices come down drastically after a few months.

A W
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No I don't have any links but I can tell you its very rampant in those age groups. I deal with kids mostly and I can tell you that they have more knowledge of pirating than ever, and that it not that big a deal to most of them. I can also tell you that the friendly pirates can make good revenue by just being the middle man between the gate that leads to the information on how to do it. I can also tell you that teaching kids about copyright is now a Common Core Standard benchmark in learning from a third grade level and up. So yeah the industry knows which age groups are doing it and they are setting the standards and punishments to curb the effect.

Tom Baird
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Your game doesn't sell so well? BAM! Must be piracy!

Why wasn't Dementium 1 pirated as much? Why are other games successful despite piracy on the device?
As mentioned above, there is piracy on every system, where does he plan on going to avoid piracy? How do these other platforms deal with piracy? Steam and iTunes are phenomenal examples of piracy mitigation done very successfully, to the point that both have waves and waves of customers throwing their CC#s at them.

He says he's hoping Nintendo can 'stop' piracy, but with even just a cursory glance at other platforms and systems, he should understand that that is impossible. Piracy is not something that's stopped, at best it can be mitigated or made unimportant (while the devs focus on more important things, like attracting customers that are willing to pay for games). At worst you'll simply thrash and wail about, destroying your customer relations, to get at people that do not and never will have any intention to pay for anything you do.

Michael DeFazio
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Well, they had to develop and test a game to pass Nintendo's certification and develop a game for a unique system (dual screens, stylus/touchscreen, 3d)... (that takes time and money) and they have to pay royalties back to Nintendo...

So they should be fine with Nintendo allowing pirates to circumvent there security and get their game for free?...

He doesn't seem to be ranting, but rather hoping that Nintendo can close the holes (through updates and whatnot) so they don't let all his cattle out through the "open barn door". (At least make piracy more difficult, so that users can't make off with his goods without having to incur some type of sanctions or penalties)

I mean if you brought your wares too a market, had to give the folks running things a kickback, you'd hope that at least they could provide some level of security that thieves wouldn't make off with a large percentage of your goods...

Alex Boccia
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It was only a matter of time until a proper flashcart came out for 3DS. Nintendo should consider making deals with smaller studios to put their games on the eshop but sell them at eshop prices, 5, 10, 15 dollars. They'll see a lot of sales! 70% of my 3DS purchases have been on eshop. I love Nintendo exclusives and AAA titles but paying hard retail for games hurts my wallet.

Benjamin Sipe
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F2P PC or Mobile with a server side login. It doesn't completely resolve piracy... but then again nothing ever does. In my experience just happens less.

Alexander Symington
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F2P also has very serious side-effects on design that make it pretty poorly suited to a studio focused on product-based games such as Mutant Mudds. When piracy has such a nebulous impact, recommending a fundamental change of business model specifically to avoid it seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Benjamin Sipe
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@Alexander

True. I meant with future designs. Not redesigning a game to fit a freemium business model. That's usually a disaster. *shutters at the thought*

k s
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His game didn't sell well so it must be software pirates, it couldn't have anything to do with the game itself, its marketing, its price, etc.

Ian Uniacke
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A few of the commenters here need a good solid dose of reality. It's a well established fact that the R4 cart on DS caused software sales to halve. Pretending that this is not an issue, or even worse, pretending that piracy is a boon to software developers is the most head in arse opinion floating around amongst the game industry.

Tom Baird
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"It's a well established fact that the R4 cart on DS caused software sales to halve."

Could you provide a source for this 'well established fact'? All I could find was: http://www.gamesradar.com/drop-in-nintendo-software-sales-not-due
-to-r4-cards/

You've not provided any context for this fact. Was it worldwide? When was it? Was it 100% of all DS titles, or a specific company? What on earth are they using to be able to verify as fact that lower sales are a direct result of piracy(and more specifically piracy via the R4 cart) and not waning interest or other competing technologies?

I can agree, there are a lot of people jamming a lot of BS about piracy being good for developers, but jamming in a whole pile of counter argument BS doesn't improve the conversation.

There are TONS of reasons why a certain game/platform can succeed or fail and piracy is only one of them. The DS is not special in that it can be hacked, and Dementium is not special in that the sequel sold much worse than the original. He even mentions he doesn't have solid metrics on users using pirated versions, and so doesn't know how many people even pirated Dementium 2. He's taking an unfavourable outcome, and instead of treating it like the complex combination of internal and external factors it is, trying to blame it all on a single, unverifiable external scapegoat, and then putting the onus of an impossible solution on someone else (Nintendo). There is plenty of constructive conversation about piracy, but Jools Watsham did not in any way contribute to it with what he mentioned in the article.

Rob B
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Nobody here has said piracy isnt a problem, several people have specifically made the point that they recognise it is a problem before calling this load of clap trap out for what it is.

Dementium was released 2007 through to 2009 this was so far past the point where DS piracy had become trivial that to suggest that Dementium IIs sales were crippled to the point of leaving the platform in comparison is laughable.

Nothing happened to DS piracy between Dementium and Dementium II that would have had a significant effect. The R4 cartridge you are trying to pin this on was on the market for going on a year by even Dementiums earliest release date.

Incidentally DS sales were in decline in 2010 across the board quite likely because Nintendo had just announced the 3DS.

James Castile
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Maybe I'm naive but I still believe a very high percentage of people pay for games. Is there any way to know for sure how many people used to be paying customers that have now become pirates?

I really like to believe at the very least 9/10 people still pay for their stuff. I have 100 some odd games on steam. Not including F2P. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned but I would never pirate a game.

50 thousand copies for a game I've never heard of seems respectable. Maybe the problem has more to do with their PR and Ad campaigns than piracy?

Sebastian Lucas
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This is not to do piracy, this is to write our own programs on it.
Reasons why people would do this is because platforms are locked, and you have to pay huge amounts of money just to do a deploy on the device (look back in the '80, '90).
That would be solved if platforms were open to everyone but not marketplaces, where you should pay to get your game/app there.

John Flush
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I'm still surprised that so much investment goes into piracy protection and not as much into messing up someone's hardware that does pirate. Having experienced it while in college and such I would have to say the few people that had major problems with viruses and such while doing these sorts of things turned them off to it. The smart figure a way around it sure, but the goal is never stopping it, the goal is making it annoying enough to just go back to the legit way of doing it. For every customer that has a good experience with no risk the legitimate way the more likely they are to see the money as well spent.

Sony, MS, Nintendo should have people on payroll that do nothing but earn credibility at piracy site and then expose a game that bricks systems - halfway through gameplay or something. sells more hardware and actually attacks the problem instead. I'm sure someone would think this is a violation of some right they think they have, but that should be in the terms and services I suppose. The only people that will ever be penalized with this model are the people that deserve it.

Tom Baird
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That is an incredibly bad idea imo.

Companies that have done that, have been bombarded with horrible review scores, because it turns out pirates will still review a game. They don't know it's specifically because it was pirated, or if it was a bug in the real version as well, so you end up with lots of 'Buggy and broken' reviews. I can't recall the game name, but one game specifically shortened your jump just enough that a mid-game jump could not be made. Going further and bricking devices is incredibly dangerous, as you can't be sure they are not customers via other products, or someone who bought the game and pirated it (rare, but it does happen, especially if the game has heavy DRM, and a single false positive when it comes to bricking people's computers is really bad).

Not to mention, that attempting to trick people into downloading malicious software, even if those users intended to pirate something makes you culpable. They never actually pirated anything because Sony, MS, Nintendo uploaded the broken version themselves, but now Sony, MS, Nintendo would be responsible for deceiving people, and damaging their property.

Edit: Also, no company gets to decide who 'deserves it', that's the job of the legal system, hence the RIAA/MPAA's current heavy focus on lobbying for much more rigorous digital IP legislation around the globe.

Merc Hoffner
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My history teacher used to say that instead of an airbag, car manufacturers should simply install a spike in every steering wheel. Then nobody would speed and anyone breaking the rules would get what they deserve.

John Flush
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@Merc - I fail to see how a video game console and piracy equate in any way to death in a car. If your analogy was along the same lines maybe it might have some strand of validity.

In easier terms, in a car someone else could do something stupid and force you into the spike. In video game piracy there is no such thing. If you are holding a pirated game you bought it, you downloaded it, or you tried to use it in some way. No one pushed you into it. Completely different cases.

Good to see the educational system continues to employ fools that use scare tactics to prevent social norms from changing. The benefit of those that actually follow the system is constantly held back due to the pirates.

John Flush
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@Tom Well, the good thing about piracy is no one ever actually gets caught right? No one would even have to know they were bought and paid by the publisher.

Good communication could be used to mention these specific problems and if it happens you to how the company would take corrective action for them. Send us in the game, we will send you a copy back, with a bonus or something - pirates wouldn't send anything in hopefully, knowing full well what they did, others you can then inform them about piracy or add them to a list of potential pirates to turn into the authorities...

And I find it funny you still think the legal system works... We don't need more legislation or rules, we need to punish offenders. Once people see the offense as more problematic that the solution (actually buying it) the problem goes away. All at the expense of the pirates for a change instead of the other way around.

The fact people still dismiss punishing the offenders as a viable option to piracy is insane.

Merc Hoffner
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This entire conversation is relatively odd and moot. We're talking about support for a system collapsing due to piracy, when it hasn't even been pirated, and remains literally one of only three systems on the planet not yet cracked. Even Windows 8 has been cracked. iOS is usually cracked within a matter of days of updating. A damn 2004 Nokia could be made to run pirated symbian games. EVERYTHING GETS CRACKED. The fact that the 3DS has remained intact this long is testament to pretty good anti-piracy measures, or hacker apathy, or both.

Whatever, the point is we're having a conversation about rampant piracy on the least pirated machine to date.


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