Video game piracy is bad. Thereís no doubt about it. But here in Australia we have the right to own mod chips legally. Why? Because we get screwed so often that's why! Have you ever stopped to consider just how ridiculously expensive games are today? At the time of writing the Australian dollar is hovering around the US$0.95 mark meaning $1 Australian should get me about US$0.95. Keeping this in mind Australian games start around AU$70 for Nintendo DS games and go up to AU$120 for PlayStation 3 games. For the purpose of this argument Iíll focus on the median price of an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 game which is about AU$110.
So for AU$110 (US$103) I can buy one game just one game. I know being a gamer is an expensive hobby, but honestly why does it have to cost so much? I get that games cost more to make then they used to, and that there are many people who need a slice of the gameís sale (retailers, publisher etc.), but can they honestly justify AU$100?
Currently I use my Xbox 360 the most followed by my DS and then lastly my Wii. I donít own a PlayStation 3 yet, but will by the end of the year. I donít own any illegal games for any of these consoles, nor are they or ever will be mod chipped. But that doesnít mean I donít get why people do it. Games are far too expensive.
Take for example going to the movies. Going to the movies cost AU$15, which I admit is far too expensive, but it manages to cover the cost of the cinema staff, the general upkeep of the place, the equipment used to show the film and the reels of film in the projection room. In fact my AU$15 does all that and then goes towards the films creators who then take their chunk of my money and use it to pay off the films extravagant budget and use the rest as pure profit. All that for just AU$15.
For AU$650 I got an Xbox 360 Premium Pack. To save some money the Australian version didnít come with a headset, so Microsoft managed to bleed another AU$50 out of me. Then they charged me AU$79.95 to connect to Xbox Live Gold. Then in order for me to actually play something on my console I have to fork out another AU$110 for a game.
The price of the console I understand; I mean I think for all my Xbox 360 does itís worth the AU$650. Even my Xbox Live Gold account has given me a lot of joy Ė far more than the AU$79.95 it costs me every year. The headset, which should have been free, has never-the-less proven to be a worthy investment. But honestly, AU$110 for one game? Going back to the movies comparison, I paid AU$15 to see 300, which was a great film that cost $60 million to make. But if I so choose I can put that AU$15 towards buying Lair on PlayStation 3 for AU$100.
Did Lair cost US$60 million to make? I doubt it. Are there more people involved in its creation, distribution and sale? Once again, probably not. But for whatever reason Lair costs more than five times the price of one screening of 300. When a critically panned game like Lair costs AU$100 and a brilliant film like 300 costs AU$15 to see, or AU$30 to own on DVD, you really have to step back and ask yourself if games are worth their price tag. I know games have replay value, but so do DVDs and theyíre not overly expensive.
I know games have dropped in price. When I was younger I remember when Sonic The Hedgehog 3 on the Mega Drive came out at AU$140. Even by todayís standards thatís a lot. But does that mean we should just expect to pay so much for games?
My point is that the reason a lot of people pirate games isnít because theyíre bad people, itís because they love video games and just canít afford todayís stupid prices. I know itís not the best justification, but do we really want video gaming to be a super-expensive hobby? Shouldnít developers and publishers strive to make games as affordable and as accessible as possible?
Moving away from the monetary issue there is another problem with gaming that mod chips have been able to fix Ė region coding. Raise your hand if youíve ever asked yourself ďwhy am I still waiting for <insert game> that has been released in <insert foreign country>?Ē
This is something PAL gamers have asked themselves time and time again. Two of the most recent examples off the top of my head are Rock Band and Smash Bros Brawl. In regards to Rock Band, I get that they have to manufacture the instruments, but once it reaches a point where people in NTSC territories can go to their local game shop and pick up a copy, donít you think itís only fair to release a few in other places around the world. I wouldnít be so mad if we werenít promised the game and the release date wasnít jerked around so much (itís now late May). I get that itís an expensive game to make, but come on, do I really have to wait this long?
Smash Bros Brawl is even worse. I mean what do they have to do besides change the packaging? Even though Wii consoles are region locked, a PAL Wii can still play NTSC games if the region code is correct. How much could it possibly cost to make enough Smash Bros Brawl covers and game discs for PAL gamers? The cost is in the production of the game, not the media itís presented on. And I know the whole ďoh, but Europe gets Wii Fit first,Ē but itís by less than a month and itíll probably cost more outside of the US than anywhere else in the world. My point is I got my Wii the day it launched and I have a grand total of three games for it, and one of those is Wii Sports. All I want is another game to play on it, so why won't Nintendo give them to me?
My point is that the Xbox 360 has region restrictions, which I admit arenít enforced on every game, but the Wii is locked down like the consoles of the last generation. I paid AU$400 for my Wii on launch day and AU$650 for my Xbox 360. For that price I should at least be able to play any games I have bought legally from anywhere in the world. But I canít.
I know a lot of people who don't support mod chips think that pirates hide behind the ďwe just like to import gamesĒ arguement, but if you live in a PAL territory the whole importing thing isn't just an excuse, it's a damn good reason to own a mod chip and in my opinion makes having one entirely justified. Moving beyond my own little world, why on Earth canít an American gamer import a Japanese game for their Wii? Developers can hide behind the ďitís not optimised for PAL TVsĒ, which is a bullshit argument these days anyway, but what about other countries like the US that already have NTSC TVs? Huh, smart guy?
Mod chips open your console up to a whole new world of gaming, free from region locking and shitty PAL conversions. Microsoft and Nintendo need to stop being afraid of importing and get with the times, much like Sony. I know that Nintendo are the worst offenders, but big games like the US version of Rock Band are region locked as well as pretty much every Japanese Xbox 360 game, which I know isnít a huge deal but itís still pretty stupid.
I should say that I donít want anyone to think that Iím pro-piracy. I love being a gamer and I want my hobby to survive, but I think the current model is broken. When you pay for a console, say like the PlayStation 3 which launched here in Australia for AU$999 (US$1000+), you shouldnít then have to pay in excess of AU$100 (US$95) to play one game. If games were significantly cheaper, say AU$50 (US$23), donít you think they would sell more? Give away the razors and sell them blades.
Imagine if something like BioShock or Saints Row came out at that price donít you think they would have sold more? I know they were popular games, but at a lower price I believe a heck of a lot more people who may have overlooked these games would have given them a chance.
I know Iím just ranting, and nothing I write can change how much we pay for games. I guess I just wanted to get this off my chest and hear what everyone else thinks. I really do love being a gamer, I mean I just spent the last few hours writing this blog because of my love for games, but I donít want to keep getting screwed over by game companies and not say anything.
Anyway, if youíve managed to read my entire 1,300+ words post Iím very grateful and would love to hear your thoughts.
Firstly, thanks to everyone who has responded to my post (even the ones I don't agree with!). And secondly, I should point out that as I stated earlier I'm not "pro-piracy", I just think that gamers (especially PAL gamers) deserve to be treated better by publishers. Keep on truckin' everybody! read