You may recall that, last week, a number of high-profile publishers quietly backed away from the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) currently under consideration in the US House of Representatives. It was quickly pointed out that industry lobbying group The Entertainment Software Association remained in support. This means that, as a collective, all of the ESA's member companies -- including those who had removed themselves as official supporters -- still get the taint of supporting the bill. And the ESA's support for SOPA is steadfast, having issued a statement to that effect on Monday.
Some have speculated as to whether or not this support and the consumer backlash which continues to grow would cause some companies to re-evaluate their membership in the ESA. But internal disagreements within professional organizations are commonplace and while some may not approve of SOPA, that doesn't mean they're ready to abandon the benefits of membership over it. Others, like myself, consider the ESA to be the fall guy on which the rage can be deflected while the member companies who keep their mouths shut can remain somewhat blameless, allowing business to have its cake and eat it too. That's how I would do it, after all.
Imagine my surprise when Digital Trends posted a story in which an unnamed Capcom spokeswoman addressed the SOPA issue. Instead of the expected, "no comment," the spokeswoman was quoted as saying, “The ESA represents us on these matters.”
I have no small amount of respect for Capcom at this particular moment. I don't like SOPA and while I can sympathize with their position as copyright holders in regards to piracy, I can't support them in their desire to see this piece of legislation become law. But they aren't shrinking away from their association either. When the representative could have simply declined to offer any comment at all, they supported the group effort and that takes conviction.
The games industry is always quick to offer numbers illustrating how much money is lost to piracy on a yearly basis. The means of how they came to that number, what it really represents, is always a little bit murky but the message is that it's a lot of money. I'm also going to give you a number, one which is in many ways the opposite of the annual piracy figure: $210.
It's a pretty small figure in the grand scheme, but I can also tell you exactly what it means. It's the amount of money that the industry is going to lose on the purchase of Capcom games by me so far in 2012. It will probably go up, seeing as the year is early and there's tons of stuff which is going to be announced and released. But, right now, I can say without any doubt whatsoever that in 2012, Capcom and businesses who benefit from the sale of its products have already lost $210 in sales from me on Asura's Wrath, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Resident Evil: Revelations, Dragon's Dogma and Devil May Cry Collection. And those are genuine, honest-to-goodness, purchased brand new at retail sales.
And don't think I'm letting the rest of the ESA off the hook just because someone at Capcom opened their mouth. Remember, they're the ones acting with conviction here. This legislation has the potential to be so damaging that presenting an image of being neutral is unacceptable. If you're not willing to step up and say that you're against it as a member of the ESA, there's only one conclusion I'm left to draw.
I'd start doing the math on what it's going to mean for me to abandon the practice of purchasing new games from all of the ESA member companies, but I know that it would only depress me, particularly since it basically boils down to not buying anything for a console and limiting myself to Activision titles and indie games on PC. That number is probably quite considerable already and would be ridiculous by year's end.
I'm just one guy. I don't expect anybody else at Destructoid to feel this passionately about the issue, though I would like to think that some do. Games -- videogames in particular -- are my greatest passion in life, but no game is worth my freedom and I will not fund the efforts of a company intent on treating my rights with such brazen disrespect.
If you feel as I do, please make sure that the companies who comprise the ESA hear your voice. Send them a letter and let them know how seriously you take this. And if you want to join me in refusing to financially support the industry but can't resist the allure of the games themselves, I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the used game market. Game trading sites such as Goozex which keep that market operating as close to the consumer level as possible are highly recommended in this circumstance. Anything to keep them from using our money to take our rights away from us.