Nintendo will be looking to reveal more than a fancy new DS at this year’s E3 (which, for those counting, is the 5th iteration since inception, and the third in just over a year). Nintendo Co. President Satoru Iwata stated that anti-software-theft measures will be stepped up with the new 3DS. While no further details are being discussed at this time, the fact that it has been mentioned at all shows how serious this issue is for Nintendo.
And it should be; software theft is a serious issue worldwide, but particularly so in Asia and Europe, which brings it close to home for Nintendo. Combine that with sliding profit for Nintendo and operating losses for Sony (though those losses are narrowing), and you have a real incentive by gaming companies to ensure that every dollar that can be collected is collected.
The ease of hacking the DS is well documented (a simple google search reveals this), so something had to be done. I won’t bother speculating on how long it will take hackers to get to the 3DS as well, but it is only a matter of time after release.
It’s hard to talk about software theft without sounding like I’m on a soapbox, so I will try to keep this brief, but I will say that any measure taken is probably not enough. Persistent online connectivity isn’t a reasonable expectation yet (because of a lack of availability, not because it can’t be done), and any hardware based methods will eventually be broken. Preventing software theft is a costly and ultimately futile prospect, but it has to be done. I think the bigger problem is a lack of enforcement.
Something Mr. Iwata said struck a chord. He is concerned people are becoming more tolerant of software theft:
We fear a kind of thinking is become widespread that paying for software is meaningless. We have a strong sense of crisis about this problem.
I agree with Mr. Iwate that software theft is something that people don’t even think twice about. I personally feel the term piracy should be retired, and software theft used in its place (much like I think the term suicide bomber should replaced with homicide bomber). There needs to be more serious prosecution against those that steal software. Microsoft bans hacked console users, so I would think it would not be difficult to use the address those Xboxs registered with to prosecute people. Software theft won’t go away just because companies try to put up blocks against it, and people get banned. Software theft, really, won’t ever “go away” but it can be taken more seriously by the general public if it is seriously enforced. Smoking bans in bars was only taken seriously because owners started getting $10,000 fines for each violation. It’s now a non-issue in states that are smoke-free. Something tells me that if a person who downloads Little Big Planet 2 suddenly finds himself talking to the FBI at his door a few hours later, he might not be inclined to continue with software theft.
So I hope the folks at Nintendo come up a great system that helps deter theft on their 3DS.
For at least a week.
What do you think? Should companies even bother spending money to stop software theft when it’s not enforced? Do you even care about software theft? What do you think can be done to battle it? If a company released a very restrictive anti-software-theft measure that was inconvenient (but functional) for legitimate users, but stopped software-theft, would you be willing to deal with it to support software companies?