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Japan cracking down on game crackers
posted 12:08pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000

NEWS
Police in Japan have arrested four people who run the Famicom Suicide Corps, a ring of at least 100 people who crack and trade pirated Nintendo (known in Japan as Famicom, or Family Computer) games. This is Japan's first crackdown on a pirating ring of this size.

The four people arrested live in different areas and lead very different lives. One is a 27-year-old office worker in Tagajo; another is a 21-year-old convenience store clerk in Odate; another lives in Moriguchi and doesn't have a job; and the last is a 34-year-old in Tokyo who works for a big ISP. His company will also be investigated since he was using computers at work to help distribute the games. Each of the four ran separate websites but all were interrelated.

The Famicom Suicide Corps had rankings for members based on how much pirated software they'd provided to the ring, and all members were encouraged to bring others into the fold to help "capture new users." Approximately 150 pirated games were being distributed.

For more information, please see AsiaBizTech.

SAM'S OPINION
I found this particularly interesting in light of my Sega Dreamcast crack news item from earlier this week. If you take a look through the comments to that item you'll see that most people feel that pirated games are inevitable on every platform--I agree. Pirating has been going on since the introduction of video game consoles and it hasn't really seemed to hurt the industry much, as evidenced by the continuing production of high-end game systems and the still fierce competition. But a police bust on a scale this large is definitely a sign that the industry has certainly not closed its eyes to the practice. In this case, the news and details of the arrests was broken by Japan's Association of Copyright for Computer Software. Gee, I wonder who funds that? :)

Obviously, this crackdown is just a drop in the piracy bucket and even the breakup of a group as large as the Famicom Suicide Corps won't make much of a difference to the pirated games activity in Japan or elsewhere in the world. However, it will be very interesting to see if charges spread to the ISP the 34-year-old worked for or to the other members of the Famicom Suicide Corps. If so, people who do download pirated games may have to start being a little more circumspect.

I honestly feel that if the gaming companies were TRULY concerned with stopping piracy they would come up not only with a more secure distribution model but a better pricing structure! I know it's illegal to pirate games and to use pirated games, but with the price of some of these games it is certainly understandable why people go for the pirated versions. I truly believe that Sony, Nintendo, etc. could easily make up in sales volume any sales revenue lost from lowering the cost of new games from $60 to $15-20. That would obviously be the most effective way to stop pirating.

USER COMMENTS (31 comments)

Prices of games (12:44pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
So utterly true! Prices are sky-high! And we buy without any judgement. Companies see this trend and will keep pricing high. Just buy 4 games and that's about the price of a console!!! Really, how much does it costs to make a game? 20$ seems good enough to cover all costs! - by Drunkn Taichi Mastr

also (1:50pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
if you buy it and don't like the game, too bad cause you can't return it or anything either. - by sean

but (2:42pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
Piracy is one of the reasons prices are so high to begin with: companies charge more to make up for the revenue they (think) they're losing. Not that I find that this makes much sense... - by arcane

cracking down? (2:58pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
why can't they just keep the prices competitive? 60 bucks for a game, a cd, is WACK! If games/softwares were 10 to 30 dollars, they might just get more business, i wouldn't mind buying the real copy if it was the same price has a burned one. - by hidiho

Cost of making games (4:54pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
The cost of actually manufacturing a PC game is somewhere around $8, the cost of a cart is closer to $15. Then add distribution and shipping, say $1-3. Oh, and don't forget it costs upwards of $4 million to actually make a game these days, with some far FAR higher than that. You're not paying $60 for the CD, you're paying $60 for the content of that CD. If you don't like the price, then you just can't play it. People who pirate games generally assume they have the right to play every game released, so if they can't afford it they copy it. Sorry, but piracy is the fault of the consumer, not the manufacturer. - by Pex-Corrh

So true (5:14pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
That $90 (that's about how much a good game costs over here in Australia, even more than they used to be now we have a GST here) you spend on a game is NOT for covering the cost of the CD. It is to cover your right to use it. If you pirate software, you have no right to use it since you have not paid for it. Sure, about 5% of the price the consumer pays for the software goes towards production of the the box, manual and the CD, however, the rest (apart from retail costs) goes towards your right to use the software legally.
Diablo 2 (great game) just came out here and costs $99 in most stores (worth every cent, although I paid $10 less than that) and I don't mind paying that sort of a price for quality, however, you see so much crap out there (Daikatana anyone?) costing the same amount and you just laugh. I think games should be priced according to their quality - Diablo2-great, $99, Daikatana-piece of dog s*#%- 10cents.
hehehehe - by SamBo

Piracy (5:42pm EST Fri Jul 07 2000)
Just because the price is high doesn't mean that suddenly piracy is now ok to do. I love the claims made by people to justify their actions. 'Oh, Napster isn't for piracy, its for people to have a backup copy of music they already own.' PLLEASEE!!! What moron would actually believe this crap? If you don't like the pricing structure of an industry then do something to change it, in a legal way - like boycotting. Piracy is illegal, if you do fine, just don't try to justify it - otherwise you will be guilty of the greatest crime of all - hypocrisy. - by John

sure!!! (5:12am EST Sat Jul 08 2000)
boycotting music sounds like a feasible plan....idiot......... - by chowchow

Get off yer soap-boxes! (11:28am EST Sat Jul 08 2000)
This is out to all those 'upright citizens' that have poped up trying to justify the unjustifiably high --- ABSURD --- computer games prices. Of course there are rights and development costs, but these also apply for other areas like e.g. videos/movies etc. So how come a brand new video is just 10-15 then? It can't be because of cheapo visual effects, or 3rd rate actors, surely! So why don't you wake up to the fact that the companies (all of them, not just in the gaming sector) out there charge whatever they think that they can get away with, and production costs play no role whatsoever. I have to raise my middle finger to the computer game establishment. I say, hurray for the CD burners! - by Nikos

WHAT? (1:13pm EST Sat Jul 08 2000)
So CHOWFUCK, what the hell is your solution? I bet you download illegal crap off of Napster all the time and that is why you should be in prision being raped like a bitch! Although I have a feeling you will enjoy it. - by John

More about movies... (1:01am EST Sun Jul 09 2000)
Nikos makes a good point. Big budget (or even obscene budget) films are released on VHS and DVD at reasonable prices. Remember when VHS tapes of new movies were in the $79 to $99 range? The overwhelming majority of movies are no longer released at that price because companies figured out that great sales of an affordable product means more profits than crappy sales of an expensive product. I thing gaming companies should rethink their price policies with this in mind. - by Al

movies (2:38am EST Sun Jul 09 2000)
good point on the movies, but you haven't pointed out that movies appeal to a MUCH larger audience than software, and although more and more people are buying software nowadays,it is nothing compared to the amount of videos and DVDs being sold. That is one reason there is such a big difference in the prices.
One other thing, I don't understand why some people think that just because something is expensive it is ok to go and steal it without paying. "oooh that ferrari is so expensive, I wont pay for it though, I'll steal it, it's ok becauase the price is so high so i have nothing to worry about." OK slight exaggeration there, but you get my point. A high price tag does not justify theft, plain and simple. - by Joe

Profits (12:48pm EST Sun Jul 09 2000)
What isn't being counted is that video games rival movies in terms of costs and profits. Why would companies change their pricing structure when it is so lucrative? I see no slow down in the growth because of how video games are priced. For instance Playstation accounts for 40% of Sony's profits and Sony is also in the music and movie business but doesn't make that kind of money from those franchises. The fact is companies are providing what consumers want and I don't see too many complaints. - by John

ethics?? (10:38am EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
Look as I see it piracy, napster etc... is not about stealing, ethics or fairness. It's not about screwing corporations over who overprice their wares. This is capitalism. The main goal isn't to be fair. It is to maximize profits. And as a consumer I am going to maximize the allocation of my resources. Corporations will do as much as they can get away with to make a buck legal or not. So dont expect me to feel guilty for cheating a company out of a few bucks. This isn't a justification. This is just the way this system works. So don't wave your finger at me telling me I cant do this or that. As long as I can get away with it I will copy games, movies and music for free and corporations will dump their waste in our oceans and use cheap labor sweat shops in third world countries. How can you expect anything more? - by jones

decision (10:46am EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
i think a great deal of us pirate, because its always been there. a social norm. maybe my childhood was diferent, but one of my friends bought a game and the rest copied it. now that im older i tend to do the same, with the exeption, that when i truly like a game i buy it, if its a 'phase'...some game i will be playing for a single weekend, then I burn a copy. how can you take the deamon out of society, i grew up with piracy and so will then next generation. its a social norm just like drinking. - by me

Decision my ass! (11:53am EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
According to your philosophy, If we see a group of people sodomizing a goat then we should all join in. The companies are going to keep the prices high as long as it is profitable. - by Fred

B.S. by game companies (1:13pm EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
OK, I don't mind paying for actual product and licensing; but blaming pirates for the high price of games is outright B.S. - it's no more beleivable than Al Gore's claim that he invented the Internet.

And what do you get for your money? Let's look at two PC game companies (I don't have a console, so I can't really address console games with any authority).

We'll call them "Company A" and "Company B" to protect the guilty (the innocent, in this case, don't need protection).

"Company A" last year released what was advertised as a massively-multiplayer online role-paying game; it's loosely based on the Dungeons & Dragons game introduced by TSR (now owned by Wizards of the Coast) and has a lot of eye-candy. Patches are provided automatically and players must pay a monthly fee, in addition to the inital charge for the CD, to play.

"Company B" just released a sequal to their role-playing game. The new game can be player either standalone, or online in multi-player mode. Online play is free.


- by Icesnake Frostfyre

B.S. by game companies (cont.) (1:14pm EST Mon Jul 10 2000)

"Company A" suffers from what is reputed to be the world's worst customer support, as well as having numerous bugs in their software, which have not been addressed even though they have been well-known for many months; in addition, they continuously modify gameplay so that the game becomes more difficult for players. This year they released an expansion package, which was available through their online store for pre-orders, and is now bundled with the main package. The day the expansion went "live," the online store went down with promises that it would be back up "Real Soon Now(tm)." More than 2 months later, it is still down, and the only way for players to buy the expansion now is to repurchase the entire package. "Company A" has also made the unprecedented move of punishing customers who did purchase the expansion, by denying them access to portions of the game if they have acheived a certain level of experience; players who did not purchase the expansion cannot acheive that level, and so are not excluded. To add to the assorted insults, the game is not truly role-playing; customer complaints posted on the public message board are almost always either ignored, or brushed off with comments that insult the customers' intelligence; and the game manual and advertising make some blatantly false statements. Customers have been banned from the gmae for running third-party software which provided them with information about what "Company A's" software was doing. The game software frequently causes lockups and crashes on the customers' computers. However, in spite of all the problems, the game has approximately 200,000 players each paying $10 per month to play, simply because there is not (yet) any truly comparable software.
- by Icesnake Frostfyre

B.S. by game companies (final) (1:16pm EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
"Company B's" new release so far appears to have no major bugs (read: it was thoroughly tested before release). Players are able to run their own multi-player servers, and there is no fee for online play. Patches are made available on "Company B's" Web site, which is a bit less convenient than having them automatically downloaded at runtime. I have not read any reports of dissatisfied customers yet; in fact, everyone who has played both games has raved at how much better it is than "Company A's" product, in spite of the "world" being smaller and accomodation of fewer simultaneous players.

The big difference(s) between the two companies: (1) Customer service; and (2) thorough testing of the software.

Now, I am a (soon-to-be former) customer of "Company A;" I intend to purchase the product from "Company B" to fill my liesure time until early in 2001, when I expect a much better product from "Comapny C." And it will be a cold day in Hell before I ever buy another product from "Company A" or their parent copmany, "Company S."

I wouldn't even _pirate_ "Company A's" soft3ware, it's so bad. I _could_ pirate "Company B's" product - but I won't because they have done a good job and worked hard to produce a good product. Instead, I will shop around and get the best price I can (so far, it looks like prices range from $35 to $60, depending on where one shops).

- by Icesnake Frostfyre

Right Pricing = Low Piracy (1:26pm EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
I don't give a crap about the moral issues of piracy... What I do care about is getting value for my $$$. When I buy a $60 game, I want to play the thing more than once, I want it to be fluid, have good sound, etc... In otherwords, it should perform up to the standards set forth by the advertising/packaging...

When it doesn't - I feel gyped and I want my $$$ back. Can I get it back? NO. They say "too bad kid" you opened it...

I tried renting games - but the problem with that is you don't get the newest ones, and often the instructions are gone... Plus, you have to schlep the damn thing back to the shoppe... Wayyy too expensive in my book - esp when games are 0.25 to play (ok some are 0.50)...

My take on this is you screwed me, so I'm gonna screw you right back and I'm copying everything I can. Had a floppy-based copier for my Sega and Super Nintendo and had everything - was a good value too - only about $400 and I could backup all my software... Plus, I get to use that software in an emulator on my Linux box now that my Super Nintendo and Sega have long since died... Chipped my Playstation and got the stuff I want...

Anyway I look at it, it's still cheaper than paying $60 for some game and gettin' ripped... Make that price $15-20 and I'll feel a bit better about the game being a piece of shit... plus, the cost of the game will be close to what it would cost me to dup it, so why wouldn't I just buy the original?

All arguments aside, Piracy is the consumer's reaction in a free marketplace to high pricing that they can't control. Abusing your monopoly, paying off the government officials ('cuse me, hiring lobbyists...)? Count on gettin' ripped off.

Napster, Gnutella, and FreeNet RULE! - by Lovin' the freebies

Return policies (3:17pm EST Mon Jul 10 2000)
It's the fault of the pirates that you can't return things to the store. That one is VERY easy to prove (ask any store manager why they won't take returns.) So it's a circular argument.

"Well, I'm not going to get screwed by paying $60 for a game and not being able and it sucking."
"Why don't you return it?"
"Because they won't take it back."
"Why not?"
"Because too many people copy games."
"But why do so many people copy game?"
"Because nobody wants to spend $60 on a sucky game and not be able to return it."
...

What do you do for a living, by the way? How would you react if you worked hard all day and people were stealing your stuff left and right? You're probably just like most of the rest of the 'give me free software or give me death' crowd. A spoiled rotten selfish child who figures the world owes you whatever you want just 'cause you're you. Pathetic.

Piracy is theft, plain and simple. As far as security measures go, I always though it would be fun to leak a copy of a just finished game a couple of days before it hits the store shelves that will, after the expected release date, erase everything on the user's hard drive. It's not like they can sue you or anything, they're the thieves... Think of that next time you steal something.

- by Pex-Corrh

Ooh, Pex-Corrh is maaad (5:22am EST Tue Jul 11 2000)
Pex, shut up for one minute and listen.

The posters you call "pathetic" in no way indicated that they use pirated video games, and they made no mention of Napster - that was something you felt was relevant.

The only point they are making is that if some people can't afford something, some people will steal it.

Now you probably think I'm some cybercon too, (haha yeah K-rad 133171 1471 l33t h@x0rr), but I am going to support this viewpoint. Games cost too much money. Multibillion dollar global video games companies such as Nintendo and Sega (And Sony too, for that matter) should consider lowering prices on their games AS WELL AS cracking down on piracy.

Of course programmers should get their money, they work very hard for it.

However, if the prices remain high, the pirates will always have a market.

I would be interested to learn who you work for. Not Nintendo, is it? - by Neophyte

POV (a) (2:29am EST Wed Jul 12 2000)
As I have read all your coments, I felt passioned to write my own.

I have been reading Geek.com for a long time and allways fine the writing entertaining and educational. Well done Guys.

Now I personally have been working with computers for all of my life, from the PET, Vic20, Adam, Atari 800XL, and Punch Cards. You name it, I used it. Even in the early days of program and games there were pirates. There has allways been technology designed to preform the job of sharing this information.

Now to all the proud people that have never exploited a company's software, I say "well done".
I myself can not say anything close to that.
I would also like to attemp to defend my position as to actions that would be deemed as not legal.

I feel that a company does not have the right to make clames that dont stand true. (eg. Any Microsoft Operating System claming to not crash)
I also feel that if an item of software (game or application) does not preform up to the users level of quality they have the right to a refund.

. . . - by sOS

POV (b) (2:31am EST Wed Jul 12 2000)
. . .

I use software that I dont pay for all the time.
If it does not work well for me I deleate it from my system and break the copied cd. I wont pay 600, 900, or 2000 dollars for software that is useless to me. When I do like a program I buy it.
That reminds me I should goto my suplier and buy Corel WordPrefect Office 2000, It is 24.99 this week. Price is right. Price is allway a reason.

Now games on the other hand are just as costly to a young person as software is to me. For anyone to pay money for the much hyped, new game and then find out it is garbage. Well if prople could try it out first at the store or get a cheap 1 level demo then that would be fair.
Is that really asking for too much. If your game is really as good as you clame you would want people to try it. If I like it I will pay.

Now please dont yell at me, I am not saying that having a mass colection of copied cd's is ok, but being that the past posts seem to deal with right and wrong, I felt that a objective real life opinion would serve well.

. . . - by sOS

POV (c) (2:32am EST Wed Jul 12 2000)
. . .

I have seen many changes in the world through out the years, and one thing has allways been true, if there are people willing to buy, then that is reason enough to build a product.
People dont want to pay for the games so they will pay huge amounts of money for hardware to make copies of many games. Some games they will play often others they will try and never play again.

When I first heard about mod-chips years back I was really interested in the tech and logic type information behind it; How it worked? Why could you not just copy the Play Station CD and just play it. Why were the legal cd's black??
I never really payed much atention to this being the fall of Sony's market. There was a good copy protection designed into the legal cd's. So now that the protection had been bypassed it was time to incorperate new protection but they did not.
Poor Sony. Why is it that this happened.
Prices were too high and people did not want to 75 dollars for a game that would end up in the stack of useless AOL cd's. Sony took no action other then pouting, sueing, and aresting people.
It is easy to blame others, it is hard work to accept your mistakes and Sony was LAZY.

. . . - by sOS

POV (d) (2:33am EST Wed Jul 12 2000)
. . .

Now for Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and all the other systems I am not so sure about how games are duplicated. Hardware to disk I think.

I once saw the FamCom Disk Drive. That was an interesting device; It was huge, it took bateries, it worked on station 3,4,13,14,53,54, depending what one you payed for, and you could not plug the game system into a power bar or it would fry it's self. Memories :-)

Easy solution is to lock up all the pirates.
That might not work so well, there are millions of us. Companies could design un-hack-able software and games. No that would not work also because they would have no one to blame in order to defend there reasoning to mark up there product so much. I supose eventually a way to copy would be found for any protection they found.

It is so interesting that in the world today companies cry like babies about copied products, yet they are still in business. They cant be doing that bad then. - by sOS

try before you buy (12:58pm EST Wed Jul 12 2000)
If only there was a try before you buy for the consoles, then most people like me wouldnt have to look to the pirate sites to get a demo of the game to see if it was worth buying or not. - by Gamer-Z
WHERE CAN I DL DreamCast Game ???? (11:34pm EST Wed Oct 04 2000)
i just wondering where i can DownLoad Dreamcast game.........please tell me~~~~~~ - by william
roller coaster tycoon (9:40am EST Fri Oct 06 2000)
roller coaster tycoon - by roller coaster tycoo
Companies suck (2:51am EST Sat Nov 25 2000)
No really....if your readin this right now....Companies suck the money straight out of your pocket. I mean really..15$ for a CD....HA HA HA!!! Ive never bought cds...too expensive. Plus lets say i only like 1 song...Paying 15$ for 2 min of music aint worth it. Since Napster..I've had more cd's than ever...and you know what....I dont have to spend a dime. You see, Heres the deal---> I can make up some gay ass song or whatever and if people like it....They shouldnt have to pay for it! I mean really...any dumb shmoe can make up a song....sure it takes talent....but it shouldnt be a moeny grubbing deal (METALLICASo you see...Piracy is good.....made for the people...by the people! LOL 60$ for a game....thats a joke...Nobody out there wouldnt happen to know where you can download dreamcast games??? - by Christoph
Dreamcast shutdown (9:34am EST Sat Feb 10 2001)
Hi,
so dreamcast will no more be sold, so why don`t they let us use it (programm it)? I would be right into it, if i could get the help from you. Have you heard of some source out there? Cause it would be fun just to start a consol which e.g. plays some mp3 CDs or does some mathematic work for ya?

Just send a mail to aheisele@web.de - by Wolf


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