This blogpost is a response to the blog post about piracy written by Jools over at: http://joolswatsham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/3ds-piracy.html
Jools writes about his fear of the 3DS getting hacked and how his game Dementium II sold around half as much as the first game (Dementium). Jools blames these poor sale figures solely on piracy.
Every time a developer brings up piracy it feels to me they are putting their heads in the sand. It’s such an easy scapegoat to point your finger at, especially without any factual proof.
There are tons of other reasons that seem just as legit as piracy. For one, the game wasn’t as wildly available (at least I haven’t seen any copy on store shelves). Secondly, it came late into the Nintendo DS lifecycle opposed to the first game. At this point the Nintendo DS established itself as a casual gaming handheld, yet the game was aimed at a more mature and hardcore public.
This might also be the reason why the game wasn’t as wide spread as the first game. Shop owners might have been more inclined to put the latest puzzle games on their store shelf instead of a FPS game.
I notice this myself all the time. While I struggle to find a publisher willing to publish my own original titles as retail products, I have no trouble finding a publisher willing to put out yet another bejewelled clone (in fact, a bejewelled clone of mine is coming to stores this February).
The above mentioned problems are all speculation, but so is the claim of piracy.
Another point of interest might be the pricing of games. Especially in Europe (and this is interesting because he talks mainly about poor sales in Europe). An average game upon release costs between 40 and 50 euro over here. Now this is ‘expensive’ but doable where I live, in the Netherlands. Over here the minimum salary is around 1200 euro. However, the game prices stay the same even in countries that have a minimum salary of around 300 euro.
How many games can be expected to sell in a country where the average game takes up around 16-20% of a family’s income?
I also think it’s important to take a good look at the quality of games.
As it turns out Dementium II is a really good game. The people who played it (including me) all seem to really like it and the game got a lot of good reviews.
However, most of the Nintendo DS library of games consists out of horrible shovelware and quick cash-ins. Making it even worse by bearing a famous (kid) brand and getting ill-informed parents to hand over their hard-earned money only to see their kids toss the game away after 30 minutes of play.
This hurts the complete industry. Why? Because it is already a big gamble for them with famous kid brands they at least know from Saturday morning TV. So imagine how big the gamble feels like when they are holding Dementium II in their hands, a product they have never heard of, from a company they have never heard of.
And how many times can a gamble go bad on them before they resort to other means of obtaining the products? I’m not justifying piracy, but I can at least see where they are coming from.
The seal of quality means nothing. It only makes sure the game doesn’t lockup or mess-up the players system. It does nothing to prevent poor quality of game design or length versus price. My cousin once got a famous kid game that consisted out of 8 mini games that could all be played through within 30 minutes. You feel miserable if you spend money on such a product as a parent!
Jools goes on to claim that ‘If these hackers really want to mess with the guts of a 3DS, why not become legit developers for it and let the world enjoy their talents’.
I started programming and hacking on the original Gameboy Classic when I was around 11 years old. Most of the hackers/programmers are quite young. Should all those young people go and rent office spaces and buy equipment worth of thousands of dollars? Because that is what Nintendo requires of legit developers.
Most likely they cannot even produce a game good enough to publish, because before you can make good game you need to make a lot of bad ones. That’s how you learn the craft. I remember looking and trying to take a part Super Mario Land and learn a great deal from it. Like you said yourself; many of today’s great programmers used to be hackers back in the day.
So it seems only natural that many of the great programmers of the future are the hackers of today.
The world has changed, and it seems that Jools (but also Nintendo itself) are a bit disconnected. We live in an age where bedroom coders can create the most creative and awesome products all on their own. Not only that, but they are welcomed to do so by the hardware manufactures. In fact it is these hardware manufactures that provide the needed tools... for free!
You can look for this at the PC and smart phones. But even more close to home; like Microsoft and XNA for the Xbox. Or what about Playstation Mobile SDK? All free! and you can test your games with a normal retail PS Vita!
Nintendo hasn’t changed a bit on this level, which is almost ironic since Nintendo is THE platform for unique and creative games, making it only seem natural to support indie development.
So instead of blaming piracy (which occurs on every platform) or blaming hackers for something we all did at one part of our lives, I would like to suggest that we take a hard good look at ourselves and our industry and try to improve.