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A brief history of video game piracy

DS flash cards

The method

This is what happens when Game Boy multi-carts meet online file sharing. By taking a Micro-SD memory card, an unofficial DS cartridge and the internet, it quickly became possible to ‘own’ pretty much every DS game ever for free. In a nutshell, the ripped and downloaded ROMs go on the SD, the SD goes in the cart, and the cart goes in the DS. And then the DS becomes one of the most pirated consoles ever.

The industry response

After a lengthy campaign, Nintendo had the R4 (the most popular DS pirate card) made illegal in Austrailia, the UK and Japan. And then started going after retailers, as well as the manufacturers and distributors. It was a little too late for the DS, which had essentially had its entire catalogue ripped by then, but having the legal precendent means that the 3DS might have a better time of it.

PSP custom firmware

The method

By using a variety of hacks and exploits, it’s possible to install unlicensed software on the PSP using unofficial custom firmware that circumvents the usual security procedures. With the right firmware installed it’s possible to run digital copies of UMDs, emulators for other consoles, and homebrew programs. And as a result, PSP hardware is popular for a whole load of reasons Sony never intended.

The industry response

A constant tennis match of firmware, patch, counter-firmware and counter-patch has gone on between Sony and the pirates for years, with Sony frequently adding useful new features with its firmware updates to encourage users to go official. In 2007, Dark_AleX, one of the main producers of custom firmware, bowed out of the fight.

PS Jailbreak

The method

The latest tool in the pirate’s arsenal, the PS Jailbreak has achieved the long-thought impossible. It’s hacked up the PS3 good and proper, without the need for any permenent console modding. Essentially a mod chip on a removable USB stick, it allows the running of digitally backed-up PS3 games, as well as all of that handy non-copyright-infringing homebrew that needs to come along with it in order to make the manufacturer's argument that the device isn’t really for piracy at all. Honest, Sony. It was only unveiled just over a week ago, but already the Blu-ray dumps have started to appear online.

The industry response

It remains to be seen. But Sony isn’t just going to sit around and let this happen.

So, there you have it. Thirty years of game piracy in three pages. Phew. Do you have any nostalgic memories of the old days of home taping? Or have you always been strictly legal and above board? And what do you think of the current state of things and the effects it's having on the industry? The can of worms, unleash it in the comments, and through our Facebook and Twitter holes.

Topics

Steam Valve

44 comments

  • TheBoz - September 1, 2010 1:39 p.m.

    Reading this took me back, mates having pirated Amiga games on discs and sharing them at school, cassettes as easy to copy as any pop band is able to mimic what is already out there. I have 2 opinions on pirating, one it is wrong, it is theft, but 2, games are so damn expensive especially comparing them to movies which cost a hell of a lot more. Old DVDs, well, when about a yr old can come down to as little as £3, at worst, will be about £8. Games can still be sold at over £30. I would buy more games if they were cheaper, and then just trade them in. Prices need to come down for games.
  • Buga15 - September 1, 2010 10:57 a.m.

    @ColonelKc I agree with you, but prices shouldalso drop to desencorage piracy!!
  • Anduin1 - August 31, 2010 9:46 p.m.

    Piracy forever! Screw paying greedy devs for half finished games. I still see it as a free rental and if the game is great, I go and buy it, especially if it has good online. Mafia 2 is a good example of a game that should never of cost $60 but does and thus its right to be bought is VOIDED.
  • bnxcnvns - August 31, 2010 3:11 p.m.

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  • hdfjkfke - August 31, 2010 12:54 p.m.

    Hi,Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, ( http://www.vipstores.net ) Here are the most popular, most stylish and avant-garde shoes,handbags,Tshirts, jacket,Tracksuit w ect...NIKE ,JORDAN SHOES 1-24,AF,DUNK,SB,PUMA ,R4,NZ,OZ,T1-TL3) $35HANDBGAS(COACH,L V, DG, ED HARDY) $35TSHIRTS (POLO ,ED HARDY, LACOSTE) $16 New to Hong Kong : Winter Dress --- NHL Jersey Woman $ 30 ---**** NFL Jersey $20 --- NBA Jersey $ 18 ---**** MLB Jersey $ 30 --- Jordan Six Ring_m $30 ---**** Air Yeezy_m $ 45 --- T-Shirt_m $ 15 ---**** Jacket_m $ 30 --- Hoody_m $ 30 ---**** Manicure Set $ 20 as long as the new and old customers to buy the corresponding product on this site, both a gift, so stay tuned! !
  • philipshaw - August 31, 2010 12:11 p.m.

    DRM FTW, best way to stop people downloading stuff
  • WhiteCredo - August 31, 2010 6:36 a.m.

    LoL @ the torrent of games and DS pictures. reCAPTCHA: alwatina resenting
  • QWERTYCommander - August 31, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    @awesomemaster That was seriously a dick move. I really hope he's not your friend anymore. If you did that to anything I owned, that I bought with my own money, I'd kick you so hard in the balls that they would fly out your mouth and split in half. Just because it's a flashcart, doing what you did doesn't make you any less of an asshole. Anyway, I do pirate and emulate a lot of games and movies. I'm saving up for a DSi flashcart right now actually. But I don't pirate any console games, just PC and DS. (unless you count emulation of old systems as piracy) And no, I will not listen to any hardcore anti-piracy people like awesomemaster.
  • RoxyWolf - August 31, 2010 2:48 a.m.

    Piracy is too much of a hassle |D; I just wait until a used copy pops into GameStop. ... Even if I have to wait for half a year to afford the game. >.TT;;
  • Spybreak8 - August 31, 2010 2:20 a.m.

    I have a flash card for my DS for convenience. I have my entire collection, which sits on my shelf, on one card!
  • Abe504 - August 31, 2010 1:20 a.m.

    ahh piracy, i did that for the xbox 360, it was a fun ride while it lasted but definetly wrong, i deserved to have my console bricked and stripped of online capabilities, now im clean and buy my games legit, 100%. I get games the old fashion ways, buying brand new, waiting for deals, trading games, or last resort renting.
  • DryvBy - August 31, 2010 12:59 a.m.

    I could care less.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - August 30, 2010 11:48 p.m.

    "I can't let you pirate that, Dave."
  • Onepersonwithnoopinion - August 30, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    There is nothing wrong with piracy so long as you aren't doing it for the sake of doing something illegal. If your product was shitty, no one would bother to steal it. You don't see people asking where to find a good download of Horsez 2, do you?
  • Ultimadrago - August 30, 2010 9:46 p.m.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AzpByR3MvI This is my reaction to piracy! It's YAARRRRRRR GREAT!
  • robovski - August 30, 2010 9:02 p.m.

    Your article failed to mention the old BBS systems we used to share games before the internet online with our 300-2400 baud modems. My friend used to run one of those sites in Chicago, and we shared C64 games through a Color 64 BBS. People would upload to earn download credits and then download what they wanted from the collection stored on the 20MB system hard drive, usually to copy onto floppies. These games were usually hacked with a sector editor to change the password/codewheel check to just be a stroke of the return carriage key. Of course, most boards only supported 1 or 2 phone lines and the phone company was still charging you for a call which made for some interesting phone bills for some folk. Ah memories...
  • HawtKakez - August 30, 2010 8:52 p.m.

    It's funny that whenever I first heard of the act of downloading video games for free I responded, "seriously? Why would you do that?". I guess it is a strange sense of morality that I have always had. Don't get me wrong, I've downloaded things in the past such as songs or a comic series. But when it came to watching movies or playing games that had just come out in the market, I just thought it was past the line of decency. Today, I try my best to stay legit with all media and I purchase my games via pre-orders. Whenever I hear about people pirating complaining about their situation, I just don't give them the dignity of replying to them. It's all a matter of doing what you can get away with.
  • wastedspace - August 30, 2010 8:37 p.m.

    What about the spin trick for PS1? Load an official PS1 game, and then quickly replace with a downloaded copy, and it mistakes it for an official title.
  • crumbdunky - August 30, 2010 7:12 p.m.

    @markshell-Yes, that IS disgraceful and evidence that the industry itwself doesn't try hard enough to give gamers, worldwide, the value they desewrve. If they passed on the savings from download only titles and priced games more fairly around the globe then pirates wouldn't have the excuse that the industry "rips us off anyway". Were the industry to ease up a little on the moaning about preowned sales(which in my mind actually serve the industry a purpose by at least keeping poorer and younger gamers, the big buyers of tomorrow, in the loop rather than moving away to other pastimes)and just be fairer themselves and then ALL gamers would be frowning harder at the greedy, shortsighted pirates..
  • markshell - August 30, 2010 5:45 p.m.

    Here in Brazil piracy is very common. The problem is that each game here costs R$250,00, that's about U$150,00 per game. Now THAT's a steal.

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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