Why doesn't Nintendo do something about pirated games?
July 4, 2007 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Why doesn't Nintendo do something about the enormous amount of pirated GBA and DS games and other "licenced" Nintendo stuff on eBay and other marketplaces?

I remember that many years ago (in the Gameboy color days) Nintendo sued Bung, a company that sold products that allowed customers to play homebrew games on their gameboys, because the device could also be used to play illegal games. I thought that that was a bit shady. I did not like the fact that technology can be made illegal just because people may use it for illegal purposes. However, I understood their position.

Now that I just bought a counterfeit "officially licenced" Nintendo product off eBay and read a bit more about the fact that most GBA and DS games on eBay (and other online marketplaces) are illegal copies, I cannot help but wonder: why doesn't Nintendo do all they can to stop that? Sure, some of them aren't easy to spot, but many are, if you know what to look for. This would not only be in their best interest, but also in that of their customers, since I bet that most of them do not even know that they just paid 20 euro's for a counterfeit game instead of the real one.
posted by davar to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
I honestly wish they would capitalize on it and put up the games for download. I'd pay for the service. Who wants all the extra packaging and hassle anyway.
posted by purephase at 4:56 AM on July 4, 2007

Probably because of the sheer number of pirate sellers and the fact that they don't have any control over these marketplaces. I'm more concerned why eBay doesn't do some sort of (semi-)automated culling of them, given that they must be aware of just how prevalent these scumbags are on their site.

However, I've had success with eBay's and PayPal's dispute resolution processes. Raise an official dispute on the basis of receiving a counterfeit, and you'll get your money back eventually. A couple of times sending an e-mail to the seller, just threatening to expose him, has been enough for them to refund. (Of course, I've turned them in later anyway, and you should too.)
posted by lifeless at 5:24 AM on July 4, 2007

Checking for counterfeit stuff on eBay requires is just not that easy.

Lots of companies have agents that check eBay for items that infringe on their rights. eBay's program is called "Vero" or something like that. The agents are empowered to remove an auction, but they must certify that they are sure it is counterfeit. It's difficult to do that when the only real evidence available in an auction is a photo.
posted by bluejayk at 5:36 AM on July 4, 2007

Oh, and one of the big difficulties for the IP owners is that if someone is paying 50% or whatever off of retail, they won't complain if they think it's counterfeit. Especially with something like a video game or computer program for which the end result for the user is qualitatively the same for either counterfeit or 'real'.
posted by bluejayk at 5:38 AM on July 4, 2007

They are doing something. I bought a copy of Mario Gold for GBA on eBay a few years ago, which I honestly thought was a real copy (It wasn't that far below the retail price). Several months after I received the pirated cart (very shitty label reproduction) I received an email from eBay telling me the seller had been bounced from eBay and reported to the authorities for selling copyrighted materials that didn't belong to him.
posted by zackola at 5:49 AM on July 4, 2007

Response by poster: I understand that sometimes it is hard, but sometimes it is dead easy as well. Just start with all the "99-in-1" cartridges, for example. I also wish eBay would do something against it, but then I do understand that they do not want to make it too easy for other parties to remove products. At least they are consistent. Nintendo seems to want to punish the "small fish" (the homebrew scene in the nineties) while letting the big fish that are actually hurting their sales swim around freely. After reading zackola's comment I think I may be mistaken, maybe it is just harder than it seems to put those sellers out of business. In my experience also the games are not that much cheaper than retail, they are priced just like you would expect on eBay. Also: the booklet just looks cheap and save games often do not work. That's okay for an illegal game you downoaded yourself, but I think many people would be upset if that happened to a game they still paid 30 dollars for.

I just do not understand how it is possible that parents can be sued for millions of dollars because their child downloaded some music of a p2p network, but how on the other hand SO MANY companies are still into business actually selling infringed works. I always thought that this was at least a bit of a shady business, but this all happens in clear view of everybody (sorry for my crappy English).
posted by davar at 6:47 AM on July 4, 2007

Because they are still making SO much money and it isn't worth their time or effort. That's my guess. Nintendo has a market cap larger than Sony right now if i'm not mistaken. I don't think they are sweating game copiers and the like.
posted by chunking express at 7:35 AM on July 4, 2007

Even if Nintendo did have authoritative evidence of every counterfeit seller on eBay, what exactly can they do? eBay's popularity comes from the fact that its market is lightly regulated, and it does not have the resources to find and close every single auction selling illegal goods. Nor would it be inclined to do so without probable evidence.

Why doesn't Nintendo go after the sellers directly? Copyright and intellectual property laws don't really extend very well to countries that don't respect them. Aside from a few high-profile cases, it just isn't worth the money for Nintendo to go through an expensive international court battle to root out a guy who's living on a few dollars per day. Plus, once you catch him, four others will take his place.
posted by meowzilla at 10:04 AM on July 4, 2007

For one thing, eBay sellers could be using photos of the real game, and then sending counterfeits... meaning to catch them, someone has to buy the item first.

See also.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2007

Response by poster: I don't know. I understand the problems with Hong Kong sellers etc. but I am not even talking about those. I am talking about the European/US sellers (that even advertise with the fact that they are not from Hong Kong). Some are slightly difficult to spot, but some aren't. Today I actually read a "tell me which 10 DS games you want and you'll receive them on a cartridge for 75 euro's" ad. From a Dutch guy who had no problem giving me his bank account and address. How hard can it be to catch those guys?

I understand that to be really sure sometimes (when it is not obvious, like in the 99-in-1 cartridges) someone will have to buy an item, but then, why don't they do that? Or encourage people to report counterfeits?

I am unsure that they really don't care. I see that even small sellers sell about 10 games a day, for 20 euro's. That's only one seller, and only one marketplace. If they cared so much about Bung back then (when broadband internet was not nearly as widespread as it is now), why don't they seem to care (much) about this now?

IndigoRain: that's really sad. The other day I also read about fake Hori screen protectors in an actual local game store.
posted by davar at 11:03 AM on July 4, 2007

They do as people mentioned. But it isn't worth obsessive policing. One common theory why companies only exert minimal effort in policing piracy (while claiming billions in lost sales) is because it helps establish the platform, leading to lock-in and long term profits.

An example: suppose it was easy to copy HD-DVDs right now but Blu-ray was hard to copy. Then what format do you think would dominate the market? Which player would you buy? If you did get an HD-DVD player, would you never buy commercial discs even though you could pirate them?

In the case of Nintendo (and Microsoft) the case is stronger since they sell the platform and the content. So this is a case of the right thing for business is to mostly turn the other cheek and hope to pick up profits later.

It's kind of like a drug dealer, now that I think of it. The first one is free.
posted by chairface at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2007

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