Hey you, yeah you. You look like you play games. Want to get your Xbox chipped? You’ll never have to pay full price for a game again! Just think of all the money you will save, ifyougetcaughtthoughyourXboxgetsbricked… but think of all the money you will save! So what do you reckon…?
We all know piracy is bad and most definitely probably funds organised crime? Sorry, I momentarily turned into a Daily Mail reporter then. With the current console generation there has always been a risk that your weapon of choice, be it your Xbox, Wii or handheld device, will get bricked when the powers that be track you down and smite you from above with their mighty firmware updates. On the whole, however, I’d say that this generation of consoles has been the most secure so far, especially the PS3… until recently that is.
As anyone who reads any gaming news website undoubtedly knows, the PS3 and its security was recently hacked; actually, hacked is too mild a word. I think utterly and completely devastated would be a better description. A team of hackers known as Fail0verflow has demonstrated to the public a major flaw in the Sony machine that literally allows a user to do anything they want with their machine. Whilst Fail0verflow say that they don’t condone piracy, the flaw they have highlighted will indeed allow copied games to be played on any Playstation and there didn’t appear to be anything that Sony can do about it.
Without going into too much detail, Fail0verflow claim that they were a bit miffed when Sony decided to remove the ability to run Linux on the Playstation. A feature which, whilst not hugely popular, was important to the hacker community and so in order to allow Linux to run again Fail0verflow have, thanks to an extremely school-boyish error on Sony’s part, found out what the Playstation’s encryption key is.
This key when added, for example, to a custom programme will make the Playstation think that this programme is genuine and from Sony themselves thus allowing it to run and work unhindered. To make matters worse, this key can not be changed by Sony as it would render every single legitimate game currently on the market useless. It’s kind of like giving a burglar the master key to every lock ever made and then the law not being able to do a thing about it because he didn’t technically “break in.”
So with this obviously devastating flaw out in the open and the scores of piracy enabling programmes no doubt screaming their way on to the internet, with absolutely no risk of the Playstation being bricked, what does this mean for the future of the Playstation?
Now I understand that just because the ability to play pirated games is available, doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will go out and do it. I’m sure that only a small minority will do so but, as we all know, it only takes one prick to ruin a perfectly good party and there is no doubt in my mind that people will make pirated games available.
Only time will tell what will happen but I’ve had a little think about one or two possibilities below:
Repercussions for Developers
It’s naïve to think that piracy has never been a problem in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few developers starting to refuse to develop for the Playstation in the future. It has happened in the past with the PC so it sure as hell can happen again to the Playstation. In my opinion, as much as a lot of people hate DRM, the requirement of some PC games to be logged on to the internet in order to be played has done a lot to keep developers making great games for the PC . As these systems will not work on a hacked Playstation, I really cant see developers wanting to take what is already a massive investment in both time and money and see it ripped to pieces by pirates once the game is released. However, for the time being at least, this is unlikely to happen; modern game development is a long winded affair that can often take years so it’s highly unlikely that developers and publishers will be willing to waste all the money and effort they have already invested during a game’s development.
The publishers will likely be forced to take the hit in terms of sales figures but it’s the more vulnerable developers that are likely to suffer the most; the average developer receives approximately £3 from the sale of the average £40 game (SOURCE http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-01-10-where-does-my-money-go-article )
Put simply, before the hack a developer of a relatively successful game which sold say 100,000 units could expect to receive £300k. If the same game was released after a hack becomes readily available and perhaps 10% of those sales are lost to piracy then the developer would stand to lose a massive £30k in profits. This doesn’t sound much compared to £300k, but that’s still salary for one or two people that the developer can no longer afford to pay. The knock on effect is that the next game the developer makes for the PS3 will be made with fewer or less talented people, affecting overall quality and, in turn, a poorer game will be made resulting in lower review scores and ultimately lower sales.
Just to make it abundantly clear, I’m aware that this is all a bit broad brushed and a tiny bit sensationalist (sorry I turned into a Daily Mail journo again), and I know that some people may be thinking that a game pirated is not a lost sale as that person would never have paid full price for the game in the first place. Normally I would subscribe to this school of thinking but piracy has never been an issue for the Playstation in the past so now I think they have become valid arguments and it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds.
Repercussions for Sony
It’s probably fair to say that, initially, hardware sales will go through the roof. Whilst there won’t be scores of people clambering over one another to buy themselves a Playstation, we will definitely see a marked rise in sales as it’s not rocket science to work out that in order to play copied games you still need a Playstation and those who previously avoided the Playstation due specifically to its seemingly robust security will want a piece of the action, which obviously isn’t so bad for Sony in the short term. I’d be willing to put money on Sony having the highest hardware sales year on year for the remainder of the current console generation.
In the long term, however, if a high enough percentage of people decide to pirate their games then it’s possible that Sony will find that nobody is willing to produce games for them, as highlighted above. A lack of quality new titles will obviously have an impact on the Playstation’s creditability in the future.
Depending on the damage caused, Sony may have to work hard to restore confidence in their brand name, especially when the time comes for the PS4 to be released. While this doesn’t sound too difficult, people have long memories, especially if you’re a developer and you’ve been shafted out of a fair few quid.
Hopefully, I’m completely and utterly wrong and PS3 piracy won’t become rampant in the near future. Hopefully developers will still continue to make great games for me despite the piracy and I can hopefully continue to enjoy exclusives like Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet. That’s a little too much hoping for my liking, but I for one plan to continue to support my beloved Playstation and buy my games legitimately, and I just hope you lot will too!
Oh yeah, before I forget,
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