level up! | How Nintendo is driving people to video game piracy

During spring break I visited the Computerspielemuseum in Berlin, a museum dedicated to the history of games. It contained several old games for players to try out. There was a comically oversized SNES controller that I’ve used to play Zelda, old school arcade machines, SEGA bass fishing on the Dreamcast, and more games I couldn’t try myself outside of the museum.

It got me thinking about how game companies, but especially Nintendo right now, really don’t like getting their own games.

On March 27th, Nintendo’s online stores for 3DS and WiiU will end service, meaning people will no longer be able to buy new games for those systems. And there’s no news on whether these games will be available through Nintendo Switch Online or any other official method, leaving other options for people interested in these games.

You can purchase a copy of the game through the used market if a physical copy of the game is available. However, some games can be sold on eBay for $100 and you need a working 3DS. My battery died years ago and I had to jump through tons of hoops to get it fixed so I could play some old games again.

And again, this only applies to those who have had a physical release in the first place. There is nowhere to buy legitimate versions of digital-only games unless the developers have released them on another platform as well. And DLC won’t be accessible even after the store closes, which is particularly tragic for Fire Emblem: Fates given that the game’s third and best route of learning the truth about the full story is only available as either DLC or is available if you manage to get your hands on one of the Special Edition cartridges, which can be found on eBay for over $800.

The other option for players who, for whatever reason, don’t manage to download these games is piracy – an option that Nintedo itself clearly doesn’t like.

“Video game piracy is illegal. Nintendo opposes those who profit from and trade in the creative work of game developers, artists, animators, musicians, motion capture artists, and others. Piracy continues to be a significant threat to Nintendo’s business, as well as the thousands of game development companies that work to provide games for Nintendo systems,” Nintendo notes in its FAQ. “Most importantly, game developers and publishers depend on legitimate sales of their games to survive. Piracy inhibits innovation and the development of new games, which ultimately impacts the consumer.”

However, if literally the only way to get a copy of the game is to pirate it or buy it second-hand, then that’s very different. In both cases, no money goes back to the developers and the people who worked on the game, and the opportunity to play and try old games again can be a wealth of inspiration for young game developers.

While Nintendo is slowly making old games available through Nintendo Switch Online, that’s not enough. Currently, NSO only has games up to GameBoy available, and there’s no news on if or when Gamecube, DS, 3DS, Wii, or WiiU games will be added to the service.

To demonstrate how many games will be lost when the WiiU and 3DS eShops close, just to 25% of games from the Pokémon series – mind you one of the biggest franchises in the world – will be officially available in a way.

What’s more, these require a subscription starting at $50 per year to get most games, while on the 3DS and WiiU eShops you could just make a one-time purchase for the specific game, so even Nintendo Switch Online could be more accessible .
Gabe Newell, President of Valve, said in 2011 that piracy is a service issue, not a pricing issue. While there are and always will be people who will copy things just because they can, many only do so because the only other option is to let old games fade into oblivion – which is tragic for any work of art, let alone for Hundreds of games.

If Nintendo really wants to curb piracy, they should announce plans to make these games available virtually on the Switch as soon as possible, preferably through simple purchases. But even having them on Nintendo Switch Online would be better than nothing.

It would be good for both business and as a way to get older games.

Otherwise, Nintendo only drives people to pirate their games by not giving them any alternatives.


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