News Article

3DS Anti-Piracy Measures are Too Sophisticated for Human Brain

Posted by James Newton

So says THQ man

Nintendo's suffered badly at the hands of piracy this generation, although it's done its best to stem the flow with a series of court cases and lawsuits. With its next-generation 3DS handheld the company's keen to combat the problem still further, employing more preventative technology than before; technology so powerful it's apparently too sophisticated to explain.

That's what Nintendo told THQ's executive Vice President of Global Publishing (we promise we don't invent these job titles) Ian Curran, who seems happy that the 3DS will do more to combat the problem that prevented his company from producing more titles on the DS family.

The problem with the DS market in the last few years, particularly with the DS Lite, is that it's just been attacked by piracy. It's made it almost impossible to shift any significant volume. The DSi combated it a little bit, but the 3DS has taken that a step further. I actually asked Nintendo to explain the technology and they said it's very difficult to do so because it's so sophisticated.

Whether that's the real reason the company couldn't explain the measures, or that they thought better of giving the opposition a long headstart is entirely down to interpretation, of course.

[via computerandvideogames.com]

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User Comments (48)

Oregano

#3

Oregano said:

More like they don't want THQ blabbing about how it works to give pirates and hackers a heads up.

V8_Ninja

#6

V8_Ninja said:

I agree more-or-less with Oregano. Nintendo most likely doesn't want THG blabbing about the machine's anti-piracy measures before the system is even out.

SuperPeach

#7

SuperPeach said:

I'm sorry I didn't understand that, I guess it was too sophisticated for my brain.

noname

#9

noname said:

well there is nothing wrong with homebrew as long as nobody uses it to copy games wich sadly happens a lot

Moco_Loco

#10

Moco_Loco said:

Nintendo's new DRM mascot (the "new character" that Miyamoto is working on right now) will actually come out of the screen and ask if you have a receipt. If you can't produce one, you can't play the game.

NintendoNaut

#13

NintendoNaut said:

I hate piracy, and I want it to end. Unfortunately, there's always going to be some mastermind out there who will crack the code. And when he does, everyone'll be able to.

Frango

#15

Frango said:

Is THQ really so easily convinced? C'mon! Not that it's bad, but "too sophisticated" just seems like a cheap excuse o.O

But well, I really don't believe in all this succesfull anti-piracy stuff... I've seen tougher systems getting pirate xD... Maybe it will really self-destruct after 60 seconds with the insertion of pirate data, just like timp29 said xD...

komicturtle

#16

komicturtle said:

Remember, Hackers find exploits for the good, not for Piracy. And, the folks who worked on the HBC on Wii wanted to 'help' Nintendo in closing off these exploits- so far to contact them. What's weird is that some woman contacted the person through the phone EVEN though he never shared that information. They never addressed the issue through the E-mail he sent them- taking extremely long to respond only a month later they responded.

I think hackers should keep the exploits underwraps and not share because that gives the cheap gamers a chance to steal games. Or, if they share the exploit and release- find ways to BLOCK off any attempt of pirating 3DS games (which probably isn't doable.)

HipsterDashie

#17

HipsterDashie said:

@komicturtle92

I remember reading that article a short while back. Pretty strange stuff.

I often see people complaining that homebrew developers are often the innocent victims of anti-piracy measures, but the truth is that it's likely very hard to be able to counter piracy without having negative effects to the homebrew community.

I know people are going to hate me for this, but I simply think that they shouldn't feel poor-hard-done-by because Nintendo won't let them develop homebrew software on their system because, ultimately, it's not what the system has been designed for, or intended to be used for. In my opinion, blocking pirates is more important than keeping the door open for homebrew development, because we're talking about real money being lost by honest developers as opposed to someone not being able to develop as a hobby.

I don't want to come across as a total douche but that simply is my stance - if homebrew is impacted by anti-piracy measures then it's simply tough luck. Sorry guys.

J_K

#18

J_K said:

I'm curious about this myself. While I gave up jacking games some years ago I still hit the one board loaded with those pirates, but I use it because it shares space with good gaming discussion on a site more centered on Nintendo but lacks the fanboy crap or fanboy attackers either. DSi has been a bane to pirates because the games downloaded to the system are so encrypted to hell and back they can't hack the device to steal and run the stuff. If they're talking about taking things up a notch from the DSi I can see why third parties are getting tinglies in the pants over it.

@SoulSilver: I agree entirely and I've taken a load of crap on multiple sites for having that attitude and in particular when Sony removed from older style systems the whole Linux loading option because that one genius tool GeoHot was on the edge of a breakthrough using that as a backdoor into busting open the system security, and from there it would take any programmer with too much time on their hands to make it end up like the life of the PSP...in pirate hell.

sylkirian

#19

sylkirian said:

Well... I think piracy somewhat increase game machine sales, because some people prefer to buy it when it can play 'copied' games... Just my opinion though, it's not that I agree with pirating.

J_K

#20

J_K said:

Sure it can, but the down side is that some companies (cough Sony and MS cough) are dumb enough to sell at a huge loss. If someone only buys a game or two ever and pirates the rest, or steals them all then they're hurt.

moosa

#21

moosa said:

@20 Not to mention third parties not wanting to support a console overrun with pirates. Really, the money in the industry is in the games, which is the reason why the other companies can afford to sell at a loss.

skywake

#22

skywake said:

I wasn't so sure of the impact that piracy was having until I looked at some stats. On backloggery the average user has played 12.5 DS games but according to global sales the average gamer only owns 4.28 games. Thats a huge difference but I thought that maybe that's just because the people using backloggery are big gamers. Maybe its something to do with the grey market or physical sharing of games.

Apparently not. I looked at the stats for the Wii, allegedly a console not as hurt by piracy, and found that the numbers were much closer. Backloggery tie ratio is 8.7, actual tie ratio is 6.85.

I am still a skeptic though. I am not sure if those numbers would be as high as the "piracy numbers" if everyone actually brought games. I am a fairly avid Nintendo gamer and I own twice as many Wii games than DS games. I don't see how those actual numbers can be reversed in real life if piracy wasn't at play. I know I own 11 DS games but, would the average person buy that many?

J_K

#24

J_K said:

I'm not sure how to interpret that sites loose data but the PSP is a bit of the ways down that list and it's plagued heavily with theft.

JebbyDeringer

#25

JebbyDeringer said:

The PSP never made enough interesting games for people to shell out money for them. I'm betting a lot of the people with a hacked PSP can't even be bothered pirating the games, they probably just run emulators.

RowdyRodimus

#27

RowdyRodimus said:

87.4% of the people who pirate games do go out and buy said game. (See, I can make up numbers just like the publishers)

My take on the whole thing is that the publishers have brainwashed the customers into believing anything they say about "pirating" so they don't look into it themselves. It's not the developers that lose money IF a person pirates a game and doesn't buy it after trying it, they've been paid for their work, it's the publishers. You know people that hate gamers like Bobby Kotick (look into his idea for pay to play COD) and Activision.

No the people that get hurt by it are the paying customers by having region locks, security keys, DRM, etc. If the companies really wanted to stop it they could. All they have to do is use laws already in place to track the pirates and prosecute them, but no that takes time and money so instead of that, they throw retarted anti-pirating measures into the hardware and software that gets broken in no time. That way if they have a crap game that doesn't sell, they can just say "Aaaaargh, Piates!" instead of "What do you mean they don't want Unicorn Birthday Surprise 5?"

There is a problem, there are ways to fix it, but they don't want to fix it since it's such an easy scapegoat for the shareholders and another way they can hold the customers hostage and make them play by their rules.

Ren

#28

Ren said:

Thank you soulsilver. Well said.

I find it pretty ridiculous when people try to argue that anti-piracy measures are unfair in some way. Homebrew is great, go for it; hack away, I have no objections... but to EXPECT it to be openly accepted and whine that they are persecuting homebrewers is silly. Piracy is far more rampant (and arguably very damaging for smaller publishers) and a company that makes a specific, licensed product for it's specific video game machine has every right to lock it down for only it's sanctioned uses. Sure the internet complicates this but a DS or PSP is NOT like a PC/Mac. it's not a 'computer' that is designed to be openly used for everything and designed for by everyone.
Why doesn't Target or Walmart let us sell cookies or lemonade in their store? That's a dumb question right? it's a private business that sells only what they choose, it's not a farmers market or garage sale.

Of course people will hack and make homebrew and even pirate anyway, and I actually think it's great but don't whine about having to circumvent a perfectly logical system.
Besides, I'm not a computer wizard myself, so when pirating games became so easy anyone could just grab roms by the dozen and play them with little to no tech knowledge a few years back, it became really hard to resist. I think they're well justified in trying to protect they're properties if it can save them anything and help extend the life of some of the sleeper-hit games

KrazyKain

#30

KrazyKain said:

well I think part of the fun of homebrew is hacking the system, same can be said about piracy i guess, but homebrew is harmless..

however, anti piracy methods arent always justified. Some measures actually limit the experience for a paying customer, and these are the ones that are a big no-no, for now, all I can think of is Ubi's, having to be constantly connected for a single player game is not how you do it.

Macaronius

#31

Macaronius said:

Pirates have returned in several different countries, therefore "pirates" have to revert to their original name, "theives".

ODOGG618

#32

ODOGG618 said:

Maybe if Nintendo quit trying to resell the same games on every platform people wouldn't feel the need to pirate the games. How many times do I have to pay for Super Mario Brothers???

HipsterDashie

#33

HipsterDashie said:

@RowdyRodimus

Unfortunately, since the average video game consumer, like you or me, does not have the time or resources to go out and survey every single gamer out there to build up a picture as to who has pirated games and who hasn't, we have to rely on these companies in order to do the data collection and processing for us. Of course, I don't doubt the fact that results may be skewed to give a result closer to what they want, but at the same time I don't think it's fair to deem them "unreliable".

Developers do lose money thanks to pirating. It all works in a chain, likely (yet simply); consumer pays shop, who pays publisher, who pays developer. The money comes from the consumer ultimately. Therefore, stick a pirate into the equation, and the flow of money stops; the store makes no money to pay the publisher, who in turn cannot pay the developer. Everyone along the chain gets hurt at some point.

I'm not going to say all anti-piracy measures are the bees knees, because some of them are genuinely awful, e.g. being connected to the internet constantly in order to play a single player game. However some measures are necessary in order to stop piracy. I'm no anti-piracy developer, so I can't exactly enlighten you on an all-conquering solution. However, whilst the implementation of laws will certainly help, it won't solve the problem completely, simply because it is too impractical to search for every single pirate out there, and the authorities have better things to spend their time and resources on. Just because murder is illegal doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I've never really seen a game developer/publisher blame piracy for poor sales of a bad game, but this is why we have reviews; to filter out the good from the bad.

I play by their rules because, that way, the developer earns his honest wage for his hard work developing a game.

@Ren

I loved your analogy, it was a great way of putting things. Well said.

@KrazyKain

Homebrew isn't harmless. Sure, the intentions may be all well and good, but there have been many instances where homebrewers find a hack, and then pirates take advantage of said hack, thus causing the situation to get worse.

But I agree that there are some really stupid anti-piracy measures out there.

Kurona

#34

Kurona said:

@RowdyRodimus

Yeah, sometimes the people go out and buy the games after pirating. But most of the time? They never will. Judging by my experience, people generally don't spend money to play the game the way it was supposed to be played than for free. Some of my friends have stolen some games... and to date, they've only bought a couple of the games they stole.
What you're talking about is the honor system - if somebody pirates a game, they'll pay for it later. However, what's going to make them do so? They don't feel pressured by the law, because they are aware of the fact that there's a million other pirates out there. They're safe in a huge, huge crowd. And about supporting the developers? Don't make me laugh! Some people just don't care, or rationalize it by saying, "There's a bunch of other people out there who'll pay, so why should I?". It's sorta a overused expression, but in this case, it's absolutely true.
Oh, and by the way, are you seriously suggesting that the companies arrest every single pirate out there?

darklinkinfinite

#35

darklinkinfinite said:

@skywake I appreciate what you were trying to do comparing the games owned on Backloggery with average attach rates but that probably wasn't the best place to start checking. Backloggery allows people to list individual games in a compilation and will count it as such. My own backloggery shows me at 127 Wii games when, in actuality, I have 105 Wii disc-based games, so I'm sure that will throw some of the numbers off.

Then the very nature of the site (keeping track of the games one hasn't completed yet) attracts people with larger collections. The site would be pretty much useless for people that have less than 10 games.

Still, I understand that its one of the few options available. IGN and Cheapassgamer both have collection trackers for users but I don't think either of them give you the stats for the whole user base the way Backloggery does.

theblackdragonAdmin

#36

theblackdragon said:

@darklinkinfinite, skywake: also note that Backloggery will allow you to add any games you've borrowed or rented as well (so long as you've played them), and it runs on the honor system (there's no way to verify any of the information added, really). i'd imagine there's more than a few people on BL who want to impress their friends, so even if they only tried a game for five minutes at their local Wal-Mart DS/i kiosk they added it to their BL, lol.

RowdyRodimus

#37

RowdyRodimus said:

I admit, I had some pirated games for my Dreamcast. However, they were NES and SNES games that were out of print and this was many moons before the VC (or even the Wii) was announced. So I could rationalize that by getting them in any way, shape or form would not benefit the creators of the games.

I added that bit to give my opinion and stance on pirating, but this is the big thing I'm trying to say-
You can find hundreds if not thousands of torrent sites to download pirated games in just a few seconds using any search engine. Why is it so tough for the owners of these IPs to do a few minutes worth of work, then sic the lawyers after the owners of these sites? All they have to do is be proactive in an attack against the owners of the sites (since they can all be traced back to a few people) to put the fear of God into the people that are doing it and not make the average customer feel like they are the problems with all of the different anti-piracy measures they throw in that have been proven to not do a bit of good.

As for the number I threw in my original post, I just made it up. Just like the numbers are made up that show how much money the compoanies lose to piracy. A download =/= lost sale. I'm willing to bet most games that are downloaded illegally were never going to be purchased by the person at all. Also, what about the people that buy a game, find it full of bugs and gamebreaking DRM then download a hacked version so they can actually play the game they have already bought?

Again, we are getting the story through the filters of the companies that feel they are the victims and of course they are going to make it sound like they are angels upon high who do no wrong.

Do you like the fact that if your Wii goes out you have to ship a new one to Nintendo to allow you to put your VC and WiiWare purchases onto the new one? Welcome to the new world of video games where you no longer own the game you paid money for, just a useless license to play it on one system (and you better feel damn lucky they let you do that).

It all just adds uop to the fact that the companies love piracy. It gives them an advantage with the consumers, it gives them an out for why their game didn't sell and it gives them a way to make you rebuy licenses without any physical media havuing to be manufactured. In other words, for every dollar they claim to lose, they gain another way by taking their new ways against piracy.

Besides, if they really cared about Piracy, they would have done something about China a long time ago. Wait, they can't do that because China owns the rest of the world since their economy is doing great. You know why? Because most of their economy is based around piracy (not just just video games, but pretty much everything anything manufactured in the rest of the world) and no one does anything about it because, as I said, it's too good of a scapegoat to get rid of.

Archy

#38

Archy said:

Bla bla bla piracy, bla bla bla economy, bla bla bla bullpopo!
For me everything comes down to this, as long as there is no game supplier in my town I will never go to the capital of my country, paying more than the games value for the transport, returning home just to find out that the game sucks! Besides, the price of the games and consoles is 30% more expensive than on amazon, and most of the families in this country have 30% or even less money by the end of the month in comparison with the families from other countries. There are countries like this where piracy is kind of welcome. Of course I am not blaming Nintendo for this, this has to do with the leaders and the horrible people that live in this beautiful land (possibly me included :P). It's like a smart man once said: Romania is a beautiful land, too bad it's populated!
(the values in this comment are not exact, but they are close to reality)

miketh2005

#39

miketh2005 said:

@4 and 5: It took quite a long time to hack the DSi, heck, it's still not completely hacked (i guess they need some passcode key to be able to use the DSi's extra RAM and cameras), and I'm sure the 3DS will have way better protection than that, so Prob not that soon at all.

@Moco Loco: All the hackers have to do is trick the new character into thinking you have the receipt held up :P

ToastyYogurt

#40

ToastyYogurt said:

Nintendo, does this mean that you finally opened the doors to homebrew and allowed small developers to make games for your system?

Because there is something Ninty doesn't understand. If you want to get rid of piracy, you can allow anyone to make games and release them for free through your website (like the Apple App Store). That way, the hackers won't have to find a way to bypass the system and get homebrew running, and the Pirates will be left in the dark without a usable exploit. It's as simple as that.

Token_Girl

#41

Token_Girl said:

@Rowdy
Amen on companies using piracy as an excuse to load up with DRM measures to hurt/squeeze more money out of paying customers.

To be fair though, your solution of legally chasing site owners probably won't really work. Most torrent trackers and such are not based in the US or generally not any other country with tough anti-piracy laws either - many are hosted in Eastern Europe, China, or their site owners reside in multiple countries making prosecution of those sites almost impossible (this is why the RIAA was able to prosecute Napster, but Kazaa was never shut down, for example). If they could prosecute the torrent sites, they would; I'm sure.

Skrubber

#42

Skrubber said:

To people believing 3DS will be hacked: 3DS will probably NOT be hacked. At least not within the first years.

For example:

PS3 has not been hacked
PSP firmware has not been hacked since mid-2009
DSi/Xl has not been hacked

@RowdyRodimus
You don't seem to know what you are talking about. The vast majority of people pirating do not buy games. Do you honestly believe something else?

Also, pirating on DS is a huge issue, probably the biggest on any console this far. Most DS owners i know pirate their games. Not only that but in some countries e.g. China, there is no market for commercial DS games at all.

Rensch

#43

Rensch said:

The reason DS and DS Lite are pirated so much is simply because they didn't allow firmware updates.

miketh2005

#45

miketh2005 said:

@RowdyRodimus: They can't do that because torrent sites, aren't illegal :S rofl.
@Skrubber: You can't say DSi/XL hasn't been hacked, because it has. You can play pirated games and homebrew on it. It just hasn't been COMPLETELY hacked to the CORE, as homebrew makers can't use the extra ram or camera's. This doesn't bother pirates.

And Rowdy already said, he was being sarcastic, meaning he can make up statistics, too, just like the publishers do.

Panthon13

#46

Panthon13 said:

Well hold on guys... this article (or interview) doesn't focus on hacking and pirating games for homebrew... I actually find this topic to relate more to the problem with Chinese ebay sellers, how they sell fake, pirated games that only work on DS and DS lite. That is why they also state that the DSi helped combat that, because those games no longer work on that updated console. So they might be talking about homebrew and pirating games, but also might be talking about the piracy sales going on in the market as well.

RchUncleSkeleton

#47

RchUncleSkeleton said:

Well first off, THQ is really gullible to accept that as an answer to how powerful the new AP for the 3DS will be. Secondly, many people who do pirate the games would not have bought the games they pirated regardless if they could pirate them or not, so every game pirated doesn't equal a lost sale. I'm just guessing here but if I had to, I'd say that around 60% of people who pirate the game wouldn't have bought it. Last, if THQ wants to sell more games they need to stop making all the bullsh*t shovelware they produce and actually come out with some quality titles. I guess what I'm trying to say is "Piracy or not, a crap game won't rake in the dough".

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