Over the weekend Jools Watsham, co-founder of Renegade Kid, wrote in a blog post that he felt hacking into the guts of the 3DS would result in an increase in piracy - something that could force developers to stop supporting the system.
Watsham pointed to the DS which suffered greatly at the hands of pirates, specifically talking about Dementium II, a game that didn't sell quite so well as its predecessor Dementium: The Ward. Dementium II received good reviews and Watsham felt that the low sales could have been due to piracy, saying:
We’ll never truly know why that was so, but many seem to believe that piracy had a lot to do with it.
In response to this Hugo Smits, game designer at Goodbye Galaxy Games, has written his own blog post expressing his view on the issue of piracy. In it he shares a view that it's often used by developers as a scapegoat when games don't sell so well.
There are tons of other reasons that seem just as legit as piracy. For one, the game [Dementium II] wasn’t as wildly available (at least I haven’t seen any copy on store shelves). Secondly, it came late into the Nintendo DS lifecycle opposed to the first game. At this point the Nintendo DS established itself as a casual gaming handheld, yet the game was aimed at a more mature and hardcore public.
Smits says he has noticed that publishers generally want to play it safe when putting new games on the shelf. While he can find plenty of publishers to churn out the developer's tried and tested Bejewelled titles, he finds it much more difficult to get an original game out into the wild at retail.
A couple more reasons for poor sales are put onto the table by Smits: price and quality. He believes while games are affordable in some European nations they are less so in others where the minimum salary is low:
An average game upon release costs between 40 and 50 euro over here. Now this is ‘expensive’ but doable where I live, in the Netherlands. Over here the minimum salary is around 1200 euro. However, the game prices stay the same even in countries that have a minimum salary of around 300 euro.
How many games can be expected to sell in a country where the average game takes up around 16-20% of a family’s income?
Smits feels that though the DS was a great system it was burdened by "shovelware and quick cash-ins", pointing specifically at games for children where parents take a gamble in buying a branded game which then gives their child about 30 minutes of play-time before it gets tossed away.
Imagine how big the gamble feels like when they are holding Dementium II in their hands, a product they have never heard of, from a company they have never heard of.
The seal of quality means nothing. It only makes sure the game doesn’t lockup or mess-up the player's system. It does nothing to prevent poor quality of game design or length versus price. My cousin once got a famous kid game that consisted out of 8 mini games that could all be played through within 30 minutes. You feel miserable if you spend money on such a product as a parent!
Smits naturally does not condone piracy, but clearly feels that wider issues play bigger roles. We are also, it must be said, yet to see how the situation develops with 3DS, especially as Nintendo has been so active with system updates since the system launched.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think Renegade Kid is right to speculate that piracy may have caused low sales for various games, or do you think the view of Goodbye Galaxy Games is more accurate? Let us know in the comments section below.