Video Game Piracy Taken Literally

By John Walker on November 16th, 2008 at 12:32 am.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

What better way to round off a day of arguing about gaming piracy than with some perspective. Real, rather frightening gaming piracy. From an article in the Washington Post:

Apparently pirates in the vicinity of Somalia have been stepping up attacks on [videogame carrying] trade ships beyond the Horn of Africa into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, imperiling access to the Suez Canal. Those attacks are up from one every few weeks to four in a single day, according to Sam Dawson of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), speaking to Reuters. “This is not just guys in little fishing boats anymore,” says Dawson. “We know there are three probably ex-Soviet trawlers acting as mother ships.”

It seems these gun-carrying pirates could force a change to the trade routes, adding three weeks onto deliveries of games and gaming systems to Europe, which could be an issue for Christmas. And a slightly more immediate issue for the crews of those trade ships. The International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Sam Dawson told Reuters,

“Despite all the publicity over piracy it will really hit home when consumers in the West find they haven’t got their Nintendo gifts this Christmas.”

It’s not clear what other video games might be affected, but you’ve got to assume this will include much in the way of PC tech, if not PC games.

My plan for dealing with this? Send out false boats carrying only demos of games.

Via GamePolitics, and the link from Larington in the comments thread below.

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89 Comments »

  1. Fiale says:

    I saw the Royal Navy attacked and killed some Somali pirates the other day – if they do endanger the Suez shipping then expect a lot more patrols and a much more heavy handed approach. If they know whats best I would suggest they keep things low key as in the past, getting between and mother and her kids Wi is like signing your own death warrant :-)

  2. Down Rodeo says:

    Interesting. This is why digital downloads (the non-torrent kind, thanks :D) are the way forward. Between piracy of discs and hardware, and piracy of software, who’d be a game developer?

    Requisite PC GAMING IS DYING. Jokes aside, I wonder how much this will have an effect… and how much is being done to combat it. I’m fairly certain Blizzivision, Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve and EA could pay to have a few pirates “disappear”.

  3. Larington says:

    I’d say its more likely to affect hardware and peripheral type deliveries, things like the wii balance board and various music game instruments where theres a higher level of plastic forming and manufacture.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure where most of the game printing factories are and where they would serve in the wholesale/middleman chain, but I suspect theres a preference for doing it locally (At the regional level) to reduce transport/storage costs.

    In other news, I am rather fond of GamePolitics, theres no other site I’m aware of that provides its focus on gaming related topics, just as I’m not really aware of any other site that gives RPS’ focus on the gaming related topics it handles (PC focus in otherwords).

  4. rocketman71 says:

    Cargo ships going through Somalia should use DRM then?

  5. Larington says:

    Also, obviously, any console manufactured in the economically poor manufacture nations which are then shipped onwards. Undoubtly the DS & Wii come under that category.

    As for PC hardware, I’m not sure it’ll be that affected in the short term, since hardware sellers tend to have some stock of various stuff in anyway, though restocking might potentially be slowed if not done by air/land.

  6. Gap Gen says:

    The thing is, if the games were cheaper and had no DRM then no doubt the Somalian pirates would buy copies too, rather than stealing them.

  7. James G says:

    Whenever I’ve seen software indicate where its been pressed it always seems to be either Ireland or Germany. I guess the low manufacturing costs of CDs means that the cost svaings by producing in poorer countries* are drowned in the increased costs of shipping etc. Especially when you are likely to be pressing different versions on a regional basis anyway.

    I’m actually surprised at the number of people who seem to fail to realise that piracy still goes on. While I suppose its understandable that most people’s first image of a pirate is someone armed with a cutlass, rather than an AK-47, I’m shocked when I mean someone who hasn’t heard of modern-day piracy. (I had someone laugh at me in a really patronising manner once as they tried to tell me that ‘pirates don’t exist.’) According to wikipedia, modern piracy accounts for losses of between $13 and $16 billion per year.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    Clearly, the games should be transported by some kind of mechanised vehicle on rails, powered by pressurised gases from boiling water.

    After all, we all know that piracy doesn’t affect steam.

  9. deerhaunter says:

    if only there were some magical way of beaming games directly into our houses, bypassing these scurvy pirates

    *plays more L4D demo*

  10. A-Scale says:

    Satellite surveillance systems should make this a non issue. See a spooky ship? Send over 3 attack boats to take care of them. Certain they’re pirates? Don’t waste your time, just hit them with a SAS missile. I’m sure all of the countries affected by this would be willing to kick down a few dozen million for this project; it really doesn’t seem difficult or expensive to solve.

  11. MetalCircus says:

    This article just smacks of OH BOOOO HOOO I CANT GET MY SQUEALING SHITCAKE KIDS WHAT THEY WANT FOR XMAS! Fuck off. Honestly, fuck right off. The “consumers” will have to fucking wait for it then won’t they? You completely selfish pricks. How about the people those somalian pirates were attacking? OR how about the somali people themselves. I’m not sure if you’ve read a book lately but the country is in a fucking state, and, acctually, is the only place in the world the home office warns it’s British Citizens to never go to. Fuck the consumers, they can fucking wait for their video games.

    This article is a piss take, RPS. Are you seriously suggesting that the fact we will have to wait a few weeks for the release of video games as more tragic than the acctual attack on the trade ships and, by extension, humans themselves? I really, really hope I have just got the wrong end of the stick here because I love your blog, but this is shockingly bad, honestly. I’m surprised.

  12. Nick says:

    This calls for Rambo.

  13. Saflo says:

    Is no discussion safe?

  14. futage says:

    I bet they had letters of marque from Sony.

  15. LionsPhil says:

    Wayhey! It’s the “how can you care about ${THING} when there’s ${SUFFERING} in the world?” troll, visiting from Slashdot!

    In other news: thousands die from AIDS while Westerners sit about complaining about gameplay defects in Far Cry 2 on Interwebnet forums.

  16. MetalCircus says:

    Nice try Phil. But the article explicitley mentions the trade boats were attacked, so it’s not entirely unreasonable that my concerns are with the crews of these boats rather than the idiot masses in the west that can’t get their greedy, grasping fucking hands on video games. Sorry, pal.

    I found it surprising really. But it’s 2am here in the UK and i’m tired so perhaps it annoyed me more than it normally would have. Whatever.

  17. futage says:

    @LionPhil, that’s hardly an apt comparison. The two things are quite directly related in MeatCircus’ complaint.

  18. Tom says:

    The line between real world and internet couldn’t be more defined.

  19. Nick says:

    Yeah, but how about them lorry drivers murdering prostitutes.

    Ohshi-

  20. Nimic says:

    My plan for dealing with this? Send out false boats carrying only demos of games.

    That comment made you my hero. Seriously.

    Yes. Yes.

  21. James G says:

    I think MetalCircus’ comments were entirely reasonable, although may have been made more effectively with a more level tone. I was also struck by the greater focus being given to the delay in goods delivery, rather than the actual attacks. (Hence my mention of AK-47s, to clearly seperate what was happening from people’s often romantic images of pirates.)

  22. Pace says:

    MetalCircus; commenting today on RPS has been dominated by a 250+ post thread about software piracy, and then along comes this article which says that shipments of videogames are delayed by actual pirates. It’s a bit funny is all. If you don’t think so, then just move on, I really don’t think John meant to disregard the well-being of the real people involved. Besides, being astonishingly rude like you were doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

  23. Arathain says:

    Ya, one needs to be careful with flippancy when talking about those pirates. They really are some of the nastiest sorts out there. Many a crewman has been murdered.

    That’s the problem with pirates. I like the romantic Johnny Depp Yarr! pirates as much as anyone, but the reality has always been far more cruel and evil.

  24. Pace says:

    I think MetalCircus’ comments were entirely reasonable

    You people have no sense of humor.

  25. Sum0 says:

    MetalCircus: I’m not sure why you’re attacking RPS over this. This is merely reportage, surely, not opinion?

    Anyway, the fact that bloodythirsty, murderous pirates were and still are bloodythirsty and murderous is the reason I don’t buy into the pirate-chic thing everyone around me seems to dig these days. Nor do I much like vampires, for the same reason.

  26. Nick says:

    People make flippant jokes about serious issues all the time, it’s what makes life bearable.. hence the cliche “you have to laugh..”. Get over it and stop reading the Daily Haterag.

  27. futage says:

    You people have no sense of humor.

    The humour didn’t hinge on disgregarding what MeatCircus feels was disregarded.

    The irony is funny, the lack of context is callous (though I’m sure an oversight rather than a representation of RPS’s feelings).

    As to MeatCircus’ language, he wasn’t rude. It’s nice to see someone talking like they care.

  28. Pace says:

    MeatCircus and MetalCircus are not the same person.

  29. futage says:

    uhhh… ahhh. Thanks.

    *Metal
    *Metal

  30. Nick says:

    Meat has a sense of humour. Dark though it apparently is.

  31. Colin Hansen says:

    Ohhh I want to hunt pirates on the open seas. So much. Is that weird?

  32. agent kobzon says:

    We need an organisation like that to combat piracy on our own. International Videogame Whiners’ Federation. IVWF

  33. Arathain says:

    I’m still not sure about the good taste of the article, but I will say that the false demo boat comment made me smile.

  34. Saflo says:

    I think “Free Apple iPhone” brings up an interesting point.

  35. waffles says:

    @ Jetsetlemming, good times, good times.
    Also i dont see how it bones PC hardware, as it seems silly to keep it in the same boat as vidya gamez.
    At least there’s always newegg, right?
    right?

  36. Mister Yuck says:

    I know the comment is a ways up, but the wikipedia article that “James G” gets his $16 billion annual piracy cost number from is quoting The Heritage Foundation. Never Ever use wikipedia for anything current events related.

    For those who don’t know, The Heritage Foundation is an American right-wing think tank that always, always has an agenda. They are not even close to a legitimate source.

    They quote some guys name Bill Parlatore and Gary Stubblefield who both write non-fiction books of the popular/pulp variety and have no real reason to be creditable (according to what I can gather on Google book search).

    Let me reiterate, DON’T USE WIKIPEDIA FOR ANYTHING RELATED TO CURRENT EVENTS. It’s great for non-controversial history and science, though.

  37. Gap Gen says:

    The question “how can you enjoy X when there’s suffering in Y?” is a perfectly valid one, but I don’t think that the shipping of games will actually affect the lives of Somalian people. Are you suggesting that we let the Somalian pirates steal things on ships because they have no other form of income in their country?

    So I’m not sure I quite agree with the moral outrage in MetalCircus’s comment. Shouting about the plight of Somalians on a blog comment might feel good, but ultimately I don’t see how it does anything useful. If you really feel bad about Africa, spend all your Christmas money and money you would have spent on gifts on charity.

  38. Maerd says:

    Gaming companies have themselves to blame for their price discrimination schemes. It may seem normal to buy a game in the US for USD$49 for big hit new releases, but here in Australia we pay AUD$120 for new games (and similar mark-ups in other countries). Mind you this is even when the exchange rate was almost 1:1 between Australia and US a few months ago.

    To put it in terms with this article, the trade ships are carrying wheat and basic supplies with heavy mark-up to be sold in foreign countries to reap the profit out of every single buyer, most cannot even dream to afford them. The pirates are doing the people a favour by providing the poor means to live. Robin Hood of 21st century.

  39. Lukasz says:

    Damn. I wanted to make a joke about DRM (Drastic Response Missiles) and boats but you guys are all serious.

  40. qrter says:

    Oh, mr. Walker.. we know you care! Come here, group hug!

    It is interesting how the original Washington Post article doesn’t even mention the danger to the crew and then proceeds to interpret the whole thing as something that won’t really affect US deliveries of gaming goodies. That’s coooold maaaan.

  41. qrter says:

    Oh, mr. Walker.. you deleted your post! Still.. come here, group hug!

    [No - just made it longer and more helpful - John]

  42. John Walker says:

    MetalCircus – I’m sorry you were offended by the post. In future could you please keep your remarks civil, as the tone of your post was unhelpfully unpleasant.

    It’s worth noting that neither of the articles from which this story was sourced mentioned the danger to the crews at all. I thought this was odd, and pointed out in the post that the more immediate concern was for the crews of the ships, and not the delayed presents.

  43. karthik says:

    I’m far more concerned about the plight of the crew on the looted ships than the lost merchandise. I have friends in the merchant navy who tell me the prospect of being attacked at sea is hair raising- one of them is picking transfers so as to stay in the Indian ocean and the far east.
    But then again, I don’t live in the west, don’t celebrate Christmas, and won’t be receiving any Nintendo gifts in the foreseeable future.

    The real question though, is what Somalian pirates intend to do with high end computer hardware. Not exactly what their country needs at the moment.

  44. Gap Gen says:

    Well, sell it on the black market I guess. Or maybe just hold the crew for cash ransom.

  45. James G says:

    @Mister Yuck

    Sorry, I had actually pulled up the $16 billion figure when checking the piracy article for other information, and hadn’t thought to check the sources. It is certainly not my intent to decieve.

  46. qrter says:

    The real question though, is what Somalian pirates intend to do with high end computer hardware. Not exactly what their country needs at the moment.

    I don’t think they are modern day Robin Hoods, pirating for the best of their country. ;)

  47. rei says:

    The BBC World Service recently made a little documentary on piracy past and present, one part of which focused on modern sea piracy mainly off the coast of Somalia. If anyone’s interested, it can be downloaded here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2008/03/080303_pirates_prog2.shtml

  48. rei says:

    The real question though, is what Somalian pirates intend to do with high end computer hardware. Not exactly what their country needs at the moment.

    They don’t touch the cargo, they just hold it for ransom.

  49. MetalCircus says:

    If being rude is what you call excercising an oppinion then I think you’ll find me being a lot ruder in future. Cheers guys!

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