January 24, 2010

Aargh matey.....It's A Pirate!

Amy Nelson says For Christmas, I was the proud recipient of a brand new, lime green Nintendo Ds. Not that I needed one, mind you, as our household already contains three of them, but it seems my children don't like to share them. My oldest son once hid his Ds under his pillow and pretended it was lost for three days because I "played it too long."

In my holiday glee with my new toy, I quickly went online to find one of my all-time favorite games:-TetrisDs. I found a new copy on an eBay-like site called eCrater. I was apparently suffering from a bout of stupidity that day, as I didn't really check the seller out as well as I should have, figuring using paypal would have me covered.

After nearly a month of waiting, my new game finally arrived at my door. My first clue that something might not be entirely cool was having to sign at my door for an international package from Hong Kong. But I didn't let this damper my excitement for too long. Surely not every game coming out of China is counterfeit--a place with such great food can't be all bad--right?

I opened the package and everything looked okay, except the case was a little different than I am used to seeing--it was a bit bulkier--and clear. My new game was packaged in a European case but the text was all English. Hmmm. My joy was starting to fade a bit, but I was still holding out hope that this was, in fact, a legitimate version of Tetris Ds. I took the cartridge out of the box, and compared it with another Ds game I had on hand. They were identical, with none of the issues various web searches had told me to look for (such as non-metallic pins and poorly placed stickers). If this was a pirated game, it was a good one.

After further research, I did find a prevailing theme among counterfeit games: incorrect cover art. So I did what all the world does when searching for a product: I went to Amazon. At first, I was delighted. The cover art on the Amazon version looked just like the one on mine. Maybe it WAS real! But wait! As I looked closer, I realized that my cover was close, but was missing a few key pieces. It did not have the symbols on the left-hand side for Nintendo wi-fi or touch generations, and the image of Mario jumping onto the screen was completely omitted. Aargh matey--me thinks you've found a pirate!

It is very difficult to tell the difference between a good counterfeit and the real deal. Many people never even realize that they own a pirated copy. It is a significant problem, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. A large amount of these pirated copies are coming out of China, and being sold online at sites like eBay and eCrater. So, obviously--don't buy Ds games from a Chinese seller--even if it's a great deal (it was stupid, I know). If you simply must buy from places like eBay, protect yourself with paypal. Sometimes it isn't so easy to avoid a fake, though. There are many reports of pirated games being sold in the used-game sections of stores, or being traded with other users at trading sites. One of the reasons this is so common is because so many people never even realize their game is a fake. If you receive a game that you suspect is a counterfeit, go online and do a quick search. Youtube has a variety of short videos on the topic, and most gaming sites have forum posts on it as well. A real quick way to check is to get your hands on a Dsi. The counterfeit games work just fine on a Ds, but won't play on a Dsi.

Counterfeit Ds and GBA games are out there, and many people do not know how to spot a fake. I wondered how much of a presence they are on game-trading sites and asked Mark Nebesky, the CMO of Goozex, some questions about how often this occurs on Goozex.com and how they handle it when it does:

Amy Nelson: How often does Goozex get reports of counterfeit games being traded?

Mark Nebesky: "Rarely. In the nearly four years of business we have seen it reported a handful of times and each time we make it a point to get to the bottom of the truth and disable any members that have sent bootleg games."

AN: What kind of process is in place to determine if a game is, in fact, counterfeit?

MN: "If it does happen, we ask the buyer to send us the claimed pirated disc. I can only think of one or two times it was a blatant burned disc. Most times it is the unfortunate case that a seller unknowingly sent a well made pirated GBA cartridge. These are easy to spot if you know what to look for like if it has "Nintendo" printed on the green board or not."

AN: Are there any games that stand out as most-often pirated?

MN: "GBA games by accident. This happens because the seller has purchased it used from eBay, Gamestop and such places and nobody knew it was a well made knock off. Otherwise, it just doesn't really happen."

AN: What kind of steps does Goozex take to protect it's users from receiving pirated games?

MN: "Our feedback system is there to protect members from all types of negative experiences including receiving a pirated disc. Once we receive the pirated item we refund the buyer the points and token used."

AN: Is there a particular pirate who keeps resurfacing?

MN: "No, there is no Le Chuck type of member on Goozex. If there was, we'd have already sent their info to the proper authorities. Piracy is something we take very seriously. Would be pirates should be warned, the Goozex community will not tolerate spending their points on pirated games and movies and it will result in trouble for you!"

Like Goozex, most of the reputable trading sites already have a system in place for handling pirated items. It is important to be informed about common signs of a counterfeit should you receive one, but it is equally important to know that Goozex knows how to handle the situation should the worst happen.