GamesBeat

How the PlayStation 3 Reformed a Pirate

Editor's note: John describes how the PlayStation 3 changed his own attitude towards piracy, and may also have a similar effect on Southeast Asia as a whole…. -Demian


My rickety old PlayStation 3 (fat version) is on its last legs, and I appreciate the three years (and counting) of quality time we've had. At this point normal people may wonder, why is this idiot getting all teary eyed and nostalgic over a current-gen console? Well, aside from all the hours of gaming, it's helped me kick the piracy habit.

You see, I live in the Philippines. Thanks to our Third World status and cultural acceptance of software piracy (something we share with neighboring countries like Thailand and Indonesia), gaming companies don't make much of an effort to sell their products here.

Way back when I was a kid, I took what I could get with regards to Famicom (NES) titles because availability was so scarce — my friends and I wanted to play all of the hot new games like Mega Man 3 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, but legitimate versions of those titles were absolutely inaccessible. Jacked versions, on the other hand, were a different story.

Eventually this counterfeit-game culture became standard practice. Parents and older gamers were used to the bargain-basement pricing that these "pirates in plain sight" offered, and as the PlayStation era began (along with the widespread proliferation of easily copied disc-based media), I admit that I became part of the problem. 

 

For gamers who live in developed countries, can you imagine being able to pick up a full-featured new title for the equivalent of $1.00 (PS1) or $1.50 (PS2)? I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store every time I went to the mall — I would come home with an armful of the latest releases. 

Any lingering guilt I felt from directly supporting these pirates was largely erased by the many awesome experiences the early-to-mid PlayStation era gave me. Xenogears! Castlevania: Symphony of the NightSteambot Chronicles! Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas! The list goes on and on.

As a result, I converted from a huge Nintendo fan to a Sony diehard. I knew that what I (and 99% of the local Sony-loving population) was doing was wrong, but at that point we just didn't care enough to change.

When Sony announced the PlayStation 3, many gamers around the world bleated their collective dismay at the console's ridiculous price point. I was among them, but more worrying for me (and many of my Sony-loving brethren) was that the console was reportedly locked down tighter than Katie Holmes' underpants, precluding the chance of any piracy-enabling hacks. (Yes, I realize that it has since been hacked, but Geohot is nowhere near playing commercial games using his exploit, from what I understand.)

Because the Xbox 360 offered no such protections — it remains, to this day, the prime market for pirated game sales in the Southeast Asian region — I almost bit the bullet and bought one. Fortunately for my conscience, the Sony fanboy in me won out (aided by widespread reports of heavy 360-failure rates), and I bought my first PS3 in October 2007.

The early times were hard, to say the least. It was a big adjustment, paying the equivalent of $70 (!!!) for new titles, when I used to pay just $1.50. Keeping myself in games now took a significant amount out of my monthly "goofing off" allowance, and I wondered to myself if I hadn't just made a costly mistake. Games like Resistance: Fall of Man, Heavenly SwordNinja Gaiden Sigma and Ratchet & Clank: Future were great, but didn't represent the significant step up in game quality commensurate to the price increase. I seriously considered hanging it up for good.

Then by chance, a trip to a friend's house turned everything around. He had just bought an HDTV along with his copy of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and invited me over to give it a shot.

That visit changed my life.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

*Sniff* Infinity Waaaaaard!

As some of you (citizens of a developing country or otherwise) might know, one of the key disadvantages of playing on a hacked console is that you can't play online. I'm mostly a single-player gamer (my favorite genres are platformers and RPGs), and I had long considered console multiplayer unnecessary. Modern Warfare's multi changed all that – it was fun, fast paced, and most of all, it was free.

And the graphics! Yeah, I knew that PS3s were capable of outputting in HD (one of the reasons I chose the PS3 over the 360 is that it had an HDMI port), but actually getting an HDTV seemed like an unnecessary expense, given the already high overhead on my video game habit.

After that fateful night, I signed up for PSN (this was the first time I even bothered to hook our house's DSL up to it), and the following week I bought a 37-inch Samsung LCD TV.

The massive increase in graphical fidelity and online functionality made every Blu-Ray I purchased seem more worthwhile, and I began buying more games. I found a community of like-minded gamers (the fine men and women of PinoyPS.com) who were there to support me with local buying advice, game discussion, and local release dates. At long last I felt good about my gaming habit, and was finally free of guilt from ripping off the developers I professed to love so much.

As our numbers grew into the huge community that exists today, I noticed an interesting trend: Games were getting cheaper! The increased demand from the community for legitimate content created increased competition, driving prices down.

Most of the major publishers, with the notable exception of (predictably) Activision, started releasing cheaper Asian versions of PS3 titles, undercutting the American price by roughly a third (the games are still in English, but the manuals are usually in Chinese). 2K Games and EA Singapore have shown us the most love, even going to the extent of giving out sweet (and exclusive) preorder bonuses with their games (that Bioshock 2 T-shirt was awesome, boys!). 

As icing on the cake, Sony officially launched the PlayStation brand in the Philippines in early 2010, making us an offcially recognized market at last (despite the fact that we've been unofficially rocking every model of PlayStation just days after their overseas launches since 1996).

All of these positive changes came about because the PlayStation 3 taught the local fan base discipline. After years of bad habits spanning entire console generations, we suddenly had an ultimatum: either go legit or go cold turkey. Those of us with the capacity to pay did so, and in the process we put our money were our mouths were and legitimized our console of choice.

This is the valuable lesson that my PS3 taught me. Yes, it brought me great titles like LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted 2, God of War 3, and the glorious Super Street Fighter 4 (along with the other 49 games in my now-burgeoning collection), but the most important thing it gave me was a sense that I was really supporting my hobby and helping it grow.

When I walk past a pirated-game stall nowadays and see the racks full of jacked $3.00 Xbox 360 games, I no longer feel envy, but regret: How much more money would these developers have made if they could convert even a quarter of these fake game sales into real sales? Bayonetta might have turned a profit, and Sega as we knew them would still be rolling.

And so, as 2010 approaches the midway point, I can see my PS3 fat slowly lose its grip on this mortal coil. It's been three years, after all, and it's starting to show signs of progression towards YLOD (short for the Yellow Light of Doom, the dreaded launch-system disease). A PS3 Slim will probably replace it in my home theater setup within the year. But what my beloved PS3 fat gave me will never be replaced, and I'll always look back on it with fond memories.

Signing off,

hersheyfan – Trophy Level 13, 99%


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