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Game Developers Service Consumers. Hollywood? Lawyers.

by April 15, 2005

There has to be some illegal copying in the video game industry - it's pervasive throughout the software industry and costs firms billions each year - but they still pump out and push stand-alone and community games. They are already into high def and broadband/wireless connectivity.

We're equally certain they go after pirates here and abroad. Difference is you don't see the raids and lawsuits spread across the front page of your paper/websites. You don't see them running to Congress with bags of money to buy a solution to their problem.

But these content developers and providers also have something Hollywood lacks…a strong connection with their customer community. As a result there is a high level of self-policing that goes on. The sharing that takes place is done to improve the quality of play - the user experience.

That connection is one of the things that has kept the Atari name and game play alive.

How else can you account for teams of designers at the Parsons School of Design in Greenwich Village working round the clock over a weekend in late March to develop "super hot" games for the Atari 2600.

2600? Yes…the game system that started it all! And surprise…there is an underground that still buys/sells systems, repairs them, develops/sells software.

[ConsumerSemis] Today's Xbox, PS2, PSP and Nintendo systems have the potential of being more than just ways for people - young and old - to develop and improve eye/hand coordination, learn and enjoy the joys of winning and the agony of defeat. They could very well become the servers for home and on-the-go entertainment.

IDC and other analysts see game hardware/software showing the way for complete home and personal entertainment solutions (see right).

Or to put it more crassly…they can become the big winners (see bar chart)

[NAGamingRevenues] On the other hand, rather than focusing on the user/viewer experience and really connecting with their customers we have the MPAA (Hollywood) and RIAA (record industry). To them it is better to invest in congressional contributions and lawyers. They are suing everyone (some already dead, some slightly above the poverty line, some outright thieves). We'll have to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules in the Grokster trial.

Not that it matters because if they lose they will probably just "withhold" their content.

You'd think they would have learned from the past that technology was good for them. But the obvious sometimes escapes lawyers and accountants.

There are precedents (that's a legal word) for our optimism.

In 1908 the Supreme Court said that people who sold player piano rolls weren't violating copyright laws as long as they paid fee to the artist for each roll. They "encouraged" Congress to set write such a copyright law. It was never about banning technology advances…just serving up fair compensation!

Next there were similar issues with records, audiotapes and CDs. With each technology advance, sales volume increased and so did the fees artists earned.

The MPAA luddites say the 1984 Sony decision - which said there were "substantial noninfringing uses" -- doesn't apply in the case of Grokster and in fact the Supreme Court really didn't get it right. All of this despite the fact that the spread of VCRs enabled Hollywood to sell billions of dollars worth of movie videos. They even dismiss the other revenues they received from rentals as not relevant and that the VCR really was "the devil's machine."

Fact is though that as with game systems, content helped sell more hardware. The more content people buy…the more hardware they purchase!

[Fig3MusicFormat] They also don't talk about the money they are making from their DVD releases in the form of payments for rentals and sales. The fact is that DVD players wouldn't have taken off like a rocketship if it weren't for the availability of these better-to-view movies.

MPAA and the RIAA contend that music downloads are stealing directly from copyright owners even though downloads (free and paid) represent only about 2% of the formats people prefer (see pie graph). The more intelligent approach would seem to be to focus on bulk pirates, help develop reasonably secure solutions and - silly boy - price the content fairly!


About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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