Be fair and equal always Nintendo

With the release of Pokemon Sun and Moon behind us, it’s time to focus on one of Nintendo’s most controversial moves, well, at least it’s controversial in my opinion.

Prior to the release of a game, review copies are usually sent out to members of the press so that they can review the game, or at least have a review ready for publication. In some cases, fans of a series, or those that are deemed popular will also receive these copies. Sun and Moon were no exception. This was about two weeks prior to the release of the games, and what happens when big games are released? Those games are leaked to the public.

Whether through pirating the games, or purchasing them early, many people got their hands on a copy of either game and decided to play through them, in many cases posting spoilers about what you’d find in the game. Through this period though, cheating was running rampant within the online community. Wait, a game that hasn’t been released yet can go online? More about that later…

Evidently, Nintendo was not pleased about this, and started issuing bans to their online services prior to the games’ release, citing that those who pirated the game and played online had “violated the terms of service.” Fair enough, piracy isn’t just illegal, it’s against the rules in most cases. Nintendo promptly banned those people from ALL online services, including online play, Miiverse, and the eShop.

Wait. What?

These bans that were handed out supposedly came from Nintendo of Japan, basically, the biggest bosses in the company. They REALLY were not happy the games were leaked early, and wanted to prove a point, that they can do things like this. However, we should talk about this, and the implications of doing what they did.

Here’s the big thing to take home from all of this, yes, piracy is wrong. It’s illegal. Nobody who pirated the games were in the right.

There lies the biggest issue with Nintendo’s decision. Those users who were banned from the network services who could pirate are most likely only going to pirate even more. Think about it, while you were in the wrong, you now lost access to all of your purchased games, can no longer purchase new ones, and now can’t even use your device online. Why would you even consider buying any new games? After all, there are ways to get pirated copies from Nintendo themselves, due to their horrible security.

Let’s look at the reality of the situation. While Sun and Moon were recorded to be the most pre-ordered games on the 3DS[1], they also sold LESS than Pokemon X and Y[2]. At the time of their release, piracy wasn’t as rampant as it is today, nor was it as easy to obtain copies of the newest released games. Therefore, not only was there an actual incentive to buy these new games, well you really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Many of those who pirated Sun and Moon may have purchased the games, either through eShop or through retail, and after the bans, have decided to drop those pre-orders, or issue a chargeback through their credit card company. Yes, Nintendo proved they could do it, and yes, they punished those responsible, but at what cost? Let’s say 10,000 people were going to pirate the game and never buy it. Yes, that hurts the bottom line. But let’s assume you’ve banned 100,000 people, and 90,000 of them were going to buy it, and now 49,000 decided they will no longer purchase said games. Your loss has now multiplied greatly in scale, and while these are very, VERY rough numbers, it’s something to consider when making an argument.

Now, look at the flip side of the argument. Nintendo certainly validated they’ve read their own terms of service. In fact, that’s their primary reason for issuing the bans.

As a result of a number of Nintendo 3DS users using unauthorized versions of several games, and connecting to the official game servers in violation of our terms of service, these users’ Nintendo 3DS systems that stored the unauthorized game code have been banned from Nintendo’s online network effective immediately.

There’s something to be said about their comment and actions though, why isn’t the entire terms of service being enforced? After all, here’s another section of the same document:

  1. Code of Conduct.
    To help keep the Network Services friendly and safe for all users, you will not engage in any harmful, illegal, or otherwise offensive conduct, such as:
    6. Cheating in a game, unless such cheats have been deliberately enabled by the Content Provider;

So, why isn’t Nintendo taking care of those who are cheating in the same games? After all, tools exist to modify both your Pokemon and save file. I’m sure Nintendo is aware of this, but is doing nothing to attempt to counter those who are doing so. In fact, asking Nintendo for a comment on this matter yields no results. Nintendo does not want to talk about it. They know they’re not treating all users fairly or equally, and that’s something that needs to change very soon, before it hurts them more.

So how should the bans have been implemented? Microsoft handles bans in two different ways. First, there’s an account ban, or suspension.[3] This prevents the account from using Xbox Live services, and is mostly given out to those who break the rules while playing online. Console bans are more serious, as they prevent that console from connecting to the online service period and forever. Console bans DO NOT always result in account bans, and vice versa. Console bans are usually issued for hacking the console, piracy, and several other things.[4]

Instead of turning pirates into even bigger pirates, Microsoft commonly allows you to continue accessing your account, just on a different console. I’m sure they have a limit, but generally, pirating one game won’t kill your entire online experience.

So, what does Nintendo need to do?

  1. They need to stop handing out review copies to so many random people and so early. Most big names and journalists won’t risk their reputation by leaking a ROM online, but Joe “I have millions of subs on YouTube” might.
  2. Turn off your online services. There’s no reason for said service to be active two weeks in advance, especially if you’re not doing any stress testing. Better yet, keep it a private server. Not only do you have better control over who accesses the service, but you can also ensure the playing field is fair and even when you do launch the service.
  3. Enforce your entire Terms of Service, not just parts of it, and not just parts that benefit you. There’s a reason these agreements are legally enforceable, but they can only do so much when parts of the agreement seemingly don’t exist.
  4. Don’t permanently ban accounts. It’s one thing to prevent a console which can pirate games to use online services, but it’s another to cause someone to lose potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in purchases. Suspend the account and let them access their purchases later, otherwise, expect them to pirate more. You don’t prove a point by losing a member. Yes, you profit in the short term, but not in the long term.

As for my thoughts in all of this? If Nintendo is going to act this way, I’ll no longer support them. I’ll buy my games and systems used. Until I know Nintendo is committed to the players and fans of their series, there’s no reason to support them.

References:
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  1. [1]Pokémon Sun and Moon are Nintendo’s biggest pre-orders ever Source: Polygon
  2. [2]Pokémon Sun’ And ‘Pokémon Moon’ Sold Nearly 2M Copies In Its First Three Days In Japan Source: Forbes
  3. [3]Enforcement – How Do I? Source: Microsoft
  4. [4]Enforcement – How Do I? Source: Microsoft

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