The falling sales of Nintendo DS games have been linked to a modified chip which enables the playing of pirated games.
The ‘R4DS’ or ‘Revolution 4DS’, released in January 2007, looks identical to a DS game only it contains a slot for a Micro SD card which allows for the storage of illegally downloaded Nintendo DS files.
Nintendo Australia spokesperson, Heather Murphy, said while illegal downloads hurt sales, it also affects over 1400 companies which develop games for Nintendo DS.
“Certainly the widespread growth of Internet piracy together with the availability of game copying devices and mod chips impact authentic software sales for Nintendo, its licensees and publishers,” she said.
However, an IT lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Chris Johnson, said it’s difficult to estimate how much revenue is lost from illegal downloads.
He said most people who download the games would not have bought them even if the R4 chip did not exist.
“If a game is downloaded often, it becomes popular and some people would buy it,” he said. “When they say so much money is lost, that’s an absolute myth.”
The Australian video games market peaked at $1.96 billion in 2008, according to statistics from the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), with software sales rising by 57 per cent, consoles by 43 per cent and other hardware by 68 per cent.
Nintendo’s Murphy said the price of the games is only a part of the impact piracy has on the video game industry.
“Nintendo spends millions of dollars to develop its hardware and software systems with security in mind [and] invests millions of dollars a year to combat the piracy problem,” she said.
“Further, less sales of our hardware and software systems, means less resources that Nintendo, its licensees, developers and publishers have to create and market new video game products.
“The existence of piracy jeopardises the strength of the video game industry overall.”
This week, Nintendo won a Federal Court case against online retailer RSJ IT Solutions, who distributed the R4 chip throughout Australia.
The company was ordered to pay Nintendo $520,000 in damages.
Chris Bailey, store manager at EB Games Parramatta in Sydney’s west, believes only a small percentage of people use the R4 chip.
He said he has not noticed any difference in Nintendo DS game sales since the release of the R4 chip as the retailer’s main market is parents who can afford the games, buying for their children.
“More casual gamers don’t even know what an R4 is, they’ve never even heard of it,” he said. Recently, the games retailer started a petition to lobby for the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games.
The lack of an R18+ classification for electronic games has also been linked to an increase in piracy and poor sales of titles that were toned-down to meet Australia’s top M15+ rating.