Could Software Piracy Finally Kill Off The Vita?


In the 80s and 90s, software piracy was always seen as a threat to games publishers. Warnings were on games right from the dawn of the industry, but the intensity of these increased as home copying became more prevalent. As it became easier for people to copy games for 8 and 16 bit computers it was clear that gamers needed to be made more aware of the long term implications of their actions in copying games. But software piracy has never gone away. It migrated over to the PC, consoles and is still with us today but more worrying is threatening what is left of the future of the PS Vita…

What Makes People Copy Games

In the 80s and 90s it was very much a school “playground” thing. It started off in the 8-bit era when gamers generally bought one game, copied it for their friends who usually did the same with games they had purchased. Eventually, a desire to own as many games as possible took over and people generally copied every game they could. Not because they necessarily wanted them but because they were there. This has continued even to this day but with the advent of the digital age it has become far more widespread than ever.

Of greater concern is the mentality behind it. With the availablity of content online, there is the assumption made by many nowadays that digital content should be free. Music, movies, books, comics, games. Unfortunately, there is a growing number in society who see no reason why they should pay for anything if they can download it freely, whether it is legal to do so or not. This sense of entitlement to free content has been worrying content creators and copyright owners alike for some time.

Justifying Software Piracy

Many of these people try to justify their conduct, with one reason or another. “Games are too expensive”, “I’ll buy it if I like it”, “I wouldn’t have bought it anyway”, “But everyone does it”. Sound familiar? Whatever excuse people use, software piracy is still theft. Unfortunately, because copying a game results in a duplicate (or in the case of modern gaming, a digital copy), people rarely see it as such. Because there is no physical item taken, many find it difficult to associate the act of software piracy with theft. But the reality is that you have taken someone’s work that is normally charged for without permission. You have not paid for the right to use or own it.

If you walked into a store and took a book, comic or CD from a shelf and took it home without paying then there is no denying that you have stolen it. But many seem unable to accept the fact that taking a digital copy of the same item also amounts to theft. But why?

Does Piracy REALLY Hurt Publishers?

There have been many who have genuinely wonders if this is just a myth started by “greedy” publishers and developers after more sales. Sadly, the reality is that for smaller publishers, every sale does count. Certainly in the 8-bit and 16-bit era, there were countless companies that were forced to close as a result of software piracy. Regardless of the quality of their games, they simply couldn’t compete with the ease at which their games could be copied by the average gamer and the lost revenue proved to be devastating.

As much as it was loved by gamers and publishers alike, the Amiga was another casualty of piracy. Despite still being a popular machine amongst enthusiasts, it too fell to the clutches of software piracy. In it’s final years as a mainstream platform, games simple weren’t financially viable any more. Regardless of how many active users there were out there, it was a bigger gamble than betting at for companies to release games for it. Team 17’s final Amiga release, Worms: The Director’s Cut, was more a service to their fans than a hopefully commercial success as they wanted to thank Amiga owners for their support since the company’s launch, knowing full well that the game was unlikely to break even.

So Why Now For The PS Vita?

Until recently copying PS Vita games was an impossible task. Counterfeit physical games were all but non-existent. And as for digital titles, these were locked to user accounts and the only way these could be copied were using Content Manager to back them up to your own PS3 or PC. Then along came HENkaku. While the tool was developed to allow PS Vita owners to hack their consoles and use homebrew software, MicroSD format memory cards and open up the console to use emulators and run retro gaming platforms, it wasn’t long before less scrupulous uses were found.

As with the Nintendo DS, 3DS and other hacked consoles ways have been found to allow gamers to access digital stores and download games illegally without paying for them. This has lead to a renewed interest in the PS Vita amongst some who are not only wanting the console to play retro games, but to access its vast library through the store. These new Vita owners aren’t interested in it’s diverse range of games or being a part of the wider community. They want a console that can deliver a high quality retro gaming experience and what they perceive to be “free” modern games.

The Impact On The Vita

So how does all of the modern software piracy affect the PS Vita? Unfortunately, it is damaging the Vita quite significantly. Right now, there are NO new Vita games being released in the West physically. That stopped last year and while there are new games being released in Japan and Hong Kong on cartridge, we don’t know how long this will continue. So for the most part, the Vita’s software future is digital. When it comes to big budget games, these are now few and far between for the console and so we are dependent more on smaller indie studios, often run by just a few people.

Now, in these cases they depend on smaller numbers of sales far more than any larger publisher ever would. EA, for example, wouldn’t necessarily notice a drop of a few hundred or a few thousand copies of their latest FIFA game, but to a small indie developer that type of change in sales figures could make or break a title. If we take a look at the PS Vita’s releases over the last 12 months, the majority have been from indie developers and each of these are desperate for each and every sale they can achieve.

The Vita’s Future

In every case, it doesn’t matter if a game has only just been released or is five years old, developers still receive royalty payments for their work so each sale still matters and is important to them. But when it comes to software piracy on the PS Vita, this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. These individuals seem to be happy filling their consoles with as many games as possible, giving little or no thought to the people who have created the work they are stealing. These are people’s careers and livelihoods at stake. If developers don’t sell enough copies of their games then put simply they will STOP supporting the Vita.

The PS Vita is now living on borrowed time. Developers are continuing to support us because they love the Vita and they are still able to make games that are profitable, combined with the ease of porting to it, along with Cross Buy support. But we need to show support to them as well. As long as we do that, they will show their appreciation and keep bringing us new games for as long as possible. It’s in our hands to keep Vita gaming alive and buy these games while we still can.

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About Simon Plumbe 1064 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: