Competing with piracy by packaging cheap controllers?

As another video game console lifecycle comes to an end, the ease in which people can pirate games has pretty much reached its limit. Modchips for all major consoles are fairly reliable, and there are a number of software modifications to choose from for those uncomfortable with a soldering iron.

Now I’m supremely confident that most people playing games in Australian are not playing pirated games. However, I also get the feeling that there is a fairly large group of people that have very few qualms about using pirate software if it is readily available and easily accessible.

New consoles are good for publishers in this regard. Piracy is much less accessible on a new platform that hasn’t yet been (economically) hacked. However, these consoles will eventually get hacked, and piracy will eventually take hold upon the group of people predisposed to it. So how does the video game publisher reach this audience? I think the answer could lie in cheesy custom controllers.

Could you imagine playing Virtua Cop without a light gun? Virtual On without the twin sticks? Beatmania without the turntables? Dance Dance Revolution without the dance mats? Samba de Amigo without the Maracas? Steel Battalion without the insane control deck including two sticks, dozens of buttons and switches, and three foot pedals? Taiko Drum Master or Donkey Konga without the drums? Guitar Freaks or Guitar Hero without the guitar controllers?

I can imagine it, and it’s boring. Really, really boring… and difficult to control. And it just doesn’t feel right. So this really is a case of missing out on the “whole experience” when you only play the pirate version. That said, if the controller is too unique, too bulky, or too expensive, people won’t buy it. Samba de Amigo and Steel Battalion didn’t even make it to Australia because the controllers were too big and the anticipated market for these games was too small. Video game manufacturers need to make appealing novel controllers, and they need to make them cheap.

I wonder if this is what Nintendo had in mind when they designed the Wii controller to accept addons. This got me thinking. Their nunchuk attachment isn’t cheap, but it should come packaged with the console. The classic controller is a bit more complex, but maybe all important circuitry is in the Wii controller. The zapper shell? Well, that’s got to cost them all of a few dollars!

And what about this thing? This piece of plastic with no electronics! This thing that just makes the controller feel a bit like a driving wheel! It’s pure genious! When the game it comes with drops to a bargain, someone is going to shell out for that controller add-on even if they can get a pirate copy of the game. Someone I say!

If Nintendo can make more experiences dependent on something that is harder to copy than a DVD, they might be able to make piracy a little less of a concern.

Final thought: You cannot rock out in Guitar Hero without the guitar controller.

2 thoughts on “Competing with piracy by packaging cheap controllers?”

  1. It’s a rare game that benefits from a custom controller, but…

    Maybe there’s a market for unbundled custom controllers if enough people pirate the game? 3) Profit.

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