Monday, August 22, 2011

8/21: On Super Mario Piracy

For years if not decades, Nintendo has been scared of piracy. That's one of the core reasons why the kept the cartridge format going, and why the Gamecube discs were little rinky-dinks. And for anyone who thinks their concerns were unwarranted or exaggerated, here ya go.

The man who was arrested for allegedly uploading Mario and Phoenix Wright games was from Japan, but he could be from anywhere. The Internet is one big  five-and-dime with a nearsighted shopkeeper, and if you want to use a five-fingered discount to acquire something you can. In fact, for a few years last decade with Napster it took people years to realize that they were stealing at all.

I remain conflicted about this, and probably always will. On one hand, I love the idea of Creative Commons, and information wants to be free, and the idea that piracy is a "popularity tax" because it's not like Lars Von Trier movies are the ones being BitTorrented. The concept that no matter hwo steals the artists and publishers that produced the work end up enriched by it due to exposure and ancillary popularity is tremendously appealing, like finding an alternate universe where Nutella tastes as good as you hoped it would before you actually tasted it.

I have two hands, though, lucky me. And the other hand realized that "I" did not publish my book, a large media corporation named after a flightless bird did, and that they paid me for it and are paying for all the printing and shipping and marketing costs. And, like every other book they put out, they took a calculated risk that people would enjoy the subject matter and the cover and my writing enough to buy it. And it'll take a while -- months or years -- to ultimately figure out if that risk was worth taking or not. And this is a rabidly inopportune time to start saying that people don't have to pay to take things they want to take anymore, because computers.

Nintendo has two hands, too. They're surely behind this Japanese guy getting arrested: they're really Jack bauery about talking down pirates, or at least creating the illusion that they are tough on pirates. In reality, you at home could probably be yo-ho-hoing it after an hour reading the right sites. I don't mean downloading, I mean uploading. it's the uploads that are the problem, of course, the fresh meat that everyone will them be able to download and replicate like (let me put on my Hugo Weaving American accent) A VIRUS, MR. ANDERSON.

On the other, pick any of the dozens of t-shirt stands on the net. They've got Mario t-shirts for sale. Go see how hard it is to find a mario game to play in a Flash browser window. Nintendo knows about this stuff. They don't care. It's a) unstoppable, and b) good marketing. Mario is not a new idea that needs to be sold any more than Coke is. "Why, a brown soda in a red can? Good thing I saw that 2011 advertisements, I'd never heard of such a concept before!" Coke's interested in continual sales, just like the Big N.

One of the dirty secrets of piracy is that it may -- your mileage may of course vary -- be better for your little tidbit crumb of media than trying to stop it. I know it's done blockbuster damage to the music industry, and I can use blockbuster both to refer to the bombs that destroy a block and Blockbuster Video, which no company ever wants to be compared to as opposed to with. I really don't know how it is with bookstores, but the fact that Borders is closing ain't good.

So I have a double standard with piracy. I don't do it myself, but right now I have a hard time getting myself to despise anyone else who does it. This double standard also applied to huge moral and philosophical swatches of my life, and I highly recommend it to one and all.