Video games have been a wildly profitable industry ever since the home-console boom of the 1980s. And over the decades the home video-game market has only continued to grow. However, the same advanced technology that allows manufacturers and designers to produce ever more impressive consoles and games also allows for the counterfeiting of these products. It’s a very large and profitable black market—one that can net its mendacious purveyors a tidy sum. So how did we end up at a place where those who buy video games online run the real risk of being duped by a fake product? Here’s a look at the recent past and where we currently stand with counterfeit games.
Law and order
Companies and publishers take this problem seriously. Look at Nintendo: they’ve set up their own anti-piracy webpage page with comprehensive information related to the subject, including how to report the nogoodniks responsible for manufacturing and disseminating counterfeit games. And these aren’t toothless resources; they have the law on their side.
In 2010, for example, an Ohio man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for selling well over 30,000 counterfeit games. He sold the games online under his own name (not smart) as well as various pseudonyms (slightly smarter). These games he sold represented titles from about 60 different publishers with a retail value of around $700,000. Even selling each title for as low as $9.99 meant he raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would have been a grand scheme had the U.S. Postal Inspectors and FBI cybercrimes unit not gotten hip to his racket. Another example occurred in 2012 when a British man (whose middle name is “Success” was charged with selling thousands of counterfeit Nintendo Wii and DS games. He was sentenced to 32 months—not the definition of “success.”
Counterfeiting in the age of retro gaming
So with these real-world examples (on both sides of the pond) of harsh penalties being handed down by Johnny Law to shady bootleggers, why are counterfeit games more popular than ever? The answer is the rise of the retro-gaming market. Actually, “rise” isn’t a sufficient description—meteoric ascension is more like it. People’s nostalgia for the video games of their youth has manifested itself in a marketplace that generates billions of dollars a year. Because not only are used games all the rage, but the retro market has become ground zero for collectors as well, with some paying thousands of dollars for hard-to-find games.
Therefore it seems that counterfeiters have surveyed the landscape and decided that being able to reap thousands of dollars at the expense of nothing more than the costs of CD/cartridge printing is worth the legal risk. So in the absence of any real deterrent to erase the dollar signs in their eyes, they charge right ahead. The other problem is that these folks still need a place to peddle their fraudulent goods, and, sadly, there are plenty of online sites out there that allow anyone, anywhere, to sell whatever, whenever.
It’s up to us
Despite the mass amounts of fraud taking place in the world of retro-game-selling on eBay, the online auction giant isn’t doing anything to solve the problem. To be fair, they don’t have the infrastructure or oversight capabilities to scrutinize every video-game seller on their site; all they can do is take action if and when fraud has been reported. So in the absence of the owners of bidding sites solving the problem, it’s up to buyers to be more diligent than ever in determining whether what they’re buying is counterfeit or not. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially as modern printing technology makes it even easier to produce near flawless replicas.
Below is A video on how to Spot Counterfeit GBA Games