Nintendo’s fight against piracy doesn’t leave any room for interpretation on how the Japanese company views its intellectual property. The studio and publisher doesn’t want anyone modifying their software and hardware in any way, and it’ll go as far as bragging when a prominent Nintendo Switch hack seller gets sentenced to three years in prison. Nintendo has proven it time and time again in their moves against the Super Smash Bros. mod Project + and the network mod Slippi.
At the same time, the company refuses to provide its consumers with access to some of the products they crave. The Wii U and 3DS eShops will cease operations in March of 2023. The closures may, however, come sooner than that as it’ll be impossible to add funds via credit card on either platform in May of 2022. It’ll be impossible to add funds with Nintendo eShop card three months later.
Nintendo is preventing access, encouraging piracy
Both stores offered access to some of Nintendo’s most revered games, including classic games for older platforms that are not available through Nintendo Switch Online. Nintendo originally had a FAQ with a section that posed a simple question: Doesn’t Nintendo have an obligation to preserve its classic games by continually making them available for purchase?
Nintendo answered this question by saying “over 130 classic games are currently available” via Nintendo Switch Online. It said that it had no plans to offer games that aren’t part of that library in other ways. This section of the FAQ has been recently removed.
Access is a huge element in piracy, especially in the spike of illegal downloads we’ve seen during the pandemic.
“The reason — outside of criminal enterprise — that many are pirating the content that they do is lack of access and availability,” reads a 2021 report on piracy from research firm Akamai. Piracy will always exist in the internet age, but providing fair and constant access to a product is a method to prevent some of that piracy.
“One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It’s a service issue,” Valve Co-founder Gabe Newell said in 2011. “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.”
Study after study, from a decade ago until now, has reiterated that aggressive anti-piracy efforts don’t work. The solution should be to provide would-be consumers the push they need with cheaper, more convenient and legal alternatives to piracy. It may not resolve all of the $65 million that Nintendo claims game companies have lost, but it could put a dent in that number.