Keeping pirates at bay

Every person working in the UK’s games industry will be able to tell by now that we’re heading into the busiest time of the year. But as the legitimate area of the industry gets busier, so does the pirate business.

Our IP crime team is out there – the Intellectual Property Crime Unit (IPCU). Its team of investigators are trawling the streets and internet alike, seeking out illegal activity. That goes as much for the biggest fish as the smaller local criminals. We liked to nip things in the bud as high up the chain as possible for maximum impact. 

Very high-level sites are cracking the code of new games – and these are being tackled by the IPCU and others here and abroad. It is good to know that in the US they have really begun clamping down on these hackers – and not a moment too soon.

On a regional level, ELSPA is pinpointing hackers who operate out of the UK. Our crime unit is working closer than ever with the UK’s police and Trading Standards to ensure we track them down and throw the book at them.

Of course, there are several ways to crack a fraudulent nut. A console has to be modified to play pirate games in the first place, and we’re working diligently with HM Customs and Excise on cutting the actual supply of chips and chipping equipment to the UK.

Our internet investigators are busy finding out just who is offering this service right now. In short, we track them down, carry out test purchases and move in quickly to seize their stock – helping Trading Standards officers to prosecute.

The importing of counterfeit hardware can pose even darker risks to the general public – particularly the mains chargers that can come with them.

Trading Standards tested some Nintendo products last year that clearly turned out to be fakes, many of which failed basic electrical safety tests.

These could deliver more than disappointment if opened on Christmas Day – they could be lethal. We’ll be keeping an extra close eye on these sorts of things this year; seizing both bulk supplies and individual orders whenever they pose risks to the public or short-change our members.

On a happier note, I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate the London Games Conference which was a great success. I think it was the first time we’ve seen what I’d call the whole industry – both old and new players – in one room.

The event showed that while old businesses are looking to transform, new businesses are cropping up with interesting propositions. We are entering a period of great opportunity and excitement.

ELSPA has a range of remits, and we too are moving with the times. On the subject of digital distribution, we need to make sure that the industry has the necessary data it requires to see where it is going forward.

We mustn’t lose sight of our role of promoting the size and scale of the industry – and that includes business generated by new models such as subscription, micro-transactions and free-to-play games. 

I can assure you that ELSPA will continue to be at the forefront of gathering, displaying and promoting this information.

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