‘Is piracy a problem that can’t be fixed?’

The thread had over 2,000 responses, all from gamers who either already own or were interested in buying one of these DS ROM cards, with one post detailing everything anyone would need to know about illegally acquiring Nintendo DS games – from where to buy the devices, to how to use them.

It’s easy to criticise these cards for encouraging piracy, but aside from that, they’re actually nifty little devices. Gamers can use them to turn their DS into an MP3 player or photo viewer, and they can be used by budding developers to upload their latest ‘homebrew’ video game. Gamers can also upload and view movies using them, read e-books and even back-up saved games.

However, there’s no doubting what these devices are really used for, and in five minutes I found three websites where gamers can download the latest Pokemon, Final Fantasy and Mario game for free.

Considering how easy to buy and use they are – without the need to invalidate the warranty – it’s no surprise that they’re so sought after. But if these devices continue to spiral in popularity, how long will it be before the sale of ‘hardcore’ DS titles such as The Legend of Zelda and Hotel Dusk are significantly affected? Casual, family games, unsurprisingly, haven’t been troubled by the issue.

One obvious option is to get heavy-handed. But as quickly as authorities close down these sites, another one pops up. And with so many different cards out there, it’s difficult to know where to start.

The other option is to embrace this movement to some extent. If the games business was to follow the music industry’s lead, the answer might be to create a legitimate device that allows consumers to play music, watch movies and – yes – download games.

Of course, knowing the geniuses at Nintendo and Sony, it could be that such devices for the DS and PSP are already in development.

But the lessons we can learn from the music industry’s past problems – and subsequent successes (not least, iTunes) – must be heeded.

Thanks to the likes of Steam, we have even proved that a legitimate downloadable business is possible.

It’s a controversial view, but if consumers want to download DS games, maybe as an industry we should be giving them what they want – rather than fighting a problem that possibly can’t be fixed.

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