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The morality of piracy and not buying games new

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1. Have you ever pirated a game? If so, why?
2. How did you feel about it?
3. Do you have any moral hang ups about renting games or buying used?

I never pirate games on current platforms. I know I can, but I want to support new games when I'm able to. The reality is some slip through the cracks, and I have no choice but to buy used. My approach on PS4, for example, has been digital and under $20 only (sometimes under $10). It adds up, sure. For the most part, I didn't mind spending that money.

On retro platforms, the original developers/publishers aren't making money on those anymore. The money goes directly to the second-hand seller. For the rarer games, I try not to contribute to scalper behavior. I bought a lot of used GB/GBC/GBA games. Outside of maybe five games, I didn't think twice about spending that money.

My understanding is that retailers buy X amount of copies of a game that it expects to sell. Some publishers have policies in place so that unsold stock can be sent back or exchanged for "credit" on new games. Correct me if I'm wrong as I didn't dig that far since this isn't the main point of the thread. Outside of evergreen titles, publishers make their bread in the first few months from release. Publishers don't make any money on used games, and they only make money on a rental once upon the original purchase.

In most instances, I bought the games I wanted and I rarely rented, even when I worked at Hollywood Video. I'll resort to downloading ROMs under specific circumstances: never released in North America, no longer available, or if I already own a game. I don't feel even a little bad at all. With most games these days requiring patches, I won't feel any better about dumping a game myself and finding someone hosting the official patches than I would just finding the game with patches online.

Generally speaking, it's considered morally wrong to take something that isn't yours. Like most things when it comes to morality, there are different perspectives, gray areas etc. I'm not here to judge anyone as I'm merely curious what everyone thinks. For my specific use cases, I don't feel bad, and I don't know what that says about me.

I don't pirate anything currently available, but I don't mind resorting to that for things that can't be bought new anymore. That's pretty much my policy across all media, as while I type this I'm watching episodes of a TV show I downloaded because it's not available anywhere legitimately. I would really prefer not to do that, both ethically and because legitimate releases are generally higher quality and more convenient.

When it comes to used games, I've been all digital for a decade now, so that's not really an option. I've rented games sometimes, but usually that's more of an extended demo, where if I like it I'll buy the full game.

I admit that I used to pirate media when I was a poor college student. Now I have more money (and unplayed games) than I have time so it seems silly to try and get media for free when I can easily pay for it. When I first got my 3DS I was searching online and found a hacked 3DS cart with a ton of DS games dumped on it. I regrettably bought the cart and played a few games on it. I now feel guilty about it and am thinking I want to toss it or give it to someone else.

Ian Sane:
I played pirated ROMs in high school, mostly NES, SNES and Genesis but also the GBC which was a current system at the time.  I remember my brother and I playing Pokemon Gold months before its American release.  But I was a teenager with no money at the time.  A few years later I had a job and bought a GBA and bought most of those GBC titles I was playing.  So the publishers weren't losing a purchase, it was just getting delayed.  I don't think it was right for me to pirate those games though as my motivation was strictly a kid wanting something and taking it when the opportunity presented itself and there was no risk of punishment.

Since then I will admit to having played some titles in MAME and translated ROMs of games that at the time had never been localized.  That's a bit of a grey area since usually I would like to buy something that just isn't available.  And it isn't like I'm hopping some guy's fence to take the apples off his tree that he refuses to sell me.  The company pays for no physical game production or marketing or maintenance and I'm not denying them a sale since they don't offer it at all.  Do I have a right to play your game anyway I can?  I guess not really but in that case it really isn't harming anyone.  Now I won't say that if such a game does later get a proper release that I'll go buy it to make up for my piracy from years earlier.  But I can say that playing a translated repro cart of Dragon Quest V did get me into the series and Square Enix has earned more money from me in the long run.

Regarding rentals or buying used games I have never for even a second had any moral dilemma with those.  I don't see it as any different than renting a pressure washer or borrowing a show shovel from my neighbour.  I've also lent games to friends and borrowed games from them.  The big difference between this and piracy is that with piracy you make a copy so everyone involved can still play the game at the same time.  If someone sells a copy they don't want anymore then they cannot still play it.  Besides if we didn't have used sales what would be the preference?  That videogames that people get sick of just pile up in landfills?  I consider it morally good for items that are still functional to find a new owner rather than being thrown away and resources being needlessly used to create a new one.

Also the used game market has absolutely turned me into a fan of existing series which has resulted in day-one new purchases over the long run.  My first Zelda game was a used copy of A Link to the Past which we bought from a friend after I had played it a bit at another friend's house.  How many Zelda games since then have I bought brand new at full price on release day?  Probably like 10.  Nintendo "lost" out on a new sale for one Zelda game (which at the time wasn't even available in stores anymore) but has gained 20 years of new Zelda purchases in the long run.  And to be frank my love of the Zelda series is partially responsible for the purchase of new Nintendo systems as well.  A few used purchases and rentals helped create a lifelong customer.

The line has become pretty easy for modern systems now that digital distribution is a thing. As long as the online storefront for that system remains available and the game in question is available there, I have no reason to resort to other means to acquire games.


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