The hand and the pirate

Amigaworkbench

We all talk about piracy now as it is this killer of consoles.  For a while there it was the killer of the PC until steam came along.  And then it was the killer of the PSP.  Now people are all on about how it’s going to kill retail.  Kill video games.  Kill the world.  Like all of a sudden this thing – this disease – has come along that is resistant to antibiotics and just can’t be treated.  Torrents, Pirate Bay; these are the new public enemies number one.

Whatever.  As someone who grew up with the Amiga 500, a system that practically lived and died by the ease in which its software was pirated, I’ve seen it all before.  There are two things I remember most about the old A500 – the first is the iconic Amiga Workbench ‘hand’ (shown above), and the second is the mesmerising viewing of watching ‘X Copy’, a program practically designed for piracy, in action.  Of course there was other software out there for the A500 designed to copy the contents of one disc to another, in fact even today there are threads and forums dedicated to discussions about the best way to copy games, but X Copy was the ONE that I can recall garnering fanfare at a release of a new iteration.  Which in and of itself really is quite strange.  But it embodies so much of what made the Amiga 500 so accessible (and memorable) for so many people.

XCOPY Amiga 500

Piracy, like the demo scene, was absolutely just a part of every day life for the Amiga 500.  EVERY Amiga 500 owner at some point had put a disc in their 3.5″ drive that has the names of games or programs crossed out, whited out and replace countless times with the name of another.  And when they put that disc in they probably remember right clicking on a screen displaying the name of the people that ‘cracked’ the game, which was more than likely a name rooted in 1980’s hair metal of the time (‘Cracked by Skid Row’ was a favourite of mine)

And these are some of the fondest memories I have of that time.  Sad thing is, these are the very things that killed Commodore the company.

8 Comments

  1. Nice post, but I think piracy is seriously overrated and largely demonized by publishers and media. Has it always been around? Yes. Will it destroy the industry? No. Piracy exists for a couple of reasons, when people can’t get it, want it (region locks and what not), when people wouldn’t buy it anyways, but just want to check it out (So not really a lost sale), and for the small minority of people that are just malicious and really cheap.

    So realistically, piracy is a service problem. If game developers are not providing a service that is perceived as more valuable, and more EFFICIENT than the pirates, then they will have problems. I think it’s interesting you brought up Steam, because that’s exactly what it did for the PC space, and various regions.

    -Cheers

    1. Thanks!

      And I tend to agree, it has always existed. I remember the rampant piracy on the PS1, which is a good example, because although it may have chipped into game sales to some degree I don’t think it reduced the viability of the console from a business perspective.

      Piracy is bad, absolutely, but in some ways it is a function of the peoples’ collective response to the behaviour of publishers.

      1. Exactly, just take for example, any publisher/developer that inflicts heavy DRM methods into their games/software. You just end up with more people trying to pirate their software out of principle, and you really only succeed in alienating the people the people that try to use it legitimately. As always, it’s about who/what provides the better service. It’s a simple matter of economics, economies always move towards efficiency, just the way of the world!

      2. Absolutely. Although economics doesn’t strictly dictate that an economy will strive to achieve efficiency. It certainly will strive to maximise either utility or profit, which may sometimes lead to efficient outcome. I’m certainly not advocating the view that piracy of any description is an efficiency gain per se. But your point is a good one that is taken.

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