A different kind of piracy

I didn’t realize that there seems to be a widespread problem with pirated GameBoy Advance games. Especially at eBay. Recently, I got the first of the games I’ve ordered and everything seemed to be fine. Then I found out the save function didn’t work. This is odd as original GameBoy games have very reliable saving functions. My copy of Mystic Quest is still working even after over 10 years. So I compared the module to another module I had (also a US one – just to be sure). Can you guess which one is fake?

Pirate vs. Original

Here are the hints I’ve found that it is a pirated version:

The first thing I’ve noticed even before I suspected it was fake was the blurry print on the sticker. I thought it might be because of the US version but no: every original cartridge should have a crisp sticker. In fact, the printing quality on those stickers is indeed extraordinary. Note how you can clearly read even the tiniest text. Also, the sticker should be perfectly centered on the cartridge an properly aligned.

Pirate vs. Original - Sticker

Another sign is the quality of the embossing on the plastic itself. Note how original modules have shallow, crisp embossing. The surface inside the embossing is even different. My fake one has very rounded and deep embossing with a smooth surface all over.

Pirate vs. Original - Embossing Front

The differences in the embossing are evident on the back. Here you can see how the “i” in the “Nintendo” logo has melted into a “I” on the fake cartridge. On the other hand they’ve used one of those crazy Nintendo screws.

Pirate vs. Original - Embossing Back

But finally, one sure way to find out quickly is to look inside the slot. If you look closely, you should see a white “Nintendo” print on the circuit board (above). The fake ones don’t bother to copy that detail (below).

Pirate vs. Original - Slot

So there you have it. It seems like the problem is pretty common. Here is a nice collection of examples and other hints (in German). It seems like my eBay seller wasn’t aware that this was a pirated version and agreed to take the game back.

What hits me is the sheer disregard of the pirates for the content of the game. Stickers, Manuals, Packages are randomly chosen. I mean, get this:

This made me think. It really is a different kind of piracy from the one I deal with daily. Often, people on the Internet proudly admit that they are pirates. They refer to a piracy driven by the (slighty misguided) love for the products. The goal is to spread good products on the internet for free. The product and the customers benefit.

But this is a piracy with the goal to make money. This piracy doesn’t care about the product or the customer. I think we should not confuse the two.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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