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Piracy in the Philippines: A Retrospective
Sunday, March 11, 2007


Captain's Log Stardate -316189.09

fig. 1

Piracy is not new here in the Philippines, so when GoNintendo reader Micael sent a photo of fake Nintendo DS games to the GoNintendo staff, I wasn't surprised at first look. Pirated DVD movies, Audio CDs, PlayStation 2, XBOX, GameBoy games, etc. are normally found in Quiapo. You don't need a sixth sense to find them, just open your eyes and look around. They're everywhere in Quiapo! You can also find them on some stairways of the Metro Rail Transit in EDSA, wet markets, footbridges, and other places that people frequently visit.

Gameshops located within shopping malls like SM and Robinson's sells them underground. You'll see nothing displayed, until you ask one of their salesperson. The salesperson will then get folder or bundle of fake PS2 and XBOX games they're selling. Picture below is one shop located at SM North EDSA:

It was only when I enlarged the picture (fig.1) Micael sent that made may jaw drop. The fake Nintendo DS games are on display freely at the newly opened Toys 'R Us store here in the Philippines. Does the management know about this? Maybe, maybe not.

As I've said, video game piracy is not new here so allow me to take you down in history with my personal experience. When my uncle gave me a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as a present when I was 4 yrs old, the only game I have is the bundled Super Mario Bros. / Duckhunt game. Since the Philippines is closer to Japan than the United States, NES game cartridges were rare and expensive compared to its Japanese counterpart, the Famicom or Family Computer.

fig. 2

Since Famicom games cartridges are incompatible, I purchased a cartridge converter that allowed me to play Japanese carts on my US 8-bit game system. Normally, Famicom cartridges retailed around P75 - P300 (approx. US$3 - US$12 during that time) per game and rare NES cartridges are at P2500 - P3500 (approx. US$100 - US$140 during that time) each! So the most logical thing to do back then was to buy a converter (maybe considered the father of current modchips eh?). The photo above (fig.2) is a converter for my Japanese Super Famicom, similar on how the NES-Famcom converter works.

fig. 3

Above (fig.3) is a Famicom game my father bought at one of the game shops in Quiapo. Since there's no internet yet during those days, gamers rely on video game magazine for news. And video game piracy was not yet an issue during that time. We really don't know if the cartridges we're buying are legit or not. Apparently, the above cartridge is fake and I just learned about that a few years ago. I've also bought several (25/50/100)-in-1 Famicom carts and later learned that they're also fake.

fig. 4

Fast forward to my Super Famicom days (Japanese version of Super Nintendo Entertainment System). When I got my Super Famicom, I immediately went to the local Astrovision shop and bought a copy of then popular arcade game, Street Fighter II (fig.4). I'm still clueless on identifying a legit cartidge from not when the day I bought it. There was a manual included and the box seemed authentic. And surprisingly, the cartridge fits into Candice's Super NES.

During the NES-Super NES /Famicom-Super Famicom era here, the shop to go to was Hot Shots GameCenter in Raon, Astrovision in SM City North EDSA - Annex, and Video City in SM City North EDSA. Normally, Super Famicom cartridges retails at P1000 - P1500 (approx. US$40 - US$60 during that time). I don't know if they knew that the cartridges they're selling are original or pirated, neither do I.

fig. 5

When I bought my Street Fighter II Turbo (fig.5) in Japan, that's when I learned on how to detect an original copy from not. As you can see on the photo, the package contains a manual, 3 leaflets from Capcom, and the game cartridge is wrapped in plastic. Original Super Famicom cartridges would not fit into any Super NES console without using the converter. So by that time, 100% of the cartridges I bought before my Street Fighter II Turbo are all fake since all of them fit in Candice's Super NES!

fig. 6

When the era of PlayStation arrived, modchips started to pop and replace the old physical converter for the Super Famicom and Famicom game systems. The initial function of a modchip is to allow US gamers to play Japanese games and vice versa. But there was another feature that would live on upto this day. It is to allow everyone to play backup and pirated copies of PS1, PS2, XBOX, and XBOX360 games.

This era marked the start of rampant pirated Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, and XBOX games being sold in the Philippines. For just P70 - P120 each (approx. US$1.43 - US$2.45 today), you can buy yourself a bootleg copy of a game. Above photo (fig.6) is a stall in one of the malls located at Caloocan City selling pirated PlayStation, PlayStation 2, GameBoy and XBOX games.

Above photo is taken last December 26, 2005 at Star City theme park. Fake DVD movies and games are openly sold.

Do you remember the GameBoy Micro Look-A-Like?

Fake PC softwares are also openly sold at around P75 - P100 (approx. US$1.53 - US$2.04) per disc.

Games are not the biggest problem of the Optical Media Board but the rampant piracy of DVD movies.

Local movies get pirated even before they get an official DVD release. They come bundled too.

An entire floor of a building in Manila has stalls of pirated DVDs.

Karaoke DVDs are being sold for only P50 each (approx. US$1.02).

Lots of pirated DVD movies.

As you can see on the photo above, building owners tolerate DVD piracy. The encircled part reads:

1st Offense - fine of P2,000.00 and cut-off electricity for 1 day.
2nd Offense - fine of P5,000.00 and stall closed for 1 week.
3rd Offense - eviction from Good Earth Plaza and forfeiture of deposits.

DVD Prices on the Photo:
8 in 1 DVD movie - P60 (approx. US$1.22)
Mini-DVD movie - P50 (approx. US$1.02)
Single DVD movie with Case - P40 (approx. US$0.82)
Concerts 8 in 1 DVD - P70 (approx. US$1.43)
Single Concert DVD - P50 (approx. US$1.02)

and more pirated DVD movies...

...and still more.

Piracy is not limited to optical media. As you can see on the photo above, it's a PS2 controller that I bought at eBay. The seller said that it was an authentic and brand new controller. Guess what, it's fake.

There are also fake iPods, wallets, bags, shoes, medicines, food, cellphones, etc. Remember the Robo Watch in the 1980's? Well it also got pirated and was sold here. Even TV shows are pirated here. You may get the impression that the Philippines is the center and source of piracy... you're wrong. According to the merchants at Quiapo, they usually get their supplies from China or Malaysia. So why is piracy so rampant here? Number 1, they're too expensive for the average Juan to buy.

When I bought Glen's GameCube last year, I tried to look for The Legend Zelda: Twilight Princess on video gameshops. But the game is either out of stock or simply damn expensive. On one store I've asked, they were selling their only copy for P5500 (approx. US$112.24)! Other games were also priced a lot higher than their original price. Old GameCube games are priced from P2500 - P4000 (approx. US$51.02 - US$81.63) and their game collection is very limited and the games are old.

Another reason is the lack of laws and authorities to implement it. Some DVD shops in Quiapo are just a few meters away from a police precinct and yet the police ignores them. This blogger even sketched a map on how to locate the DVD shops in Quiapo and Divisoria.

Piracy is not limited in the Philippines, it is everywhere. If you have a computer with a broadband connection, you don't need to shop for fake DVD movies and video games. All you need is to download them from torrent sites.

The only difference of piracy in the Philippines and other parts of Asia is that it is being openly tolerated, unlike in USA and other countries.

Now let me leave you guys with one of the very first article that we published at GameOPS.net a few years back. This was written by Rocky:
Video Game Piracy: A Welcome Solution?
Four to five years running, we look into what piracy has done in the Philippines.

Let's face it, over the span of 4 to 6 years, piracy has become rampant here in the Philippines. Starting from the more affordable 200 peso PS CD's to its present low rates of P35 per disc. In other parts of the globe, piracy has been cut to bare minimum and almost non-existent perhaps so why is it here piracy is even endorsed and can be seen almost anywhere.

We ask ourselves Filipinos what do we see in piracy? Aside from their availability (arriving earlier than original games), the price factor is indeed a big deal. May sense nga naman, why buy the real thing when there's something just like it and cheaper pa.

Being a former piracy fan myself, it really was hard letting go. But in the end, values got the better of me. I found out how much it affected game companies, in order for them to continue bringing us quality games. They need our money for funding. At our present rate, if we continue buying pirated CD's it will ultimately end in more closed companies (like SNK America) and being a true game fan, I really don't want that to happen. So it's up to you gamers, is this just a fad or is it really game over?

Posted by Rocky Opina
October 5, 2000 (C)2000 www.gameops.net

Speaking of GamOPS, we're planning on reviving it. Really. :D

(Via Mon)

*Computer end log*

Posted by Jepoy @ 3/11/2007 12:27:00 AM
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Posted by Blogger Jhed on Sunday, March 11, 2007 at 3:03:00 AM GMT+8:  
You can't really blame the Filipinos for supporting pirated gadgets. Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, would you spend P350-P500 for a single DVD/VCD/PS2 Game? No.

Filipinos are practical, but they have the tendency to do it illegally.

Posted by Blogger Euri on Monday, March 12, 2007 at 10:26:00 AM GMT+8:  
I may not exactly be a pro-prracy type but then again, without pirated stuffs, people just can't afford them.

I think, rather than stealing it from other people, buying pirated stuffs are better, no?

Posted by Anonymous Pixel King on Monday, March 12, 2007 at 2:23:00 PM GMT+8:  
At the current state of the Philippines, "original" gaming (console gaming or pc) will NEVER be part of the normal life of a typical Filipino resident.

Just look at the daily average wage of your normal citizen - http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/ncr/cmwr_table.html

Majority of the families in the Philippines just cannot afford the expenses involving "original" gaming equipment. In the United States, the usual price for an Xbox 360 game is $60. Now, if some business imports original X360 games to sell in the Philippines, you'd have to also add the cost of taxes and of course, some for profit.

According to http://www.bsp.gov.ph/statistics/sdds/exchrate.htm as of March 7, 2007, $1 = P48.51. So a typical $60 game would be P2910.6, not including taxes and the additional cost to make profit.

Now, lets say the average daily wage of a Filipino is P315, then for 30 days they only get P9450. This means, a P2910.6 game is already 30.8% of their monthly salary, which is VERY impractical to spend for just a single game considering how hard life is in the Philippines.

Let's think, is the Gaming Industry going to make profit in the Philippines? If they somehow manage to make the Philippines sell ONLY original games and consoles, do you think they will be able to sell a decent number that won't cause them to LOSE on their investment? No. It simply can't, because their games' retail price is just too high for the average Filipino family. If they can't make a profit in the country in the first place, then how does it hurt them if pirated versions of their things are being sold there?

Do pirated copies being sold in the United States hurt the game companies? Yes. Why? Because people can actually afford to pay $60 for a game there. In the Philippines, they can't even start business because nobody will buy their products at such a high price. They will just be full of unsold games and would probably have to close their business in the country.

Local movie and music piracy on the other hand is a different case, since the prices for these are relatively affordable to the average Filipino (around P200 to P350 each). If the Philippine government is going to be harsh on some piracy issue, they might as well concentrate more on their local products being illegally reproduced, rather than trying to erase some other pirated product that don't even really harm anyone.

In the end, pirated gaming in the Philippines isn't really a threat to the game industry since this country isn't even considered a profitable region.

Filipino gamers can try to be moral about the thing and actually save for months (or years) to buy the originals, but if they opt to be practical and see that they're not really hurting the game industry, then they can just have fun with the cheap pirated versions.

On another note, here's an update on what happened after the year 2000 to SNK America - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNK_Playmore

It seems they're back.

Posted by Blogger Trina Joyce on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 6:43:00 PM GMT+8:  
Hello Jepoy, I'm doing a little research on digital piracy consumers. Are you still in the loop? Would you be willing to participate?

Please contact us


Thank you

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