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Police combat video game piracy ahead of Christmas

  • Police tackle ‘modders’ of Nintendo Switch video games consoles
  • Criminals are selling ‘modded’ Nintendo consoles that enable people to play pirated Nintendo video games
  • The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is conducting an investigation into a prominent UK ‘modder’ of Nintendo Switch video games consoles

The City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is tackling video games piracy as criminals are selling modded consoles together with hundreds of unauthorised copies of video games.

PIPCU in action

In a warrant executed on Tuesday 4 December, PIPCU officers arrested and cautioned a man in relation to copyright offences. Hard drives, microchips and computer equipment were seized at the same address.

How does it work?

The seller modifies the Nintendo Switch video games console by either installing a modification chip or software. Alternatively they may sell hardware devices such as the SX Pro which also circumvents the security measures in a Nintendo Switch. Whatever method is used, the use of a circumvention device or software invalidates the manufacturers’ guarantee that protects users. Purchasers of the ‘modded console’ are then able to play pirated games often downloaded from the internet.

However, what you may not realise is that with a ‘modded console’ there is a risk that you are unable to enjoy the full functionality and experiences that an authentic console provides. For example, it is possible that you cannot play Nintendo Switch games online against other players. There is also the risk that the ‘modded console’ will no longer work following network updates. Purchasers are often not made aware of these downsides when purchasing ‘modded consoles’.

If you download unauthorised copies of games in order to play on the ‘modded console’, you also run the risk that these files may contain malware or viruses which can infect your PC.

Video game piracy is not a victimless crime, it impacts all those that create these games. This includes small developer studios and publishers. They rely on the sales of authentic games to recoup the financial and human investment they have made in creating and distributing such games. In the end, if you purchase ‘modded consoles’ with pirate games, you are making it much more difficult for new games to be produced in the future.

More at stake

Not only that, but if you’re buying from someone you don’t know, you could put yourself at risk of identity crime. PIPCU is warning consumers that there’s more at stake when it’s a fake when buying from an untrusted seller. PIPCU is warning the public about the consequences of providing personal details to online criminals who then use them to commit fraud such as registering counterfeit websites.  The result being online shoppers unwittingly become victims of identity theft. 

Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt of the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) said: “If you’re looking to buy a Nintendo console as a Christmas gift, make sure you know who you are buying from, otherwise you could get more than you bargained for.

“If you buy a gaming console that gives illegal access to pirated content, you could be exposed to malware and identity crime.

“You’re supporting a crime that takes away money from the small creative companies who often produce Nintendo’s games. Play safe, play fair.”

A spokesperson for Ukie, the trade body for the UK's games and interactive entertainment industry, said: "Ukie would like to thank PIPCU for its efforts in supporting the video games industry in taking action against sellers of modified consoles and pirate copies of video games, activities that can impact on the safety of players and the economic well-being of the industry as a whole.

“The games industry has always found ways to innovate and adapt to what players want, that means creating various avenues for players to purchase consoles and games that are fun, innovative, authentic and safe to buy.”

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