Used Games Under Fire in Japan

A store in Kanagawa selling secondhand games comes under fire from five top companies.


TOKYO - Friday the Nihon Keizai Shinbun (Japan's business daily) reported that five companies will bring the issue of secondhand game sales to a Tokyo court.

Together, Capcom, Konami, Namco, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.(SCEI), and Square will file a suit in Tokyo District Court against one particular secondhand shop in Kanagawa as early as today.

According to the report, the five companies claim that video game software should be treated the same way as films, and that they have a right to decide how games are distributed. In the film industry, the copyright holder decides these things - a right that is guaranteed by current Japanese copyright law. Thus, they argue that the unauthorized selling of secondhand games should be prohibited.

Nikkei Shinbun also said that the same five companies plan to file a similar suit against another shop in Osaka as well.

On the other hand, ARTS, an associated group of game shops, stated that these rights are for films, and video games are not affected by it.

Tracking how this issue has developed in the last year, you'll notice that the strategy of these software companies has slightly changed. First they claimed that the selling of secondhand games should be prohibited - there was even a campaign that had the slogan "Eradication of Second-Hand Games." But, now they seem to be claiming that secondhand game sales should be authorized by them.

It's probably a case of seeing that this secondhand game market isn't going to die and that the wiser move is to try to profit from it somehow. Or perhaps that's what they were thinking about in the first place.

Capcom, Konami, Namco, and Square are all key members of the Computer Entertainment Software Association (CESA). They insist on their rights every opportunity they have. SCEI is now fighting with FTC on this issue among others.

But two other big companies, Nintendo and Sega, have a different attitude. While Sega has remained quiet about it, Nintendo has its own answer to this issue. It's in the form of the game vending service called Nintendo Power. Through this service, you can buy old and new Super Famicom games direct or even prepurchased flash ROM cartridge.

There's a rumor that Nintendo will expand this service to cover both Game Boy and 64DD titles in the future.

There are no signs that Nintendo or Sega will join this lawsuit so far.

Not all the other CESA-affiliated companies agree with the five leading companies leading this suit.

A company that wanted to stay anonymous told a magazine some time ago that a non-secondhand market will only be beneficial for bigger companies like those that have filed the suit. Relatively small companies sometimes, willingly or not, would accept the current secondhand market as a chance for additional exposure.

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