The Japanese government has fired a major salvo across the bow of cheaters and grey market game resellers with new legislation, promising prison sentences and hefty fines for those that run afoul of the new rules.
- Distributing tools and programs for altering save data
- Selling serial numbers or product keys that are unauthorised by the maker of the software in online auctions
- Offering services that modify save data on the customer’s behalf
In simple terms, this means that gamers attempting to either cheat in games or purchase stolen game keys could face prosecution in Japan. The fines and other penalties are listed as “up to ¥5 million [$46k USD], up to five years in prison, or both.”
The former part of this legislation is much more concerning and controversial. Cheaters in multiplayer games are a plague, but these kinds of generalized and heavy-handed responses often punish normal gamers more than cheaters anyway. Banning save data modification is undoubtedly aimed at hitting gamers who cheat in multiplayer games by targeting paid cheats like “trainers”. CheatHappens, one of the bigger sites for creating and decimating these tools has already felt the sting of this particular issue. They removed their trainers for Monster Hunter World, fearing legal action by Capcom, after a fair amount of work creating tools for the game. And that’s just one example of the times recently where companies have aggressively pursued cheaters, with those who just want to have fun in singleplayer games getting caught in the crossfire.
Other companies are pulling their products for sale, fearing more problems on the horizon. One example is the Cyber Save Editor for PS4, which has been discontinued.
This particular legislation is much more aggressive than just taking down cheat makers though, as it may be used to go after gamers too. The film and entertainment industry has long set a precedent for various toxic antics when it comes to defending copyright. From “copyright trolls” issuing mass takedowns that harm legitimate content, to slapping insane financial penalties on minuscule pirates, it was only a matter of time until an organization applied similarly harsh tactics in the games industry.
And even though the practice of taking out hackers and thieves is a noble and necessary element, and pretty clear intent, it’s hard to justify the way in which this is worded until we see how it’s being enforced.