Dec 22, 2004
They foresee sales dropping from Jan 1, when the amended Copyright Act makes it illegal to sell the special chips - known in the industry as mod chips - that allow gamers to modify consoles for games from the United States.
Such popular titles as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as well as the consoles for them will then have to be bought in the US. The situation is similar to that of DVDs which are 'region-locked'.
What it means is that all three major makes of home consoles sold here - the PS2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube - will not be able to play titles sold in the US and Europe.
Mr Sunil Harthiramani, managing director of The Gaming World, expects his business to shrink by 30 to 40 per cent when the ban starts.
He is a distributor for PS2 games and has already removed his products from several Toys 'R' Us stores.
As for the other two console makes, the effect is less pain- ful.
GameCube does not use the mod chip but a software disc called Freeloader, available in most local shops, to play games from all regions.
With Xbox, modifications are rare because 99 per cent of Xbox game titles suited for local consoles are released in English.
The PS2 is worst off because the console from Sony shares the same region code as Japanese PS2s, so the games that can be played on it are mainly in Japanese.
Retailers often modify the consoles on the quiet, charging customers between $70 and $150 for the change.
The new law has put console makers like Sony and retailers of videogame consoles in a dilemma.
Sales of consoles and titles for them have been rising in recent months. For instance, the Xbox has seen growth of more than 90 per cent against the the same period last year, said Mr Alex Chua, home & entertainment division manager for Microsoft Singapore.
Mr Harthiramani, who has been in the videogame business for 14 years, estimates that up to 40 per cent of his customers modify their consoles to play original games in English and 'only a very small percentage play games in Japanese'.
Mr Lim Shiow Kheng, managing director of Seow Choon, another major wholesaler and retailer of games, agrees with Mr Harthiramani.
He is expecting his sales to halve: 'The markets in Taiwan and Hong Kong are more receptive to Japanese games. That is not the case here.'
Sony has declined to comment on the issue which Mr Harthiramani says has a simple solution: Sony should introduce a console that plays English games.
Pointing to Microsoft's Xbox, he said: 'It understands that Singapore is an English-speaking country and made sure that its games are in English and priced reasonably. These factors make original games sell.*Extracted from The Straits Times Interactive. View the original source here