December 19, 2005

Video Games and the Record Industry [8:52 am]

A game author tweaks an industry and everyone gets het up: Link by Link: Social Commentary, or Just a Dog’s Opinion?

If that’s true, the music industry - another purveyor of digital goods - could not have been very happy when bloggers last week began sharing screen grabs from a popular new Nintendo game, which includes, among its many characters, a guitar-toting puppy who seems to extol the virtues of file-sharing.

“Those industry fat cats try to put a price on my music, but it wants to be free,” the canine bard says in a dialogue bubble at the bottom of the screen, after performing and giving away “copies” of a tune.

The character is K.K. Slider, an insouciant inhabitant of the sprawling universe that is “Animal Crossing: Wild World,” a deeply layered community-building game released two weeks ago for the Nintendo DS, the hand-held gaming console introduced last year.

In an e-mail message, Nintendo’s vice president for marketing and corporate affairs, Perrin Kaplan, said that “no real social commentary was intended.”

[...] While the joke may buzz a bit high over the heads of the game’s 8-year-old fans, 14-year-olds have heard enough antipiracy messages in their schools, seen them on their CD’s, encountered them online and chattered about file-sharing among friends to know that K.K. is expressing a subversive idea - that he is speaking their language.

He’s winking at them. He’s cool. He’s hip.

No doubt there’s a calculus in that, to keep young customers paying for more Nintendo games.

If not paying for music.

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