Michael Jackson: The Experience Anti-Piracy Method

A novel anti-piracy measure baked into the Nintendo DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience makes copied versions of the game unplayable and taunts gamers with the blaring sound of vuvuzelas. Instead of “Beat It,” players get “Bleat It.”

The phenomenon was documented by YouTube user ctkxtreme, who posted a video with the following explanation: “This is Ubisoft’s attempt at anti-piracy to the game. The game is an [Elite Beat Agents] clone, and there’s no notes playing, it freezes when it’s paused, and fucking vuvuzela noises over the music.” With the annoying noise of the plastic South African horns, the illegally copied game sounds more like a raucous soccer match than a Michael Jackson record.
“The development team worked this feature in as a creative way to discourage any tampering with the retail version of the game,” a representative of Ubisoft, the company that developed the game, told Wired.com in an e-mail Friday. Piracy has become a major problem for Nintendo because of the ease with which copied games can be played on the handheld device. Unlike videogame consoles, which need to undergo elaborate hardware modifications to play copied software, the handheld DS is comparatively wide open. All one needs to do is to buy a cheap rewritable storage card, download an illegal copy from a file sharing site, and load the card into the DS.
Games can be coded to have the the software check to see if it is running on a legitimate DS cartridge or if the code has been copied to a similar card. Ubisoft would not elaborate, as of press time, about the specific anti-piracy mechanism in Michael Jackson: The Experience.

Battling pirates “has been like a game of cat-and-mouse,” Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told investors in October. He said that while Nintendo does not entirely attribute low software sales to piracy, the company is “beefing up” the copy protection for the Nintendo 3DS, which it will release next year. The unique anti-piracy measure coded into the Nintendo DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience, which was released Nov. 23, is just the latest — and perhaps most hilarious — method used to fight illegal copying.

Many games have installed switches that detect pirated copies and act accordingly, like ending the user’s game after 20 minutes. Ubisoft has come under fire multiple times for what players have seen as highly restrictive anti-piracy measures that annoy legitimate users as much or more so than pirates. But some more-mischievous developers have used tricks similar to the vuvuzela fanfare to mess with pirates. Batman: Arkham Asylum lets unauthorized users play through the game as if it were a normal copy, with a single exception: Batman’s cape-glide ability doesn’t work, rendering the game impossible to finish — although you might bash your head against it trying to make what are now impossible jumps. If you pirate Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, brace yourself for an explosion, as your entire base will detonate within 30 seconds of loading the game.

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