Theft, Resident Evil and Breaking Street Dates.

Today saw copies of Resident Evil 6 find their way onto the market. Allegedly stolen German copies, people are trying to sell them for an obscene amount of money. But here’s a novel and unique idea for Capcom to ensure these people don’t profit from their crime – why not bring the release forward if the game is finished?

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When copies of Resident Evil 6 started to surface on the internet, we assumed it was no more than a good photoshop job. But we were wrong.

Somehow in shipping copies of the game out in preparation for a release, some of these copies were stolen – copies of the German version, no less. And considering the sales powerhouse that Resident Evil is, you can now find copies on eBay for quite a lot of money. These copies were stolen and are being sold ahead of their release dates, and sadly for Capcom, there seems to be very little they can do without knowing how many were stolen in the first place. Resident Evil 6 is already out there, being played no doubt, by a small group of people.

Now, we can talk all day about how to avoid spoilers and the legalities of selling stolen goods on the internet. The law can be rough on this, and a case against the individuals in question can be lengthy and costly – even for Capcom, the expense of such a case may prove to be somewhat overkill considering the number of copies stolen. People can be charged on handling stolen goods, but it’s a petty offense that won’t really carry any legal weight to it. Capcom won’t want to point the finger at those handling the goods in the first place – companies often use the same shipping means over and over, and biting that hand means building up a new relationship with a new firm. It doesn’t really make sense to them to want to see this aspect scrutinised.

Each way you look, it seems not much can be done. And those with copies and who have played the game can of course willingly write FAQs and talk spoilers to the internet – indeed, this breed of individual may even find a certain pleasure in making sure everyone knows the key plot points and twists, ruining it for them. And those selling can ask whatever they want, knowing that for some fans, getting their hands on a copy of their most anticipated game of the year early will carry a premium.

Capcom doesn’t appear to have much power here. But in reality, there is something they can do to undermine all of this.

Release the game in a week or two.

Bringing forward a games release may sound complicated but as we can see from this escapade, Capcom are already shipping the game out. This means that the core game is finished, it may carry some bugs but these would be forcibly patched out on its official release anyway. This means that copies of the game are obviously being delivered to retailers, who now find themselves in some places unable to carry any weight of exclusivity. How many copies have been shipped? This is a good question, but one can assume a lot. Capcom are preparing in advance for a sales storm, which is admirable but the consequences of that preparation are now clear to see.

If Capcom were to say, bring the release forward to Friday 14th September – a couple of weeks before its official release date – then this would ensure that stores can feel safe and secure, and fans can attempt to avoid spoilers and those wanting desperately to ruin the plot for them. It makes sense to undermine those who have done you wrong – it may even massively devalue the copies being sold, cutting off the possibility that these people want to make money from their crime.

All of this depends on how Capcom feel about the situation. There’s already a bit of a frenzy about it, so there has to be a point where the interests of the consumers and the game alike are considered. If Capcom can negate the sales and source of the theft, they may have some control – but unlikely to have total control, of course, as the genie is out of the bottle. It still may be enough for them to think an October 2nd release can still be justified. But it’s a delicate situation, as we know – some games, TV shows and movies are tightly controlled to ensure nothing is leaked without them knowing about it. This weekend on Doctor Who, there was a massive potential plot spoiler for the Christmas episode and the fans and media, who had seen it in previews legally, all collectively kept it quiet because they wanted the mystique to remain, for the actual reveal to be a surprise to us all. And it was.

Somehow, I doubt those who have stolen these copies of Resident Evil 6 care much for the magic and mystique of a reveal. If there is evidence that anyone is trying to leak the plot twists out, or someone is attempting to pirate and/or distribute copies, then the damage could be pretty significant. There’s no fun knowing what will happen before it happens – Capcom learned this fact with Resident Evil 5, the central plot twist of Jill Valentine so painfully obvious from the trailers they had been showing off. We want to be surprised, delighted and challenged. Getting to the twists yourself is preferable to having some berk on the internet tell you about them because he wants to be a total bran-muffin.

If there is any risk to the story, or the experience, Capcom may be better off pushing the release forward a couple of weeks, rather than hoping people will stay silent. Because this is the internet, and it just won’t happen.

Most street dates are broken accidentally, or with careful consideration beforehand. In this case, the street date is already effectively broken by a crime, one which may not be all that sensible to pursue to the end. Capcom have copies out there. Perhaps it’s time they considered breaking their own release date themselves before people feel buying the game is pointless? It’s obvious the game has been one of Capcom’s most expensive titles to date. They can’t afford to see sales drop because people already know what happens. And it is in that I feel Capcom may have no other real alternative at hand.

Two to three weeks may not sound long – but in this world, that could be an eternity. And I certainly wouldn’t want to stand around hoping people will do the right thing, especially when they did the wrong thing to get those copies out onto the market in the first place.

Come on Capcom. Do the right thing, and undermine them all.

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