Fairplay, Smareplay

Something is rotten in the state of the UK's videogame industry and ironically it goes by the name of FairPlay. Last week the FairPlay Group announced plans to stage "Don't Buy A Videogame Week" all in the name of its "campaign for cheaper games". "Consumers are being conned and it's time they made a stand," is the battle cry and the industry has been left a little stunned.

FairPlay is a group of developers and journalists who claim that that "there isn't a single reason why games couldn't be sold at £20 or even less" and the whole campaign is supported by a dedicated Website. The FairPlay website is awash with inflammatory statements, scare mongering and misleading information. Consumers are also being urged to take part in an online petition and various media stunts to increase publicity.

Over the years there have been many calls to reduce the price of games and nobody would dispute it would create a wider audience and an increase in sales. It's not the message the industry is objecting to, it's the method FairPlay is using. "Don't Buy A Videogame Week" takes place between 1st and 8th of December 2002 and consumers are asked not to buy games in an attempt to force the industry to lower prices.

It seems a little strange that an organization that claims to be helping the industry out of a rut, in the same breath is trying to snatch Christmas profits from indie retailers who have no control over pricing and wealthy chains alike. On top of that, the industry now has to worry about the negative PR being generated by these so called industry professionals. Not content with the barrage of abuse and scapegoating the industry already suffers, FairPlay sees fit to add copious amounts of fuel to this particularly well stoked fire. The campaign already has support from The Sun newspaper and BBC Online, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the media whoop with delight as they jump onto the bandwagon.

It's all come a bit out of the blue. I mean, until last week there were no discussion, no press releases, no articles in industry mags, letters to editors, stuff like that. One day everything's ticking along nicely, the next some renegade bunch of lone gunmen types are kicking up a right stink. Apparently, FairPlay has decided to skip right past the talking to the industry bit and head right onto the full scale half-cocked revolution stage.

Take a look at the site and you'll see some pretty impressive quotes from the likes of Charles Cecil, Computer Trade Weekly (which incidentally doesn't exist anymore), Edge magazine and various industry types. Somehow it all loses some credence when the cover of MCV, the UK's leading games trade magazine, features a statement from Lionhead Studios disassociating Peter Molyneux from the FairPlay campaign after they quoted him on the site without his permission. Apparently, FairPlay nicked the quote from an interview Molyneux gave six years ago (yes, I did say six), took it out of context and used it to substantiate its own flimsy claims. Now I think this would count as foul play – don't you dear play chums?

One has to wonder, if FairPlay has all the industry support it keeps banging on about, then why oh why does it have to fabricate quotes at all? And if Molyneux's quote is a fiction, then are any of them real? Apparently, the controversial FairPlay campaign is supported by a team of journalists and industry veterans, but most of them have chosen to remain anonymous, which could be interpreted as non-existent.

All a public campaign can succeed in doing is damage the game industry's public profile. FairPlay seems to think that the industry can survive on software prices ranging from £10 to £20 on the basis that it costs 40 pence to reproduce a game – we just won't mention development costs. Then they go on to make naïve comparisons with the movie and music industry, with another ream of nonsensical quotes and figures.

To be honest, the FairPlay bunch are a bit scary – whoever they are!? It's all a bit conspiracy theorist and I wonder how many supporters the website's hysterical rants are going to garner. I wouldn't be surprised if they all subscribe to Fortean Times and have an armory of light guns back at their bunkers, sitting alongside the tins of Spam and powdered eggs as they wait for the invasion of giant, killer £40 videogames from outer space.

At the moment, the industry is remaining quiet and the only official statement has come from Nintendo, who were quick off the mark to put FairPlay in their place. FairPlay are seemingly determined to "help" an industry that would rather they just naff off quite frankly, until they can come up with a less laughable approach to the whole affair. I mean do they honestly think that mums and grans are going to boycott their local games retailer, instead of buying little Johnny the game he wants? That's who's buying games at Christmas and trust me FP, they're not going to be reading your site.

We all agree that lowering software prices is a good sentiment, but damaging the industry's public image with an ill-informed campaign is not the way forward and certainly isn't playing fair.

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