How much is a pirated, pre-release copy of Splatterhouse worth? Ask one of the game developers behind the title, and they will likely tell you it is priceless. On the other hand, if you ask the Michigan man offering up copies for sale on the Internet, the answer is much more precise: $675.
Currently scheduled for release later this year, Namco's Splatterhouse is a reimagining of the original arcade game. Though the arcade original and its home conversion are somewhat passé by today's standards, the inclusion of blood and gore (not to mention the protagonist's uncanny resemblance to Jason from the "Friday the 13th" series of films, ensured plenty of public controversy when the game first hit home consoles.
These days, however, it's not a little virtual blood that has anyone worried. It's the ease with which a digital copy of a movie or game can be spread through the Internet. As broadband penetration becomes more common throughout the world, cases of leaked intellectual property are becoming visible on a global scale rather than a local one.
A decade back, getting a bootleg movie or pirated game usually meant going to a local flea market or dealing with a shady seller on a street corner. Today, torrents abound and pirates openly advertise their wares on Internet classified ads like those found on CraigsList.
On Tuesday, a user going by the handle "dulledblade" advertised pre-release copies of the Xbox 360 version of Splatterhouse in a for-sale ad on a popular gaming collector site, ASSEMbler.
Part of a larger sale of development hardware, dulledblade describes the game as an, "Unreleased Completed Beta of Splatterhouse. The game can be played like normal or with debug options that can be accessed via the select button. The intro video was comprised of the rough animations, but better than a story board. There is also a couple physics test rooms and other special tests that can be performed."
He did not say if the version of Splatterhouse purportedly up for sale was the version developed by the now-defunct Bottlerocket or the version that was retooled by Namco Bandai's Afro Samurai team after it brought the project in-house in February 2009. To prove that he was in possession of a copy of the game, dulledblade also posted a number of screenshots from the unreleased title; each one showed an image of the game and bore a post-it note with his name.
Seemingly in an effort to reassure potential buyers, dulledblade has made little attempt to hide his identity, posting some of his items for sale on multiple Web sites, including the Xbox enthusiast site, Xbox-Scene, where he lists an Xbox Live Gamertag of the same name in his profile. Apparently, dulledblade has not heard of Gilberto Sanchez, the New York man recently arrested by the FBI for illegally uploading a pre-release copy of "Wolverine" to the Internet.
According to the FBI, criminal copyright infringement "is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000."
We've requested an official comment from Namco Bandai on the situation, but did not receive a response by press time. In the meantime, be sure to check out the gallery images of the original ad.
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