Under normal circumstances they wouldn't be seen dead together, but Sony Computer Entertainment and Microsoft have hoisted the white flag in what is widely regarded as the war of the gaming consoles in an effort to combat a more insidious problem -- piracy.
Microsoft Australia, Sony Computer Entertainment and Roadshow Entertainment have destroyed more than $600,000 worth of counterfeit products that were seized this year. They are also working to get the message out to the channel -- beware of offers that seem too good to be true.
"We have had several examples this year where resellers have been duped," said Mark Iles, Microsoft director for small and medium business, Microsoft Australia. "Everyone likes a great deal and obviously there will be genuine cases, but often it's an indication of a counterfeit product."
Resellers are being urged to look for signs of piracy in the lead up to Christmas, such as rock-bottom prices, products without packaging and handwritten labels. They are also being warned about distributors that offer unusual inventory explanations, such as special deals with the publisher.
"Make sure you are doing due diligence," Iles advised. "It's getting increasingly difficult to tell if a product is counterfeit. We released a full edge-to-edge hologram with our XP range which is incredibly hard to copy, but it has been done."
Pirated products have been sourced from all over Australia and from a variety of different channels -- from the Internet and local markets to high-quality counterfeits brought in by organised crime gangs. The haul included software titles such as Windows XP and Office, DVD movies and PlayStation games, but Microsoft has found itself with another problem that you don't often hear about -- pirated mice.
"Mice are relatively easy to copy -- they just add the Microsoft logo -- and it can actually be quite hard to tell the fake product from the original," Iles said.
Through most of this year Microsoft and Sony have been arch rivals in the games sector, but Iles said both companies recognised the need for a united front to combat the piracy issue. Next year the companies will team up with other organisations to lobby the government at a cross-industry level.
"In addition to losing royalties for developers and large dollars for legitimate retailers, consumers ultimately pay as the products are of inferior quality and are not protected by warranties," said Sony Computer Entertainment managing director Michael Ephraim. "It also damages the local economy because taxes are not being paid on pirated goods."
Microsoft has set up its own "how to tell" online wizard to help customers and the channel identify counterfeit goods. It's dedicated hotline has also seen a marked increase in callers in the past 12 months.
"We spend a lot of time putting the tools in the hands of the good guys so that the honest guys can make an honest dollar," Iles said.