Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 08:01 UK

Free games to beat the pirates

By Paddy O'Flaherty
BBC News

David Perry
David Perry was in Belfast to pick up an honorary doctorate

Computer games experts have devised a way to beat the pirates who cost their industry a fortune.

Manufacturers plan to give away their games for free.

The scheme was revealed by one of the industry's leading entrepreneurs, Lisburn-born David Perry.

His best-known creations include Enter the Matrix, Earthworm Jim and Messiah.

"The next big thing will be free games," he said.

Mr Perry said the plan "sounds crazy" but it had already proved successful in Asia.

"They had so much piracy that they decided to stop charging for the games. Instead, there'll be a charge for things you might want to use in the game," he said.

"Your character might have a plain white T-shirt. If you wanted a nicer one you could have it for a dollar. Or perhaps you could buy a magic sword for a knight for a dollar."

He said this approach had already proved successful in Asia.

"It's going to turn our industry on its head and I want to see the same thing happening in the USA and Europe."

Mr Perry was speaking in Belfast after being awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen's University for his pioneering work in computer game development and design.

In 2002 his Shiny Entertainment company was sold to Atari for $47m.

Games piracy is a huge problem according to ELSPA, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association.

A spokesman said: "It's estimated that over 2bn is lost every year by UK industry to games software counterfeiters."

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