Birmingham raid nets bumper modded Xbox 360 haul

Trading standards officers have seized a bumper haul of Xbox 360 consoles modified to play illegitimately obtained games at an address in Birmingham, shutting down a nascent business which specialised in carrying out console modification.

According to coverage in the local 'paper The Bearsden Herald, a task force comprised of members of the Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, and the Association of UK Interactive Entertainment raided a city centre apartment following a tip-off from a member of the public.

The raid resulted in the seizure of 250 Xbox 360 consoles and hard drives, 450 copied Xbox 360 games, five computers, and unspecified 'circumvention devices' designed to modify the consoles in such a way to bypass the digital restrictions management technology in order to play illegitimately downloaded titles.

While the official line is that the haul has a headline-grabbing 'street value' of £500,000, the reality is likely to be significantly less impressive. The top-end Xbox 360 S console, with 250GB hard drive, retails at just over £150. Assuming that the individuals responsible were charging £50 a time for modification, that gives the 250 seized consoles a value of £50,000.

The games, assuming they are up-to-date titles, would have a recommended retail price of up to £50 and an actual selling price of nearer £40. As pirated copies, however, they would fetch closer to £5 to £10 a piece, suggesting a total value of the collection of somewhere between £2,250 and £4,500.

Making the assumption that the five PCs captured in the raid were high-end systems, we can assume a total value of around £10,000. Putting it all together, thinq_ estimates the 'street value' of the seized goods to be closer to £64,500, plus the value of the unspecified 'circumvention equipment.' An impressive enough figure, to be sure, but a far cry from the claimed £500,000.

Despite the somewhat dodgy mathematics used to reach the impressive half-million total, those involved are claiming the raid to be a success. "While some may think 'chipping' or 'flashing' is a victimless crime, the truth is that such activity directly supports the black market in counterfeit games," claimed public protection committee chair Neil Eustace, "which in turn endangers legitimate jobs and businesses in Birmingham."

So far, details of any arrests made as part of the raid have not been released.

The crackdown comes shortly after Microsoft released a firmware update for its consoles which enhanced the DRM system in order to make it harder to play copied games on its consoles. Such technological measures rarely stump the pirates for long, however, and as long as there are members of the public who don't relish spending £50 on a new release game there will be a market for modification services.