That depends on how much control I had. If I was working for any normal publisher, then I wouldn’t have any choice at all. I’d have to use whatever system they told me to.
But if I was making an indie game, or if I miraculously had the clout to dictate terms to a publisher, then I’d take my own advice:
1) I’d leave out all DRM, so that paying customers would get just as good an experience as the inevitable pirates. The pirates wouldn’t have the better version of the game, so customers wouldn’t have to choose between getting the “good” version for free vs. getting the hassle version for $money.
2) I’d keep running this blog, and keep myself open to the community, and I wouldn’t discourage people on my team (assuming I had a team) from doing the same, even if it meant they might sometimes say things that revealed that our company was not a utopia of harmony and boundless creativity.
People might be okay with ripping off a faceless company, but they will be less so if they see the game as the result of hard work from real people.
3) I’d have a demo, if possible. I’d make sure the demo was as representative of the final product as possible. I’d make sure the demo was worth downloading. None of this “1.5GB download for fifteen minutes of play” crap I’m seeing these days. The idea is to get the player hooked, and then sell them the game. You can’t get hooked on a game in fifteen minutes. (Usually.)
4) It depends on the game, but if I was running a Stardock-sized company I’d try to entice people to register, and make registration a requirement for getting free add-ons and updates. Although, if the development team was a one or two person operation this would be less viable. You need a good bit of infrastructure for a system like that, and it would probably be beyond the reach of indies.
5) I’d make sure that the game had the same pricetag and the same release date in all English-speaking countries. There is no reason to make Australia or the UK wait for months on end. I’d have a downloadable version so the customer can do an end-run around retail outfits that want to mark the $50 game up to $100. This will head off the would-be pirates who are frustrated at being made to pointlessly wait for months on end and then asked to pay double for no reason.
All of this still wouldn’t prevent piracy, but it would try to convert as many of them into customers as possible.
I know, I know: Easier said than done. Talk is cheap. I’m sure a lot of things are near impossible. Publishers dictate terms to the developers, not the other way around. Retailers dictate terms to the publisher, not the other way around. Still, this is how I’d approach the problem if I were on the developer side of things and I had the power to have my way.
Win or lose, I’d know I was Doing The Right Thing.
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