What is Piracy?

By Shamus
on Jun 4, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

My daughter Esther has been really keen on watching me play the Witcher 3, which I’m really enjoying. After a while I can tell she’d really rather be playing herself. Finally she asks if she can play it on her computer. My first thought is that her computer probably isn’t up to it, but I’m not sure. So I tell her she needs to buy a copy of the gameShe might also need some upgrades. I need to check. This game is a monster..

Later Esther comes to me slightly perplexed and asks me point-blank, “Dad, how come I have to get my own copy of the game? Can’t I just install yours?”

I pause the game and let out a slow breath. She’s 15, and I can’t believe this has never come up before. Everyone in the family has Steam accounts and their own game collections, and nobody has ever taken a stab at this question before now. I guess the $60 price tag is giving her a reason to ponder this. “Well, if it was a book and we both wanted to read it at the same time, then we’d need two copies.”

She is nodding before I’m done saying the words. As soon as I stop talking she blurts out, “Yeah, but that’s a physical book. This is like a Kindle book, and you can have those on several devices at once.”

“Okay. So you think it’s reasonable that you and I could play the game on two different computers at the same time?”

“Well… yeah,” she says with a little uncertainty.

I try to lighten the tone. I don’t want her to think I’m accusing her of wanting anything wrong. I’m just trying to suss out how she thinks things should work. I present it as a thought experiment. “So what if everyone in the family downloaded the game and we all played it on our machines at the same time? Is that ok?”

“Yes?” she says even more uncertainly. It’s clear she hadn’t imagined this possibility.

“What if we shared it with your uncles?” She has a lot of uncles, but in this context she knows I’m talking about my brothers Pat and Dan.

“No, that wouldn’t be right.”

“Why?”

“They don’t live with us.”

“So it’s based on who you live with?”

“Yeah.”

“So what if you were in a dorm with like 50 people? Would it be okay to share the game with them?”

“No!” It’s clear this idea is preposterous to her. “They’re not related to us.”

“So it’s based on family relations, then?”

“No, I’m just talking about the people in this house.”

“So what if you move out and live in California? Would it be okay to share the game with you then?”

She’s getting annoyed at this point so I back off. This sounds kind of like I’m trying to trick her, or lead her to some conclusion of my own devising. But really I just want to know what the kid thinks. She’s never really followed stories about DRM and piracy, but she clearly has some kind of rudimentary model of how it ought to work. Entirely on her own, she’s built up a system that makes sense to her. She doesn’t want to pirate the game, she just doesn’t know the rules. And now she’s seeing the rules are kind of arbitrary.

I’m sure if I kept poking we could map out her ad-hoc system. It’s probably based on people who live with you, but only up to a certain arbitrary number. Dorms might have different rules from houses and roommates might have different rules than family members. The system might get more flexible as a game ages, so that if a game is old then we’re just “sharing”, but if the game is new then it’s piracy. Maybe playtime matters, so that it doesn’t count as piracy if share I game I’ve finished, even though I’ve still got it installed on my machine and could theoretically run it anytime I wanted.

This is one of the reasons the piracy debate is so touchy. We all have a mental model of what is right and wrong with regard to digital property. Older people like me often drag our old physical media expectations into this new world, talking about games like books or music discs. The younger generation doesn’t know what it’s like to point to a shelf containing hundreds of dollars of physical music media and say, “I own that.”

Some people take a legalistic approach: “The law says X is illegal, therefore X is piracy.” This is problematic, because it’s clear that many laws are stupid and unjust, or badly written, or plain nonsense.

Some people take a pragmatic approach, “X is the only definition that makes sense [to me], therefore X is piracy.” This is problematic, since it’s pretty clear that digital rights are either harsh and draconian, or they’re a big shades-of-grey mess.

Some people take an idealistic “do unto others” approach, “I don’t care what the law says. If I was selling a game, I’d want people to do X but not Y. So therefore that’s how I’ll treat games.” This is problematic because – as I outlined above – we all likely have our own idea of how it ought to work, which means everyone would be following different rules.

Some people take a “respect the artist” approach. “I’ll go by whatever system the seller wants to use, even if it doesn’t make sense to me and even if the law says I ought to have more freedom. If I find their rules too overbearing, I’ll just forgo getting the game.” This is problematic because it’s basically agreeing to put up with the ridiculous rules publishers want to push, even to the point where you might get locked out of a game you’ve paid for and should legally be able to access. It means giving up convenience and your right to make backups.

Note that all four people above consider themselves to be honest people – none of them would call themselves pirates. (Let’s not even begin to try and enumerate all the different classes of pirate. We’d be here all day.)

To answer the question in the headline: I have no idea. I’m very paladin when it comes to the rules, but I don’t condemn people who take other approaches. It’s a strange world we live in. Games are expensive to make, expensive to buy, super-cheap to distribute, and everyone has a different price in mind of what a given game or genre is worth to them. Sometimes bad DRM drives reasonable customers to piracy in pure self-defense. (I paid for this game and the DRM won’t let me play it. I’m going to turn to piracy from now on to protect myself.) Good DRM can turn pirates into customers. (Sure the version on the torrents is free, but I love the achievements, multiplayer, cloud saves, and auto-updating convenience of the Steam version.) You can distribute a game to an unlimited number of people for nearly free.

For the record, I’m letting my daughter install my copy of The Witcher on her machine. If it works, I’ll buy her a copy for herself. There’s no DRM on the game (I bought it through GoG.com) so I’m free to do this. Also, since there’s no DRM on the game I don’t mind doing this. CD Projekt has decided to treat me like a customer and not a criminal, so I’m going to treat them like artists and not adversaries.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] She might also need some upgrades. I need to check. This game is a monster.


is a programmer, an author, and nearly a composer. He works on this site full time. If you’d like to support him, you can do so via Patreon or PayPal.

A Hundred!A Hundred!203223 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Gary says:

    I have always admired your stance of Pirating, Shamus, and for the most part, it seems to echo mine (though maybe mine echoes yours – I’ve been reading for a while).
    I really do think that your course is best, of following the rules that the publishers have set up, but only if you want the deal with the publishers. Basically, deciding whether or not to play the game that the publisher is offering.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Typo bolded:

    Maybe playtime matters, so that it doesn’t count as piracy if share I game I’ve finished, even though I’ve still got it installed on my machine and could theoretically run it anytime I wanted.

  3. LadyTL says:

    Steam has addressed this slightly with their family linking system. Both me and my husband have steam accounts and they are linked. So I can play his games and he can play mine. I think there is limits on it though. I haven’t dug too much into it since it’s just the two of us.

    • Supahewok says:

      I’ve done the same with my brother. Limit is that I can’t play a game on his list at the same time he’s playing it. That’s it. I really like it, although it means I have to get my own copy of a game if I want to play co-op with him, which is fair.

    • Robyrt says:

      Yeah, this system does a good job of modeling Shamus’ daughter’s concept of piracy. You can play each other’s games, but not at the same time, and there’s a hard upper limit on the number of people you can consider “family”.

      My family used to have a big shared drive with all our music, so we could all listen to each other’s songs. It’s pretty similar, although of course there are far fewer controls.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Yeah, the family system is a reason why I like Steam. My brother-in-law and I regularly play each others’ games when the original owner is finished with it.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I’m… surprised I’ve never heard about this.

      I mean, I don’t have any need to use it, but still… surprising.

    • For some reason we have been unable to get the family system to work. Maybe because of version/OS type, maybe something weird about our network, but for some reason no one can see anyone else’ computer. It would be lovely if we COULD get it to work because one daughter has the original shared account with all the games, and Shamus’ account has a lot of the kids games from before they had Steam accounts and computers that could run the games.

      • Blastinburn says:

        You don’t need to see eachother’s computers on the same network, you need to logino to someone else’s computer, then go to the steam options menu and approve each user which has logged into steam on that computer to use your library on that computer.(Ex. Shamus logs into Esther’s computer and approves her to use his steam library, she can only play his games on that computer unless they both log in and he approves her again on another.) You will need to repeat this for each computer each person wants to use and can only approve accounts which have already logged into that computer. (Ex. Shamus could not approve you to play his games on his computer until you logged into steam on it.) Thankfully, the list of users and computers are not stored as pairs but in separate lists.

        I get the feeling this system was designed for people who share a single family computer, more than for families with multiple computers, but it works and doesn’t violate any of the rules or intent as I can tell.

        I appologize for the wall-o-text and will gladly clear up anything I said if I not write good.

        • Cuthalion says:

          This. It’s a little counterintuitive, but it’s nice once you get it working. The requirement for physical access to the computer helps cement the idea that this is for people who are part of your household or close friends who live nearby, and sharing isn’t sinning.

        • CrushU says:

          The biggest limitation I’ve run into is that I can’t play games from my brother’s library if he’s playing ANYTHING, whether he’s playing that specific game or not.

          If he’s playing a game from my library, and I start playing some other game, he’s reported that he gets a warning and the game kicks him off a short time afterwards.

        • Eruanno says:

          Ooohhh. I see. That actually makes sense in a roundabout way. That way the owner of the games needs to be there to approve that yes, he or she does want to share these games with this person.

  4. The Snide Sniper says:

    Just FYI, Steam has a family library-sharing option. It won’t share all your games, and it won’t let two people play the same (shared) game simultaneously, but for sharing single-player games it’s perfect.

    In essence Steam has a system that imitates the CD-ROM days, except you can’t set up a LAN party by ejecting the CD after starting the game.

    • If using the correct analogy this would mean the CD-ROM days that had DRM on the disc and if you had internet you had to uninstall it first from one system before you could install on another.

      GOG.com does the same though as Stems Family thing only fort all games and they use no DRM to enforce it (unlike steam).

      GOG.com is basically DRM free CD’s if one should use a analogy.

      GOG.com are aware people let close friends and family play a copy, but they are counting on the fact that people like Shamus will ensure they are paid if that copy is played regularly/is enjoyed.

      • The Snide Sniper says:

        Yes, I am referring to the days when games would check for the corresponding CD on startup.

        For the customer, other than the problems with CD damage (which could be averted to some extent by burning copies of the CDs), the system was rather fair. A family or small group of friends could share one CD by ejecting it after starting the game, and passing it on to the next person, but any significant geographical distance would very effectively discourage sharing.

        I agree that it was not a perfect system; a perfect system would be DRM-free and honor-based. It was, however, a fairly good compromise between customer convenience and sharing-discouragement.

        • Blackbird71 says:

          “…a perfect system would be DRM-free and honor-based.”

          So, GOG.com?

          • The Snide Sniper says:

            Yes, if the game is available there for a reasonable price.

            GoG is a wonderful system, but it depends on publishers being willing to have their games on the site, which doesn’t happen very often with new releases.

            It also tends to be easier to find a game on sale on Steam than it is to find one on GoG. A quick, and far from scientific look indicates that ~80% of GoG’s catalog is $9.99 or higher (unless on sale). This includes horribly buggy software, such as Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood. When I was younger, I ended up with a band of 2 Robin Hoods, 8 Little Johns, etc., and the game became unplayable because my thousands of merry men were in the way.

            That said, GoG is an excellent first place to check for a game.

            • Blackbird71 says:

              There’s no question that GOG’s selection is limited, and some of it can be buggy; those are perfectly valid criticisms.

              However, on the price issue, I guess it comes down to how much more are you willing to pay for the “perfect” DRM system? $9.99 is still pretty cheap for most games, and if a few dollars’ difference is what it costs to get a game off of GOG as compared to a platform that tells me I don’t really own my games (even if it does it nicely like Steam), then I’ll pay that extra price.

              But I usually find that if I exercise patience and keep my eye on their weekend deals, just about everything on GOG goes on sale eventually, and for prices comparable to or better than Steam sales. I’ve probably picked up most of my GOG library for under $2/game.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Did they change it the last time I tried it? Because then, it was a little different: as long as Person A was playing a game from their Steam list, Person B couldn’t play any game on Person A’s list. That’s not quite like the CD-ROM days; only if you have all your games on a single CD-ROM.

      • vdeogmer says:

        No, it hasn’t been changed. Steam family sharing is sharing your entire library. If you are using any game in your library, none of your games are able to be used by anyone that you are sharing your library out to.

        • Mistwraithe says:

          Does offline mode get around this?

          • Rick says:

            No, well maybe. For Adam to play Bill’s games, Adam has to be online, regardless if Bill even has his computer on. How ever I suppose if Bill unplugged his internet (I suspect Steam’s Offline mode has some systems to prevent this) then Adam could play Bill’s games, while Bill remains offline, though I haven’t tested this.

            • Felblood says:

              Actually, Bill can just put his steam into Offline Mode, and play all the single player games he wants, and Adam will get full access to Bill’s library.

              The trouble comes up if Adam wants to use any of the social features of steam, or play a multi-player game.

              I’ve got a brother with very intermittent internet access and a huge steam library, so this works out great for me.

              This system was developed back when Valve were still clearly good guys, and since then they have actively avoided making any changes that might draw attention to the fact that this feature still exists.

          • acronix says:

            I think it does as long as Steam doesn’t enter one of it’s “I’m not letting you play off-line because you didn’t login in more than a week” craziness.

          • Abnaxis says:

            I…think so. It’s been a few months so I might be remembering wrong, but my family apparently can’t figure out how to gift things in Steam. So, my copy of Risk of Rain wound up on someone else’s account, and I remember being able to play it in offline mode…

            IIRC, I didn’t even have to unplug the internet. Just click the ‘Offline Mode’ option from the menu and you are golden, assuming you don’t want to play any sort of online game.

            • Felblood says:

              I’m not sure that still works.

              When my internet goes out, any games that are not part of the currently logged-in user’s library declare that they are “Not ready to be played in offline mode.”

              This can be a problem if the game i want is in my library and my wife was logged in, or vice versa.

              However, I don’t think it’ll kick you out of a game already launched if you go offline.

      • Chuk says:

        It’s more like Steam was your family’s game console — if someone else is playing the Playstation, then you can’t play it.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The younger generation doesn’t know what it’s like to point to a shelf containing hundreds of dollars of physical music media and say, “I own that.”

    They also dont know what its like to just lend the disc to your friend and have them play when you are done with it.Though,with gog and their anti drm policy,they may be introduced to this again,in time.

    Some people take a legalistic approach: “The law says X is illegal, therefore X is piracy.” This is problematic, because it’s clear that many laws are stupid and unjust, or badly written, or plain nonsense.

    This wouldnt be problematic if someone actually made a well thought out,thorough and consistent law about digital property.

    • KingMarth says:

      Well, that would solve the problem right up until someone disagreed with the “well-thought-out, thorough, and consistent” law. Insert your choice of demons here, the usual one is “companies looking to make money” but be creative!

      The flaw being pointed out here is that since stupid laws exist, you should be hesitant to assert that an idea is good because it’s backed by a law. To be fair, there are lots of good ideas backed by laws and they usually get that way because they were a good idea at the time, but values change and there are sometimes hidden repercussions to enforcing ideas that sound perfectly reasonable on paper. Again, pick your choice of historically legal evils.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It goes the other way as well.Just because there are stupid laws aplenty,doesnt mean that no law is smart,or that new laws shouldnt be made and refined constantly.Especially for new stuff.

      • MichaelPalin says:

        The sad part is that laws typically come after an argumentation and accompanied by a set goal that explains what for and why they have been passed. It is that goal the part that is important, not the body of the law. If it is proven that a given laws has not achieved its goal, it should simply be revised and changed, instead of fetishized.

        • Svick says:

          Do they? I thought laws generally don’t have such justifications (with some very limited exceptions like the Copyright Clause in the US Constitution), so we’re stuck with all the problems of the current system (including ridiculous stuff like riders).

          Explicitly stating goals is exactly what I think the legal system should focus on much more. And if the goal is not being achieved, the courts (the supreme court?) should be able to abolish the law.

          • Trix2000 says:

            There is some precedent (how much I’m not entirely sure) for things being enforced ‘in the spirit of the law’ rather than strictly as-written. There are, of course, people who focus more on the legal wording instead… but that really depends on the situation and people involved.

            • Abnaxis says:

              If you spend time studying (American, at least) Constitutional law, you’ll find many competing schools of though on how to interpret and apply the original intent of a law (the “General Theories of Interpretation” list on the right is a pretty good list).

              So yeah, reading intent is most definitely part of the legal process.

    • Vermander says:

      Agree about the physical media expectations bit. Totally different than when I was a kid.

      Video games are expensive, and unless you had a particularly rich (or spoiled) friend, most of us didn’t own a huge library of titles. Usually me or one of my friends would get a game, play it for a while and then let other people borrow it once we beat it or got bored with it. We couldn’t both play it at the same time on separate machines, but we could share our copy with as many people as we wanted, as many times as we wanted. There was no need to register anything. The mentality was that we had paid for the physical disk/cartridge and we were free to lend it to anyone we wanted, like a CD or a DVD. Sometimes, if I really liked a game I borrowed from someone else, I would eventually buy my own copy.

      Of course it’s much easier for kids today to steal games too, without even leaving their rooms.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        I also grew up with video stores that rented console games, so even though I didn’t own many cartridges as a kid, between rentals and borrowing from friends and classmates, I got to play quite a few.

        Of course, in the Commodore 64 era we all pirated like crazy.

      • Tizzy says:

        I grew up in a time where most household did not have computers (or micros, as we used to call them). So needless to say games were *very* expensive (and seldom all that good, TBH).

        I feel like it puts me in a very awkward place to discuss piracy, given that I went from a state where poor access to games made them difficult to pirate (still happened though) to now when I have absolutely no temptation to pirate (time being more than money the limiting factor).

      • Humanoid says:

        I was a terrible pirate. I bought a CD burner for hundreds of dollars, but out of laziness, I may have ended up pirating maybe two or three games, ever, with it. And probably ended up not playing half of those anyway. So yeah, when people say piracy doesn’t cost anyone money, I can categorically say that’s untrue, it cost teenage me a relative fortune. :P

    • Merlin says:

      I mean, it’s not like lending physical games media is unheard of these days; I played a borrowed copy of Mass Effect on 360 and that was last console generation. Publishers may be installing more Ask.com Toolbar-esque dickery these days, but the practice is hardly dead.

    • Humanoid says:

      A publisher would look at my shelf with that box set containing both a vinyl and CD copy of the same album, then accuse me of piracy if I play both at the same time. After all, I only bought one licence to play the music.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’m very paladin when it comes to the rules, but I don’t condemn people who take other approaches.

    Whats a paladin?

  7. Infinitron says:

    Is Witcher 3 suitable for 15 year old girls?

    • Shamus says:

      According to tradition and common practice? No. But I’m cool with her playing it. It’s got violence and nudity, but I don’t think any of it is bad for her moral outlook or mental state.

      • It also has a lot of cases of “right is not always right”, and “wrong is not always wrong”. There is a lot of moral ambiguity that crop up in the game. Gives the brain-cells some exercise.

        • Dev Null says:

          And gives you an excuse to actually talk about those kinds of issues with your kids, in a context that you both share. That kind of opportunity is parenting gold.

          • Heh! I think that Shamus and his daughter might identify with Geralt and Ciri. You do not see that much of it in the start but they have a pretty cool Father/Daughter relationship.

            (mild/barely a spoiler, but I’ll strike it for those that want the ending choices to be a complete surprise, some strategic points/choices are needed to get the best ending, think of these as hints)
            If you romance either Yennifer or Triss then you get the choice to go with them at the end of the main story, if you do not go with them (they will ask/it will come up in a dialog option) then Geralt and Ciri ending occurs instead and they basically just go and do Witcher things as Father and Daughter, and it’s a nice and sweet ending. Do note that the Ciri ending have three variants depending on how you treated her during the game, be a caring/doting/playful father and you’ll get the best one.

            (fully spoiler free)
            Near the end, instead of taking off with one of the two characters you can romance, simply don’t. And throughout the game make sure you are a caring/doting/playful father instead, it gives the best (IMO) ending.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It should really depend on the girl in question.

      • Ben Cranks says:

        I agree, Shamus is in the best position to judge this after all things that one child will find upsetting can wash off another’s back entirely. I remember devouring rather grisly ‘true crime’ magazines when I was 12 for example but was still deeply disturbed by horror films until my late teens.

        • Very similar here. No horror, thank you very much (and very little real world news because triggers anxiety) but we watch and read all kinds of mysteries without a thought, and the kids have been exposed to Shamus playing all sorts of games from a very early age. Sure there are things we suggest they stay away from but generally speaking each kid is really good at recognizing what is suitable to each of them (also, they look out for each other, and for me- since there are a lot of things my oldest can cope with that traumatizes me.)

          • Benjamin Hilton says:

            When I was younger I watched allot of shows with my mom that I was probably a little to young for(shows like Buffy an angel for example). But the key was that we watched it together, so she was always there to put the adult content into context.

    • As far as violence and nudity, the violence is not as bad as some Teen rated games out there. And the nudity is mostly tasteful. From what I’ve seen so far Dragon Age has the same amount of nudity.

      Witcher 3 is a mature game for mature people, but not due to violence and nudity, it’s the themes and stories and how various characters treat other (and their backstories/stories) that can get pretty dark. If Shamus feels she is ready to handle topics and make choices in situations that concern the life and death of others in the Witcher world then that can only further her development.

      Also Shamus is not raising a kid at this point, but guiding an teenager to mature into an adult, a key point of that is not treating them like a kid any more but treating them as if they where an adult. It’s the same reason you should not baby talk to babies, you’ll stunt their learning but not using actual normal speech.

      • Henson says:

        “an teenager” Man, grammatical rules are just getting weird. *wink*

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Dragon Age has nudity? I only played the first one, which just has the infamously awkward medieval-fantasy bikini/briefs grope session.

      • Kacky Snorgle says:

        “It’s the same reason you should not baby talk to babies, you’ll stunt their learning but not using actual normal speech.”

        Really? Back when, my college linguistics professor said that hearing “baby talk” from adults actually helps babies learn language. Is this another one of those things science has changed its mind about in the past couple of decades? (There are enough of them that I’m beginning to feel distinctly obsolete….)

        • Ronixis says:

          There are different perspectives on that; psychology isn’t as clear-cut as something like physics. I’m personally on the side of using normal speech.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Physics isnt that clear cut either,ever since the quantum was proposed.

            • Nixitur says:

              That’s kind of a misconception. Quantum mechanics makes very precise statements about how the world works and those conclusions have been shown to be correct.
              The idea that “quantum” just means physicists shrugging their shoulders as to what is going on is frankly ridiculous.

              • MichaelGC says:

                ‘Not clear cut’ will just be a sly reference to the uncertainty principle, I’d wager.

                • acronix says:

                  Isn’t it that some parts of physics work following quantum mechanics and other parts don’t, despite there being not a very good reason for why they wouldn’t just all follow quantum mechanics?

                  • Taellosse says:

                    With the caveat that I’m not a physicist, I think it’s mostly the other way around – lots of physics works fine under the newtonian model (which is shorthand for everything that came before quantum mechanics was postulated), but it all breaks down when you start moving into sub-atomic particles’ behavior.

                    That said, there are still big unknowns in physics even today. They still aren’t quite sure what causes gravity (they can model its behavior, but they don’t know where it comes from), or how that force integrates with the other fundamental forces that have been identified (the “Higgs boson” that was recently discovered is part of this, actually). You might have heard of the search for a “grand unified theory” – there are several candidates being tested, with a popular one being known as “string theory.”

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    Actually, the uncertainty principle is a law from quantum physics that says there is a quantified limit on how much you can know about a particle at any given point in time for certain pairs of physical properties. For example, the more accurately you know the position of a particle, the less accurately it’s possible to know it’s momentum.

                    Here’s the wiki article for it, though it’s probably hard to follow. I like to think of it like trying to figure out the exact position and velocity of a fast-moving baseball from a photograph. If the picture was taken at a slow shutter speed, you have an accurate ruler, and you know the size of the baseball, you can very accurately calculate the velocity of the ball by measuring the dimensions of the smear it makes in the picture–but that same smearing means it’s impossible to make out the exact position of the baseball when the photograph was taken. With a very fast shutter speed, you can see more precisely where the ball was but it looks like the ball was immobile no matter how fast it was moving. It’s the same sort of thing with subatomic particles (or anything else that behaves like a wave).

                    Quantum physics does make incredibly precise statements about how the world works. One of those precise statements is “there’s a precise limit to the information you can possess at any given point in time, even if you have access to all the information in the universe you could possibly collect.”

                    Fortunately for most practical purposes, that limit is “pretty damn accurate.”

                  • Richard says:

                    Not really. It’s a question of the needed accuracy/precision when modelling a particular system.

                    For a concrete example:

                    – You’re measuring out a piecrust. PI is a little more than 3 – that’s close enough.

                    – You’re measuring a precision machine, so you might need to say that PI is 3.14159 to get close enough.

                    – You’re measuring an orbit, so you might need to say that PI is 3.14159265359.

                    And so on.

                    It’s the same with Physics.

                    When you’re working with stuff that is not too big and not too fast, Newtonian mechanics is close enough.

                    When you’re working with stuff that is very big or very fast, Relativity is close enough.

                    When you’re working with stuff that is very small and not too fast, the Standard Model is close enough.

                    When you’re doing what the LHC is currently doing, it’s really exciting because we don’t know what’s close enough…

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      That’s still not quite it. There’s no limit to how many digits you could calculate in pi, if you wanted to. That there is a defined limit to what we know about what happens in the LHC is what’s exciting about it.

        • Micamo says:

          It’s a popular opinion amongst professional linguistics (Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker) but, crucially, not professional linguists who actually specialize in child language acquisition.

        • Kathryn says:

          Your college professor was correct. “Motherese” (some people now call it “parentese” to encourage fathers to use it too), the speech patterns that mothers instinctively use when speaking to a child, absolutely does help children build language.

      • Humanoid says:

        The “bloody mess” trophy that you acquire early on and auto-equip made me a bit uncomfortable in terms of violence, but then it’s easy enough to unequip it. Can’t remember if it had any stats on it which I’d be losing out on though. Same thing with the new Fallouts, where taking Bloody Mess gave a damage bonus – somewhat irritating but not critical I guess – but I still prefer the original Fallout’s approach where it was a purely cosmetic trait.

        I’m an admitted wuss though, the average 15 year old girl has more fortitude than I do.

      • Blackbird71 says:

        “Mostly tasteful”? So, not like Witcher 1 then I take it?

        • Shamus says:

          I don’t know if I’d call it “tasteful”. Based on the people I know, one person’s “tasteful and understated” is another person’s “bawdry porn”.

          * I couldn’t stand the sex in Witcher 1, in either tone or presentation.
          * I was slightly put off by the opening of Witcher 2.
          * I’m good with Witcher 3. There’s nudity in the main quest, and I’m willing to bet there’s plenty more if you go looking for it. But to me it’s no worse than (say) your average HBO show.

    • Eruanno says:

      Depends on the 15 year old girl in question, doesn’t it? Arbitrarily saying “you can’t play/watch this until you’re a certain age” always felt very… er… arbitrary to me.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I’m certainly comfortable with Shamus’ judgment but this sentiment about different 15 years olds being different reminds me of when I was in my teens or barely out of them and girls (mostly) that were my friends or friends of my younger siblings would go on about either how they were mistaken for older or how they were older because they’d lived more.

        Then we all got into actual adulthood and realized that we hadn’t had a clue.

        Different 15 years olds are different but not THAT different. The cortical brain matter is still filling in at that age, no matter who hit puberty first.

        But Shamus is doing this in the best and most informed possible way. Playing this alongside his daughter and talking with her about it. I wish either of my parents had been this into games.

        • Primogenitor says:

          Talking about it is the essence here – I’m rather jealous and wishing that the conversations I’d had as a late-teen about the games I was playing had including an informed and caring adult to guide them. And clearly from the example conversation Shamus gave above he is exactly the sort of person to be involved – not dogmatic or prescriptive, but guiding and exploratory.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Different 15 years olds are different but not THAT different.

          Of course they are.Just how different adults are way different from one another.Mind you,this isnt the issue of whether kids can understand adult themes,its the issue of whether they can handle adult themes.I was able to handle predator and aliens when I was 8 years old,but it took me a few more years before I understood either of the films and was able to enjoy them as anything other than “cool effects”.

          • Taellosse says:

            The quoted comment is quite true, actually – the details vary of course, but everyone’s brains develop along a similar trajectory as they grow up. The deviations can seem really big to us because we’re on the inside of it, but they really aren’t that large. Brain cells grow and neurons connect at fairly predictable rates, and the broad arc from infancy to full adulthood is pretty close to uniform for most people. Nearly everyone who is 15 is going to fall relatively close to the same level of mental development in broad strokes.

            All of which is not to say that you aren’t right also – whether or not a given individual is mentally mature enough to handle a given piece of “adult” entertainment at a given age is just a really granular distinction.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              As Heather pointed out,handling “adult” entertainment isnt the case of being mature.You can be mature and understand sex completely,yet be embarrassed when you see it in a movie.You can be immature and understand nothing about torture,yet not bat an eye when you see it portrayed in game of thrones.

              On top of that,both being able to understand and handle “adult” entertainment has nothing to do with whether you enjoy it.

              All three of those are affected by various factors,only one of which is your mental development.The environment you grew up in also plays a fundamental role.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              All of which is not to say that you aren’t right also – whether or not a given individual is mentally mature enough to handle a given piece of “adult” entertainment at a given age is just a really granular distinction.

              Never disputed that. My comment was more of a sidebar.

      • And arbitrary is stupid. We don’t do arbitrary rules, ever.

    • Crystalgate says:

      Usually. Most 15 years old will handle games that are rated 18+ just fine. The rating system uses a “better safe than sorry” approach and “safe” often means “safe for children with paranoid parents” rather than “safe for the children’s minds”.

  8. The Rocketeer says:

    The piracy tangent is beside the point. Don’t you know that The Witcher has kissing in it, and will corrupt the childrens, and make the women faint? And Esther’s both. She might just dissolve, I don’t know how it works.

  9. Maybe playtime matters, so that it doesn’t count as piracy if share I game I’ve finished, even though I’ve still got it installed on my machine and could theoretically run it anytime I wanted.

    This is not unlike the agreement for some software. You can install as may copies as you want but only run a single instance at any given moment. In other words Single user but multiple installs. Such a license coupled with no DRM is the nicest way to treat your customers.

    If it works, I’ll buy her a copy for herself. There’s no DRM on the game (I bought it through GoG.com) so I’m free to do this. Also, since there’s no DRM on the game I don’t mind doing this. CD Projekt has decided to treat me like a customer and not a criminal, so I’m going to treat them like artists and not adversaries.

    This is why GOG is so awesome. PS! Can you gift games on GOG? Is not let her make her own account (unless she already got one) that way she can get all those (16?) DLCs that they are releasing.

    And “I’m going to treat them like artists and not adversaries” is probably the most key point in your whole article, well said.

    • Abnaxis says:

      Yes, you can gift games on GOG.com. Just bought Witcher 3 yesterday and there was a little check-box to buy it as a gift in the checkout.

      Though….I imagine you need an account to receive the gift? I don’t think you can actually download anything without an account…

      • Yeah, you need a GoG account to receive a gift through it (my friend bought me Baldur’s Gate that way). But having a GoG account is hardly the worst thing ever. :)

      • Taellosse says:

        I haven’t actually gifted anything through GOG, but I imagine it works like Steam gifting – if they have an account you can send it to that, but it will also let you send a code to their email address. They can then use the code to add it to their account, whether new-made or not.

    • TheUnhidden says:

      To answer one of your questions: Yes, you can gift games on GoG.

    • Already has one I am sure, we all do.

    • AileTheAlien says:

      “In other words Single user”
      This is basically how I feel the fundamental idea about IP law has been in the past, and should be in the future. Basically, you’re not really purchasing a copy of a book or record or game, you’re purchasing the right for a single person to use that thing. So, multiple copies of the book – multiple people can use it at the same time.

      There’s interesting edge cases to think about, however. First, how long does the person get to use the thing? As long as the physical copy lasts? Do they get to make a backup for personal use? What about originally-digital stuff, which lasts basically forever? Plus, physical goods have had a long history with the right to re-sell the thing after you no longer want it. I don’t want this book anymore, so I can sell it to my neighbour. Do I enjoy the same right for an originally-digital copy of the book? What if the selling goes publisher -> man -> his son -> his daughter -> her niece? This could max out at the lifetime of the physical media degrading, but a digital copy could last for generations. Historically that would have been covered by copyright only lasting 20 years, but that deadline is over 100 years now.

  10. MichaelPalin says:

    What she was really asking you was this: “Dad, why on Earth have you bought The Witcher 3 on Steam instead of buying it on gog DRM-free, so you could do whatever you want with it like sharing it with friends and family?”

    ***reads the whole article***

    So, it actually was a gog copy!? All the drama was unnecessary then.

    Look, I’m going to say this because it seems to fly past the head of most people when discussing this type of things: the fact that you can get a game for free does not mean you can’t still give money to the developer. That is why, for me, the discussion about piracy always start from the wrong premise. You should not be teaching your daughter that piracy is wrong, you should be teaching her that developers deserve and need to be paid for a work well done and for more games to be made. Instead of telling her that sharing is wrong, you should share the game with her because sharing culture is a wonderful human act and, then, afterwards, if she does like the game, you sit with her and talk about her responsibility towards CDProject.

  11. el_b says:

    after I bought stalker clear sky On release for full price and it literally would not work for a month ( six patches were released in that time) and it was still incredibly buggy, By the time I could play it it had dropped by £20… I decided to try everything before I will buy it, and since most games don’t have demos anymore it means a torrent a lot but if I like them I do buy them. I’m also planning on moving to another country soon and I don’t plan on taking all of my game dvds with me so I’m going to be ripping them into images, you can’t buy many of them anymore and the last thing I want is no one lives forever 1 and 2 being stolen by baggage handlers (it happens a lot where im going).

    so really im for full length demos and legitemate backups…as well as copying games that are no longer available.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The recent news from steam should be a delight for you then.Its practically a free 2 hour demo for any game they sell.

      • el_b says:

        I was quite happy with the news, But I’m still hoping that the good old games service is a better alternative. I don’t like the way they treat us as ‘subscribers’ not owners.

      • AileTheAlien says:

        Yeah, this is indeed great news. I actually made a request a year or two ago, for a game* that:
        1. Had great reviews.
        2. Looked good in screenshots.
        3. Had no demo.
        4. I only played for an hour.
        5. I absolutely, unquestioningly hated.
        Back then, I was completely denied my request for a refund, in the most copy-paste, anti-customer answer possible. I’m going to be re-making the request when I get home, under the argument that, had this policy existed when I bought the game, I would have qualified unquestioningly. We’ll see what they say. :)

        * Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. I hate it’s interface that was clearly made for touch-based devices, and then just left in as-is for a mouse-using computer. I hate that it’s pretentious hipster bullshit. I hate that it cost as much as it did. :C

        • Taellosse says:

          If you were writing to the kind of company that had actual humans whose job it was to do customer service, I’d say you had a pretty good shot (with the caveat that most companies would say they were “making an exception” or “this is a one-time deal” so as to try to minimize abuse of their flexibility). Given that you’re writing to Valve, who seem to believe customer service is best handled with automated drones sending canned email replies, I think you’re probably out of luck.

  12. WILL says:

    I stopped pirating when I started getting an actual income and pirate releases started getting really sketchy or just plain bad. Secondary installers, scripts, keygens, I don’t trust them as much as I used to – the pirating scene feels like it’s gone down in quality quite a bit.

    AAA release are also so goddamn bland I don’t even bother pirating them anyway.

    • My assumption is that the piracy releases mirrors the actual releases. If the gaming industry just screws people over or have no pride then the pirates do too.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      That is why most torrent sites have “trust systems” that will tell you whether or not you can trust a given uploader. If you see an uploader with an icon that says it is legit, you have nothing to fear from the files it shares.

      • WILL says:

        I have had quite a few trusted uploaders switch methods or have strange workarounds that I 100% did not trust, things that triggered one or two antivirus measures. That said, I’m no security expert and I might just be paranoid.

        • MichaelPalin says:

          It does not help that Antivir started to give plenty of false positives on cracks a few years ago, either.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          As the DRM gets more elaborate the cracks also get elaborate, so it’s not surprising that Anti Viruses sometimes detect them as hacking attempts. And this is why you check couple of things before downloading the torrent. Is the uploader thrusted. How many seeds does it have. If it has a low leech/seed ratio and the torrent is not new something is fishy is people don’t want to seed it.

          And finally check the comments. If it’s a fake or something you’ll see an abnormal amount of people complaining that the torrent doesn’t work and is a FAKE. Not that perfectly normal torrents will have at least couple of posters screaming the same because they did not apply the crack properly or are trolling, and that is why you want to see if it’s only one guy or many.

          • Felblood says:

            Yeah, “safe” piracy requires a lot of soft skills. It’s basically the internet equivilent of being street smart, in that it all seems like common sense once you know the rules, and it can seem arcane and scary until then.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      In the past few years,Ive pirated some games with obtrusive drm(usually ubisoft stuff),and during that time Ive updated flash and java about as much.The end result was that I never got screwed over with the pirated stuff,yet the two legal programs have screwed me over at least 3 times.Once flash installed chrome without asking me if I want it,once java changed the installation interface and ended up installing some adware toolbar(ask toolbar?),and once one of the two(didnt figure out which one,I installed them side by side)gave me a nasty adware that sucked out at least 2 days of my time before I removed it.So yeah,Id rather trust pirates then “legit” software.

      And thats not even touching on the securom,gfwl and uplay and their “functionality”,or the fact that pirated version of far cry 4 had the work around for their dual core bug weeks before the legit version.

  13. Dev Null says:

    “Older people like me often drag our old physical media expectations into this new world, talking about games like books or music discs.”

    Or indeed, talking about our books and music like (physical) books or music discs.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      If we’re talking physical media… a few years back (more like ten plus but shh) there was a pen and paper RPG publisher present at most major conventions who was lamenting that people are pirating (his use of the term) the books by only buying one player’s handbook and sharing it.

  14. EwgB says:

    Hi Shamus! I believe you accidentally put the post into the Diecast category. It appeared in my podcast app and I kept wondering “Where is the Download buton?”.

  15. BTW! Shamus, those Fallout 3 woes you are having. You could search google for GameCopyWorld. It will lead you to the murky waters of the internet. But that site does have lots of “NOCD fixes” to get rid of GFWL and similar.

    When I bought GTA 4, and the Mass effect games I used NOCD fixed to get rid of the junk.

    Heck with some games you are “forced” to use such “fixes” so you can apply widescreen corrections for some older games, and if trying to mod a game (that has no direct mod support) you almost always have to apply such fixes.

    Things have gotten a little better over the years luckily. But there was a period where whenever I bought a new game my first task was to always go get a NOCD for the game.

    I also like to cheat in games (it’s single player and I could care less about achievements, they are meaningless to me anyway), and most of the time you need a NOCD or similar fix to be able to do that.

    And don’t even get me started on encrypted/scrambled save games or game data files, modding is a huge pain with that.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I used to visit GameCopyWorld all the time, not for piracy, but to remove those stupid CD-checks from games I actually owned.

      These days I tend to get mostly digital games, so such things are no longer necessary.

      • Supahewok says:

        Man, someday kids are gonna look at us like we’re nuts for having to type in what were effectively nuclear launch codes as part of our game installation back in the day…

        Oh wait. The future is now. :(

        • Humanoid says:

          I think the CD key for Alpha Protocol was longer – significantly longer – than the one for Windows. Were Sega expecting AP to outsell Windows? Meanwhile GOG game keys which could represent any of several hundred games are merely eight characters long.

          • CD keys or serials may hold additional info than being just a number.

            If you are just identifying a single copy then 8 characters (hex unless it’s A-Z with 0-9) could represent 4 billion copies.
            It is also possible the serial/key system is expandable so it may become 10 characters in the future.

            Some software use serials not just to id a copy but the serial may hold programmatic info like if it is a Pro or regular version, what addons are enabled.

            Alpha Protocol may have used a existing 3rd party key system, while GOG probably made their own.

            GOG may also have on demand keys, if that is so then 4 billion keys do not actually exist, they are created on demand as you buy, and the key is simply used as a unique tracking id later on.

            While other key systems may unlock features in a product.

            IMO a serial is mostly just useful for ID’ing/tracking a copy in a database, using a serial/key for DRM is a waste of time.

    • Heh, Yatzee is complaining that there too much stuff in Witcher 3.

      Which seems to be not too wrong. Witcher 3 would not have hurt from being slimmed/stream lined a bit more. But Witcher is a passion project for CD Projekt RED.

      There is a ton of references too. Aliens knife between the finger stabbing scene (it’s briefly seen done in the background by a character in a early cutscene), fairytail references to Hanzel and Grethel (part of main plot), Little Red Riding Hood (mini-quest triggered when going through a small town)and in a humorous twist Geralt is the Wolf in the encounter (Geralt is called The White Wolf sometimes). There is probably a lot of East European references tucked in there too among all the other European references.

      • Galad says:

        “Aliens knife between the finger stabbing scene ”

        I have no idea what you meant with that. Any chance uyou might have a youtube link, or some similar explanation?>

        • MichaelGC says:

          It’s early on in the cutscene you get when you go back to the tavern to meet up with the guy you’ve been hanging out with after doing the first major thing that you do.

          • MichaelGC says:

            I went back to the same tavern after moving on to the next area, and they were all at it! Well, it’s a pretty complicated animation so I guess they wanted to get a decent amount of use out of it…

            Anyway, much easier to spot than in the cutscene I mentioned. Difficult to miss, actually – it was like the NPCs were warming up for the Knife Hand Game Thing You Know Like In Aliens World Cup 1272.

      • LadyTL says:

        I really wouldn’t call that an Aliens reference. It’s more a bored dumb men with knives reference as it was a common tavern game for people who could afford knives.

  16. Ben Cranks says:

    To be honest this is a large part of why I’m leaning towards GOG for most of my game purchases going forward, Steam’s business practices have leaned way too hard into ‘dominant player fecklessness’ for my tastes of late. Obviously they don’t have the breadth of offerings that Steam do but I prefer their ‘trust the user’ proposition overall.

    Galaxy is a fairly basic web site w/integrated download and patching facilities right now but even if it never became the many tentacled beast Steam is now I’d still be happy with that. Now this may be because I don’t play too many online titles on Steam and thus don’t care about that kind of integration but for me a basic client is all I need.

    Pro-tip: discovered if you install Galaxy to any drive other than C: it registers a service to that drive causing it to be marked as a ‘system’ drive for MS Backup purposes. Which explains why my backups have been failing for the last week :( So I’m going in to delete Galaxy, reinstall to C: and point installs to Y: again and have it rescan my games.

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    I’ve decided on a policy of “If I can’t buy it, it’s fair game for file sharing, if there’s a file available”. If we can buy it, usually we do.

    Occasionally we’ll track down a file to see how terrible something is. That’s actually why we bought Aliens: Colonial Marines a year after launch at a steep discount. Having the file wasn’t enough. We needed the game on the shelf so as to Never Forget.

    Even back in the Pokemon days, I was on the fence as to whether to get a copy. Splitting it into two games was clearly a scheme to get more of my money! So I emulated it to try it out. Now, between me and my brother we own every Pokemon game released in English.

    I’ve had to cut way back on filesharing because I don’t have time to play all the games I end up buying.

  18. Abnaxis says:

    I’ve always felt like piracy is an issue of perception. People don’t like paying something for nothing. Back when games came on physical media, people were more willing to pay because to them, publishers were providing a service. End users needed the publishers to print a disk, and even though the actual proportion of asking price that went into printing an individual copy was minuscule, even then. It’s like delivery of other physical goods–if Walmart spent a cents on the dollar on infrastructure to bring an apple to market, you still pay a high mark-up because otherwise you’d have to drive to the fields yourself. That’s why Walmart is successful.

    With digital distribution, publishers stopped providing the service but kept demanding the markup. That’s because from the publishers perspective, the development is a financial investment–they choose a developer/game, shove money into it in and hope what comes out will be the next Call of Duty so they can get a high ROI on it. Publishers are middle-men with deep pockets who expect their money to do their work for them rather than actual creators who work to create a game. The actual quality of product or services is secondary as long as the publisher can get a decent return.

    From a user perspective, this was a necessary evil–the equipment to produce physical media is expensive although it more than paid for itself by volume. But publishers stopped giving us that service. So why pay them? They didn’t do anything for me, they just spent a lot of money. They didn’t write a line of code. If they had anything to do with the design, it was probably to make it worse. They impose absurd restrictions on what I want to buy.

    I think this practice, that the people who don’t do the work still get the money, is a fundamental reason for why piracy became so rampant. It inflated costs for development so that creators are obligated to spend WAY more on development than the market actually supports. It turned piracy into a victim-less crime because you aren’t stealing from the creators, you just aren’t filling the publisher’s coffers. It’s also the reason why Steam is so successful–Valve actually DOES provide services that justify giving them money, even when the services cost much less than the mark up.

    The problem with piracy is that publishers expect to make money by spending money without actually doing any real labor to earn it. If revenues actually went to supporting creators instead of inflating the bank accounts of extraneous go-betweens, we would be in a different place today.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      Publishers aren’t just sitting back and getting money for nothing. They take a lot of risk when they fund a game, they spend a lot of money on marketing, and they have have a lot of oversight they need to do (Everyone thinks that this a bad thing, but then you have Silicon Knights and 3D Realms to show us what happens when they don’t).

      They certain deserve their share of the profit when a game actually does sell.

      • Abnaxis says:

        Except…when was the last time you saw a AAA publisher take an intelligent risk? How has their involvement in the process resulted in better games?

        That’s what the value of investors is supposed to be. Investors are supposed to filter the good opportunities from the bad, and they are supposed to make money in proportion to how intelligently they shepherd their investments. Usually, in the form of payment from the people they invested in, not through sole ownership of the fruits of their labor.

        That’s not the name of the game in publishing though. Publishers work to leverage legal monopoly as much as they possibly can, by taking advantage of intellectual property laws that were written for a different era to cash in on developer’s work.

        If publishers actually had expertise in video games, intelligently backing the new ideas and new techniques that advance the art and appeal to fans, I think piracy would be less of a problem. Again, look at Valve–where to you think the cult of Gaben came from? As it stands, all your average publisher is interested in is acquiring exclusive rights to popular franchises so the publisher can force everyone to pay them instead of someone else

        • Abnaxis says:

          Also, I got wrapped up in a different idea, but why should the publisher’s share come from customers? What did they do for me?

          I’m not generally in favor of paying people who didn’t provide a service or a good to me.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            “Except…when was the last time you saw a AAA publisher take an intelligent risk? How has their involvement in the process resulted in better games?”

            Their involvement is why most AAA games exist in the first place. Very few studios can afford to fund AAA development anymore. You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that won’t see a return for 2-3 years. Very few studios have that much capital lying around, and even if they do one unsuccessful game will wipe it all out and kill the studio.

            “That’s what the value of investors is supposed to be.”

            How, exactly, are independent investors going to be an improvement over the publishers? Now instead of needing to please one publisher the developers are going to need to please 100. And those 100 investors are still going to, you know, demand a return on their investment. They’re not going to throw money at the studio and let the developers take 100% of the profit. And they won’t be able to provide the developers with marketing, distribution, legal help, etc.

            Publishers are what investors in the game business look like.

            “Also, I got wrapped up in a different idea, but why should the publisher’s share come from customers? What did they do for me?”

            Where should it come from? How is the publisher’s cut not going to come from the customer’s pocket. Publishers aren’t going to be handed sacks of money from space aliens after the game launches. You’re buying the game that they paid a developer to make. You owe them a cut.

            • Abnaxis says:

              Publishers are what investors in the game business look like.

              That’s what I was trying to say, but worded it poorly. Ideally, they should be what investors in the game business looks like. In practice, they don’t behave like investors because there’s more money to be made in leveraging monopoly powers on intellectual property versus seeking out smart investment opportunities. In this way, they aren’t investors, they’re go-between.

              Where should it come from? How is the publisher’s cut not going to come from the customer’s pocket. Publishers aren’t going to be handed sacks of money from space aliens after the game launches. You’re buying the game that they paid a developer to make. You owe them a cut.

              Ideally? From the developers.

              I would not be where I am today without financing. Financing paid for my degrees in engineering. Financing paid for my house. Financing paid for my medicine when my parents couldn’t afford it as a child.

              Nevertheless, no bank gets exclusive rights to any/all intellectual property I produce, and anyone who buys something I make doesn’t have to pay my lienholders. Just because publishers invest the money and resources in the people that make things I like, doesn’t mean I personally owe the publisher anything. And, while this isn’t hat the law says, the publisher shouldn’t own the things other people made, just because they have the money.

              If publishers want return on the money they give developers, they should charge interest like the rest of the banks do for every other business that borrows money.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You are going with the false thinking that the organizer and the investor are not providing any service.Organization and funding are still complicated things,especially when lots of smaller companies need to be organized towards a single goal and when tons of money need to be properly allocated.

      Now true,there are BAD publishers out there who think that just throwing a bunch of money at random people is enough,but that doesnt mean GOOD publishers are non existent.

      • Abnaxis says:

        The organizer should be the developer. That’s what development is.

        As far as funding goes, I would agree–except as I said above, publishers aren’t really in the practice of becoming experts in the field of video games so they can make smart investments. They’re in the practice of leeching off of proven, popular franchises through intellectual-property-driven monopoly.

        I would concede that good publishing companies are POSSIBLE, but I find it dubious that a good publishing company–one that actually improves the market by seeking out and funding developers with good, innovative ideas at a market-justifiable price tag–actually exists in the current environment.

        And even then, that is a service to DEVELOPERS. How am I served when Zenimax gives id money? Why should I pay Zenimax for that? Publishers shouldn’t own the IP, and they shouldn’t be directly in the revenue stream. When I go to a restaurant, I pay the proprietor, not the institution that gave them a loan to open the building and buy the supplies. If you had to cross the street to a bank to pay for your meal after you ate, how much money do you suppose that restaurant would bring in? The bank didn’t provide a service to the patrons, why should the patrons owe the bank anything?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But the bank isnt the one who marketed the restaurant either.Nor did it pick the owner of the restaurant,its dishes,etc.

          If you want an analogy,a far better one is a tv station.When you watch a show on a certain station,you dont give money to those that made the show,but rather to the station(if its a paid station)or indirectly to the stuff that was advertised and to various tie in products(like toys,shirts,etc).

          As for good video game publishers,I cant really think of ones who arent simultaneously developers(or a store at the same time,as is the case with steam and gog).The waters are pretty murky these days.

          • Abnaxis says:

            So what if the bank did all of those things? What if the bank installed owners, handed them recipes, did all the marketing, and said “Go at it.”

            Well, franchises do that. I can open a McDonalds and they will do all the marketing, design all the food, sell me all the supplies, etc. etc.

            Despite all of this, you still don’t pay McDonalds when you buy a burger from me*. Rather, I pay McDonalds franchise fees. I buy the equipment and the food and the ingredients McDonalds provides for my benefit at a lower price than I would be able to negotiate on my own. Hell, I would even pay rent because I wouldn’t own the building, McDonalds would.

            However, if I work hard and do a great job as a business owner, I get to reap the rewards of my labor from well-served customers. McDonalds does not own the business. I own the business and make the food (or rather manage the makers), and McDonalds takes payment from me because the I’m the one they are providing services to, not the patrons.

            That’s how it should work. The people running the food business should get the money from patrons. The people supporting the business should get money from the business owners, because the patrons don’t owe them anything. The only reason publishing works differently is because publishers take advantage of bad laws that give them too much control.

            *Note: McDonalds actually does own a lot of it’s franchises, in which case you would be paying them, but that isn’t universally the case.

            • Bloodsquirrel says:

              “However, if I work hard and do a great job as a business owner, I get to reap the rewards of my labor from well-served customers. McDonalds does not own the business. I own the business and make the food (or rather manage the makers), and McDonalds takes payment from me because the I’m the one they are providing services to, not the patrons.”

              This is only true if you’re the one paying to build, equip, staff, and open the store. It’s how business works: the party that shoulders most of the risk gets most of the profit. A McDonalds isn’t risking much by letting you open a franchise. Worst case scenario, you run the store poorly enough that they revoke your license, and they still got paid their fee in the meantime. Worst case scenario for you is that you lose all of the money you put into the store. That’s why you get the profit if the store does well. Developers who can self-fund get to keep most of their profits as well.

              • Abnaxis says:

                No, that’s not how business works. They way business works, is the party that adds the most perceived value for their customer gets the most profit. Or rather, the party that actually provides a good or service to their customer gets the revenue, and their success is measured by how much their revenue exceeds their risk. That’s why you pay the franchisee instead of McDonalds–even though McDonalds trained the employees, obtained and shipped all the ingredients, did all of the advertizing, designed all of the menus, owns the building, and is in fact taking a sizable risk* the franchisee is the one ultimately responsible for delivering your burger.

                Despite all of that risk, the franchisee gets the revenue from the customers because he’s the one selling them food. That’s how business works–you get paid based on your value, not your risk.

                Publishers might be crucial to the ability of developers to make games, but at best they create zero value for me. That wasn’t always the case–previously, they were the ones who printed the disk I bought, so they got my money for the same reason the franchisee gets my money. Publishers were delivering my burger.

                IP law was built with this model in mind, because the system works best when the people printing the disks can take legal action against counterfeiters. However, publishers don’t print the disks anymore. They add no value for the customers, but they still get the majority of the revenue.

                That’s a major part of the reason why piracy caught on–piracy isn’t really stealing from the creator. It’s stealing from the bank that already financed the creator. When the victim of your crime is a faceless corporation that only wants you to pay them because they feel entitled to your money thanks to an outdated law, it’s a lot easier to rationalize piracy.

                Publishers do not deliver anything of value to customers, and we should stop treating them like they do.

                *I’ve known people who have owned restaurants before–two million dollars in debt with mostly family working the tables and the griddle for free, at a per-existing popular location where the retired owner shared all of her recipes and tricks of the trade, and they still couldn’t keep the doors open. Launching a McFranchise, OTOH, nets $50,000 to McD’s and the franchisee is required to keep $750,000 in liquid assets, which I’m sure is there so the company can recover if the owner tanks it. Factor in damage to local brand name, waste generated from having someone incompetent at the helm, legal fees, extra cost for having to run the store (or demolish it), and McD’s is probably out seven to eight figures when all is counted up. Which is OK, because the billions they roll in from their other 13,000 franchised locations probably make up for it.

  19. Bloodsquirrel says:

    If I buy a game and install it on my computer, is it okay for someone else to play it?

    If I buy a game is it okay to install it on two of my computers (my laptop and desktop)?

    Is it okay for someone to play on my laptop while I’m playing it on my desktop?

    Maybe the rule is that it’s okay from anyone to play the game on a device that I own?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats a good rule actually.And it covers joint ownership,as in the case of marriage.

      • Syal says:

        I was going to suggest “if you would let them take food out of your fridge, they can play your games.”

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Yeah, most if the people in the group of people you would share the game with are ussually the people you are willing to share other things. It’s not the blood relation or who you live with, but who you feel close to, for whoom do you think mi casa e su casa.

  20. Steve C says:

    Ester is intuitively making a distinction between an arm’s length transaction and a non-arm’s length transaction. Bravo.

    An extra layer of moral complexity is that it matters where you live regarding what is piracy and what is not. For example what your daughter wanted to do would be very clearly legal and is explicitly allowed under Canadian copyright law. It’s known as the “format-shifting exception”. Section 29.22 allows a consumer the right to reproduce, for a private purpose, any work or protected subject matter if the source copy was legally obtained.

  21. HeroOfHyla says:

    I think I’d consider game sharing as similar to watching a movie with friends. You can buy or rent a movie for personal use. That means you can play it yourself, and you can have friends over and they can watch it too. You can’t charge people to watch the movie, and you can’t show it in front of very large audiences. I don’t know what the numerical limit is, and there probably isn’t one. There are circumstantial factors, including things like whether it’s open to the public, whether it’s held in a private home, etc. If you want to display a movie in public, you have to get a license.

    There seem to be a ton of license seller websites, but they all want you to contact them for a quote. The only actual number I could find was that it costs $110 or more for a public library to license a single free showing of a movie.

    So basically, if it’s “personal use” I’d say it’s okay to share games. Share within the home, and don’t charge for it (duh).

    (Insert rant about how it’s preposterous to “license” and charge for data, a call for more widespread adoption of stuff like the BSD license, etc.)

    • Jeff says:

      The movie analogy was exactly what I was going to point out.

      You physically can’t cram 50 people from the dorm in front of a monitor/TV in your room to watch a movie, you technically can’t legally put on a public performance in the common room, but it’s perfectly fine to cram your family/friends in front of the monitor/TV in your room.

      I think that’s roughly the same idea Shamus’ daughter has about sharing the media.

    • Ziusudra says:

      Except, when a movie is first released it cannot be bought or rented, only seen in a theater and everyone who wants to see it has to buy a ticket.

  22. BTW! Shamus. I read that a upcoming patch for Witcher 3 will fix that annoying lighting-the-candle-while-trying-to-loot issue.

    These devs are listening and fixing stuff right and left at blinding speeds, I’m actually surprised.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I wonder how that’ll work? I’ll be very impressed if they make it so you can’t select the candles, but you can still light ’em with Igni and blow ’em out with Aard.

      Not that I’ll be unimpressed if they just turn them into artwork, of course! – I very much agree: they seem to be doing a stand-up job with the tweaking. (And also there’s no immediate and fairly obvious need for a “W3:EE,” unlike with the previous two.)

  23. poiumty says:

    As a resident of a country that is too poor to develop a strong anti-piracy stance, and as a person who wouldn’t even really be into gaming without the existence of piracy, here’s my take on your situation:

    Lend your copy of TW3 to your daughter, Shamus. You don’t have to pay for it twice.

    If she likes the game, she will tell her friends about it, and they will be more inclined to buy it themselves.

    If she likes the game, she will become a fan of either the franchise or the developer, and she will buy their future products when she has her own paycheck.

    If she likes the game, she will become part of the community and influence other people, either directly or indirectly. This will make money for the devs, and this is strong enough to offset her not paying for it and more.

    I suspect CDPR, being a Polish company, knows what it’s like to be in a low-income country. It’s highly likely to me, being in the same boat, that without piracy, there wouldn’t even be people willing to make a Witcher video game in the first place.

    • Hamilcar says:

      This. When I was young and had no money or was unemployed. I pirated. But as soon as I became employed I would buy from the things I liked and pirated. Not out of sense of guilt, but simply because of convenience or a desire for ownership. So, movies I had downloaded I later bought the DVDs or Blurays of simply because I wanted to own physical copy for the convenience of it.

      • Humanoid says:

        And then I rip all the discs back to pure digital format for convenience. >.> Somehow I’ve managed to utilise the most expensive way of consuming media as technology advances, with a library consisting of several hundred titles consuming 30TB+ of space on my NAS. With 1:1 rips of Blu-ray discs weighing in at up to 50GB, it’s a pretty big investment.

        That said, it’s not purely a convenience exercise. Ripping the discs doubles as a check to make sure each new one I buy is in working order, because otherwise there’s no real other way to verify they’re not faulty than watching them, which is patently not viable.

  24. General Karthos says:

    I buy all my games. I even pay the shareware subscription fees if I like them enough. (Escape Velocity, Escape Velocity: Override, and Escape Velocity: Nova being the prime examples.)

    I know some pirates. (Everybody does.) Some people who download games on torrents and never even think of paying for it. That $60 price tag is way too much for them to pay in their mind. They’re entitled to play the latest game that everyone else is playing. They already bought a computer that can play it, therefore they have the right to play it. To me this is like saying that you bought a car, so you can steal all the gas you want. Or you bought an expensive TV so you can steal cable.

    There is another group. There are myriad other groups, but this is the one a lot of pirates claim to belong to, and that some actually do. Someone who will download a game and play it for a bit, and if they like it, will buy a copy. If they don’t like it, they won’t play it again. Some pirates claim to belong to this group but keep playing a game they “don’t like”, rather than buying it. But if you legitimately do buy the games that are good, then I don’t have a problem with you. I don’t do it, and I wouldn’t do it, but if you do… the folks are getting your money either way. So long as you buy every game you like and don’t play the ones you don’t.

    If a game offers a demo, I’ll try it before I buy it, and if there’s a free weekend on Steam, I’ll do the same. (Like how I decided to buy “Endless Legend” but not “Dungeon of the Endless”.) But if there isn’t a demo, I’ll look at reviews, at what other people who bought it think of it. And if it’s a game Shamus reviews, I’ll consider his review, mostly on the grounds of “will this problem bother me?” since he rarely says anything positive. (In any case, I already own many of the non-shooter games he winds up reviewing.)

    There are other groups out there who say “I’ll pirate games by EA, but buy games by the companies that deserve my money,” or “I’ll pirate games that have annoying DRM, but buy the games that are freely available,” who pose their piracy as some sort of “righteous struggle”. I don’t know what to think of that…. If all games suddenly became DRM free, would they start buying them legitimately?

    And some people pirate a game if it has DRM, but then buy the version with the DRM. They just use the pirated version to avoid the DRM. Again, if the company gets your money, I’m okay with it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You forgot the group that doesnt have access to the legit copy,or where region locking is charging them way more than other countries(like australia).

      To me this is like saying that you bought a car, so you can steal all the gas you want. Or you bought an expensive TV so you can steal cable.

      Piracy is not theft(nothing is lost),its bootlegging.

      • General Karthos says:

        Stealing cable is also bootlegging. Doesn’t mean it’s not theft.

        Money for the developers (or whoever winds up profiting) is lost. It’s like stealing money right out of their wallets. I sympathize with the region-locked folks, I do, and being a poor (recently completely broke) man myself, I understand not having money to spare to buy games. And it’s true that the vast majority of profits in many cases go to evil mega corporations like EA.

        But that still doesn’t mean piracy isn’t theft, and “taking a stand” against the evil tyrants isn’t what you’re REALLY doing. What you’re doing is stealing games/movies/tv shows. And you’re not hurting the huge corporations by doing it. You’re hurting the low folks on the totem pole who get laid off.

        *Sigh* The morality in all this is really grey, not black and white. But piracy is theft. It’s just not always the worst thing in the world. An example: A number of avid commentators on the Crusader Kings II forum that I also comment in under this handle started by pirating the game and then bought legitimate copies. They would never have touched the game if they hadn’t pirated it first. But I still expect companies lose more sales due to pirates than they gain.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Money for the developers (or whoever winds up profiting) is lost.

          Thats true only if the person that gets the illegal copy would buy the legit copy if the alternative wasnt available.Which is not the case majority of the time.If everyone in the world suddenly stopped getting illegal copies,the profits of publishers would not suddenly skyrocket,they would increase by maybe 1%,and that is generous.Thats why piracy and bootlegging are not theft.They are a crime,and in most cases they are morally wrong,but they are not theft.Nothing is lost,not money,not data.

  25. JAB says:

    I don’t pirate games. But I only rarely buy a AAA game, and never when it first comes out, and never full price. The absolute garbage that was Master of Orion 3 broke me of that habit. I don’t care about top-of-the-line graphics, and most of the time it’s a deterrent to me buying the game- my baseline assumption is they spent most of their money making it pretty instead of playable or fun.

    I’ve been playing a free to play black and white MMORPG with stick figures for 7 years [Kingdom of Loathing]. My gaming money, and more importantly, my gaming time go there.

    On the other hand, I don’t have cable, and I only buy music on used CDs, unless I’m buying it directly from the artist. Yay counterculture.

  26. Primogenitor says:

    So basically, your letting her try it for a bit, then buy her own copy (or be given one for X event). Which is what a demo would be, if they existed.

    Has DRM-free digital copies removed the need for demos?

  27. RCN says:

    The Witcher is quite adult in it’s story and sexual content, right?

    Kudos to you if you think your daughter is mature enough. I don’t have kids and I haven’t bought The Witcher 3 yet, so I’m completely blind to what this all amounts to, but any way I see it seems like a win to Esther and a parenting win to you.

    • Humanoid says:

      My feeling is that it’s got about the same amount of “objectionable content” as a typical restricted 15+ movie does (MA15+ rating here in Australia), so that works out well. :P

      Because it’s a videogame and not a movie though, the ratings office have actually given it an R18+ rating here, but I’m not going to quibble too hard, having that classification finally exist is a win, in the past if something didn’t fit into the lower rating it’d have been banned or edited down.

      • RCN says:

        In my country it is slightly bit more complicated.

        For a long time we couldn’t have, say, Google’s or Apple’s Appstore because EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF MEDIA needs a classification by law. And by law it is the Government classification that counts, so the industry can’t self-regulate.

        So on one side everything comes pre-labeled with their classification, so no-one has any excuses to give something inappropriate for a teen or kid. On the other hand, it means nothing can be officially launched until the government took a look and decided it’s classification.

        To our government credit, they very, very rarely actually ban something. And even when they ban it, it is usually something so petty, and the work of so few people (like a single congressman and mountains of indifference from everyone else) that the government often forgets something was banned. Like DOOM, which was banned on 4 different occasions and had the ban lifted each time, or Counter Strike, which was banned twice and the second time was while the first one was technically still in effect. Carmageddon also was banned. But that’s pretty much it. There was even a very strong movement to ban D&D for teaching satanism (you know, that same old story) but the government just scoffed every time. Something needs to ruffle feathers overseas or in the US in order to actually face the threat of banning. So the real barrier is just the manpower to classify everything.

        Now, to our detriment, there’s people who still disregard the classification, gives something like GTA (classified 18+) to their kids, and then make a fuss over the government allowing this kind of depravity being given to kids, when they have no-one else but themselves to blame. Though scapegoating and false moralism are pretty much national hobbies…

  28. Smejki says:

    And on Steam you can use library sharing (note: you cannot play at the same time)

  29. MichaelGC says:

    Saw the title; saw how fast the comment counter was ticking up; thought: “oh dear, it finally happened: we finally got a flame war.”

    Well, oh me of little faith! Fascinating stuff all round … to which I have absolutely nothing to add. Er. Nice pic at the top there – anyone know where that’s from?

  30. SeekerOfThePath says:

    What I believe the naive approach is to how far a game can be shared before it’s pirating: it’s OK to share within a group of people sharing income / living of common budget. If Shamus kept poking, he and his daughter might have come to this exact definition.

    Examples:

    Close family – one household – working members contribute to common budget, all members take from it. One copy of the game for all, even for LAN multiplayer seems moral to me. What parent could afford paying X times AAA price tag for their X kids enjoying a game together…

    “Distributed” faimly – with older children living away from home (uni?) – the same financial model typically applies. Even if the children work part/full-time jobs, the main financial burden is still on parents.

    Parents’ siblings, neighbourhood friends, dorms… – each person of such a group has separate financial income and if they have the money, they should pay for the game. If they do not – purchasing a game is not a right you have, it’s an option and you have to weigh your priorities.

    On the one hand, I think this definition can be easily worded to be included in a law, is simple enough to be understood by a lay person and covers most cases. On the other hand, an average lawyer could immediately start poking holes in it – if an adult child starts their own family, do they lose the right to the copy they have been playing for the past 5+ years, or is there some kind of “inherit” rule and how far does it spread… You get the idea.

  31. JackTheStripper says:

    I am very lax in my rules against piracy under the reasoning that I consider physical media to not be the same as digital media, and therefore, should not be bound to the same restrictions.

    Pretending that we’re not able to copy, and almost freely able to distribute digital media, kind of defeats the purpose of having digital media in the first place. Imagine if when we built airplanes that we made a rule that airplanes should not fly too high up or go too fast so that they’re comparable to their land automobile counterparts. That might be fair to regular cars, but we’re limiting the potential of airplanes.

    Surely, digital media has the advantage of being less costly to produce and distribute. So one could argue that the difference in those costs make up for the added benefit of its medium.

    I do draw the line when it’s the same household and your immediate family though. My brother and I each bought or split the price of lots of videogames, so sharing them was the norm.

    If I was in the same situtation you described, Shamus. I would share the game and not even think about buying another copy. If she wanted to leave the household and keep the game, then only then would I encourage her to buy her own copy.

  32. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Semi relevant, The Bards Tale IV has one of the funniest reward tiers I’ve seen.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/the-bards-tale-iv

    289 backers

    GUILT ABSOLUTION

    Have you landed your ship in the pirate’s bay before? No worries, friend! If you’ve previously plundered from us, pick this reward tier for a digital copy of The Bard’s Tale IV, Digital Game Manual, Backer Forum Badge, and an OFFICIAL FORGIVENESS LETTER from our CEO Brian Fargo expressing his forgiveness and pardoning your buccaneer ways.

    (Estimated Retail Value: Priceless)

  33. Tometzky says:

    From GOG.com FAQ:
    https://www.gog.com/support/website_help/downloads_and_games

    9. Can I enjoy my purchases both on my laptop and desktop computer at home?

    Yes. We do not limit the number of installations or reinstallations, as long as you install your purchased games on computers in your household. So yeah, if you’ve got a render-farm in the basement, you might actually break the world record for the number of legal Witcher installations in one household. However, if you think about installing your game on a friend’s machine or sharing it with others then please don’t do it, okay?The same principle applies to movies – you’re free to watch them anywhere you want, with anyone you want, as long as you don’t share them with people who haven’t purchased them.

    So you can play and your daughter can play at the same time, and you don’t have to purchase another copy as long as you’re both at the same “household”. As always GOG.com does the right thing.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I think a bunch of people here have missed the point of the story.The point wasnt “Shamus is unable to install this game on multiple machines,because its illegal”,the point was that he was trying to get his daughter to understand his moral stance about installing this game(or any software) on multiple machines.

      • Tometzky says:

        I think for bunch of people here a point of the story is perfectly clear. But some just wanted to tell Shamus, that he doesn’t have to pay again to let his daughter play and can save a couple of bucks.

        Another related thing is that what is piracy is really complicated. Installing a game on several computers can be copyright infringement or not, depending on game EULA. And this is a document, which is full of legalese and which almost nobody reads, much less understand. It does not help that it varies in almost any proprietary software. Also it can be different depending on where you bought your game.

        So to answer the question of “Is this piracy?” you might need to consult your lawyer, which is insane.

  34. Raven_Sloth says:

    I had an experience with DRM making it so I couldn’t play a game. The game was Dark Void Zero which is a decent game, but when I got it during the Capcom sale I didn’t look at any of the reviews because it was only 0.99$. I buy, install it, and start it and steam gives me the CD key before it starts as always when there is 3rd party DRM, then I get the SecuROM pop up( which really should have raised a red flag in my brain), and paste in the CD key and it tells me that it isn’t valid. I looked on the Steam Store page and all negative reviews for the game were that the game didn’t work. I then felt like an idiot and looked for a way to fix the problem. Steam pushed me to Capcom and Capcom had a terrible website( they seem to have fixed it). I looked up my problem and it found it, and told me to click the Contact us link at the top of the page. Now when I opened the little chat that said this, the Contact us link disappeared. And I hadn’t seen it before they asked me to click on it. But after filling it out the steam key worked and then I realized that SecuROM was the thing that makes it so that I can’t play Spore on any more computers if this one dies. And then realized that all of my friends who used PC to play Bioshock complained about this. I now I still don’t know why Capcom decided to use it.

  35. Eddelstienesser says:

    Okay, I hope I’m not too late to add something, and I skimmed the comments, and don’t think this was covered….

    I’m really surprised with the book analogy you used, and that’s the moment I knew we were going to disagree on this topic (something that happens occasionally, but not often). In fact, I think the analogy with hard physical books works very well. If I and my wife wanted to read a book at the same time, we’d still share it. I cannot envision a single scenario where I’d want to own two copies of the same book, no matter how much we both want to read at the same time. I may even loan or give the book to a friend if I want afterwords, to get them interested.

    In fact, if I can’t afford a book (a scenario that happens surprisingly often), then I’ll go down to the library, and read it for free from the government sponsored building that collects books for the specific purpose of having multiple readers. In your analogy, a library may as well be Pirate Bay.

  36. Chris says:

    Im probably in the minority on this site but i pirate quite frequently, with full awareness of the immorality of it.

    I can try to justify it in a couple ways, i have never pirated anything i could actually afford, if i liked it i always ended up buying it, often i am pirating for reasons of muddy ethics as listed above, i never pirate from small or “indi” content creators.

    But if im really honest with my self the truth is that i just cant empathize with content creators, so i don’t really feel any guilt. I have made and sold content but when its pirated i have always just felt apathetic because it has never been a vital part of my income.

    I do also use addblock (not on this and other unobtrusive sites) and i think there is a really interesting discussion to be had about the end users right to manipulate their own traffic. But maybe not today.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Yeah, you are something kind of like me. I do buy games on Steam if they are in my price range, but I simply can not force myself to part with like 50€ + for a game. 50€ is like big for me (actually anything more than 10€ is big for a game for me). So I pirate. Allthough not that much since I mostly play older games I missed (and are on discount) or F2P MP games, and maybe one or two AAA games.

      I am kind of intrigued by different views on this. While I conciosly do know pirating is bad, I’m from a kind of society where pirating isn’t only not frowned upon, it’s the default way you get software. When somebody needs let’s say AutoCAD, he doesn’t go looking where he can buy a license, or which license he should buy, and try to work it into his budget, he simply himself or over his pirate gets the program from the torrents. When you buy the computer, and it’s not a prebuil one they will install you newest fullest version of Windows Office and maybe even Photoshop, and will not even ask you if you want legal software. It’s expceted you are not “crazy” that you will pay for legal software.

      • Chris says:

        High price professional software like autocad, photoshop, 3dmax. Things of this nature actually have a really interesting approach to piracy.

        Its generally accepted that they are completely aware that all the hobbyists and students who cant otherwise get access to it for cheap just outright pirate it. They know and they are generally quite resigned to it. But they go to great lengths to insure that if you are making a profit from your use of the software then you are using a licensed copy.

        A few software developers, modern photoshop and unity for example, have started giving away hobbiest versions for free or cheap, thats very smart. I support that a lot.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          I’m sort of aware of that, but I was only specifying those two as examples of how most people don’t even think about piracy as something bad. It’s simply a way to get software that you need. ANY software. From something worth couple bucks to thousands, if somebody cracked it a pirated version will be used. Like nearly all Windowses are Ultimate or at least Professional, or I install on my computers Office Enterprise because I don’t need to crack it and it comes with full program package.

          Only firms that work with foreign companies might invest in legalising couple of their computers that they will use to work on foreign jobs because foreign parties care if the service is not done on pirated software.

          And as for the hobbyist stuff, I doubit it will make a dent in the short term simpy because the thinking would be, why get a weaker version when you can get the OMEGA version of the software package. You probably won’t even use the things that come with the OMEGA package but just in case.

  37. MaxEd says:

    A different copy for a family member? That’s… Well, I understand – logically – but I would never to such a thing. We all shared games in school – if you wanted a game your friend had, you came to his house and burned a CD (of course, being Russia in 90’s, his copy probably came from a pirated CDs booth near the subway station anyway, but nobody thought about going back there for a second paid CD!). Let them buy the game later, if they want to – that’s not my concern. My only concern is that I want to help my friend or family member. Maybe it’s too-Asian, family-first-and-screw-the-rest view, but I find it morally acceptable, and would certainly teach it to my children. Paying to the developer is one’s own concern, but sharing comes first.

    • Humanoid says:

      I remember some 20 years ago while in a country where piracy wasn’t just the norm, but where it was the only option. I’m in a, as far as I could tell, fully legit department store and being surprised that Wing Commander 4 cost six times as much as other games. Then on reflection I suppose that from their perspective, my expectation that it should cost the same as any other release was the irrational one – after all, it came on *six* CDs, and therefore logically costs six times as much, having cost whoever made that bootleg six times as much to make.

      I think that if I did the sums, it meant the pirate copy actually cost close to, if not over 50% of what a legal copy would have, as opposed to most games costing less than one tenth.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Yeah, before high speed internet in my country you would go to your local “legal” pirate with a store and everything and buy a pirated game cd case (cover being printed on the ink jet printer). The price would have been the price of the physical media + pirate’s cut. So it a CD cost 40 cents, a two CD game would set you back 1€.

        And you literaly could not buy legal games. Well not all legal games, if the customer base was wide enough the pirate might have couple of actall legal copies of Warcraft III, Starcraft, WoW. Basically those multiplayer games which people might actually buy for MP, where you could not play online with cracks due to Battle.NET

  38. RCN says:

    Ok, I’ll give my two cents about piracy, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already said all of this somewhere else in this blog.

    Here in Brazil there was a time it was just prohibitively expensive to be a gamer. Being a PC Gamer wasn’t that bad, but something like a Playstation 2 was still well over US$ 600,00 in 2010. Yes, that’s five years ago. The Playstation 3 was launched with a price-tag of well over US$ 4000,00. A couple of years later it did take a dive… all the way down to US$ 1800,00. Meanwhile games for it were in the $120-180 range. Add to that the fact that the average Brazilian has a significantly less acquisitive power than the average american and you can see how, if you were a gamer, you were either excessively, preposterously, offensively rich… or a pirate.

    It wasn’t always like that. The SNES was around US$ 300,00 when it launched here… and the Master System managed to reach $100,00. But thanks to a partnership SEGA was doing with TECTOY (a local gaming hardware company), they lobbied the government to create all kinds of exploitive tariff laws in order for SEGA to hold the Brazilian gaming market in their monopoly… for their Dreamcast. You can all guess how that turned out. And the tariffs stayed. Why, if there wasn’t an internal market anymore to protect? Mostly because games are so far down in the list of priorities of our congressmen and congresswomen than no-one could be arsed to do anything about it. To this day gaming has absolutely no voice in our government.

    Right now, though? It is not so bad. The XBONE can be seem selling for US$ 700,00. Expensive? Yes, but not as expensive as a car. Microsoft and Ubisoft, of all people, pressured the government to get lower prices, opened local factories and exploited all the loopholes they could to have games at accessible prices in our country.

    PC Games, though? They were common… well, as common as a gaming device could be, games in general just haven’t been too popular in my country until a few years back. We’d pay about 1.5 to double what you’d pay for a gaming PC in the 90s and noughties, but the games were about the same price as the outside because it faced very different tariffs. Heck, thanks to some interesting laws, some publications can even sell certain PC Games for the extremely affordable $10 price tag (this is in agreement with the original publishers). The very first game I owned (Total Annihilation), came from such a publication.

    So, yeah. Either you were a pirate or you won the lottery if you were a gamer in my country. Less so if you were a PC gamer. But the good news is that Steam almost single-handedly vanquished the pirate culture from my country. Now anyone can afford games and we’re facing a new gaming renascence. In the 90s, every PC game was partially or fully localized (I remember the awful “Vamos! Vamos! Vamos!” from the Terran Marine), then nothing was localized again for over a decade… and now? Not only are even Console Games being localized, we are having celebrities doing the dubbing (which is great for the visibility of the gaming industry… but bad for the quality of the localization. Cassie Cage from MK10 has such a notoriously bad dubbing from her celebrity dubber it has become a national meme).

    • Humanoid says:

      And now people from the US, Australia and elsewhere are buying games from Nuuvem.br via VPN to get the best prices on PC games….

      • RCN says:

        We’ve come a long way. That “crash” affected a lot of people. We had a developing house, Continuum Entertainment, that had made a moderately successful RTS in the very early 2000s, Outlive. Even though they had a success, they just didn’t have the means to develop another game on their own, so they took to licensed games so banal and so boring they basically bred their own demise into obscurity. How bad was it? They were making games based on the Big Brother reality TV show for our monopolicious TV network Globo.

        Just to give anyone an idea, the very first game ad to run on my country on ANY channel was Starcraft 2. Not even in the 90s there were any video game ads on TVs. Ads for games were something that you’d only see in specialized magazines or websites.

        The second commercial? Diablo 3. From then on we are actually getting ads for new releases, with all their glorious cheesiness. And we even have a couple of halfway decent developers now. Maybe someone’s heard of Behold Studios?

  39. Zaxares says:

    Why not just let Esther play on your computer using your key/account, Shamus? (Unless you use it practically all day for work/other stuff and that just isn’t feasible.) Yes, technically all games have this “No sharing!” rule, but everybody knows that families with kids are going to bend/break that rule.

  40. Neko says:

    It’s a really interesting thought experiment to poke at. I still haven’t arrived at some sort of ‘solution’, and generally just go with my gut feelings regarding the matter at the time. For the record, I used to … you know, piracy is such a loaded term, let’s say I used to cyberborrow PC games from my friend. Did I try to justify it? Not really. Price wasn’t a huge issue*, I think for me it was more about convenience – Here’s a burned copy with a no-CD crack, I can install it once and play as much as I like without hunting for a lost or scratched CD. The advent of Steam means that it’s now more convenient for me to just buy the thing if I want it – no hunting for dodgy cracks necessary, no CD necessary.

    The ‘physical book’ comparison is really interesting for me. If I own a book, am I allowed to lend it to a friend so they can read it? Yes. Is it legal to do that? Yes. Is it “morally right” to allow someone to read a book that they didn’t pay for? They could then lend the book to other people once they’d taken their enjoyment of it, and ultimately one book would be shared between everyone, and the poor authors would go bankrupt over those lost sales! Which is obviously hyperbole and ridiculous, but still – what’s the real issue here?

    Suppose it’s a music CD. I can buy it, listen to it, then decide to give it to a friend so they can listen to it in the car on their way to work. Is that okay? Maybe. So suppose it’s a music mp3. I could buy it, listen to it, then give a copy to a friend to listen to in their car. In the first case, there was no way for us both to be enjoying the music simultaneously (well, unless we were in the same room, but that’s a whole other can of worms). In the second case, we could potentially be both listening to it at the same time. Is my sharing of the music wrong? Was it okay to share the physical media, but not okay to share a digital copy? Or are they both equally reprehensible acts of villainy?

    Ah, but I didn’t buy the mp3 file, no, I bought a licence to listen to that music that happens to come in mp3 form. And it’s non-transferable. Okay, in that case is it okay for me to cyberborrow an mp3 version of a song I used to own on cassette tape? The tape degraded a long time ago, but I should still have the “rights” to listen to that song.

    Suppose I’m the second person. I get a mp3 from my friend – they bought it, listened to it once, decided they really didn’t like it, gave me a copy and deleted theirs. Is it okay for me to listen to it? It’s been paid for. If I were to cyberborrow that same mp3 from some internet stranger instead – aha, well, there may have been only one purchase but now N people are enjoying this music without having paid for it. That’s lost sales. That’s “Theft“.

    But… is it really? Suppose I download an mp3 illegally, and never ever listen to it. I haven’t “stolen enjoyment” of the song. And it’s not traditional theft because I’m not depriving anyone else of the song. Is it the act of downloading (let’s assume HTTP because BT has its own complications) still a lost sale and therefore equivalent to murdering orphans? What if I set up a script that repeatedly wgets the file, then deletes it? Could I bankrupt companies this way?

    I don’t condone not paying artists for their work. But neither do I condone the witch hunts people like the MPAA and RIAA run. I’d much rather live in a world where people get fair compensation for their work but some sort of “fair sharing” was possible… but we’re nowhere close to that yet. Until then, I’ll continue to play old SNES roms and listen to the SR3 mp3s I got from someone else on the internet who was smart enough to rip them out of the game dir because I really like the SR3 soundtrack and I kind of feel that I own it because I own the game. And I’ll continue to buy games on Steam that I already bought years ago, or buy games that I’ll probably never end up playing simply because I like the company and want to reward them for making Linux ports. I’ll generally just have to keep going on gut feelings.

    * – (although I do suffer the Australia Tax, and we’re shortly due to get an Actual Tax on digital goods heaped on top of that)

  41. Jeysie says:

    I tend to think of a lot of digital media as being a performance. I’m basically buying the right to experience an ideally infinitely repeatable performance. This I think helps highlight the difference between what it is to “own” digital media versus “owning” a physical object.

  42. Coffeecakes says:

    Kieron Gillen, He of Great Creative Fame, wrote on this subject for The Escapist back in 2007 and I happened to be reading that article just now. It’s important, I think, and gets much of my own opinions across (minus a sociopathic excitement for deliberate wrongdoing, but hey, we can’t all be decent people). Go read. Is great.

    Playground Piracy.

    Also read his comics, while you’re at it. Start with Busted Wonder, it’s up on the internets free for all.

  43. Simplex says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use – is that not relevant in this case?
    I know videogames are not movies, but would you tell your daughter to buy her own copy of a movie that is sitting on your shelf? What about watching movies together on a couch, when only one person bought it? It’s fair use, as far as I am concerned.

    Also, as people already pointed out, steam has this: http://store.steampowered.com/promotion/familysharing – which makes sharing the game 100% legal and approved by steam.

    Even if it this sharing thing was not available, nothing stops you from setting up your steam account on multiple computers, downloading the games and then going offline. This probably violates some EULA, but is not a criminal offense.

    Witcher 3 is also available on GoG.com, DRM-free, so again, no problem there.

  44. Hamilcar says:

    I feel like this piracy moral dilemma is purely a Western issue. I asked my Chinese wife about the issue and she said “Great! Free game! That’s fun!” I couldn’t get her to see any moral quandry no matter how hard I tried. It was laughable to her that someone would think that downloading a game was wrong.

    In China they have extremely lax copyright laws. She once said to me, when I was looking to buy a Chinese music artist’s CD, “No one buys CDs in China. They just download them.” Same goes for TV shows and movies. As soon as a TV show starts airing they are also released online at the same time by PPTV, youku and iqiyi. No one has to buy anything to enjoy their media. But guess what? There are still pop stars and people making movies, music and tv and they are still super, mega rich. No artist in China is losing out because all their art is freely downloaded.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Oh I can confirm that this is not only Chinese way of thinking. In fact I think most of the world minus the West with some exceptions is pretty lax on software piracy, mostly because the software is really expensive, so you would be considered a gullible idiot if you pay for something you can get for allmost free. The morality of the action pretty much doen’t enter int the equation, in most people’s minds.

    • Jeysie says:

      Who pays them the money needed to make them mega rich if their customers don’t pay it?

      Legit question. There’s no such thing as a free lunch; somebody pays. Often it’s the creator that pays out of their own pocket, but in this case clearly somebody else is paying.

      • Hamilcar says:

        Recording contracts, studios, producers, photoshoots, advertisers, sponsors….Same as in America the sales only make part of their income.

        Too, fans will buy the physical media if they can. There are still stores selling CDs and DVDs and (PC) games in China and some people do buy them knowing full well that they can download it for free.

        • Jeysie says:

          What happens to the musicians who don’t have recording contracts, studios, producers, photoshoots, advertisers, sponsors, and so on? The ones who just want to sing/play for people who want to hear their stuff?

          That’s my biggest pet peeve with piracy… in every other job, you can get paid for actually doing your job, but in creative arts everyone wants you to do your job for free and maybe if you’re lucky get paid doing side stuff that’s only tangentially related to your job at best.

          • Hamilcar says:

            Nobody is pirating their stuff because no one knows who they are.

            I already gave you an example of a country that I live in where pirating and bootlegging, both legal and illegal is rampant and artists still get to sell their products and have their solid gold humvees.

            If the argument is: “Pirating is wrong because the artist loses money! How can the recording/movie/game industry exist if people can get the product for free?!” Well, China (and maybe the entire Eastern hemisphere) is proof positive that, yes, the entertainment industry can survive and thrive with lax copyright laws and piracy.

            I am convinced that the laughable moral dilemma of piracy only exists because corporations tell us piracy is wrong.

            • Jeysie says:

              Nobody is pirating their stuff because no one knows who they are.

              Are people buying their stuff?

              I already gave you an example of a country that I live in where pirating and bootlegging, both legal and illegal is rampant and artists still get to sell their products and have their solid gold humvees.

              If you have “Recording contracts, studios, producers, photoshoots, advertisers, sponsors”, i.e. things that are not making music.

              If the argument is: “Pirating is wrong because the artist loses money! How can the recording/movie/game industry exist if people can get the product for free?!”

              …no, the argument is:

              “in every other job, you can get paid for actually doing your job, but in creative arts everyone wants you to do your job for free and maybe if you’re lucky get paid doing side stuff that’s only tangentially related to your job at best.”

              I’m honestly not sure why you’re addressing an argument I didn’t make while not addressing the one I did make.

              Well, China (and maybe the entire Eastern hemisphere) is proof positive that, yes, the entertainment industry can survive and thrive with lax copyright laws and piracy.

              Via doing stuff that is, at best, only tangentially related to making music.

              I am convinced that the laughable moral dilemma of piracy only exists because corporations tell us piracy is wrong.

              You don’t think having to do your job for free counts as a moral dilemma?

              My stake in this is: I love to sing. I’m even actually pretty good at it. Learning how to play the guitar or instrument to go with my singing would be even better.

              But I am not:

              * Beautiful & photogenic
              * A dancer
              * Possessed of some sort of flashy eccentric persona a la Lady Gaga
              * Good at putting on a show (any concert would just involve me straight-up playing and singing)
              * Basically anything that would get me a photoshoot, advertisers, fancy concerts, sponsors, etc.

              So despite my loving to sing, I can never do the hobby I love as a job, because we’ve decided that the making music part needs to be done for free, and I’m not suited for and have zero interest in any of the accepted alternate ways musicians are expected to make their money instead.

              This seems massively unfair to me. It’s something most other creative arts people also struggle with. I see artists all the time making posts complaining how you “can’t eat or pay the bills with exposure“. Indie gaming companies of course frequently go under if they don’t make enough profits on their games. Movie making is also difficult if you aren’t independently wealthy.

              How may other non-creative jobs struggle with this sort of thing?

              • Hamilcar says:

                Alright, well, I already laid out my argument and you already laid out yours. I am of Daniel Carnegie’s opinion that no one can win an argument (let alone one on the internet). I see where you’re coming from and I do respect and understand position.

                I’ll let my argument rest here.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            That’s my biggest pet peeve with piracy… in every other job, you can get paid for actually doing your job, but in creative arts everyone wants you to do your job for free and maybe if you’re lucky get paid doing side stuff that’s only tangentially related to your job at best.

            That holds true for sports.And I dont see people complaining how z least sports people have to work jobs on the side in order to pay the bills.Heck,even the a least sports people have to do jobs that arent tied to their sport in order to earn money to live when their career ends(in their 30s).Yet no one berates anyone for watching a free tv coverage of sports,or for checking the stuff online only,instead of buying tickets to watch a game.

            But I am not:

            * Beautiful & photogenic
            * A dancer
            * Possessed of some sort of flashy eccentric persona a la Lady Gaga
            * Good at putting on a show (any concert would just involve me straight-up playing and singing)
            * Basically anything that would get me a photoshoot, advertisers, fancy concerts, sponsors, etc.

            That was always the problem,even in the days before one could easily download music online.But what exists today that didnt exist back then is:You have the ability to record your stuff and put it online,where you can get people to give you money via views,patreon,kickstarter,or straight up donations.

            • Jeysie says:

              Yet no one berates anyone for watching a free tv coverage of sports,or for checking the stuff online only,instead of buying tickets to watch a game.

              Because none of those things are piracy. People get paid to provide them. Sometimes directly by you, in the form of buying TV access.

              You have the ability to record your stuff and put it online,where you can get people to give you money via views,patreon,kickstarter,or straight up donations.

              Most of which still don’t involve getting paid directly for making music. (Patreon does, but that also assumes I want to continually make music on a monthly basis, versus just making albums from time to time. Kickstarter, meanwhile, is a complete crapshoot.)

              As a comparison, I’m also decent at crocheting. I could open an Etsy shop, make little crochet things, sell them, and actually get paid directly for making crochet things. Everyone accepts this as being perfectly normal, and very very few people would say I should be offering them to everyone for free unless I was turning out really horrible quality products.

              Yet if I expect to make songs and sell them, everyone says I should accept that it should be totally OK for everyone to get my stuff for free, unless they maybe feel like throwing me a few pennies entirely out of the kindness of their hearts. Regardless of the quality of my music.

              Even though in both cases it’s the exact same thing: I’m putting in effort and talent to make a product. But only in one case is my effort and talent actually valued, versus being treated as slave labor.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                First part:No,online scores are free.No one pays for that.And the tv transmisions are paid for only when its a big match,otherwise you can watch it for free in a bunch of ways(free tv channels,youtube and other streaming sites).

                Second part:Whats so weird about people being more appreciative of the stuff that cannot be easily replicated?Thats why people are more willing to go to concerts with great pyrotechnics and light shows.

                • Jeysie says:

                  First part:No,online scores are free.No one pays for that.

                  Webspace is free? Somebody needs to tell my webhost provider that; they keep trying to charge me for it.

                  And the tv transmisions are paid for only when its a big match,otherwise you can watch it for free in a bunch of ways(free tv channels,youtube and other streaming sites).

                  All of which are paid for by somebody.

                  Second part:Whats so weird about people being more appreciative of the stuff that cannot be easily replicated?Thats why people are more willing to go to concerts with great pyrotechnics and light shows.

                  You can easily replicate music by making your voice sound exactly like theirs, singing exactly like them, playing exactly like them, etc? Why are you wasting time sitting here typing this out to me, then, that’s some utterly amazing talent you have going on there.

                  In all seriousness, you’re ironically just proving me correct regards my complaint of how creative talent is right now completely devalued and treated as worthless. You actually find light shows and pyrotechnics–i.e. things that have absolutely nothing to do with making music–more valuable than the actual musical talent.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Webspace is free? Somebody needs to tell my webhost provider that; they keep trying to charge me for it.

                    All of which are paid for by somebody.

                    Wait a second,I thought your point was that entertainers(musicians in your case and sportsmen as Ive mentioned later)arent getting paid for their work.But now you are saying that as long as someone is getting paid its ok.In that case whenever I download a song or burn a cd someone is being paid,so you have nothing to complain about.

                    In all seriousness, you’re ironically just proving me correct regards my complaint of how creative talent is right now completely devalued and treated as worthless. You actually find light shows and pyrotechnics–i.e. things that have absolutely nothing to do with making music–more valuable than the actual musical talent.

                    I never said its more valuable.I said that people appreciate it more.Its not fair,true,but thats how people are.

  45. John says:

    My daughter is only six, but she likes to watch me play video games. In fact, she will sometimes ask me to turn the computer on just so she can watch me play. But I may never have the opportunity to talk to her about piracy in this way, because–assuming she wants to start playing herself at some point–I think she might end up doing all her gaming on a tablet. Tablets are already her preferred means for watching videos, and her mother and I will probably buy a tablet for her to use long before we buy her a computer. (I would also bet that she asks for her own tablet long before she asks for her own computer.) I’m no expert, but it seems to me that piracy is a lot harder when you have to use Google Play (or its iOS equivalent) to install software on your device.

    • Chargone says:

      You don’t have to use google play to install stuff on android. If you get a program from elsewhere and want to install it you just have to toggle a setting (a button on the warning that comes up when you try to run the installer takes you straight to the check box in question.) To allow installations from other sources, and you should really toggle it back once the thing you want is installed.

      Apparently piracy is enough of an issue on android that a substantial number of games get iOS ports but not android ports (or just flat out made for iOS and not ported over) because of it.

  46. grampy_bone says:

    I had a roommate once who recommended I check out some new band, so I downloaded their album (it sucked.) My roommate was an aspiring musician himself, so I got this big lecture of how I was a horrible thief and how I was depriving this band of their livelihood, yadda yadda yadda. Hey, fair points. I didn’t deny it. I was a thrifty kid who was picky about music and I wouldn’t spend money on something I wasn’t sure I would like. My bad.

    Then the next day his girlfriend stops by and he gives her a burned copy of the same CD. I was incredulous. I pointed out he was doing exactly what he lectured me about the day before, but he argued it was totally different because he had already bought one copy of the album. So basically, as long as you buy one copy, you can make unlimited copies and give them to whoever you want?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Well in that case you shouldve responded that the guy who put the stuff online bought the copy himself,and then just uploaded for everyone to have.His mind would be blown.

  47. Mr. Son says:

    “CD Projekt has decided to treat me like a customer and not a criminal, so I’m going to treat them like artists and not adversaries.”

    I’ll say that how I regard piracy of a game has a lot to do with the sentiment expressed here. I’m more likely to feel comfortable with the idea of pirating a game if the publisher/developer/whatever comes across as draconian and like they consider me a pirate in waiting. It makes me want to “stick it to them” and “punish” their attitude. Whereas if a game is advertised as “DRM free” and the people in charge seem pleasant, I’d prefer to purchase it legitimately, unless it’s no longer available to purchase.

    I’m currently in a dilemma over World of Goo related to this.
    World of Goo can be purchased DRM free from its website.
    I have, when it was fairly new, purchased World of Goo for $20.
    I have changed computers multiple times since I purchased it, and no longer have my copy.
    I am very, very poor. $20 is a LOT of money and I can’t justify spending it on a game I’ve already completed. It’s hard to justify spending it on ANY non-food purchase.
    But, I want to play World of Goo again.
    My budget removes the option of repurchasing it for full price.
    I could wait for a Steam sale and get it for $5, in the future, when the itch to play it may have passed.
    I can just not play it and just suffer the longing until it passes.
    I can pirate the game.

    I really, really want to just pirate it. I already paid for it. They have my money. I’m not sharing it with anyone else who might have bought it otherwise, so I’m not costing them a sale from said person.
    But I respect the developers partly because the game is DRM free, which is what makes it so easy to pirate. If I had a monthly income that was even barely into the fourth digit, I’d be content to give them another $5-10 dollars because I feel they deserve it. Like I was helping them out with extra money, and partly balancing out someone who had pirated it in the first place.

    I’m not asking for advice, this is something I’m going to decide on my own.
    I just want to share my perspective.

  48. Hush says:

    I can’t help but see some of the spirit of this article reflected in your recent Steam refund attempt. You posted several tweets in the vein of “STILL WAITING VALVE HURRY UP,” and even when you got the refund two days later, you seemed mollified, but still miffed – though I could be misinterpreting that last tweet. So, Shamus: You seem to have an idea of how this is supposed to work. What were your expectations, and how did the whole process not measure up?

    I’m not trying to make a point, and unlike your situation in this post, this isn’t a perspective on a clear as mud issue that formed outside of the debate – I’m simply curious.

  49. Sae Hirak says:

    Because of the internet, it is now possible to create digital content and distribute it extremely cheaply to millions of people around the world.

    Creating the content requires time, energy, and money. But after the content has been created, it is extremely cheap and easy to copy, thus piracy is an inevitability.

    Trying to charge for the content itself is based on the old-fashioned physical world, where every product had to be created from scratch from raw materials.

    This old model has worked extremely well for the human race, because our markets have been based on physical goods. But now, we are not dealing with physical goods, but instead with information.

    The cost of copying information is so low that the information itself has very little market value. Trying to charge $60 for a video game when it costs less than a penny to copy the video game is clearly outrageous.

    This is an economic fact, based on supply and demand: because it is so easy and cheap to copy information, the supply is essentially infinite. No matter how much demand there is, you cannot charge money for information.

    Charging money for information only works when the other person agrees to keep the information secret, thus creating artificial scarcity. As soon as the information “leaks out”, it loses all market value.

    That is the fundamental problem: companies are charging far above the market value for their products (e.g. video games). The reason they are doing so is because they do not realize that they are trying to sell information: they think that they are selling a physical product.

    But, even though copying the video game costs almost nothing, creating the video game costs a huge amount of money.

    Once you realize that information costs money to produce, but almost no money to distribute, you realize that charging for information is absurd. The only logical conclusion is that the customers must pay to fund the creation of the content, but not pay for the content itself.

    That is exactly what systems like Kickstarter and Patreon do.

    This has at least three benefits:

    1) Concerns about piracy completely vanish.

    The usual way of doing business is to go into debt, create a product, then try to sell the product to pay back the debt (and hopefully make a profit).

    Instead, with Kickstarter, you ask the customers to fund the development of the product. That means even if you don’t charge any money for the product itself, you still break even. And if you charge a minor amount for the product (e.g. less than $5), that is pure profit.

    That means no more abusive DRM, because why would a company spend lots of money harming their customers, when they’ve already received the payment for their product?

    2) Companies invest a huge amount of time and money into a product, and they don’t even know if it will be successful or not. Many multi-million dollar projects failed miserably.

    With Kickstarter, either you generate enough interest from customers (and thus receive enough money to reach your funding goal), or you do not. You get actual feedback from actual customers about whether they want your product or not. And they vote with their wallet, so the feedback is reliable, unlike polls and surveys.

    This saves companies millions of dollars, because they avoid investing money into products that won’t sell.

    3) It also inspires creativity: because video games cost so much money to make, and the company does not know if it will be successful or not, they tend to make very conservative decisions. They use tried-and-true formulas, and copy their past successes, rather than experimenting with new ideas.

    But with Kickstarter, a company can try out a new idea without fear, because either their campaign will get funded (and thus they have enough money to create the video game), or it does not (in which case they scrap the idea and try a different idea). Trying out new ideas does not cost the company anything, which is very different from the current business model.

    This prevents stagnation (if customers get tired of a particular genre or series, they can simply not fund it), and encourages more fun and exciting games (companies that consistently release bad games will be less likely to get funded in the future).

    This shifts the emphasis from “create games similar to already successful games to minimize risk” to “create new kinds of games that create exciting new experiences”.

    —-

    Either companies will learn this fundamental truth about economic value and information, and will switch to systems like Kickstarter, or they will eventually go bankrupt.

    My fear is that the companies will put so much pressure onto the government that we end up with extremely abusive laws in an attempt to counter piracy. These anti-piracy laws will have a hugely negative impact on our quality of life, and the economy. And they won’t even succeed at stopping piracy.

    The only real long-term solution is to switch from “charging for content”, to “charging for development”.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>