Experienced Points: Piracy Numbers

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 26, 2010

Filed under: Column 184 comments

I have to admit I’m suffering from a little DRM Discussion Fatigue. For the past few weeks I’ve said to myself, “That’s it, let’s talk about something else now.” And then I end up authoring another one of these things. Another chance to put a few more whip-marks on the festering horse carcass that is the piracy debate.

It’s not that this stuff isn’t important, it’s just that I’m saddened that it can’t go anywhere. Pirates won’t stop doing their thing. Publishers won’t stop escalating their DRM efforts. People like me aren’t going to just shrug our shoulders and stop caring about the rights and privacy concerns that have made us so cantankerous these last few years. While we continue to exchange information and in some cases we even come dangerously close to understanding one another, we never approach anything that might be called an agreement.

Next week I will do my utmost to talk about something else. Hopefully something frivolous.


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184 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Piracy Numbers

  1. Heron says:

    You forgot to link to the article :(

    And, for the record, I generally enjoy reading your comments on this subject.

    Edit: Here’s a link for the lazy.

    And, “extra-zesty DRM” cracked me up :D

    1. LazerFX says:

      Eh – he said, “Another one of these things”, with the ‘these things’ being the link ;) The colours don’t stand out immensely, but they’re noticeable enough… unless you’re maybe some sort of weird grey/blue colourblind?

      1. Heron says:

        Nope, he haxed it in later ;)

        1. Shamus says:

          I did. I had originally forgotten the link. Which is silly, since that’s the entire point of the post.

          1. kik says:

            No, You didn’t forget anything. You did it intentionally. By not linking to the article, You used a DRM. The lesser viewers, the lesser chance that someone makes an unauthorized copy.

  2. Irridium says:

    Yeah, this whole DRM/Piracy thing is getting kind of annoying. The sad part is that publishers will never accept that their games will get pirated no matter what.

    People pirate movies and music all the time, more than games, and yet we don’t have to activate CD’s or movies online to watch them, or stay connected to the internet to watch them.

    1. Heron says:

      Shh, they’ll hear you!

      1. Irridium says:

        Don’t be silly, Shamus’s site isn’t important enough for them :P

        er, no offence Shamus…

    2. pnf says:

      Actually, they tried something like that. It failed miserably.

      1. Primogenitor says:

        Is there not a hardware chip for Blue-Ray stuff? If your player AND operating system AND hdmi cable AND TV/monitor don’t all agree that your not hacking, then you get a degraded picture. My mind may be fuzzy on that though.

    3. neothoron says:

      For movies, the mechanic of having a theater release makes it nearly impossible to recreate the experience even if you can get the content.

      As for music, in case you hadn’t noticed, there has been much complaining, and some extremely egregious things (like a Sony audio CD installing a rootkit on the PC when you wanted to play it).

      1. Allan says:

        Why would you want to recreate the experience of the cinema? Being completely ripped off for pop-corn and drinks, having to tolerate advertisements and previews that are not only unskipable but un-fast forwardable, being near people you don’t know some of whom will be loud, obnoxious and will kick your chair/sit infront of you and be outrageously tall, being unable to pause if you need the facilities, getting to which and finding some that aren’t horrificly disgusting is a massive pain, this does not sound like an experience I want to keep. :)

        1. Audacity says:

          It’s funny you should mention that, Allan. Whenever I hear people use terms like “Cinematic Experience” to describe a game, images of some dank overcrowded dirty cinema are precisely what first springs to my mind.

          1. Jabor says:

            Though I do think that the whole “3D cinema” thing will put a fairly hefty dent in movie piracy (or at least, push up cinema attendance) until we get TV sets and computer monitors that can do the same effects.

            1. Irridium says:

              I hate 3-D. Gives me a headache and makes me queasy…

              Plus the glasses are a pain.

        2. Irridium says:

          I was going to say the same thing :P

          I think thats one of the reasons people pirate movies anyway, so they don’t have to deal with the movie theaters.

  3. Jaedar says:

    I’m actually one of those people who pirate to try the game out. In todays industry, it is impossible to tell if a game will be good or if its just been hyped to death, or if it will even work on your computer.
    I do buy a lot of games after having tried them though.

    One interesting thing about Piracy these days though is that the Xbox versions get cracked about half a week before the PC ones. Well I find it interesting.

    1. Primogenitor says:

      Me too. In fact, I did exactly that with Blood Bowl this week. Only after I installed the “proper” version did I find:

      A) the DRM is of the over-zealous key on the disk AND key on the manual AND internet activation AND your first-born as a hostage in case you look at us funny.

      B) The pirated version had “extras” that the correct version didn’t – rules & tactics pdfs.

  4. Zaghadka says:


  5. scragar says:

    I pirate 3 things, those that I can’t get reasonably(games that aren’t sold anymore, things not released in my country, stuff so obscure it’s simply not available to buy), things which are simply too expensive(£80 for a 3 DVD set of something that’s already been out for 6 months? I’ll just download it) and to check things out before purchasing.

    What they can do to get me to stop pirating stuff all together:
    Make their old stuff available to buy online, worldwide.
    Offer a working demo.
    Price it reasonably, I’m not expecting cheap prices, but I shouldn’t be paying more for a DVD collection or game than I’m spending on rent. Your content is simply not worth that much and if it comes between a choice of paying you nothing for it or too much I’m going to choose nothing.

    I thought the <s> tag was supposed to be spoilers? It doesn’t work(but <strike> does)

    1. Hugo Sanchez says:

      It is indeed hard to get ahold of a lot of older stuff. Though Good ol’ Games has been helping with that problem recently.

      Still, I’ve found things which i couldn’t get any other way. A Bad Religion discography with B-sides and bonus content and live recordings that simply don’t exist in any retail collection. That said, the same thing put into a special “Collector’s Edition” box with a bunch of posters and what not, i would have easily paid big bucks for. $100+.

  6. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Remember that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

    That is the best thing I’ve read this week.

    I am 1000% stealing it for my own.

    But if I use it more than 5 times, I’ll pay for it.

    1. Sekundaari says:

      It’s actually common freeware, as far as I know, use it all you want!

      It’s even open source, you can modify it to form other witty phrases if you so desire.

      1. Kaeltik says:

        If there was a way to rank comments, this chain would get five stars.

  7. Meredith says:

    I think your best point, and the one that’s going to continue to feed the problem, is that publishers just don’t understand piracy. Until they figure out that DRM just doesn’t make any difference, we’ll have to either cope with it or stop buying games.

    I don’t mind a one-time disc check or activation, but I don’t want a bunch of invasive ‘phone home’ type software cluttering up my machine.

  8. S.Richmond says:

    As a kid I used to pirate absolutely everything. I probably could have begged/worked to get money, but it was just easier to download it. I pirate much much less now – I buy the games I believe are worth the money, usually calculated by how many hours I’ve spent in it.
    Couple of things I’d like to point out though:
    1. I often buy games on steam just to HAVE them now. I find that steam is such a smooth and simple (With a few exceptions where games have invasive DRM) process, and that it is often very cheap, that I just buy the games that I might have previously pirated months or years ago because I want to ‘collect them all’, so to speak.
    2. Sometimes I am enticed to buy a game rather than pirate it for the features that you won’t get with a pirated copy – multiplayer and other misc social features.

    Personally I believe the best DRM is one that protects the game through ‘natural means’. Give the player positive reasons to buy the game. Couldn’t say just how many more would buy the game, but I do strongly believe it’d be more than 0.9%.

  9. Superkp says:

    I generally agree with above comments – I will pirate really old games that I remember from my teenage years that probably won’t even work on my current OS without someone more skilled than me doing -something- to make it workable.

    But Shamus, I hear you. I have sort of been getting the vibe that you are getting tired of the debate for a while now. What I suggest is to get a mentality that you can maintain (which you have), and keep that until some serious arguments change your mind, or actually change the landscape of DRM.

    this is opposed to the idea of writing an article every time the new shiny DRM comes out, or the new piracy research comes out, etc. You have already assented that you cannot really do very much…so do what you can, and leave it.

  10. DosFreak says:

    Why multiple articles?

    Just have one, keep on updating it and refining it and then link back….

  11. Ben says:

    Hey I actually bought Mass Effect after I pirated it! I’m an outlier! :D

    Of course, the legit version, purchased on steam, proceeded to crash all the time, and I gave up trying to complete it, whereas the pirated version I remember it crashing a single time…

    1. Hugo Sanchez says:

      Had a similar experience with STALKER: Shadow of Chrynobyl a month ago. I was trying to install LURK, (Wanted to replay it before Call of Pripyat, so as to make the story fresh again) With my steam copy it crashed every time. So i took the alternate route. Hopped onto TPB, found it. and of course it worked. I love steam, don’t get me wrong, and even with this, I wouldn’t say a negative word against the system. But i don’t feel a bad person for getting an alternate copy of something I’ve payed for. I also got Mass Effect (from TPB) 1 for the PC, so i could complete it before ME2, so i could use my save game. (I had ME1 on the 360, but of course, save’s are cross platform compatible) I felt no guilt.

    2. Psithief says:

      Well I pirated Fallout 3 while I was waiting for my copy to be shipped to me.

      How incredibly cheap of me.

  12. pulse says:

    The piracy numbers you mention aren’t that close together, depending on how you look at it. The 15% paying customers of Demigod is almost twice as large a portion as the 8% of Ricochet Infinity.
    This is still not a huge difference, but it should be enough to be of interest to publishers.

    I’d also like to add my personal anecdote to Tap-Fu one, even if it doesn’t result in metamorphosis into data.
    About a year ago now, I briefly convinced myself that it was ok to pirate a few games. I have since bought all of them legitimately to ease my conscience, but I haven’t re-installed any of them. The pirated copies still work well.
    If we assume that some of the vocal pirates are honest about using pirated copies as demos, would they bother to re-install, risking DRM-based hassles?

    It would be interesting to get statistics from on-line stores about how many games are sold but never downloaded.

    1. Heron says:

      With World of Goo, at least, they used the number of sales as the metric for “how many people aren’t pirating it”. There is no magic function that determines whether the currently-running copy is legit.

      So, if the others did the same thing, then the situation you describe would have no effect on the statistics.

      1. pkt-zer0 says:

        Steam stat tracking would do that. Cracked versions don’t run through the Steam client, as far as I know.

        1. Jabor says:

          Though that depends. There are a few hacked clients floating around that just skip the “do you actually own this game” check when launching a game.

  13. Zerai says:

    IF you want another theme, why not resurrect the game design ones? They’re pretty cool and varied

    About piracy… it’s the same as always, it’s unstoppable, and if it was, it would result in few benefits (if not losses) so anything more than a CD-check (and maybe authenticated servers for patches?) is overkill

  14. Tigeriffic says:

    Shamus, you’re saying one thing that really offends me, and that’s that everyone who has ever borrowed a game from a friend is a (“casual”) pirate, and therefore a jerk. Does borrowing books, movies or CD:s also make you a jerk? Or when you said that all pirates are jerks, did you not mean to include casual pirates? But then it wouldn’t be 100%, would it?

    1. Shamus says:

      I know the publishers disagree, but I think borrowing is fine.

      But it’s strange with games, because it’s possible to lend something and still have it. The stance I always liked was “treat this like a book”. So only one person plays it at a time.

      1. Heron says:

        This was easy back before CD burners were commonplace: whoever had the CD had the game. CD keys merely verified that your install was legit (with no online check), so that worked fine as far as borrowing went.

        I bought several games precisely because I was able to borrow them first to see that I liked them; Diablo II was one of them, basically the entire Command & Conquer series was another.

        I really, really wish Steam had some mechanism for lending games.

        1. Garden Ninja says:

          I really, really wish Steam had some mechanism for lending games.

          I don’t see why they don’t, besides cost of development. I remember a thread somewhere a while back, discussing why there isn’t a mechanism to sell your games. Aside from Valve/Publishers not getting anything out of it, (and possible decreasing normal sales, since there is no physical media that can degrade over time), someone brought up that if your account got hacked, the hacker could just sell all your stuff.

          That wouldn’t apply to lending. Just implement it so that the owner can’t use the game while it’s lent out, and can demand it back (revoke access) at any time.

      2. If it’s possible to lend something and still have it, how is it possible to steal it?

        We can discuss the morals of this as much as we like, but the fact remains that nobody seems to even be thinking about accepting the reality of what computer data is and crafting a business model around that.

        The Earth isn’t flat. Time to stop selling flat globes.

        1. Heron says:

          Agreed. The problem the publishers are having is that they’re trying to treat games as if they’re physical goods – as if there is a limited supply to pass around to customers.

          Instead they need to find a way to embrace the infinite supply created by the digital environment. One way to do this is Steam’s way; they don’t care how often you download it, or on how many computers, you just need an account that’s authorized to play it. (It may not be the best way, but it’s certainly better than Ubisoft’s way.)

          1. ehlijen says:

            Actually, that’s exactly not what they’re doing. If they were simply trying to sell limited numbers of physical goods they would not scrutinize your every fiber of your being to see if you’re really the one who bought it, they would not simply give you a limited licence to use their intellectual property for your personal amusement and they would not attempt to barge their way into the second hand market.

            The fruit farmer doesn’t need to see your passport before the market salesman hands you a bag of apples, the shoe company doesn’t ask you to read him the secret number inside the shoe back to him over the phone once you get home, the penguin group doesn’t try to stop you from reading a book in more than 3 rooms and VW is not collecting 10% from every second hand car sale.

            The publishers have learned just what data is and how to trade with it. It just turns out the customers don’t want that and would rather see themselves actually ‘owning’ a copy of the product (but how can you own something you can’t lend out or steal?).

            The succesful companies will be those that mollify the customers with enough imagined ownership while still proftiting from the licencing contracts that they actually sell.

            Note: I’m against where this is going btw.

      3. Falco Rusticula says:

        Borrowing games can be very like borrowing books. Of course, that relies on you being unable to run the game on your own computer, so you have to borrow the friend’s computer at the same time as you borrow the game.

        In my experience, though, people who borrow games and like them tend to end up getting the game themselves for conveniance’s sake. If you don’t like the game you borrowed, you won’t play it that long anyway.

  15. David Armstrong says:

    I think the solution companies will resort to is to stop porting their products to the PC.

    I love PC gaming, but damnit if my store was running a 90% pilfer rate, I’d stop selling those products or beef up security.

    The people commenting here must all have Masters in Business, because they’re always going on about keeping customers satisfied and what-not. Every argument ends with “and that’s why they shouldn’t do this, because it makes bad business sense.”

    WELL BULLSHIT! You run a T-Shirt store, and you only get paid for 1 out of every 10 T-Shirts that walk out the door! That’s no way to run a business! I’m surprised Ubi isn’t doing something more than their DRM.

    Oh, and for those few “noble savages” out there who only pirate “old games” or “occasionally,” I just want to point out that in this context, “pirate” is synonymous with “stealing” and it doesn’t matter how old the product is.

    If I stole a car that wasn’t made anymore, it’s still stealing. These comments have been most enlightening – specifically about the quality of the authors. Of course you’re against DRM – you’re a pack of thieves.

    Just because you WANT a game, but don’t WANT to pay for it, that doesn’t mean you can rip it off. None of your opinions matter. You’re a bunch of digital thugs!

    1. Bobknight says:

      This is known as the tragedy of the commons.


      1. David Armstrong says:

        Well, when companies either stop making games or their security measures do genuinely discourage gamers from buying, then it will be a pity.

        It gets talked about here, what the best business decision is and what these companies ought to do. What would YOU do if your online servers are filled with these jerks? You’re paying for bandwidth so people who didn’t pay get to play. That’s an intolerable situation – I’m shocked at how greedy and selfish these gamers are.

        Companies like Ubi are the least of our problems.

        1. Daimbert says:

          So, David, my question is this: why aren’t they applying their DRM THERE, on the servers, and not on the product that I have in my hands?

          In other comments, you commented about pirating Star Trek Online, but I wasn’t aware that MMOs were that upset about piracy. The examples given in most places are of games that aren’t MMOs that are moving to MMO-style activation and validation schemes. So, presuming that these work reasonably well — and someone can correct me if I’m wrong — then why not have the basic store copy of a game be DRM-free and then have MMO-style registration and validation for tech support and on-line play/matchmaking? That way, if I don’t want any of these things I don’t have to put up with any barriers to my game experience, and if I want the extras the company gets to validate that I’ve paid for it?

        2. Since it hasn’t done so already. The testimony of people here aside.

          1. Mayhem says:

            Well, it worked well enough for Blizzard.
            Diablo II and Starcraft both had online play locked to registered users, only single player and LAN play was available for illegitimate copies.

            And both of them were complete flops that noone has heard of any more right?

    2. krellen says:

      A pretty one-sided viewpoint there. Would you buy a T-Shirt that came with a lock on the collar, and you had to call the store everytime to get the lock taken off so you could wear the shirt?

      The “only one in ten shirts are sold” analogy fails as well, because it’s not so much that YOUR shirts are being stolen, but that the guy that bought that shirt last week is now creating cheap copies and giving them away on the street. You’re not directly losing merchandise – just losing “sales” to the guy copying your stuff and giving it away (and most of those sales were never yours to begin with, because the only price those people would buy or could afford your T-shirts at was free).

      1. Namfoodle says:

        Exactly. And the guy isn’t even really creating copies. He’s making a copy of the slogan visible outside your store with a marker handy so people can come along and write the slogan on their own shirt if they care to.

    3. Hugo Sanchez says:

      So how else do you get a 15 year old DOS game made by a company that went out of business 10 Years ago?

        1. krellen says:


        2. Hugo Sanchez says:

          If only, If only. But his’s argument is flawed really.

          Because software is different from a physical product. If i want an old car that is no longer made by a company that went out of business, a DeLorean for example. I could A). Steal one from someone who already owns one (And get caught, way too recognizable) or B). Wait for someone to Auction/put one up for sale. In which case i would be paying a ridiculous mark-up. Furthermore, (And this is the argument against piracy/stealing right?) The makers of the DeLorean would receive no money from this transaction.

          Software on the other hand has as many copies of it as someone wants to make. and if the company no longer exists and it’s an ancient game, there really is no legitimate way to get it, unless i’m willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money to a collector, which still doesn’t benefit the developers.

          By the way Shamus, If i had one of those, the last thing on my mind would be old DOS games.

          1. Shamus says:

            “By the way Shamus, If i had one of those, the last thing on my mind would be old DOS games.”

            So… you’re more of an Amiga man, then?

            1. Hugo Sanchez says:

              That depends. Can I only play games, or can i screw with time all I want.

              Still, How could i resist my trusty ol’ Amiga 500. I loved that thing with all my heart. Then when i moved in to my first apartment, my best friend made the mistake of letting it drop down a flight of stairs. Funny thing, he was the next thing to fall down those stairs.

              1. Namfoodle says:

                You must go through a lot of “best” friends.

                1. Hugo Sanchez says:

                  Not at all, I forgave him. It’s not like i had the money for another computer at the time, though. And it was probably my favorite possession. He didn’t break, like my Amiga did, either.

            2. Traska says:

              If I had a time machine? I was actually talking about this just today. I’d go back in time and convince Nintendo that their portable Nintendo unit shouldn’t be called Gameboy, it should be called the Pocket (or portable) Nintendo Entertainment System. Of, sure, it’d be the Pocket Famicom in Japan. But in the States? “What are you doing, Johnny?” “I’m playing with my P-NES.”

              Why yes, I am easily (and crassly) amused sometimes.

              Seriously though, there are any number of games I’d want, given the chance. They just don’t exist anymore. I thank the fates I still have a disc of Master Of Orion II… it means I’ll *always* have a way to install it. Unless it breaks.

              1. Hugo Sanchez says:

                That was a great joke.

      1. Robyrt says:

        I host an abandonware game – 15 years old, hard to find at retail even then, the developer no longer exists, the publisher no longer offers the game, the guys who bought the rights to the publisher’s back catalog no longer offer the game, and it has DRM that makes it unplayable on newer versions of Windows or if your computer has 2 hard drives or if you lost the physical CD.

        For many years, I was the only source on the Internet for this game, and I required anyone who wanted it to email me. Looking back through my inbox, about 50% of people volunteered that they used to own it in 1996. (I didn’t specifically ask.) I have never been contacted by the IP owners, although my download page is higher than the official website on Google.

        Yes, this is an extreme corner case. I suppose I could have pointed them to Ebay, where exactly 2 copies are available. But I don’t feel any qualms about enabling piracy when I could not legitimately purchase it.

        I don’t otherwise pirate games, music or other entertainment.

    4. LK says:

      Any analogy which compares data whose unit price and scarcity is 0, with physical goods whose scarcity and unit price is large (comparitively) and fixed is flawed from the outset.

      Stealing a game online doesn’t take a game off of the shelf at EB Games.

      The attempt at explanation is understandable but the analogy just falls flat because it’s apples to oranges. The pain of having things stolen from your store would be significantly diminished if people were walking in and walking off with shirts that didn’t also vanish from the shelf and have to be replaced at cost.

      Supply is increased, demand takes a hit, but you’re still not incurring any direct loss. The effects of piracy are all indirect, abstract, and difficult to quantify. They are far from being equivocal to physical property theft.

      This is difficult for people to grasp and discuss precisely because IP-holding lobbying powers have deliberately spread this misleading equivocal relationship. If people hadn’t been led to think of the two as equal, discussions of the matter would be less prone to these semantics-oriented, but important, derailments.

      The article someone posted a few days ago was perfectly correct in saying that if anyone is going to get anywhere discussing piracy, people need to stop disseminating falsities and misinformation on both sides. That includes this particular analogy. It fails due rigor in simplifying the situation for discussion, as it simplifies it to the point of removing key facts.

      1. Hugo Sanchez says:

        Understandable, They aren’t the same, that said, while the numbers are difficult to arrive at, piracy, still will hurt the developers.

        That said, it is a complex relationship, and we’ll probably never get the quantified number for how much one download is worth, in revenue loss, to the developers/publishers.

        Defiantly less then the retail cost, but it’s almost indefinable, in the way that intellectual property isn’t a tangible thing.

        Either way, calling it equivalent to walking it to a store an pocketing a game is incorrect.

        That said, that’s not a justification for piracy.

        1. LK says:

          Certainly not a justification, but an important qualifier to make when discussing it rationally.

          Walking right into the discussion and starting (unintentionally) with emotive rhetoric, when that rhetoric is somewhat counter-factual, poisons the discussion.

      2. Namfoodle says:

        IP is not the same as a physical good, true. But how are creators of IP supposed to eat and clothe themselves with physical goods if no one will pay for their labor? (besides getting a new job) Is it fair that 90% of the folks enjoying their labor didn’t pay for it?

        1. LK says:

          To this I also have to reply with the caution against emotive rhetoric. Facts are constructive, appeals to emotion usually just draw the battle lines for a flame war.

          I’m not justifying the action, and correcting the facts of analogies about it should not be seen as being an advocate of it. That is a strawman fallacy.

          1. MisteR says:

            I’m afraid, however, that your caution is emotive rhetoric as well. Just as facts can be constructive, so can emotive rhetoric. The two are alike in that matter. It is the bad use of rhetoric, similar to the bad use of facts, that get in the way of a constructive debate.

        2. krellen says:

          I’d wager more than 90% of people that enjoy singing “Happy Birthday to You” have never once paid the woman that wrote the song (or her descendants, as she is passed away IIRC).

          It’s not a perfect translation between writing a song and writing a game, but treating intellectual property as tangible and its dissemination (through piracy, sharing, rentals, what have you) by means other than direct purchase as theft results in the situation we have now, where people are throwing money at a problem, creating no solution at all and serving only to hamper the enjoyment of those that do, in fact, pay them.

          It’s not like these companies are losing oodles of money on their investments (even a very modest half million sales for a big-name game is easily a three to five-times return on the initial investment), nor are their creators being underpaid (over worked, perhaps, but they still get paid).

          DRM provably makes little to no difference in piracy, and the amount of business currently generated is quite sufficient to continue fueling the industry. The situation is by far not the “DOOM!” we are lead to believe.

          The problem stems largely from the short-sightedness of companies driven by the false premise that they exist solely to return maximum profit. Ample profits should be sufficient, but are not.

          1. Hugo Sanchez says:

            That women (two sisters) lost copyright status a long time ago. And their version of the song was very similar to many songs that predate them by 50+ years.

            1. Mayhem says:

              True, but they lost their copyright to Disney.
              Just try using Happy Birthday in a commercial context, like on TV, and see how fast the lawyers move in…

      3. “Supply is increased, demand takes a hit, but you're still not incurring any direct loss. The effects of piracy are all indirect, abstract, and difficult to quantify.”

        On the contrary, that’s not true. The Tweakgames article manages to quantify it quite nicely (and I’m imagining that’s the one you’re talking about).

        To sum up, there are two places where there is a direct loss: lost sales and support. Lost sales are not a 1:1 relationship – 1 download is not exactly 1 lost sale. But, it could be equal to a fraction of a sale – somebody who would have bought the game if it hadn’t been available for download first, or somebody who would have bought the game on remainder. So, what are some actual figures?

        According to the article, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold approximately 2-300,000 units (both physical and download) on the PC, with approximately 4.1 million illegal downloads. The same game on console sold over 6 million copies, with approximately 970,000 illegal downloads. So, the demand is present, the PC market is much larger than the console market, and the number of copies total on PC are smaller than on console, yet the piracy rate on PC is massive in comparison. The number of legitimate PC copies sold could have doubled while reducing the piracy rate by less than 10%.

        (Source: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html )

        But still, that’s lost sales – not quite the same as directly losing money. So here’s the area where it does cost money: technical support.

        Remember that pirate ratio? Well, they’re also demanding tech support from the game company. And, they’re hitting the servers, and servers cost money. Now you’re into a direct drain on money and resources by the pirates themselves. There’s one case in the Tweakguides article where Ritual Entertainment had to field 5 support requests from pirates to every request by an actual customer.

        Now – speaking as the owner of a small business (I own and operate a publishing company), given the current support issues, piracy rates, and development complexities (the PC market is best described as a large number of similar platforms, and thus much harder to develop for than the console), vs. the console market, I’d drop the PC games market in a microsecond. It’s the only reasonable business decision to make. And when you’re looking at it in terms of a profit/loss issue – which is how any game developer operates – I imagine you’ll find that there’s not really any other reasonable option. Unless you want to have to treat your customers like criminals, that is.

        And that’s why the PC games market is slowly but surely becoming mainly MMOs, and the big single player games are moving to the consoles.

        1. LK says:

          That is an important caveat to bring up and yes I did apparently forget about that, it is definitely a direct loss.

          I suppose it didn’t stick in my own memory. I was never enough of a jerk when I used to pirate games to expect them to give me support for games I didn’t pay for.

          That’s definitely no small sum in costs, though, you are right.

        2. Hugo Sanchez says:

          The servers, what servers? This is Modern Warfare 2 we’re talking about.

          1. Shamus says:

            There actually is a small overhead to running the matchmaking servers, which is what allows people to find each other for the peer-based game.

            1. Hugo Sanchez says:

              I suppose you have a point there. However, even servers for other games (Despite the fact that you usually can’t get online with a pirated copy), are largely run by third-parties.

              1. Heron says:

                We’ve seen what happens when they’re not run by third parties…

                1. Hugo Sanchez says:

                  Well, console player’s can’t get third-party servers. So of course they are screwed. But we’re talking in the context of the PC, right?

          2. I think it was multiplayer game servers, or possibly authentication servers (checking CD keys, etc.). I don’t remember where in the article it was, and it’s late enough that my brain’s too fried to chase it down…

    5. Daimbert says:

      David, David, David. You might want to try reading the ENTIRE posts that end with that, because they often GIVE suggestions on how to fix the problem. But, at any rate, it doesn’t take an MBA to know that you don’t stop people from “stealing” your products by making it more and more annoying to ACTUALLY BUY THEM. All of the things that stores do to stop shoplifting are, in general, not annoying to me as a customer except in really odd cases. In general, all I have to do is go up, find what I like, go up to the cash, pay, wait an extra two seconds for them to remove or deactivate the tags, and leave. And then I can do whatever I want with the products. That ain’t what DRM does.

      So, as I stated below, here’s an answer: make the product better if you buy it than if you have a pirated copy. Add all sorts of extras for legitimate buyers and make those extras really, really hard to pirate. Make them physical extras, like soundtrack CDs, art books or little figures or books. Put as stringent a validation requirement as you’d like on your own servers or downloadable extra content. This way, if I — say — want to buy Starcraft 2 I go into the store, buy it, and play it on my own with no hassles (or with a local hook-up with friends). If I want the extras, I prove to Blizzard that I own the game and we’re happy, and I can DECIDE whether that content is worth the hassle. I’m not FORCED into it.

      As for old games, my theory is this: if I can’t walk into a store and buy it, or have them say “We’ll get it in two weeks”, or go to the company website and buy it, I have no issues with downloading a cracked version. The reason? I can get it with no loss to them — they aren’t losing something physical — and THEY WON’T SELL IT TO ME. If I’m willing to give them the cash they want and they won’t take it, then they aren’t losing any sales or anything, and so it’s not in any way morally bad, nor do I think it should be legally problematic.

      If I CAN buy it, then I should. But why should I be deprived of playing a good game simply because they decided that it wasn’t worth selling anymore, if I can get the game without depriving them of their ability to decide to re-sell or use the product later? See, unlike a car, if I copy it to play they don’t really lose their ability to USE the software how they like, and so the only “stealing” is about lost sales. Well, if they won’t sell it to me, they aren’t losing any sales, and so there’s no “stealing” going on.

      And before you rant, right now I buy everything I play.

      1. “But why should I be deprived of playing a good game simply because they decided that it wasn't worth selling anymore, if I can get the game without depriving them of their ability to decide to re-sell or use the product later?”

        I’ll take a shot at that.

        When it comes down to abandonware, I can’t see a problem with that attitude – so long as it’s “free swag” you’re talking about. There are some very good games out there that are no longer available – hell, most of my game shelf is probably titles from companies that no longer exist (mind you, I remember the glory days of Microprose…).

        But, I do have an issue with the way you’ve worded it. You’ve framed it as a right to play it – but nobody has a right to get whatever they want. They have the right to try, but, as the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, it’s the right to the “pursuit of happiness,” not just “happiness.” If you lucked onto an old game that’s no longer available, good on you – free swag is always nice. But there is no obligation for anybody to provide it to you.

        If the opportunity arises for you to get some free abandonware, I’d go as far as to say that there’s no harm done. The problem lies when it isn’t abandonware. We’re talking about games here, after all – not food or prescription medicine. If you can’t wait two weeks for a game to come in to a store, then I suggest that perhaps you need to spend a bit more time outdoors.

        (And by the way, if you read the Tweakguides article, you’ll find that in a lot of cases, the developers have already tried using the value-added approach, and found that it does nothing to the piracy rate. In fact, the only thing that did lower the piracy rate was really intrusive DRM, and that was only on occasion.)

        1. Daimbert says:


          My comments were aimed precisely at old games that you can’t buy. The “We can get it in two weeks” comment was trying to establish — seemingly unsuccessfully — that they CAN’T order it in, not that it isn’t currently on the shelves (they could get it in in about that time if it’s available). I never claimed any right to do so, but was arguing precisely “If I can find it somewhere and the company won’t sell it to me, there’s nothing wrong with my copying it” because they lost no sale what they were trying to make.

          As for value-added, it sounds like at best it isn’t any worse than DRM schemes, and doesn’t irritate paying customers. Sounds like a better proposition to me, especially since all of that extensive DRM that kinda sorta works can be applied to the extra content without ticking off customers as much and so might help.

          If adding value doesn’t work, then nothing well, as attempts at DRM have proven.

        2. Daimbert says:


          My comments were aimed precisely at old games that you can’t buy. The “We can get it in two weeks” comment was trying to establish — seemingly unsuccessfully — that they CAN’T order it in, not that it isn’t currently on the shelves (they could get it in in about that time if it’s available). I never claimed any right to do so, but was arguing precisely “If I can find it somewhere and the company won’t sell it to me, there’s nothing wrong with my copying it” because they lost no sale what they were trying to make.

          As for value-added, it sounds like at best it isn’t any worse than DRM schemes, and doesn’t irritate paying customers. Sounds like a better proposition to me, especially since all of that extensive DRM that kinda sorta works can be applied to the extra content without ticking off customers as much and so might help.

          If adding value doesn’t work, then nothing well, as attempts at DRM have proven.

          BTW, I looked at the article but didn’t see the section that mentioned it specifically, and it’s long enough and only tangentially related to my views enough that I’m not going to read the whole thing in depth. Do you have a specific reference in that article that you’d like to draw my attention to?

          1. Daimbert says:

            Oops, accidental double post. Probably did it with an extra back button. Sorry about that …

            1. No problem – I’ve done worse in my time.

              As far as the references, I think it was either on this page: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_7.html

              …or this page: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_10.html

    6. Well, David, this is infantile. First off, know who you’re talking to. Shamus claims he has never pirated a game and so do many other people here.

      “I love PC gaming, but damnit if my store was running a 90% pilfer rate, I'd stop selling those products or beef up security.”

      Except you’d recognize that at some point, the additional security would deter more sales than it would stop theft. You’d make a choice. Software companies want to have their cake and eat it too.

      Also, if I stole your dog food and you came to my house and shot my dog, you’d be arrested. But companies want to be able to harm our computers and stop our use of the products we purchased at normal retail outlets with no repercussions.

      Then there’s the fact that when I purchase a game, I’m operating off of the ownership definition and assumption that is common in this society: Unlimited use except for when it directly conflicts with law (e.g. I can buy a gun but I can’t shoot you with it except in self-defense). But then I come home and see an EULA that tells me I actually purchased a license. Only the store didn’t put Shooter 2: The Shootening into a “license” section, they put it into a game section. That’s illegal too, or at least transparently should be by the way contract law works, but they do it and get away with it.

      And what about when I buy your DRM-riddled game and I can’t play it on my rig but I can’t return it? I’m REALLY out $60, not hypothetical $60 I might have made.

      “The people commenting here must all have Masters in Business, because they're always going on about keeping customers satisfied and what-not. Every argument ends with “and that's why they shouldn't do this, because it makes bad business sense.””

      The merry go round actually goes like this.

      “DRM makes good business sense!”

      “How? It hurts good paying customers while doing nothing to the vast majority of pirates.”

      “Well, it’s technologically sound!”

      “It’s technologically impossible.”

      “But it still makes good business sense to slow down pirates, even a little!”

      And so the cycle contin

      I’ve wracked my brains trying to come up with a way that what they’re doing makes sense, a paradigm or a Weltanschauung where you can understand why they keep making the dumb decisions. But business teaches you that shrinkage is inevitable, technology teaches you that DRM is impossible, and customer service and sales teach you that accusing paying customers of theft is possibly one of the greatest no-nos imaginable. The only explanation that makes any sense is sheer ignorance on the part of management, but that can’t be right either.

      “WELL BULLSHIT! You run a T-Shirt store, and you only get paid for 1 out of every 10 T-Shirts that walk out the door! That's no way to run a business! I'm surprised Ubi isn't doing something more than their DRM”

      But those extra T-shirts you didn’t sell have no marginal cost. No customer couldn’t buy those T-shirts by virtue of being gone. A new product that you own the license to coalesced out of nowhere, and now you want your money. Maybe that’s legitimate, maybe it’s not, but it doesn’t hurt you, not directly.

      Let me remind you that in a free market, the pirates would win. They are providing a service that is cheaper and better. By the logic of the free market crap we are spoonfed by these very companies and their ideological cohorts, they need to stop whining and trust in the magic of the market.

      They’re not willing to do that. That’s fine, I guess. The market needs regulation to function even minimally. But they’re operating off of the maxim that Adam Smith attributed to businessmen: All for ourselves and nothing for other people. If they want state protection of their intellectual property, I as a consumer want protection from them. I don’t have it. Publishers and pirates are both thieves.

      “Oh, and for those few “noble savages” out there who only pirate “old games” or “occasionally,” I just want to point out that in this context, “pirate” is synonymous with “stealing” and it doesn't matter how old the product is.

      If I stole a car that wasn't made anymore, it's still stealing. These comments have been most enlightening ““ specifically about the quality of the authors. Of course you're against DRM ““ you're a pack of thieves.”

      But if I steal an old car, I either steal it from someone who bought it or from a company warehouse. I make it impossible for those people to drive or sell it.

      If I pirate old technology, I don’t stop their ability to sell to any other consumer on the planet.

      This whole discussion is about consumer rights versus producer rights. Producers have used means fair, foul, legal, illegal, democratic and undemocratic to secure unimaginable rights while we have gotten nothing.

  16. Bobknight says:

    Careful where you paint with that brush.

    If 100% of the pirates are jerks and

    there are people who buy their games first and then pirate it later then

    these legitimate customers are also jerks because they chose not to be inconvenienced by the DRM.

    More on topic: I think the best way to reduce (effective) piracy rate is to simply be a consistently good dev. I know that I will buy every single bioware release in the future, simply because of goodwill. However, that does not mean I will stop pirating their stuff. I pirated almost all of bioware’s stuff despite the fact that I _know_ I will be buying them(for many of them I bought on release day)… why? Because pirating lets me play those games earlier.


    I always wondered why the publishers didn’t try to get in on the action by releasing their own pirated copies of the games.. for a minimal fee. It’ll be flawed of course and you won’t get to play online and its associated goodies, but you’d get it earlier than all the other pirates and you’d be able to guarantee it’s contents. Even if they salvage 10% out of that 90% piracy and even if they only make 1/2 of what they would on a normal game(notice that this ‘version’ requires no packaging, no commissions etc.) it would still be big business..

    There are people who don’t want to pay at all, and then there are people who just don’t want to pay for the full thing.

    Is it a good idea? I don’t know, probably not. But I think it is better than to try and fight something indomitable.

    1. Low-Level DM says:

      Not to step on a very legitimate post, I think the argument Shamus makes is that the people who buy and then pirate or pirate and then buy (either way) aren’t really pirates, since they have paid for the game. So, in that case, his argument is a lot less inflammatory, since he’s really saying (without the punch-removing qualifiers) “100% of people who illegitimately play games which they do not own the rights to by downloading, copying, cracking, or stealing access to the game are jerks.”

      Which is true.

        1. pkt-zer0 says:

          Would the random teenage fellow downloading Photoshop because he can’t afford the couple hundred bucks it costs also be a jerk, then? I don’t think so, myself.

          1. Shamus says:

            Why doesn’t he download the Gimp? It’s free, and it does most of the stuff PS does.

            1. pkt-zer0 says:

              That’s not really answering my question, though. Also, feel free to replace PS with whatever example you feel more appropriate.

              1. ehlijen says:

                Is he attempting to utilise something created by someone he has no intention of compensating for his work?

                Sounds like a Jerk to me.

        2. Steve C says:

          And Shamus thinks borrowing/loaning of rivalrous goods is fine in the same vein of public libraries. So it’s “100% of people who illegitimately play games which they do not own the rights to by downloading, copying, cracking, or stealing access to the game are jerks but excluding those you give your only physical copy to.”

          “100% of people are jerks* who…”

          *see footnotes #1-18

  17. nerdpride says:

    Sorry Shamus, but you’re going to keep getting dissenting opinions if you keep posting loaded statements like (as Tigeriffic points out) “100% of pirates are jerks”.

    It smells like red herring when you do that.

    So, where’s the interesting part that we’ve been led away from, hmm?

    1. Shamus says:

      I said at the start that downloading a game you own is not piracy.

      1. LK says:

        Or cracking one you purchased to get it to stop giving you a hassle.

        Downloading one you already own does help proliferate the files in the swarm in bittorrent though so it’s marginally less clear-cut.

        Drop in the bucket stuff, of course, but I’m sure someone will fault you if you do it.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What you forgot to say in the spore v galciv2 is that while spore did appear on its launch day(which was also pre-launch day in some countries),the other one was waited for for months.While you could get spore updates(patches and add ons)cracked almost immediately,patches for galciv werent cracked for a long time.

    Anyone can download a cracked game,copy it,share it amonst friends,etc.But only a few people know how to actually crack the game.And it is the second ones that you need to stop,not the first one.Users just go with the easiest option available,which currently is downloading the cracked game.

    Not to mention that there still are numerous countries where piracy is profitable,because originals either are unavailable,or are too expensive,this pirates can not only crack and distribute the games,but also earn money doing this.Whats also very interesting is that now that it is so easy to download games from the web,this money doesnt come so much from the games themselves,but from modified consoles which can play them.And that is a sharp contrast to the old days when consoles were safe,and only pc games were pirated and sold.

    1. It is very significant that pirates make money off of the process. Some make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    2. Jabor says:

      If you don’t have DRM on your game, only the most incompetent pirate will actually put it up and seed it on the ‘net. Doing so is tantamount to admitting that you aren’t capable of breaking anything more secure. (Yes, the sell-a-knockoff-version-for-five-dollars pirates would still be around, but you don’t stop them either way).

      The cracking scene is all about the respect of beating the DRM producers. If a particular pirate claims they “cracked” something with no DRM, they’d be laughed out of any serious circle.

  19. Zel says:

    Saying DRMs are made to fight piracy is missing the big picture, as it’s pretty clear one of the (if not the main) target of such systems is to kill the second-hand market. And while piracy numbers are hard to interpret, second-hand sales numbers are easy to obtain and if handled right can easily translate into money for the publishers.

    Even $10 or $20 is better than nothing at all, and having different pricing policies depending on the customer preferences (like the patience to wait a few months after release) actually makes a lot of sense. That’s exactly why Steam is having their “sales”. The buyers are happy, the publishers are happy, so it’s perfect.

    Except the first-day buyers who used to resell their copies to cut the game’s price won’t be able to anymore. That means less sales at full prices, but more sales overall, as the former first-day buyers will probably still buy the game at the lower price, and people who bought second-hand will now buy new. All things considered, it results in more sales at a lower average price. I’m not sure how it would balance out, but it’s worth a try. Delaying sales from the release date, marketing campaign and buzz seems quite risky though.

    By the way, GfK recently published a study that shows 38% of video games sales in France are second-hand. I’m not convinced the second-hand market is as dead as some like to claim.

    1. Heron says:

      If they’re doing it to kill the secondhand market, and specifically not to combat piracy, then why are they shouting from the rooftops that a) they’re doing it to fight piracy, and b) piracy is killing their profits?

      At the very least, they want us to think it’s to fight piracy, so it effectively may as well be to try to fight piracy.

      I'm not convinced the second-hand market is as dead as some like to claim.

      For me it certainly is; every single game I’ve bought in the last three years has either been on Steam (and thus irrevocably tied to my account) or comes with a product key that is then tied to an account which I am unwilling to give away (e.g. Champions Online, Star Trek Online, Lord of the Rings Online, etc).

      1. ehlijen says:

        My guess as to why would be that it’s far easier to get public support by shouting ‘thief’ than it is by shouting ‘he dared resell my product’.

        Hands up who thinks stealing is wrong?

        Now hands up who thinks reselling things you no longer want or need is wrong?

        There was a lot less hands up in that second group. Customers like to think they own games, companies like to think they grant licences. People can’t sell licences, but the companies don’t want to tell them that because that ruins what little illusion of ownership is left.

      2. Zel says:

        The reason is fairly obvious : because it would be hard to legitimate a fight against the second-hand market. Fighting pirates seems logical and will hardly find anyone disagreeing on the principle (the methods are more a subject for debate). Preventing you from reselling your games is a little harder to swallow.

        Also, I’m not blind and think most of these second-hand games are sold for console, and have witnessed the used copies are harder and harder to find/sell on PC. But it wouldn’t surprise me if DRMs like online activation or account-tied games went their way on the consoles to “fight increasing piracy on these medium”.

  20. guy says:

    I notice this article has about 4 times as many comments on the escapist as the stolen pixels strip today.

  21. Menegil says:

    I think the comment that covers the most about this matter comes from the Escapist’s comments concerning this Experienced Points article.

    “I don’t really care about the piracy argument; it’s tiresomely repetitive and utterly barren at this point, the equivalent in stupidity and pointlessness to religious debates. I only addressed you because you said games wouldn’t exist without the industry, while I believe that they would be infinitely superior. I already stated that piracy ain’t gonna accomplish jack shit to this end; it simply does not have a large enough effect, regardless of what the megacorps would have you believe”

    Quoted from poster polygon, gotten from: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.177646-Experienced-Points-Piracy-Numbers?page=5

    Highly advise the reading of his deconsctruction of a moralistic troll wandering the Escapist.

    Considering the enormous quality of many modders out there, I have little to no doubt that what polygon envisions, a gaming industry that ceases to be an industry at all, would be enormously beneficial. Cut the money out of the equation and all that is left behind is the passion for the art. Such goes true for any human endeavour.

    1. LK says:

      Well, cut all the money out of making movies, to use a different industry as an example… and while yes you do make it all about the art, you also lose studios who used to use the money they make making samey low-risk films to make the occasional high-risk artistic award-bait, for the purpose of winning prestige for their company and business and potentially having a big hit that earns them credit for not being too samey.

      The industry’s primary inclination is to make repetitive crap, and will be in ANY artist/publisher relationship, but the publishers are a symbiotic parasite, not a destructive one. They do assist in the creation of real art on a larger scale then mere hobbyist creation can.

    2. Hugo Sanchez says:

      Cut the money out of the equation? Money is the only thing that makes the equation work.

      Money is the value of labor. As in, you pay for labor that goes into a product, when you buy something. You are in turn, payed money for your labor at your workplace.

      If you take away the money, then the general quality of games will decrease, because game developers would have less resources, and new dev’s can’t break into the business, because they wouldn’t have anywhere to start. we’d see plenty of nice little creative games, but there are needs for other games.

    3. H.M says:

      Aaaaand if you’re not interested in PC Gaming or digital delivery? Like, you prefer to BUY your games in an actual store?

      1. Hugo Sanchez says:

        Consoles wouldn’t exist without the industry, but then again who’s to say gaming would either?

        It’d be like books before the printing press. They’d be damned hard to get a hold of. Even harder to get a hold of the good ones, because there’d be loads of less-than desirables.

    4. David Armstrong says:

      Sounds like communism.

      And I mean that in the purest form of the word – if only we divorced greed, selfishness, and vice from the act of programming – if we focused on programming as an art and an end in itself, and not on actually selling it as a product, then programming would improve. I don’t doubt that.


      There is a reason people don’t volunteer to charities. That is because most charity work is boring, dirty, disgusting, smelly, and filled with ugly people. But the BIGGEST reason people don’t volunteer to charity work is that IT DOESN’T PAY. People don’t make money volunteering in charities!

      So the next time you suggest a communist utopia (because pure communism is a utopia) ask yourself how much effort you would put into something that would NEVER deliver economic rewards. For how long would YOU volunteer to program, for free, simply for the beauty of programming?

      1. Menegil says:

        Whoa, who ever talked about communism? Why is it so many people are quick to leap into such an assumption the moment someone talks about decapitalization? I hate -isms quite a bit, especially since art in general was always the channel for human expression by excellence. Seeing it subordinated to economical interest is, to me, a good example of just how enslaved to currency our society is, especially considering money no longer has any true value in our days.

        Also, volunteer work is conducted every single day all over the world by dedicated people, and they are nowhere near as few as you imply. I know quite a few myself. They perform good deeds for their own sake, and do work for the betterment of the downtrodden. I, myself, do translation work for free. Best yet? They even do so without guilt-imposing churches telling them to! That’s where the hope of the future is, in my humble opinion.

        The modder scene often turns games into the gems they could have been, had they had the attention and love they deserved upon their conception. Mods are being done without any sort of payback all over the internet, oftentimes better than the actual game content. All you have to do is surf around TES or Fallout Nexus, those places turned the respective games into purest beauty.

        All in all, the gaming industry is rotten to the core. Sure, it will produce a few golden turds every now and then, but the truly Golden Age of games is long gone.

        1. Shamus says:

          WHY would you drag churches into this? It’s not like this thread is in need of more divisive issues. Moreover, you went so far as to imply that the complex and deeply personal motivations of religious people were all just “guilt”.

          Hint: Many people volunteer out of a genuine love of our fellow human beings. Even among us crazy religious types.

          1. krellen says:

            I’ve worked in the non-profit industry for the past six years. Volunteerism is, from my limited experience, significantly higher among the “crazy religious types” than among the general populous.

            1. ehlijen says:

              I don’t doubt that, but that doesn’t mean we need to charge this discussion any further with extreme opinions on religion.

          2. Menegil says:

            It really wasn’t what I wanted to imply, but I guess it can’t be helped now.

            Was just a poor choice of words, my apologies if it offended anyone.

      2. Which is only an argument to be made for there to be SOME economic reward. Implicitly, your maxim is that they be rewarded for their hard work and effort. Read: Effort and sacrifice. http://www.parecon.org.

        It’s NOT an argument for them to make billions. It’s CERTAINLY not an argument for the access to cultural artifacts to be restricted arbitrarily not because of limited resources but because we as a society are too lazy to come up with a means to remunerate them properly.

    5. Telas says:

      I’m in total agreement. When theft is so easy and mundane that there’s no moment of shame or regret, it’s going to be rampant.

      And here we are. But I am playing Dragon Age (paid for) and loving it, so it’s not all bad.

      Crud; this was supposed to be a reply to SatansBestBuddy, below…

    6. ehlijen says:

      It’d be a world of schroedingers deadlines, buggy products, abandoned attempts and reskinned clones.

      Have a look at the modding community and see how many projects ever reach the finishing line compared to those that don’t. That’s not even acknowledging that the majority is created from company established engines and building tools.

      The one good thing that’d bring is an end to the graphics spiral…

  22. SatansBestBuddy says:

    What I’m most interested in isn’t PC piracy, (which is now so rampant, easy, and by this point accepted that it’s a wonder publishers bother with the PC at all) but console piracy.

    I have friends who pirate for their 360s and Wiis like there’s no tomorrow; it’s pretty frustrating having to save up some money to buy a game I want that’s not even out yet, but when I go over to a buddy’s he’s already playing a copy he got online on a cracked 360. (Bayonetta, if you’re wondering, the day before it’s release and he was half finished it)

    The Wii is the worst, I find, since all my friends have cracked their Wiis and download whatever they want; hell, I’ve seen newspaper classifieds and listings on craigslist for people to get others to crack the system for them, and I know for a fact all my friends have MadWorld, which tells me that that game would have sold a lot better if people were willing to go to a store and buy it, but no, it’s easier to fire up the torrents, isn’t it?

    Piracy makes me sick; I know there’s no way to stop it, but when it’s become so commonplace that people don’t even realize it’s illegal anymore, then… I just don’t know.

    1. David Armstrong says:

      The point was made earlier that because pirating a game doesn’t remove a copy of that game from a shelf of an EB store, then it isn’t really stealing.

      Allow me to retort:

      It is stealing because you’re playing a game that has a price tag, but you didn’t pay for it. You didn’t steal from the store, but you diminished the value of the remaining products – because who’s going to buy something when they already own it?

      Go ahead – pirate a copy of Star Trek Online. And then, after you’ve done that and played it for three weeks, give me a justification for going out and buying it. Why would you? Belated compensation to the Cryptic programmers? That’s like stealing a car, deciding you liked it, and then sending the dealership a check.

      Stealing is stealing. Good luck justifying it.

      The worst part about all of this is the internet-derived entitlement that because you CAN steal something, developers shouldn’t fight you for doing it. How dare they!


      The movie “The Mummy” had it dead right! Rachel Weisz takes the Book of the Dead. Brenden Fraser says, “That’s called stealing you know…”

      “According to my brother, it’s called borrowing.”

      But we know that her brother is a petty thief, so the audience is in on the clever word-play. Her character stole that book, and sure enough, she never gives it back.

      1. Caffiene says:

        Personally, I hate the claim that “piracy is stealing”.

        To me, it does the opposite of what most people who make the claim want it to do: It makes piracy sound less bad.

        Piracy is a specific crime, with specific things that happen, specific consequences, and specific laws and penalties. Stealing is a similar crime, but with slightly different consequences and slightly different laws and penalties. (Specifically, theft has an element of opportunity cost – the victim loses the ability to sell the product to a second, legitimate customer, in addition to the sale they now cant make to the thief)
        By stating that they are exactly the same when they obviously arent, it makes piracy sound less bad, because it needs to be made “more intimidating” by calling it stealing.

        Piracy is a crime, and there can be serious penalties. It doesnt need to be made up to look like theft in order for it to be a “bad thing” – its already a bad thing.

        1. Jason says:

          Piracy is theft, rape and murder on the high seas.

          What you’re talking about is copyright infringement, and it’s a civil offense. It’s certainly not theft.

          1. Menegil says:

            It isn’t even copyright infringement if you do not accept the concept of intellectual property. Which many jurisprudents do not accept.

            1. ehlijen says:

              And yet without that concept, the software industry might as well pack up.

              The fact is that these ‘pirates’ utilise products and services they did not compensate the respective creaters for. Call it piracy, copyright infringement, theft or even attempted slavery (you are basically saying the programmers should supply with the fruits of their labour for free)., it is some kind of crime.

              Not accepting that is like saying murder isn’t murder because you don’t recognise someone else’s right to live.

              1. Menegil says:

                That would be the exact same type of mentality that allows gigantic pricks like Tim Langdell to just copyright whatever they please and sue the cash out of smaller parties. The concept of intellectual property fails enormously and should not exist simply due to this fact. It basically opens the precedent of allowing anyone to appropriate themselves to whatever intellectual achievement is created, which stretches on to language, unarguably the greatest patrimony of civilization. It is simply illogical in the absolute to claim you can steal something which only holds cultural value, which, due to its very nature, is something that belongs to the whole of humanity and should not be the target of lowly economical exploitation.

      2. LK says:

        You repeatedly seem to distill people’s arguments to the point of distorting them from their meaning prior to attempting to rebutt them. This is the aforementioned “strawman” rhetorical fallacy… which is why you also come off sounding so authoritative if one takes your statements on face value without bearing this in mind. You sound to be so soundly beating the other point because in fact you’re assaulting an oversimplified parody of it rather than addressing it wholesale.

        Piracy is not stealing in the sense that it causes the loss of a scarce resource from its physical holder. This does not diminish its illegality. This does not diminish its repercussions. This does not diminish its moral standing. It makes the above different in a way which must be acknowledged to be candid in a discussion. The statement is to discourage the use of comparing it to shoplifting, because that in itself is also a strawman. It is a distillation of the issue to a shadow of its factual self to make it easier and less challenging to discuss, at the expense of accuracy. The nature of the act is different. It has vastly different actions, risks, repercussions, and remedies. Addressing it as though you’re addressing stealing physical goods from a tangible store leaves you poorly prepared, rhetorically, to speak intelligently about the issue.

        Secondly, you’re once again conflating the correction of a false analogy with an endorsement of the crime, when again, no such thing occurred. If you need someone to be angry at, be angry at pirates, don’t attempt to demonize people who correctly point out rhetorical fallacies in those who discuss piracy. Every time you you insist that people who disagree with your point of view must be demonized and belittled, you come out the heel of the discussion, not them.

        If you insist upon hoisting strawmen and thrashing at them emotively instead of comfortably addressing real facts with equally as careful factual arguments, the only person you’re convincing is yourself, who needs no convincing in the first place.

        To those who recognize this rhetorical technique, it appears that you’re simply using strawmen due to an inability to completely address the actual point being made, and need to rebutt a corruption of it instead in order to succeed at all.

        I doubt this is the case, I am sure you are fully capable of responding wholesale and intelligently to issues raised here, so why bother with the sidestepping and the corruption of others’ statements?

        The author of the article you yourself linked several days ago specifically stated that their conclusion is that people need to stop engaging in these varyingly divisive and misleading kinds of communications. They were completely and unilaterally right. The only thing they serve to do is blow off steam and push every discussion further away from accomplishing anything at all, ever.

        There is a saying among lawyers (of which I am not one):
        “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” You’re currently doing the most of the very last item when you have no need whatsoever to do so, as both the law and the facts are primarily on your side aside from the few tangents.

        1. Menegil says:

          Kudos, sir. Kudos.

        2. David Armstrong says:

          You are (in a long-winded manner) calling me a bad arguer because I simplify “piracy” into “theft.” That’s correct, I am. Simplifying, that is.

          Without saying why piracy is more complex than I am making it out to be, you assert that it is.

          I say that piracy isn’t any more complex than petty theft. I also say that pirates try to cloud the issue with big words and philosophical jargon to circumvent accepting the ramifications of their actions. “If I can confuse enough people to slip out of the discussion, then I win.”

          Without calling you a pirate, I’ll end right there. However, sarcastically, I want to thank you for insinuating I have the forensics skills equivalent to an infant, that feels real nice :)

          Then confront me head on, sir. I say (again) that piracy is theft. These products – they have a price tag. They are programmed by professionals and then sold by distributors. People, of suspect moral character, then purchase 1 copy of the game (if they need to), “crack” it, and then distribute thousands if not millions of copies of that game online. The creators of the game receive a fraction of their due compensation. Take the number of players enjoying the game, and divide by the number of players who paid for the game. I ask that you accommodate for that loss. This is the clearest indicator of how much the creators have been robbed.

          Furthermore, I assert that the creators are entitled to being compensated, by all the players enjoying the product, for their work.

          Piracy is theft.

          The board is set, the game is ready… and away you go.

          1. krellen says:

            A much better parallel for what piracy actually does (and what effect it has on the economy) is counterfeiting, not theft. Theft has very real and direct consequences, which piracy does not imitate. Counterfeit also has very real and direct consequences, many of which piracy does imitate.

            The tools and tricks of the counterfeiter hold a lot of similarities to the tools and tricks of the pirate, and the successful methods of combating counterfeit hold many parallels to the successful methods of combating piracy. By contrast, methods to battle theft have little use in battling piracy, and the skill-set of a thief have little parallel to the skill-set of a pirate.

            Piracy is counterfeit.

            I’ve made my move. The board is yours.

            1. LK says:

              In addition to this, piracy is usually dealt with, domestically and within the realm of treaties, with the same legal and diplomatic efforts that are also used to address counterfeiting. Those with a stake in the matter usually equate piracy to counterfeiting when they’re actually making policy where that distinction matters.

              They then go out in public and call it theft instead because speaking about it accurately places an onus of evidence upon them they are either too busy or too dishonest to accept.

              To David Armstrong:

              You are (in a long-winded manner) calling me a bad arguer because I simplify “piracy” into “theft.”

              No, I am saying your rhetoric is ineffective because, just as you’ve done above, you’re addressing every point indirectly… corrupting it into a false, watered-down form and rebutting that instead of addressing the actual things that were said.

              You’re coming out victorious over points that nobody made. They’re fictions created for your own benefit, to make it easier for you to appear to be proving your point.

              If you want credit for winning to the points you restate, you can have it, I suppose. Nobody made the points you refute so strongly, so nobody is here to defend them. You get to “win”, if you want.

              I’d suggest trying to discuss the issue, instead of trying to discuss why you think you, personally, are so unwaveringly correct. Grandstanding in that manner contributes nothing to anyone else’s understanding, it just shows them you think little of them, and why you feel that way.

              I’ll mop up the other points down here:

              Without saying why piracy is more complex than I am making it out to be, you assert that it is.

              I don’t need to. Feel free to read through the discussion. Others have explained this quite well.

              I say that piracy isn't any more complex than petty theft. I also say that pirates try to cloud the issue with big words and philosophical jargon to circumvent accepting the ramifications of their actions. “If I can confuse enough people to slip out of the discussion, then I win.”

              Without calling you a pirate, I'll end right there.

              “I’m not saying your mother’s a —–, I’m just saying she has sex for money…” =P

              In all seriousness, though, I have no interest in “winning”. I’m just interested in making a contribution to the discussion from my limited personal experience. “Winning” has no place in a civilized discussion. Leave victories to sports and courtrooms.

              The effects of piracy are negative upon everyone. We owe it to ourselves to come to a thorough understanding of the issue without having to distill it into the infantile “good guys vs. bad guys” that serves no purpose outside of mindless propaganda.

              People need to know what’s going on, what the facts of it are, not just who to hate. Oversimplifying too much clouds the discussion to the point that the only effect is, as I’ve said elsewhere, drawing battle lines for a flame war.

              Copyright is contrived and complicated. Nearly everyone is guilty of some sort infringement for personal gain whether they’re aware of it or not. This isn’t an issue where you can just draw lines and say “I’m good, they’re bad” and if you do, what good does it do besides signaling that you’re looking for a conflict?

              1. (LK) says:

                Oof, I forgot to add this.

                You’re no doubt curious what my motivations are. I might seem like an apologist for pirates to you.

                I’m not. Piracy has serious ramifications, in the damage it does as well as the reactions it solicits. It needs to be addressed.

                Specifically this issue interests me because current trends in combating piracy are responsible for a vast amount of collateral damage. While the DMCA was intended to curb piracy and counterfeiting, it has also curtailed the rights of honest customers and stifled several vectors of open-market competition. Its’ takedown provisions have placed the onus of evidence upon the accused when their non-infringing content is accused and taken down. The exact opposite of most societies’ values, at least those I am familiar with.

                Every time I’ve seen the public get behind a movement where someone was using this simple “piracy is theft and we must stop it” argument, it has been their rights that were taken away as thanks. Their technology crippled for it. In exchange for their support of the rights of creators, content industry businesses have used the laws as vectors for exploitation of customers.

                Sure, it’s the pirates we have to blame for this, but it is also the businesses doing it. Besides that, regardless of who is to blame, it is a lesson not to follow so mindlessly behind such a black-and-white vision of the issue ever again. The bulk of the victims of this approach are the innocent. Pirates, being the nebulous, flexible entity that they are, mostly circumvent it.

                Obviously, this is an issue where it seems the middle-ground is more appropriate. The iron-fisted response has so far mostly brought said fist down on the people who didn’t commit crimes.

                I, for one, don’t want to be one of the well-meaning idiots behind the next guy to hoist that banner and march another crowd to support a business who will turn around and use their newfound powers to exploit the entire population even further.

            2. Miral says:

              That definition works for me. The only glaringly obvious difference between piracy and counterfeiting is that physical counterfeits tend to be of lesser quality (and hence value) than the originals, whereas pirated bits tend to be of equal or better quality (if they removed copy-protection along the way).

              Which I guess theoretically does make it more of a market danger than knock-off bags or watches. But at least part of that is of the publishers’ own making (with ever-more-annoying DRM systems).

      3. Except why does the store have the right to that value?

        If I grow my own vegetables in a garden, I reduce the “value” of all the produce at Safeway because no one will buy their produce if it’s available for free.

        The intellectual content producers have their rights protected by law. Not the market. Now, that’s fine, some balance needs to be struck. (I’d prefer a balance in the parecon vein, where IP producers are remunerated for their effort and sacrifice and then their products are available for only the cost of their reproduction to all, but that’s a separate discussion). But IP producers (read: monopolistic mega-corporations) have secured rights on their end and we’ve gotten LESS rights. That’s a problem, and I don’t recognize the legitimacy of what they do. Make a fair marketplace, and I’ll participate. (Incidentally, I’ve purchased hundreds worth of PSP and DS games and buy games on Steam, so I’m not a Jolly Roger-waving pirate. That doesn’t mean I buy the legitimacy of what’s going on).

      4. Falco Rusticula says:

        To take an ecology-related example, piracy isn’t stealing; it’s parasitism. A pirate benefits from the labour of others without having done anything to earn it, and in doing so weakens what he benefits from. Sure, they don’t take anything physical, but the company that made the product they enjoy is pushed closer to the edge by their actions.

        To that analogy, it isn’t wrong to download a game by a company that doesn’t exist, any more than it’s wrong for a scavanger to eat a dead animal.

    2. acronix says:

      Idem for my country. In school, my friends were so used to have everything pirated that they were astonished to see my games in the original box. Also, one of the big local electronic stores had a decent corner of Pc-games a few years ago. Now it only updates with the latest movie adaptations, the corner is getting smaller and smaller, and there´s a marketplace for pirated games somewhere downtown.

    3. Hugo Sanchez says:

      I have Modded my Wii for homebrew purposes.

      Still, Because of the usually hardware-based solutions for consoles, it’s defiantly less of an issue. you can really fuck your console up if you don’t know what your doing.

      With the Wii there are soft-mods but they only work around 60% of the time. (Some games run, some games run with minor issues, some run with major problems, some don’t run at all)

      Still, it infuriated me when Nintendo stated that the Wii would require a Hardware update to play DVD’s, when i watch DVD’s on it all the fucking time with Mplayer CE.

      1. SatansBestBuddy says:

        Why would you watch a DVD on a Wii, though?

        You can get better DVD players than the Wii for $20.

        1. Hugo Sanchez says:

          It’s in the right location. It works fine. Don’t fix what isn’t broke.

          But it’s also for the principle of the matter.

    4. If you go to the console pages of this article, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff:


      Interestingly enough, the piracy rates on console are quite low in comparison. One of the possible reasons is that you have to void your warranty on a console in order to used pirated games – and you don’t have to do that on your PC.

      As for your other points, back when I was a teenager (and here I get to date myself, as I was 13 around 20 years ago), I was a game pirate. I grew out of it by the age of 17 – the bargain bin was a better deal. But, for me and my friends, it was free swag. No morality attached in any direction – we were getting away with something, it was wrong, and we knew it. And we grew out of it.

      Pirates these days scare me. They’re starting to turn it into an ideology, doing things like talking about the “right to copy,” and treating copyright as something evil because it gets in their way. It’s more than just a sense of false entitlement – they’re actually seeing it as just and moral to disenfranchise a creator of their rights to their own work. And that’s a message that has to be fought.

      1. tfernando says:

        Garwulf, same for me… game pirate back when getting online meant an acoustic coupler and a rotary dial phone, and then grew out of it. Like you say, the ideological pirates– and the fact that the DRM needed to deter them affects me and my computer, bother me far more than broke teenagers or people in unserved regions.

      2. LK says:

        Piracy on the console has the added step of having to void the machine’s warranty, yes, and run the risk of having its’ MAC banned from online services. This currently discourages piracy, as does I’m sure the fact that it just seems scarier to modify a console, a closed machine, to play pirated games, than it does to modify files on a computer people own and know how to operate entirely.

        I expect that if the PC market withers, or if PC piracy really is squeezed very hard, the console piracy market would just grow accordingly in a few years, which would be unfortunate. Shifting priorities around would by then probably just encourage publishers to stop putting the clamp on with technology and start throwing that money into lobbying to restrict/remove civil rights.

        The music and movie industries tried technology and DRM, and failed. Then they moved on to just trying to take people’s rights away, trying to place them under surveilance, trying to deputize third parties into surveilance and punitive measures against citizens.

        The last thing we’d need is for games publishers to throw their weight behind this ACTA and Three-Strikes crap. The DMCA has already caused a rash of punishment wielded at the whim of mere accusations (see: Viacom claiming to own thousands of videos on youtube that weren’t even remotely related to anything viacom, but still getting them removed).

        With laws like three strikes, such reckless accusations may further on even lead to entire households being removed of their internet connection without due process.

        Entirely hypothetical, but… I’m actually sort of thankful that so far EA, Ubisoft, et al. are still focusing on DRM instead of taking aim at the population at large instead.

        For information about ACTA, see: http://www.eff.org/issues/acta

      3. somebodys_kid says:

        Garwulf, that tweakguides article REALLY disproves the idea that making a good game will slow piracy, lowering the price will reduce piracy, and removing (or diminishing) DRM will reduce piracy. While I doubt the statistics they cite are 100% accurate, they’re surely close enough to not affect the main points of the article.
        Oddly enough, after reading it, I’m no longer angry at UBISoft’s new DRM scheme for Assassin’s Creed 2; I still won’t buy a game with that DRM setup, but I’m no longer angry…just disappointed. Instead of package the two DLCs with the game, why not just release them for free to the known, paying customers instead of that constant online nonsense. As Shamus (and many others) have said, make it a better deal to go legit than pirate…not the other way around.
        It’s really sad that the whole pirate culture has evolved so far that it’s a point of honor to do so and endorsed by whatever moral code they claim to follow. When pirating was wrong and the pirate knew it, he/she tended to “grow out of it” like you did…now that pirates have permission from their conscience, endorsement from (a growing phalanx of) their peers, and thoughtless support from the masses, it will only get worse.
        It’s a good thing I finally bought a console.

        1. It really is an eye-opener of an article, isn’t it? I spent a lot of time looking into this before I read it, and that article changed my perception on a lot of things. It’s very easy to hand-wave away a company claiming that they have to do something draconian because of game piracy as a sad excuse, but actually seeing the figures run through and confirming they’re right REALLY makes a difference.

          And, I too can now understand Ubisoft’s decisions. It’s not the right one – the customer backlash will be too damaging. But what else are they supposed to do? They really are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they go without DRM, as they did with Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed, the pirates have a field day. If they make a good game, the pirates have a field day. If they put DRM on the game, not only do the pirates break it and have a field day, but they get a backlash from their own customers.

          No matter what, the customers and game company loses. The only ones who win are the pirates, and that’s ultimately self-defeating, as the more the cycle escalates, the more the game companies are going to make the correct business decision and leave the PC market behind. Of course, they could move to a subscription model – if you want to play Assassin’s Creed 5, you pay a monthly fee to use it on the Ubisoft servers – but that would be a massive headache on the side of the game company, and the customers would never accept it for a single player game.

          I honestly see a time not too far in the future where the PC game market is a wasteland punctuated by MMOs, and the pirates who drove the PC game companies away are sitting whining that nobody makes good games for the PC any more.

          1. somebodys_kid says:

            I have to agree with your analysis, Garwulf. Sooner or later, MMOs will be the only thing in the PC Gaming domain.
            I’m curious to know how well Mass Effect 2’s DRM scheme is working with the online account (and Dragon Age for that matter). Does giving free goodies for the people who legitimately own the game increase the sales by any noticeable margin? I realize I can just download cracked versions of the DLCs, but I can’t play them with a real copy. This scheme doesn’t bother me much since it’s just an internet check at game startup, and worst case if that fails, I can still play the core game without internet.

    5. Nalano says:

      What I'm most interested in isn't PC piracy, (which is now so rampant, easy, and by this point accepted that it's a wonder publishers bother with the PC at all) but console piracy.

      Because the industry has never existed in a form without piracy. The current top companies became the top companies in an environment where piracy has always been rampant.

      Those companies yelling loudest about the evils of piracy are the ones counting their chickens before they’re hatched. Indeed, That’s why they like consoles: Every console heralds a captive audience that invested good money into a limited platform – limited in scope and limited in options; ripe for exploitation.

      If they could, they’d made PCs just as limited as consoles, and indeed a lot of the more egregious forms of DRM attempt to do just that.

      So it’s great for arbitrary “platform exclusives,” with producer reach-arounds and minimal developer effort, but not exactly laudable economic behavior or creative innovation, especially in the face of this pseudo-moral “debate.”

  23. Caffiene says:

    re: Percentages and the effect of cracking a game you legitimately own.

    You say “Even if every single person who bought the game also downloaded it, then that would still only account for one in nine of all pirates.”

    That isnt necessarily true… You’re thinking of the legal copies stat being the total legal copies sold, but that isnt the case.
    Specifically, 2 of the examples you listed for 90% piracy were “looking at people who submitted high scores” and “players looking for a game”. The developers cant have known what fraction of the total legitimate copies they sold were submitting high scores or looking for a game, so they can only get the statistic of “legal copies” by querying the game/user to see if it is cracked or uncracked.
    If you sell 100,000 legitimate copies, and have 10,000 uncracked copies sending high scores, and 90,000 cracked copies sending high scores, theoretically all 90,000 cracked copies could be legitimately owned but cracked to bypass DRM hassles. You can determine how much your game is being cracked, but not how much it is being pirated.

    Accounting for “one in nine pirates” is only the case if there are 9 times more pirates online than there are total legal copies both online and offline.

    Personally, Ive always been less than convinced of the 90% figure, for one simple reason: Developers can only ever track the ratio of cracked to uncracked copies online. And the online, community oriented player is more likely to have the ability and means to pirate the game. The offline-only player who doesnt follow online gaming has, on average, less means and ability and my suspicion is there would be correspondingly less piracy among offline players. And offline players are, in many cases, a far larger market than online. The difference might only be 1% variation… who knows. But it might be 10%… or 20%… or more…

    1. Shamus says:

      One of the reasons I thought the stats werre so interesting was because those stats were derived many different ways.

      Remember, some of the games were DRM FREE. There is no “cracked” copy. Identifying a pirate means looking at (say) a serial number. If 90% of them are all using the same serial, we can assume this is a copy downloaded from the net.

  24. Maldeus says:

    I have a question for you, Shamus.

    I bought a copy of Overlord: Raising Hell for PS3, a console which I do not own, and then pirated the game for my PC. Am I, in your opinion, a jerk?

    EDIT: The reason for this, by the way, was because they were no longer selling the PC version at my local Gamestop and, for various reasons, online shopping wasn’t an option.

    1. David Armstrong says:

      I want to interject:

      You wanted this product.

      The free market was unable to provide it.

      You ripped it off from the PS3 version.

      Without condemning or condoning, I want to point out that life isn’t fair, the world isn’t fair, and WANTING something is not enough of a reason to HAVE it. Hackers and pirates have that mentality – where because they want something it means they should have it.

      1. Raygereio says:

        I don’t know; saying life isn’t fair, when you cannot get a game the legal way seems silly to me.

        I pirated the expansions to Spellforce 1, why? Because I couldn’t get them anywhere. I couldn’t find them in any store here in the Netherlands and the only digital version I could find that I could pay for (as I don’t have a credit card and the one time I used paypall it stole my money) was a French version that had no English options (and my French sucks).

        That’s not a case of life being being unfair, that’s the producers of the game being stupid. You can’t compare that to the pirating of, let’s say, ME2 as I can just go to a store, Steam or anywhere and buy that game without problems.

      2. tfernando says:

        Mr. Armstrong, do you buy or play games? “You ripped it off from the PS3 version.” Isn’t technically possible, unless somebody wrote a viable PS3 emulator or Maldeus has a PS3 devkit. :)

        Unless it had been remaindered and in a bargain bin, it’s inconceivable to me that the PS3 version of Overlord:RH, would be less expensive than the PC version at retail. His scenario (if it happened as described) is something of an edge case– more a records keeping issue than anything else, analagous to a clerk at a brick and mortar store being instructed to ring up a different SKU than what was scanned because the manager knows there’s a database error. The developer and the retailer have been paid more than they were asking for, the paying customer is satisfied… frankly if this was the normal face of piracy, DRM would never have been invented.

        I think you picked the wrong commenter to take umbrage at.

      3. But ripping it off from the PS3 version WAS the free market providing for it.

        You’re talking about a decidedly UNFREE market, where I’m not able to create or find a product that did not steal an item from anyone else. (I didn’t pay you your license, true, but that’s not a market invention).

    2. Shamus says:

      They got their money. You got your game. I don’t see this as equivalent to “taking, just because you can”.

      1. David Armstrong says:

        There ought to be a line separating buying for one console and using it on another, or on the PC. There ought to be a line, because there is a line.

        They are separate for a reason. I know, porting what it is, that a game is a game in whatever format it’s in. However, Sony would be pissed if a PS3 developer made PS3 games that also played on the 360.

        When I can explain why PS3 would be pissed, then I’ll be able to explain to you why Maldeus’s action was iffy.

        1. tfernando says:

          If it helps you write an example, Overlord:RH was published by Codemasters (a third party not related to Sony or MSFT) and released for Windows, Xbox 360, and PS3. I’m not a console developer, my understanding is that for normal console titles in addition to the developer, Sony would have received a royalty for each PS3 disc pressed and MSFT for each Xbox disc. Neither MSFT or the hardware manufacturer gets a royalty for PC software.

          I don’t think anyone is saying Maldeus’s example isn’t technically a DCMA breach. I think we’re saying it’s not particularly immoral.* I also think that nobody believes this is a normal instance of piracy, or that it excuses piracy in general.

          *- Because the example was PS3->PC everyone who would have gotten paid had he bought the PC version instead of the PS3 version, got paid approximately the same ammount. If PS3->Xbox, MSFT would be an aggrieved party. Whether the example becomes immoral at that point is .. an exercise for the reader.

  25. Winter says:

    So… anecdote time.

    I recently *ahemed* Torchlight because i was curious about it, and then like a day later i bought it because it was a good game.

    Longer ago (like, on the day it was released) i bought Warcraft 3. Problem with that game was that the DRM on it refused to admit that my CD drive existed, and since it refused to admit that it was a real CD drive it refused to install on it or something. I don’t know. The official solution was “buy a new CD drive”, which is obviously joke time.

    So instead i just downloaded it and installed it.

    Some games i will buy without “trying” first–for instance, i’m probably going to buy a PS3 so that i can play Final Fantasy 13. (Well, and some other games.) I’ll probably buy Diablo 3 when it is released, too… i mean, let me restate that: i mean on the day it is released. I am 99% certain i will buy it at some point even if not on release day. I bought Diablo 2 on release day, too. But the point is that some games i’m going to get straight up, because i know they’ll be worthwhile ahead of time. Some games i’ll buy because they get good reviews (i mean, from sources i trust–like i bought Persona 4 because my friends said it was good… and also because you can date a cross-dresser). Some games i’ll buy because i “tried” them first.

    Not that i’m trying to defend piracy, mind you. I wouldn’t feel very bad if “perfect” DRM existed. I’d buy fewer games, for sure, but whatever. Right now there are more games out there that deserve my attention than i have time to devote to them, so it’s not like i’m lacking for interesting games to play. But then, i don’t think DRM is about piracy anyway. I think it’s pretty clear that (mechanically speaking) the way distributors want you to think about digital products (in the same way as a physical product, or thereabouts) is incoherent.

    Where was i going with this? I don’t know, i don’t think i had a general point. I’m pretty tired of the whole debate, too. Basically i want to stop having to care. I am tired of games trying to commandeer my system for their own sinister use and i’m tired of the general gaming public. Oh, and everyone else.

    Maybe i should just go become a hermit.

    1. MechaCrash says:

      I had a somewhat similar experience when I bought Supreme Commander. Because of the way the disc was burned, one of the files was split over two layers. Some drives were unable to read this file, and if it couldn’t then you could not install and play it. My drive happened to be one of these models. Fortunately, I had a spare drive from an older computer, so I swapped drives and tried again.

      It also was unable to read the file. At this point, I had three options: buy another drive and hope it works, write off the fifty dollars I’d spent on the game, or download an .iso, install from it, and use my legitimate serial key. I took the distasteful but sensible option of finding an .iso, but I didn’t run the crack. Why bother? I owned the game for real. Fortunately, while the was unable to read the disc well enough to install from it, it was able to read it well enough to tell it was the genuine article.

      1. Winter says:

        Indeed, with WC3 there wasn’t a no-CD crack at that point anyway. (Not one that worked on battle.net anyway). Since the competitive multiplayer was largely why i bought that game it wouldn’t have done me any real good anyway. It read the disk fine, it just refused to install.


        Actually while i’m on the subject: I actually bought WC3 TWICE. Yes, twice.

  26. TehShrike says:

    I’m going to have to chime in with the other readers who had an issue with your “all pirates are jerks” statements.

    It’s true, as some have noted, that piracy is not stealing. It is in fact copying.

    Under US law, copying some things is illegal – but I don’t think that’s why you’re calling pirates jerks.

    I think that you call pirates jerks because it just doesn’t seem FAIR to you that people could enjoy the benefits of someone else’s labor.

    Not that it’s necessarily relevant, but I do purchase a lot of games – here’s my Steam game list for reference.

    I’m a software developer and a musician, and personally, I like to put my money where my tastes lie. But I do get offended when people start to insult others who don’t subscribe to their personal views on what is or isn’t fair.

    …and now that I’ve spent a few paragraphs bitching about one small line, let me say that I think that this article is one of the best summarizations of the current state of piracy that I have seen to date.

    People are enjoying the fruits of others’ labor without paying for it, and that really pisses off the laborers (understandably) – but DRM doesn’t seem like any sort of solution.

    Well written, and for the most part highly sensible – I imagine this will be the article I link to when discussing piracy/DRM in the future.

  27. Vegedus says:

    The best cure for my own piracy has been steam. Most importantly, it’s much more convenient than buying digital and even less hassle than pirating (faster download speeds, automatic installation, no cracks and such), at least if the game doesn’t have some odd Day one DLC and such. It’s notable, because you keep insisting otherwise, that DRM can be a hassle for pirates. The crackers can’t always fully “open” the game on their end and then upload that open version. Not uncommonly, you have to generate a key, copy over a crack, run a batch file, and find an additional fix for some other problem that particular cracker didn’t think of. For instance, there was that case where there was an online check mid-way through Titan Quest that booted pirates, ironically leading these to complain to the developer about the “bug”. There was a similar issue with Mass Effect that made the star screen not work properly. This was undoubtly “fixed” soon after it became known by the crackers, but it was still an extra hassle for the pirates. In the long run, it’s less of a hassle than the one sustained by legimate users, but in this light, it does make sense that a low percentage of pirates are not gonna bother and buy the game legimately. As the intrusiveness of DRM increases, we see signs of things going the other way… I doubt the DRM in Assasin’s Creed will be hard to circumvent completely, and it’s evident it will lead to more piracy.

    Back to my own experiences, steam is essentially the most convenient way of getting games I can think of. Further, since it’s an always-present store, it’s easier to go “special offer” shopping, which means I’ve got more money for games overall. Even if I were broke, I’d still be able to afford the titles I really care about, if I wait a while before buying them. So, I’m no longer a pirate. Of games, anyways.

    1. Hmm, I’m wondering about software going back to including bombs that activate in cracked versions.

      What happens when the online check mid-way through Titan Quest that booted pirates becomes one that sends your passwords and paypal access and authorizes a payment for the game?

      I can see the EULA for the game authorizing that sort of thing.

      Or ones that crash the internet connection, corrupt all the files, or overwrite the save game or encrypt the hard drive.

      When we talk about obnoxious DRM, we haven’t seen the beginning of obnoxious DRM.

      And I hope we never do.

      1. Hugo Sanchez says:

        Impossible. The user would first have to enter their paypal information. And who would?

        “Crashes” the internet connect? I’m not really sure what you mean there.

        If a game ever did any of those things however, i don’t think they would be able to get away with it. even just mentioning in the EULA.

        It won’t happen. Even as a paying customer, there’s no fucking way i’m going to chance something like that.

  28. TehShrike says:

    Vegadus’ comment is notable, and not isolated – Steam is winning by competing with free copies of games, not by complaining about them, or focusing on eliminating them.

    1. Shamus says:

      If you can’t make a point about DRM without insulting (and flame-baiting) every single religious person on the planet, then this is not the thread for you. You’ve certainly been around long enough to be aware of my “no religion” comments policy.

      SO uncalled for.

      1. Kdansky says:

        True enough. Your tone just deeply reminded me of my own feeling on that topic. It is rare that someone writes down quite literally what I think.
        It is quite sad though that any blog basically has no other choice than to ban any mentioning of religion or suffer horrible flame wars. I still think that the offended party is at fault (always), not the offender. If I was offended about you deleting my comment, I would be an idiot, would I not? ;)

        I assume this comment is fine though.

        1. Shamus says:

          One of the worst things about religion and politics debates is the way they devour existing discussions. If you say, “People in group X do bad thing Y because of unwanted trait Z”, then:

          1) Group X is offended (which you mention)
          2) Group X shows up and attempts to refute the argument. This turns into a long and muti-threaded discussion as people attack “X does Y”, “Y is bad”, “Y because of Z”, and “X has trait Z”.
          3) A long debate ensues, lots of people are angry, and in the end nothing is really accomplished. (Almost nobody is going to leave or join group X based on this.)

          There are of course “holy wars” all over. Mac vs. PC. Console A vs. Console B. Ubuntu vs. Debian. But the ones around religion and politics are very hot, and people are much more likely to take them personally and seriously. I forbid them not just because of the offense they cause, but because of how the fruitless discussions will burn on and interfere with more interesting topics. Ideally, I want this site to be a refuge from such debates.

          And now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I should add a small blurb above the comment box to make the policy clear. Hmmmm…

  29. toasty says:

    Shamus, this is great stuff, but I do agree: go find something else to rant about, at least for a few more weeks. Then EA Or some other company can do something stupid and you can rant about this again. :p

  30. Nathon says:

    Thank you for calling those lowlifes crackers.

  31. LintMan says:

    From the article title, I was reminded of this excellent article by Ars Technica a while back. 750,000 lost jobs? The dodgy digits behind the war on piracy

  32. Knight-Templar says:

    That was a very good article, and your “pirates are jerks” line clearly pissed some people off but since those people responded by, well being jerks, I think its clear why they were pissed off.

    1. Lord of Rapture says:

      Not really. There was one guy named Averagejoe talking about how he uses piracy as an extended demo before going out and buying the game. I thought he was quite reasonable.

      In all honesty, I think the anti-pirate people were acting more like self-righteous assholes than the pro-pirating people.

      1. Hugo Sanchez says:

        Either side of the argument,can be total jerks.

        Those “White Knights” who condemn the pirates, calling them evil thieves who care for nothing but themselves, and would gladly see all culture rot away instead of pay for a product.

        And those pirates who try to make justifications for their actions, claiming that they have done no wrong. saying that one can’t own intellectual property. Or that the corporations who publish games are evil, so they are entitled to pirate a copy.

        Both side’s have serious problems. It’s never always Black and White. Everything is a Grey Area.

        1. ehlijen says:

          Sure, there’s exegeragation, but I don’t see how this is not a black and white case.

          Someone spends time, money and effort into making something.
          He then says ‘pay me and I’ll let you use it’.
          People then say ‘I’ll gladly use it but you’re not getting any compensation from me’.

          That’s what it boils down to in the end and there’s clearly somehting wrong with that. There may be other things that are also very wrong with the software industry, but none of them change the very fact that denying the creators of a product compensation for their efforts is wrong.

          1. Hugo Sanchez says:

            Yes, but those “White Knights” think it’s all blanket evil. What if you can’t get the software where you live? What if you’ve purchased it but then you cracked it. They don’t care. They think it’s all the worst thing in the world. Or those who use download to use the game as a demo, because the developers either neglected to provide one, or gave a crappy one with just a tutorial level. These people download, play for maybe 2 hours, and then they either. A). Don’t like it, delete it. or B). Like it, and (if possible) perhaps order it online or buy it on steam. or keep playing and go buy it at their local retailer whenever they are next out.

            But the White Knights say these things are impossible. They say they are all terrible thieves. They would gladly see these people imprisoned for copyright infringement.

            And that’s Wrong.

            Black and white exists on two opposite ends of a spectrum, and the space between them,(the grey are) is much larger than the two ends.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Really?Ok,so every time you lend a book from a friend,you are being a jerk because you arent paying the author anything.Even if the book is,say hamlet.Or,every time you go to a free library you are a jerk because you arent paying the author anything.Every time you read a web comic while ignoring the adds that keep it there,you are a jerk.Every time you teevo something and skip the commercials,you are a jerk.Every time you borrow a car and drive it around,youre a jerk because you never paid for the roads(taxes on owning a car,gas,etc go towards that,and if its not your car,you arent the one paying for it).You are also a jerk for using anything paid by taxes,because youve paid only for a part of it and are therefore using other peoples money(unless you time your usage to correspond exactly to your cut).

            See,thats what pure black and white means.There are distinctions between piracy and lending a book(or a game,for that matter),and thats why this isnt a black and white thing.

  33. Zak McKracken says:

    This is from the artile:
    “They even kept track of how many people (as identified by their device) played as a pirate and then later as a legit customer. The result:
    Not one. Ever.”

    I just wanted to add this:
    The first three computer games I actually bought for myself I had played extensively before that. And, PC games being what they are (which is expensive, and me being without real income), I wouldn’t have bought any of them had I not had a lot of fun with them before.

    I should probably add that the purchases were mostly cases triggered by some add-on or similar I wanted to have, and having “tested” the game thoroughly (and being in possession of much more money by then, and the game having become less expensive), I did then purchase both base version plus add-on.
    Having some income now (and less time …), I’d still not buy a game unless I know it’s good. And I know the makers aren’t out to screw me.
    I loved Starcraft because the let you start a LAN party with a single copy of the game. I had already mentally made the purchase of SC2, but the current development really makes one think…

  34. Jeff says:

    So long as we’re using anecdotes…

    I pirated Morrowind, Fallout 2, and Baldur’s Gate. …after I couldn’t find my CDs anywhere. The boxes on my shelf all only contain manuals, and I have no idea where my CDs went. (So pirate after purchase?)

    In reverse order, I pirated NWN2 and NWN2 MotB, and then purchased the entire trilogy (with SoZ). I also did the same thing with Dungeon Siege. Pirated DS, then bought DS1+2 (at seperate times). I did it with Fallout Tactics as well (I don’t care what they say, I enjoyed it). I also did this in terms of music, too. Hm. I also did this with Audiosurf on Steam, although upon reflection I only ever played the pirated version and never installed the one I bought off Steam. Odd.

    I’ve done it with smaller games, too – Spiderweb Software’s Exile 3 has an interesting history with me, in that I got the shareware, cracked it, ended up buying the thing, have no idea where anything (other than the hintbook they send you with purchase) went, and ended up pirating another copy.

  35. Reading that Tap-Fu article, I was deeply humbled. THIS is what your corporate press release should sound like. Insulting your customers, or potential customers (and yes, EVERY pirate is a potential customer), does you no good. This article made distinctions, it sounded sensitive, it didn’t tell us that piracy is costing them 100 kajillion, but it did indicate how real the problem was. A similarly good appeal against piracy was made by Kevin Siembieda.

  36. Mayhem says:

    I just finished reading the TweakGuides article, which was rather impressive in its depth. He also started the DRM section with something I was thinking about throughout – namely how much of the modern gaming world was driven by and enabled by practices of the past.

    I’m thinking like this.
    Steam basically revolves around a decent high bandwidth always on internet connection. Digital distribution only works with the same.
    Massive internet based piracy also only works by the same.

    The primary drivers for increasing bandwidth and removing data caps was consumer demand, initially from coporate, but now from home consumers. The primary driver for home users wanting more bandwidth was the steadily more easily available material on the internet, whether audio, video or software, not to mention adult content.
    Without the higher bandwidth, people couldn’t easily transfer large files. Imagine trying to pirate a modern game with a 56k modem for example.
    Combined with this is the enormous trade in blank cds, where Sony was divided internally between hardware loving the trade and software condemning it. Look at dvds, where copying is rampant, but you can’t play a whole film in a dvd player because even now only single layer discs are cheaply available.

    Another thought, I would be very interested in seeing a demographic breakdown of who is playing games on console and pc, although I don’t know how that could be obtained. Correlating those figures with figures for purchasing/pirating would be revealing.

    Many people have admitted how when they were young they would happily play a pirated copy of a game and pass it around between friends. They now claim to have grown out of this as they get older.
    I know my philosphies have changed as I get older – back when I was a student I would obtain free versions of everything, now I am much much more willing to invest in quality. I am still prone to installing cracked versions of tools to try them out, but all of my day to day tools are now paid for.

    Interestingly my AV client actually goes out of its way to easily allow you to convert into a paying customer – the user/password is all that needs to be changed, and the wide range of passwords available on the internet are all time limited evaluation versions – you get around six weeks of updates, then need to go find a new one. It isn’t especialy difficult to do so, but by the third or fourth go round, simply paying the yearly sub becomes much more attractive, and more importantly the software has become familiar, and something you are reluctant to replace.

  37. Groboclown says:

    I haven’t seen anyone comment on this, so I’ll throw it out there.

    I’ve noticed that the last 2 AAA games that I’ve purchased for the PC were Fallout 3 and Half-Life 2 ep 2. The big studios (who happen to push all this DRM) just don’t sell anything that I want anymore. I’ve noticed that most of my game purchases have instead been with independent game developers who don’t have any DRM. From a personal view, I’m thinking that this is my future path.

    1. Eric says:

      Steam is valve’s drm.

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