Bioshock: Sharing is Piracy

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 5, 2007

Filed under: Video Games 48 comments

Enough with the comics and laughing already. Let’s have some doom and gloom! Make it a double!

I don’t know the name of the guy at 2kGames who is in charge of stirring up bad publicity, but whoever he is, he’s underpaid. I really can’t keep up with him anymore. Today’s BioShock outrage of the day is the 2k technical support gremlin who suggested that if you want to install the game into two different user accounts on the same machine, you need to buy multiple copies of the game. More info at Kotaku.

I guess 2kGames looked at the hundreds of people in the forums who have refused to buy the game, and figured they could make up for it by selling it to existing customers twice. Good luck with that.

Actually, I’m just kidding. We all know they don’t read the forums.

Additional trivia: I mentioned before that talking about SecuROM is verboten outside of a single thread. A thread which never seems to be read by anyone at 2kGames. That thread is now 2,454 posts long. 246 total pages. (Most other threads are well under 50 posts.) Yeah, I’m sure there isn’t any way to break that conversation down into any sub-topics.

Once in a while I see musings from people who profess hope that 2kGames is about to capitulate under the firestorm of controversy and remove SecuROM / online activation. I wish these good-hearted souls well, but they are doomed to disappoinment. 2kGames hasn’t even gone through the initial steps of recognizing that there is a problem, much less that the problem is of their own making and that they have the power to fix it.

Once in a while backlash does move publishers to act, but I don’t see it happening in this instance. The big problem is that blogs and forum traffic are beneath the notice of people who make these kinds of decisions. If the gaming press took up this story it might catch the attention of the shot-callers in the comfy chairs at 2kGames. But BioShock is quickly becoming last month’s game, and no self-respecting videogame journalist wants to write about that.


From The Archives:

48 thoughts on “Bioshock: Sharing is Piracy

  1. Fefe says:

    Nothing to add there. Just one thing, “verboten” means nothing else than forbidden. Why don’t you just use the english word?

  2. David says:

    It sounds cooler.

  3. Cenobite says:

    On that matter, what would it take to get this story into the mainstream gaming press?
    Or is “mainstream gaming” an oxymoron when it comes to the press?

  4. Nice comment. Just one thing; “forbidden” means nothing else than “banned”. Why don’t you use the shorter word?

  5. MusedMoose says:

    y’know, I remember the days when you had to have the manual to play the game. at certain points in the game, you’d have to input some code or another, always as part of the game itself, in order to proceed. some games came with colored glasses or something, because the secret codes had been printed over with colored designs to prevent them from being photocopied.

    if I ever became a game designer, that’s what I’d do. screw online registration or copy protection. you better have the manual!

    …yeah, I know, the codes would be posted on the internet within five minutes of the game’s release. but still.

  6. Shamus says:

    I can’t see why it matters, but in usage I percieve that verboten is generally harsher than forbidden, or implies that the one doing the forbidding is being unreasonable. This usage may not be universal, but when it comes to langauge, nothing is universal.

  7. Coogan says:

    Verboten, being German, evokes Nazi Germany. I guess subtlety is lost on some people.

    Godwin approves, and so do I.

  8. Lanthanide says:

    I think the only thing that would make them sit up and notice is if *every* single gaming publication that does “game of the year” awards said “we would give this to bioshock, but because of their DRM we won’t”.

    That way they wouldn’t be able to tout the game as having won squillions of GotY awards, as publishers love doing so much.

  9. gyokuran says:

    2K claims the guy was an external contractor who’s now under investigation. Considering their copy protection methods I find that “investigation” part hard to believe – the guy (whether an internal employee or contractor) just forwarded the company’s general policy “screw the customer”.

  10. Browncoat says:

    So, when you post your last post on Bioshock, will we know? Will it say “This is the end”? Cause I don’t want everyone saying, “Oh, great last Bioshock post,” before it’s the last, and other people saying, “Read the whole blog, dude! You’ll know when it’s the last!”


  11. Miral says:

    Blog posts never end. You should know that by now :)

  12. Ryan says:

    What are the sales numbers like for the 2 platforms the game is being sold on? Given 10 million xbox 360’s… then again, I’m not even a gamer (other than table-top, of course), so I may just be talking out of my ass..

  13. Johan says:

    Hmm, I just found out about this (yeah, I’m behind the news), and realized that I have quite a few 2K games. Should I be worried about this SecuROM on previous games? If so THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

  14. MintSkittle says:

    Is there a website that lists what games have SecuROM in them? Like that one site that lists all the games with StarForce. Also, is it possible to boycott a game I never intended to buy in the first place?

  15. Davesnot says:

    Funny how people get mad if you use a word, albeit correctly, this is unfamiliar. They think you’re trying to put them down.

    My brother used to get upset by such things. I think he assumed that well-spoken people could read his mind and knew that he didn’t know the meaning of a word. He said they were trying to sound smart.

    I said people just try to communicate their thoughts or ideas. Of course, most of face-to-face communication is non-verbal. He is a master of acting like he knows of which he speaks. On paper he is clueless. A triple-figure salary and he still couldn’t use plethora properly in a sentence.

    The internet is a written medium. Searching for a word that conveys your thought is a smart thing to do. It’s easy to tell if someone is just hitting the Thesaurus button to sound smart. Shamus doesn’t sound like he’s doing that.

    His blogging style is very conversational. He words don’t sound stilted or forced. If you don’t know a word he uses. Look it up. It’s called communicating. It’s called learning. It’s language.

    That said.. Somewher in my boxes of Pencil and Paper RPGs is an old game.. not much bigger than a good old video game manual mentioned above. I think it’s called Caveman or something like that.

    The whole game had to be played with .. I dunno.. 9 words? Maybe 6? .. what a blast.. There was Smart Caveman, Strong Caveman, Fast Caveman.. I think that was all..

    Those were the days.. no blue box, red box, 2nd, 3rd, 3.5, 4th edition.. No copy protection.. although there was probably a copy right page in there. .. just a couple staples holding together a wonderful game.

    No tech support.. no PR (and lousy sales no doubt).. Just a book that says get some people together and grunt and getsture your way to fun times and possibly a warm, dry cave.

    The hell with it all.. maybe I’ll stop playing games that require electricity.. oh .. wait.. I could never find people to game with.. that’s why the computer was so good.. wait a minute.. I gotta have my games..

    *shakes fist at screen* Curse you SecuROM!!

  16. Rebecca says:

    “Verboten” has a more jocular connotation than “forbidden.” Helps us know that Shamus isn’t taking it too seriously.

  17. Ryan says:

    I guess some people just don’t know how to have fun with language.

  18. Dan says:

    I’ve been following this kerfuffle largely through your posts, Shamus, and I thought I’d jump in now.

    So, suppose 2K gives in to the three-minute hate on its forums, and goes forward with removing the overly restrictive protection. How do you imagine they would go about such a venture?

    It’d be fairl trivial to do stuff on their own servers that would effectively remove the problem of online authentication. While you’d still have to authentcate, all 2K has to do is set their system to always return a positive response, and you’re set.

    But really, the outrage isn’t about the online authentication, or about the serial number. It’s about SecuROM. And this is where things get interesting.

    SecuROM, after all, isn’t a 2K product. I presume it was licensed from Sony DADC, and is principally the same code protecting any number of other products on the shelves right now.

    With that in mind, suppose 2K were to now turn around and try to retroactively pull the plug on the DRM. (Retroactively because their greatest concern, if they’re concerned about any of their customers at all, should be the ones who’ve already spent the money and are now making all the fuss. The ones who have yet to buy are essentially untrackable.)

    The only way I can see to turn off SecuROM on copies already sold is through a patch. 2K could so something silly like distributing a patch only to those people who provide the right serial number, but really, that’d be just prolonging the inevitable. Handing out a way to turn off SecuROM on even one machine will shortly become equivalent to doing so for all of them. And from there, it’s but a short step towards extending the crack to disable SecuROM on *all* products using that protection.

    And that’s where Sony DADC turns red and starts screaming bloody murder and threatening lawsuits for loss of business.
    It’s a polite fiction that SecuROM provides any significant degree of protection. I can go to a website right now, and have Bioshock running without any authentication five minutes later. But there’s a difference between the game being cracked by law-breakers (gotta love the DMCA), and having an official organisation issue what is essntially just such a crack.

  19. Shamus says:

    Dan: Lots of interesting points there, although I will add this:

    SecuROM itself gets installed by the game. If you follow the directions for removing it that people have come up with, it will simply re-appear the next time you run the game. So, if they issued a patch that removed SecuROM and then disabled this “feature”, then OTHER games would still re-create it when they were run. This makes it possible for them to remove it from BioShock without distrubing other games.

  20. Luke says:

    Dan: Shamus is right. SecuRom is a nasty piece of crap that will re-install itself next time you run a game that requires it. So yeah, all they have to do is to provide a patch for BioShock and make it available for everyone. No need to verify anything.

    Really, if we step back and look at this the whole copy protection seems ridiculous. If you are a honest customer you have to:

    1. Install the game
    2. Type in the long CD key
    3. Go through online activation
    4. Get a rootkit installed on your system
    5. Provided that none of the steps above failed, you can play

    If you downloaded a cracked copy you usually have to:

    2. Install the game
    3. Apply the crack that came with it
    4. Play

    If the illegal copy provides a superior end user experience for the customer, you are definitely doing something wrong.

  21. DGM says:

    Once in a while backlash does move publishers to act, but I don't see it happening in this instance. The big problem is that blogs and forum traffic are beneath the notice of people who make these kinds of decisions.

    I’m working on my own game (, and had been planning to use registration codes. But after reading your blog I’m seriously considering going the Stardock route and having no copy protection at all. I find it a scary thing to consider since I want to make a living at this, but you’re convincing me.

    You might not change anything for Bioshock or 2k, but you are having an effect. I just thought you should know that. :)

  22. The problem is that it’s a lose / lose scenario for PC gamers.

    If the game sells well on the PC, the 2K response will be, “Oh, look, the copy protection WORKED! And the players don’t care about the nasty restrictions – they bought it anyway!”

    And if the game sales poorly on the PC, the 2K response will be, “Oh, look, we TOLD you the PC was a dead platform. The PC gaming market is gone. Let’s quit supporting it.”

    Either way, we’re screwed.

  23. HeroForge says:

    [i]”That said.. Somewher in my boxes of Pencil and Paper RPGs is an old game.. not much bigger than a good old video game manual mentioned above. I think it's called Caveman or something like that.

    The whole game had to be played with .. I dunno.. 9 words? Maybe 6? .. what a blast.. There was Smart Caveman, Strong Caveman, Fast Caveman.. I think that was all..”[/i]

    That game would be Og, and it still turns up in some game stores.

    It has some of your standard RPG elements (stats, skills, dice, etc.), but with some interesting twists. For one, it has a list of about 20 words, and players are limited to using those words at all times, even when describing their actions to the GM (or whatever they chose to call him).

    My favorite feature is Things I Can’t Do. Every character starts off listing something they can’t do (like read minds, drive a car, throw fireballs, hack into computers, that sort of thing). Every couple levels, you get to add something new to the list, and they encourage you to make up new ones.

    (The name reminds me of something in the original DOOM FAQ file, where they started advertising other titles. One of these had a ginormous name that I can’t recall, except that it’s initials spelled GIGANTIC ACRONYM. The other title was Ug, which didn’t stand for anything.)

  24. Space Ace says:

    Well, looks like I’ll be pirating BioShock. Once I have a computer capable of running it. Maybe I should get a X360, but that’d mean buying every game I want for a HUEG amount of money. And a departure from the RTS genre, which is to PC’s what Beat ’em Ups are to consoles.

  25. bignose says:

    If you disagree with the frame the control-freaks are putting on the argument, please: stop helping them.

    The term “piracy” is *already* a crime: a nasty, violent, physical crime of assaulting ships on open sea and attacking those on board to deprive them of cargo. Copyright infringement is a totally separate crime, and sghares none of those qualities; calling it by the name of a violent physical crime only helps those who want to demonise. Please stop, and call the crime what it is: copyright infringement.

    The term “copy protection” implies that copying causes direct harm that needs to be protected against. On the contrary, the systems we’re talking about are *restrictions* on copying, to the detriment of the user. Please stop misnaming it, and call it what it is: copy restriction.

    The term “intellectual property”, in addition to begging the question about whether ideas should be treated like property, has no meaningful referent about which a coherent discussion can be had. The multitude of legal fields this term is used to reference have so little in common that a fact about one is no indication that the same is true for another. Please refer to and discuss these vastly different legal fields separately, rather than encouraging people to believe they can be treated similarly when they can’t.

    Words matter, people. These issues are all about differing ideas, and if we use words that frame the discussion in ways we disagree with, we’ve already lost.

  26. kamagurka says:

    Fefe is right. Why would anyone ever use one word when there’s another, perfectly fine word that can be used? See, I could have used “correct” back there, but I didn’t, and never will again, because “right” exists, and Fefe has opened my eyes.

  27. Fefe says:

    Man, stop that nitpickery. I’m german and I find it odd to use a german word instead of a perfectly fitting english word. I’m not talking about reducing the amount of words in a language actually :(.

  28. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    “- Me and my wife would like to buy this bread knife.
    – Sorry sir,but only one person may legally use this knife,so if you buy it only you can cut the bread.”

    Yes,copy “protection” laws are quite idiotic in their very basic form.

  29. Ash says:

    “Man, stop that nitpickery. I'm german and I find it odd to use a german word instead of a perfectly fitting english word. I'm not talking about reducing the amount of words in a language actually :(.”

    I currently live in Germany and – being an English and German major – am really interested in linguistics. Languages mix. Cultural exchange, youth culture, mass media: apply blame whereever you like it.

    In Germany people frequently use words like “cool”, “freak”, or “chill”. In America we find “angst” (or “angsty”), “rucksack”, “à¼ber”, “wunderbar” and so on. Language is a process, a constantly flowing stream.

    I’m perfectly fine with Shamus using “verboten”, and I don’t freak out whenever my German friends talk about “cool chill-out zones”.
    Still, I catch myself grinning when Germans use the adjective “angsty”…

    My point being: You can’t stop this exchange. You don’t have to like it, you can raise your children not to use the loan words, but all in all you’ll have to accept it.

    “Verboten, being German, evokes Nazi Germany. I guess subtlety is lost on some people.”

    As to the whole Nazi-issue… I’m fed up with it.
    They do a great job remembering over here. The Germans tell children about the crimes against humanity and teach them how important it is, NEVER to repeat them. They (as a nation, you’ll find idiotic individuals everywhere) regret up to a point where their national pride (the thing we Americans are so used to) is not really there at all. I never saw as many German flags as during the world cup in 2006 and they disappeared soon afterwards.
    There’s a LOT of awareness towards everything connected to the Third Reich over here.
    I think we could learn a great deal from the Germans. At least, you’ll NEVER find those “I’m allowed to wear my SS-uniform and prance around with a swastika on my flag”-pseudo-arians arond here. It’s forbidden. You can also go to jail for telling people that Auschwitz did not happen. It might be just me, but I think that’s great.

    Maybe we could just bring ourselves to recognize the fact that Germans don’t like being reduced to the darkest chapter of their past (although few will complain, since they are used to it)… maybe… shouldn’t be too hard…

  30. Dan says:


    So you’re in the “Shamus can’t say ‘verboten’ camp?”


    I kid!!! Because I love! Not nazis, though. Just in case you were wondering…

  31. Yes, please stop the nitpickery, especially the incorrect implication that Shamus did not use an English word, since verboten is an English word too: Nitpickery, on the other hand, is not…

  32. Gropos49 says:

    Ok, Shamus…. this is where 2K crossed the line for me. The launch of BioShock has been a fraking comedy of errors. The artists being the corporate idiocy were geniuses, though. BioShock is sooooooo good.

  33. Fefe says:

    I think Shamus had a post about nitpicking a while ago Hunter Johnson :). May be you should consider it again, it won’t hurt you much. Because in contrast to you, I’m not getting at people because of nullities etc.
    Thanks for your reply Ash, I especially agree upon the Nazi part. ;). I don’t like most of the borrowed words in german youth culture because most of the people I know to use them talk like retards though. :) I’m not really interested in preserving a language, but a certain level of style should be kept (verboten works fine for me there). I just found it odd. So…Anybody still feeling like pointing out that his or her world view is superior to mine? Sigh :(

  34. Brendan says:

    A friend of mine who codes for a company that sounds like Schmee-Ayy Games… often has told me that the forums for developers exist for one reason only: To give the players a space to vent. No one for his projects ever reads the forums. They may throw an occasional customer service n00b in there to read them and give the occasional response as a tantalizing hint that someone might pay attention, but that’s it. As he put it, the forums are only there to collect the vitriol, so that people don’t try any other way of contacting the developers, allowing them to work (or get shuffled to new projects) in peace.

    Cynicism runs rampant.

  35. Cenobite says:

    RampantCoyote @ 22:

    And if the game sales poorly on the PC, the 2K response will be, “Oh, look, we TOLD you the PC was a dead platform. The PC gaming market is gone. Let's quit supporting it.”

    If the game publishers and distributors want to put the axe to PC gaming as a platform, end all games for the PC forever, they don’t need to set up so many hoops for themselves (and us gamers, and the media) to jump through to achieve that. They can just shift all of their efforts over to console platforms and be done with it. Because nothing says DRM like a console.

    “But that would kill MMOs!” You’re right, it would…for a little while, anyway. Up until the point in time when they figure out how to get the full MMO experience out of the various consoles.

  36. roxysteve says:

    Shamus, this entry’s comments section highlights the awful truth behind your previous humor piece on the short attention span of the internet respondent.

    When reading the blog entry then going on to the comments section, I am vividly reminded of the time a vital suspension component sheared on my roadster while I was negotiating a traffic circle, at once empowering the car at the cost of my ability to convey my wishes vis-a-vis the direction I wished it to travel in.


    PS Sorry. I just realised that in the new literalist comments philosophy, using vis-a-vis when I could have said “with regard to” is probably verboten. Mea Culpa.

  37. Roy says:

    I just realised that in the new literalist comments philosophy, using vis-a-vis when I could have said “with regard to” is probably verboten. Mea Culpa.

    That’s comedy.

  38. Michael McHenry says:

    I thought that Shamus using “verboten” made complete sense. The nitpickery seemed out of place. Then when I was about to explain why, I was a little embarrassed.

    “verboten” means forbidden or banned, but here in America, the connotation is an arbitrary and authoritarian ban – I think the effect Shamus was aiming at.

    But I think that connotation is driven by the fact that the first thing that comes to mind is Nazi Germany – and that’s why I was embarrassed. That’s a sort of racism and really not fair.

  39. Michael McHenry says:

    I’d like to add that I’m *certainly* *not* accusing Shamus of racism, but I am thinking over my use of the word.

    and um…. down with 2kGames!

  40. Telas says:

    Racist? Oforcrissakes…

    With a name like Kurt Schneider, I’m mostly German. My grandfather came over in 1937, and my father-in-law came over in the mid-50s. Trust me when I say that the use of verboten isn’t racist.

    Now if you gypped some guy on a deal because he welshed you out on another one, and they threw you both in the paddy wagon, that might be racist, if you could find anyone from those cultures weak-kneed enough to get upset about it.

    Gottverdamnt Sitzpinkeln…

  41. roxysteve says:

    [Telas] A name like Kurt Schnieder, but not actually Kurt Schneider?


  42. Shamus says:

    With a name like Kurt Schneider, he has to be good.

  43. Deoxy says:

    Actually, it wouldn’t be “racism” it would be “ethnism” (“ethnicism”?) or “country-ism” or something, just as “Mexican” is a reference to Mexican citizens or people from Mexico (which is why calling certain people “African-Americans” is unbelievably stupid: I know a few WHITE “African-Americans”, and if they claim that, they get viciously attacked by the PC police because they aren’t BLACK… WHO’s the racist there?), and not all Mexicans are Hispanic (I know a thoroughly white Mexican citizen – blond hair, blue eyes, pale white skin, etc) and not all Hispanics are Mexican.

    “verboten” gained certain connotations from Nazi Germany by way of of American documentaries, movies, and TV shows about the war, but it has far outlasted the popularity of the original media and become part of common culture, much like many other phrases (“Oy vey”, for instance – as quoted by earlier mentioned white African-American, actually, which is rather humorous).

    One completely innocent reason “verbotten” has lasted is simply that German is more gutteral and hard language – that is, in English, many words get softened (“t” to “d”, for instance, is common), while German (especially that used in afore mentioned movies, etc) does not, leading to a much harsher sound. Nothing wrong with that, but it does make it easy to use “forbidden” in a softer sense and save “verboten” for when you REALLY mean it.

  44. captain says:

    @ 7 coogan
    Does Kindergarten also evoke reminscence of nazi germany?
    Oh pleeease stop kidding me. I´m german. You disturbed my inner balance. Now I´m seriously inclined to vent my wrath on you.

    Oh, and (on an unrelated matter tackled en-passant) subtle would have been:
    es wird abgeraten von, meaning it is recommended not to…

    If you don´t mind my pondering on the linguistic behavior proposed, for a little while longer. Strongly encouraging shamus to switch a chosen word for one more simple/better suitable/etc.pp. is to me some form of Gleichschaltung which is of nazi german origins. Something the honoured board of experts assembeled here may try to avoid. If only to please me.

    @ deoxy

    Actually verboten is one of our more sonore, soft words. the o-t thing makes it sound ver-boo-ten. Using your way of spelling it mould make it sound ver-botten. Hard. German. Like Kruppstahl.
    There is still the matter of ve and be at hand, which makes it a pleasingly german word ;)

    But now, back to the topic at hand. Did anyone really think 2k games -or any other games-publishing company actually reads the forums? -listens to its customers? The only way to make them reconsider their policy is the way shamus took. Don´t buy it.
    Having a 50-odd million-dollar-game crashland on the market is the only possible way of making publishers think. Or, at least it is the only free-market-viable way I know of. However I´m open to suggestions.

  45. Deoxy says:

    Yes, sorry about the spelling (I actually spoke German fluently… 15 years ago). In terms of “hard”, I was referring to the consonants, not the vowels. Hard “f” sound on the front (from the English perspective), hard “t” in the middle, etc. German, in general, is more enunciated than English.

    (And the “o” in the middle does not sound much like an English “oo”, really, but that is probably the closest English sound, unfortunately. It is neither fair-boat-en nor fair-boot-en, but somewhere in between – a sound which English lacks. And yes, that first syllable isn’t really “fair”, but it’s not “fur”, either… stupid human capability to pronounce far more sounds than necessary for any one language…)

    Oh, and good call on Kindergarten, BTW. (Shall we call the first year of grade school “child garden”? How silly.)

  46. Al Shiney says:

    Let us also not forget that the etymology of “dollar” is from the German word “thaler” ( So without our German friends, we’d all be as broke as 2K Games apparently is since they want PC gamers to buy multiple copies of BioShock for one computer.

    On a personal note, if I were to make a list of the Europeans I would most like to have a beer with, the Germans rank only slightly behind the Irish. Since I’m going to Ireland in October, perhaps Germans will soon be at the top of the list.

  47. Al Shiney says:

    Sorry, that should have read:

    “if I were to make a list of the Europeans with whom I would most like to have a beer”

  48. Ash wrote: “At least, you'll NEVER find those “I'm allowed to wear my SS-uniform and prance around with a swastika on my flag”-pseudo-arians arond here. It's forbidden. You can also go to jail for telling people that Auschwitz did not happen. It might be just me, but I think that's great.”

    I don’t.

    Telling people what they’re allowed to think, what they’re allowed to believe, and what they’re allowed to say is, in fact, a big part of what the Nazis did. And I don’t think emulating them in the name of stopping them makes any sense at all.

    There’s a line in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT where Michael Douglas (speaking Aaron Sorkin’s lines) sums it up well: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad. Because it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man who’s words make your blood boil who’s standing center stage advocating things at the top of his lungs things you would spend your lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that. Defend that. Celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

    And while he’s talking about America there, the same applies to any society that wants to pride itself on being a free society.

    Justin Alexander

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