The Culture of Piracy

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 1, 2010

Filed under: Video Games 236 comments

DaveMc asks:

What are some ways that the gaming community might make game piracy seem uncool? As you've often said, Shamus, it's a social problem more than a technological one (or at least, all attempts at technological *solutions* are worse than useless). […]

I'm inclined to think that things like Tycho's off-hand dismissal of pirates' self-justifications here are potentially quite powerful:

“For my part, I'm aware that people copy games â€" I was twelve once, after all â€" but the extent to which piracy is accepted as a valid ethos is absurd. It's considered the appropriate response to so many scenarios that the notion of it as an outgrowth of any coherent ethical framework is hilarious. It's so, so rad when people tart up their nihilism.”

That seems like a shot in a culture war where one side asserts that there's something uncool about pretending to be not paying for games out of some sort of principled stand. But what else can be done? […]

The short version, this:

Link (YouTube)

That’s the end credits to System Shock 2, showing the team as a series of corpses. (Which is an ongoing theme in the game. By the end, the game mechanics will have cultivated an irresistible compulsion to investigate the bodies you encounter.) I watch this and walk away with the impression that these people busted their butts to bring me this game, and that they took great pride in their work.

This sort of thing used to be pretty common. Games would have credits or hidden screens that would show us the game designers. It reminds us that the game is the product of hardworking human beings with lives of their own. In the 90’s there was a certain intimacy that developers had with their fanbase. Yes, some of that was due to the smaller audience. But some of it was simply because they could. If you stole the game (or pirated, what whatever nomenclature works for you) then there was a decent chance you’d end up seeing the face of someone who worked very hard to create the game you didn’t pay for.

Link (YouTube)
When you buy a book, you’re interested in the author, not the publishers. Interested in the band, not the label. The director and actors, not the movie studio. It used to be that we knew games by who created them, and the name of the publisher was just a footnote on the box.

Now games are known primarily by publisher. (A few studios are exceptions to this. Bethesda. BioWare. Blizzard. Possibly even other studios that don’t start with B.) If you listen to pirate rhetoric you’ll hear a common theme of plucky users trying to outmaneuver the huge evil faceless corporate juggernaut. I’ve never heard a pirate brag about stealing from Ken Levine, Sid Meier, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, American McGee, John Carmack, or Tim Cain. They brag about taking on Activision, 2kGames, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. Those names are a negative currency, particularly among those of us who pay for games. The enemy of my enemy stole from my enemy? This is not a crime which engenders outrage. There’s no stigma, because it’s viewed as a crime against a villain.

The relationship that enriches the hobby is the one between gamers who buy games and the developers who make them. This is a conduit of love, or at least of mutual appreciation. But the entire conflict is framed as a battle between pirates and the publishers. And nobody likes either of those guys.

I’m not suggesting that putting the pictures of the game designers in the end credits will be this panacea. I’m saying the thinking and attitude that prevents those pictures from showing up is the antithesis of the sort of environment that publishers should be cultivating. Just like beer companies want to pretend that their product is make by wise old blue-collar men on a small scale, in an environment that contains a lot of wood and warm lighting, possibly near a field of hops. They certainly don’t want you thinking about how the stuff is pumped out of a rumbling industrial plant that looks like a Quake 2 level. Publishers should be hiding behind the developers, not the other way around.

You will never stop piracy, but it is possible to stigmatize it to some degree. I can’t prove that this would reduce piracy, but I’d at least give this idea a try before I licensed another version of SecuROM. Even if it didn’t impact piracy, I think it would be a healthy move for the industry in general.


From The Archives:

236 thoughts on “The Culture of Piracy

  1. Robert says:

    I wonder if Sid Meier’s games with “Sid Meier’s” in the name were pirated less than games where he was behind the publisher.

    1. lebkin says:

      I have no idea how much his games are pirated. I would imagine less than normal, if only because he makes games that do not have widespread appeal like Modern Warfare or Halo.

      I do know that he makes games that come with almost no DRM. Civilization 4 doesn’t even have a serial code. All it has is a basic CD-check, and even that has been removed by the latest patch.

    2. Taellosse says:

      I know my first exposure to Civilization games (1 and 2) were via pirated copies, back before you could get stuff like that easily from the internet. I paid for Civ 3, though (well, my parents did–I wasn’t buying games myself yet at that time), if that makes any difference.

      1. Noumenon says:

        I pirated Civilization 1 for myself on approximately ten floppy disks. It took hours to install that thing on the computer in anybody’s house I stayed at… and it might not be worth it if they didn’t have a VGA monitor.

  2. AlfieUK says:

    How amazingly coincidental :)

    I literaly just finished playing Gears Of War 2 and as the end credits roll they have small quotes from and pictures of the development team cycling along at the bottom. As soon as I saw it I thought ‘why don’t more games do this kind of thing any more?’

    1. Irridium says:

      Its always interesting to see those things.

      More interaction with the devs would be nice. I’d much rather talk to the guy who designed Francis in Left 4 Dead than Public Relations Robot 24. Or something.

  3. Passerby says:

    Oh, and one more “B” to add to your list, “Black Isle Studios”. Yeah, I know they are not around anymore, but still …

    1. krellen says:

      Black Isle -> Troika -> Obsidian. The group that headed one studio pretty much went on to head the next, so they’re still around, just under a different name.

      1. Taellosse says:

        And yet their output is so much less good. KotOR2 and NWN2 are both examples of games that could have been good but were tragically crippled by being released before they were done. Whether that’s because the teams that made them couldn’t keep to a deadline or because the publishers were overly concerned with getting the game on the shelves in time for a seasonal sale period (most likely some combination thereof) is impossible to know.

        I don’t know anything about Alpha Protocol (which isn’t out yet) or their Fallout 3 expansion (also not out yet–they seem to do a lot of sequels for other people’s franchises, don’t they?) so I can’t speak to them.

        Though I do remember Icewind Dale somewhat fondly. I didn’t realize Black Isle transmuted into Obsidian, though. I thought Obsidian was formed by former Bioware-ites.

        1. JoshR says:

          It’s a sound idea, taking other people’s concepts and trying to improve them.

          we’ve all played a game and thought “this is excellent, but I could make it better,” It’s just taking that one step further.
          and then brings up the unequivocal point that one person’s idea of better is someone else’s idea of worse. Which is multiplied by how much people hate change.

        2. pkt-zer0 says:

          You missed Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir. The former of which is pretty damn good (that is the say, the comparisons to Planescape: Torment are not unwarranted).

        3. Caffiene says:

          “KotOR2 and NWN2 are both examples of games that could have been good but were tragically crippled by being released before they were done.”

          Definitely. Something about either their process or their publishers’ mindset just wasnt working.
          See also – Vampire: Bloodlines, during their Troika stage.

        4. SharpeRifle says:

          Considering this is the man who is lead on the project for “their Fallout 3 expansion”. Its more like its returning home. Especially since Black Isle were the designers of both Fallout and Fallout 2.

          “Obsidian Entertainment, founded in 2003 after the disestablishment of Interplay Entertainment’s Black Isle Studios, is a video game developer for PC and console systems. Obsidian continues to operate under management by its founding officers: Feargus Urquhart, Chris Parker, Darren Monahan, Chris Avellone and Chris Jones. In July 2005 they hired Josh Sawyer of Icewind Dale fame. Several of the developers at Obsidian worked on Fallout, Fallout 2 and Van Buren (the canceled Fallout 3 project).

          Obsidian is currently developing Fallout: New Vegas. “

      2. Mert says:

        There used to be a Bullfrog some time ago.

        1. Velkrin says:

          and I’m still waiting for Dungeon Keeper 3.

        2. Teldurn says:

          The name Bullfrog always brings back warm and fuzzy memories of my teenage years, playing Syndicate on a chilly winter Saturday morning, bundled up in a blanket to stay warm, while my mouse hand nearly froze off. All this time I still never found out what they (the cyborg-agents in the game) were saying that sounded like “Chillecut”.

  4. Meredith says:

    I also think rewarding people who buy the game with extra stuff is a good move. They have to stop trying to punish pirates with DRM, because for the crackers beating each new version of it is a reward in itself and other pirates never see the DRM, so only the customers get punished. Rewarding people for buying the game instead and making it less of a challenge to crack could make some small amount of difference. Certainly no less than they’re making now, at least.

    1. ccesarano says:

      If you’re talking about stuff like EA’s project $10, that’s a whole new can of worms on its own. People are getting in a huff because if you dare to try and save money by purchasing a game used, you get less content. On the one hand, I’ve come to wonder if it really is worth it to buy a pre-owned copy that’s $5 cheaper. I mean, you’re only saving $5 and the disc you are getting could be scratched up, or the instruction booklet missing, or this or that and yatta yatta.

      Then again, I think a lot of gamers just want some big corporation to hate. EVERYONE hates GameStop and their trade-in policies, but then they go and hate the Publishers for trying to encourage new purchasing instead of GameStop’s used system. It’s as if the only way to win is to not buy or play games at all.

      Of course, I think game developers are getting a little too flustered over used game sales. They are much more prevalent in the games industry, but that’s because few people see the need to go back and replay a game. I myself have stuck to GameFly since most games are fun, but the experience can usually be swapped out for another similar title. I only keep games that provide a unique experience (Dead Rising, Brutal Legend), a great story (Bioshock) or some degree of both (Dead Space(more competent a story than good), Dragon Age). If anything that’s how you fight used game sales.

      1. Cogfizzle says:

        But you shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not you’re actually going to play the game if you buy used – First Sale Doctrine tells us this ( In a nutshell, it’s a century-old law that says creators of copyrighted works can’t prevent you from selling your used copy when you’re done with it.

        If you buy a book, you can resell that book (unless it’s a DRM’d e-book). If you buy a DVD, you can resell that DVD. If you buy a painting, you can resell that painting. But if you buy software, there’s a good chance you can’t resell it. Either because of ‘activation’ DRM or because your customer (either a reseller or potential direct buyer) would outright refuse due to them just assuming you’ve either made a copy for yourself or already activated it. Hell, In the past, I’ve even bought game boxes that ended up not containing discs that I flat-out couldn’t get an exchange/refund on regardless of how much I argued.

        Selling or buying used shouldn’t be subject to the whims of a developer – established case law tells us this. And yet, because of DRM, this is exactly what’s happening. Not only is it an inconvenience, but it’s used to manipulate the post-sale market that the publisher has absolutely no right to control. It doesn’t seem like that big an issue when you think about games, but when you consider more and more DRM is being heaped on e-books, videos and every other form of media.

        The publishers have no right to “fight” resale of used games/books/videos, period. As you say, giving an incentive to encourage new sales is the proper recourse. Whether it be through offering such a good gaming experience that your customer doesn’t want to sell away their copy, or a personal touch – a connection with the developers, that makes them WANT to buy new (I’m thinking of things like collectors editions and such here).

        1. Alleyoop says:

          @ Cogfizzle: Thanks for saying this – I honestly don’t get why some think the used game market is some kind of affront or travesty against game makers. It’s not. It’s lawful, it’s how every other business operates, it has ever been thus, and there are advantages in it:

          – “Re-gifting”, or passing along a game you’re done with to someone gets someone else into that game if it’s to their liking. Community around a game is huge and a fair number could be those drawn into future new purchases by playing a used copy first.

          – Along those lines, interest. In the IP, in the pub or dev house. This goes both ways. Interest because the IP and execution are compelling and well done, or *lack* of interest that may show the producers where they have failed, where they shouldn’t dump any more money or time. A high number of users with preowned games shows there is interest in the IP, especially after some time has passed. It’s a bit like a high number of illegal download numbers corresponding to how popular a game is (and often how well it SOLD).

          – Good will toward potential customers. People buy used for different reasons, financial, test driving, someone gave it to them, impulse purchasing, etc. Welcoming those people into the game community is a nice, true carrot in a space where all too often the only carrot on offer is the percieved lack of stick.

          Whinging about a legal market and inflicting overbearing procedures on paying customers does not draw the peeps in. Courting them does. Why publishing companies don’t offer some sort of trade in service of their own is a mystery to me. Instead they complain about it. Are they taking internet lessons or something? ;D

          1. ehlijen says:

            Activation counts, install limits et al are just the software industry’s answer to the pirate claim that ‘information can’t be stolen’. They’re basically saying ‘then it can’t be owned either’ and how can you resell what you never owned?

            I don’t like it, I hope they stop and it may or may not be legal, but I can see where this is coming from.

        2. ccesarano says:

          Oh I agree that there is nothing wrong with the used games market, though it’s also interesting that the only other industry where used products are so prevalent is in books (only movie rental stores really deal in used films, and even then it’s all the copies they had on day one that just aren’t being used anymore). That nearly any game store is built off of used games and the gamers themselves trade in so frequently is almost staggering when you think about it.

          Yet I’d say the reason for this is because retailers really don’t get a big enough cut on products to pay for expenses, unless you’re someone like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc. who already has plenty of products with high mark-up that keep the store afloat. I’ve always wondered if the games industry would see more profit overall or not if prices were dropped to maybe $30 a game, but now I wonder if you’d see more stores getting into games WITHOUT doing used sales if the price were dropped and allotted more mark-up.

          But that’s a whole other discussion that I could get insanely side-tracked on. I’m no economist, nor did I major in business, so it’s more speculative questioning from me.

          The issue with used software is, well, the Internet. Let’s face it, it has completely changed the face of bootlegging. I remember when my brother and I were first getting into anime and had to hook two VCR’s together in order to copy anime. There was even a culture behind it, where one person would buy the new Evangelion tape and copy it, then the next volume would be purchased by someone else. However, when you do the math, there is no way bootlegging could be as widespread and far-reaching as Internet piracy enabled it to be.

          When it comes to software being pirated, though, a lot of that has to do with the cost of it. This is something else that’s gotten me thinking. Adobe has fewer people working on a single program of Creative Suite than EA may have working on one of their games, yet trying to buy a proper version of Photoshop with an educational discount can be as much as $199 (my school got university-exclusive deals that were even cheaper, though, so we could get Photoshop for $99. Still, one year development with a smaller team…). When you compare video games, which have to be the most expensive form of software out there in terms of development (assumption), and then take the $60 price tag into account, it’s actually cheap.

          But I’m going off topic again.

      2. Soylent Dave says:

        “I've come to wonder if it really is worth it to buy a pre-owned copy that's $5 cheaper”

        If that were as cheap as used games got, then no – it wouldn’t be worth it.

        But I buy a significant proportion of my (console) games used (because I think the very best games are worth around £30, but even the worst are sold for £40-£50 new), and the amount of money you can end up saving is considerable.

        Depending on how long you’re willing to wait for your game, you can easily save yourself upwards of £30 (and I’m still only talking about waiting a couple of weeks/months after release in a lot of cases).

        (It’s also worth noting that EAs ‘Project $10’ is effectively ‘Project £10’ over in the UK, which is significantly more money – but that’s pretty much par for the course with electronic media. I’m sure the Aussies are being taken for an even bigger ride…)

  5. I love it when games show pictures of the people who made it.

    I love it even more when there is commentary from the developers.

    Seeing the faces behind the creation gives me a sense of connection & appreciation for the game.

    (Of course, I still grumble to myself that 98% of the people shown are male. ARGH!)

    1. mewse says:

      Sadly, most video game studios still obey The Law of Steves.

      In brief, The Law of Steves asserts that in any video game company, there will be more people named “Steve” than women. In my experience, this has been improving over the past couple of years, but quite slowly; we just don’t get many women applying for development jobs.

      1. Steve B says:

        Sadly, the improvement is more likely due to “Steve” falling out of fashion as a name in the mid-seventies.

        1. Ah, for the day of Steve Jackson, Steve Perrin, Steve Marsh (both of them) and the association of several steves in the game design world.

          1. NCogNeato says:

            Would Stevie Case be the exception to the rule?


  6. TehShrike says:

    I think you’re pretty spot-on, Shamus.

    In a world without intellectual monopolies, where people didn’t envision an army of lawyers ready to descend on those who stepped out of line, I imagine that paying for software would be like tipping.

    Most people would pay some amount (based on cultural norms, what they thought of the product, and what the creator requested).

    And if someone announced that they never adhered to this custom, everyone else in the room would look at them as if they had just said that they were an inconsiderate douchebag.

    1. DaveMc says:

      Nice! That’s exactly the sort of thing we can hope for … You can’t (or shouldn’t!) make it *illegal* not to tip, but we might be able to reach the point where people feel sheepish (and other people look down on them) if they don’t do it.

      Also: thanks for responding to my question, Shamus, despite the fact that it opens up a huge potential flame-war. On the other hand, if anyone can have this conversation without vitriol, it’s the readers of this site.

      1. MisteR says:

        Haha, don’t try that tipping business in Europe, though. ;)

        1. Chargone says:

          or a lot of other places… it confuses people. :)

    2. Primogenitor says:

      Maybe that should be part of the gamertag? “Paid $x for this game”. Would be a useful way to separate out some multiplayer idiots/trolls if you filter by it.

      1. DaveMc says:

        Interesting idea. It would work both ways, too: people could filter for only those for whom X=0, or only for X>0 … It could even be on the honour system, since both sides would probably consider it to be a bragging point (“I paid for this game” vs. “I didn’t pay for this game”). Of course, sometimes people get games on mega-sale, and that shouldn’t be seen as a knock on their integrity. :)

        1. I think if someone pays even $1, it’s clear they’re not a pirate.

          1. ehlijen says:

            I don’t get this statement.

            Are you saying that games should not be priced at all but simply offered with a ‘please donate’ sign next to the counter?

            That’s not how capitalism is supposed to work (and I dare say it won’t).

            Keep in mind that tipping is something done on top of an existing price that serves as a guideline to how much the tip should be (at least if I understand the concept right). It is not meant to give the costumer free choice in how much to pay for a service.

  7. ps238principal says:

    American McGee? Did anyone pirate “Bad Day L.A.?”

    1. (LK) says:

      Did anyone play “Bad Day L.A.”?

  8. ccesarano says:

    When I was in College I was surrounded by PC gamers, which ironically meant I was surrounded by pirates. I don’t just mean games, either. I mean music, movies, books, everything. The justification was when they’re older and have a job they’ll buy stuff. Except at this school most people went on co-op (paid internship), and during that period they still pirated stuff.

    In terms of games, they said “if I like the game enough I’ll buy it”. 99 times out of 100 they never did even though they could easily have endless praise for it. My friends all love BioWare and sung the praises of Dragon Age, but I’m the only one that bothered to spend money on the game.

    At the end of the day I think most pirates merely do what they do because they don’t want to pay. I’ve never met a software pirate that ever stood by his convictions. They simply want as much as they can get for free without being forced to pay for it. Fortunately most people don’t work this way, but it’ll continue to be a problem for industries like games and music if they insist on having a target audience of adolescents (let’s face it, all those M-rated games aren’t really mature in any sense of the word). I mean how much disposable income does a 13-21 year old REALLY have, especially when most of their money is going to car payments if they are responsible, designer clothing and alcohol if they are your average irresponsible teenager and young adult.

    1. Sean Riley says:

      I hate to just leap in and say “This” but… This.

      This is why I think Shamus is, technically, correct that piracy is a social problem rather than a technical one, but ultimately the problem is too big to fix. The only possible solution is technical and, here’s the kicker, has already been implemented.

      The only thing left to do to make it work is for all the publishers to give up on PC for good.

      1. ccesarano says:

        See, I don’t agree with that. I think a lot of the industry’s current issue is marketing in terms of getting games to sell. Why do Nintendo games seem to be the only major titles that sell well on their system? Here’s a better question: when was the last time you saw a commercial for a third party Wii title? “Hardcore” gamers have always been quick to abandon Nintendo, but every Nintendo title sells well not only because of gamers, but because they have TV spots on all the right channels. Hell, I still remember being in high school and seeing ads for Metroid Prime on Channel One News. In other words, hitting their target audience.

        Likewise goes for games on the PC. Most people are going to buy some piece of crap Gateway for $300 or, God forbid, an E-Machine. The largest selling game is World of Warcraft and for all intents and purposes the graphics suck. No one can tell, however, because the art style isn’t dated (assuming an art style CAN become dated). Make a game with a nice art style but simple graphics and put commercials out for it and more consumers that aren’t teenagers with a Bit Torrent addiction will become aware.

        The problem is that the industry seems to have blinders on. All they can see are the typical gamer, and instead of trying to find people that WILL pay money and figure out what they want they’re fighting the people that aren’t paying money, trying to force them to. It’s bad business.

        I’d say this is what happens when your industry is built out of people’s garages, but considering how Apple and Microsoft started I’m guessing that’s not quite so applicable.

  9. Factoid says:

    I think we should literally be putting a scarlet letter on pirates.

    If everyone who was caught pirating a game had a pirate stamp placed on their online identities maybe people would start shunning them, kicking them off their friends list, booting them from servers, etc…

    Probably I’m being too optimistic. Most would wear it like a badge of honor and they’d kick anyone who DIDN”T have it from pirate controlled servers.

    1. Dev Null says:

      Ding! Got it in one; they’d have t-shirts printed up before you could finish designing the stamp. The problem with social engineering solutions to piracy is that pirates are arsehats, and don’t _care_. (Except inasmuch as they actually revel in being arsehats, so calling them out as such only encourages them.)

      I’m interested in – waiting with bated breath for, one might go so far as to say – Shamus’ reaction to the latest DRM atrocity – games which require a constant contact with the server to play and/or save the game in single-player mode. The reason why its different, instead of just more of the same, is that it seems like there could actually be a possibility that DRM this intrusive might start to work; if the pirate has to actually run a savegame server, or code an effective local savegame solution and inveigle it into existing compiled code, I’m wondering if they’ll bother. (Possibly that’s me being too optimistic now…)

      Its still intrusive as anything, and I hate the very idea of having to ask a server nicely for my savegame so I can play… but at the same time, if it _did_ work to curb piracy it would be a lot harder to shoot down than the DRM of recent past that was obnoxiously intrusive _and_ ineffective. Thats always been part of the core of _my_ anti-DRM argument anyways; that it doesn’t work.

      1. pkt-zer0 says:

        Even WoW has private servers, I don’t see how AC2’s DRM would be any more difficult to circumvent than that. It’s most likely just a matter of time.

        Which reminds me, it’s a bit sneaky that Ubisoft have not only been unwilling to firmly commit to patching out the DRM if the servers go down, they’ve seemingly not even considered removing it when it’s cracked or 3/6/12 months after release.

        1. Dev Null says:

          True, but I think an argument could be made – in the form of the solid gold toilets in which Blizzard currently craps – that their anti-piracy-via-constant-network-connection method has worked to a large degree, even if not 100%.

          1. Sean Riley says:

            The difference being that you pretty much need the connection for WoW to even make sense. Piracy there not only requires a crack, but a substitute community. That’s a lot harder to code up. :)

            1. MelTorefas says:

              Very, very true. The reason MMOs work so well is because they are designed to require large numbers of people to be fun. I don’t mean enforced grouping; I mean the concept and execution of the game are not fun in single or small player environments.

        2. Duffy says:

          And the private servers have a large amount of the server-side scripting missing, can’t handle the same numbers the real servers have, lack a sizable and dedicated community, and are usually several patches behind.

          Most MMOs cannot exist on the scale they do without large dedicated servers, which in turn are ran as an on-going service (including new development, bug fixes, etc..) by the game’s developers.

          Comparing an MMO’s constant connection requirements to these DRM schemes is an insult to the MMO and a nod of approval at the DRM. Both of which are horrible ideas.

          Yes, MMO’s have an inherently strong DRM scheme, but that doesn’t mean it works when applied to a different style of game.

          1. Dev Null says:

            Don’t get me wrong Duffy; I don’t think its a good idea. I don’t like it. But I think there’s at least a possibility that it might work to some degree more than 0%, which is pretty much the high score next to the initials DRM so far. Thats what intrigues me about it; I don’t like it, but it might work.

            1. PhoenixUltima says:

              I highly doubt it. If DRM becomes too intrusive (and requiring a constant internet connection for single-player is getting pretty close to that mark – Infinite Dungeons, a NWN1 add-on, had to phone home every single time you loaded a save, and I quit playing it partly because of that), people will simply stop buying games that do it. If you manage to drive away 10% of your pirates (I’m being generous here) but alienate 15% of your paying customer base in the process, that is an abject failure. Keep in mind the ultimate goal of DRM is not to stop piracy, but to boost sales. Curtailing piracy is merely the means to that end.

  10. elias says:

    Maybe instead of publisher logos before the game starts, they should put in pictures of some of the devs. With their kids.

    1. acronix says:

      With “Will make games for food” T-shirts.

  11. Emlyn says:

    I had to laugh when you mentioned the beer companies as there happens to be a fairly large company that is like this: “product is made by wise old blue-collar men on a small scale, in an environment that contains a lot of wood and warm lighting.” Leinenkugel Brewing Company would be that company.

    1. Shinjin says:

      (topic derail)

      Emlyn – It depends on which varieties of Leinie’s you refer to. If it’s the more mainstream original, light, or red – those are factory made by Miller (or at least Miller bought the company years ago, I haven’t kept up if they’ve traded hands further). The seasonal brews are made at a smaller location. It’s still nowhere near a basement or garage micro brewery, but it is still a much smaller operation than Miller.

      [For reference, I’m born and raised in Chippewa Falls, WI where Leinenkugels was founded. My grandfather worked there until he retired and my mother works there currently post-retirement. So I can vouch for the “wise” and “old” aspects of the employees :)]

  12. JoshR says:

    I’m wondering what the moral outlook of pirating a game because everyone says that the game is so god damn awful.
    I did pirate games when I was unemployed, and whilst I haven’t bought all of those games, since then I’ve only pirated things that were either hard to get hold of, or because the negative press surrounding a game was so high that I just wanted to see what everyone was talking about.
    I’m not going to pay £30 to buy a game that all signs point out I won’t enjoy. Game in point: James Cameron’s avatar the game.
    a hundred or so people felt so pissed off that they slagged it off on the escapist, and I was genuinely interested in how bad this game was. So I pirated it. I’ve since uninstalled it and haven’t looked back, but I would never have bought it, I didn’t share it, I simply wanted to see why everyone thought it was awful. (Mostly the platforming killed it for me, very loose controls and high precision needed just made me want to cut off my hands.)
    Contrast in point, Bioshock, one that my friend pirated and gave to me, I eventually bought because I found it so good. I haven’t even touched it, but I still have it.

    I don’t know if this makes me “part of the problem” but I have been called an idiot at work for “buying Dragon Age when you could have just pirated it”
    just one of the reasons I hate the guy who did that.

    1. Moridin says:

      I wonder how common that line of reasoning is. I used it when I downloaded D&D 4th ed. and, after reading through them, I’ve barely given them a glance. I was already convinced that I wouldn’t be playing them(I don’t get to play much anyway and I’m the only one who is willing to GM so I won’t be playing with system I don’t like) and I was right about that, at least.

    2. Primogenitor says:

      I think this is due to the lack of Demos in recent years.

      Try-before-you-buy is gone, and you cant return software, so its pay up or pirate. And once someone has a pirate copy, much of the reason to buy it is gone.

      1. Roll-a-die says:

        I miss demos made it easy to spot shit pre-release.

        But it all goes into how games are sold now. It used to be maybe a commercial on a local network after release and word of mouth to spread sales. Now it’s a commercial an hour on every valid network with magazine adds in non gaming mags and pre-release reviews. And then the game comes out and it’s declared mediocre and everybody had already bought it thinking it was the next god of war of half-life. The one that comes to mind most recently is Dante’s Inferno. Had a demo been release it would have been “Oh it’s mediocre denied no sale from me.”

    3. Veylon says:

      I’ll admit to having downloaded ROMs, back before it was practical to get ahold of old NES games on the Wii or there were anthologies (some of which I picked up).

      I mean, the basic argument against piracy is that the company that makes something deserves to benefit from the product of their labors. But at that point, they were no longer producing new copies of the games for me to buy and would not benefit from me buying old ones. That’s the threshold I used for the difference between ‘okay’ piracy and ‘bad’ piracy. Bad pirates pirate when it can hurt the developers, but what about when it can’t?

      1. kharon says:

        I rather agree with this sentiment: If there’s no way that my purchase, assuming I could find a copy to purchase, would benefit the company behind the game, I would be willing to pirate it. This largely remains true, while my brother has few objections to simply downloading a game he’s interested in simply because he wants it.

        My lines tend to be foreign games which are not locally available and old games which are no longer being published by the company responsible. For example, I would readily pirate a copy of The Bard’s Tale (old school, not the recent one) or a large number of NES or classic GameBoy games that simply cannot be acquired in any other way at this point, but I wouldn’t go out looking for a cracked copy of Oblivion or Fallout 3 or Borderlands or (as much as I may want to play the game) World of Goo, because those are readily available and still in production.

  13. Sekundaari says:

    I want to say Bohemia Interactive, even though it just continues the list of B-brands. Though I’m surprised by how many apparently only remember Codemasters, judging by comments around Dragon Rising.

    Maybe thorough and colorful manuals and collectibles are one solution. It’s hard to download those. It would mean more physical and less online distribution of games, which I’d like too.

    1. Jabor says:

      Aye, the lack of a decent manual these days is appalling. Dragon Age is about as close as it gets these days to anything more than an “instruction leaflet”.

      I remember the Baldur’s Gate manuals fondly (particularly Volo’s Guide…, and just the other day I found the Age of Empires II manual floating around.

      These days you’re just as likely to find a PDF on the disk, even in the physical copy of the game. I remember back when doing so was basically admitting that your game probably sucked and wasn’t worth you spending the money to print hundreds of manuals for – now it seems to be the norm.

      1. Nick Bell says:

        Baldur’s Gate manuals were fantastic. They had all the reference tables for AD&D in a handy spiral bound book, rather than scattered all across the Player’s Handbook. It was a standard piece of my D&D bag for years after I finished the game.

      2. Scott says:

        I think this is because of two reasons; the first being digital distribution platforms. Where do you put it? In the install folder that no one will ever go to? Add a launcher with the manual in it? That’s probably the most reasonable place, but I think most publishers exclude the manual for the second reason: In game tutorials and guides.
        These days, most of the information that would normally be in a manual is presented to you step by step throughout the game (or, if simple enough, in a tutorial section, though this seemes to be rarer these days). Some games allow you to go back and access this information after it is initially given, allowing you to build your own manual from events that you’ve already experienced.

    2. wererogue says: provide pdf manuals, wallpapers, avatar sets, soundtracks etc. with the games you buy, and if they add something later it’s added to what you already own. Between that and their commitment to no DRM, I always go there first. Even a digital manual makes a difference for me (and the .mp3 soundtrack seals the deal every time.)

  14. Carra says:

    No one cares about the publishers. But you see the same thing with movies. The first thing you see? A huge screen with 20th century fox, Dreamworks,… Who cares? I want to see the director and main actors.

    I've never heard a pirate brag about stealing from Ken Levine, Sid Meier, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, American McGee, John Carmack, or Tim Cain.

    Well, those guys are probably all millionaires driving around in their Ferraris. I’d rather see you steal from them than from a small indie company.

    1. lochok says:

      No one cares about the publishers. But you see the same thing with movies. The first thing you see? A huge screen with 20th century fox, Dreamworks,… Who cares?

      Its not quite so bad in movies. You’ll normally get 20th Century Fox or something, followed by a studio then it’ll start. Maybe one more if you’re unlucky.

      Then you get something like Crisis which starts with EA, then CryTek, then Intel, then NVidea then who knows what…

  15. pkt-zer0 says:

    Heh, you know, the recent Settlers 7 preview vids featuring Bruce Shelley made me feel bad about skipping out on the game due to the crazy DRM.

    …Not bad enough to make me buy it, though.

  16. Atarlost says:

    This approach relies on good will and good will is something most of the big publishers don’t have much of anymore. They’ve been treating their customers as the enemy for too long.

    It can work for small design teams that self publish though. It’s a lot easier to self justify pirating if most of the profit would go to EA than if it’s mostly going to the actual developers.

  17. Adamantyr says:

    Pirates are thieves, treat them as such. I ran into the same types at school myself, justifying their behavior because of their lack of money. And these guys were part of a Christian boys group as well.

    Unfortunately, piracy is so prevalent now in tech culture that being a hard-ass about it can make you very unpopular. Ask yourself this, though: if someone is so disrespectful of other people’s work that he’ll freely steal it, why would they have any sense of ethics or morality in other parts of their life? It isn’t someone you want as a friend, or someone you can trust.

    On the subject of the lack of awesome manuals, man, thanks for making me feel old. I was just admiring my Ultima III and IV manuals yesterday! All printed on thick embossed cover stock, warm paper, with a totally unique character and sense of other-worldliness. Nothing like that now. Even the cloth maps they throw in to games like Dragon Age and Oblivion seem like a sop for the old-school gamers.

    1. Moridin says:

      Let’s not have this discussion again. Pirates !=thieves. When a thief steals a t-shirt, the victim of the crime loses an actual product and has to get a new one. When a pirate pirates something, the victim of the crime loses a potential sale(I say potential, because it’s possible that the pirate wouldn’t have bought it anyway) and even if a sale is lost, the actual product isn’t. In my comment above, I admitted to pirating a copy of D&D which I wouldn’t have bought anyway, therefore the owner didn’t lose anything. Both are wrong, but they are not the same thing. The sooner people realize that, the sooner we can make progress.

      1. NeilD says:

        Taking something you don’t own and have no rights to without paying for it is stealing. Regardless of whether anyone else loses anything or is out any income. Regardless of whether you would have paid for it or not. Regardless of whether you went back and paid for it later. You have no right to do so. None. Not yours. Rationalize all you want, but if you take it, you are stealing. Period.

        The sooner people realize that, blah blah blah.

        1. Kdansky says:

          Murder is not manslaughter, but in the end, someone is dead.
          Theft is not piracy is not trespassing, but in the end, you got access to something you did not pay for.

          All are morally objectable, but all are different crimes.

          Get it?

        2. Caffiene says:

          So… You’re saying that if somebody was considering downloading a cracked copy of Dragon Age off the net, they should go and steal a nice physical boxed copy from Gamestop instead. It doesnt matter that the store will have to replace the game at cost, because its the same crime, right? Downloading it is just as bad as taking it from the store, so why not go and grab a physical copy?

          No. For me this is the Godwin of DRM discussion… You dont need to say “copyright infringement is just like Hitler” and you dont need to say “copyright infringement is just like theft”. Copyright infringement is immoral, uncool, and hurts the hard working developers. It doesnt need to be “just like” something else for it to be wrong. Its already wrong.

          1. NeilD says:

            No, I’m saying that there is no meaningful difference (probably legally and certainly morally), and that the attempts to draw such distinctions only serve to cloud the discussion, not clarify it.

            Are you suggesting that most people pirate rather than steal from the store because they think it’s a less morally objectionable act? Maybe in a few cases, but I think it’s far more to do with the possibility of getting caught. Show me a store with as little anti-theft security as the Internet, and two days later I’ll show you an empty room.

            Anyway, the intent of the action is identical (unlike murder and manslaughter): “I don’t want to pay for this, so I’m taking it.” Everything after that is just misdirection.

            But we all seem to be in agreement that it’s wrong, which is something to hold on to, at least.

            1. Scott says:

              We need some kind of authority to help with this situation. I call upon the power of the early 90’s!


            2. Caffiene says:

              To me, I feel like its probably 50/50… The threat of being caught stops some people, but I think the moral aspect does stop people as well. I pirated the occasional game when I was a kid, but I would never have stolen a physical copy from a store even if I had the chance to get away with it… I had an innate sense that it was unequivocally wrong to steal, but at that age piracy felt like a “grey area”.

              I understand what you mean about clouding the discussion, but personally I actually feel the opposite – that equating piracy and stealing is what interrupts the discussion. To me, the problem with equating them is that it either sidetracks the conversation, where the would-be pirate begins arguing that they are not the same (with, imo, possibly valid arguments), instead of the conversation being about the moral aspect at all; or instead of arguing about the difference it becomes an excuse that the pirate uses for self-justification – along the lines of “Piracy isnt the same thing as theft. Theyre just making up nonsense because they have no actual arguments and theyve fallen for the propaganda of the publishers.”

              I think thats one mistake that adults and business make far too often – to not recognise the intelligence of the other party. Im sure we’ve all seen the patronising anti-drinking or anti-marijuana ads aimed at school kids. They end up having the reverse effect to the intent because they disregard the complexities of the issue and the audience then dismiss the people making the argument because theyve presented themselves as if they dont -understand- the issue.

              Addressing the complexities takes time, but I feel in the long run it saves time and effort by ensuring the conversation actually addresses everything instead of being cut short because the parties arent listening to each other.

            3. wererogue says:

              There is a massive and meaningful difference. If you take a game from the store shelf, you are not only not paying for something you now have (as in the case of piracy).

              The store has to replace the game. Anyone else who would have bought the game can’t get their copy, and so further sales are lost. The store doesn’t know they’re out of stock, so the time until the game is replaced and can generate sales again in indeterminate – if there was only one copy in stock, it could be until the next stock count. That’s a massive hit on publisher sales for the actions of one person.

              By contrast, piracy is only a problem because it’s so prevalent. Each person’s actions are insignificant (or at least, not provably significant) – it’s the numbers in which it’s occurring that make it look like massive losses. I’d love to know for sure whether piracy has actually lost the industry billions (i.e. that most of those people would have bought most of those games if they couldn’t get them free) or whether piracy has propelled public awareness of game content forward decades, making it mainstream. Nobody’s made a compelling study either way, to my mind.

              I do agree that there are plenty of people out there who aren’t paying for games that they could afford to. I don’t know how many people are buying games now that wouldn’t have been aware of them if piracy wasn’t rampant. However, games awareness isn’t really going up any more – it’s already mainstream, so it’s likely to be a problem now.

              Getting to the point, the reason that it’s important that piracy != theft is that because there’s a significant *individual* moral difference, most people will dismiss you out of hand. “Piracy is wrong” is a much easier pill to swallow (because it’s true) that “piracy is theft,” and advances the message further and better.


              1. Curt says:

                Again, the “copyright infringement is theft” argument rears its head, it really is the Goodwin of these discussions.

                Remember, you/me/we have no natural right to profit from work, the “labour theory of value” is bunk. If I make the most fabulous stack of cards ever assembled and take years to gain the skill and yet more years to assemble my construction. _Nothing_ there infers that it is worth a damn to anyone other than me.

                We allow concept of copyright and patent to encourage development, but it is not immutable nor is it a natural right. Your current business model may not be your future business model.

                “Copyright infringement” is the offence of breaking a social covenant, not natural law.

                Theft is breaking the natural right of property because it does _harm_ not because someone gains from it, _only_ because someone loses. To focus on the person gaining is to miss the whole point of law. A murder is punished because someone has died, not because the murderer has killed.

                To say “The still got something for nothing” is true but it is irrelevant, “no harm no foul”

                1. ima420r says:

                  What if someone had a coat you wanted, and you had a device that let you copy that coat. If you do that, and get your own coat, is that considered stealing? What about cloning a kitty that is so cute you want your own? What about that cool car your bro has? You want one and your device lets you copy it so you have your own. Is that stealing? Is it morally wrong?

                2. Actually replying to ima420r:

                  “What if someone had a coat you wanted, and you had a device that let you copy that coat. If you do that, and get your own coat, is that considered stealing? What about cloning a kitty that is so cute you want your own? What about that cool car your bro has? You want one and your device lets you copy it so you have your own. Is that stealing? Is it morally wrong?”

                  That argument is crap. We’re not talking about a cute cat, or a coat. The question is this:

                  What if you spent a very long time and millions of dollars working on a unique product. Then, the day after you put your product on the market, somebody acquired your product, copied it exactly, and distributed it to anybody who wanted it for free. Is that morally wrong?

                3. Curt says:

                  @Garwulf the Skald
                  “What if you spent a very long time and millions of dollars working on a unique product”

                  If I spend my entire life writing a song is it morally wrong for someone to listen to it? Sing it to themselves, friends, the public? Modify and re-release it?

                  The line is a fuzzy one because _there is no natural line_ only one brought into existence to achieve a specific end. There can be no natural harm because you can’t posses an idea unless you never tell anyone, hence it can never be taken away.

                  The point is that it is the _selling_ of copies that is unnatural and artificial and so once engaged in that initial act of creating artificial scarcity. You are already engaged in something that could well be described as “morally wrong” which is why it seem easy to label people who disagree as “morally wrong”

                4. Replying to Curt:

                  “The point is that it is the _selling_ of copies that is unnatural and artificial and so once engaged in that initial act of creating artificial scarcity. You are already engaged in something that could well be described as “morally wrong” which is why it seem easy to label people who disagree as “morally wrong””

                  Um…precisely how many joints did you have to break to twist that argument into a pretzel?

                  I’m going to let Morbo the news monster answer this one. Morbo?

                  “REALITY DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!”

                  Thank you, Morbo.

      2. Eric the baker says:

        The mention of the stealing of *something* being actual theft, but the stealing of a PDF or software being simple piracy because it’s not stealing anything material; brings something to mind.

        As several people have already mentioned, in the old days a game was material. My copy of Ultima IV (1985) came with a cloth map, a well designed manual, a coin, and some other swag. You really wanted that stuff, it was something special! If you didn’t want to pay for it, you could shoplift it. It was actual theft, you were stealing something real and material. We knew how to pirate and copy disks, and we did for some things. But for the things that we saw as valuable, it simply wasn’t an option.

        I feel that the move towards digital downloads, as the publishers benefit from the ease of distribution, they pay a high price from making their product intangible.

        I think Shamus’ idea is quite worthy, and a great step towards reversing a trend. It’s one step among many that will help. Overall it’s a mindset that must change.

        1. Kdansky says:

          To add to this: I feel quite ripped off if I have to pay more money on a current (downloadable) game than I paid ten years ago when I got a booklet, a cloth map, a notepad (I still have one that says “Blizzard”) and a pretty box with the game. Nowadays, I get THX intros, FBI-Warnings, EA logos and NVidia ads instead. DLC is basically software-gimmicks…

  18. someboringguy says:

    “That's the end credits to System Shock 2, showing the team as a series of corpses.”

    I don’t see anyone of them looking like a corpse (except the first one)!?!
    The idea could have been better in showing the developers in pools of blood and say something like “piracy kills game industry” or something similar :)
    I am wondering, how much do the most expensive pc videogames cost compared with the medium salary in your country?In mine they are like 25% of it.

    1. wererogue says:

      The point wasn’t that piracy kills game developers – at the time, it wasn’t nearly as big a deal as now. The point was just to put yourself in the credits, in a fun way, because you put so much effort into the game.

      Shamus suggests the effect of that is that people feel closer to games developers, and thus feel personally involved with those they might be affecting.

  19. Yar Kramer says:

    If I start making games on my own, I’m going to design “DRM” which consists of a short video which appears on start up of me asking if you’ve paid for the game, and if you choose “yes,” I thank you and it never appears again. Guaranteed to have exactly the same effectiveness against large-scale P2P piracy as other types of DRM (i.e. none), with the added bonus of causing no problems whatsoever for the paying customer!

    1. Damian says:

      Yes, spot on. I’m looking at implementing a similar honesty system. It’s exactly the same principle – if you want to play the game without paying for it, you have to commit a morally objectionable act. If this doesn’t bother you, you were never going to be my customer anyway.

    2. illiterate says:

      What if they respond “no” — do you politely ask them to buy it, but let it play anyways?

    3. That’d work far better to encourage me to buy it legally than any other DRM I’ve seen. I assume if “no” was clicked, they’d get a demo version or something? If clicking “no” only got me a message of “bad player!” and the game quit, I’d just not play it.

      I mainly use piracy as a type of demo. E.g., just before Christmas I pirated Jade Empire. I’ve now got a legal copy on Steam. This is because I’ve got burnt several times buying bad games – I always try before I buy, unless there’s a compelling reason to believe it’s good; new Mass Effect? Cool, don’t need to try it first – chances are it’ll be similar to the last game. Dragon Age? Something new – don’t buy before you’ve tried it out. I remember good ol’ days when you could find a demo for anything.

      1. someboringguy says:

        Yes, but. how much do you play before you decide to buy it?An hour?Two?Maybe until you see the end of that interesting quest.Or maybe you need to finish it to make your decision.In this case, do you still pay for the game?99% of the games I’ve played haven’t convinced me to play for a second time, with the exceptions being the Gothic series and the Witcher.
        Mass effect, Baldur’s gate, most of games either give the same experience when you start over, or they just take too much effort until it gets to the part where the experience differs.

        1. I generally do it like this: If I played the game more than once, it was good, and I buy it. That doesn’t always hold true, but mostly. If it’s good, I usually finish it, and then buy it. I do it because, if it was good, I want to support the devs so that the chances of sequels and expansions increases, so I see it less as paying for content I’ve already played and more as investing in some potential future fun and rewarding good game design.

    4. Scott says:

      Yes! Good! Honestly, it seems like it would be far more effective.

    5. Lord of Rapture says:

      But what if they lie their ass off and say “yes” and they pirated it?

      1. Stellar Duck says:

        Then they play the game I imagine. But they do it knowing that they didn’t pay.
        If a person never was going to buy it anyways it makes no difference how much DRM you use. But this way you thank the actual customers and give them a hassle free game.

        The pirates gets the same but have to live with their conscience. I know that it wouldn’t prevent piracy as such, but it would certainly make your customers feel better.

        At least that was how I would do it.

  20. Steve C says:

    Companies don’t want individuals in the company to overshadow their brand. It gives them power that the “suits” don’t want to give up. The more recognition that an individual gets, the more they have to pay them and the greater the risk that person will leave the company and compete against them.

    I’m not saying that this is the way things should be, just that it’s the way things are. And it’s more systemic across the business world than the fight against piracy and more of a sacred cow than stomping on piracy.

    1. asterismW says:

      Perhaps the suits should increase the individual’s salary with the money they save by not paying through the nose to implement an ineffective DRM scheme.

  21. Davie says:

    It’s a good idea, and certainly worth a try. I noticed something similar (and blunter) in Unreal Tournament 3–below the copyright info at the beginning, it said something like “Unreal Tournament 3 was created by people who earn their livelihoods making games. Piracy does not support these people and their creative endeavors.”

    Incidentally, I pirated UT3 after it came out. Seeing that message made me stop, think, and go out and buy all the games I had pirated. And I never did it again. So this kind of thing works. Like I said, worth a try.

    1. Zerotime says:

      The developers are paid a salary, not commission. Piracy will affect the possible development of future games, but won’t change that the people who made this one have already been paid for it.

      1. “Piracy will affect the possible development of future games, but won't change that the people who made this one have already been paid for it.”

        Um, that’s not really quite right.

        You see, games are expensive to develop. So, often there’s a bank loan involved. If piracy knocks the game down to the point where it comes out at a loss, the loan cannot be repaid, the company eventually goes bankrupt, and the developers lose their jobs.

        But you are correct that they probably were paid for their time on that game. They just don’t necessarily get to keep a roof over their heads after it.

  22. lazlo says:

    Sounds like the studio’s are between a rock and a hard place. The rock of piracy and the hard place of giving their developers the ability to go elsewhere and take their fans with them. Each choice has ways around these obstacles, by using government. Convince the government to re-legalize slavery and indentured servitude, and you solve the developer problem. Convince the government that piracy is such an incredibly endemic problem that everyone should be considered a pirate and taxed/fined with the proceeds going to the publishers, and you sort of solve the piracy problem. Be glad they’re not lobbying hard on the slavery side of things. Yet.

    1. illiterate says:

      Employee retention can actually be done without slavery — developers have to sign contracts — “your next x titles will only be sold through us”

      Also fair and reasonable treatment in general can do a lot.

    2. Nick Bell says:

      The way you stop good developers from going somewhere else is to treat them well. This is the same way it works in any other business. Using the movie analogy, why do certain stars continually work with the same directors? Because those directors treat them well. Same goes in video games.

  23. The Lord Of Dorkness says:

    This Is my first post on your website and before I ask my question I’d like to thank you for the many hours of entertainment and thought provoking content your site have given me.

    But Samus, if I may ask what is your opinion about abandon-ware?

    Because I know that in the eyes of the law abandon-ware and piracy are both the same, but…

    Well I wont lie by the time I heard about the System Shock series, Looking Glass Studios had been closed for half a decade (May They Code In Piece.) and if it weren’t for Home Of The Underdogs I’d never would have gotten to try either of them…

    Now I know that It is kind of a weak defense, but I would buy both without a moments hesitation, if anyone still sold them.

    I realize that this post might get flamed to hell and back, but I am quite curious about your thoughts on the matter.

    1. Roy says:

      I think they’re different.
      I don’t pirate software any software that’s still for sale, but I’ve certainly downloaded software that is literally unavailable for purchase anymore. I do so with the caveat that, should that software ever become available, I’ll purchase it then.
      Which I’ve done, now that Steam and GoG have started offering software that has been unavailable for years.

      I think that I have an ethical obligation to purchase the software I use, as long as it’s still available for sale, but I don’t have a problem with downloading and using software that’s been abandoned. I can only pay for products if they’re still available for sale, after all.

      1. Damian says:

        Yes, I think this has to be excepted from the normal piracy definition. It seems churlish to insist that if you literally cannot pay for something any more, you cannot use it. I’m sure I had an example of such a game a couple of years ago; downloaded from HoTU, subsequently found it was still for sale, paid real cash money for it.

        1. Nick Bell says:

          Copyright and public domain have not yet caught up with the speed of video game evolution. The concept of public domain has just such a purpose, to insure a work is available long after the creator has finished selling it, to return it for public use. But games availability/profitability drops far quicker that that of movies or literature, and so it stays locked up longer than is healthy for the industry.

          1. Stranger says:

            I’d rather see those pirated copies purchased, sold for $5 each via digital distribution, or what have you. The reasons I stopped playing ROMs a few years back are, in order:

            1 – I can’t trust the source not to put a virus in the download.
            2 – It became possible to purchase the games through Wii Virtual Console.
            3 – I thought it was worth supporting the idea to the company who came up with the offer(s).
            4 – I could play a game more honestly without savestate abuse.

            Seriously. Imagine a company with a nice pile of cash at startup buying licenses to sell “abandonware” titles online. I expect it could prove profitable (to what degree I am uncertain) and it might encourage publishers to re-issue old titles in order to support development of new ones.

    2. swimon says:

      I used to reason like this and if you can pull it off then I see no problem with it. The problem though is that you start only going after abandon-ware and don’t buy any games since you already have games to play. It took me 6 months before I realised that I hadn’t purchased a single game in the interim.

      This I suppose is the strange part of piracy the damaging nature isn’t due to you copying a program, no one is really hurt by that alone, the problem is that you’re taking yourself of the market.

    3. DaveMc says:

      Things like Good Old Games are providing a sincerity check for an increasing number of games that used to be abandonware until they started to sell them for cheap. If people really only pirated them because they were commercially unavailable, presumably they’ll drop by GOG and pick them up now that they are available for sale, right? Won’t they?

      1. Roy says:

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have.

        Just recently, I rebought X-Com through Steam when I saw they had it, because I’d downloaded it a few years back.

      2. Audacity says:

        Some of us definitely do, I’ve so far purchased eight games from, five of which I had already downloaded as abandonware. And they have at least three other games I plan on getting. I have to be careful though, their 5.99 price tags hit my impulse buy button far too easily, damn those crafty Poles.

      3. krellen says:

        I’ve been tempted to buy a couple games from even though I already own them legitimately and paid way too much for them recently, just because I like their business that much.

      4. Aaron552 says:

        I downloaded Beyond Good and Evil about a year ago because there were no physical copies anywhere. When it became available on Steam, I bought it. When it appeared on GOG, I bought it again.

  24. MisteR says:

    I have a hard time getting a good feeling of this. Mainly because I have a really hard time feeling bad for the game designers/developers/publishers. I’m a picky person, and 99 out of hundred games (at least) I find terrible, a waste of time. But due to unrealistic advertising, coupled with high prices and the now increasingly prevalent DRM schemes, I find myself actually pirating a lot more than, say, a couple of years back. I am planning to actually buy starcraft, having pirated it earlier, since I know it is worth my time and money. But games like FM 2010 or Fifa 2010 (I’m a big football fan), I’m ashamed to say I have pirated and I won’t be buying them. Fifa because it really isn’t enough bang for my buck and FM because it sits there with that annoying DRM going on, while also forcing me to buy a new version every year if I want to be up to date. Another old love of me, the total war series, I don’t even pirate anymore (after having played Medieval:TW for a year straight, every week). I’ve got Medieval, Rome, Medieval 2, and a couple of expansions, but after checking out Empire I’m afraid I won’t be getting any total war game ever again.

    Let me get my words together: I love gaming, but I’m picky and fickle. I also have a limited budget. In the end, I find myself buying the games that are worth their money. Sadly, those games are rare.

    If I only compare pokemon blue/red and gold/silver, with the newfangled versions, I get sad. I just don’t want to play them, even though I love the idea that was so nicely executed in the earlier games. Whenever I tried to play my (bought!) Europa Universalis 3, my computer pretty much blows up. Not to mention that I needed a mod that requires a heavy tax on the little laptops resources, before it could provide the fun that only was there in potential. EU3 is a nice game in theory, but in practice it is hard to enjoy.

    All I’m saying is: why don’t companies just make two versions of every game. One for the dorks that only like graphics and flashy shit, and one for the connoisseurs who like good game design and actual fun. I’d pay twice the price for that last one, let me tell you that.

    1. Chargone says:

      is that EU3 with all the expansions?

      because one thing you can say about paradox is that the quality at release varies all over the place, but by the time they get done with patches and expansions and such the things tend to be awesome and run really well.

      that said, to free up more processing power to actually run the Game, they offloaded a lot of stuff onto the graphics card with the latest generation of their games (the main reason they moved to 3d despite not really needing it in any meaningful way for the game itself was so they could offload it onto the graphics card and free up CPU power…)

      so, EU3 etc really aren’t friendly to laptops to begin with.

      and Magna Mundi is a resource hog of epic proportions (I’m assuming that’s the mod you’re talking about?) lots of people like it, but i can’t stand the thing. the most recent expansion does most of the things Magna Mundi did that were worth doing (not all, the two are still different), does them better, is much more resource efficiant, and does some other stuff too.

  25. Rick says:

    One thing I’ve noticed that keeps second hand prices high and causes people to just buy new… A good game that people want to hold onto such as games that you can put lots of time into with quality DLC and/or quality/popular multiplayer.

    Look at Halo, Call of Duty, Burnout Paradise or Borderlands and compare their second hand prices to games without those qualities.

    Burnout Paradise re-sale prices went up as soon as DLC was announced and some people bought it again having sold their copy.

  26. Sean Riley says:

    There are two solutions to piracy: The brutally fair but impossible one, and the brutally unfair but practical one.

    Brutally Fair but Impossible: Sue everyone who ever pirates a game, make it stick. Scare the living daylights out of the piracy community, enough so that the majority of pirates don’t do it for fear of financial ruin. Brutal, yet fair. The only people punished are the pirates, unlike with DRM.

    Brutally Unfair but Practical: Give up on PC gaming. Publishers abandon it as a platform, stating piracy rates as the reason. Focus entirely on locked down console environments wherein piracy is more difficult. Piracy will remain a problem, but not nearly to the same extent. Each console will feature harsher and harsher checks to catch piracy acts, and any modification of a console will lock the gamer out of online use.

    The second, I will note, isn’t perfect. It somewhat punishes honest users too. But it would do a lot better than the DRM schemes used now on PC for killing piracy.

    1. DaveMc says:

      It seems (based on a feeling rather than objective data) like option 2 is exactly what is already happening, and it’s perfectly understandable from a business perspective: why not release your games on a platform where paying for them is considered the norm, rather than some form of ignoble pandering that no right-thinking person would ever consider? I know console piracy exists: for example, I know people with whole memory cards full of hundreds of DS games they’ve downloaded, and just like in PC-land, they get a much better user experience out of the deal: all those games on a single cartridge, while I’ve got to carry around a cartridge for every single one of the games I bought.

      But still, look at how much of a poor cousin PC-based gaming has become, waiting a long time for often shoddy console ports — it looks like the publishers have decided that consoles are the better bet.

      1. Sean Riley says:

        Exactly, and it’s not hard to see why.

        Now, that being said: If they’d not responded to initial problems with overwhelming strikes, if they’d instead said, “Hey guys, not cool. Please stop.” If they’d sweetened the deal… who knows how much stronger PC would be right now?

        Plus, PC gaming suffered badly from investing in DRM (and thus complicating the process of playing one) right when gaming began to explode. New gamers could either play a ‘pop in CD, play’ or ‘pop in CD, download patch, install other program, etc.’ process. Guess which one they chose?

        I’m not saying that gaming publishers handled this badly. But the problem is now insolvable. They will dump the problem like Mass Effect dumped the Mako, and move on.

        What effect this will have on console piracy rates remains to be seen.

      2. Atarlost says:

        It can’t last. There is money in PC gaming even with the piracy, especially if you limit your hardware footprint to something reasonable. The sheer suckiness of console interfaces will probably keep most RTS and 4x games on PC as well. It’s really only FPSs and FPRPGs that work well on consoles and when something else comes back into style the PC will be the primary platform again.

        1. Sean Riley says:

          Really, you think that?

          Piracy rates are a near uniform 90%. The sales rates are a fraction of consoles. The costs of development are in some ways higher, since making a game for a variable platform (ie. you don’t know what hardware your game will be running on) takes more time for optimisation.

          RTS’s and such won’t shift to console, no.

          They’ll stop being made.

          Edit: Because I want to say this explicitly.

          If you think PC gaming cannot, as a whole, die off near completely, with only small indie studios using it in any way, shape or form, you are deluded. It can, and if it keeps going this way will, be abandoned by major publishers entirely.

          Once it has been abandoned, it will not come back. There will not be a fan-base to consider, and there will be no perceived economic reason to return. If PC gaming dies, it will die for good. And there is a real possibility of PC gaming dying in 5-10 years.

          1. illiterate says:

            Are you going to tell Blizzard and Zynga that PC gaming is dying?

            Maybe it’s changing..

            Although I would much rather play certain games, like Civ or Pharaoh, on PC than console. I would be sad to see those go.

            1. Sean Riley says:

              World of Warcraft and MMORPGs in general are an exception to the rule, I grant, because its very nature makes piracy very difficult.

              Sorry, allow me to rephrase: Anything other than indie games and MMORPGs. :)

              1. Scott says:

                I would have to say that there is a possibility of a computer video game ‘revival’ where indie publishers on the PC platform may become mainstream once all of the heavy hitters are gone.

          2. Roll-a-die says:

            Where are you getting these 90% piracy figures?

            Is the source 3rd party or is it from the publishers themselves?

            Do they factor in the percent of people who actually buy the game after pirating it?

            Do they factor in the amount of people who have to re-download their pirated files because they were corrupted?

            Do they take into account the people from countries where the games don’t come out until sometimes years after release?

            Do they take into account people in countries where the copyright laws are less strict or non-existent?

            Do they take into account countries where the game is never sold at market or are sold at ridiculously absurd prices?

        2. Sure, that is why Ensemble is alive and kicking out the next “Age of” title and Microsoft did not force their last title to be a console version of Halo as an RTS …

      3. Joe says:

        This is actually something that has always confused me:

        Why does it seem like the industry aren’t going after the crackers?
        While it would be fully impractical to sue the pants off of everyone who has ever pirated, certainly it should be possible to hit some of the root causes of the problem. These pirate websites aren’t exactly encrypted, and there has to be some kind of data trail leading to these guys.

        Still not a great solution, I acknowledge, but it seems to me like there is more that could be done about them. Explanations?

        1. Sean Riley says:

          Sometimes it happens.

          But you’re right, it’s rarer. My guess is that the theft analogy is the easiest way to understand what’s going on, and thus they go to the ones who ‘stole’ the item.

        2. ima420r says:

          The guys cracking the games aren’t breaking the law. They buy the games and then release the patches for them. Most areas don’t have laws prohibiting this.

        3. Well, I’ll take a shot at that.

          First of all, you’re dealing with an international problem. There are areas where you have a DMCA-type of legislation that makes cracking a game illegal, but that doesn’t exactly deter a cracker in, say, China or Russia. So, in order to go after the cracker, or more to the point, the uploader (who is actually distributing the game and is therefore in violation of copyright law no matter what way you look at it), they first have to be in a country where you can get at them.

          Another problem is public relations. You have to be careful about how you go after somebody. If you just go after the downloaders, like the RIAA did, you’ll face a massive backlash, particularly as the last time somebody (the RIAA) did a campaign like that, it was a barely-legal (if at all) shakedown that went as far as to hit dead grandmothers. So, you have to hit an uploader, and do it carefully.

          Then there’s the problem of finding the source. This is a particular problem with zero-day piracy. One week in, plenty of people have the game and can put a copy along to somebody for cracking. But, if a pirate version of a game is ready three days before the official release, the copy had to come from somewhere, and now it’s a matter of figuring out where, so that you can plug the right hole. Is it a disgruntled employee? Is it a reviewer who isn’t on the level (they do get advanced copies, after all), etc.

          (There is a way of doing this that Tom Clancy called a “canary trap” – basically, each advance copy goes out with a different flaw. Then, you get your hands on a pirated copy, and find out which flaw it has, and that gives you your source. It’s not easy, though, as each advanced copy now has to be unique.)

          But even there, that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that it has become an ideology, so you not only have to fight the pirates, but you also have to fight the message. And that is a LOT harder.

    2. Caffiene says:

      I dont think moving to consoles would help in the long run, though… It feels to me more like addressing the symptoms rather than the underlying cause.

      15 years ago, PC piracy was much the same… there was no easy distribution mechanism for pirated games, and they were largely on CD, passed around from person to person… When technology advanced and the net became widespread, it became easier to distribute pirated games and the practice exploded.

      To me, I think the same will happen with consoles… they are relatively safe from piracy at the moment because a) distribution and use is somewhat complicated, and b) there is an existing platform that is easier to pirate for. If you remove reason b, all you need is for a to change and console piracy will explode just like PC piracy did. And with the dedicated hackers out there looking for a challenge, my suspicion is if PCs were cut off from gaming, the effort being put into finding ways to pirate on consoles would skyrocket pretty much overnight.

      With broadband connections and large hard drives already becoming common on consoles, all it would really need is one inventive hacker to figure out a way to emulate a console hardware hack in software, and itd be open season for console games. 5 years from now, consoles would be just as bad as PCs are now, and another solution would have to be found… and in the meantime we’d have to put up with millions of dollars invested in even more stupid and convoluted DRM ideas.

      Better for everyone to find a solution to the cause of piracy now, and not have to face more years of stupid DRM and publishers wishing they could cut off PCs from gaming.

      1. Sean Riley says:

        You can’t stop piracy on consoles, no.

        But you can much more easily cut off features. Xbox Live and PSN are the way multiplayer is run on consoles, and any detection of hardware modification can be a basis to lock them out of it. What? They’ll just get a new account? Great! They pay the fee again, then.

        It’s not a miracle cure. But it’s a significantly better battlefield for publishers simply because it’s a closed environment.

        1. Paul says:

          Ah, but the solution is at the price of control. You don’t have the sort of flexibility on a console the way you do on a PC. I’m not interest in buying a bunch of proprietary systems that could do /so much more/ and be used as computers too if only they were built in a way that was more open.

          A 360 with a VGA port and a hard drive you could install your own OS on without losing anything would have substantially reduced the cost of equiping my household with computers, and it would have been a gain for that console’s market share.

          Of course their business model might not support it; if they’re just barely breaking even on selling the hardware and they make their money through the licensing, it doesn’t really make sense to have them widely deployed as something other than game consoles.

          1. Sean Riley says:

            And they care about that? Look at it from the bottom dollar — If they’re selling you the console, they can hit you with the price of controllers, cameras, adapters, etc. And they rub out some piracy.

            In short, they have little incentive to support PC. But plenty to support consoles.

    3. You know what? Right now, I buy nearly all the games I play – if they moved to consoles, what I’d do would be to get a really good computer and download an emulator. That, or stop gaming entirely. Because I do not have the space, money or inclination to buy and maintain an array of expensive technological devices – a TV and a console at the very least – solely for entertainment purposes. I’ve got two machines, that being my cell phone and my laptop, and what doesn’t go on those I don’t play.

      Right now, I pay good money for my games. If the developers started only aiming for consoles, they’d get not one cent more from me. And I’m 100% certain I’m not the only one. There’s a market out there that buys their games now, but wouldn’t if they were on consoles, and that market won’t go away.

      If computer gaming dies, I stop gaming.

      1. Sean Riley says:

        And I’m sure you wouldn’t be the only one.

        But, and here’s why it remains likely, most of those who will stop gaming weren’t buying anything to begin with.

        There’s a reason I described that solution as brutally unfair yet practical.

        1. I’d argue that, if 90% of all games are pirated, then that means that 10% are still paying. Selling to 10% of a demographic still constitutes profit.

          And, to be honest, it’s a little naà¯ve of game publishers and developers to expect every gamer to buy a new copy for themself in the first place – movies we can watch on TV or via several legal online channels (most of them requiring the use of a proxy), books we can borrow in the library, music we find on Spotify and on the radio, and YouTube. Games have been, and remain, the only pure-information entertainment medium we’re expected to pay for, no matter what. There’s a lack of a Spotify, or a public library, or even an NBC for games. ‘Cause, really – what’s the difference between checking out D&D books in the library and checking out the newest Civ?

    4. Kind of happened with the death of Ensemble and FASA vis a vis Microsoft.

      Though it has also happened in the movie industry. Almost all the independent distributors have gone out of business. Started in Korea, pirated movie DVDs went from negligible to about 95% of the business. Suddenly, localization into Korean for DVDs did not make sense economically.

      Piracy is actually killing things.

  27. Alleyoop says:

    World of Goo and 2DBoy come to mind here. Reading the blog responses there, those who illegally downloaded (and had the nerve to say so) were regarded as scum. This was roughly around the time that Spore was released with all its attendant scorn, but not for pirates, for EA.

    Both games were pirated heavily but the reaction to the piracy was wildly different, and that was down to the *treatment of paying customers*. EA was vigorously shafting theirs, 2DBoy was ‘going commando’ to prove a point: DRM only hurts those who pay you.

    Both games sold a lot too. EA declared Spore a best seller.

    The more DRM is used to fight piracy, the more attention is drawn to it as well, the process of piracy. I saw it happen in the Sims2 community when EA buggered people’s optical drives with an EP release using Securom v7.3x. They tried to justify this as collateral damage in their fight against piracy. By doing so, they put curiosity into their paying customers’ heads about it, how to go about it…to avoid Securom. Primarily NoCD cracks (no other recourse if you wanted to use what you bought), but it pissed off plenty enough to never pay EA for that kind of treatment ever again.

    Securom’s still on those games, BTW. Older games without it were reissued with Securom. These games are all well over a year old and have been cracked since their respective releases. Is Spore still being sold w/all the Securom locks and choke chains? The first Mass Effect? Why? It was disrespectful enough at release.

    But for Securom, I might’ve bought something from EA in the last 3 years.

    I bought WoG twice.

    You can hang pictures of the devs that toiled on a game on every wall of my home, but they don’t usually call the shots and it won’t make people buy something they perceive as a defective product due to terms they find unacceptable – a product made superior by pirates due to things outside of their control. I wish they could, the devs. I wish someone with as much mojo as Will Wright seems to have would or could see the damage before it gets done. Those who worked on Spore and MEPC…I can’t imagine their horror at the reception of what they accomplished.

    Publishers have to get back to the basics. They have to concentrate on what they can see – like what’s in the till and who’s buying their games – and put the other stuff on the back burner. That is literally their only way to Valhalla. The rest is chasing ghosts.

    1. JoshR says:

      I tried the demo for world of goo, and found it bloody awful.
      People’s response to this was “it gets better later on”
      So I figured I’d pirate it, and if I liked it then, I’d buy it. Found out that it was still awful for a good amount of levels afterwards, so didn’t buy it.
      Same happened with Braid, except I bought that one.

      I’ll admit to pirating things I found awful, the only game to haunt me because I pirated it is Fallout 3. Been meaning to without getting round to paying for that one. Current excuse is that my pc possibly has a trojan, and as much fun as the game was, it was not worth getting my entire bank account emptied.

      Edit: FO3 was pirated by a friend and put on my pc by him, and was my introduction into PC gaming, the reason I did not buy it at the time was 1. my parents had just bought me a £400 pc, I had spent the last of my money on a £30 discounted Valve collection, and was looking for other games to try.

      1. krellen says:

        If it helps, keep FO3 complements of me, because I feel ripped off for that thing.

  28. MadTinkerer says:

    This is the entire purpose of the Lord British character and basing most of the main characters in the Ultima series after people Richard Garriot knew in real life. I don’t know if there were any exceptions, but I know a lot of folks in the Ultima development teams got to have NPCs based on them. Some are more obvious than others.

    The Ultima games all had a long rolling list of quotes that would play after the credits and could be viewed separately. Additionally, the worlds were FILLED with what are now called Easter Eggs, but were simply known as in-jokes and subtle references. Not just personal stuff, but things like the Kilrathi spaceship in Ultima VII and good-guy-alternate-universe Kilrathi in Ultima Underworld II. There’s a gravestone in Ultima IX that simply reads “PK’ed”, which is a reference to Ultima Online.

    This is a big reason why the Ultima games stood out: because they were labors of love by people who left their signatures all over.

  29. Chargone says:

    Shamus, i think you should take a look at/talk to the guys at Techdirt, if you’ve not done so already. They look at piracy, used sales, DRM, all that stuff, from a business point of view. most of their stuff makes a lot of sense, too. (they do other stuff too, mind you)

    of course, if memory serves, they’ve got to the point of ‘ok, piracy is here. now, how do we make the Piracy useful to a developer/publisher’s profitability.

    conclusions come to so far? (so far as i can understand)
    pirates do NOTHING to the company’s bottom line. the vast majority, unable to pirate, simply would not play. there is no money lost, they’re not affecting Anything negatively. (which is not the same as saying they’re in the right, just by the by.)

    the problem is the company’s massive freak out over reactions to it, but more significantly, their desires to kill the used game markets (because obviously competing with oneself is a bad idea (you get the money either way then, but nevermind). competing with someone else is Much better…) and tendancy to use piracy as an excuse…

    your’e right about the whole enemy’s enemy thing.

    you’re wrong about the stealing.

    it would be FAR more accurate to compair digital piracy to Smuggling.

    it’s not just the pirates who say that piracy isn’t stealing, even the law does (even in the USA).
    this doesn’t stop your big movie and music corporations trying to get that changed though.

    the biggest difference is that the people it’s being taken from don’t lose Anything. most of the time, not even sales. more than a few musicians and authors of late, putting in the effort, have actually found their sales to go up when their stuff is spread around, if they do it right.

    if anything’s hurting the companies, it’s ridiculous anti-piracy measures that only screw their legit customers, massively overpriced product, and just plane making average or worse games in already over saturated genre markets. this is what it looks like from the outside anyway.

    i mean, why the hell am i paying $120 NZ or more for mass effect 2? the original cost closer to 80, the NZ dollar’s worth more than it was then, the game’s over all quality is lower (whatever they may have done better, there are fundamental errors in some codex entries, a mission where if you go through the wrong door the whole thing locks up and crashes… this is the console version, mind you…)… there’s no reason for this.

    that 120 NZ? that’s about 80 US… except it’s probably more because the exchange rates are (or were last i checked) still quite a bit better than they were when i came across 3:2 as a good rough conversion rate…

    on the other hand, Koei’s games (particularly dynasty warriors ones, for reasons that are fairly obvious if you play more than one in the series, but not Just those) tend to run somewhere around 60-80 NZ. the cheaper ones are usually, loosely speaking, expansions.

    that said, Koei’s games are published by Omega-force. who you wouldn’t even know Exist if it weren’t for their logo showing up as a splash screen when you start the game and at the end of the credits. That’s because they actually DO hide behind their developers (Koei)… of course, there’s not a lot of contact with Koei directly either once you get to the European releases, but still.

    wow… I’m pretty sure i stayed mostly on topic and coherent there… record?

  30. illiterate says:

    I liked Escape Velocity’s approach. As it was “try before you buy” ware, almost feature complete, they didn’t really have copy protection. What they had was Cap’n Hector, who would start out gently reminding you to buy it, but after 30 days would start shooting at you when encountered.

    1. Cap'n Hector says:

      Did you pay your shareware fee?

      I liked the EV games enough that when I went online I used it as a nick; haven’t found anything that suits me better yet.

      They actually changed it in the different games: Escape Velocity generally didn’t have Cap’n Hector shoot at you, Escape Velocity: Override had him shoot at you and steal credits (plugins were made to work around the second) and Escape Velocity: Nova was locked down to prevent plugins from working and was feature-limited in demo mode.

  31. Mechakisc says:

    This whole Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM thing that has drummed up the latest hue and cry is a real conundrum for me.

    I didn’t play the first AC, you understand – just not something that interested me – and I had no intention of playing the 2nd one. The Draconian measures that they’ve tried to use to protect their game make me want to download a pirated copy the moment such is available. But then I feel like I’d have to play it, or I wouldn’t be ACTUALLY stealing from Ubisoft.

    Spore lit me up in the same way, although it was, again, a game I had no interest in. I feel as though I must protest in some way before they put this crap on a game that I AM interested in. I don’t know how else to do so.

    1. ima420r says:

      I feel the same way. They go through all the trouble to make it so difficult for us to play their games when we buy them, I want to protest them! I want to download their game and play it, going NA-NA-NANA-NA the whole time. Though protesting in such a way doesn’t help. Perhaps buring a working copy on to a disc and marching outside the studios would work, holding my copy up high! Well, maybe if it wasn’t just me doing it!

  32. Cineris says:

    I tend to like Steam, it at least does offer some value to me, but one thing that does really get on my nerves about it is the idea that you can’t “gift” (or even “loan”) games tied to your account.

    Specifically, lets say I bought the Indie Games Pack that Steam had on sale awhile back for about $20 – There were about 10 games in there, and I’ve only had time to play TWO in several months. There are eight games there I could give away as gifts.

    More recently, I bought the XCom Bundle which has 5-6 XCom games for $2. But I’m only really interested in playing the original XCom. I might play the other ones at some point, who knows, but I’d at least like to have the option to give them away.

    Even individuals living in the same household are inconvenienced by the silly restrictions Steam puts on them, because you cannot move games across accounts. In order to play a game that a family member owns you need to log into their Steam account to do so — Which is just a bad idea when Steam is integrated with all these buddy list and profile features.

    1. ima420r says:

      One thing Steam did right was being able to gift games you already have that are in compilations. For instance, when I bought HL2 it came with HL1 on the disk, which I already had. Steam allowed me to give it to someone else on my friends list! I thought that was pretty nifty.

  33. T-Boy says:

    Two things, really:

    The first is that an examination of Dan Ariely’s work, Predictably Irrational, might actually be a good idea, specifically in the following areas:

    1. The difference of behaviour between social norms (i.e. what you do to people you know and like) and economic norms (i.e. what you do when you involve yourself with an economic transaction with someone). Turns out that if you actually take out time to establish any kind of rapport with the player of your games, a significant majority will not attempt to screw you over. It does come with a price, however: the relationship will need to be constantly maintained, because once it’s lost, it is incredibly hard to regain.

    2. The effectiveness of reminding people of a standard of behaviour in reducing the amount of cheating — the studies cited by Ariely used initially the Ten Commandments, but it turns out that any code of conduct will do, even completely fictitious ones (the example used was the MIT Honor Code, which doesn’t exist). They didn’t even have to agree to follow these rules of conduct: just putting it into their memory affected how likely they were to cheat.

    That being said, one of the nice things I found about a game I recently purchased, Eufloria, was that during the installation, I read a message from the developers, actually asking me to not distribute the game via torrents. “Install this on as many PCs you like,” I remember the message saying, “But if you want to show how awesome this game is to other people, there’s a demo. We put a lot of time to this game”.

    Or words to that effect. My memory’s not perfect.

    I wasn’t going to pirate this game, but reading that message most definitely reinforced not only my relationship with the developer (and thus making it less likely that I’ll attempt to screw them over) and reminded me that pirating this game would directly hurt them.

    1. Scott says:

      Similar to Yar Kramer’s suggestion above. I think this would be the most effective method against people who illegally download the game out of convenience. Appealing to someone’s moral integrity should (in theory) be far more effective than futilely trying to restrict them from doing wrong.

  34. Hawk says:

    I think (part of) the trick is to provide some toys that you only get if you buy the game. For example, special in-game tools/characters/abilities that can be downloaded (once) on game activation. Or achievements that can only be earned with the original copy of the game. I don’t know if this is technically possible (I actually suspect that it is not, or DRM would work) — but the idea is to provide some means of publicly showing off that you bought the game. Sort of: “What, you didn’t get the “UberKill” achievement? Lamer!” or “What, you aren’t using the “UberHat of GameKilling” because you pirated the game? You’re missing out, lamer!” Frankly, I’d combine that with no DRM. The game is easy to pirate, but you’re only a special snowflake if you buy it.

    In short — we need a carrot and stick approach to shape behavior, and the more carrot to encourage the behavior we want the better. Right now the game industry is pretty much all stick.

    1. ima420r says:

      Console games have been doing this, though it’s not very wide spread. Some PC games also have registration codes so you can play online, like Warcraft 3. I have actually bought 2 copies of that game to play online with 2 different computers in the house.

  35. Gndwyn says:

    Is there any evidence that piracy is actually hurting the games industry? Are PC gaming companies actually losing money on games, or are they just looking at the pirates and thinking, “Look! We could be raking in *even more* money if all those people paid us too!”

    PC gaming has always had piracy, and the number of gamers used to be much, much smaller, but game companies still made money.

    World of Goo had a huge piracy rate, but 2D Boy still made lots of money.

    The music industry and the film industries are still making money.

    Assume you could stamp out all piracy. You make a little bit more money from your game, but a lot fewer people end up playing it. Is that really a better world? Some statistics seem to say that there is a 90% piracy rate and that for every 1000 acts of piracy you prevent, you gain one sale. Assume a game sale gives you $30 profit. Would you rather earn $32,700 for a game that just 10,000 people play or $30,000 for a game that 100,000 people play?

    1. mottaaf says:

      Since it is a business, $32,700 unless getting those extra sales costs more than $2,700. Having more people play the game might be worth it if they were then more likely to buy the sequel or something, but since they are not (they would just steal it anyways), I will take the money.

  36. Troy Hewitt says:

    Well, I work in an office with Tim Cain and I spend most of my time trying to find ways to fleece him. While he doesn't have a Ferrari, he does have copious amounts of candy. Candy that is easy to fit into pockets when he isn’t looking.

    Also, the comment “Well, those guys are probably all millionaires driving around in their Ferraris. I'd rather see you steal from them than from a small indie company.” is pretty ignorant.

    1. Shamus says:

      People often make the mistake of assuming fame=money.

      Game developers made a good deal less than other programmers with the same training and experience years ago, and I think the wave of “game dev colleges” is likely just leading to a glut that will worsen the problem.

      Although if Tim Cain *was* a millionaire, that would be right and just in my book.

  37. DungeonHamster says:

    Haven’t commented here much, but this is kind of a pet peeve of mine. Stealing from (or placing high taxes on) corporations are often justified because they’re somehow “faceless,” inhuman, and even evil, or at least amoral (let’s not even get into the debate over whether people in general are basically good or evil). But corporations are made of people. You tax, or, say, steal from, a big company, who do you think is most likely to pick up the slack? That cost will either be passed on to low-level employees or the consumer. You’re either lowering the income of someone who most definitely isn’t rich, at least by Western standards, or raising the cost for everyone who isn’t a thief/pirate. That doesn’t make the CEO or whatever of the company you’re stealing from peculiarly evil; they’re just doing what nearly anyone would do in their place and trying to maximize their profits. It’s just the way things work.

    Even supposing this isn’t the case and that theft in no way reduces the income of the employees already paid the least or raises the price of the product (in this case, games), why is it okay to steal from someone just because they’re rich? Generally speaking, rich and famous people worked hard to get where they are, but even if none of them did or all those that did were completely immoral bastards, TANSTAAFL. Everything has a price. Heck, I’m not sure I would take lasting fame or great wealth if they were offered me free; they’ve gotta be a lot of work to use properly, and even if used improperly I’d imagine they’re often something of a burden. But let’s suppose that they weren’t.

    Let’s suppose that fame and wealth were always obtained almost without effort by being an evil bastard and that they always brought infinite bliss. Furthermore, just to put the icing on the cake, let’s assume that this theft would have a negligible impact on said rich person’s overall income, to the point where they’d barely notice. What about that makes it acceptable to steal from rich people? That’s a serious question; I’m really wondering. Truth be told, though, I even have issues with Robin Hood (at least as a role model/hero; don’t get me wrong, I love Robin Hood stories, I just don’t think he’s be much of a hero or is particularly virtuous in any way; Chaotic my alignment is not).

    1. Ace Calhoon says:

      Robin Hood is a bit different in that those particular rich people are rich explicitly because they have taken advantage of and/or stolen from the poor (also, stealing from those particular rich people undermined Prince John, and Robin Hood’s MAIN deal is restoring the rightful king).

      1. someboringguy says:

        Robin Hood would be considered a villain and a highway robber if it wasn’t for the fact that he opposed a tyrant.Only that made him a hero.Otherwise stealing from the rich is only moral if you live in comunism ;)

      2. ima420r says:

        If someone steals from you, is it okay to steal it back? That’s all Robin Hood did.

    2. Also, Robin Hood was actually the lawful ruler of Nottingham anyway – so it was much more a case of reclaiming what was supposed to be his in the first place than stealing

  38. sebmojo says:

    Anecdotage. I downloaded all the 4e books in a skeptical sort of vein, and started playing: since then I’ve spent maybe $100 on books and half again that D&D Insider. I wouldn’t have spent a cent without piracy.

    More generally, I spend maybe $40 a month on video games, pirate a little (mainly old stuff I’m vaguely interested in). If I didn’t pirate would I spend more? No.

    I think Shamus’ insight is a good one – it’s a moral and emotional issue more than anything else, which is why the Ubisoft thing is so cackhanded. Make us feel bad about piracy (without lying), or good about paying, if you want change.

    1. kharon says:

      I believe ideally that we should do both: Increase the benefits of purchasing a game (particularly primary purchases which benefit the whole chain) and increase the drawbacks to pirating the software (feeling like you’re doing something wrong is a good way to keep a lot of people from doing that thing).

  39. toasty says:

    Dunno if anyone else pointed this out to you but there is a typo in this sentence: “Just like beer companies want to pretend that their product is make by wise old blue-collar men on a small scale”

    It should be made, not make. ;)

  40. Zaghadka says:

    True. If the Devteams were behind the DRM, this might be a good idea. The problem is that the publishers are behind it, despite the fact that it does not work, and only keeps paying, non-crack downloading customers inconvenienced in any way.

    DRM is only a small part of a vicious undermining of consumer rights. No returns, no trials, no recourse if the game fails to function as advertised. Backups?: eliminated. Warranty of fitness of purpose?: denied. Arbitration?: replaced by arbitrary publisher demands. We put up with endless patch cycles, if we even get them (I’m looking at you Temple of Elemental Evil) and no returns. It goes way beyond piracy. The heart of what DRM is a part of is that basic consumer rights don’t exist when it comes to video games. DRM is just the gun to the paying consumer’s head, held by the publisher, in this scenario. In the future, it’s what will keep such a person from “stealing” by selling a used game.

    Every major publisher is claiming that, BTW. First sale is the target, not piracy.

    So it’s about publisher control, and it’s about having a different set of laws on your computer, written by that publisher, than in any other sector of the entertainment/media economy.

    Cue the “heroes.” There are none.

    The people “fighting the man?” They don’t give a fig. You do. I do. The “pirates” will crack Dora The Explorer: Swiper’s Diaper and Dear Hunter: Letter Writing to Venison, just because they can, and they think it is funny.

    They crack everything. Tough DRM? Excellent. Publishers have just kept them from getting bored with it. It’s like designing the fastest luge course ever, and saying “Ha! Now you won’t want to do this dangerous sport!” Some guy dies and everybody else is still clamoring to get their run in. This is what the publishers are doing.

    So the drama, from what I’ve seen, just isn’t there on the “pirate” side. Mostly because they don’t have a side, or an agenda. Anarchists don’t hold meetings and they don’t take minutes, you know?

    It is, at its core, a graffiti problem. All we can do is clean up the mess. Nobody thinks graffiti is a great idea, but people still do it. It’s very hard to bust up the graffiti gangs through arrests, too. In New York City, what they wound up doing was to repaint the trains right after a gang had finished, so they could watch, sending a message that their efforts were a futile waste of time.

    Until there’s a way to do that to the members of the cracking “scene,” and their territorial pissings, it is an exercise in futility.

    Corporate publishing would do well to take them a good deal less seriously, and make DRM simple so cracking becomes a snore.

    1. Ehlijen says:

      You might already know, but if you don’t: There are fanmade patches and expansions for The Temple of Elemental Evil that fix most of the problems with the original. Look for the Circle of Eight mod.

      Sorry if this is redundant not-news to you :)

      1. Zaghadka says:

        Thanks. I’ve got Circle of Eight. It was just the first game off the top of my head that I knew wasn’t officially patched.

        Customers shouldn’t have to fix the product they bought to make it usable, IMHO.

        1. Ehlijen says:

          I absolutely agree. Just wanted to help you make the best of the game even so :)

        2. Andrew says:

          Heh. Somebody tell that to Bethesda. Last time I checked, the fanmade patch fixed over 1000 bugs and glitches that had been left in the game. The one and only patch released by Bethesda fixed only the most well-known glitches; that is, the ones that people actually liked (permanent bound daedric items, for example).

  41. Viktor says:

    Speaking up for the pirates here, on the one hand, you have a higher-quality, easier to get item that is available earlier and free, on the other you have moral satisfaction. Moral satisfaction is great, but not on $7 an hour. You can do whatever you like to make piracy less palatable, but that won’t encourage me to buy it, just to not pirate it(meaning no extra profit for the company).
    They do need to eliminate the other advantages as well, so that piracy is only better in terms of price, which will at least prevent people who would ordinarily buy the game becoming pirates, but for some people, myself included, the options are ‘pirate’ or ‘don’t play’. The companies making any changes to help bring us back into the fold won’t matter. The only change they can make to get me to buy is to make the games cheaper. Anything else they do is a waste of money.

    For the record, I pirate most movies(anything good I buy, and I have an extensive collection to prove it, but I refuse to wait 6 months to see it and greatly dislike going to theaters). I also pirate D&D books, and buy them when I have spare cash. I play games on consoles only, so I can’t pirate, and I don’t listen to music. This, however, is what I would say if I played on computers. $50 for a 10-hour game isn’t worth it.

    1. Well, since I DO run a small publishing company (books, not games), I’m going to reply and speak up for at least some of the business end.

      “They do need to eliminate the other advantages as well, so that piracy is only better in terms of price, which will at least prevent people who would ordinarily buy the game becoming pirates, but for some people, myself included, the options are “˜pirate' or “˜don't play'. The companies making any changes to help bring us back into the fold won't matter. The only change they can make to get me to buy is to make the games cheaper. Anything else they do is a waste of money.”

      Why the hell should they? Why should they do any of that for the likes of you?

      Sorry, but I think one of the problems here is that there isn’t enough blunt honesty on this. So, I’m going to offer some.

      Until you put money on the table, you are not one of their customers. You are not a stakeholder. In fact, you are a part of a very serious problem.

      Any business has its ultimate responsibility to its customers. They are the ones we have to please. It is by offering a good product and pleasing our customers that they bring in new customers. But it is to our customers that they answer. They have no obligation to offer so much as a single olive branch to freeloaders.

      Now, you talk about not wanting to wait six months for a movie and not liking theatres. Well, tough. Guess what – you got away with freeloading when you pirated it. If you bought the movie later, that’s great, but it doesn’t make the initial piracy any less wrong. Nobody has any obligation to provide you with entertainment, and if you can’t wait six months for a movie, that just makes you spoiled. It’s a MOVIE, not medicine.

      Try this one on for size – if you don’t think $50 for a 10 hour game is worth it, don’t buy the game. Wait for it to go on remainder for around $15 (games tend to do that within a year or so), or play something else that you feel is worth it. And speaking as somebody who has been through harder times than you can probably imagine, $7 per hour is no excuse for piracy. It will, however, teach you a bit about what is really important. I know – I’ve been in a place where I’d KILL for $7 per hour.

      Now, let me put this into perspective – game publishers tried just about everything you said they should. And while a few people appreciated it, most of the pirates just kept on going. Quite a few of them acted like they were Robin Hood, and glorified what they did. So, faced with either being ripped off left right and centre or being forced to treat their customers like criminals, most of the big publishers did the only sensible thing possible – they abandoned – or are in the process of abandoning – the PC game field. Like it or not, that’s adaptation, and a sensible one. It’s called “cutting your losses.”

      Take a close look at the PC game field right now. Take a close look at how quickly it’s shrinking. It’s already a niche market for everything but MMOs and RTSes. That’s only going to get worse. Piracy had a lot to do with that.

      So, tell me – and I do seriously want an answer to this – why in the bloody hell should any computer game company give so much as a single concession to a bunch of freeloading game pirates?

      1. Caffiene says:

        “why in the bloody hell should any computer game company give so much as a single concession to a bunch of freeloading game pirates?”

        Because the computer games companies are -the- most vocal claimants that piracy is a huge problem?

        You’re essentially asking “why should computer games companies do anything to address what they feel is the single biggest problem with their industry?”. I think the answer to that is pretty self explanatory…
        The games industry frequently claim that pirated copies are equal to lost sales, so if their arguments are truthful then there is an obvious link from making piracy less attractive to bringing in new customers.

        For a business to make money, the responsibility isnt to customers… the responsibility is to potential customers. A game is not as successful as the number of people who thought the previous game was worthwhile, it is as successful as the number of people who think the current game will be worthwhile.

        And that is part of the problem… it is non-pirating, previous customers who are asking the loudest for concessions, because the current industry model is harming them without doing the slightest bit to harm pirates.

        To make legal games competitive with pirated games isnt a concession to the pirates, because the pirates already have all those benefits regardless of what the studies do. The ones who benefit from the concessions are the legitimate potential customers who dont want to be at a -disadvantage- to their customer rights.

        The conversation isnt about making pirates happy… the pirates are -already- happy. The conversation is about how to make the publishers happy, because they are currently unhappy, and the suggested solution is to avoid making their legitimate customers unhappy.

        1. Okay – those aren’t necessarily bad talking points. But, I think I can provide a counter argument:

          “You're essentially asking “why should computer games companies do anything to address what they feel is the single biggest problem with their industry?”. I think the answer to that is pretty self explanatory…”

          Well, they’ve done quite a lot already, and it keeps failing. I started playing computer games around 1989/90, so I’ve got a bit of a long view on this (I even started out as a pirate, but outgrew it by the age of 17). There was a lot done to try to address the issue. I remember when copy protection was finding a word on a certain page in the manual, or a code wheel. Writing off a market is a last resort measure – it’s not done unless everything else has been tried.

          “For a business to make money, the responsibility isnt to customers… the responsibility is to potential customers. A game is not as successful as the number of people who thought the previous game was worthwhile, it is as successful as the number of people who think the current game will be worthwhile.”

          You’re half right there. The second sentence is quite dead on. The first one isn’t. A company does need to advertise their product, of course. In my case, as I run a very small company (it’s a one-man operation), I use free e-books on sharing sites for public domain reprints, and free samples on those same sites for new books, as well as advertisements to buyers in book stores and libraries (which the end customer doesn’t actually see – it’s an internal ad).

          Responsibility to the customer begins as soon as the customer puts down his money. But before that? Well, there are things that are a bad idea – telling a potential customer to go do something anatomically impossible is just about always not advisable – and being friendly to potential customers is just about always a good idea. But it’s not a responsibility.

          “To make legal games competitive with pirated games isnt a concession to the pirates, because the pirates already have all those benefits regardless of what the studies do. The ones who benefit from the concessions are the legitimate potential customers who dont want to be at a -disadvantage- to their customer rights.”

          And that there IS the big problem, and the thing that frankly has poisoned the PC game market. The pirated game IS the same product as the legal game – one with less hassles, even. One of the big problems with game piracy is that it forces publishers to compete against their own product. Well, how do they do that?

          You might get the occasional person who’s just using the pirate game as a demo, but most pirates are in it for the free swag, and once they have it, they’re not laying down money. You have a price point to reach for optimal sales, but the minute the game hits the pirate market, it snatches up the casual buyer segment, which is not small. To use the often-cited Tweakgames article, the same game on console can sell 6 legit copies to each pirate copy, but the PC version will sell 1 legit copy to every 10 or 11 pirate copies, and the market for each are comparable in size – meaning that the pirate copies are eating up the PC games market.

          What’s left is trying to prevent the game from being cracked in the first place – but the tools of piracy are now so sophisticated that to do that, you have to disadvantage your customers – the people to whom you DO have an obligation. If you don’t take that measure, you get zero-day piracy, and you end up struggling to break even.

          When the time comes that a company has to disadvantage its customers due to the actions of freeloaders, the market is poisoned, and it’s time to leave. And that’s what’s happening. I wish there was another solution, as there are things a PC can do a lot better than a console.

          (And, since the article was mentioned, here’s the link: )

          1. Caffiene says:

            Fair enough. I can agree with most of those points… The only real difference is that I see moving to consoles as a short term stop-gap without any long term benefit.

            I posted a more detailed ramble somewhere above, but basically my view is that consoles already have a measure of piracy and that moving away from PCs would simply create a dramatic increase in the effort being put into finding ways to hack consoles, which will ultimately mean we reach the point where console piracy is as prevalent and easy as PC piracy all the sooner (my prediction is – if PC gaming were canceled, consoles would reach the same level within 5 years). At that point the publishers would only have a few choices – accept the situation (why not accept the PC situation, then?), go back into the costly pirate/DRM arms race (be back at step 1), or look for a solution to treat the causes of piracy.

            Morally, giving in to pirates isnt the optimal solution, but I think thats part of the problem – publishers are sending good money after bad searching for a “perfect” solution that doesnt exist, when they could treat the problem by eliminating the market advantage of pirate copies. Swallowing pride now would mean a short term outlay for PR in the present, but avoid -endless- ongoing costs in DRM development and missed sales to disgruntled potential customers…

            One other sidenote: Zero day piracy isnt an integral part of the business of making games. Im sure some of it comes with the territory of highly anticipated AAA games, but a number of indie developers Ive seen have posted statistics showing they actually have very stable long-tail sales. Theres a potential alternate business model there for anyone who isnt deliberately targeting the short-attention-span market. (Not that zero-day doesnt still hold a lot of sales, but its not as critical a factor just to break even)

            That article is very interesting, btw. Some of that data Id never heard – I was particularly interested to see the graph suggesting piracy is much higher in lower socio-economic countries, and the one suggesting piracy was falling very slightly in some places between ’06 and ’07.

            1. So, you are saying that like piracy has killed independent movie distributors in the last year, it will eventually kill all games.

              That is too bad.

            2. It is a real eye-opener of an article. Before I read it, I had actually thought of piracy as a nuisance and a bit of a pretext for DRM. Not any more…

              The thing I found truly fascinating was the gap between the console market and the PC games market, as well as the facts that:

              1. Intrusive DRM was about the only thing that could actually lower the piracy rate. I wouldn’t have called that one in a million years – I always figured it would just make things worse due to backlash.

              2. That the outreach efforts made by PC game companies had little to no impact at all. Again, I wouldn’t have called that one.

              Frankly, I think there are two things that have to be done to strike at the heart of the problem, and they all really come down to fighting the ideology:

              1. For game makers to abandon the PC game market, and make noise when they do it. A big chunk of the ideology revolves around the idea of it causing no harm, and if the big players suddenly said, “We can’t sustain this any longer, and given the choice between leaving the PC game market and worse DRM, we choose to leave – we just don’t want to treat our customers this way,” then the argument of no harm done gets disproven with hard evidence pretty quickly.

              2. For game makers to stop trying to engage the pirates as potential customers, and treat them like freeloaders. No appeasement (yes, I’ve been reading Churchill on WW2 lately). The reason I say that is if you try to engage them in dialogue, you end up giving them some validation of their message, and that just gives them a form of permission. Whether you call it stealing something that’s not theirs to or copying it, it’s still not theirs to copy/steal, and that has to be stressed, and used to blow away the other arguments.

              (Let me put it this way – they’re all excuses. Fighting the big game companies? The effective way to do that is to write letters/articles and make your voice heard, not freeload. Concerned about copyright issues? Again, freeloading isn’t the answer, and it doesn’t get your voice heard. DRM? Freeloading is even worse, as it justifies the DRM in the first place. Once all those excuses are blown away, it’s down to getting away with free swag, and that reason is much easier to demonstrate as frivolous at best.)

              But, if you can’t fight the message, the message plus the free swag will make the problem worse, and there is no victory to be had. Whether we want to admit it or not, this has become a war of ideologies, and if we want to deal with the problem, we have to treat it as a war.

      2. Viktor says:

        If the game is too expensive, I won’t buy it. What does it cost the company, then, for me to pirate it? The issue with the current view of piracy as equivalent to theft is that theft leaves someone worse off. Piracy is simply the duplication of something. If they’re not getting my money one way or the other, why should I hold back my own personal enjoyment?(not rhetorical, I have yet to get a good response to this in other discussions on these lines)

        And the improvements aren’t for me, they’re for people who wouldn’t pirate, but are seeing the pirates playing better games for less money and wondering what the incentive is to buy legitimately. And it’s not really concessions, there’s no excuse for pirates having access to the game before launch day. If people in the industry are cracking games, it makes it much harder for companies to appear to have any high ground when they claim lost business because of the torrents.

        1. Ehlijen says:

          To answer your question:
          Because you have no right to. What could possibly give you the right to put your personal enjoyment over the rights for compensation of the people who put serious money and effort into making the product you simply take for granted?

          You’re basically asking for these people to provide you with free entertainment at your command simply because you can’t be bothered going through life without it. That’s pretty much slavery.
          Sure, at first other people are picking up your slack, but it’s you who creates that slack for them to pick up. And a while later, when more people realise they don’t need to bother with that slack (which by now may have turned into more than just higher prices and DRM), there aren’t enough paying customers left to make making such products actually worthwile. And suddenly, you and people like you killed a market.

          1. Alleyoop says:

            Your last paragraph put questions in my head:

            1) Regarding slack and slavery – what if you had no idea that works were being pirated? If profits are good, would knowing of piracy make them less good? I’m not saying that right, I apologize…I guess I’m saying would ignorance = bliss?

            2) Regarding free entertainment on demand – this points to a market failure, rights and control not withstanding. This is especially noticeable in places where material is simply not available for sale, ever. Except as an illegal download. You cannot get paid for something if you don’t sell it, and the nature of digital media has put great pressure on that point since it’s easily copied and distributed. Why aren’t DVDs sold outside a movie theater? Sure it’s the studio’s right to not do so, but why cut off that revenue avenue to sell it months later when no one’s thinking about it anymore?

            3) Regarding higher prices, DRM, and killing a market – what kills a market is underserving that market, not understanding or refusing to understand it. Digital goods don’t equal physical goods or services, piracy shows that and writ large. The recent dust-up between Amazon and Macmillan Publishing comes to mind: MacMillan hated that Amazon sold most ebooks at 9.99 USD, it wanted to be able to vary pricing on ebooks, specifically to RAISE the pricing – ! On a digital good that requires no packaging or shelf space, cannot be returned, uses DRM to prevent copying or lending, is basically pure profit at any price. Is using moral arguments to force a market into their image of what it “should” be good business sense? Not really. Because the market gets wise and the market dictates price eventually. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

            Piracy is there and smart businesses should at least learn from it, what it’s showing them about their endeavors, pricing, terms. No one likes what it’s showing them, that digital distribution, legal and not legal, is driving the price of such to zero. Will producers throw in the towel and cut themselves out of a market that *still makes money* or will they adapt in ways that benefit them and their paying customers, present and future? Hard goods, support and services are what people will pay for.

            Sorry to go on like that, but I’ve always paid for digital content when the terms were acceptable to me – I’ve never pirated. It saddens me to see content creators locked in a mindset (very basically: digital goods = physical goods) that hurts them and their customer base. It’s a time of business model upheaval and confused market adjustment. Laws as written make things worse since they’re setting up this adversarial situation between vendors and buyers – law should never be written to protect a failure to market intelligently.

            1. “Regarding higher prices, DRM, and killing a market ““ what kills a market is underserving that market, not understanding or refusing to understand it…Piracy is there and smart businesses should at least learn from it, what it's showing them about their endeavors, pricing, terms. No one likes what it's showing them, that digital distribution, legal and not legal, is driving the price of such to zero. Will producers throw in the towel and cut themselves out of a market that *still makes money* or will they adapt in ways that benefit them and their paying customers, present and future? Hard goods, support and services are what people will pay for.”

              I’m sorry, but I really don’t think you quite understand the problem here (and the McMillan/Amazon thing was a lot more about preventing Amazon from pulling a Wal-Mart on the publishing industry than just raising prices – and speaking as a publisher, Amazon was doing some VERY worrisome things, like trying to push small publishers into using their own printers, etc.).

              First off, the PC game is NOT under-serviced. It is quite well serviced. The problem is that it is being serviced mainly by the pirates, who are able to take the game company’s product and undercut the company with it. After all, what price is there that beats “free”?

              Let me put it this way – let’s say you’re a game company. You’ve just spent $7 million developing a game for the PC market. Then, within two weeks of release (if you’re lucky – if you’re unlucky: on the very day of release, or before it), the pirates crack the game, and distribute it to 90% of your potential market. So, you’re pushed out of your market by your own product.

              Second, the cost of online distribution is NOT zero. You have to keep servers up, and when you’re catering to a potential market of a few million, that’s not cheap. I’ve stood in the Sony EverQuest server rooms, and there’s a lot of equipment in there. All that has to be maintained. And then, behind that, you’ve got the cost of production, which is quite pricey – you’re not developing a game for a single PC platform…you’re developing it for over a HUNDRED similar platforms under the umbrella term “PC.” That means that once it’s done, you also have to provide support for those configurations you missed. So, for a modern game we’re talking an outlay of a few million right from the beginning (sometimes tens of millions) just to develop the game…and then you have to run the support. The only way of making the money back is through sales – and on that, see the above paragraph.

              “Throwing in the towel” IS an adaptation, and, speaking as the owner of a business, the correct one. The market is poisoned – if you have a market where the only way to protect yourself from being undermined by pirates using your own product is to treat your own customers like criminals, then it’s time to move to a market where you don’t have to. And that is what’s happening.

              1. krellen says:

                I just wanted to point out that, at $60 a pop, even the meagre 1 million or 500,000 sales that the 10% you sell to represents is 30-60 million dollars, which is 400-800% profit. That’s a ridiculous, nearly criminal, return rate.

                The industry is not in danger of going out of business because of piracy.

                1. Assuming that the game company gets 100% of the list price …

                  With no cost of production or printing cost. That isn’t the kind of profit you are calculating.

                2. What Stephen M said is pretty much on the money.

                  This is how the mathematics works for print-on-demand books in my business (I’m a small company, and I can’t afford to do offset printing, which lowers the prices considerably). Assuming that the book has a list price of $29.95, here’s how it works out.

                  1. I sell the book to the wholesaler for 55% off the cover price.

                  2. The wholesaler sells the book to the bookstore for 40% off the cover price.

                  3. The cost of printing comes out of the net (my cut) of the book.

                  So, for the book in question, with a $6.00 printing cost, my share works out to $13.48 before the printing cost, and $7.48 cents after.

                  Take that to a computer game (and a successful game these days that isn’t an MMO actually seems to come in at under half a million copies), with similar margins, and a $10 million development cost, and you get:

                  List price: $59.95
                  After wholesaler cut (55%, we’ll say, although I don’t know for sure): $26.97
                  After production (we’ll go with $5.00 for the entire package): $21.97

                  And, times half a million copies: $10,985,000.

                  Which means that this hypothetical $10 million game made an actual profit of $985,000 – a profit margin of under 10%. Not counting the advertising campaign, which could put it into a loss – and is not enough to cover the next game.

                  Still want to maintain your statement about criminal profit margins?

            2. Ehlijen says:

              1) It’s not about profits or the amount of damage done (if any), it’s about consuming a good without compensating its creator, ie breaking the very basic idea of economy. And yes, entertainment software can be consumed (Have you ever read a book? Have you ever read a book for the first time twice? If you give it enough time it’s possible, but not easy).
              Pirates seem to always operate under the assumption that someone else will still buy the product and thus keep the companies going. What if that isn’t the case anymore (seeing as that’s where DRM and prices are pushing things)?

              2) Exclusiveness is often a tool used to heighten demand. Why are movies first shown in movie theaters? Higher profit margins (I don’t know that one for sure, just guessing)? Knowledge of just what putting the DVD out there for the pirates means for long term sales numbers? They want to foster the social event that is movie going? Tradition?

              Whatever their reason, it’s their right to do it thus. If they’re making bad buisness decisions, their company will die (or so the great circle of capitalism is meant to work).

              Gamers have it good by comparison: They don’t need to wait for 6 months after release before they can actually get hold of a game. The game companies have been trusting them with the physical media right from the launch for a while now and oh look, pirates.

              You may not like what they’re doing, but that doesn’t give you the right to ignore their rights of property.

              3) What’s killing the market is the basic assumption of pirates:
              What bad can happen if I download it if it still makes enough money, right?
              First of: Who are you (not you specifically…unless you are a pirate!) to say what is enough?
              Second: You’re wrong, because everyone is thinking that. And even if they aren’t, you may not be hurting the game designers, but you are hurting all those people who will have to pay more for the next game.

              It’s a simple process:
              Publisher: I’ve got a great story to tell you! You each buy me a drink and I will.
              2 Customers: Yay!
              Pirate: I’ll just happen to sit nearby. That way I get to hear the story but I won’t have to buy him a drink.
              Customer A: Hey, that’s a neat idea, I’ll do that too.
              Publisher: Well my price is still 3 drinks, I guess they’re all on you, Customer B.
              Customer B: Sorry, I can’t pay that much. I only have enough for one drink.
              Publisher: Too bad. No story then.
              Pirate and Customer A: He killed the market! Punish the publisher!

              What’s killing the market is freeloading. The publisher often (but not always!) has the clout to simply move the burden somewhere else, so yeah, you’re not really ever hurting them (that doesn’t justify anything though!), who you are hurting is the loyal customers who have the extra burdon shifted onto them. The market dictates price, but once it reaches unsustainable limits (either way), the seller just packs up and leaves.

              Companies have been learning about digital rights economics, we just don’t like what they’ve discovered. Do you really think intstall limits are the hallmark of physical goods trading? Repeated online activation?
              Information trading has no real ownership, yet that is exactly what all the opponents of DRM want (me included). We want to own a copy of the game, with box and manual and resale rights and no questions ever asked about whether it’s legal. And once upon a time, companies were willing to let us have that illusion. Then the pirates came and they don’t anymore.

              If the PC market really does still make them money, some if not most will stay. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case much longer. So let’s all blame Publisher and praise Pirate and Customer A for sticking it to the man, no?

              And finally: You seem to have a quality that appears missing from most people involved in this:
              When you say you pay if the terms are good enough for you but you never pirate, you imply that if the terms aren’t good enough for you, you make do without the product, right? Ie you accept full responsibility for your actions and live with the results rather than claiming some kind of false entitlement and both eat and keep your cake. That’s a good thing.
              Most pirates will ask ‘if I can’t afford it, how else am I to play it?’.
              The answer is: You’re not meant to play it at all then.

              1. JoshR says:

                So a guy refuses to tell a story until he has been bought three drinks? that’s just fucking selfish.
                And an awful metaphor, in no situation would the guy say no to telling his story fora free drink, he’s more likely to say “well if you enjoy my story, then buy me a beer” then the pirate won’t do anything, but customer A will buy him a drink, he ends up having lost nothing but two drinks better off, as opposed to alone and thirsty.

                1. Ehlijen says:

                  Why? It’s his story, he’s got all the rights in the world to decide who gets to hear it and under what circumstances. He’s not trying to make friends, he’s trying to get drunk.

                  Isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to work? The seller sets the price and then either adjusts it or stops selling? If he can’t get the drinkss he wants that way, he’ll stop making such offers.

            3. Ehlijen says:

              edit: sorry, I thought my first post was lost when my browser crashed, but it’s still there. This one added nothing. Sorry again. delete if you like.

      3. TehShrike says:

        It’s your business to provide a service or product for people to pay for.

        Theft (people taking your physical property away from you, so that you do not have it any more) is wrong, and you should receive restitution from the person who took your property.

        If you have a creation that has no value beyond information that can be copied easily at no loss to the consumer, why SHOULD people pay you? Because you think it’s fair?

        Every business owner can complain that they aren’t making as much money from sales as they deserve. People who primarily create information (I am one of them – programmer, musician) just have the temptation of using the government to extort money from others.

        Why try to make money from people who are interested enough in your product to copy it, but not donate money to you?

        Why WOULDN’T you try to market something to the most obvious demographic (people who like your stuff) before anyone else?

        1. “If you have a creation that has no value beyond information that can be copied easily at no loss to the consumer, why SHOULD people pay you? Because you think it's fair?”

          Because it’s not just information. This keeps being brought up, but it’s a red herring.

          A computer game is a product. It’s not just information. Information is gathered – a product is created. People put a lot of time and effort into producing a computer game.

          And you know what – speaking as a publisher, and for all publishers, it’s our RIGHT, guaranteed by law, to set an asking price for the product we create, be it a book, game, song, or movie, if we see fit. Now, the consumer is under no obligation to buy – they can walk past it if they want, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

          But just copying it and distributing it against our wishes is wrong. Using some semantic trick to say it isn’t stealing doesn’t change that fact.

          1. TehShrike says:

            Information and data are just that – no matter how much effort, sweat, blood, tears and time went into compiling it.

            I say this someone who puts a lot of effort into doing just that.

            I don’t think it’s a semantic trick to define stealing as “taking someone’s physical property so that they do not have it any more.” Once you try to define it as something else, you start talking about what people deserve – and there is no system of law that can guarantee that everyone gets what they deserve.

  42. JoshR says:

    After reading your review of Fable 2 I felt I needed to go out and pirate it just to shove it in Peter Molyneux’s stupid face.
    So I pirated the Xbox version, despite not owning an Xbox just to make a point.

    1. Ehlijen says:

      So you downloaded a pirated copy despite being unable to play it?

      Does that even count as piracy?

      1. JoshR says:

        I hope so. Else I wasted quite a good 10 minutes going and torrenting it.
        Could have seeded if I felt really mean, but never really liked the idea of that. Something about people being able to automatically download things off my pc sets me uneasy.

        1. Ehlijen says:

          So you did the equivalent of copying all the characters from a book that’s in a language you can’t read to put somewhere on a shelf and never look at it so that you can teach someone a lesson for writing a bad book?

          Honestly, I don’t think that counts…does it?

      2. Only in the most technical of definitions…

  43. Avilan the Grey says:

    I have pirated stuff a lot in my life.

    It started back in the day when you could buy a 90 min cassette tape with C64 games for a dollar or two. The Amiga was no harder to copy for…

    Anyway. For the last 4 or 5 years I have not pirated any games. The biggest reasons are 1) I can actually afford games and 2) I believe in Quality over Quantity. Since I don’t get the urge to own all games released this month, I can afford it (see 1).

    Now there are a few things I still pirate:
    1) TV series that are not aired in Sweden, period.
    2) Music that are not released here, period.
    3) Movies that I really want to see and are released much later here. (And I buy those on DVD when they finally are released).

  44. Martin Annadale says:

    You made a very good point, Shamus. This, I believe is the real key to *reducing* piracy. If only small portion of the people who would have pirated the game, buys it instead, the publishers will show major profits. And to that they need to step the hell out of the way. They are not important to the gamers nor liked. Too many gamers have lost their favourite studio to the corporate machine. Too many times have games been released too early, ruining a game that would have been epic.

    It used to be that when the credits for a game show up, the designer and programmers would show up first then the rest of the people who worked on the game. Now its project leader and corporate executives. With the programmers (the people I care about) at the very, very bottom. Wtf.

  45. someboringguy says:

    Do you think it’s normal to buy a game that costs 25% of your salary? Some people should really study their market before they fix the price, because not all of us live in USA in a 2 story house, own 2 cars (3 if you have kids) and 4 plasma tv sets (each for every member, God forbid they watched all of them the same thing).
    And how about the quality of the program?Many video games I have have forced me to search all over the net, paying for each minute of conenction for what?For an unnoficial patch, because some companies don’t care about fixing their games nor about their costumer.They sell their games at Christmas time when people buy a lot and then start the next project.
    Gothic 3, VTMB, Loki, have been put on the market with so many bugs, parts of the game were unplayable.And the official patches didn’t solve all of them, just some.
    And there is the price vs satisfaction.You pay for a game that entertains you for 10-20 hours so much money, and after finishing the game you never play it again. Just like paying 500$ to see a movie.Would you do that?

    1. Zaxares says:

      I’ll grant you have a point about the price of games in countries with a low level of GDP, but on the amount of entertainment I get from games… I don’t know about you, but I can easily sink HUNDREDS of hours into a game that I paid about $100 Australian dollars for. For example, Mass Effect? I bought the Collector’s Edition for about $99. Paid another $5 for some Downloadable Content. I’ve spent about 150 hours playing it so far. And I’m still playing it. That’s less than $1 an hour. That’s WAY better value than any form of entertainment except books and sex (unless you pay for that stuff. I don’t.)

      1. JoshR says:

        I disagree, on two points there.
        Firstly, You also paid for all the electricity that you used running your pc to play the game, as well as all the hardware and likely internet connection. All this taken into account the cost per hour is significantly higher.

        Compared with nearly anything else, It’s more expensive. How much does television cost per hour? surfing the internet? Hell, even listening to music is generally cheaper then games.

        Also how on earth did you spend 150 hours on mass effect? I believe I finished nearly all the quests on my first play-through and that only took me 15 hours.

        1. someboringguy says:

          Well, 150 hours of ME is like 70 hours of playing + 80 hours of loading screens/elevator riding.:)

          1. Drue says:

            not on my PC

        2. Avilan the Grey says:

          Internet connection: I don’t pay per hour. I have a 30Mbit fiber connection for $35 a month, no traffic limits.

          Electricity: Fairly cheap despite the high taxes. My laptop does not eat more than my TV does.

          Hardware: Yes I pay roughly $1350 on a new laptop every 2-3 years. Of course computers are my single hobby and I use it for more than gaming. Compare it to my mother feeding and hosting 3 ponies. Now THAT is an expensive hobby.

          As for games as such (your question about Mass Effect):
          1) I tend to do research before buying.
          2) I favor games with re-playability value. I have played Baldur’s Gate II 18 times. I have played FO3 6 times. I have played Mass Effect II and Dragon Age 3 each times so far and I am already plotting new characters to try out.
          3) If you finished Mass Effect in 15 hours you are doing it wrong…

          1. someboringguy says:

            How do you play BG 2 18 times???Don’t you get tired of the introductory dungeon?Even with changing classes after 3-4 times there’s nothing new to do.Or maybe you use mods?

  46. Nevermind says:

    First: I’m a pirate. I download all my music, movies, books and games from torrents and do not pay for anything.

    Second: As a pirate, I can tell that this idea WILL NOT WORK. Actually, no idea will work ever, because downloading is so much easier than buying. The only way to make piracy uncool that I can think of, is for (nearly) everyone to have some intellectual property of their own. Only in this case consumers will feel the pain of producers.

    People (usually) do not steal cars, because they can feel what it is to have their car stolen. Unless people feel what it is to have their mp3s stolen, they WILL steal mp3s.

    1. Varil says:

      So in order to make you an honest customer somebody needs to jack your hard-drive and any CDs they can find? I’ll get my ninjas on that right away.

      1. Nevermind says:

        No, no, no. Your ninjas would just make me re-download all my stuff. You can’t pirate anything from me, only steal (or destroy).

        This hard drive is not my intellectual property. Now, if I were to make an indie game, and see it pirated left and right, I’d probably think “Wow, I hate those pirates”. And this will probably cause me to pirate less, or even stop it altogether. I actually don’t see many proponents of piracy among game developers or, say, musicians.

        1. Still, blowing it up, destroying all your saved files, e-mails, contacts, and written thoughts, would deprive you of intellectual property and would be satisfying to someone you pirated from.

          You should not discount the hedonistic value that it would give someone to get back at a pirate.

          1. Nevermind says:

            Well, no one had actually tried that, so I wouldn’t know. But I guess, yeah, blowing everything up will offer some satisfaction to the IP owner. Too bad it’ll do nothing to stop piracy in general. Even large monetary fines evidently don’t help.

    2. DaveMc says:

      I hate to do this, but it has to be said: Jerk.

      Feel the sting of my social disapproval! *Bounces off the pirate’s impervious hide.* Sigh. :)

      Interesting point about empathy, though: Do you really think people can’t empathize with others unless they have the very same experience? Isn’t it possible to imagine what it would be like to have intellectual property of your own, and have that lead you to conclude that you would want to be compensated for it?

      1. JoshR says:

        Doesn’t the definition of empathy require having experienced the same?
        Otherwise it’s just sympathy.
        The theory goes that it is impossible to know for sure what someone else is feeling, though one can take a guess, a guess is all it will be.

        Of course that means in some cases the sympathy can outshine the empathy, if you believe something would make a greater impact on you then it did on them. This is often confused with empathy.

        1. DaveMc says:

          Well, not according to

          “empathy, noun: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another”

          Nothing in there about needing direct experience. But we digress …

      2. Dev Null says:

        Maybe someone should write a game where you play a game developer trying to make a living…

        1. JoshR says:

          make it “Sophie’s Choice the videogame” decide which child can eat today and which will starve because pirates keep stealing your game!

    3. Dev Null says:

      Yeah, don’t want to turn this into a flame war or anything, but since it is after all the entire point of Shamus’ article: You sir, are a real jerk.

      1. Nevermind says:

        (Doing his best mr Zorg impersonation)

        I know.

    4. TehShrike says:

      I don’t think eliminating piracy through social pressure is going to happen.

      Nothing will eliminate the copying of information – and personally, I’m glad of that.

      What we can do is work toward a culture where people WANT to pay money to the people who are creating the best content.

      1. DaveMc says:

        I agree that copying of information shouldn’t be stopped. That’s why the idea of social pressure against piracy is appealing: it’s instead of increasingly draconian but ultimately fruitless *legal* pressure, which tends to spill over and hurt the whole idea of transferring information around.

        I also agree that eliminating piracy isn’t going to happen … but if we can make its image into something people feel sheepish about doing, rather than viewing themselves as heroes, maybe some of them will, as you say, end up wanting to vote with their dollars and support the people who make their games possible.

      2. This actually occurred in the anime (and manga) localisation market. Essentially, everyone was simply pirating the anime (and manga), so they started translating it less, and the translations were of lesser quality. After that, sales picked up on the better series, because everyone realised that the industry would crash, and there’d be no more translations. Piracy of anime (and manga) is still absurdly huge, but most people will go out and buy hard copies of the series they enjoyed, specifically to support the developers and translators.

        Of course, this isn’t a perfect parallel, since production never really dropped off, just translation, and anime is a much less mainstream interest than gaming.

        1. Aaron552 says:

          It doesn’t help that anime is often very expensive (at least in Australia; $129 (AUD) for 26 episodes is around $11/hour, according to my estimations). Also, I tend to prefer good fansubs to official subs and sometimes the visual quality of the DVDs is _worse_ than the TV rips. I still buy the DVDs when they come out here, though; I just don’t watch them (there’s at least 3 boxsets on my shelf that I don’t intend to open, for the first time, any time soon). Parallels to videogame piracy just don’t work, I think. Especially since there are more legitimate (to me, anyway) reasons to own pirate/fansub copies than there are to own pirated videogames.

    5. Well, as much as I’d like to tell you to do something anatomically impossible to yourself, I think you should be thanked for your honesty about what you are, and the insight you’ve given into computer game piracy. So, thank you. Hopefully one day you’ll grow out of the piracy thing.

      Now, go do something anatomically impossible to yourself.

  47. Blackbird71 says:

    A lot of ground has been covered here, so bear with me, I’m going to shift through a few different ideas in one post:

    1. I have to wonder if the change in the relationship between developer and customer is a byproduct of the shift in technology over the years. As Shamus as pointed out previously, advances in graphics technology and the increasing complexity have increased the number of man-hours needed to make a game, which results in a lot more people being involved in a game’s creation. Personally, I find it a lot easier to identify with two or three people than a hundred. As the number of people involved increases, you go from “the people that made this game,” to “the group that made this game,” and on to “the company that made this game.” Each level of increase in size is another move towards a faceless mass.

    2. On the point of games being known by publisher vs. developer, I have to point out that Bioware has lost a bit of reputation in the “friendly developer” department ever since the acquisition by EA (I’m looking at you, MEPC). At least in my book, the ways EA has screwed me over in the past has nearly surpassed the good will Bioware had previously built up, to the point that I have been cautious about every game Bioware has released since the acquisition, and in so doing I have ended up not buying any of them (nor have I pirated them, I just find something else to play).

    3. I know I’m going to open a can of worms here, but I have a different angle on the whole “is piracy theft?” debate. I would say that yes, it most definitely is theft. I know, nothing physical is taken from the developer or publisher, so who exactly are the pirates stealing from? Me. No, I’m not a game designer, programmer or publisher; I’m just a paying customer, and every pirate out there is stealing my hard-earned money. How? If a publisher perceives a loss of revenue due to piracy, they’ll try to recover some of it by raising the sticker price on their games. Then, they’ll go and tack on some ludicrous DRM scheme in an attempt to foil the pirates; but in doing so they only end up causing problems for me, and increasing their production costs, so they once again raise the sticker price and cost me more money. In short, a portion of the money I pay for every single game is part of the price because of pirates playing games for free, and I’m furious about it. I think anyone who pays for games should be outraged at the pirates who are literally costing them money. No, I’m not happy with many of the publishers and the DRM they implement, and no I don’t think it’s right and they definitely shouldn’t be given a free pass, but at the same time I think we need to shift a bit of our rage and anger from the publishers to the pirates; that would definitely have an impact on the stigma of piracy.

    So how about it, pirates? You are stealing from me by making me pay the cost of your entertainment. I don’t care if you never would have bought the games to begin with; the fact is that your actions have cost me money. Go ahead and rationalize your way out of that one!

  48. Mayhem says:

    Interesting discussion going on, I especially like the comments from Garwulf and Ehlijen.

    Here is a thought from what I have been reading so far.
    Digital piracy is essentially counterfeiting, not theft.
    So the real goal for the game developers and DRM is simply to have some way of telling a legitimate purchased copy from a duplicate, when the duplicate is a 1:1 copy of the media.

    And since there is no easy way of doing that in a purely offline game, they propose to abandon that method of play in favour of tying the potential customer to a controlled server for verification purposes.

    In fact when you think about it, this is the same thing that has been happening all along, in a steadily escalating arms race.
    First physical media like manuals and page checks were beaten by the spread of photocopiers, then disc checks were beaten by the spread of blank cds.
    Online activation became the only answer, which lead to the problem of preventing the activated copy from spreading, and pirates could compare an activated copy and a non-activated copy and soon spot the difference to figure out what you have done. That lead to Steam and constant ‘activation’ checks to ensure it is still *you* playing on the same machine.

    The problem is they have two different markets, those with a good internet connection and those without. You cannot satisfy both markets with the same product, and you cannot release into the second without breaking your own protections on the first.

    The only workaround I can see is to segregate your product, so that for example in an RTS you have a cheap single player version with 2/3 of the game for a low price, and a premium version of the game with extra units and online multiplayer for a higher price, coupled with a need to register an account with the developers for identification purposes. Thinking about it, thats more or less how Blizzard BattleNet v.1 works. Version 2.0 due to be released with Starcraft 2 is different, but then Blizzard also implied plans to abandon pure single player, which I think is the wrong way forward but they know the market best.
    That way you can accept the idea that your lesser product will be widely pirated, but encourage people to pay for a better product that you have a lot more control over. Write the losses on the lesser one off as advertising for example, or treat it as a fully functional demo. Maybe allow LAN play for a set number of people provided at least one full copy hosts, similar to how starcraft allowed spawning copies. That way the customers who are able to take advantage of your better product can do so, while those limited by price/connection to the lesser product can still experience the game.
    It also puts a stigma on those on the lesser mulitplayer experience to upgrade their copy as soon as they can, else face social pressures of inadequacy.

    A quote to finish:
    Basically, there were two sides to the world. There was the entire computer games software industry engaged in a tremendous effort to stamp out piracy, and there was Wobbler. Currently, Wobbler was in front.
    — Terry Pratchett, Only You Can Save Mankind

    1. If it works on Starcraft 2, you will probably see a huge wave of it.

      I’m also hoping it works for Assassin’s Creed. That could save PC Gaming.

      People don’t realize just how close to the edge some industries are. The dramatic change in the movie industry is only the harbringer of more changes.

      Though consoles can expect more built in support for DRM and more aggressive licenses (so that the console phones home and tells them where you live and how to come seize your equipment when you’ve been pirating).

      Or auto-purges to “protect” itself, so that pirated software can lead to scrubbed hard drives and a scrubbed system on your console that has to be factory re-set.

  49. MaxEd says:

    As another self-proclaimed pirate AND a game developer (in Russia with it long traditions of piracy enough developers pirate western colleagues works), I tell you this: the way to stop piracy is to change relationships between users & content producers.

    First, I DO pay for games, music & books. Sometimes. When:
    a) I really would like to see author go on and make more of what’s he is doing
    b) There is a convenient way to pay

    For example, I played through about 30% of Fallout 3, but I’d rather see Bethesda go bankrupt that to see them make another Fallout game. In fact, if I could do something other than not paying for F3 to stop them, I’d probably do it.

    On the other hand, I had no troubles paying for Eschalon. It was a greay indie RPG and I felt that my money were well spent, since developers were going to produce a second part.

    In third example (a very sad one), when Spiderweb Software’s shop refused to even try to accept my credit card, I went to torrents, downloaded Geneforge 5 and even wrote my own key-generator for it (after about 4 hours of debugging & looking at disassembly; I did not share the keygen, though). I’m going to try to buy the next Spiderweb game again, but if their shop still refuses to sell it to me, I see no moral problems with pirating it.

    But that’s just the problems with current model. Trouble is, people need to pay for product that is already made and ready. And easily available. It’s like paying for air. Of course, what they really do is help developer to pay off expenses and finance NEXT project, but it’s not direct. The way to “combat” (actually, side-step) piracy that I like the most is to have people finance development of game, not pay for complete product. It could be done with micro-patronage, when their money REALLY go to the developer, or with “content-as-hostage” model, where content is not released until some set sum is paid.

    If I ever release my own game (presently, I’m working on MMO project at my workplace, so we are not affected by piracy), I will probably try one of these schemes.

  50. (LK) says:

    Ubisoft’s new super-extra-abrasive flavor of DRM took less than 24h to crack.

    They issued a statement saying the crack rumors were false and ambiguously said people who cracked it don’t have the full game… but… it’s a lie. I’ve done the rounds and checked comments and nobody’s said a thing about the crack not working.

    1. Miral says:

      And the latest news is that Ubisoft’s servers went down, so that their paying customers are now completely locked out of the game while the pirates aren’t even slightly inconvenienced.

      My, what an excellent anti-piracy system they have built. You can just see the incentive to not pirate the game. Oh wait.

      (For the record: I did not buy it, nor have I pirated it. Had it lacked the stupid DRM, however, I would have bought it.)

      1. ima420r says:

        The servers go down and no one can play their games due to the DRM not being able to check for authentication. Do you think they will learn from their mistakes? Admit defeat and try something different? Nope! I bet the next game has even more DRM!

  51. I think the best way to make piracy stop seeming cool would be to stop giving pirates a constant slew of reverse engineering challenges. The fact is, as it stands now, piracy *is* cool. Look at it: It’s an underworld of skilled hackers waging a software war, dutifully disassembling and smashing every piece of code protection The Man tries to put in their way. Straight outta cyberpunk.

    When every game comes with no DRM, then piracy won’t be cool. Piracy will just be what losers do, who buy into an honor system without any honor.

    Don’t challenge people to pirate your game, because they will.

  52. My wife had arrived from your South, so I what food was in good hands.
    The breaking-in of young wild steers to be effective inside
    team seemed somewhat cruel. He told Mother
    that his two black boys became very nasty the
    night if we left their camp; they yelled and sang during most of the night.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

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

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

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

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.