Avast, Ye Mateys!

Avast, Ye Mateys!
Rob from the Rich, Steal from the Poor

Jordan Deam | 17 Feb 2009 13:04
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Carmel had read Carroll's assessment of the widespread piracy of Ricochet Infinity, so he was prepared for the worst. And only a month after World of Goo's release, he reached a remarkably similar conclusion: 90 percent of the people playing the game hadn't paid for it. (After an outcry on PC Gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Carmel revisited the numbers and concluded the actual figure was closer to 82 percent.) But where Reflexive was shocked into action by their figures, Carmel and Gabler maintained their composure. "There's no rational reason to get worked up here," Carmel says.

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"First, I don't see someone searching for a game on a torrent site, seeing that it's not there and then deciding to go and purchase it legitimately. They'll either keep searching until they find it or not buy it at all. Second, I suspect that most pirates are kids or college students who have more time than money. If I earned nine bucks an hour and had a ton of leisure time, I would probably choose to spend a little extra time getting the game for free and spend my 20 bucks on something else."

For his part, Carmel recognizes the limitations of the current business model, and like McMillen and Purho, he'd rather people had a chance to play his game whether they're able to pay for it or not. But weighing commercial concerns against more artistic ones can be a delicate balancing act. "If someone in rural China who is earning a dollar a day plays the game without paying, I'm happy about it," Carmel says. "On the other hand, if I personally torrent Crayon Physics Deluxe or Gish and not pay for them, then I suck. I can easily afford to pay for those games, and they're worth every penny. Every dollar is a vote, and by paying for the games I like, I vote in favor of Petri and Edmund making more games."

What lies ahead
Despite the financial urgency piracy brings for many major PC game developers, the extent of the problem - to say nothing of the possible solutions - is still up for debate. The most precise numbers available to developers are still only estimates - and that's only if the game in question has a server-side component. Developers of titles without this connectivity are left completely in the dark

"It's on everybody's mind," Fitterer says. He cites the 80- to 90-percent of World of Goo's player-base that acquired the game illegally. "Certainly, everybody's wondering, 'Well, what percentage of those would have bought it if they couldn't have torrented it?' And that's a good question. I doubt it's zero."

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