1988: The Golden Age of Game Piracy

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I can remember trading C64 disks in study hall in middle school. And yes, Archon was one of them. Sorry Paul. At the time, I knew barely you could BUY games. Around here it was only at special stores. Nothing like the electronics department at Walmart existed.

I just wish game publishers would stop punishing paying customers for piracy.

nerd51075:
Think about it this way:
Bill has enough money to buy a single game, and there is an identical version online that he can get for free. Bill has two choices: buy the game legitimately, or get the pirated version. Any person thinking completely rationally would take the latter option. Bill's going to get the game either way, so we'll assume he got the pirated game. Since he didn't pay for the game, but would have if the free version wasn't readily available to him, the company that sells the game lost a sale they would have had. People like Bill are what has developers worried, not the minority who won't or can't spend their money on games.

Your contrived scenario just doesn't exist. This argument is a logical fallacy called a false dilemma. In reality consumers have many alternatives to buying or pirating a specific game. They can play something else, they can watch TV, they can go bowling or work out or clean the house. And your scenario ignores the fundamental reality that pirated games are available and the publisher/dev can't do a damn thing about it.

A better analogy would be a restaurant in town. Everyone knows restaurants throw away piles of perfectly good food. The choice would be to go in and pay the price the restaurant is asking or dig through the dumpster(pirate) a bit until you find the equivalent of a meal. Some people are perfectly happy digging through the dumpster and have a visceral satisfaction that they are "sticking it to the man". Rather than worrying about the people digging through the dumpster it is the job of the restaurant to make sure the people who walk in the front door are treated to a great experience. And when they they walk out proud of themselves for getting such a great value for their money, and recommend the restaurant to all their friends and write positive online reviews.

But what is happening with the industry in general is that to cut costs they are taking the eat in experience closer and closer to the dumpster experience. In fact it is worse for some people because armed guards(drm) follow them around to make sure they don't share with their friends.

Look at what used to come in a game box:

image

Big box art, cloth map, well printed manuals.

Now a boxed game comes with DRM and if you are lucky a poorly formatted PDF manual somewhere on the disk. And 3/4 of them require you to make an account on yet another damn service that you don't care about.

The problem in most cases is without even considering price the pirated product is SUPERIOR to the retail product. Devs/publishers need to make the case that the consumer should support them for reasons other than archaic and obscure "intellectual property" arguments.

In my opinion, piracy did more good for gaming in the long run than bad.
I, and many others, pirated when we were kids and poor. When we grew up and started working, we started buying games. We even bought games we played all those years ago. Without piracy, we probably wouldn't be gamers, and we wouldn't be paying customers nowadays. Tim Schafer pirated in his youth and probably wouldn't be the same designer we all know and love if he hadn't. Bill Gates said he wants people to pirate his software as long as they pirate because they will buy it when the mentality / economic situation changes.

I support piracy, to an extent. If you pirate a game and you liked it but can't afford it, wait until you can and buy it; it's fair. If the game was shit, don't buy it. It means being cautious about your money, not stealing and it's fair game in my book.

Piracy doesn't hurt the industry and will not destroy it the same way it didn't destroy the music and film industry. Piracy is, in fact, one of the best things that happened to all of them.

Well I got my second game ever (the first prince of persia) from a floppy my uncle copied me in 1996.

I used my child therapist to copy games in 1999 because he had a (3000 DM) cd burner.

So...

I still don't get why this was less piracy than stuff is now. I even had a children's book where the children detectives brought down a group of software crackers (who, to be fair, sold their copies rather than giving them away which is a HUGE difference).

Back when I was very young, during a trip to visit some relatives, I was playing these games with my cousin which were left behind by an older cousin on her somewhat aged windows 95 computer. It was a heck of a lot of fun despite the fact that there weren't that many instructions, so we kind of had to guess what to do in them.

Years later, I figured out that the games we were playing were actually the complete NES library.

Drake666:
I never understand why there's no demos anymore.

Are they afraid they'll lost all their "sucker" clients (you know, the guys who wouldn't have buy it if they knew for what they were paying for...) ?
Or are games nowadays so heavy and complex that you couldn't offer only a part of it without giving too much of the product ? (I doubt it...)

There's a lot of games I've bought after "testing" it (one way or another) and a lot I wouldn't have bought if I could have played it before (Master of Orion 3 or Might and Magic 9, for example).

A game "lemon law" should exist :D

I agree . . . although I still don't resort to downloading pirated copies . . .

Instead, if there's a title I'm not sure of, I simply wait until the price falls through the floor. At least for PC titles that happens after only a few months . . . or, if Steam offers a killer sale for said title.

But, yeah, I don't see why we can't have demos, either - unless a title is simply so short that a demo would be like giving you 1/4 of the final product (which is kinda the case nowadays). Personally, I think it's just a little of game devs that can't be arsed enough to do so.

"Almost a half of all PCs in operation worldwide use pirated software, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA)."
From here:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/07/bsa_survey_pirate_software/

I have a question. With any law, how much of society does it take to ignore it, before it becomes meaningless? 50%, 75%, 90%. If everyone ignores a law does it not become meaningless.

With the 50% stat does it not indicate that society has spoken and that they don't rate the laws on copyright? Governments can enact whatever laws they like, but if they cannot enforce it and huge numbers ignore it, what does that say about that law?

As for the OP, bring back 'shareware' I say....

I never was aware of the age of fileswapping before this article. An interesting read and a good chunk of gaming history was described there. Thanks for the lesson!

Good. Probably the first article I've ever seen on the Escapist to consider that there is any other social or economic affect of piracy aside from simply saying over and over "PIRACY BAD!"

The crazy thing is that somehow developers seem to think that, if there were no piracy, people would still play exactly the same number and type of games but just pay for them. People don't magically have more money in a world without software piracy, people just overall have fewer games to play or movies to watch and perhaps pick a less expensive hobby.

And would you look at that! Piracy didn't change anything. The same companies that existed then, exist now. And their products were mostly pirated. And now those are multimillion dollar companies. I can see how piracy ruined them. Poor people. I'm not justifying piracy of course. That would be ridiculous. Nowadays you have 300+ people working for a whole year or even longer in order to create a product for our enjoyment. And some people just take it for free, like it's theirs. I'm just saying that piracy doesn't change anything. It always existed, and it will always exist. No use spending money trying to fight it. Valve has the right approach. Make your service more enjoyable than the one pirates provide. It's that simple.

Actually in the UK the anti-Piracy and ultra widespread filesharing phenonenon had already bloomed in a way. One of the many many articles in the now sadly defunct weekly issue was about and i have sadly failed to bookmark took us back to the Scene days of the old cracker/hacker hobbyist and the outfit called Skidrow and one of its main exponents. He and some of his associates had actually been aressed and charged with pirating software and the old "Piracy is theft" campaign was even on public posters.

Edit Aha! Found it! http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_189/5763-The-Pirates-Ballad.2

In the 80s when I was a kid I had a Commodore 64 with over 200 disks with at least 5 copied games on each of them. These days I would probably go to jail for ten years for that.

Bobic:
Now here's a question. Does admitting to piracy over 20 years ago go against the escapist's over zealous anti piracy moderation?

Considering what they've probated/suspended people here over? yes, but then they'd have to suspend Yahtzee and Jim Sterling, the content just has different rules then the forums >.<

You know, one of the craziest things about that whole thing was, knowing what I know now about programming, the fact that they could fit a dozen games on a 5 1/4 floppy.

My dad and uncle had dozens of these, and almost none of them were legit. There were a few though - my Sesame Street games came with a special keyboard cover that was required to know how to play, and even then some games had the "check your instruction booklet on page 5, fourth paragraph, third word" type deal. It was weird thinking back to that when I finally related those times to the filesharing ordeals. Still, intellectual property is still a tough thing, debates going on all the time, so it's just something to learn from.

Very, very nice article. Well written and good to see somebody looking from both sides of the matter.

I think it's a pretty important point that as people get older, their tendency to buy rather than pirate does improve.

I went to school with a couple of guys who cracked games and made those little animated neon flashing shout outs at the begining of cracked games. I had access to no end of games. I still bought the really good ones like Pirates! Californian Games, Pools of Radiance and the like, I also bought the cheapies like Armour of Antiriad, Judge Dredd and Parallax. Literally everyone I knew with an Apple IIe, Commodore 64, Vic 20 or Spectrum had some copied games. It was fucking endemic.

rembrandtqeinstein:

..

But what is happening with the industry in general is that to cut costs they are taking the eat in experience closer and closer to the dumpster experience. In fact it is worse for some people because armed guards(drm) follow them around to make sure they don't share with their friends.

Look at what used to come in a game box:

Big box art, cloth map, well printed manuals.

Now a boxed game comes with DRM and if you are lucky a poorly formatted PDF manual somewhere on the disk. And 3/4 of them require you to make an account on yet another damn service that you don't care about.

The problem in most cases is without even considering price the pirated product is SUPERIOR to the retail product. Devs/publishers need to make the case that the consumer should support them for reasons other than archaic and obscure "intellectual property" arguments.

It makes me sad.

I still have my Ultima V cloth map. Unfortunately not the contents of the Elite box. My keyboard overlays for Red Storm Rising and F19 Stealth Fighter suffered death by hundreds of hours of gameplay. A lot of my hardbound game manuals have survived and is now on my bookshelf having outlived the boxes they belonged to.

I can really symphatize with the punch in the gut feeling developers might have had in the '80s. But I have no sympathy with the cash grabbing publishers that we are faced with now.

And it goes further than just the physical contents of the box. A lot of the games released today would have been called expansion packs or mods 10 years ago and sold at half the price. There is almost no game development or innovation happening now. And yet we are faced with DRM and an overall worse product than what is pirated.

Some managers should be ashamed of themselves.

Zachary Amaranth:
Horse Porn? Was this seriously a thing one of the companies did to discourage piracy?

She said the cracks had horse porn on them, not that those cracks were distributed by game companies as a deterrent.

Vrach:
- snip -

edit: Oh and another thing. You say you understand a conversation needs to start between the two, aye? Tell me then, do you think yourself above and beyond the entire game industry? Do you think that between all the people working there, including people who have the university level education on the subject, not a single one of them realises this fact?

Democracy works in a very similar way. I don't talk to everyone in the nation, but we vote based on our opinions, and the results reflect a basically-proportionate representation of the people voting.

Now, if the change I'm looking for doesn't happen, it means that not enough people support what I'm looking for. Welcome to the world. If, as consumers, we each individually "vote with our wallets," that doesn't mean you're going to get the result you want--you might be in the minority opinion on something.

I'm not talking about guaranteed results. Don't be naive. I'm talking about people that, individually, send an inconsistent message. If you don't support a company, don't buy their stuff. But also, don't steal from them. When you steal, you're telling them you want their stuff... but you just don't want to pay for it. So, there's no reason for them to change their products (except to make them a bit harder to steal).

It's about knowing how to communicate what you're asking for, consistently. It won't guarantee you get it, but it'll certainly increase the chances.

(As to your edit, were you hoping to make some kind of point with that? What, because I do/don't work in the gaming industry or do/don't have a particular degree/job, I'm not allowed to suggest anything? Just because someone else in the world may have had the same idea, and possible had it earlier than me, I'm not allowed to express it? Please.)

Bostur:

It makes me sad.

I still have my Ultima V cloth map. Unfortunately not the contents of the Elite box. My keyboard overlays for Red Storm Rising and F19 Stealth Fighter suffered death by hundreds of hours of gameplay. A lot of my hardbound game manuals have survived and is now on my bookshelf having outlived the boxes they belonged to.

I can really symphatize with the punch in the gut feeling developers might have had in the '80s. But I have no sympathy with the cash grabbing publishers that we are faced with now.

And it goes further than just the physical contents of the box. A lot of the games released today would have been called expansion packs or mods 10 years ago and sold at half the price. There is almost no game development or innovation happening now. And yet we are faced with DRM and an overall worse product than what is pirated.

Some managers should be ashamed of themselves.

You're blaming the game companies for something that may or may not be their fault.

Game manuals today suck. Why?
Do people not read manuals because they're terrible?
Or are game manuals terrible because people don't read them?

Alleged cutting game content to sell as DRM is becoming more common place. Why?
Are they going the DRM route to get MORE money out of people?
Or are they going that route because piracy and the used games market have forced them to take that route to make any real profit?

Games are shorter and are released more regularly. Why?
Are games shorter because the GDs are being cheap?
Or are they shorter because only high fidelity graphics sell and the better detailed the world the harder it is to include more of it. Also bearing in mind that graphics are advancing all the time so the longer you take to make your game the more out dated it'll be by release.

Are games released more regularly so that GDs can get cash on a regular basis?
Or is the audience so ADD that if you don't put a carrot in front of their face every few months they'll permanently jump ship and join a franchise that does?

There's two or more sides to every development and you can't assume that the cause of games today are SOLELY because of the producers/developers. Games are the way they are today in part because that is what people want.

If games are crap it's because people are buying that crap,so why put money into a gem that won't make money when you can put money into a crap game that'll people will buy by the thousands?

Vrach:
snip

Also, to further address your point: Yes, the publishers can start the discussion "anytime they want." What you're failing to ask is, "Why would they?"

Right now, we're buying their products. As far as they're concerned, everything's fine -- they're making money. If we stop buying, it's like someone shutting off the water while you shower. You're going to notice, and you're going to investigate rather quickly.

However, if they see that the reason they're losing money is piracy, they see no reason to change the product. If people are pirating it, they obviously want the product (they just want it for free). And if those pirates are trying to "suggest" what should be changed, well... Would you listen to someone's suggestions on your interior decorating while they were robbing your house?

Pirates are dirty, freeloading thieves (to publishers). They're not paying any money, so they're not even customers. Why should their suggestions matter?

Again, it's not about guaranteed results, it's about bettering your chances. Writing a letter to your mayor about something that's wrong in your town doesn't guarantee he'll work to change it. But you stand a better chance than if you throw a brick through his window, with a note written in backwards Romanian. Communicating effectively increases your chances.

Akalabeth:

Bostur:

It makes me sad.

I still have my Ultima V cloth map. Unfortunately not the contents of the Elite box. My keyboard overlays for Red Storm Rising and F19 Stealth Fighter suffered death by hundreds of hours of gameplay. A lot of my hardbound game manuals have survived and is now on my bookshelf having outlived the boxes they belonged to.

I can really symphatize with the punch in the gut feeling developers might have had in the '80s. But I have no sympathy with the cash grabbing publishers that we are faced with now.

And it goes further than just the physical contents of the box. A lot of the games released today would have been called expansion packs or mods 10 years ago and sold at half the price. There is almost no game development or innovation happening now. And yet we are faced with DRM and an overall worse product than what is pirated.

Some managers should be ashamed of themselves.

You're blaming the game companies for something that may or may not be their fault.

Game manuals today suck. Why?
Do people not read manuals because they're terrible?
Or are game manuals terrible because people don't read them?

Alleged cutting game content to sell as DRM is becoming more common place. Why?
Are they going the DRM route to get MORE money out of people?
Or are they going that route because piracy and the used games market have forced them to take that route to make any real profit?

Games are shorter and are released more regularly. Why?
Are games shorter because the GDs are being cheap?
Or are they shorter because only high fidelity graphics sell and the better detailed the world the harder it is to include more of it. Also bearing in mind that graphics are advancing all the time so the longer you take to make your game the more out dated it'll be by release.

Are games released more regularly so that GDs can get cash on a regular basis?
Or is the audience so ADD that if you don't put a carrot in front of their face every few months they'll permanently jump ship and join a franchise that does?

There's two or more sides to every development and you can't assume that the cause of games today are SOLELY because of the producers/developers. Games are the way they are today in part because that is what people want.

If games are crap it's because people are buying that crap,so why put money into a gem that won't make money when you can put money into a crap game that'll people will buy by the thousands?

I assume nothing. I just lament the fact that I get less for more. Should I be happy about worse products?

Game manuals today suck. Why?
Do people not read manuals because they're terrible?
Or are game manuals terrible because people don't read them?

I don't read them because they are terrible, contain no actual information and I hate PDF files.

Alleged cutting game content to sell as DRM is becoming more common place. Why?
Are they going the DRM route to get MORE money out of people?
Or are they going that route because piracy and the used games market have forced them to take that route to make any real profit?

I have no idea, I avoid buying the games with the worst DRM. And support the ones without DRM out of principle.

Games are shorter and are released more regularly. Why?
Are games shorter because the GDs are being cheap?
Or are they shorter because only high fidelity graphics sell and the better detailed the world the harder it is to include more of it. Also bearing in mind that graphics are advancing all the time so the longer you take to make your game the more out dated it'll be by release.

Well maybe that trend is impossible to sustain. Maybe we reached a point where the fidelity is good enough, and focusing on game design would be more worthwhile.

If games are crap it's because people are buying that crap,so why put money into a gem that won't make money when you can put money into a crap game that'll people will buy by the thousands?

If the store only sells crap, we will buy it. Maybe if we had some variety to choose from we could avoid the crap.

Bostur:

Akalabeth:

Bostur:

It makes me sad.

I still have my Ultima V cloth map. Unfortunately not the contents of the Elite box. My keyboard overlays for Red Storm Rising and F19 Stealth Fighter suffered death by hundreds of hours of gameplay. A lot of my hardbound game manuals have survived and is now on my bookshelf having outlived the boxes they belonged to.

I can really symphatize with the punch in the gut feeling developers might have had in the '80s. But I have no sympathy with the cash grabbing publishers that we are faced with now.

And it goes further than just the physical contents of the box. A lot of the games released today would have been called expansion packs or mods 10 years ago and sold at half the price. There is almost no game development or innovation happening now. And yet we are faced with DRM and an overall worse product than what is pirated.

Some managers should be ashamed of themselves.

You're blaming the game companies for something that may or may not be their fault.

Game manuals today suck. Why?
Do people not read manuals because they're terrible?
Or are game manuals terrible because people don't read them?

Alleged cutting game content to sell as DRM is becoming more common place. Why?
Are they going the DRM route to get MORE money out of people?
Or are they going that route because piracy and the used games market have forced them to take that route to make any real profit?

Games are shorter and are released more regularly. Why?
Are games shorter because the GDs are being cheap?
Or are they shorter because only high fidelity graphics sell and the better detailed the world the harder it is to include more of it. Also bearing in mind that graphics are advancing all the time so the longer you take to make your game the more out dated it'll be by release.

Are games released more regularly so that GDs can get cash on a regular basis?
Or is the audience so ADD that if you don't put a carrot in front of their face every few months they'll permanently jump ship and join a franchise that does?

There's two or more sides to every development and you can't assume that the cause of games today are SOLELY because of the producers/developers. Games are the way they are today in part because that is what people want.

If games are crap it's because people are buying that crap,so why put money into a gem that won't make money when you can put money into a crap game that'll people will buy by the thousands?

I assume nothing. I just lament the fact that I get less for more. Should I be happy about worse products?

You assume everything. Your post is so anti-game developer/publisher it's bleeding assumption out the seams.

As for "pay more for less"
Ultima IV in 1988 cost 24.95 GBP. That's 40 USD. Which according to some inflation converters online works out to 72 USD. Which, in case it's not apparent is MORE than 40-60 bucks that most games cost today.

So if anything, you're paying less for less if you go by the notion you're actually paying less.

It's still the same with me... I might be 25 years old but I remember that time vividly, making copies of floppy disk games so you or your friends can run them etc... Heh that was fun then again i was poor so an apple 2 to me was really great to have. That aside I can't say that I am completely innocent now, I do download patches/hacks to make certain games work with out keys/etc however i have become more interested in visual novels that hardly require those things, not they don't "mind you re-write is a paint to patch" but from my stand point when your going to invest 100-160 dollars in a game you have to make sure that it's worth your time or else.. Getting off the subject again. I still make back-ups of all of my games no matte what the system is, It might not be morally right but to hell with morals, when I buy something I own it.

Akalabeth:

You assume everything. Your post is so anti-game developer/publisher it's bleeding assumption out the seams.

As for "pay more for less"
Ultima IV in 1988 cost 24.95 GBP. That's 40 USD. Which according to some inflation converters online works out to 72 USD. Which, in case it's not apparent is MORE than 40-60 bucks that most games cost today.

So if anything, you're paying less for less if you go by the notion you're actually paying less.

Yes games were expensive, everything was because we didn't earn as much. Compare the prices of games to the prices of hardware. Today the price of 10 games will buy me a new gaming rig. In 1990 the hardware I played Ultima V on cost me the price of 30 games. It was an expensive hobby.

Maybe I paid less, maybe I paid more. But having experienced the trends in gaming for 25 years I have never felt as ripped off as I do now.

And for its own sake, the Cambrian explosion that was Commodore 64 game development went on to influence some of the greatest games and game-makers of all time, giving birth to franchises such as Ultima, Pitfall!, and Wizardry.

The Commodore 64 was released in 1982.

Pitfall! was also released in 1982.

Wizardry was released in 1981

Ultima, in 1980.

I'm just sayin'.

dyre:

FelixG:
I wonder what would have been more of a punch in the gut...

"Hey I made a product so many people think is interesting that thousands are downloading it!"

or

"Wow, I made a shit product that only 12 people bought and no one bothered to upload..."

Perspective.

I like how both options involve people playing the developer's hard work without paying for it...

Not at all, in the first option people buy it and pirates want to play it

in the second option only a few people buy it and those buyers dont even think its worth the time to make it available to pirates.

FelixG:

dyre:

FelixG:
I wonder what would have been more of a punch in the gut...

"Hey I made a product so many people think is interesting that thousands are downloading it!"

or

"Wow, I made a shit product that only 12 people bought and no one bothered to upload..."

Perspective.

I like how both options involve people playing the developer's hard work without paying for it...

Not at all, in the first option people buy it and pirates want to play it

in the second option only a few people buy it and those buyers dont even think its worth the time to make it available to pirates.

That's just a false dilemma. The guy goes on a pirating site, already knowing about how many sales his game is getting, and then if he doesn't see the game up for pirating, he's supposed to think that his game is all of a sudden selling worse than it actually is?

The number of legitimate sales has nothing to do with the number of pirated downloads a game gets (well, alright, 0.05% of pirates might eventually buy the game, but that's hardly an important factor). It's not even a variable; by the time he checks that site, he presumably already has approximated data on sales numbers. The only thing the piracy statistic shows is how many people are taking his work for free.

Interesting article. I thought that physical piracy (you get what I mean; not stealing gold off ships) was a lot less widespread than digital piracy, but maybe that's not true.

Personally, I think it's fine to illegally download a retail game to see if you like it first. But, as long as we're talking new games here, to illegally download and enjoy most of the retail games you've played, and not pay for them, shows that you don't have the intelligence to realize what you've just done. They're games to you, but they're a lot of hard work for the game developers. Game developers are infamous for having to work overtime, all the time. If you can afford a modern PC or a modern game console, you can definitely afford at least some games a year.

But anyway, I'm practically preaching to the choir here. The user-base of The Escapist is pretty well-informed on this subject already. It's really the astoundingly stupid users of IGN who need to read this stuff.

"It turns out that an awful lot of people back in 1988 were what we would call "software pirates" in 2003. The label and indeed the notion didn't exist then."

Horsecrap.

I was a software pirate in the '80s. We hacked and cracked everything from the original Castle Wolfenstein to the early Ultima games. "PPG", for example, was "Pacific Pirates Guild", and known through their prolific endeavors. Everyone knew it was illegal, no one cared because there was next to no enforcement, and it was hardly "innocent"...in fact, it was usually done for the exact same reason it's done today. Because you could, and you were too cheap or poor to buy the games you wanted.

I pirated anything and everything I could get my hands on back in the Amiga days. To be fair, I did buy some things too, mainly the best games like The Bard's Tale and Starflight, and most Amiga games couldn't be bought in stores at all anywhere here in Western Australia. It was just how you got games back then.

It's been a long time since those days, though, and a long time since I last pirated anything. I remember in the early nineties as Amiga software became more easily available, I started to buy more and copy less. By the time I bought my first PC I was buying pretty much everything I played rather than copying it.

I sure hope mods wouldn't stoop to banning people simply for admitting long-ago dodgy behavior. I for one think I've more than paid back the industry with the sheer amount of money I've poured into it since then. Money that I probably wouldn't have spent if it weren't for playing all those games as a kid and developing a lifelong love of gaming. If I didn't have games growing up (and my family was pretty poor back then, I wouldn't have had even a twentieth of those games if we had only purchased), then I probably would've stuck solely with my other, cheaper love - books.

I really don't get why publishers and part of the public, namely the governing one keeps clinging to a notion of software distribution that it is simply out of date.

There are quite a few arguments to condone piracy that I deem valid, namely excessive pricing (Why does MW3 ship for 60 bucks when there's clearly no significant gameplay, art or enginge change? They could just sell it for $20 and make the same amount of money.), DRM (And yes, this is a reason not to buy a game. DRM made it impossible for me to play From Dust/Silent Hunter 5 EVEN THOUGH I BOUGHT THE GAME), lack of demos. But the justification of pirating is not really the point. Whether you may feel good enough about pirating to do it or not is debatable and purely based on personal opinion. Personally I bought every title of the HL series because I knew they were worth it and I trusted the developers to deliver a high end product and price/value balance. Piracy is publicly accepted, a crime only in paper law and I refuse to believe that the only countermeasure the industry has come up is DRM.

Why wage war upon all your customers, paying and pirates alike, when obviously that will just stop the pirates (and maybe even a few proper customers) from playing your games at all?
Sure World of Goo was pirated quite a few times as well. But I personally know quite a few people who bought the game out of pure respect for the developers, while I wouldn't even flinch before depriving Ubisoft or Activision from their sales revenues.

To put it bluntly, if a law can't stop the public commiting piracy, why not legalize it and so get to regulate it. (Please don't stretch this point towards rape crime or some drug bullshit)
There are many ideas about how the Internet software market could develop, but developers/publishers whining about how piracy is killing game industry isn't exactly what I would call proactive.

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