1988: The Golden Age of Game Piracy

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Well said good sir, "Well said"

For my part: I was an unrepentant pirate of games and music and movies.

Im still unrepentant, but I find myself now adays buying all my games through Steam and Impulse as its just so much more convenient for me, I dont have to worry about viruses from downloading, fucking up my game disks, loosing them. iTunes has done the same thing for my music. I still download the occasional movie just because the theaters are crap not carrying some of the films I am interested in and Netflix's streaming not having new release DVDs.

Once a good service comes along that has streaming available the same day DVDs are released (or god willing theater release in the future) I will likely give up those downloads as well.

i64ever:
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.

It really was like that. In 1983, my mom and I bought this fancy thing called a Commodore64. We bought it from Germany, I think you couldn't get them in Sweden at that time.

I had no idea that games could be bought! I had never seen a shop selling games. Lots of adults around me worked with electronics, computers and programming. My stepdad brought home a floppy every now and then, and if I ever considered where games came from, I thought that they were made by his friends.

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

They have that in place to protect the site from any liability. Also to protect their reputation.

We pirated everything when I was a kid growing up. The first thing we did is buy a shareware collection at CompUSA for our brand new 486. That was the last piece of legitimate software we bought for years and even then it was shareware.
We pirated DOS 6.22, Windows 3.1, we pirated Windows 95 when it came out. My dad got my Playstation chipped and bought burned games for $5 per title from one his coworkers. It meant I played a LOT more Playstation games then I would have otherwise. I still bought some titles new, mostly RPGs.

Now that I am older I actually buy most of my games. I'll still download something to demo it before I buy if I'm on the fence.

rembrandtqeinstein:
And here is the line that is the crux of the issue:

The actual economic impact of piracy was so intangible, so impossible to calculate accurately, that my emotional response was untempered by anything practical.

The whole "piracy" bruhaha is a bunch of people "feeling bad" that they have less money coming in than in their made up fantasy world where they have more.

Copyright infringement is not and will never be a lost sale. And everyone needs to stop thinking about it that way. The people who play pirated games either don't have money or don't want to spend it on games, and if they don't have the option to pirate they will simply do without. They aren't customers so why bother worrying about them? Why spend one thought, one unity of energy on the people who aren't customers? Why not just spend that same effort satisfying existing customers?

i can see why anyone getting their hard work pirated (sp?) can be totally gut wrenching, but you are 100% right.

Also i feel the constant 360, PS3 updates (more ps3 than 360) and re-works of DRM do nothing but hurt the consumer. they prob cost the developers a lot of money to keep updating too.
a pirate will circumvent the new measures just as easily as the old one. better off with one method of that the everyday person could not crack by just doing a disc to disc copy, then leave it at that. this is all in my opinion obv

EDIT: also the amout of money that goes into taking one person to court is a complete waste, as its human nature to think "it wont happen to me" the pirates will carry on, n one less pirate is going to have no effect

I read somewhere that Leisure suit Larry was so much copied, it actually sold more strategy guides than actual copies of the game. That's putting things today in perspective I'd say.

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

no but some crackers made a very bad joke by including horse porn into their cracks "just for fun" at one point.

piracy didnt ruin industry. it didnt for music, it didnt for movies and it doesnt for games. variuos studies have already proven that around 90% of people either wouldnt buy the stuff anyway or buys the stuff if they think its good. the thing piracy did is made creators to create more games that are "Selling whores" rather than idealogy ones, which is bad imo. but it also pushed for better games, and making bad games go tits up is good.

If they would stop crying that thier sales dont make up for the costs and instead of putting half a million just to make DMR that gets cracked in 7 days they woudl use that to make, maybe, A GOOD GAME, they would have much better time.

It makes me wonder.

Did people actually see it the same way back in 1980 as they do it nowadays?
For some reason I can imagine 1980 developers fretting much and much less over floppy piracy.
I'm not even sure if the term already excisted in that time -or- laws existing to counter floppycopy (that's a catchy word there..).

Now in the current day and age projects consume much more time, personell, money and generally there are more things riding on the sales of a game. WIth that it becomes a bigger problem in today's world then back in 1980.

Or so I would think anyway.

As an aside, the downfall of Commodore was not to do with cheap PCs. It was a combination of Commodore resting on its laurels when the C64 was at the top of home computer heap allowing its competitors to catch up, having no idea how to actually market the Amiga (which Commodore had acquired in 1984. Seriously, an Amiga engineer saw a TV ad for the Amiga 500, and didn't even realise what the ad was for), an almost complete failure to develop and market to the business sector (which allowed for the dominance of IBM in that area) and allowing the marketing division to start dictating the engineering division.

By the early 90's Commodore's hardware was no longer at the cutting edge of technology and the company was leaking money like sieve. It's an interesting story of a company hitting the highest of highs before crashing and burning hard.

Dastardly:
(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.)

My point was nothing personal at you. The point was, "if you can think of this (and I agree with you), why do you think thousands of people working for these companies can't and indeed haven't already?". Or in a nutshell, if what you thought was the solution was the solution, the companies would have the solution in their hands. Not as true for the consumer base as a whole, considering they're all random individuals.

Now from there, you can really only go one way the way I see it and that's that piracy's a non issue. Both capitalism and piracy are greedy ideas at their core. But, looking at the current situation, it's a love-hate relationship that just works. Both sides are bitching of course, consumers that they want a cheaper product, publishers/devs that they want every copy sold, but after all that's said and done, apparently it's harmonious enough for people to enjoy games and for publishers/devs to stay in business.

So we can have two systems. One is the "legal" and the "moral" one, where we pull a lot of effort, get the communication we need, lower the price of games and lower piracy with it. The other one is the one we got now. And since the companies in the business, who's primary concern of course is money (nothing wrong with it, it's business and needs to be run as such to a point) and who know they have it in their power to shift that balance towards the first system - since they don't care to do it, my bets are on the fact that they see they wouldn't gain much by it.

The same way companies could sell triple A titles for 30$ instead of 60$, a consumer today might buy one title and pirate another. Ethics aside, pragmatically, it all comes down to the same thing.

Dastardly:
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.

What you said right there is "piracy's not an issue to the publishers/developers". When it becomes an issue, a real issue and not one used for finger pointing, they have the knowledge and the means to start a discussion. On the day they do, I'll be open for a talk. Until that day, piracy stands shoulder to shoulder with the publishers/developers. I'm not even saying it's a bad situation, in a way it works out, hell maybe it's even better. The only downside really is ethics (and to note, the issue stands on both sides), but that's a fictional word used in a purely pragmatic context so...

By the early 90s, game developers were dropping weird file protection mechanics into their products.

By the early 90s???? DRM crapology was around way before then. Anyone remember that ridiculous plastic lens that came with 'Elite' for the 48k Spectrum in 1984?

The idea was that the game would load up (slooooowly, from your cassette player) and present you with a distorted alphanumeric code you could only see by squinting through the lens. Only by entering this proto captcha code could you play, but of course, the DRM was a fail. It really only worked if you were playing on a portable TV, you could lose or break the lens (and AcornSoft would *NOT* entertain requests for replacements) and yeah fuck it - if you're going to force legit buyers to drop out of the game because of a typo, you've only gone and pissed them off, haven't you?

So we went around to a 14 year old kid we knew who cracked the game for us, for a small fee. Bet that guy is doing well now. :)

nerd51075:

rembrandtqeinstein:
And here is the line that is the crux of the issue:

The actual economic impact of piracy was so intangible, so impossible to calculate accurately, that my emotional response was untempered by anything practical.

The whole "piracy" bruhaha is a bunch of people "feeling bad" that they have less money coming in than in their made up fantasy world where they have more.

Copyright infringement is not and will never be a lost sale. And everyone needs to stop thinking about it that way. The people who play pirated games either don't have money or don't want to spend it on games, and if they don't have the option to pirate they will simply do without. They aren't customers so why bother worrying about them? Why spend one thought, one unity of energy on the people who aren't customers? Why not just spend that same effort satisfying existing customers?

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.

true , but Bill still only is the potentially customer of 1 single game. he is not not-buying every game he could buy this month, its a total of 1 item lost to sale.after this he is part the "minority" of people unable or -willing to buy.
Lets stay in the mentioned "golden age" of 80s and early 90s i bought about 2 games a year, maybe 3-4 if i found some cheap on a flea market. Without the possibility of just copying and sharing games with my friends and cousins i would had a total of 2-3 games per annum. that was my potential as a customer, i couldnt afford more. If i would have been a 100% pirate back then, the loss i would have caused would have been 2 games a year. not the 10 i maybe got through sharing.

You numbers don't work.

"The Commodore 64 shipped between 12 and 17 million units in its entire product lifetime (1982-1994). By contrast, it took the Wii less than half that time to achieve that number, and today there are over 86 million Wiis [...] lighting up homes all over the world." Well, the Wii was released on November 19, 2006. So "half that time", that is, six years, hasn't passed yet. But you do say "almost half that time," and if it took four years or less for the Wii to reach between 12 and 17 million copies then you would have just written "a third" or "less than a third." So my guess is that you mean to tell us that it took between four and five years for the Wii to reach 12-17 million sold copies, but that's way too long, and besides, that would mean that lately Wii sales have skyrocketed unlike anything we've ever seen. So either the Wii sold faster than you thought, or "less than half that time" is a poorly chosen phrase.

Erin Hoffman:
1988: The Golden Age of Game Piracy

These days, videogame piracy is the industry's favorite villain, but once upon a time, copying games was an innocent pastime.

Read Full Article

Wow! While I appreciate the statement you are trying to make, I gotta say your impressions of "fileswapping" in 1988 bear about as much accuracy of the reality of the time as "That 70's Show" represents 1976. In other words virtually none.

1988? Innocent Fileswapping? Ummm no! We were PIRATES! We knew we were pirates. We knew exactly what we were doing, we just didn't care. We were dumb college kids. We proudly hoisted the Pirate flag over our Commodore's our Apples and our early model PC's. Our BBS's were emblazoned with piracy logo's and were prone to being shutdown by not so nicely worded letters from people like Bill Gates.

All sorts of early DRM schemes were tried. Among them the common "questions from the manual" approach. Some such as Origins Ultima trying to be clever enough to hide the answers on a piece of cloth from which certain blue markings would not photocopy (this being before the time of easy jpegs). They tried schemes were the games required the number 1 disk to run, and the disk was supposedly "uncopyable". Yeah we hacked that stuff easily.

Yeah our rampant copying and piracy did not seem to have a measurable impact on the games industry at the time, although the effect on the software industry as a whole was much more noticeable. This innocent "fileswapping" is why a bloody copy of Microsoft Office is only now dropping below the $500 price range. MS used to have to assume that every business on the planet was buying 1 copy and installing it everywhere (they were). It's why you as students or young graphics designers are still all but forced to use a pirate copy of Adobe Photoshop, rather than spend $3000. Back then the companies took the "healthcare/government services" approach to pricing. If most people aren't paying we simply boost the prices on those who are to cover it.

And this did impact the games side of the equation big time. The standard price for pretty much any new released PC or video game became $50 - $60 and has remained there for a very long time. The cost of copying remains built into it. Compare this to straight DLC games. iOS, Android and Steam. Have you ever noticed how much cheaper the prices are over there? How you can get some really good games for just a few $$$ if that? Well thank those "innocent fileswappers" from back in the early days of the dark ages. They tripple your retail prices back then, besides triggering the ongoing war of escalation that is DRM and filesharring.

I know. I was there. I was one of them. I then grew up to work in the industry and got to see how it all worked. There was nothing innocent about it. In either intent, understanding, or effects.

Fetzenfisch:

nerd51075:

rembrandtqeinstein:
And here is the line that is the crux of the issue:

The whole "piracy" bruhaha is a bunch of people "feeling bad" that they have less money coming in than in their made up fantasy world where they have more.

Copyright infringement is not and will never be a lost sale. And everyone needs to stop thinking about it that way. The people who play pirated games either don't have money or don't want to spend it on games, and if they don't have the option to pirate they will simply do without. They aren't customers so why bother worrying about them? Why spend one thought, one unity of energy on the people who aren't customers? Why not just spend that same effort satisfying existing customers?

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.

true , but Bill still only is the potentially customer of 1 single game. he is not not-buying every game he could buy this month, its a total of 1 item lost to sale.after this he is part the "minority" of people unable or -willing to buy.
Lets stay in the mentioned "golden age" of 80s and early 90s i bought about 2 games a year, maybe 3-4 if i found some cheap on a flea market. Without the possibility of just copying and sharing games with my friends and cousins i would had a total of 2-3 games per annum. that was my potential as a customer, i couldnt afford more. If i would have been a 100% pirate back then, the loss i would have caused would have been 2 games a year. not the 10 i maybe got through sharing.

While you may believe that you were at your utmost capacity in purchasing games back then, you probably weren't. If the option of sharing your games was not available, you may have found yourself bored enough with the games you then had to forgo some other entertainment opportunity in favor of a third or fourth game. These represent lost sales as well. Multiply that by the thousands and thousands who pirate games, and there is a significant loss for the gaming industry.

XT inc:
I think the issue here is Developers and gamers don't see eye to eye on Value and Pricing.

We want it as cheap as possible, they want it as expensive as possible.

Take black ops, I value their dlc at most at 19.99 for 20 maps.... They value it at just over 75 bucks with tax.

If you have a full group to play with 6-8 people. It gets real annoying splitting the group up just because they want so much cash for a game everyone is going to abandon for the next cod game.

And here we hit a problem with Intellectual Property. - And undoubtedly why those who object to the subtle spin calling it 'property' creates, instead choose to refer to it as 'intellectual monopoly'.

The fundamentals of capitalism as a theory demand that neither the buyers nor the sellers are large enough to dictate the price unilaterally.
The whole point of monopolies being bad, is that whoever has a monopoly (irrespective of whether they are buying or selling things), has absolute control over the price of a product.

In other words, because of copyright laws granting a legally enforced monopoly, the consumer has pretty much no influence whatsoever on the price of games.
You can argue that games compete with each-other, but games are not interchangeable products.
If you want, say, Mass effect 3, are you going to be happy with Fifa 2012?
Sure, there are less strained examples, but it still comes down to the fact that no two games (or films, or books, or whatever) are quite similar enough that you can argue that they're interchangeable in the way that for instance, a TV is much like any other TV. Or one brand of washing powder isn't hugely different from another.

But... While this shows the downside of copyright and the monopolies it creates, the problem is that the effective value (as amply demonstrated by piracy itself) of most works subject to copyright is... $0.
They have no inherent value. At best, you'd pay for the distribution costs, or the costs of the disk it came on. (very small numbers here), because when competition is applied in it's usual sense, copyrighted works (without their legal protection) pretty much have no financial value whatsoever.

Understandably, this implies, that without these laws, very few people would be willing to invest the effort to create such works to begin with.
Because, while the sale value may be $0, the development cost is quite high.
And anyone doing it for the money will note that if it costs you 1 million to make something, and you can only really give it away for free, then financially speaking it's not worth doing.

I'm probably going to get a lot of backlash for this, but these days I strongly believe that used game retailers have a greater impact on publishers/developers than the individual committing piracy. Its one thing to "lose" a sale to an individual who downloaded a game for free, its another to concretely lose a sale to an individual who paid $5 less than the retail price to get a used copy.

I in part agree with rembrandtqeinstein when stating that someone who is downloading a game can't really be counted as a loss since the likelihood that they could have purchased the product is negligible, where as someone buying a used copy has the means to purchase a retail copy but chooses to purchase the "discounted" copy and is infact a loss for the publisher/developer.

Bostur:

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.

If the games aren't worth your money then don't spend the money. That simple.
Or wait until they go on discount. A lot of the time I just buy games for 20 dollars, down from an original 40-60. Just bought and played Mirror's Edge last week. People complained about it when it came out, but for me it was pretty cheap so I just enjoyed it and had a fun time.

Also personally I intend to visit GOG in the near future and pick up some of the great games that came out years ago but I missed. All for just 5-10 dollars. Ultima Underworld 1+2, maybe some Wing Commander, etcetera.

Bottom line if you feel ripped off then spend your money in ways that you won't feel that way.

Personally for me money is not an issue, it's time. That's not to say I'm rich. Far from it. But if a game's boring or takes too much time doing mundane stuff then I can't be bothered by it. Which is probably why I can't get into most modern RPGs. Too much investment for too little pay off.

Akalabeth:

If the games aren't worth your money then don't spend the money. That simple.
Or wait until they go on discount. A lot of the time I just buy games for 20 dollars, down from an original 40-60. Just bought and played Mirror's Edge last week. People complained about it when it came out, but for me it was pretty cheap so I just enjoyed it and had a fun time.

Also personally I intend to visit GOG in the near future and pick up some of the great games that came out years ago but I missed. All for just 5-10 dollars. Ultima Underworld 1+2, maybe some Wing Commander, etcetera.

Bottom line if you feel ripped off then spend your money in ways that you won't feel that way.

Personally for me money is not an issue, it's time. That's not to say I'm rich. Far from it. But if a game's boring or takes too much time doing mundane stuff then I can't be bothered by it. Which is probably why I can't get into most modern RPGs. Too much investment for too little pay off.

It's not really an issue about money for me either. I just think it's sad to see the current stagnation. I often make use of GoG and Steam for old games or indy titles many of which in my opinion are superior to new AAA releases. It would be nice to occasionally see deeper games and games with better focus on gameplay with some of the polish that the large game developers can deliver.

When I look back at the distinctive designers of the '80s and '90s, people like Sid Meier, Molyneux, David Braben just to mention a few, there are very few new faces to replace them. It almost feels like the experimentation and innovation from back then has been lost and game designers start all over from scratch again.

Bostur:

Akalabeth:

If the games aren't worth your money then don't spend the money. That simple.
Or wait until they go on discount. A lot of the time I just buy games for 20 dollars, down from an original 40-60. Just bought and played Mirror's Edge last week. People complained about it when it came out, but for me it was pretty cheap so I just enjoyed it and had a fun time.

Also personally I intend to visit GOG in the near future and pick up some of the great games that came out years ago but I missed. All for just 5-10 dollars. Ultima Underworld 1+2, maybe some Wing Commander, etcetera.

Bottom line if you feel ripped off then spend your money in ways that you won't feel that way.

Personally for me money is not an issue, it's time. That's not to say I'm rich. Far from it. But if a game's boring or takes too much time doing mundane stuff then I can't be bothered by it. Which is probably why I can't get into most modern RPGs. Too much investment for too little pay off.

It's not really an issue about money for me either. I just think it's sad to see the current stagnation. I often make use of GoG and Steam for old games or indy titles many of which in my opinion are superior to new AAA releases. It would be nice to occasionally see deeper games and games with better focus on gameplay with some of the polish that the large game developers can deliver.

When I look back at the distinctive designers of the '80s and '90s, people like Sid Meier, Molyneux, David Braben just to mention a few, there are very few new faces to replace them. It almost feels like the experimentation and innovation from back then has been lost and game designers start all over from scratch again.

I suspect it's less a stagnation than a plateauing. Market forces have driven direction of AAA titles into a few narrow genres where innovation outside of that is risky, which is important from an investor's point of view. Look at one of the latest "big games" that was supposed to innovate, Spore, which turned out to be a major let down from what I understand (though I never played it myself).

The thing about the current game market as well is that like you say, indie games are just as widespread and accessible as AAA titles so people can pick and choose where they wish. Grab off XBLA, Steam, etcetera. Mind you are a lot of the new games really that innovative? One of the most highly regarded games from last year, Limbo, reminds me in style to that other game from waaay back when called Another World. Same sort of side scrolling, figure it out as you go along sort of game play.

Are games like stories where all the greatest stories/games have already been told, and now developers only seek to re-tell those stories/games in new and interesting ways?

Erin Hoffman:
The label and indeed the notion didn't exist then.

Actually, as the sysadmin of a very active Houston warez BBS from 1985-1989, I can tell you for a fact that the notion of piracy as the accurate description of what we were doing DID exist. Bill Gates didn't use the term explicitly in his letter to the HBC, but it was heavily implied. See also:http://www.leinss.com/files/piracy.pdf

I recall having a discussion with my fellow sysop on what would be needed to "catch" us red handed at "infringement" during which we did use the exact term "piracy" for our activities. Watch "Amazon Women On The Moon". The concept of intellectual property theft as _directly_ equivalent to piracy is on full display during one of the skits. I watched this movie while up/downloading several titles, and the similarity and appropriateness of the term was NOT lost on me.

Anyhoo, aside from that temporal nit, great article. Thanks for your recounting.

albino boo:

XT inc:
I think the issue here is Developers and gamers don't see eye to eye on Value and Pricing.

We want it as cheap as possible, they want it as expensive as possible.

Take black ops, I value their dlc at most at 19.99 for 20 maps.... They value it at just over 75 bucks with tax.

If you have a full group to play with 6-8 people. It gets real annoying splitting the group up just because they want so much cash for a game everyone is going to abandon for the next cod game.

As per normal the escapist manges to bring the economically ignorant. There is this thing called inflation which means that by keeping the price of games the same for 25 years actually represents a price cut of 2-3% per year. In today's money the $60 dollar price tag from 1988 would be about $100 dollars. So the gaming companies margins are being eternally squeezed so keep the price tag the same. They do this because they know if the on the shelf cost of game drifts above the $60 dollar mark the the actual money they make gets less. The increased price is more than offset by the decrease in sales. So far companies have be able to fund the vastly increasing cost of development by massively increasing sales. However in the era of $50 million development costs that is no longer enough to generate even a 4% return on investment (last time I looked actvision only made a 2.5% profit), so companies have to look to other ways of making money just to stand still.

Inflation doesn't work that way at all. It is the general price of goods increasing. So just because inflation is 10% and the interest on my money is 5% does not mean for me my money is worth 5% less as I have different costs. Stuff like fuel costs are put into inflation which game companies do not have to deal with in the same way as the Construction industry will.

Yes inflation will drive up wage costs which will increase costs of production but that depends on the strength of the TU. Given that games are an oligopoly(well closest to an oligopoly in AAA market) they can't just raise the price of games as people will not buy them.

Then there are various managerial diseconomies of scale which also increase the price.

You are also in this completely ignoring various economies of scale companies get by being so much bigger and having various perks of their size this also helps to keep the price down along with a massive increase in demand. So while I won't lie their margins are squeezed to a degree you are making it sound so much worse than it actually is. Then there is DLC. Whatever the price of games are this is cancelled out by DLC which is way overpriced for what you get usually. Although this can depend on the person stuff like CoD maps are way too expensive for what you get.

finally an opprotunity to use this

lithium.jelly:
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.

Heh, someone else from WA. My first computer was a C64 that came with nothing but pirated games, while my Amiga had a large-ish pirated games collection over its life as well as several disks that helped me copy games for friends. I bought some games from Bruinings Hedlam (including Ghostbusters II, which I always remember when people say, "Games today are too short and cost too much!" because games like that have always been around) but reflecting on it piracy was how I got most of my titles on those platforms.

Piracy has an interesting effect - at the macro level, you could say that piracy helps build future demand for games as an industry, but the micro level sees devs / studios less to earn a profit on their titles. Someone above mentioned that the same studios are still around despite piracy, but that isn't true - some are around in name only (Atari) and others have morphed into monolithic entities (EA) but lots of good studios are gone - Bullfrog, Psygnosis, Bitmap Brothers, Origin. Game studios get one expensive roll of the dice every few years, so it takes only one stumble before they are forced to shut down.

I do buy all my games now, but I'd hesitate to stretch that into "as people earn more money, they start buying their games". One friend I've got still pirates everything, even songs because "$1 is too much to pay for music". Apps you can get for a few dollars are being cracked and distributed. I grew up to want to own the games I played, but that attitude may not flow through to gamers used to playing and flipping games at GameStop, or those who can get the latest releases in 15 minutes on a torrent.

Anyway, interesting article.

AnnaIME:

i64ever:
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.

It really was like that. In 1983, my mom and I bought this fancy thing called a Commodore64. We bought it from Germany, I think you couldn't get them in Sweden at that time.

I had no idea that games could be bought! I had never seen a shop selling games. Lots of adults around me worked with electronics, computers and programming. My stepdad brought home a floppy every now and then, and if I ever considered where games came from, I thought that they were made by his friends.

same here. got my C-64 on 1986 and it lasted until 1988 when I switched to AMIGA. Until then the concept of buying software actually never occured to me. I wondered at times where this stuff comes from. How embarrassing.

But since 1989/90 I was starting to spent real money on buying games and DELUXE PAINT!!!

You know, today, as an adult who makes plenty of money, I always pay for any games or music I have access to (and I buy a lot of games and music). It's simply what feels right to me. On the other hand, when I was younger, I know my friends and I often shared games. Rarely this meant making an actual copy so much as trading cartridges or just passing a game on when one of us got tired of it. Still, it seems that today, gaming companies are trying to stop even this. Certainly I can't pass on the games that I bought on Steam to someone else. Most PC games also require a registration which has limited use. On the console market, companies have started taking away portions of games when they aren't new sales.

Now I realize they are trying to maximize their income, but this seems really short sighted to me for two reasons. The first is that you can't stop piracy. The RIAA might have gone after a few people but it never made so much as a dent in the pace of piracy, not even a whisper. All that DRM accomplishes is to punish paying customers. The DRM for the BioShock games for PC is so bad that I flat out can't play them (legally purchased new for the second time). On the other hand, someone who downloads the game from a torrent does away with all of that crap. The other part of what stands out to me is that you kind of want to expose young people to gaming to get them more interested in it. Now, obviously this doesn't apply to games like Call of Duty, but for most game devs, getting their games to be recognized isn't easy. Even for big developers, if they make a new title and it doesn't receive perfect reviews along side a huge marketing push, the chances of being noticed is close to nil.

What the industry wants are lots of people with plenty of expendable income willing to spend it on tons of games. In the long term, you get that by making games available to kids - many of whom have very little money themselves. That is to say, when kids are able to try games that they made not have paid the full sixty dollars for, they are much more likely to grow up and spend money on games as an adult.

We can argue till we all turn blue about whether piracy is a net bad or good (and both sides will bring up a lot of shady studies), but the real question I have is whether it is worth the effort to try to stop. I have never seen evidence that DRM has ever brought a developer a single additional dollar - let alone pay for the effort of including the DRM. On the other hand, I happen to know that I have burned through about ten hours of customer service rep time trying to get to the point where I can reliably play Bioshock on my PC (still can't). At minimum wage, that comes to about seventy dollars - more than I paid for the game even when you add up both purchases. In other words, they didn't just lose on the DRM, they lost money on the whole game sale. Granted, that's a special case, but it still doesn't seem to make good business sense.

in Bulgaria video games pirate download YOU!

I'm going to play my joker here, and apply Stephen Fry to the debate:

(The really relevant bit I suggest is in the last minute)

I'm never going to pretend that piracy is an absolute good (or bad) thing, but I really don't believe that extreme measures are going to help.

I, like so many escapists, had stacks of computer games on tapes and floppy discs, and now I'm older, and I've left school, and like my friends, work, earn, and buy the games I like, and support the games industry.

I understand it's so hard not to see every single torrent as a truckload of cash that's been taken away from your sales figures, but in a way, it's more being invested in the future.

If I'd had one game for xmas and one for my birthday, and I sure as hell couldn't afford much more, I may well have got bored of gaming and moved onto a cheaper way to spend my time. Because I had access to a large library of games in my teens, it kept my interest and now a large portion of my disposable income ends up in the hands on the games industry.

Right now, people are downloading Skyrim and MW3, and in 10 years I believe the majority of them will be enthusiastic gamers and paying customers.

Instead of considering these kids evil pirates and criminals, consider them the ones taking the first free sample of crack, so you've got willing junkies to feed from in a few years :)

When you care about games, like so many of us do, and find you can afford to buy them, you'll do it, you want to own the genuine article, not a scrappy pile of discs with handwritten titles.

Who here doesn't take a certain amount of pleasure in the sight of their games shelves or Steam games list?

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 guess the punch in the gut is that none of the people who are downloading that game think your hard work is worth any money. It's like telling a chef in a restaurant, "I like your food enough to eat it, but enough not to pay you for it."

Saying "Well, it's better than no one liking it at all!" isn't much comfort.

CrystalShadow:
You can argue that games compete with each-other, but games are not interchangeable products.
If you want, say, Mass effect 3, are you going to be happy with Fifa 2012?

You misunderstand what a monopoly is. Video game development has no monopolies - it is fiercely competitive. If anyone is dictating the price it's consumers being unwilling to go above the magic $60 point.

-|-:

CrystalShadow:
You can argue that games compete with each-other, but games are not interchangeable products.
If you want, say, Mass effect 3, are you going to be happy with Fifa 2012?

You misunderstand what a monopoly is. Video game development has no monopolies - it is fiercely competitive. If anyone is dictating the price it's consumers being unwilling to go above the magic $60 point.

You can argue that point endlessly. A monopoly is situation where there is only one supplier of a given product.

'Games' as a whole could be argued to be a product, in which case your statement is correct, but as I said, games are not directly interchangeable with one-another.

If you want game X, you can't get it from anyone other than supplier X.
That's what copyright does, legally speaking.

If you remove this legal enforced monopoly rights in specific titles (not 'games' viewed as an aggregate group of interchangeable items, such as say, bread, or petrol).
The net value of any specific title would quickly drop to $0 or very close to it.

Are you entirely sure you understand what a monopoly is yourself? Because games are a monopoly in effect, even if not in a strict sense of the meaning of it.

All copyright protected items are; - Nature of the beast.

What is copyright after all, but the legal statement of:

"Only the owner has the right to make copies of this, no-one else may do so."

What is that, if not a legally enforced monopoly?

CrystalShadow:

-|-:

CrystalShadow:
You can argue that games compete with each-other, but games are not interchangeable products.
If you want, say, Mass effect 3, are you going to be happy with Fifa 2012?

You misunderstand what a monopoly is. Video game development has no monopolies - it is fiercely competitive. If anyone is dictating the price it's consumers being unwilling to go above the magic $60 point.

You can argue that point endlessly. A monopoly is situation where there is only one supplier of a given product.

'Games' as a whole could be argued to be a product, in which case your statement is correct, but as I said, games are not directly interchangeable with one-another.

If you want game X, you can't get it from anyone other than supplier X.
That's what copyright does, legally speaking.

If you remove this legal enforced monopoly rights in specific titles (not 'games' viewed as an aggregate group of interchangeable items, such as say, bread, or petrol).
The net value of any specific title would quickly drop to $0 or very close to it.

Are you entirely sure you understand what a monopoly is yourself? Because games are a monopoly in effect, even if not in a strict sense of the meaning of it.

All copyright protected items are; - Nature of the beast.

What is copyright after all, but the legal statement of:

"Only the owner has the right to make copies of this, no-one else may do so."

What is that, if not a legally enforced monopoly?

Ok, if you want to define monopoly that way and adjust it to match your opinion on copyright (which I've no interest in debating) then fair enough. It's not a very useful or reasonable definition though because it makes practically everything a monopoly. You can even apply it to bread.

The more useful and understood definition of a monopoly applies to market sectors, not individual products within the sector. They are recognized by companies exhibiting monopolistic behaviour - I don't think this applies to ME3.

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