Stolen Pixels #12: The Economics Lesson

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Stolen Pixels #12: The Economics Lesson

You may think that EA's plan to fight piracy is unfair to consumers, but that's simply because you don't understand the economics behind the plan. Shamus Young explains the details in this installment of Stolen Pixels.

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Great article. If it helps though is something else. Unfortunately many companies start to jump on this bandwagon called "ZOMFG! Piracy kills our business!". Do more such stupid DRM solutions and you can be sure the number of downloaded copies skyrockets like a fireworks rocket... just without the nice fireworks at the end.

Hah, really, where did you get the pictures?

Best comic yet.

Zukhramm:
Hah, really, where did you get the pictures?

This. I can't imagine those are just stock photos you found somewhere. But they're awesome. As was the comic. Being a regular reader of your site, it's nothing I haven't heard you say before, but luckily I never get tired of reading you write about it.

pseudoidiot:
This. I can't imagine those are just stock photos you found somewhere.

Alone, they're not really special, but it's the SAME GUY in all of them! He both does a "presentnig pose", eats ice cream, drink, holdign female legs. I mean, it's just... Well it's funny.

LOL and THIS is why piracy is on the rise. Fuck this paranoid shit, its another system that inconviencences buying and its clear this system hasn't hindered piracy, look at thepiratebay (its legal to go to their site(just don't download anything)) You will see that Mass Effect is in the top 5 most seeded games on the site. But anyone whos played Mass Effect and had this problem, and has pirated before, will most likely pirate Spore (I don't know how well thats going to work though since spore is a multiplayer game)
This is why if I have a choise I get the game on my 360. PC gaming is being killed by developers not pirates

Good pics indeed =)

On the other hand, the article needs fact-checking. No one said anything about having to re-buy the game after your three activations are up (and we're talking about separate activations on different computers, not reinstalls - those are unlimited). When your three activations have been exceeded, you have to call EA customer support, but so far the consensus is that they give out new activations if necessary quite easily and fairly hassle-free.

Of course, far be it from me to defend EA and Bioware in this issue, the DRM is a horrendous pain in the butt. They stand guilty of a greater crime with Mass Effect though in that almost three months since its original launch there is a significant portion of the playerbase for whom the game is completely unplayable (even those with top-of-the-line machines). In three months, the only support we've been offered was a patch that not only didn't fix any bugs, but actually introduced a whole host of new ones to the suckers who thought they could get away with a bug-free game.

bwuahahahahaha loved it Shamus!

9of9:
On the other hand, the article needs fact-checking. No one said anything about having to re-buy the game after your three activations are up (and we're talking about separate activations on different computers, not reinstalls - those are unlimited). When your three activations have been exceeded, you have to call EA customer support, but so far the consensus is that they give out new activations if necessary quite easily and fairly hassle-free.

image

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/ea_drm.jpg

If they like, EA can send one of their murlocs out to explain away the difference between their stated position and what their software has to say.

I'm hoping they do.

I'll make another comic out of it.

Made me chuckle and made a good point :)

Developers need to realize that piracy is not the problem if you release a bad game, or a game with excessive DRM, or a game that is a bad console port. I'm all for trying to curb piracy (even though the effects piracy actually has on profit margins is questionable), however doing it by punishing the honest user who bought the game is simply wrong, because hey guess what? This 3 strike system doesn't even touch the pirates slightly, all it does is inconvenience the honest user a pirate will just go to the pirate bay or whatever and download a new cd key or copy of the game.

If you missed out on Mass Effect, no need to worry: This scheme is slated to be part of the PC version of Spore as well.

If thats the case Spore will be the first game in a long time I pirate.

See what DRM has done it driven back to a dark place I never thought I'd return to!

I suspect the rise of development costs is going to slow down in the near future. Each generation of graphics starts to look better and better, but it seems like we're getting into an era where each advancement in "cutting edge" graphics don't look much different from each other. If it ends up costing you an extra million dollars in development for a 2% boost in the graphics, I suspect we'll reach a stable plateau. At least for a while.

This opens up exciting business opportunities see, you can sell copies of the game that have 10, 20 or more activation opportunities and charge on a sliding scale. It will automatically sense the presence of a DVD writer on your computer too, and add your ip address to a masterlist of "potential pirates" at their offices if you do.

Also, certain areas will be pay per play, you can buy extras to pimp out your UI online, such as a maphack in multiplayer. Truely, the possibilities are endless.

in_95:
It will automatically sense the presence of a DVD writer on your computer too, and add your ip address to a masterlist of "potential pirates" at their offices if you do.

So 99.999% of the player base will be labeled as potential pirates? DVD Writers are standard these days and I think it would actually be difficult to find any new computer that only comes with a DVD reader.

Though you are right on the pay per play thing, not necessarily pay per hour or something silly however I think a system like Battlefield Heroes will increasingly become the norm, where you get the major game free however you have to put up with some adverts on menu screens, and you have to pay to get small extras. I think they're calling it micro transactions and it's a route I wouldn't mind the industry taking, because hey I could put up with a whole lot of adverts in menus and maybe a few billboards in game if I got Bioshock or a similarly good game for free. Although I hope it wouldn't advance into an area where you need to pay to complete games or only players who pay get the upper hand in PvP etc. Which means they may be given an unfair advantage, which I don't like.

It's like, you're spending too much on game development? Dude, stay with me here: Try not doing that.

*points to Neverwinter Nights 2, among other poorly polished, buggy monstrosities*

Dude, seriously, do not encourage them!

The really fun (and by fun I mean tragic) thing about all this is how immediately self-defeating all of it is. EA develops or licenses a DRM scheme which costs money and has the effect of raising the cost of the product and the inconvenience associated with purchasing it legitimately, which encourages more people to pirate, which speeds up the cracking process, which necessitates making a new DRM scheme. This cycle continues until EA goes out of business because they spend their whole development budget on pissing off their customers.

Shamus, that image you posted appears to be on a restricted part of the site.

shMerker: Thanks for the heads up. Hopefully fixed now.

Skrapt:

So 99.999% of the player base will be labeled as potential pirates?

You really can't be too carefull these days.

I love you, Shamus.

in_95:
It will automatically sense the presence of a DVD writer on your computer too, and add your ip address to a masterlist of "potential pirates" at their offices if you do.

That's just.. crazy, surely? Are you sure about this?

I believe in_95 was extrapolating, not referring to anyone's specific plans but suggesting a direction things could take. I think it was intended to be absurd too.

Shamus, in all fairness that message was probably intended for people buying a used disc. Given that it would be nice if there was a clause in the EULA that gave anyone you resell the disc to the right to be compensated. Then they could have a message like this:

Photobucket

The Last Internet Pirate. Parody of The Last Saskatchewan Pirate by the Arrogant Worms -not complete-

Well I used to be a gamer and I made a living fine
I had a little selection of games that I could call mine
But times went by and thought I tried game companies weren't fair
And then they came and took my games and told me fair is fair

I looked for every kind of game
But they all just seemed to blow
How's your gaming now they'd always laugh
We're great at selling them, no?

The DRM they promised me a measly few installs
But I've got no more time to stay and lick their *censored*

Then I thought who gives a damn if all the games are gone
I'm gonna be a PIRATE on the internet, I'm no pawn.

And it's a heave ho hive ho coming down the plains
Stealing Mass Effect and all their other games

And its a ho hay Hi hay Producers bar your doors
When you see the jolly snuffler on his way to steal yours

Well you think local developers would know that I'm at large
but just the other day I found unsuspecting sarge

I snuck up on their server and they were none the wiser
I hacked them all and stole their stuff and sold it on the wire

Bridges of peer to peer spans the mighty web
Developers cross in so much fear, my hacks just knock em' dead

yeah they know that captain snuff is hiding in the lanes
I'll read their emails and steal their code and surf off with their games

And it's a heave ho hive ho coming down the plains
Stealing Mass Effect and all their other games

And its a ho hay Hi hay Producers bar your doors
When you see the jolly snuffler on his way to steal yours

Well John Riccitiello he tracked me he was always at my throat
He never could catch up with me though, his company's a joke

But the cutbacks were a commin and the CEO lost his job
So now he pirates with me and we call him Stupid Sob!

scarbunny:

If you missed out on Mass Effect, no need to worry: This scheme is slated to be part of the PC version of Spore as well.

If thats the case Spore will be the first game in a long time I pirate.

See what DRM has done it driven back to a dark place I never thought I'd return to!

Seconded. And I was really looking forward to Spore, too.

Maybe they should fire the team that rigourously buggers the menus in EA Sports games.

Kill two birds with one fiscally responsible stone - cheaper games with simple, intuitive menu structures that don't require a PhD in Arbitrary & Pointless Option Studies to navigate.

I'm honestly surprised Shamus lasted until SP#12 before bringing up his favourite topic.

That's not an insult - from reading his blog for a couple of years, I know that if anyone can pay of DRM in a manner both accurate and hilarious, it's Shamus McLaser.

This is sad. It looks like the PC games industry is deliberately trying to destroy itself. They all want to go console. Easier programming, established customer base, clear expectations...etc. The PC market just grew up to be too much hassle for them. So now they established the scapegoat "ZOMFG! Teh P1r4te5 be stealin our stuffz!!1!ONE!COSINE0!" and slowly putting the gun into their mouths now. It's real sad, that.

Unfortunately, the sentiment about spore is not correct, according to this article;

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/05/10/ea-backs-down-from-draconian-copy-protection/1

and here's a bit more detail on how the DRM will work;

http://www.gamingsteve.com/archives/2008/05/maxis-responds-to-the-spore-drm-controversy.php

But still, great comic for bringing marketing fluff to the level it really is.

The info I gave on Spore IS correct, sadly. That story on BitTech talked about them abandoning the 10-day re-authentication, but they have never backed down from the need for online activation. The only change they made is that the auth will no longer "expire" after 10 days.

They still only let you install the game on three machines, after which you will get the popup pictured earlier in the thread.

Disposable hookers. 'Tis the life right.

PurpleRain:
Disposable hookers. 'Tis the life right.

There's another kind?

Well, I don't know how fair it is to assert that game development is frivolously wasteful. Needlessly expensive, sure, but aside from the DRM, just about every penny of a game's budget is spent with the intention of making it a better product. Combine with the tendency, of late, to sell cheaper-to-develop games for less, and....

Rental style copy protection is a serious problem, and spending less on development is a smart solution, but I'm not sure that they match.

The logic is infallible. The development companies are trying to commit suicide, of their PC divisions anyway. No other explanation is possible.

1. Some people steal our games.
2. Punish people why buy our games.
3. More people steal our games.
4. Bitch about people stealing our games and shut down the company.

It is amazing how stupid corporate management can be.

For what it's worth I have never bought a non online game which requires online activation and never will.

Shamus, great work, but I want to say maybe they will wise up like Bioshock did a year later and just let the whole thing drift away. Bioshock has no more limitations on it, at all, besides the CD key, that is.

I still plan on getting Mass Effect when it's cheaper and plan on getting Spore, first day. These things suck, but I also do not intend to install them on 3 machines... just my own which won't be changing configurations for at least a year, if not more.

At least the PC version of Mass Effect is superior to the 360 one and gets the extra content at no charge. There are perks. I just want an Impule/Stardock approach to all PC games. Not because I would pirate them, just be less hassle. ... and that is what I see it as. Hassle, not game ending.

Unfortunately, in my experience, the moment someone is promoted past the point where they have to deal with normal people, for instance, the moment someone in a GAME store gets promoted from store manager to area manager, they stop looking at people and start seeing 'units', and that's where the problem starts, when your customers and clients are numbers , no longer having opinions or ideas, just a money value.

Having said that, I think it is going to be rare for most people to reinstall the game on 3 seperate machines, or upgrade their pc three times during the lifespan of the game, hell most EA games dont warrant installing once.

I think the larger problem is the image the companies like EA have now, where the customers don't trust what EA are going to put onto their system and 'So 99.999% of the player base will be labeled as potential pirates?' seems to be what most people think EA's opinion is.

There's certainly going to be some seriously unhappy preowned games buyers out there in the future tho, although I guess that's against the EULA anyway, if I remember rightly, selling something you bought.

SenseOfTumour: First install. You load up your game into the PC, whoo I have Mass Effect! etc. It doesn't work, freezes at the title screen, or maybe you get so far as the intro cinematic before it locks down the whole computer.

Second install. You try your laptop, desperately hoping that maybe at least it'll be able to run it, even if it's not quite as powerful. The game declares your poor laptop drivers are not up to date and freezes at the title screen.

Third install. You upgrade your graphics card on the main PC and throw a bit more memory into the mix, fiddle with settings and maybe, just maybe, you finally get the game to work.

The patch comes out and you're back to square one ;)

The imagery of this is hilarious Shamus, thank you =D

On the topic of DRM, it has gotten to the point for me as a customer that even the rumor of DRM on a game will result in me not purchasing it. And I refuse to pirate games too, when I was younger and naive, that resulted in my computer being hacked (see: zombified) where I just unplugged from the internet - why would I pay someone to connect to have my gaming ripped to shreds?

I don't care anymore how good a game could possibly be, I will not purchase software with DRM, period. This is my line in the sand, DRM can go frack itself. DRM is malware, it is a hack that someone expects me to pay for. FRACK THAT. I'm done, I'll go buy another Stardock game, the rest can get stuffed for all I care.

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