The Needles: Piracy: Bad For You, Good For Them?

The Needles: Piracy: Bad For You, Good For Them?

Many consumers consider access to "free" games to be an incentive to buy a PC -- and retailers are counting on it.

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I think it great...more recrutes for the pc gamer army!

Positive action?. Education?.

What the industry needs to do is lower prices, drop DRM and, above all, stop releasing the same buggy, unoriginal, consolized drivel again and again.

You see, Steam is the model that works. Audiosurf, $5?. Bought. Counter-Strike: Source, $10?. Bought (and I already had it, this was a gift for my brother, who doesn't even need it because he can play with my account). Stardock's wonderful games at reasonable prices?. Bought. All of them.

Hollenshead can cry all he wants, but the truth is that since Q3, id's games have been, let's say, not good. THAT is why they are selling a lot less. Despite that, they sold a lot of D3s, something they didn't deserve. Same with Q4.

Piracy is not the problem of the videogame industry. It's the consequence of really bad management.

Also, the hardware manufacturers are interested in selling their products. They're under no obligation to educate customers or defend the software developers. If we are going to dump on ATI, nVidia & co, it should be because of their price fixing.

I'm somehow not in favor of this article for a couple of reasons.

First the internet is founded on as easy access to informations and resources as possible. That this freedom has it's downsides got known quickly and gave born to many improvements like SSL to name one prominent product. Now saying this very principal of the internet is new would be rather short sighted. That's like ranting about car sellers just because people can be ran over with their sold units. Furthermore things like Linux would not be possible without the freedom of the internet. You can not get the good sides and not the bad sides. Who thinks so should quit his job in this business.

Second about piracy being the reason for dropping PC support. Big time bla bla. The reason for the drop in PC game sales is not piracy it's the publishers and developers themselves. The ever more menacing becoming DRM locks on games ( which make it often next to impossible to play a game for non tech savvy people ) and the raising prices while lowering quality drives people into seeking better solutions. And this is very piracy comes into play. When it's easier to download and install a priated copy of a game than it is to buy and install the same game ( due to DRM madness ) then what do you think the sane men is going to do? The answer should be obvious. That's like demanding 100$ for a loaf of bread requiring the customer to show his ID, jumping over some cupboards to test fitness and eventually sending a spy after him so you know whenever he leaves the house and then not getting why people won't buy anymore your bread. The games industries is currently doing exactly this which brings us to point 3.

Consoles are better systems and not calling for doing illegal things? Not true anymore. Consoles have internet access now as do computers. It's a question of time until the same rant starts to happen with consoles that is now thrown at PC gaming. And it's as easy to pirate a console game than it is to pirate a PC game.

So what I don't get on this article is what kind of position you try to adopt. The moaning about sellers not preventing piracy or not telling people about is rubbish. That's not the problem of the seller. To stay with the car example it's not the sellers problem to tell me not to ran over people or drive over red lights. Why should it be his problem in the first place. Responsibility for your doing is in the hand of each person. It's a bit much asked from sellers to babysit them.

EDIT: Got type-posted so a couple of points are said already by the inter-poster :D

The problem is instead of siding with the consumer, games companies seem all too ready to ignore and side swipe at us. And you know what? That's what is driving me closer and closer to piracy, I was looking forward to Spore until the announcements of DRM and limited installs. The aforementioned did nothing to curb piracy and their only consequence was to take a swing at the honest consumers. And in the end all it did was give more people, more reasons to pirate software.

Just taking the other example of Unreal Tournament, the developers blamed piracy for the bad sales of UT3 for the computer when what they released was a pile of bugged stinking mess, that didn't even have a save feature that worked! And because of this they decided to pretty much ignore the PC market when what they needed to do was the exact opposite if they ever wanted more sales.

Piracy is becoming the industry scapegoat, and they're using this as an excuse to further alienate honest consumers while not even beginning to curb piracy in the slightest. The abundance of piracy points to one thing and one thing alone: The PC gaming market is operating upon a flawed strategy. Valve's Steam has one of the lowest piracy rates, and some of the least invasive anti piracy measures. It isn't an exception that breaks the rule, it's a guide to where the PC industry needs to, and that is cheaper games by cutting out most of the physical media with simple noninvasive anti piracy measures.

Before I've also talked about the 'Mini sales/advertising' idea, which along with systems similar to steam could effectively stamp out piracy for those games to adopt it. The premise is free games if you can put up with advertising in menus and maybe a some in game, with mini sales of particular special items driving in more revenue. Because you know what? This model could prove hugely successful, I don't think many people here will not download Battlefield Heroes to at least try it because it's free and the advertising boffins will be immensely happy and hand over loads of cash to people who can provide adverts to hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in less then a week.

Long as its unofficially accepted for a PC game to be released requiring several months of patching before its retail quality piracy will plague PC games. I dont pirate games. I just wait 3-6months till they cost 15 & arent bugged up the ass.

How many times do you see an ISP relating the speed of their broadband to the time in which you'd be able to download an MP3, or a DVD? That's a lot more direct than a PC manufacturer failing to take active steps to educate their customers about the legality of what they might do with their new machine.

Ultimately the responsibility isn't on those that sell a thing that may be used illegally, it's on those that actually use a thing illegally (insert your own analogy about a gun shop owner or a purveyor of knives or whatever). It's probably also partially on those that cause people to use a thing illegally, which in this case is the software makers themselves.

That PC Manufactures and well, almost the entire Computer Industry has sort of a reliance on piracy.

After all, if people wouldn't pirate it, Windows would never be as widespread as it is (still very widespread because it's preinstalled in many PCs, but still...), much less blank CDs and Hard Drives would be bought and more people would spend less money on Hardware because they would rather opt for a low-spec system and a gaming console if they could not get all those system-hungry games "for free".
And even in the games industry i often saw how publishers dropped CD and Key-Checks in thier games to ensure that people would still play the game one or two years later.

As i see it, piracy is more of a "factor" than a "plague". Some industries profit from it, others are hurt by it. Whatever the outcome is, everyone calculates with it, because most people won't ever feel guilty by stealing...

It's a good article, although I always wonder whether the "industry" really as cohesive as to be considered a single entity. Not to mention if this would be a good thing.

Piracy is presumably a rational reaction of customers to a particular set of economic circumstances. Without altering these economic circumstances, things will never change.

These changes can either be to increase the cost of non-compliance (fines, law suits etc) or to increase willingness to purchase. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks, of course, but for the companies that grew up before the internet, adapting to new circumstances must seem very daunting indeed.

Good article, very good indeed.

High prices are a huge reason for piracy now. Especially for people that live in Australia. Game prices are amazingly high though as always PC games are mostly cheaper than console games which is a benefit to the horde of the PC gamers.

Though the attempts companies seem to make to stop piracy fail almost all the time. Bioshock had a system where you could only install it about 3 times or so. This didn't stop people pirating the game at all, it just screwed over people that actually bought Bioshock.

I really don't want this to devolve into an argument about piracy, so I'll make this one single point before moving on to something more relevant: I don't buy into the idea that current forms of DRM are a valid justification for piracy. I can only speak for myself, but I have never once had any form of DRM or copy protection keep me from installing and playing a game as I saw fit, including BioShock. It's an excuse to copy games, nothing more.

Now, that said, I do indeed have very serious problems with DRM schemes involving music and movies. When I buy music, the first thing I do is run off a copy (on the PC) so I can play it with whatever software I want (rather than just WMP), play it in my phone, use it as a ring tone, whatever. Technically piracy, I suppose, although by kind of "back-dooring" it - paying for the product legitimately, then doing what I have to do to make it work properly - I think there's a greater case for excusing the behaviour. I've also run across a few movies recently that refuse to play in my DVD drive, which is far more inconvenient; I don't care about copying them, but I would like to watch them, and the PC is really my only option. I've reacted to this problem differently: I just very rarely buy movies anymore. When I do, they're most often must-have classics rather than new releases (finally got the Spinal Tap Special Edition a few days ago) and if there's any hint that a movie won't play in a DVD drive, I just do without. Simple.

And that turned out to be a lot more than a single point, but just roll with it and let's move on.

The idea that PC builders take advantage of contemporary attitudes toward piracy - ie., gimme! - really has less to do with the PC industry, or the videogame industry, than it does with consumers themselves. It's a reflection of widely-held beliefs that there's an entitlement to this stuff, that the cost of a PC is some kind of admission price to a club of unlimited music, movies and games. It's a myth perpetuated by just about everyone on the hardware side of the equation, from the manufacturers to the retailers, and it's having an undeniable impact on the other side of the coin - the companies who produce the stuff that make a PC worth having in the first place. Their reaction to it, from imposing draconian DRM schemes to just giving the shit away, is completely irrelevant.

That's where the industry can make some headway against copying. They're never going to convince the oh-so-righteously indignant crowd that's being mercilessly violated by The Man every time they just want to "try before they buy," but maybe the parents buying their 14-year-old kid his first computer might have enough between their ears to discourage their kid from grabbing everything he lays his eyes on, if they understand why it's a bad idea in the first place.

man-man:
How many times do you see an ISP relating the speed of their broadband to the time in which you'd be able to download an MP3, or a DVD? That's a lot more direct than a PC manufacturer failing to take active steps to educate their customers about the legality of what they might do with their new machine.

What he said.

ISP's go on about 'unlimited download', 'high speed' (related to downloading a movies/mp3) and 'free newsgroups' (does anyone actually use them for anything besides leeching movies etc?).
The reason the high bandwith packages are selling like hotcakes is because they are used for a lot of downloading or because it is in fact used for uploading. A lot of these are (ab)used for illegal content.

the real trouble lies with everyday people, average moms and dads turned loose into the online world without any thought given to the potential consequences of intellectual property theft.

This is where you hit the mark. The real problem here is that everyone seems to think they deserve to have everything for free. You can see this in a lot of discussions concerning piracy: "It's too expensive, so i pirated it" or "I bought a game that wasn't worth the money, so i pirated the next one".

Largely though, i think the problem is overrated. When the industry can cut prices a bit by using digital downloads, which work with ease. I think you'll see some more sales. But the people at StarDock have it right, imo: "The people that pirate your work were never your customers in the first place"

man-man:
How many times do you see an ISP relating the speed of their broadband to the time in which you'd be able to download an MP3, or a DVD? That's a lot more direct than a PC manufacturer failing to take active steps to educate their customers about the legality of what they might do with their new machine.

Many ISPs, however, will block you for file-sharing. Usually only in response to a take-down notice, but still...

So they're sorta playing both sides here.

The video-game industry would absolutely love it if PC manufacturers treated it the way ISPs treat the RIAA and MPAA.

-- Alex

Malygris:
The good news is that this is also a demographic still within the industry's reach: Not through punitive measures, but through positive actions designed to educate people on the real damage done by piracy and stimulate their desire to pay for the games they play.

Maybe by lowering prices? I remember when the DS was out. There was that Pac-Pix game sold at the price of a triple A game.

I'd also make a wager and claim that God of War wouldn't have gained so much momentum if it had not been sold as a Platinum game very early.
I'd probably add another bet, in that it probably sold more than it would have had if it had been sold at full price.

This is, now, only an aspect of the problem regarding the consumer.
Educating them is clearly needed. Years ago, you could already see ads telling you how to buy a computer or subscribe to an ISP's offer and then download video and music. I can't be in the heads of people and know how they interpretated that, but those ads surely didn't make sure that customers should pay in a way or another for the content they'd download.

I really don't want this to devolve into an argument about piracy, so I'll make this one single point before moving on to something more relevant: I don't buy into the idea that current forms of DRM are a valid justification for piracy. I can only speak for myself, but I have never once had any form of DRM or copy protection keep me from installing and playing a game as I saw fit, including BioShock. It's an excuse to copy games, nothing more.

It's not all that easy. I agree that it's used as an excuse, but so many protections just fail to do their jobs, yet games keep being cracked.
I can't shake the feeling that those millions spent in protective measures which more or less fail, in general, should be spent into smarter models.

The other fact being that I'm totally against the idea that you need an internet connection to buy a game. You should be able to order a copy, and then go LOST with your laptop and game copy and play it without needing to report any shit whatsoever.
On DRMs, are they really hampering your game experience? Well, technically, they can and cannot. As said by others, there's a certain necessity of being aware of fiddling with computers to some degree, and believe me (I hate saying that though) even computer stuff that seems obvious and intuitive to you is not to too many others.
I've seen my dear parents as they have already bought two laptops thus far, but struggle with the most basic systems on Windows, yet they'd like to play stuff. My dad already was playing on my Atari ST from time to time, yet he's of the generation that grew out of the WWII, misery and food shortages.
Same thing for some of their friends who made the move into computerdom. They're literally lost. You bet they only get half the message put on ads, they want simple stuff, and DRM is a symbol of non simple stuff.

It's a symbol of Big Brother and all that scarry stuff. It's in the head of people, and education won't cut that. People want freedom and live their lives happily, they don't want to be educated into good behaving sheeps who should know about the merits of having securities and protection on all and everything that surrounds you and defines your everyday life.
People don't want to hear about that shit, as simple as that.

Even geeks don't want to go through such shit just to play games. It becomes a hassle, and hassle is not entertaining.

Besides, and that's just another aspect of it, piracy would be seen as less of a problem if all the countries around the world were places where a good fraction of the population would still buy games, because no matter the piracy, the sheer quantity of legal copies properly sold would cut back the budgets on all fronts.
But that's a problem that it outside of the video game industry's control to a larger extent.

Cousin_IT:
Long as its unofficially accepted for a PC game to be released requiring several months of patching before its retail quality piracy will plague PC games. I dont pirate games. I just wait 3-6months till they cost 15 & arent bugged up the ass.

But they don't want to hear about that, because it means their big marketing campaign, all geared towards selling games as fast as possible during their pathetic short shelftime, means donk.

@Malygris:
Since the down of DRM ( meaning copy protected CD-Roms ) I had one hell of issues with DRM shit preventing me from playing. Most of my bought games I had to visit gamecopyworld to get a fricking no-cd crack to BE ABLE TO FUCKING PLAY MY LEGIT BOUGHT GAME!!! This is what I call DRM hell and I will never use such a customer arsing tech which every child on earth can get past by using a crack from a website. Just to round this up: if you need to buy a CD-Writer ( or using a no-cd crack ) since your CD-Rom can NOT play your bought game then I consider this a hindrance.

I still do not think the sellers are to be held reliable. It's not their fault if people misuse hardware. Where would be get if anybody selling bread is held reliable for possible suffocation?

@Lt. Sera:
The old fucking myth about file sharing is nothing but about pirating. The way to keep up prejudices. Everything connected with Linux ( or Un*x in general ) is based on using file sharing in one way or the other. Torrents of distributions are as common as torrents of driver packages. Just because some misuse it for sharing illegal content doesn't make it an all-bad thing. And binary news-groups existed since the dawn of time. Hell they even existed before any of the popular ( and now being pushed into the role of baddies by the industries ) services got born. If it's not shared this way it is shared another way. Fighting problems doesn't solve them ( but some never learn from history won't they? )

Where did i state that file sharing was an all bad thing? I stated that it was abused by illegal content, which obviously implied that i do value it's legal uses.
As far as newsgroups, everyone and their mother knows they were there long before the current sharing ways, I've just never seen anyone i know use newsgroups for anything legal, so i wondered if anyone still did.

Fact is, instead of working with eachother to come to a workable solution, companies claim it all has to go and the legal users claim no one should interfere. A stalemate which only hurts both sides.

Malygris:
I can only speak for myself, but I have never once had any form of DRM or copy protection keep me from installing and playing a game as I saw fit, including BioShock. It's an excuse to copy games, nothing more.

You might have got BS working, but how are you going to get rid of the rootkit that came with it?

I gotta say, if you're trying to convince pirates to stop pirating, saying they're responsible for fewer EA Sports games is not the way to go. Also, having been to third world countries, where it's easier to buy a pirated version of a game in a store than a legit version, I'd say that major foreign piracy operations are a much larger threat to the video game industry than the average middle class pirate.

On another note, it seems to me that hardware manufacturers are simply advertising their product by telling people what can be done with it. The only point of hardware is to use software with it, so I don't really see why hardware companies wouldn't emphasize the ability of hardware to use popular software. I can't imagine anyone would expect the hardware companies to tell their customers not to pirate software, in the same way that no one would expect a hammer company to tell its customers not to steal nails.

this is a silly argument. pc retailers rarely sell only pcs. there's usually some sort of software in the store as well. and to say that a sales person is going to suggest to a consumer that they can get the software for free /winkwinknudgenudge is just plain silly especially when they're dependent on the sales of the software just as much as the are on the sale of the computer. familiar with the term repeat customers? you buy a computer once every three to five years, ten if you're my parents, but you're back to buy media every few months if not sooner. they want that business; they need it.

lets not forget to mention how uninformed it is to suggest that people would spend several hundred to a few thousand dollars just to "share" some music, movies, and games. how long would it take to get your return for that investment? this is obviously not the sole reason people get computer. i think you're down playing the role that computers are fast becoming a necessity of every day life, well, in industrialized nations, anyway.

pointing the finger in another direction just continues the blame game and brings no one closer to solving the problem. how would retailers correct piracy? how is it even their place? retailers frown on piracy just as much as the mpaa and all such organizations for all the same reasons, it hurts their bottom line.

Arbre:
Maybe by lowering prices? I remember when the DS was out. There was that Pac-Pix game sold at the price of a triple A game.

Yes, absolutely by lowering prices. And by making better games rather than endless, soulless sequels. By doing away with punitive copy protection schemes. And by making people aware, at the entry level, of the detrimental consequences of piracy.

Odjin:
Most of my bought games I had to visit gamecopyworld to get a fricking no-cd crack to BE ABLE TO FUCKING PLAY MY LEGIT BOUGHT GAME!!!

That's pretty amazing. I haven't had that problem with a single one of my games, and believe me, I've bought a lot of games over the years. I suspect one of us is not being entirely forthcoming here.

It's not the retail industry's responsibility to protect game manufacturers, I never said it was. It's in the retail industry's best self-interests to promote a healthy, viable economic relationship between hardware, software and consumers, and when a guy behind the counter closes a PSP sale by offering to mod the unit on the side and hook him up with some places to download games ("Never buy another game again!"), that ain't happening. And you don't see the baked goods industry promoting loaves of Dutch Crunch as weapons of assassination.

quiet chaos:
familiar with the term repeat customers?

I'm familiar with a lot of terms. Attach rates, conversion rates, adjusted profit margins, all that sort of fun stuff. And in an ideal world, you'd be right; a low-margin PC sale would lay the groundwork for a repeat customer who would, over the course of a two-year period, make supplementary higher-margin purchases, leading to both increased profit and an expanded, stable customer base. The trouble is that often doesn't happen in mass market retail outlets, where employees are underpaid, poorly trained and lack motivation beyond making whatever sales they can in order to squeeze out whatever commission dollars they can right now. It's short-sighted, as I pointed out, but it's the reality on the ground.

That's the reality that needs to be addressed by builders and resellers. Obviously it's not going to eliminate piracy, but piracy is a complicated and multifaceted issue, requiring an equally multifaceted approach in order to be curtailed. Hollenshead's comments barely even scratched the surface of addressing the problem, but they were nonetheless entirely correct.

Also, there is no rootkit in BioShock.

There used to be a rootkit in BioShock though. I guess they removed it when the outrage about it started.

As far as cracks, I've had (mainly EA games) run more stable after i used cracks. I use no-cd cracks for all my games, because i don't want to switch cd's all the time.

@Malygris: The games in question had been ( funny as it is looking at the Spore DRM drama ) EASports games. I had only a CD-Rom drive back then since I did not do cd writing. Now it happened the game tried to verify the CD ( the "corrupted" sectors trick back then ). The CD-Rom obviously did not work with this and skipped for ages not running the game. A no-cd crack prevented this broken DRM check. Some times later ( maybe a year or a bit less ) I got myself a cd-writer for backup purpose and noticed that this driver could read the cd-check. So I'm pretty sure I'm not the one lying here ;)

@Lt. Sera: Another argument I forgot to add. I hate switching CDs. MagicDisk and company are great to play on laptops... especially if you are like me having an additional battery plugged into the media bay instead of the cd-rom for longer battery life. Without no-cd cracks there's no way to play games without a cd-rom drive.

Firstly, I know precisely zero people who initially purchased a PC for the ability to download wares. And I know exactly that many who have ever tweaked their system specs to get the most efficient pirating capabilities out of their machine. Yes a lot of people do it and yes everyone understands that this is something you can do on the internet, but in that I don't see it as being much of a tool for retail sales.

This is the old iPod discussion. If you do not support the piracy of music then why create a piece of technology that focuses on one of the most common formats of piracy?

The problem with piracy is that it is a large and functional part of gaming culture. If piracy never existed, gaming would not be the size it is today, which would mean considerably less money for everyone. It's not a black and white direct translation, for every million dollars worth of piracy that is stopped it is rare that a million dollars is funneled back into the industry. In truth it ultimately means that a lot less people are playing that title. Which meas less overall money being earned by the industry, which means smaller budgets, which means less games, which means less variety, which means less interest, which means less money... and so on. I'm sure there is a plateau somewhere, but the gaming industry almost died once already, do we really want it to happen again?

Malygris:

The idea that PC builders take advantage of contemporary attitudes toward piracy - ie., gimme! - really has less to do with the PC industry, or the videogame industry, than it does with consumers themselves. It's a reflection of widely-held beliefs that there's an entitlement to this stuff, that the cost of a PC is some kind of admission price to a club of unlimited music, movies and games.

Or the fact those industries have intentionally tried to antagonize consumers in the past?
Or the sentiment that information is free?
Or having little respect for corporations who make billions on markups?
Or little interest in supporting a massively redundant entertainment system?
Or an unwillingness to buy products without testing them?

No, I'm sure you're right. We're just assholes. That's the entire reason.
Sheese. Well, now I know what executives must be thinking, anyways.

So if I'm reading this correctly, you're willing to accept several weak, lame excuses routinely rolled out by people who pirate games, but one far more rational and demonstrable reason for the widespread acceptance of file downloading is beyond the realm of belief?

That's a pretty interesting worldview you've got there.

mark_n_b:
the gaming industry almost died once already, do we really want it to happen again?

With all the contempt and hatred for the gaming industry as it currently stands being expressed here (and elsewhere), I'm honestly wondering what you think there is to defend. If the industry did "die," it would obviously bounce back again, likely in a scaled-down, lower-budget version, but so what? Obviously there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, so perhaps a complete reboot is called for. Unless, of course, the true sentiment isn't so much a genuine desire for change as it is a continuing desire for all the good stuff without having to pay for it.

And once again I will explain: The point is not piracy. The point is the laissez-faire attitude toward piracy among entry-level consumers - not serious file-sharing dipshits, who are irredeemably beyond the pale, but first-time family computer buyers, as an example - and why it's so commonplace. Honestly, I don't see what's so difficult about this to comprehend.

Also, there was never any rootkit in BioShock.

Malygris:
So if I'm reading this correctly, you're willing to accept several weak, lame excuses routinely rolled out by people who pirate games, but one far more rational and demonstrable reason for the widespread acceptance of file downloading is beyond the realm of belief?

Actually all these arguments are based on inductive reasoning and thus are absolutely useless.

But ignoring that for a second, you speak of a culture of entitlement without regard for its propagation or initiation. If your position where true, those stealing online would just be as likely to steal a wallet with with similar levels of guilt. Yet such is not the case. Clearly a divergence exists in the perceived severity of the two activities. And THAT is the question (why).
To which my answers are above.

EDIT: Oh, and intellectual property is not inherently wrong to steal as no one is negated the usage of the information thus it is utilitarian arguments that sway the validity of the activity blah blah blah you know the rest

Malygris:
Unless, of course, the true sentiment isn't so much a genuine desire for change as it is a continuing desire for all the good stuff without having to pay for it.

I think I might actually still have an old copy of Jazz Jackrabbit on floppy somewhere. I'm just that naughty.
Oh! But that was back when it was useful, and thus not "immoral". I'm sorry.

since bioshock for the pc i havnt buy another game... its frustrating the way they try to impose something in you... when you are not doing somethingo wrong... im happy whit my ps3 and my mac... and there... will be able to play diablos 3 if everything goes allright

No consumer would ever have to buy a hard drive > 320 GB if this were not the case.

CD and DVD burners would have flopped if not for this.

Certainly DSL and Cable internet services would not be popular in speeds >= 1 Mbps if not for this.

So... yeah. Bad for content publishers, an unexpected boon for hardware manufacturers.

 

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