189: Rob from the Rich, Steal from the Poor

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Rob from the Rich, Steal from the Poor

How can a company survive when 92 percent of its "customers" don't pay for its product? That's the question facing indie PC game developers in the age of BitTorrent. Jordan Deam speaks with four prominent indie game developers about the wholesale theft of their games - and how it might not be as terrible as it sounds.

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Actually, they don't say it's not as terrible as it sounds at all. They've more just given up.

I suppose so long as we want to make sure we only get games from people who don't think far enough ahead to consider retirement planning, full steam ahead.

Better, in my view, is to change the culture. Not only should we heap our scorn on those companies that put on horribly restrictive DRM, but we should add an equal helping for those who pirate creative content. We'll never be able to technically restrict such people, but we can make them feel appropriately like scum for feeling so entitled that they think they can tell developers to go screw themselves.

What about a move to ingame advertising? I know this is something EA are playing with and I'll probably get a heap of scorn thrown at me for mentioning it but if they give the game away and then have it contact a central server to play ads back you can keep a track of impressions and probably end up making more money than the cover charge of the game.

Take Fallout3 for example (as it's a good one) - plenty of billboards and ingame own make brands advertised, how hard would it be to link in to real-life adverts - the amount of hours I've spent on that game would surely mean if they had ads in it the revenue from so many I would've seen would be far greater than the 30 it costs.

It would also be an incentive for game houses to make games that last a bit and have a good replayability so you keep coming back and see more ads - better than some of the disposable crap pinched out of late.

Sampler:
What about a move to ingame advertising? I know this is something EA are playing with and I'll probably get a heap of scorn thrown at me for mentioning it but if they give the game away and then have it contact a central server to play ads back you can keep a track of impressions and probably end up making more money than the cover charge of the game.

Take Fallout3 for example (as it's a good one) - plenty of billboards and ingame own make brands advertised, how hard would it be to link in to real-life adverts - the amount of hours I've spent on that game would surely mean if they had ads in it the revenue from so many I would've seen would be far greater than the 30 it costs.

It would also be an incentive for game houses to make games that last a bit and have a good replayability so you keep coming back and see more ads - better than some of the disposable crap pinched out of late.

This is a hideous idea, although I can appreciate the motives. The last thing I want when playing a game is to have my escapism ripped away by an ill-fitting Mountain Dew billboard.

Fallout, as per your example, would be ruined by ads for contemporary products, especially when so much of the game's style is wrapped up in knock-off send-ups of these companies (Nuka-Cola / Coca-Cola, etc.). Think Grand Theft Auto IV's sartorial mockery of... well... American life in general. The theme wouldn't work nearly as well if the products referenced were REAL products; think any actual company could stand to have their stuff used in such a negative, critical context? In-game advertising cheapens play experiences at best, and at worst completely eclipses them.

Also: mandatory linking-in to a central server for the express purpose of tracking advertising would not go over very well with most consumers.

Reflexive was shocked by how large the number was, but I think the phrase "shocked into action" isn't quite accurate. Since Reflexive has its own DRM that protects many games from many developers, we've been continually changing it to make it work better, we'd done so before getting that number and continue to do so. The main goal, as was mentioned in the original Gamasutra article was to combat casual piracy. A snip-it from that article:

"...for every 1,000 pirated copies we eliminated, we created 1 additional sale. [...] Though that doesn't make a 92% piracy rate of one of our banner products any less distressing, knowing that eliminating 50,000 pirated copies might only produce 50 additional legal copies does help put things in perspective."

There have been many interesting ways to work around the piracy issue through micro-transactions and advertisements. All may bear some fruit. Additionally, as was mentioned in a follow-up article on Ricochet Infinity (http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17408), we found that many people who pirated the game were creating level sets and trading them online (Ricochet Infinity has an in-game system to create, trade, rate and try new level sets). That fact seemed rather interesting.

I don't have a solution, but it seems to me if the ways of distributing software are changing, the whole businessmodel they employ might need to change. Instead, the distributors desperately try to reinforce the old methods. I probably would too, as it just as easily might mean less money for them. But it seems kind of .. pointless.

No matter how much piracy there is, I think that there will always be artists who develop games, and there will always be people who manage to make a living off writing them. Of course will there be big-budget, 40 million dollars in development games if piracy is allowed to be too convenient? No. And honestly I don't care, because my best game experiences have all been in garage games without the huge cinematic, voice-over budgets.

I think I got more entertainment value out of a shareware copy of Scorched Earth that we played for months in the dorms in college than in my $60 copy of Oblivion which now sits on the shelf, having been drained of every bit of interest it once had over a couple weekend.

most people hate the big publishers, but yea, it really does hurt the indie developers quite a bit. The smaller developer comeback like we had in the 90's can't happen again at this rate, it'll still be the age of bland, crappy, corporate sequels

Sampler:
What about a move to ingame advertising? I know this is something EA are playing with and I'll probably get a heap of scorn thrown at me for mentioning it but if they give the game away and then have it contact a central server to play ads back you can keep a track of impressions and probably end up making more money than the cover charge of the game.

Take Fallout3 for example (as it's a good one) - plenty of billboards and ingame own make brands advertised, how hard would it be to link in to real-life adverts - the amount of hours I've spent on that game would surely mean if they had ads in it the revenue from so many I would've seen would be far greater than the 30 it costs.

It would also be an incentive for game houses to make games that last a bit and have a good replayability so you keep coming back and see more ads - better than some of the disposable crap pinched out of late.

The ads in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 were okay, if you ask me. It took place around 2008 (2005/2010), and some scenarios involved casinos and convention center type areas. I'd expect a lot of ads there, and they were actually appropriate.

But seeing ads for Dodge or BMW, or Siemens in a Fallout game, or basically anything that isn't set in our 2009.. that'd really kill the setting.

The point raised about affordability brings to mind a related issue that's been bugging me for a while: what the heck happened to PC game demos? I've long ago resigned myself to the fact that PC games have zero resale value, due to CD keys and the ease of copying. That said, why the heck would I want to put down $60+ on a game when I have no idea if I'll even enjoy playing it? Most of the games I've purchased in the past few years have been bought on the basis of personal experience with the game, either through demos, playing on a friend's PC, or when those weren't available, torrenting. Game reviews are all fine and good for weeding out the obvious crap, but with most games, no reviewer is going to be able to tell me whether I'll enjoy a game or not. Only personal experience can give me that answer, and if I can't get that experience, I'm more apt to skip over that game entirely.

"Demos are fine and good," you say, "but making them takes time away from making the real game, and some things have to be cut when the budget gets tight, and blah blah blah..." I get that. But even if you don't have the time to make a demo, there's a solution that works well for many games, and adds minimal time to the project: the time-limited full-size demo. What this is, is a full, working copy of the game wrapped in a container that limits playtime, and has hooks to send you to the company website to purchase an unlock key. What this allows gamers to do is grab the full game, try it out, and if they like it, go punch in their CC#, get the code, and keep playing. Some companies have tried this already, and it works far more effectively than any amount of ads at convincing people to buy.

"But wait," you say, "that just makes it easy for the pirates to crack the game and distribute it over the net!" Yeah, but realistically speaking, nothing you do is going to significantly slow them down. Cory Doctorow and others have already explained this in regards to other DRM-ed media: Keeping a message secret is impossible when the receiver and the attacker are the same person. If your end goal is to get the game into the hands of gamers, then any attempts to lock it are going to fail, simply because you must provide the key in order to make the game playable.

There's been a lot of noise about how DRM is just the logical extension of CD keys, but it's just that--noise. The real purpose of CD keys is to serve as a reminder to the gamer that the game they're playing cost the devs a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash to make, and if you like the game, you really ought to give them something for their efforts.

DRM, by contrast, says to the consumer: "You're a thief, you dirty thief. If you want to play our supremely awesome game, you have to prove you're not a thief, thief. And you have to keep proving it at whatever interval we deem necessary. Having trouble because our sh*t 3rd-party DRM breaks your computer? Tough! Don't want us phoning home, sending the-gods-know-what kind of information back to the mother server? Too bad, thieves have no rights!" It's a back-handed slap to the face of every person who loves gaming, and wants to express that love with their purchases.

Stardock, and companies like them, have realized something important: People respect you if you respect them. They release their games free of any DRM encumbrances, and focus their support on the paying customers. Your purchase gets you access to materials beyond the game itself, and plenty of help if something goes wrong with the game. They choose not to look at illicit copies as lost sales, because they rightly recognize that many people who torrent games would not have bought them in the first place. If a game doesn't do well, they don't whine and moan and blame "teh pirates", they recognize that it was a flop, and do what they can to keep their future games from flopping. The respect, and income, this has generated from the gamer community speaks volumes.

Make no mistake: real, dishonest-to-badness piracy is criminal behavior, and needs to be punished; but at the same time, the sheer amount of it speaks to a need that the official channels aren't filling. Illicit torrenting, though nowhere near as horrible, still speaks to a larger problem. The industry as a whole needs to step back and ask themselves: Why is there so much of this going around? An honest assessment of this just might lead to some surprising solutions.

Halbyrd:
The point raised about affordability brings to mind a related issue that's been bugging me for a while: what the heck happened to PC game demos? I've long ago resigned myself to the fact that PC games have zero resale value, due to CD keys and the ease of copying. That said, why the heck would I want to put down $60+ on a game when I have no idea if I'll even enjoy playing it? Most of the games I've purchased in the past few years have been bought on the basis of personal experience with the game, either through demos, playing on a friend's PC, or when those weren't available, torrenting. Game reviews are all fine and good for weeding out the obvious crap, but with most games, no reviewer is going to be able to tell me whether I'll enjoy a game or not. Only personal experience can give me that answer, and if I can't get that experience, I'm more apt to skip over that game entirely.

"Demos are fine and good," you say, "but making them takes time away from making the real game, and some things have to be cut when the budget gets tight, and blah blah blah..." I get that. But even if you don't have the time to make a demo, there's a solution that works well for many games, and adds minimal time to the project: the time-limited full-size demo. What this is, is a full, working copy of the game wrapped in a container that limits playtime, and has hooks to send you to the company website to purchase an unlock key. What this allows gamers to do is grab the full game, try it out, and if they like it, go punch in their CC#, get the code, and keep playing. Some companies have tried this already, and it works far more effectively than any amount of ads at convincing people to buy.

"But wait," you say, "that just makes it easy for the pirates to crack the game and distribute it over the net!" Yeah, but realistically speaking, nothing you do is going to significantly slow them down. Cory Doctorow and others have already explained this in regards to other DRM-ed media: Keeping a message secret is impossible when the receiver and the attacker are the same person. If your end goal is to get the game into the hands of gamers, then any attempts to lock it are going to fail, simply because you must provide the key in order to make the game playable.

There's been a lot of noise about how DRM is just the logical extension of CD keys, but it's just that--noise. The real purpose of CD keys is to serve as a reminder to the gamer that the game they're playing cost the devs a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash to make, and if you like the game, you really ought to give them something for their efforts.

DRM, by contrast, says to the consumer: "You're a thief, you dirty thief. If you want to play our supremely awesome game, you have to prove you're not a thief, thief. And you have to keep proving it at whatever interval we deem necessary. Having trouble because our sh*t 3rd-party DRM breaks your computer? Tough! Don't want us phoning home, sending the-gods-know-what kind of information back to the mother server? Too bad, thieves have no rights!" It's a back-handed slap to the face of every person who loves gaming, and wants to express that love with their purchases.

Stardock, and companies like them, have realized something important: People respect you if you respect them. They release their games free of any DRM encumbrances, and focus their support on the paying customers. Your purchase gets you access to materials beyond the game itself, and plenty of help if something goes wrong with the game. They choose not to look at illicit copies as lost sales, because they rightly recognize that many people who torrent games would not have bought them in the first place. If a game doesn't do well, they don't whine and moan and blame "teh pirates", they recognize that it was a flop, and do what they can to keep their future games from flopping. The respect, and income, this has generated from the gamer community speaks volumes.

Make no mistake: real, dishonest-to-badness piracy is criminal behavior, and needs to be punished; but at the same time, the sheer amount of it speaks to a need that the official channels aren't filling. Illicit torrenting, though nowhere near as horrible, still speaks to a larger problem. The industry as a whole needs to step back and ask themselves: Why is there so much of this going around? An honest assessment of this just might lead to some surprising solutions.

I could not have said it better myself, and congrats on your first post which is of excellent quality. I'd say you have a bright future on the Escapist ahead of you =P

I can understand people pirating from EA when their DRM can be crippling and effectively rips the rights away from the customer, but this is ridiculous. 2D Boy and these folks don't deserve to have there small scale, and very cheap games pirated like this.

Although 2D boy never used DRM in World of Goo but ended up with about the same piracy rate.

90% Piracy may not be so profitable after all: "World of Goo Publisher Brighter Minds Media Goes Bankrupt"

mikiurban:
90% Piracy may not be so profitable after all: "World of Goo Publisher Brighter Minds Media Goes Bankrupt"

Hmm, maybe so. But that's the hard-copy publisher, not the digital publisher (2D Boy themselves publish there). Add to that, Brighter Minds Media seem to have more products in their range than World of Goo, and the current global recession, to pin it directly on piracy is somewhat easy. Maybe it is directly piracy, but it seems to lack detailed info on the where's and why's.

Halbyrd:
DRM, by contrast, says to the consumer: "You're a thief, you dirty thief. If you want to play our supremely awesome game, you have to prove you're not a thief, thief. And you have to keep proving it at whatever interval we deem necessary. Having trouble because our sh*t 3rd-party DRM breaks your computer? Tough! Don't want us phoning home, sending the-gods-know-what kind of information back to the mother server? Too bad, thieves have no rights!" It's a back-handed slap to the face of every person who loves gaming, and wants to express that love with their purchases.

Stardock, and companies like them, have realized something important: People respect you if you respect them. They release their games free of any DRM encumbrances, and focus their support on the paying customers. Your purchase gets you access to materials beyond the game itself, and plenty of help if something goes wrong with the game. They choose not to look at illicit copies as lost sales, because they rightly recognize that many people who torrent games would not have bought them in the first place. If a game doesn't do well, they don't whine and moan and blame "teh pirates", they recognize that it was a flop, and do what they can to keep their future games from flopping. The respect, and income, this has generated from the gamer community speaks volumes.

Make no mistake: real, dishonest-to-badness piracy is criminal behavior, and needs to be punished; but at the same time, the sheer amount of it speaks to a need that the official channels aren't filling. Illicit torrenting, though nowhere near as horrible, still speaks to a larger problem. The industry as a whole needs to step back and ask themselves: Why is there so much of this going around? An honest assessment of this just might lead to some surprising solutions.

At last, another person who's read the Stardock philosophy post! Agree with you, and them, 100% in most respects. Piracy is bad, but as these guys found out, only 1 in 1000 pirates will buy a game if all piracy is stopped.

In percentage terms, that's about 100.9% of the original sales. A .9% increase that, realistically, won't cover the cost of developing DRM-tools, nor the loss of sales because paying customers don't want DRM.

Ok, its a pain that so few people pay, and it annoyed me a great deal that most others are pirating the game, but I'd be much more annoyed if the developer turned to me, punched me in the face, and said "Thats what you get for being a pirate" when I'd just paid him for a game. This is what DRM is. A punch to the face.

They said it all.

"I've had really bad experiences with DRM in the past, and no DRM was also the most practical way to go about it," Purho says. "I don't want to spend my time working on it, because it screws over legitimate customers and someone will crack it anyhow."

Than and the comment about people that wouldn't buy the game anyway unless it was on torrent speak volumes. A percentage of gamers playing a pirated game doesn't mean they represent lost sales.

Halbyrd:

There's been a lot of noise about how DRM is just the logical extension of CD keys, but it's just that--noise. The real purpose of CD keys is to serve as a reminder to the gamer that the game they're playing cost the devs a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash to make, and if you like the game, you really ought to give them something for their efforts.

DRM, by contrast, says to the consumer: "You're a thief, you dirty thief. If you want to play our supremely awesome game, you have to prove you're not a thief, thief. And you have to keep proving it at whatever interval we deem necessary. Having trouble because our sh*t 3rd-party DRM breaks your computer? Tough! Don't want us phoning home, sending the-gods-know-what kind of information back to the mother server? Too bad, thieves have no rights!" It's a back-handed slap to the face of every person who loves gaming, and wants to express that love with their purchases.

Yeah! It's like at stores, and those detectors that go off when you leave carrying something you shouldn't. I never shop at those retailers, because those stupid security measures are basically saying to me that I'm a thief!...

Whereas, of course, signs simply advising me not to steal are just really reminding people all the blood, sweat, and capitalist tears that went into building the store.

avidabey:

Halbyrd:

There's been a lot of noise about how DRM is just the logical extension of CD keys, but it's just that--noise. The real purpose of CD keys is to serve as a reminder to the gamer that the game they're playing cost the devs a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash to make, and if you like the game, you really ought to give them something for their efforts.

DRM, by contrast, says to the consumer: "You're a thief, you dirty thief. If you want to play our supremely awesome game, you have to prove you're not a thief, thief. And you have to keep proving it at whatever interval we deem necessary. Having trouble because our sh*t 3rd-party DRM breaks your computer? Tough! Don't want us phoning home, sending the-gods-know-what kind of information back to the mother server? Too bad, thieves have no rights!" It's a back-handed slap to the face of every person who loves gaming, and wants to express that love with their purchases.

Yeah! It's like at stores, and those detectors that go off when you leave carrying something you shouldn't. I never shop at those retailers, because those stupid security measures are basically saying to me that I'm a thief!...

Whereas, of course, signs simply advising me not to steal are just really reminding people all the blood, sweat, and capitalist tears that went into building the store.

Erm, no. If the detectors went off even when you had nothing on you that you hadn't paid for, followed you home, and sat to watch you as you used your product, that'd be a fair comparasion.

Or if you were never allowed to remove a security tag from a product, and the tag often interfered with the operation of the product.

Great read. I'm not a fan of DRM and I don't bother to yell at people for pirating games. But when they start arguing that they aren't really hurting the people who make games or that it isn't stealing it crosses the line into delusional. Do whatever you're going to do, no one is arguing that, but don't lie to yourself about the consequences of your actions.

Articles like this remind them about who ultimately gets burned when you steal these games.

Doug:

Erm, no. If the detectors went off even when you had nothing on you that you hadn't paid for, followed you home, and sat to watch you as you used your product, that'd be a fair comparasion.

Or if you were never allowed to remove a security tag from a product, and the tag often interfered with the operation of the product.

Actually it is a very fine comparison. The idea that a company, in their attempt to prevent you from copying and distributing their intellectual property, is labeling all their customers as thieves is as laughable as my comparison. The two are equally farcical.

Your comparison, on the other hand, holds no water because it assumes that all DRM will tamper with your experience, when it is obviously true that not all DRM does this. Some will and do, obviously, but the market will weed out those inferior products. Not tomorrow, but it will.

avidabey:

Doug:

Erm, no. If the detectors went off even when you had nothing on you that you hadn't paid for, followed you home, and sat to watch you as you used your product, that'd be a fair comparasion.

Or if you were never allowed to remove a security tag from a product, and the tag often interfered with the operation of the product.

Actually it is a very fine comparison. The idea that a company, in their attempt to prevent you from copying and distributing their intellectual property, is labeling all their customers as thieves is as laughable as my comparison. The two are equally farcical.

Your comparison, on the other hand, holds no water because it assumes that all DRM will tamper with your experience, when it is obviously true that not all DRM does this. Some will and do, obviously, but the market will weed out those inferior products. Not tomorrow, but it will.

The market will not weed out inferior products. I think that's pretty clear. Companies with better marketing will always manage to sell their goods more easily that those who lack the expertise/capital.

As for the comparisons, its true that most of the time DRM won't interfer the majority of the time with each PC. However, you will have been most lucky if you've never had a problem with it yourself. Personally, I know one of my CD-ROM drives was crippled by a SecuROM version. Wouldn't run half the CD's put in it.

As for the tag comparison, I fail to see how its not equal? You can't remove DRM, unless the publisher decides that they can trust you not to be a thief and release a remover patch. If the DRM messes with your PC, tough - and normally they won't uninstall it with the game, so you have to visit a third-party site to restore your system to working order.

Yeah! It's like at stores, and those detectors that go off when you leave carrying something you shouldn't. I never shop at those retailers, because those stupid security measures are basically saying to me that I'm a thief!...

Whereas, of course, signs simply advising me not to steal are just really reminding people all the blood, sweat, and capitalist tears that went into building the store.

As I said, that is not a good comparison, because the store doesn't follow you home and sit on your computer, watching your DVD/CD drives constantly incase you're copying it. DRM does. And sometimes bars your windows for no good reason.

In theory, the idea of giving paying customers access to extra content and features via a connection to a central server (which also checks your cd-key against a database of sold games) is a good one. The only problem is once it becomes commonplace in popular games, pirates will figure out a work-around to accessing the content, or create private servers.

On the other hand private servers aren't as useful because you can't play together with people who have a legit copy and play on unmodified servers and use an unmodified client.

Ding! Idea.

Ship the game without DRM, but crammed to the gills with in-game advertising. When you get the game home and register it online, the registry server detects whether the key is one that has been vended or not; if it's a vended one, the ads go away so long as the game gets to check the authenticity each time it boots. If the key used isn't one that was vended, or if the game can't verify the authenticity of the key, the ads stay.

Even better, if R. Matey keeps playing his unregistered/keygenned copy online, the authentication server tracks ad impressions and bills the sponsors appropriately. Pirates then cease to be "noble rebels against the system" and instead become yet more ad mules, and developers get paid when their games are played.

-- Steve

Nice idea.. even handles the worst case scenario of "What happens when the company goes belly-up and there's no central server for me to authenticate against anymore?" No problem.. you can still play, just with the adverts.

Halbyrd:
The industry as a whole needs to step back and ask themselves: Why is there so much of this going around? An honest assessment of this just might lead to some surprising solutions.

Very well executed posting. If I may add a link about similar ongoings in the music industry?
http://www.demonbaby.com/blog/2007/10/when-pigs-fly-death-of-oink-birth-of.html

And to answer to your quote:
Big media corporations, major labels, conglomerates and so on are like dinosaurs.
They have slept thru the digital age and now they are labeling p2p users, mass downloaders and torrenters worse than triple-time murderers or rapists.
They don't know what to do, because their time of might and power is over.

They are used to win big time by exploiting artists and game developers by shoving contracts down their throats where they win 10 times for every 1 dollar the real artist makes.
They are used to owning the rights and distribution of games, music and all other media.

But their time has passed.
The internet has emerged.
Habits have changed.

We don't buy antique CDs anymore (if you have noticed), because we are Generation iPod.

Distribution of media in the traditional way is ceasing as digital distribution is sky-rocketing.
The natural consequence of all this is the death of the dinosaur.

And that's what they will fight. One Grandmother Pirate at a time, one ridiculous lawsuit at a time. They will cling to their money, power and importance like a drug addict to his drug. In fact, you can't separate them - it's crooked.

All in all it is a hopeless, losing fight and they keep on refusing to see that.
So they try to eradicate the evil pirates. But as numbers show, that would mean you'd have to sue the major part of any industrialized country's population...

Well, dinosaurs and their crazy ideas of ruling the world again... too bad, they can't see that the world has changed and they have failed (and are still failing) to adopt.

Then again, there are others, who have "got" it. 4 words: Sins of solar empires.
I think it's no coincidence that they also developed their own digital distribution channel...

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

This is probably one of the most insightful things I've ever heard a game developer say. Now that I'm done university and am working as a software developer, I have more money than time, so I buy things. But when I was a student living on a tight, borrowed budget, paying $60 for a game wasn't an option (compare that to my living expenses, which were $550/month). That said, I had a lot of time to do nothing and I needed something to do with it. Some well-spent time on IRC, USENET, or various torrent sites, would eventually lead me to a few games that I absolutely loved. I actually own copies of these games now and I still play them.

It just goes back to a common counterpoint to the claim that piracy hurts developers: the people pirating your game likely wouldn't have paid for it in the first place. If you can make it worth their while, the people who would pay for it, will. Those that wouldn't pay, will either try harder and succeed, or give up and try something else -- either way, you'll never see their money anyway.

ReverseEngineered:

This is probably one of the most insightful things I've ever heard a game developer say. Now that I'm done university and am working as a software developer, I have more money than time, so I buy things. But when I was a student living on a tight, borrowed budget, paying $60 for a game wasn't an option (compare that to my living expenses, which were $550/month). That said, I had a lot of time to do nothing and I needed something to do with it. Some well-spent time on IRC, USENET, or various torrent sites, would eventually lead me to a few games that I absolutely loved. I actually own copies of these games now and I still play them.

I find it discouraging that your sense of entitlement is so great that you didn't think of the other obvious answer: Time + no money = get a menial job. No.. instead you figured that, what the hell, what the developer put in for his or her time wasn't as important as your entitlement to sit on your ass and spend your time hunting through the internet to use their work for your entertainment. Hopefully as a software developer now you at least have the sense to feel some guilt about what you did when you were younger.

It just goes back to a common counterpoint to the claim that piracy hurts developers: the people pirating your game likely wouldn't have paid for it in the first place. If you can make it worth their while, the people who would pay for it, will. Those that wouldn't pay, will either try harder and succeed, or give up and try something else -- either way, you'll never see their money anyway.

Ideally they'll give up and try something else. If they are unable/unwilling to pay the developer for the time the developer spent, why on earth should they enjoy the fruits of the developer's labour?

Jordan:
"I used to pirate a ton of TV before Hulu ... I haven't been able to afford cable for years," McMillen admits. "But that's the thing - it's all about realizing sh*t has changed. If you want to do something about it, then grow up and realize that you have to bend a bit and work with the new setup, like Hulu and what NIN and Radiohead have done."

Fine and all, but you can't really turn to torrent the equivalent of a tour experience, while a torrent version of a game will be 99.9999% the same as the legal version.

It's impossible to measure how many additional sales Carmel generated when his comments on World of Goo's piracy rate were reprinted across the internet.

There's just a limited amount of opportunities to get some spotlight by complaining a lot.
In the end, no matter the method you use, buzzword, ultramedia ranting or viral marketing, a saturation will dilute the positive effect to the point it hits close to zero gain.

"If you count the extra seven days of the pre-release, that means the DRM-free version remained un-pirated more than four times longer than the protected WiiWare version," Carmel says. "I'd like to think that this has to do with the good faith we created with our audience by releasing the PC version without any DRM."

Tough luck that prominent PC game providers like Steam and co actually use a DRM system to secure the copy you have downloaded, eh? :)

Arbre:

"If you count the extra seven days of the pre-release, that means the DRM-free version remained un-pirated more than four times longer than the protected WiiWare version," Carmel says. "I'd like to think that this has to do with the good faith we created with our audience by releasing the PC version without any DRM."

Tough luck that prominent PC game providers like Steam and co actually use a DRM system to secure the copy you have downloaded, eh? :)

Actually, 2D Boy distributed pre-release copies of World of Goo through their own site, not through Steam.

Jordan Deam:

Arbre:

"If you count the extra seven days of the pre-release, that means the DRM-free version remained un-pirated more than four times longer than the protected WiiWare version," Carmel says. "I'd like to think that this has to do with the good faith we created with our audience by releasing the PC version without any DRM."

Tough luck that prominent PC game providers like Steam and co actually use a DRM system to secure the copy you have downloaded, eh? :)

Actually, 2D Boy distributed pre-release copies of World of Goo through their own site, not through Steam.

Yes, they did, but when they wanted to reach bigger audiences, they traded good faith for PC portals relying on authentication to varying degrees.
That said, I wouldn't complain too much about the overall majority of games present on Steam. It keeps getting better, offering more opportunities for easier gaming. We've certainly seen worse DRMs.

It seems that, at least in the short term, the prudent publisher should adjust development and marketing budget according to the assumption that 10% of customers are bearing the entire cost.

Anton P. Nym:
Ding! Idea.

Ship the game without DRM, but crammed to the gills with in-game advertising. When you get the game home and register it online, the registry server detects whether the key is one that has been vended or not; if it's a vended one, the ads go away so long as the game gets to check the authenticity each time it boots. If the key used isn't one that was vended, or if the game can't verify the authenticity of the key, the ads stay.

Even better, if R. Matey keeps playing his unregistered/keygenned copy online, the authentication server tracks ad impressions and bills the sponsors appropriately. Pirates then cease to be "noble rebels against the system" and instead become yet more ad mules, and developers get paid when their games are played.

-- Steve

I do like this Idea to a point. Here's my problem with it. What if you want to play on a computer that isn't accessing the internet? I know it's less common these days than in the past, but sometimes people just don't have internet. If I go to the store and buy a legit copy, bring it home, and I don't have internet on my computer, I have to suffer a poorer gaming experience because I'm not connected to the WWW.

I know this is an old game, but if anyone remembers Escape Velocity: It was shareware, and if you didn't put in a key after 30 days, then the game would send a little ship after you and blow you up until you bought the game. That ship pissed me off to no end. I would've bought the game anyway, but I'm sure something similar can be employed today.

Kwil:

ReverseEngineered:

This is probably one of the most insightful things I've ever heard a game developer say. Now that I'm done university and am working as a software developer, I have more money than time, so I buy things. But when I was a student living on a tight, borrowed budget, paying $60 for a game wasn't an option (compare that to my living expenses, which were $550/month). That said, I had a lot of time to do nothing and I needed something to do with it. Some well-spent time on IRC, USENET, or various torrent sites, would eventually lead me to a few games that I absolutely loved. I actually own copies of these games now and I still play them.

I find it discouraging that your sense of entitlement is so great that you didn't think of the other obvious answer: Time + no money = get a menial job. No.. instead you figured that, what the hell, what the developer put in for his or her time wasn't as important as your entitlement to sit on your ass and spend your time hunting through the internet to use their work for your entertainment. Hopefully as a software developer now you at least have the sense to feel some guilt about what you did when you were younger.

It was much less a sense of entitlement and much more a sense of providing for one's self. Growing up poor, I did what I had to do even just to get clothes and meals (yes, that kind of poor). I learned how to get what I needed, and in the same way, get what I wanted. So it was less a matter of, "If they won't give it to me for free, I'll just take it," and more a matter of, "This is the only way I'm ever going to get this." As for menial jobs, I was already doing one. Playing games in my spare time was the only thing that kept me sane amongst the rest of the stress -- I wasn't about to give up the last of my leisure to work more.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying that what I did then was right or even acceptable, just that it was how I survived. I'm also not saying that people need video games to survive, just that people will always use their means to get what they desire. My concern wasn't with the faceless corporations (or the invisible developers) who wouldn't be seeing my money, I was too focused on finding something to occupy my mind so I wouldn't have to think about how much work sucked, how hard school was, and how helpless my financial situation was.

As for how that affects my current position as a developer, I realize now just how important it is that customers get what they pay for. What may seem a paltry sum to me now could be a week's savings or the only gift that a child receives at Christmas. I remember what it was like to be given an expensive game, only to find out it was a steaming pile. I do my damnedest to make sure whatever I develop is worth the money I ask for it.

Fuck Pirates

Since when has anyone been entitled to free content it takes time and effort to make

If it's reasonably priced, buy it.

Go Go Go iPhones App Store

The tighter the DRM security the greater you taunt the pirates into destroying it and rebelling against your bureaucratic bullshit.

Finally someone who realizes the futility of fighting piracy. (The developer, I mean)

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