Excuses on the High Seas

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I want to see if it actually works before I buy it.

Against this excuse I can offer no counter-argument.

The really interesting thing about this is that for console games (which you can bet fairly heavily will at least work consistently), there's more recourse than for PC games. I seem to recall that some stores would refund console games (although I'm not sure why... "I couldn't figure out where this copy of Halo3 goes in my DS... can I get my money back?" I guess it makes as much sense as a refund for slightly used pants.) With PC games, of course, you have no such luck. So for the one that's likely to fail, you're SOL. For the one that's nearly guaranteed to work, you can return it. And even if you can't return it, you can take it to a used games store and get something back for it.

harhol:
The Escapist has the most vehemently anti-piracy stance of anywhere I've ever read, gaming sites or otherwise. All the writers seem to be of a similar (and in some cases identical) pro-corporate mindset.

So what are you doing here ? Fighting the evil pro-corporate machine from the inside ?

dochmbi:
I'd like to see piracy suddenly become exponentially more popular and so common that it would crash the entire entertainment industry and all production of games, movies, tv-shows and music would grind to a halt. Then, by the power of immense unsatisfied demand, a new media made for the people by the people would emerge. People would only pay if they want to, there would be donator unions forming which seek to get 10$ from a million people so a new game can be developed, there would be more low budget, fresh and innovative titles, though less high profile high graphics games.

Hi Che.

This article is so immature, so poorly constructed and so ridiculously biased, it makes me want to stop contributing to Escapist traffic at all. It makes me want to boycott you guys, for having so many damned stupid writers. Do you get paid by the RIAA or something?

The idiocy on this site is so rampant when it comes to the misinformation about piracy... If it weren't for Yahtzee, I wouldn't visit the Escapist at all.

What ever happened to fair and balanced news? You basically take the weakest arguments from pirates, and respond to propagate your own misunderstanding of the information.

Let me just point out that most "pirates" (aka mom or dad buying bootlegged games or 13 y.o. gamer who wouldn't have been able to afford the game anyway) is simply an untapped market, and many of them do support the brands they love. More importantly, piracy is a FREE form of VIRAL advertising, that attracts a lot more fans and contributes to sales (unless you're getting your facts from the RIAA or MPAA). Yes, you heard me: Piracy makes things more popular FOR FREE. For example, The Dark Knight was both the most highly pirated movie of last year and the highest grossing one. You can't be silly enough to equate a download to a sale last: sometimes it's a new fan, sometimes it's many fans, sometimes it's a sale made, sometimes it's a sale lost.

I've found out about a lot of content online, and fell so in love with it that I had to buy it. I'm certainly not the only one. I also conveniently watched a lot of things online that I didn't like, and decided I didn't want to buy it. Who lost? Well, Blockbuster might have; sorry Blockbuster, you guys get hit the hardest when people pirate movies. Maybe rental places are slowly becoming irrelevant.

Anyway, it's simply an untapped market and companies haven't yet learned how to adapt to the new technologies, take advantage of things like bit torrent to distribute content, and give consumers their rights back. There are definitely ways to adapt (I read a web blog called techdirt a lot, and they have some brilliant ideas on this whole issue).

I hope the pirates win. I hope piratebay wins, for everyone's sake. If the corporations win, the average consumer will lose his or her rights. There's just as much philosophy and rationality behind this thing for some "pirates", and by that I mean not your average suburbanite parent who buys bootlegged movies because they're really cheap. But, on that account, if companies would lower their prices, or find different strategies, they'd be able to compete with bootlegged copies. You won't be able to stop piracy without infringing on the rights of innocent people who don't engage in piracy anyway, so your best bet is to compete with piracy. You can't beat them without changing the structure of society and giving too much power to those with money. Companies need to adapt and compete with piracy, not spend money and waste time fighting it.

You can't fight it. You can't "guilt" people into not pirating movies. To attract those who don't have a philosophy behind it - compete. To attract those who do, there are ways to draw them in, too, and even if there aren't ways, they're such a small fraction that you can ignore them; they wouldn't have bought it anyway. You're not losing a sale if someone was not going to buy something regardless.

CapnJack:
This article is so immature, so poorly constructed and so ridiculously biased, it makes me want to stop contributing to Escapist traffic at all.

Farewell CapnJack. You will be missed, but nowhere near the extent if Cap'n Morgan suddenly sailed away. Also, ironic choice of words to open with, and the response will be in similar fashion (fair warning.) I also find it hilarious that someone named CapnJack is pro-pirating.

CapnJack:
The idiocy on this site is so rampant when it comes to the misinformation about piracy... If it weren't for Yahtzee, I wouldn't visit the Escapist at all.

Then why not just bookmark ZP and ignore the others altogether?

CapnJack:
What ever happened to fair and balanced news?

Say what?

CapnJack:
Let me just point out that the market that pirates thing is simply an untapped market

Required reading: Franco's 'A Nation of Pirates.'

Also tempted to point at the Prates of the Caribbean series for giggles. Or Sid Meier's Pirates. Or Puzzle Pirates.

On rather humorous note, one will find it hard to tap profit from a market of free goods.

CapnJack:
For example, The Dark Knight was both the most highly pirated movie of last year and the highest grossing one.

The movie has two streaks of profitability: Theatres and home viewing. Games really only have one (to publishers.) Recently has this really changed, with older games being given new life via digital distribution or virtual console.

CapnJack:
I've found out about a lot of content online, and fell so in love with it that I had to buy it.

Welcome to the world of digital distribution, now please wait while Steam decrypts this information.

CapnJack:
I'm certainly not the only one.

Quite a few people seem to have the internet nowadays.

CapnJack:
companies haven't yet learned how to adapt to the new technologies.

A rather ironic choice of words there.

CapnJack:
If the corporations win over the pirates

Read: if everything is free.

CapnJack:
if companies would lower their prices, they'd be able to compete with bootlegged copies.

Read: If companies laid off the vast majority of their employees, slackened graphical content and quality assurance(more so,)and cut out retail all together and only distributed digitally then they MIGHT be able to sell games for $5 - $8 and still turn a profit.

CapnJack:
Companies need to adapt and compete with piracy, not spend money and waste time fighting it.

Oddly enough, THEY ARE competing with piracy. And those means of fighting pirates are actually a form of adaptation (albeit a rather poor one.)

CapnJack:
You can't fight it. You can't "guilt" people into not pirating movies. For those who don't have a philosophy behind it - compete. For those who do, there are ways to draw them in, too, and even if there aren't, they're such a small fraction that you can ignore them; they wouldn't have bought it anyway.

What?

I honestly hope publishers bite the dust soon. Sure the big name titles will disappear, but is that such a bad thing? Who the hell wants to play the 27th iteration of some FPS with moderately improved graphics? Instead of these businesses taking advantage of the new market for information, they are trying to fight it, and as such are losing ridiculous amounts of money.

The sooner the publishers are gone, the sooner developers will finally be able to create to their imagination's delight. Sure production values will go down, and developers will be more responsible for their mistakes, but thats the way it used to be. That's the way it SHOULD be. Its quality assurance.

To this end, I support piracy. Lets take the decisions out of the hands of people who don't know or care about the fans.

On the whole "How can you make money off of something that exists because it is free" argument, I say:

The same way television stations still profit when people watch TVs online instead of on TV.

All you have to do is make it easier than pirating. DRM pretty much screwed the pooch on that one, and because pirating is so easy to do (and easy to learn), it will take a long time to recover.

matrix3509:
The sooner the publishers are gone, the sooner developers will finally be able to create to their imagination's delight.

Assuming they're held together by goodwill and gumdrops and less so by something practical...like money. Unless, you mean Indie, which are typically out-of-pocket anyway.

matrix3509:
Sure production values will go down, and developers will be more responsible for their mistakes, but thats the way it used to be.

You lost me here. When was this? If you responsible, do you mean going under? Kinda like what would happen without an adequate source of funds? Doesn't patching show some form of responsibility?

Assuming they're held together by goodwill and gumdrops and less so by something practical...like money.

matrix3509:
To this end, I support piracy. Lets take the decisions out of the hands of people who don't know or care about the fans.

"People who don't know or care about the fans" can also refer to pirates, oddly enough.

And way to bring down a huge cooperation by not buying their offered goods. I can't help but wonder if you dig through the dumpster behind McDonald's because you're "fightin' the man."

You give the impression you qualify as a pirate by sheer definition of performing acts of piracy, not because you actually HOLD interest in a company's offered goods. Kudos to your stand against those evil publishers. If you have to crush those developers who depend on them, then By God are they crushed!

Edit: Golly gee there's more! :D

matrix3509:
On the whole "How can you make money off of something that exists because it is free" argument, I say:

The same way television stations still profit when people watch TVs online instead of on TV.
By selling ad space? Publishers of shows buy time slots on stations, and so do commercials.

So by that logic, if we load the game with as many ads as we can possibly muster, then profits for everybody!

Hey wait... Don't people hate in game advertising?

matrix3509:
All you have to do is make it easier than pirating. DRM pretty much screwed the pooch on that one, and because pirating is so easy to do (and easy to learn), it will take a long time to recover.

I find this a bit hard to swallow. If you still have to pay for it, isn't it still more complicated than pirating it?

Good comment, Shamus. Would that all people who wrote about games had actually bought a few of them themselves.

I just pirate because I get bored and want something to kill time with.
Edit: Since when do i need a reason to pirate whatever i want?

Funny you should drop a link to the World of Goo site and yet fail to read what they have to say about Piracy and why they consider DRM is a "waste of time and money"...

http://2dboy.com/2008/11/13/90/

Note that World of Goo is the second best seller at Amazon after WotLK.

I honestly don't care. Sure people make up excuses, but I try to be as much of a dick as I can to them corporations who seem to have all the money and run everything!

I'm sorry but I am sick and tired of this crap. All these threads/articles about the back and forth of piracy, this "article" had nothing different from any number of standard forum posts, nothing new to add, nothing humourous or entertaining and really was just a complete and utter waste of time reading.

Plus it pisses me off that a bunch of assholes get on their high horses and act like pirates are the lowest scum in the world then most of them try to defend their own pirating of music/movies/anime or even just by "borrowing" a game from a friend.

When I pirate shit its for one reason. Because I can. I am no worse a human being then those scum who think they can look down of people for doing shit they themselves do but just wont ever admit to.

Odjin:

Abandonware
That's quite a gray-gray area you mentioned there. Honestly I don't know exactly how the legal situation works out there. Can rights on a game run out over time? Can it run out if the company producing the game doesn't exist anymore? What if the game can no more be bought anymore? There exists an association in the states trying to deny any use of games after their date ran out but what use is a game you can no more obtain unless from an abandonware site?

Actually, it's not gray at all, here in the US. Pretty much all games are still under copyright protection, unless they've been explicitly released by the authors/developers, and consequently, distribution of said titles is illegal.

Yes, copyrights are supposed to expire, however Berne convention compliance removed the need for specific registration, while there have been several extensions to the original term of 26 years. I believe the current term is 90 years, though I think the term was only 50 at the inception of the video game age. In fact, this was one of the arguments in the Grokster case, that while Congress did have the authority to extend copyright term limits, the perpetual extension of unexpired terms was unconstitutional, as the explicit intent of copyright was for a "limited term."

Now, as for the specific companies in question, many are still around, though in significantly different form (Atari, Activision), many are owned by EA (Origin), in some instances, the creators have reacquired the rights to their titles (Intellivision), and in many instances, the rights exist solely in the back of some file drawer in a liquidation company or bankruptcy attorney's file cabinet.

All that being said, while the illicit copying of abandonware is strictly illegal, when there's nothing being legitimately marketed, it's kind of hard to argue that there's any sort of moral infraction, though it can be argued that such distribution harms the development of any future markets for such titles. But that doesn't seem to have been the case to date.

There's an additional type of abandonware that rarely gets mentioned. Unlike original titles, games that rely on third party licenses are typically only licensed for a limited term, so all those Pern games, and Trillium software's sf adaptations will likely never see rerelease, as you would not only have to negotiate with the current holders of the game rights, you would also have to relicense the IP tie in.

Anonymouse:
Plus it pisses me off that a bunch of assholes get on their high horses and act like pirates are the lowest scum in the world then most of them try to defend their own pirating of music/movies/anime or even just by "borrowing" a game from a friend.

Well that's certainly understandable.. but I ask you to cite your source of "most of them" because, at least among the folks I know, those who say they're against piracy actually are against piracy, and don't do it themselves. You see, some of us actually can control our sense of entitlement and have the decency to respect the authors and developers who actually put their time and sweat into a product for our benefit.

Now you may not be a worse human being than those specific people you mention, but you're definitely a worse human being than those of us who actaully respect the people who work to better our lives, and so don't shit on their right to control their own work and maybe even feed themselves and their families while doing it.

matrix3509:
On the whole "How can you make money off of something that exists because it is free" argument, I say:

The same way television stations still profit when people watch TVs online instead of on TV.

Ah, might I suggest you actually dig down into the financials of a TV station. You might be surprised. Of course, it's harder to catch over this great sucking sound of the economy in general, but TV stations aren't doing so well on their online ventures. Turns out that they have to charge a lot less for an internet advertisement than they do for a television advert -- go figure. And funnily enough, this has an effect on their bottom line.

But don't worry, soon I'm sure we'll get to the 6 minute show amidst 24 minutes of advertisements and everybody will be so happy about it, right? Right?

Kwil:
Ah, might I suggest you actually dig down into the financials of a TV station. You might be surprised. Of course, it's harder to catch over this great sucking sound of the economy in general, but TV stations aren't doing so well on their online ventures. Turns out that they have to charge a lot less for an internet advertisement than they do for a television advert -- go figure. And funnily enough, this has an effect on their bottom line.

But don't worry, soon I'm sure we'll get to the 6 minute show amidst 24 minutes of advertisements and everybody will be so happy about it, right? Right?

At least they are attempting to solve the problem instead of sheltering themselves from it, as other media outlets refuse to show TV shows and the like online or outside of particular regions, so you know how I get around it? I pirate, because there's no other option as there are no DVD's around and they won't appear on my TV for years to come. It's the same problem with a older programs that are no longer on TV, they are not online and although they may still be in shops they are still exceptionally expensive so again I pirate. These problems could easily be solved (ironically with a service like Kangaroo which was canceled by some ignorant old people in the CC) with online, ad supported endeavors which may not bring in much profit, but at least they're bringing in some.

Beating piracy is about competing to offer a better service, the conscience talked so much about in the article may not be enough to keep most people from piracy currently but that's only because currently, the way companies deliver media to us is decades behind the file sharing scene. When that gap gets much closer like with online TV services, Steam, etc. it's surprising how many would be pirates will turn to these services despite the increased cost/ads.

Kwil:
Now you may not be a worse human being than those specific people you mention, but you're definitely a worse human being than those of us who actaully respect the people who work to better our lives, and so don't shit on their right to control their own work and maybe even feed themselves and their families while doing it.

So piracy which harms noone makes me a bad person? Thats a load of bullshit and you using that to make yourself feel better about yourself really does make you a bad person. Plus you people keep harping on and on and on about how bad pirates are like broken records. If people examined your lives they would find things they disagree with too.
Then lets take the issue of piracy, are you really going to sit there and tell me you dont have a single downloaded mp3 on your harddrive? Never recorded a song off the radio or a show off TV, never downloaded or even streamed anime, never photocopied a book or borrowed a game from someone, all of which are piracy. Either youre a saint or you are full of shit. Guess which one I am betting on.

The argument that pirates are free advertising or an underserved market doesn't really succeed in taking the next step and showing that what they are doing is justified. The implication of such claims is that pirates should be left alone to do what they want or even have laws altered such that what they are doing is no longer illegal. What then? Once it is legal to download a copy of a video game for free, who pays for it? The time and materials required to make things will have to come from somewhere. You might say that things should be made more cheaply so that the cost is absorbed by the creators and made for the enjoyment of others rather than for profit. Fine then, stop playing games that cost millions to create, and stick to freeware games.

Anonymouse:

Then lets take the issue of piracy, are you really going to sit there and tell me you dont have a single downloaded mp3 on your harddrive? Never recorded a song off the radio or a show off TV, never downloaded or even streamed anime, never photocopied a book or borrowed a game from someone, all of which are piracy. Either youre a saint or you are full of shit. Guess which one I am betting on.

Oh I have plenty of downloaded MP3s on my hard drive. All legit. Emusic is pretty decent.
And you apparantly don't even know what piracy is. Recording a show off of the TV isn't piracy, it's time shifting, there are a number of court rulings backing that up. That said, my DVR only has so much room, which means that I really only can use it for time shifting or it'd fill up. When I want a show or movie long term (such as Dexter, or Six Feet Under) I actually go out and purchase the DVD set.

And no, I don't record songs off the radio, quality is crap, and I support artists by purchasing.

I don't photocopy full books, I buy them or use the library.

And I don't borrow games, nor anything else, really. I have this funny attitude of if I need or want something, I'll go out and get my own rather than being a sponge on the people around me. Call it odd, if you will.

I'm a content creator myself you see. So I can tell you definitively that when you take something I've created without giving any thought to what I put into it or might want in return for it, then yes, you're a bad person and an ass besides. Harms no one? What about giving the proper respect to people who put their time and effort into something that makes your life better than it would be otherwise (if it didn't, you wouldn't bother getting it in the first place, after all). Yeah it harms people. Maybe not fiscally, but those are my rights you're stomping on.

Hopefully, once you grow up and get a job, you'll actually find that the customers value what you produce enough to pay you what you ask for it.. rather than just thinking they're entitled to it because.. hey.. you've already done it anyway.

Kwil, the problem with you view is that you're breaking one of the first rules of marketing - don't make an enemy of your consumer, now a pirate may not be a direct consumer but as you may have noticed with the recent TPB trial, consumer opinion is overwhelmingly on their side as the prosecutors like the RIAA have made a habit out of suing people that mostly turned out to be innocent and refused to target the real problem of the uploaders.

And although this may only be anecdotal take the case of me, a few years ago I pirated pretty much all my music, such as all the SOAD albums. Now I have bought most of those albums as CD's do you think that would have happened if the RIAA had attempted to sue me? There is potential profit in pirates and only a fool would alienate them as a consumer base.

Games get pirated, because it can be done easily. In the first half of the 90ties piracy was rampant. It was easy to copy a floppy disk. This stopped with introduction of games on CD-Rom which couldn't be copied due to larger file size.
Now with widely available broadband game size doesn't matter anymore. So piracy is rampant again.

Yes I'm convinced that stuff gets pirated, because it's possible. People are always searching for a cheap advantage. That's why WOW gold is sold on the internet or bugs like the duplication bug in EVE got heavily exploited.

High morals are nice, but piracy is going to stay for a long time. I know it's wrong. I know game developers need to eat. (They are actually humans and not robots? I'm still shocked!) Thanks for the reminder. Doesn't change reality.

Publishers should ask themselves: what are pirates offering that we don't?
The heavily bugged PC release of Fallout 3 comes to mind. 2-3 days after release a cracker released a selfmade patch fixing most of the crash issues people had. Pirates are real bad people!

In my opinion there are several things wrong with the game industry:
-insanely high development cost: costing several millions to produce a blockbuster title must rake in more profit to break even. That's why suddenly the used games market is considered to be evil. EVIL!!11

-no or only few demos: How should I know if a game is worth 50-60 €? How should I know it runs on my outdated machine? Free demos are also a sort of advertisement. I remember playing the deus ex demo over and over again til I could finally buy it. Same with the sam & max episodes.
The funny thing about the whole demo issue is the difference between consoles and PCs. There are lot of demos available for download over PSN and Xbox live. But for the same games there aren't demos for PC. Why? Oh yeah right. PC gamers are pirates.

-futile race for better graphics and higher realism: I think that's a major cost factor. Graphics can be astonishing for about 15 minutes. Then you get used to it. Regarding things like the uncanny valley trying to create realistic looking characters instead of a more comic style approach might be a bad idea. I'm not sure.

Okay enough ranting

Skrapt:
Kwil, the problem with you view is that you're breaking one of the first rules of marketing - don't make an enemy of your consumer, now a pirate may not be a direct consumer but as you may have noticed with the recent TPB trial, consumer opinion is overwhelmingly on their side as the prosecutors like the RIAA have made a habit out of suing people that mostly turned out to be innocent and refused to target the real problem of the uploaders.

That's more a case for saying that the RIAA is being too timid to target the uploaders. That's not entirely their failing, as current laws (even that silly DMCA) just aren't up to the task; see the tangled mess of the current Pirate Bay case.

Consumer opinion will often support the "little guy" fighting the "big, mean corporation," especially when they don't see the acts of the little guy threatening consumers. (This thread, for instance, is a fine illustration of that thinking.) The problem is that consumers don't necessarily understand the ecology of the industry, and don't understand what the parasitic load of piracy does to those creating the content they want.

-- Steve

Shamus, kudos to you on this article that makes for relatively light reading in comparison to others on the same topic and further on provoking such an entertaining read via the ensuing comments.

I personally realised a while ago that piracy had just become a habit; there was no strong motivation or reason for engaging in it other than it being possible. The realisation that there were few titles strong enough on the PC market to illicit a purchase (amongst other contributing reasons) lead to a switch over to primarily console based gaming in its stead.

harhol:
Blah blah blah "character assassination" blah blah.

You, sir, fail at ethical philosophy. Shamus begins his article by establishing an ethical framework, piracy is wrong, and then expounding in it. To declare that an action is wrong and then work within the boundaries implied by it is not "character assassination." Do you even understand what the term means?

You'd be better off arguing why piracy is not wrong, why it is not unethical to gain illegitimate access to content. Although I suspect that if you could have you would have.

Anton P. Nym:

Consumer opinion will often support the "little guy" fighting the "big, mean corporation," especially when they don't see the acts of the little guy threatening consumers. (This thread, for instance, is a fine illustration of that thinking.) The problem is that consumers don't necessarily understand the ecology of the industry, and don't understand what the parasitic load of piracy does to those creating the content they want.

-- Steve

I think the biggest problem here is how bigger deal the industry is making of this, and this is why people are rooting for the pirates. Because when these companies make a fuss over piracy, nothing changes. EA said Crysis had a 90% piracy rate, did that stop them from releasing a sequel and Far Cry 2? Nope, the industry claims to lose all this money and business but nothing is visibly changing because the industry isn't really feeling any squeeze because piracy doesn't really create one.

The economic downturn is visible to the consumer, you have an immediate effect on your wallet and jobs are being lost daily. The movie industry then claims to lose $1,000,000,000+ to piracy, next in the news Hollywoods 100 million dollar movie has smashed records and made a gross of 150 million, their CEO is giving himself a $100,000 bonus this year and they've just signed deals to pay some actor $1,000,000 per week!

Piracy is a scapegoat, the movie/gaming industry isn't losing much if any money to it and they continue to release AAA titles and huge budget movies and continue to report even bigger profits. They make a big deal of piracy because no. of downloads x price is a big number but even if piracy was wiped out overnight, they wouldn't see a penny of that figure entering their figures.

I pirate music, and some games I own are pirated, though they all fall into the 'own the hardcopy but fuck the DRM' class, or the 'It's no longer for sale' class.

Don't listen to the fuckers, Seamus. This is a balanced, rational and logically-constructed argument. Everyone knows that piracy is breaking the law, no matter how you look at it. You appropriate blame to both pirates and corporates, as is deserved, and I must congratualate you for a reasonable, well-thought-out article.

Kudos to you.

Skrapt:
The economic downturn is visible to the consumer, you have an immediate effect on your wallet and jobs are being lost daily. The movie industry then claims to lose $1,000,000,000+ to piracy, next in the news Hollywoods 100 million dollar movie has smashed records and made a gross of 150 million, their CEO is giving himself a $100,000 bonus this year and they've just signed deals to pay some actor $1,000,000 per week!

Piracy is a scapegoat, the movie/gaming industry isn't losing much if any money to it and they continue to release AAA titles and huge budget movies and continue to report even bigger profits. They make a big deal of piracy because no. of downloads x price is a big number but even if piracy was wiped out overnight, they wouldn't see a penny of that figure entering their figures.

In a limited sense I agree. The industry is still somewhat profitable despite piracy, spokesmen have made the issue out to be worse than it is while diluting their message with big sales numbers, and they've done such a clumsy job of combating piracy that they're alienating some of their honest customers.

However, it's the details where I disagree that change my point of view.

The industry is still profitable because it works on the "hit" model; one massive success brings in tons of sales, a few middling titles break even more-or-less, and a bunch of lesser titles crash-and-burn... but so long as the massive success is massive enough, the studio (or publisher) can still make money. Illustrative point to hand: Microsoft Game Studios sales figures for 2007 were skewed massively by the release of one title, Halo 3. The skew was big enough that game sales for 3rd quarter of 2008 appear to be down from last year for the console industry as a whole. As proud as that makes me as a Bungie fan, it's not a sign of a healthy industry when one title can so distort it.*

Piracy won't kill the hits; they will indeed keep selling. Piracy also won't kill the duds because the duds are already dead. But piracy's effect on margins could tip the balance on a middling title from break-even to money-eater, and that's where it really hurts.

A variant of the "hit" model is Blizzard making money hand-over-fist because they have World of Warcraft; the secret to its profitability is their subscription model, wherein you have to pay not only the software cost (and upgrades) but also on a monthly basis to access the WoW servers. A steady income stream from loyal customers pays their bills, so they can take risks on other titles; and it's a revenue stream that pirates can't sap.** No wonder Activision wanted to aquire/merge with them, and why other companies are trying to compete in the MMO sphere for some of that assured income.

The effect of piracy isn't to kill the industry, not overall. The effect is to change the industry by making it tougher for small studios to keep going, making it more attractive to big studios to focus on "blockbuster" games with the broadest possible appeal, and driving developers more and more to the "game as service" model reflected by browser games and MMOs.

If you want fewer people making big games, more generic big games, and more ad-supported or pay-to-play games, then by all means keep pirating.

-- Steve

* As a side point to this, the public tends to fall for the lottery fallacy; people remember the big hits, and assume they're the norm because they forget about the failures. That's a problem in public perception, and it's exacerbated by studio and publisher PR campaigns that try to portray themselves in the best light by sweeping the failures under the rug.

** Indeed, their problem is ruffians and scoundrels paying them money in order to sell virtual merchandise to those steady customers.

dochmbi:
I'd like to see piracy suddenly become exponentially more popular and so common that it would crash the entire entertainment industry and all production of games, movies, tv-shows and music would grind to a halt. Then, by the power of immense unsatisfied demand, a new media made for the people by the people would emerge. People would only pay if they want to, there would be donator unions forming which seek to get 10$ from a million people so a new game can be developed, there would be more low budget, fresh and innovative titles, though less high profile high graphics games.

I'd like that, too. Also, I'd like a pony.

More seriously, I think it's perfectly possible for an alternative media "by the people for the people" to emerge (in fact, cheap online distribution by small companies is already a step in this direction), but I wouldn't hold my breath for it to emerge because of the demise of traditional Big Gaming. Big, complex games of the type many people really enjoy are inherently high budget operations, and I don't think demand for them will sudden vanish.

jemborg:
Funny you should drop a link to the World of Goo site and yet fail to read what they have to say about Piracy and why they consider DRM is a "waste of time and money"...

http://2dboy.com/2008/11/13/90/

Note that World of Goo is the second best seller at Amazon after WotLK.

Smart man. I suppose you don't know that World of Goo has an 82% piracy rate.

Although, if you download the game and it works, are you then honest enough to run to the store and Do The Right Thing?

For what it's worth I've done this before. I think I've pirated 2 games in my lifetime, both of which once I got through the first "level" I bought it from whichever digital distribution store it was on. For Dead Space, it was direct to drive, and then it came on Steam a month later, which made me wish I was a bit more patient.

matrix3509:
I honestly hope publishers bite the dust soon. Sure the big name titles will disappear, but is that such a bad thing? Who the hell wants to play the 27th iteration of some FPS with moderately improved graphics?

According to sales charts, a lot.

But man, what the holy fuck. Pirates are not some sort of freedom fighters sticking it to the man. They copy games because they are too cheap to buy them. It is not a statement against corporations. If you were so against the evil corporations I doubt you would post here with your high-end PC. The Che would probably get out of it's grave and kick your ass.

Anton P. Nym:
The industry is still profitable because it works on the "hit" model;

I'm not so sure about that.

The largest game companies have drawn record revenues and suffered record losses, precisely because they've invested in the hit model, but don't quite know how to make it work.

Piracy did not make this happen. Nor did the economic downturn, if you believe the argument made in Slate last week. Here's the nut from that piece:

how can publishers lose money amid such incredible sales and record growth? The answer is simple: They're spending more than they're bringing in. Game development budgets have ballooned, and publishers are reeling because they can't keep the costs under control.

Anton P. Nym:
so long as the massive success is massive enough, the studio (or publisher) can still make money.

This is precisely what's in dispute.

The game companies think that the only way to make money is to load up on a killer ap, but they've consistently underestimated the cost of producing a blockbuster. Here's the argument from GTAIV, again from Slate:

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, released last May, is the prime example of a blockbuster game. GTA IV sold 6 million copies during its first week, bringing in $500 million. True to form, it cost Rockstar $100 million to produce, 1,000 people worked on the project, and it took three-and-a-half years to complete. Six months later, sales began to founder--a major setback to a publisher that bet the farm on the title and predicted sales throughout 2009.

Anton P. Nym:
But piracy's effect on margins could tip the balance on a middling title from break-even to money-eater, and that's where it really hurts.

You're saying this, but you're not providing any evidence for it.

Anton P. Nym:
If you want fewer people making big games, more generic big games, and more ad-supported or pay-to-play games, then by all means keep pirating.

Again, there's no reason to believe this. A better argument would be that bigger, more generic games result from investment in blockbusters, which has nothing to do with piracy.

The problem is that the video game industry doesn't understand its own sales. Yes; video game revenues exceeded those of film DVDs for the first time this year--a natural development as game revenues have long exceeded movie box office. But look at the number of sales.

GTAIV has sold about 10 million copies. The Dark Knight sold 23 million tickets in its opening weekend and has moved 12 million DVDs to date. Video games are not as popular as the game industry thinks. This misunderstanding lies at the heart of the publishers' woes, not piracy.

So I should HAVE to pay for something that is horrible? Sorry, but just because software is easier to copy doesn't mean I shouldn't be guaranteed a full product to my consumer satisfation. That's basically the videogame company telling me they don't have to give me a quality product and I should accept every single game as a modern day FF7 out of sheer mercy to the dollars they've lost.

I've never pirated and fully agree on paying for what I want, whether it be a music CD, movie, book, ticket for a concert, etc etc etc... however there comes a time to where the videogame companies need to assume responsibility and not make me pay for a product that isn't worthy of dollar. If I am going to upgrade a PC or buy an enitire console I'd BETTER be getting my moneys worth. Otherwise they are ripping me off.

And where's the "You can't rent PC games" option?

:P

Edited.

Lvl 64 Klutz:

Odjin:

I just want to try it out, and if I like the game I pay for it.
Counter-Question. If the publisher refuses to give out a demo and therefore strips you from any chance to judge if a game (1) runs or (2) is fun, is it still incorrect to shoot back by stripping them from any chance to get your money? I know it's a gray area but I remember times where demos of games had been the defacto standard. Nowadays publishers seem to think customers are pricks that can be milked by serving products they can't be held reliable for. Nearly all games ( except some due to recommendation from friends or having played it there ) I bought so far has been because the demo convinced me.

No offense to you in particular, but I'm really sick of hearing this excuse about lack of demos. If after reading 3 or 4 well written reviews you still can't decide if you'll enjoy a game, you need to explore your taste in videogames more.

Let's clear up a couple of points since you got something wrong here. You mention reviews. The intention of a review is to give you a textual description of what a demo does. Now comes the problem or in fact they are more than one. Reviewers have to express their feeling and views of the game in words. As we all know speech is a very inappropriate way to convoy these informations. So it is next to impossible to get a clear idea if a game really is good or not since reviews are always written by the colored-glasses syndrom ( meaning, the text is biased by the writter and read biased by the reader ). So reviews are totally useless to get an educated idea about a game. And worst comes last the majority of reviewers are prone to the glamour-bandwagon syndrom which means they have to give positive or even hyping reviews to games to not loose their position ( see the drama about lynch and kane back then ).

So in the end reviews are utterly useless. They are not worth more than a piece of toilet paper. The only thing which can give a you real educated and correct view of a game is a demo. There is no other way. Even trailers are worse than reviews in that they show just what the game creators want to show us. But with a demo you see anything: the good and the bad ( no pun intended ). You get to see what they want to hide from you with sugar talking. And then you often see how a game does suck even though the reviews tell you it's the next best thing since sliced bread.

So I reject your attack on the opinion of people about demos. The miss of them is a problem due to the above mentioned reasons.

bkd69:

Odjin:

Abandonware
That's quite a gray-gray area you mentioned there. Honestly I don't know exactly how the legal situation works out there. Can rights on a game run out over time? Can it run out if the company producing the game doesn't exist anymore? What if the game can no more be bought anymore? There exists an association in the states trying to deny any use of games after their date ran out but what use is a game you can no more obtain unless from an abandonware site?

Actually, it's not gray at all, here in the US. Pretty much all games are still under copyright protection, unless they've been explicitly released by the authors/developers, and consequently, distribution of said titles is illegal.

Yes, copyrights are supposed to expire, however Berne convention compliance removed the need for specific registration, while there have been several extensions to the original term of 26 years. I believe the current term is 90 years, though I think the term was only 50 at the inception of the video game age. In fact, this was one of the arguments in the Grokster case, that while Congress did have the authority to extend copyright term limits, the perpetual extension of unexpired terms was unconstitutional, as the explicit intent of copyright was for a "limited term."

Now, as for the specific companies in question, many are still around, though in significantly different form (Atari, Activision), many are owned by EA (Origin), in some instances, the creators have reacquired the rights to their titles (Intellivision), and in many instances, the rights exist solely in the back of some file drawer in a liquidation company or bankruptcy attorney's file cabinet.

All that being said, while the illicit copying of abandonware is strictly illegal, when there's nothing being legitimately marketed, it's kind of hard to argue that there's any sort of moral infraction, though it can be argued that such distribution harms the development of any future markets for such titles. But that doesn't seem to have been the case to date.

There's an additional type of abandonware that rarely gets mentioned. Unlike original titles, games that rely on third party licenses are typically only licensed for a limited term, so all those Pern games, and Trillium software's sf adaptations will likely never see rerelease, as you would not only have to negotiate with the current holders of the game rights, you would also have to relicense the IP tie in.

Don't know the system in America as I'm from the other end of the world but in economics if a company does not protect their IP/license/patent whatever then they silently agree to give it up altogether. Hence if game companies do not care about their old and abandoned games to be distributed for free this would turn their rights nonexistent. Conflicts somewhat with this "automatic 50 years protected" rule up there. As far as I know though abandonware sites are not shut down as long as they do not host games of publishers in I think EAS or something it's named ( this association thing EA is part of too ).

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