Stardock CEO: Demigod Beats Piracy

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Stardock CEO Brad Wardell says the success of Demigod, despite rampant piracy and a botched launch, is all the proof he needs that heavy-handed copy protection is a waste of time.

Demigod’s woes began shortly before the game’s scheduled release date of April 14 when GameStop broke the street date and put the game on shelves just prior to the Easter weekend. As a result, Stardock employees were forced to work through the holiday, trying to keep the multiplayer servers configured and running. A few days later the company revealed that piracy levels were so high that the studio’s network infrastructure had almost completely collapsed under the weight of handling matchmaking duties for the huge number of people who had copied the game. Of the roughly 120,000 connections made to the server at the time, Wardell said, only about 18,000 were legitimate. The problems resulted in at least one below-average review from a major gaming site: GameSpot lavished praise on Demigod but nonetheless gave it a score of only 6.5 because of “major online connectivity problems.”

Despite all that, Wardell recently posted an ever-so-slightly smug forum message entitled “Demigod: So much for piracy.” In it, he notes that the game debuted at number three on PC game retail sales chart, a figure that includes a partial week and doesn’t count digital sales, which he claims accounts for the majority of Demigod’s sales. All of which happened while the DRM-free game was being pirated like mad.

“Piracy pisses me off. If you’re playing a pirated copy right now, if you’re one of those people on Hamachi or GameRanger playing a pirated copy and have been for more than a few days, then you should either buy it or accept that you’re a thief and quit rationalizing it any other way,” he wrote.

But he added that as much as he personally dislikes piracy, fighting it isn’t what he’s here for. “My job, as CEO of Stardock, is not to fight worldwide piracy no matter how much it aggravates me personally. My job is to maximize the sales of my product and service and I do that by focusing on the people who pay my salary – our customers,” he continued. He attributed Demigod’s performance to its overall quality and Stardock’s reputation for standing behind its products, although admitted that there are still “many lessons” to be learned from its launch.

“For example, if I had to do it over again, I would be inclined to require a valid user account to play LAN even if it only has to be validated one time. That way, we could also make it a lot easier for a legal user to have a LAN party with a single license,” he wrote. “When the focus of energy is put on customers rather than fighting pirates, you end up with more sales. It seems common sense to me but then again, I’m just an engineer.”

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