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ForumBot 0.8 beta
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on: April 03, 2008, 07:06:13 AM

Does it come down to trust?


Brad Wardell, founder of Stardock, had some interesting things to say about piracy in a post he made on his blog last week:

So even though Galactic Civilizations II sold 300,000 copies making 8 digits in revenue on a budget of less than $1 million, itís still largely off the radar. I practically have to agree to mow editors lawns to get coverage. And you should see Jeff Greenís (Games for Windows) yard. I still canít find my hedge trimmers.

Another game that has been off the radar until recently was Sins of a Solar Empire. With a small budget, it has already sold about 200,000 copies in the first month of release. Itís the highest rated PC game of 2008 and probably the best selling 2008 PC title. Neither of these titles have CD copy protection.


While I donít see Sins as the best-selling PC title of 2008 (leave that to the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Spore, or The Sims 3 if itís out in time), thatís not the interesting part. Brad goes on to say that the key to a successful PC title is to find a demographic that buys games, and then to build them a game.

(obviously, the rest after the jump)

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IainC
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Reply #1 on: April 03, 2008, 07:23:58 AM

He's right as far as he goes but it's not a solution. If studios suddenly stopped making the sort of AAA titles that top the torrents, do you think Johnny Pirate will go and find a new hobby or do you think he'll carry on pirating the new and different games that are being released? Likewise moving the problem to consoles isn't an option either, console titles are just as susceptible to piracy as PC games and if the focus of piracy moves to that market then it will quickly become as easy to casually pirate console titles as it currently is to pirate PC ones. Also what about those of us who like bling on our PCs and pay for games? Why do we get shafted because a bunch of mouthbreathers think it's cool to torrent everything.

Making better games isn't a solution either (although I'm all for studios making the effort). While your average pirate may say that they only steal games because they don't think they're good enough to pay for, I'd be prepared to put money on that being a hollow statement. if you're used to getting something for free and you buy into the whole 'stealing = awesome' meme that infects gaming culture then i doubt that you're suddenly going to have a road to Damascus moment if a bunch of super amazing games show up.

So yeah, make games for game buyers and let the big studios eat the piracy losses on the shiny titles, but it moves the problem rather than solves it.

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Ratman_tf
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Reply #2 on: April 03, 2008, 07:41:01 AM

One of my beefs is that priacy is easy to blame. Anyone can release a shitty game into a glutted market and them blame poor sales on priacy. Bleh. When you put your 3rd or 4th string team with a budget of tree-fitty on a "me too" title, you're going to do poorly. Stop blaming priacy for that.

And there will always be pirates. The danger (and one of the reasons I hardly ever pirate stuff) is that haxkiddie can slip all kinds of keyloggers and trojans into a .exe file as easily as he cracks a game. Making consumers aware of the dangers of piracy is one thing. (Blizzard did it right with their recent update on gold farmers in WoW. Not too far into the "gold farming is bad, mmmkay?" area, but enough into the concequences of sharing passwords.)

Last thought is that piracy paranoia can lead devs to do all kinds of stupid things that annoy the ever-living fuck out of legitimate consumers. If the copy protection is enough of a hassle, then it actually becomes less hassle to deal with a cracked version. "Cutting off your nose to spite your face." as it were.



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cmlancas
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Reply #3 on: April 03, 2008, 07:47:09 AM

So yeah, make games for game buyers

I think this cannot be stressed enough. The article, and from what I've read of Stardock, illuminates to me how painfully obvious a concerted effort to fully research a "target audience" -- not just a "hopeful target audience" -- works.

It's as if there's an elephant in the room -- games are subject to the same laws of supply and demand as every other G+S in the world is -- and "piracy" is somehow being named as opposed to a carefully researched business plan.

Edit: "Itís [Piracy] only relevant how many people are likely to buy your game" and "the key to a high selling PC title is to develop a game that will play on the widest variety of hardware configurations...to support players beyond the traditional hard core frequent video card buying market." are gems that I think should be posted at every boardroom at every company producing PC games.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2008, 07:50:33 AM by cmlancas »

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trias_e
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Reply #4 on: April 03, 2008, 08:18:21 AM

I know admitting to piracy is a big no-no, but I'll do it anyway.  I have pirated games with DRM simply because of their DRM, and games that I'm not sure I would like that didn't have demos.  If I did enjoy the game, I'd buy it.

I'm not sure if there's many people out there like myself, but I doubt I'm a totally unique snowflake.  I suppose I'm the type of gamer that buys stardock games  ; )  (sins is fun!).  And in that case, it is indeed a matter of trust.  And making demos.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2008, 08:20:12 AM by trias_e »
shiznitz
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Reply #5 on: April 03, 2008, 08:29:13 AM

Demos are a good point. I imagine there is a good number of players who steal a game just to see what it is like. Having a free demo available would give these people the ability to sample without stealing.

I have never played WoW.
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Reply #6 on: April 03, 2008, 08:31:19 AM

Too bad most companies can't even make a good demo.
cmlancas
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Reply #7 on: April 03, 2008, 08:36:06 AM

Too bad most companies can't even make a good demo business decision about which audience to target.

Need to have one before the other.  awesome, for real

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Nebu
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Reply #8 on: April 03, 2008, 09:33:00 AM

I feel like you guys just don't get it.  Think of piracy as shoplifting.  It's not THE problem, it's a small part of the problem.  For example, Nearly $2 billion was lost to shoplifting and employee theft in 24 U.S. retail companies in 2003, according to the 16th Annual Retail Theft Survey.  Those costs have to be made up by additional sales and increased costs to paying customers.  The case in intellectual property theft is similar, but more nebulous as it's unsure how many software/music pirates would have otherwise purchased the material.  Still, piracy and attempts to prevent piracy add cost and drive up the price for those of us that don't pirate. 

Shoplifters never think that they're a part of the problem.  It's the same with piracy. 

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
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Reply #9 on: April 03, 2008, 09:35:34 AM

DRM hurts customers and those that should be the target of it are the ones who easily elude it.

It's a major contributor to why I don't buy as many games these days.

"There must not be a God because a demon hand didn't burst out of the ground, reach into Jindal's anus, and pull him inside out before dragging him into the shit-filled sodomy pits of Hades." If you read that and thought, "Well, this is a reasonable person who should be treated with respect," then perhaps it is your anus that needs a hellclawing. ~The Rude Pundit
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Reply #10 on: April 03, 2008, 09:47:31 AM

I don't feel like harping on the same points I've been harping on for like 4 years now, but here's my take:

Piracy doesn't hurt games, pirates wouldn't have spent the money anyway.

Money spent on DRM is better spent on better packaging or more promotion or on the game itself.

The only thing that tangibly hurts games is the allowed resale of games through huge chains like EB and Play N Trade. Used games do far greater damage than pirates could _ever_ do.
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Reply #11 on: April 03, 2008, 09:56:29 AM

While I agree completely with your second and third points, I find it difficult/impossible to support the first.  There's just no way to measure the validity of the first statement.  While piracy may (in some strange way) help better games through extended distribution and viral marketing, it likely has a detrimental effect on all other titles.  Of course this supports your early assertions that "lousy games won't sell anyway", but I'm trying to be objective here. 

I also agree that you make some valid points when it comes to music.  As a child, we used to tape record songs off of the radio because we couldn't afford to buy them on vinyl.  Now, I own all of that music on CD.  Did my piracy really hurt the sales of the music?  Probably not in the long run.  I guess it just seems more direct now that people can burn their own cd's from pirated material without any real need to ever purchase a higher quality copy.

The bottom line is that it's difficult to get an accurate assessment of the cause & effect going on here.   

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
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Reply #12 on: April 03, 2008, 09:59:58 AM

Well, I didn't mean it was something that could be measured. I'm just saying, if I made a game, I wouldn't care what pirates do. Their money is obviously no good in shops. Rubber checks and whatnot.
Ratman_tf
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Reply #13 on: April 03, 2008, 10:05:45 AM

Another thing that bugs me is "One game per machine." What harm does it do the company if I install SuperDeluxeGame on 2 or 3 machines in my household? Diablo and Starcraft had the "spawn" options... whatever happened to that? Are companies so greedy that they can't think of making their consumers happy for 5 seconds out of the day?

Oh yeah, I can install games on multiple machines if I use a crack.  awesome, for real



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Reply #14 on: April 03, 2008, 10:15:18 AM

This thread title is making me hum a Billy Joel song. There will be hell to pay.

When speaking of the MMOG industry, the glass may be half full, but it's full of urine. HaemishM

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Reply #15 on: April 03, 2008, 10:18:01 AM

This thread title is making me hum a Billy Joel song. There will be hell to pay.

First you knock affliction and now you knock billy joel?

Hell to pay, sir. Hell to pay.
Nebu
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Reply #16 on: April 03, 2008, 10:19:34 AM

He was being funny-like.  Sort of a "whistling is copyright infringement" pun or sumting.

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
Riggswolfe
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Reply #17 on: April 03, 2008, 10:33:13 AM

There are only two times I pirate:

1) It's an old game and I can't find a used copy for a decent price. ($100 bucks for an old game that I only want for nostalgia?)
2) I buy the game then can't play it because the copy protection is so tight that it doesn't like my CD-rom drive or something.

I think alot of people do number 2 and I think it's part of what the Stardock guy is getting at.

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Reply #18 on: April 03, 2008, 10:33:46 AM

And there will always be pirates. The danger (and one of the reasons I hardly ever pirate stuff) is that haxkiddie can slip all kinds of keyloggers and trojans into a .exe file as easily as he cracks a game. Making consumers aware of the dangers of piracy is one thing. (Blizzard did it right with their recent update on gold farmers in WoW. Not too far into the "gold farming is bad, mmmkay?" area, but enough into the concequences of sharing passwords.)
This doesn't happen. I have never heard of a keylogger or trojan in a game that is not almost immediately discovered upon release. That doesn't stop a lot of people trying to convince people it's about as safe as sleeping with a diseased hooker, just as the RIAA/MPAA is trying to convince people that if you download once you will get caught 100% of the time. It's all FYAD.

Sometimes you'll get programs like nero that will only burn coasters with bad reg keys, and there are always various programs that simply won't start with blacklisted keys, but that's pretty much it. Any group that releases anything shady is immediately blackballed.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2008, 10:48:28 AM by bhodi »
Vinadil
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Reply #19 on: April 03, 2008, 10:35:47 AM

I feel like you guys just don't get it.  Think of piracy as shoplifting.  It's not THE problem, it's a small part of the problem.  For example, Nearly $2 billion was lost to shoplifting and employee theft in 24 U.S. retail companies in 2003, according to the 16th Annual Retail Theft Survey.  Those costs have to be made up by additional sales and increased costs to paying customers.  The case in intellectual property theft is similar, but more nebulous as it's unsure how many software/music pirates would have otherwise purchased the material.  Still, piracy and attempts to prevent piracy add cost and drive up the price for those of us that don't pirate. 

Shoplifters never think that they're a part of the problem.  It's the same with piracy. 

The $2billion is a big number to throw out, it would be more interesting to know the split between Shoplifting and Employee theft.  I know when I worked at Best Buy (close to that time period actually) that the vast majority of their loss was from employees.  The only point here is that, again, it is easy to look at the "cheating customers" as the problem, when the problems might well lie in the organization itself.  The Stardock author also provides some insight into the "if there WERE no AAA games then people would steal little games like Sins" argument too.  Apparantly game development is their second-hand revenue generator; windows apps being their first.  And, they are in the AAA category there in a market that is also heavily pirated... and yet they still sell tons of units.  I suppose you could still make the nebulous argument that they might sell more units and for a cheaper price, but the Stardock guys seem completely satisfied with their profit margins and sales numbers; and those are likely the two things driving most of the complaints from other companies.
WayAbvPar
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Reply #20 on: April 03, 2008, 10:46:56 AM

This thread title is making me hum a Billy Joel song. There will be hell to pay.

First you knock affliction and now you knock billy joel?

Hell to pay, sir. Hell to pay.

Nothing against Billy, but that is one of my least favorite songs from him.

When speaking of the MMOG industry, the glass may be half full, but it's full of urine. HaemishM

Always wear clean underwear because you never know when a Tory Government is going to fuck you.- Ironwood

Who the hell taught you how to write? Fuck, that sentence is like internet transmitted face-attacking knives. Jesus. schild
Ratman_tf
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Reply #21 on: April 03, 2008, 10:51:09 AM

And there will always be pirates. The danger (and one of the reasons I hardly ever pirate stuff) is that haxkiddie can slip all kinds of keyloggers and trojans into a .exe file as easily as he cracks a game. Making consumers aware of the dangers of piracy is one thing. (Blizzard did it right with their recent update on gold farmers in WoW. Not too far into the "gold farming is bad, mmmkay?" area, but enough into the concequences of sharing passwords.)
This doesn't happen. I have never heard of a keylogger or trojan in a game that is not almost immediately discovered upon release. That doesn't stop a lot of people trying to convince people it's about as safe as sleeping with a diseased hooker, just as the RIAA/MPAA is trying to convince people that if you download once you will get caught 100% of the time. It's all FYAD.

Sometimes you'll get programs like nero that will only burn coasters with bad reg keys, and there are always various programs that simply won't start with blacklisted keys, but that's pretty much it.

Which brings up something a little off topic. The few times I have gotten a bad virus, it never actually seems to do anything, besides take my system down and require a reinstall of the OS. What the hell good does that do for someone to write a virus that just makes someone's  computer suck? LIke that's hard to do with Windows in the first place...

Anywho. Last time I had a virus was from a no-CD crack. So take that for what it's worth.



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cmlancas
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Reply #22 on: April 03, 2008, 10:52:18 AM

You ever been to /b/? Or rather, anything on 4chan? Does it make sense? Does it have to make sense?

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HaemishM
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Reply #23 on: April 03, 2008, 11:16:05 AM

This part made me tangent:

Quote
While I agree that catering to a lower spec machine is one way of increasing sales, itís not a requirement. Relatively demanding games such as Crysis breaking into the top 10 are not an anomaly.

But it isn't just about sales, of course. Crysis may make the top 10, but what was its budget in relation to Sins? If it costs 10 times to make, it absolutely has to sell 10 times as many copies before it starts making money. The high production values that come with a game like Crysis come at the price of profitability. It's the same reason developers are turning out crapware for the Wii as opposed to crapware for the 360 and PS3 - it's much easier to break even with fewer sales.

But his point is valid: anti-piracy measures aren't stopping PC games from getting pirated, and lack of DRM isn't stopping good games from selling profitably.

WayAbvPar
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Reply #24 on: April 03, 2008, 11:19:01 AM

Quote
But his point is valid: anti-piracy measures aren't stopping PC games from getting pirated, and lack of DRM isn't stopping good games from selling profitably.

I would argue that including DRM is stopping good games from being even more profitable. There are several games that I have written off as soon as I heard they had Stardock or other intrusive DRM software on them. I won't buy them, and I am damned sure I am not alone.

When speaking of the MMOG industry, the glass may be half full, but it's full of urine. HaemishM

Always wear clean underwear because you never know when a Tory Government is going to fuck you.- Ironwood

Who the hell taught you how to write? Fuck, that sentence is like internet transmitted face-attacking knives. Jesus. schild
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Reply #25 on: April 03, 2008, 11:19:39 AM

The case in intellectual property theft is similar, but more nebulous as it's unsure how many software/music pirates would have otherwise purchased the material. 

I can tell you the answer to that quandry. NONE. People who pirate games cannot and should not ever be considered a lost sale because if they took the trouble to pirate the game, they weren't planning on buying it.

veredus
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Reply #26 on: April 03, 2008, 12:07:09 PM

The case in intellectual property theft is similar, but more nebulous as it's unsure how many software/music pirates would have otherwise purchased the material. 

I can tell you the answer to that quandry. NONE. People who pirate games cannot and should not ever be considered a lost sale because if they took the trouble to pirate the game, they weren't planning on buying it.

There's too many reasons that people pirate, I don't think you can say none would be lost sales. I bet it's pretty safe to say most were never going to buy it.
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Reply #27 on: April 03, 2008, 12:19:19 PM

. If the copy protection is enough of a hassle, then it actually becomes less hassle to deal with a cracked version.

I buy *all* my games, every single game I played for more than a day I own. I go out of my way to pick a copy of something that I think innovative, has good ideas or moves industry into right direction. I see it as investing into my gaming future. Now DRM pisses me to the extreme, I actually avoided titles I would normally buy&play due to over-restrictive DRM making it inconvenient. I didn't bother to pirate it ether, but I see how many people would do just that and I would not blame them for doing so.

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Reply #28 on: April 03, 2008, 12:41:09 PM

I can tell you the answer to that quandry. NONE.

I realize that you're citing this with regard to games, but I was referring to intellectual property in general in my quote.  I don't think that the answer is a clear as you make it out to be.  There's no good metric for determining this as both sides of the debate massage their numbers in an attempt to prove their point (i.e. the music industry in a post-napster world).  I did come across THIS REPORT in my travels.  While it didn't have much to directly add to the topic, it did teach me a bit about how they approach litigation in the digital age.  I'm sure it's outdated information by now, but still found it educational.

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
Ratman_tf
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Reply #29 on: April 03, 2008, 01:44:11 PM

You ever been to /b/? Or rather, anything on 4chan? Does it make sense? Does it have to make sense?

Just the question that runs through my head while I'm waiting for Windows to reinstall, and mourning the porn that I forgot to back up.



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Reply #30 on: April 03, 2008, 01:50:19 PM

I can tell you the answer to that quandry. NONE.

I realize that you're citing this with regard to games, but I was referring to intellectual property in general in my quote. 

No, I was pretty much applying that to ALL intellectual property.

Quote
I don't think that the answer is a clear as you make it out to be.  There's no good metric for determining this as both sides of the debate massage their numbers in an attempt to prove their point

Exactly. None is just as much of an exaggeration and a falsehood as $2 billion in lost sales. You didn't lose the sale, you never had the sale, and chances are it might never be a  sale because someone made the conscious choice to pirate it rather than buy it.

If someone is going to pirate my novel, they aren't a customer. They may turn into a customer by pirating my work or they may not. By not treating this pirate as the scum of the earth and the cause of my shitty sales, I might make him into a customer. I'll never do that if I blame him for lost sales that never existed.

Nebu
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Reply #31 on: April 03, 2008, 01:55:03 PM

I see where you're going.  Thanks for the clarification.  My example of shoplifting is a poor one as there is no tangible good being stolen.  There is no inventory loss when it comes to digital piracy, thus there's a lot greater difficulty in attributing value in loss as well as accountability. 

I do believe that there exist some population of consumers that are on the fence.  By this I mean that they would buy the product were it more difficult to procure via free means.  Of course this then becomes a cost - benefit analysis between protection of goods versus potential lost sales.  What a mess.

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
Tannhauser
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Reply #32 on: April 03, 2008, 04:50:43 PM

No one's pirating Sins because it blows.

I don't torrent anything.  Because
1. I can't be bothered fooling with it. 
2. I like to pay for my games and videos.  Call me a chump but I vote with my wallet.  That money is saying "Hey, thanks for putting out something I am interested in." 
3.  It's wrong.

Pirates will always be here unfortunately.
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Reply #33 on: April 03, 2008, 04:55:20 PM

Yep, there are definitely games I will not buy because of something like Starforce on it.

Hell, there's been a game I've been eying for about a year now at GS...but I won't buy it due to Starforce. Sucks.

And yeah, I pirated music as a kid. I had no money, so I wasn't going to buy it anyway. I think there's a lot of merit to the thought that most pirates are not actually lost sales.

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trias_e
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Reply #34 on: April 03, 2008, 04:56:22 PM

Quote
2. I like to pay for my games and videos.  Call me a chump but I vote with my wallet.  That money is saying "Hey, thanks for putting out something I am interested in."

This is exactly why I torrent.  Or play a friend's copy first.  For instance, I'm so glad by friend bought Black and White first for obvious reasons.  That way I got to find out the game wasn't very good and thus adjust my spending towards better games.  Every EA sports game is also on my no-buy must-torrent list, because most of them suck and even if they happen to be good they sell enough of them regardless.  If 2k sports started making games for the PC, I'd be buying them in a heartbeat.
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