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Game Developer Asks To Hear From Pirates 1085

Posted by timothy
from the first-person-royal dept.
cliffski writes "Indie game developer Cliff Harris has long waged war against games piracy, but has issued a call to pirates to tell him why he is wrong. Assuming that developers are missing out on potential sales from disgruntled pirates, Cliff wants to hear specifically from people who have pirated his games. Not to criticize or lecture them, but to answer a simple question. Why? The reasons people give for copyright infringement/piracy are many and varied, but much of the debate has centred around music and movies, with big 'Triple-A' games an occasional consideration. With specific application to the world of small budget 'indie' games like those Cliff makes, he wants to know the thought processes behind people pirating the games. What puts people off buying? Is it quality, cost, DRM, ease of access? Is there anything that can be done to convert those people to buyers? While many pirates often make good general points about the reasons for the widespread pirating of PC games, it's unusual to get a chance to address specific developers with specific reasons. If you knew 100% that the developer would read your email explaining why you pirated their game, what would you say?"
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Game Developer Asks To Hear From Pirates

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  • Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whitemend (1192397) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:32AM (#24546295)
    If I can't try before I buy, I often just don't buy.
  • Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbcs (737902) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:34AM (#24546307)
    I "pirate" a game to see if the damn thing will work on my system.
    If it does, and I like it, I buy it. I have about a dozen games like this that I play. Lots more that I've tried and deleted.
    I still use the no-cd crack because that shit drives me crazy. It's lousy copy protection and it just pisses me off.
  • "because i could" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopCulture (536272) <<PopCulture> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:36AM (#24546331)
    i'd imagine that would be the case of many
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:37AM (#24546349) Homepage
    He's not wrong, and the pirates know that. There are a few excuses that are legitimate (lost/broken CDs) and some that are semilegitimate (abandonware), but most pirating is just people wanting something for free.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Broken scope (973885) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:39AM (#24546373) Homepage

    I've never played his games, but usually I "pirate" because some devs/pubs feel it is necessary to install "copy protection".

    I get rather annoyed when a game won't play because I have a virtual drive on my computer.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Physicser (1104279) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:42AM (#24546391)
    I really think this depends on the person. Countering your anecdote with another one, I know that there are a number of games that I've tried this way, then went on to buy a version because I enjoyed them so much. The ones that I didn't enjoy I didn't buy, but didn't really play after that anyways.
  • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:45AM (#24546439) Journal

    Pirates deliver a more convenient product at a better price

    The more convenient is the killer. I don't mind paying a reasonable amount for a game, but I won't buy it if it treats me like a criminal (I won't pirate it either, I'll just ignore it). I bought EV Nova a few years ago. I copied it across to a new computer when I replaced my old one and it told me I had to re-authenticate. Unfortunately, I had to authenticate via a protocol that was blocked by a firewall between me and their servers. I bought some games that needed the CD in to run. Playing them years later, often I couldn't find the CD, or it was scratched. Or I wanted to play them on a laptop on a train and the CD drive flattens the battery too quickly. I bought some with a serial number, but came to install them later and found that I could find the CD but not the case with the serial number on it.

    Compare this with the pirated version of any game. It's typically an archive which you extract and then run. No fuss, no effort, nothing getting in the way of enjoying the game. Anti-piracy measures only ever affect the legitimate users. Pirates have fun circumventing them and then aren't bothered by them once they're cracked.

  • Here's a few... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goyuix (698012) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:49AM (#24546469) Homepage

    While not directly pertaining to any Cliff's games - I can't say that I have pirated a single one... and perhaps a bit of a rant...

    Take for example the impending release of Bionic Commando Rearmed. According to their own blog, it was always slated to be $10 http://www.bioniccommando.com/en/blog_entries/view/291 [bioniccommando.com] - According to them as a result of listening to their customers. However, just this last week, one week before it launches I might add, they go and drop the bomb that the PC version will suddenly cost 50% more. Now before we drop off into excuses (dev/qa costs or promised patch for additional content) or business ideas like "Well, it is worth at least $20 in the first place! and many digital distribution games cost $20 as well!" - let us consider the EMOTIONAL impact that had on me:

    "What a bunch of jerks. Why don't they just charge the same across all platforms? What exactly are they trying to accomplish - weed the PC platform out? set it up for the poster child of software piracy?"

    I am certain I just going to buy it anyway, and really $15 isn't going to break the budget... but suddenly I am much, much more interested in a "demo" - legitimate source or not - before I plunk down the cash.

  • Flawed premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mantle (104724) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:53AM (#24546513)
    The entire "study" has one huge glaring problem: A PIRATED GAME DOES NOT MEAN A LOST SALE.

    He asks what he can do to "convert more people to become buyers". You can't convert people that wouldn't have bought your game in the first place. The only way to stop people copying your game is to provide more value to a so-called pirate such that the "pirate" gets more utility from the game by paying for it than by downloading it. If your game sucks and provides only marginal utility, even if he couldn't play the game for free the game he wouldn't have paid for it.

  • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @11:59AM (#24546569)

    it's a question of which pirate channel you want to stop.

    1) the "hey chris, want a copy of this new game I got? It's great and there is no protection"

    2) the "Arrrr, we've stripped out all the protection so you can now put a copy of this on yer hard disk and make easy backups"

    All games should have *some* method of trivial protection to stop case 1 because it destroys sales. Most people are immoral when they are anonymous.

    The most effective protection I've ever seen is new content created by the developer on their web site that the game must phone home for. It must sign in with a unique id and after a couple successful downloads, that id is locked until the next content release. The protection is on the server side.

    I would recommend the following model.

    1) Create content on the web site that must be downloaded with an ID that updates the program as well. Tightly integrate the downloaded data with the multiple gigabytes of data that already exists. Don't be an idiot and make it a stand alone 2mb file.

    2) Set an arbitrary date when the content will stop (12-24 months) and the game will be unlocked due to an expectation that sales will drop to a level that support for problems is impossible. At that point, make the game unprotected and get good will and trust from your customers. And even then, you'll still get new sales- but the main wave of "hey chris" copies has passed.

  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by me at werk (836328) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:00PM (#24546587) Homepage Journal

    Or it could be like Duffy says [torrentfreak.com], and it's people who can't afford (yet) to purchase games. What about the people who pirated Warcraft and now pay $15/month for World of Warcraft?

  • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:03PM (#24546605)

    Besides, why should I pay for something I can get for free?

    It's this poor attitude that is not only growing but becoming a staple of online communities with regards to stuff that can be transmitted.

    And the truth is you don't get it for free. You get it subsidized by the people who do pay. But if enough people don't pay that something fails (IE the production loses money,) then it won't happen again.

    Of course, rationalizations make it all easy to justify.

  • Mutual respect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:04PM (#24546613) Homepage Journal

    Look, I don't want to pirate stuff. I'll happily pay to go see a movie, and I'll happily pay to buy a good game (without even downloading it first to try it!). But here's what I demand in return: treat me with respect.

    1. Do not require me to leave the CD in. I have a bunch of games and don't want to dig around for the installation media every time I want to play it.
    2. Skip the copy protection. We both know that I can download a cracked version off the Internet, so why penalize me for buying a real copy? Yes, I very well may install it on more than one of my computers, such as by putting a copy on my laptop so I can play it while I'm out and around. I can do that with my MP3s and movies, and I'm going to do it with my games. These are copies for my own personal use and I'll make them to my convenience. But here's my end of the bargain: I'm going to tell my mooch friends to buy their own copy.
    3. That crap Blizzard pulled with Glider? Don't even think about it. People will grudgingly put up with it from them, but you won't be able to pull it off. This is my computer and I very well might break your program in new and interesting ways. I bought it. I can do that.
    4. Skip the EULA. When I hand over my cash, I own that copy of the game. It's not licensed to me. It's not rented or leased to me. I own it. Don't attempt to throw extra restrictions on my use of it after the fact. Again, I'm not going to distribute your work, but you need to understand that I owe you nothing else.

    I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but the above are my non-negotiable requirements for buying software in general. I'm not out to share copies or take anything away from you, but in return I want acknowledgment that I don't owe you any extra favors just because I bought your stuff. I'm your customer and want to have a good relationship with you, so don't treat my like an asshole just because other people ripped you off.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thejeffer (864748) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:05PM (#24546621)
    I'd push this even further. If I can't return AFTER I buy, I don't buy. Too often, the try before you buy amounts to a demo that amounts to a movie trailer - all the decent content compressed down into a few minutes. With just about every other product on the market, if you buy something and determine it's crap, you can just return it. If that happens with a game... well, sorry, but you're screwed. Game publishers need to institute return policies. Yes, some people will absolutely take advantage of them and return just about everything. On the flip side though, you're boosting sales numbers by quite a bit, a good number of those WON'T return the game as long as it's decent quality, and even if they do return it, you still got to hold onto their cash for a month or so (free loan) with virtually no cost.
  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:06PM (#24546631) Homepage

    I agree there, demo of the game (real demo not the bullcrap that some pass off as a demo) is a good reason for 2 big ones... 1 - does the game suck, Most games out there suck bad, I am not going to buy the latest suckage. 2 - the the game run decently on my incredibly outdated 6 month old machine? Imagine how pissed someone get's when they buy a game and find it runs like crap on their pc.

    As a person that buys the game I still pirate what I buy for 2 very simple reasons.

    The pirated version is always better than the legit version because It does not ask for the damned CD/DVD and does not do the other crap that pisses me off as a customer. Ut-III has to go farking ONLINE to play single player, the cracked version eliminates that stupidity and makes the game more enjoyable.

    The 12 year olds that pirate games will NEVER BUY YOUR GAMES even if they were priced at $19.95. Because 12 year olds dont have money and dont really care.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hpavc (129350) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:07PM (#24546641)

    Exactly, somewhere along the line playable demos got lost, game play trailers, honest unsponsored reviews, got lost.

    I download a game, check it out (most of the time less time spent playing than learning the controls) and often I am grateful I did.

    Oh I cannot customize the controls, or the game is a series of loot grinds, its spoon feed gimme content, its a calculus simulation, etc.

  • Yaar! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:08PM (#24546649) Homepage Journal
    I'll be plunderin' yer booty, matey! What's that lad? Oh GAME pirates! Well t'tell ya the truth, matey, it's been a long time since I were 13 and I buy my games legit' now, but they frequently require me t'go fumblin' 'round for a CD or otherwise don't like soemthin' about my system. Like that I'm trying to run it under wine.

    In those cases, matey, I haves' t' take a short sail down to the Pirate Bay and download a crack or pirated version of yer game which I just bought. An' there ALWAYS IS one, matey!

    So yer efforts to prevent pirates be in vain matey! And you're makin' life more difficult than y'should for yer payin' customers. And ye be forcin' me to expose my system potentially to all sorts o' malcontents whose code I'd like to keep as far away from my machine as possible.

    Now that we've cleared the air, lad, I'll be takin' that booty.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigor (540274) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:08PM (#24546657)

    The guy who wrote the article provides game demos. He wants to know why people pirate his games even though demos are freely available. So the "I pirate in order to demo the game" argument is not valid in this case.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:11PM (#24546691) Homepage
    It's ironic that I would trust pirates over some game developers to not screw up my system.
  • Re:Also... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:12PM (#24546709) Homepage Journal

    crackers who broke one of my games (in three days -- took me two weeks to do the protection)

    Moral: you wasted two weeks of your life writing ineffective copy protection that does nothing to slow down pirates but inconveniences any customers you might have. Why?

  • Why do you care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:14PM (#24546721) Journal
    Cliff, you're asking the wrong question. When someone pirates one of your games, there are three possible outcomes:
    1. They decide they like it so much they buy it.
    2. They decide not to buy it, but wouldn't have bought it anyway.
    3. They decide not to buy it, but would have done if they didn't (or couldn't) pirate it.

    The percentages of each of these might be interesting to find out. More important, however, is the percentage of people who didn't buy your games who pirated them. Since, I would imagine, most people on this planet didn't buy your game, and only a tiny proportion played it at all, then this number is almost insignificant. The correct question is:

    Why did people who didn't buy my game not buy it, and how do I change this?

    Whether these people pirated it or not is a side-question - a distraction. I can give you my answer to this:

    1. I had never heard of you, nor any of your games (apparently you advertise in your /. signature, but apparently I missed this).
    2. Your games are Windows-only, and I haven't owned a Windows machine for some years.
    3. You mentioned copy protection measures. These typically stop games working in WINE, but even if they didn't, they will detract from my enjoyment. They have no effect on pirates, and so they are indicative of your lack of respect for your paying customers.

    Beyond that might be the price. I haven't looked at how much you charge for your games - three reasons not to buy them before I even found out what they were about made me stop looking - but a lot of companies charge a lot more for games than I would consider them to be worth (especially in comparison to something like a DVD or a book).

  • by Lunatrik (1136121) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:16PM (#24546749)
    I would say the same thing about Steam - publish it on Steam, and I'll buy the thing. Or any kind of system under which (and this is key) I can download the things as many times as I want. Hell, you can even charge me .10 each time over a certain limit, fine, I understand you pay for bandwidth. Short version of why I've pirated? I lost the damn CD I bought!
  • Availability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:16PM (#24546751) Journal
    My main reason for pirating games is availability, price is usually not an issue. In this day and age it's a bit silly that I need to go buy a physical box to play a game on my PC. And in the Netherlands, buying the box means you'll have to find the damn thing first, as there are not many good game shops around. Most games are sold in electronics stores, who do not pay much attention to what's new and hot.

    I've bought a good many things through Steam. Fast and mostly painless. You let me download your games (or movies / music for that matter) and don't apply too much DRM, I'll pay your fee.
  • Re:duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trashman (3003) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:17PM (#24546753)

    Re: your recommendations; You just described Valve's Steam Platform. Not sure item 2, afaik, no game has ever been "expired" on steam or otherwise.

  • Re:Flawed premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quickbrownfox (900989) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:18PM (#24546767)

    The entire "study" has one huge glaring problem: A PIRATED GAME DOES NOT MEAN A LOST SALE.

    I would change that to read "A pirated game does not always mean a lost sale." I think there are quite a few people who would pay for games if that was the only way to get them. The fact that illicit copies are freely available dramatically reduces the motivation to purchase. At least for some people.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thermian (1267986) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:19PM (#24546781)

    I used to pirate games to see if I liked them, but these days, with games getting so large, I have a different solution.

    I wait until the games been around a bit, been patched up, thoroughly reviewed, and drops in price.

    I tend to feel a lot happier to 'risk' £10 or £20 on a game then £40+, especially when I can trawl the internet for other peoples comments.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aranykai (1053846) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (resnogls)> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:20PM (#24546801)

    Because Demo's are great indication of how games will perform when you purchase the full version.

    I cant count the number of times I have tried a demo, then later bought the game to find promised features missing, performance on my computer vastly reduced and game play crippled by bugs that were no present in the demo.

    So, I will, as I have in the past, continue to pirate the game first, then purchase it if it makes the cut.

  • Wrong Focus Group (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DannyO152 (544940) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:23PM (#24546837)

    Let's say 500,000 people buy the game, let's say 5,000,000 people pirate it and then play it as much as the people who buy it. Near as I can tell, there 290 million people in the United States who ignored the game. I would be in that latter category. To get 100,000 more sales one needs to convince .2% of pirates or .035% of the population to buy. Which seems easier?

    Let's imagine that 50% of piracy is self-help try before buy. Well, there's maybe locking it down harder and hope that that doesn't reduce the 500,000 or increase support costs as honest people stumble into locked down situations. How about a 30 day pay before play policy. Well, some of those 500,000 will second-guess their decision after playing the game for a while. So... can the game beat a 16% conversion rate for the 3,000,000 looky lous? The lower the rate of looky-pirates, the higher the conversion has to be in order to break even.

    I gather making a better game is prohibitively expensive?

    I kinda smell that this question has the makings of a FreeCiv type of game.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kaizokuace (1082079) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:25PM (#24546881)
    when people are paid to put out certain things in their packages or just when money is generally involved the money is what is important. Not so much for the safety of a customers computer. A cracker has no motivation to screw with people's stuff. At least thats what I think.
  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:26PM (#24546887)
    Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean often) people think about their immediate personal interest rather than anything else. That surely isn't the ideal attitude, but that's the reason why lots of people pirate.
  • Because ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LordKaT (619540) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:31PM (#24546927) Homepage Journal

    Because 90% of the products on the market fucking suck.

  • Re:duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:31PM (#24546947)

    1) the "hey chris, want a copy of this new game I got? It's great and there is no protection"

    All games should have *some* method of trivial protection to stop case 1 because it destroys sales. Most people are immoral when they are anonymous.

    Or maybe it just didn't occur to them that sharing amongst their friends is immoral.

  • by Kman_xth (529883) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:33PM (#24546957)
    My problem with some of these digital distribution systems is that the software that comes with it demands a premium place on my desktop. Steam is the worst offender of this, doing the automatically-startup-at-boot thing after install, automatically downloading all kinds of stuff without any notification (folks with a download-cap would really like that), displaying promotions and ads (sometimes even while I was playing a game, thus minimizing the game for some unwanted ad, yikes!).. Yes it can be deactivated but how should this kind of agressive treatment compell me to use it again? If a regular shopkeeper turns up at my doorstep every day just because I bought something from them I'd get pissed off pretty easily as well.

    Impulse on the other hand was fairly civilized in that respect, no auto downloading, no popup ads.. but the deal maker for me was the option to buy, download and play the game immediately *and* receiving a physical copy of the game by mail a week or so later. Call me old fashioned or paranoid, but I like having an actual cd/dvd of a game without being tied to the distribution system du jour.
  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:37PM (#24547015)
    Well actually, a "game engine" is extremely small compared to the content in a typical game. The libraries and binaries are probably like 3-5% of your average games size. Textures and models, especially the various textures, take up HUGE amounts of space. Xbox live downloads are probably smaller than PC ones because the Xbox 360 cannot handle massive textures like a PC potentially can.
  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:38PM (#24547027)

    Why waste your time playing a game that isn't worth your money?

    How do you know it isn't worth buying until you try it?

    Games with very good demos (remember Starcraft?) I tend to buy (back before children when I still bought games). If the demo is ridiculously limited or non-existent, I often would just "try" it with the pirated version and then never bother buying the game - 'cause, hey, I already have it and I'm lazy and cheap. Online play is another avenue where companies can get my money easily - it's harder to pirate an online game... not worth the effort, honestly.

    Even when I buy a game, I'll frequently use the pirate cracks on it because of the stupid copy protection schemes. Who ever thought that the "put the disc in the drive" scheme was a good idea? Sheesh.

  • Re:Mutual respect (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:39PM (#24547031)

    All very good points and I would add one more:

    Point #5

    Allow me to return the game to the store if it is crap! I hate how with everything else in life you can return it if you don't like it. But for some reason a $20 piece of plastic can't be returned once the magical seal of protection has been removed. This pisses me off to no end! If the game sucks I should be able to get my money back.

  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cylix (55374) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:41PM (#24547047) Homepage Journal

    I was on the flip side before and thought it really wasn't that big of a deal.

    It really only takes one issue at one point to completely change a view point. I suspect this is the case with a larger number of posters.

    It really only took two instances for myself. It's very easy to annoy me when I want to relax and a problem crops up. Thus, something that might be otherwise an annoyance normally picked up the quad damage multiplier.

    I strongly avoid DRM riddled titles now, but since most of them are horrible lately I'm not in a state of having to decide.

  • Re:hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:44PM (#24547083)

    The same reason movies and music are pirated. Scarcity. The cost for non-scarce products makes them worth less. Then, publishers tack on multiple restrictive elements to force scarcity which in turn makes them worth even less.

    The market is saturated with crap that can be digitally duplicated 1:1 instantly. Take produce for example. Banana's are worth, say $0.75 each because they are fairly abundant. Would YOU pay $60.00 for a banana that required you enter a password or log into a server before you're allowed to peal it? Even if it didn't have restrictions the cost is ridiculous.

    The rebuttal from developers, of course, is that the cost to develop games requires the retail cost to be high. Unfortunately that argument is moot - they have chosen an industry that creates products that are inherently less valuable then their cost to produce. The industry is in the position of being required to innovate a way to make the product worth something. Simply complaining that it costs too much and therefore those who disagree are criminals is retarded.

  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HappySmileMan (1088123) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:45PM (#24547099)

    Well now games are starting to require to be connected to the internet on startup to verify that they're registered, so if you aren't on the internet you can't play a game, pirated copies never have this hassle.

    I'm sure there's a lot of cases where people without constant internet access want to play a game, and for these people it's best to just download the game when you do have internet and then never have to worry about it again.

  • Re:Also... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by houghi (78078) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:51PM (#24547173)

    If they only do it for the chalange, they could help you making your game safer and also then they would NOT distribute it.

    They do it not just for the fun of it. They do it because they get a woody knowing people see their slash screen and that way they can pounce themself on the chest saying "I am THE man. I am THE man."

  • My Top 4 In Order (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:53PM (#24547205)

    1. I was cheap.

    As a teenager in the early 90s, I had about 1/30th-1/15th the cost of a then typical game coming in as pocket money each week. If I skipped lunch each day, I could maybe boost it to 1/5th of the cost of a game each week but I went hungry a lot.

    Realistically, the only way for me to play the games of the time (Strike Commander, X-Wing, Stunt Island, etc.) was for two or three friends and I to each buy a fraction of the games and let the others take copies in exchange for taking copies of their games, ourselves.

    Not noble. But when you're twelve or thirteen, nobility doesn't really factor in when compared to getting or not getting to play all the games the magazines were hyping up.

    My best suggestion for this one?

    They don't really have the income, nor are they going to get the income. You can't find a way to make people without money more profitable today.

    What you can do is find a way to give them an alternative other than piracy so it's not so habitual when they finally do have money. Plus you can build their enjoyment of gaming so, when they do have money, they ultimately spend it on games. Perhaps some kind of a deal with after school computer clubs where the school systems get licenses for the games if the school wants to open them up after hours? Yes, gaming hardware, yadda, yadda... but many indie games don't push hardware in the same way.

    2. Quick Network Game At Work

    Everyone deserves the right to get a humiliating kill in on their boss from time to time. Getting ten or twenty people to all have a copy of a $50, just so they can play for an hour once a week, is plain crazy.

    Games with real demo modes... get played on the demo mode (and those that enjoy it at work go and buy the full game for home use). Games with no demo modes get no CD cracks. With the number of discs needed, quick math has everyone asking, "Do I feel $1,000 bad about copying?" They never buy a copy afterwards as they already know how to crack it.

    Solution 1: Good demos. The real old kind. Think Doom where you could play the first third of the whole game.

    Solution 2: Charge for the server, online multiplayer, single player content. Give the LAN client away. Add a few extra loading screens to the LAN only install that remind you that the purchase gets you so much more. Let it serve as your advertising where you'd never get the sales anyway. 20 players all tempted to buy the full game if it's good beats the hell out of 20 pirates or 20 people who're playing something else.

    3. A Lot Of Games Suck

    Sorry, harsh reality check. We've all been burned by games that bought advertising on game review sites and strangely got very prominent placement and a more glowing review than they deserved. You only have to drop $50 for a Matrix game that sucks mightily, a D&D game that constantly fails its saving throw vs. crash to desktop, or Doom 3 that looks amazing yet leaves you staggeringly bored (holy crap, did I just imply I miss Romero?) and you get jaded fast.

    In my case, now I'm older, money's less of an issue but time is, I tend to just skip a lot of games entirely. In the past, I'd take a copy just to try it and then... well... I had a copy, what was the point in finding $50?

    Solution: Good demos again. Ones with a real, appreciable, chunk of the content.

    You want to be even smarter with extra content? If there are eight chapters to your game, give away chapters 1 & 2 so people get a good chance to try it. Then offer the choice... The $40-50 box buy for all the rest or they can just buy what they want at $10/chapter via online activation. This way, your barrier of entry to the next chunk is WAY lower.

    4. Nothing In The Box But Digital Data

    Digital data can be grabbed from the internet or copied from a disc.

    I remember a time when manuals came packed with back story, maps, hints and tips, walkthroughs of the first level or two, tables of information on spe

  • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:53PM (#24547211)

    Or maybe it just didn't occur to them that sharing amongst their friends is immoral.

    And yet strangely, when they get a job, they expect to get paid for their own work.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Koiu Lpoi (632570) <koiulpoiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#24547231)

    This is an awful idea. Amway had a policy on all their goods like that - if you don't like it, return it for a full refund. They lost tremendous amounts of money (mostly in the Asian mainland, but anyways) because people would return a product 90% spent to get their money back. No, sorry, there's no way the potential boost in sales is going to counteract nearly everyone with a brain abusing this for free games.

  • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:59PM (#24547277)

    What we should be asking is? "Why should your industry making record profits despite non-scarcity?"

    You assume, erroneously, that everyone who relies on copyright to make a living is part of some filthy rich megacorp. The megacorps can take care of themselves, but copyright is far more important to the small indie developer (which the guy posing this question is). How many rich small-time game developers have you met?

    I think the argument should be viewed in the reverse, considering non-scarcity of said product once it is produced, why haven't prices of games come down?

    Well, I'm not a genius, but if you take a look at the resources required to develop Crysis or Supreme Commander and compare them with the resources required to develop Tetris or Pacman, I think we can safely assume that today's AAA titles need a bigger development budget.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:02PM (#24547309)

    Demos, HA!

    How many times have you downloaded the demo to something and it looked amazing enough for you to buy it? And then when you got the game (program) you found that the amazingness ended with the demo? Or that the "full" in "full version" was only like 4 more hours of playing and then it was done for?

    In my mind, all software demos have a high high probability of being misleading about the full game version... in other words, false advertisement.

    I've had that happen SO MANY times that I have lost all faith in demos. And its the same way of trying to walk into Best Buy and judging a game by the cover.

    Even buying games from a series/developer who has always impressed you can be quite disappointing. They all start producing crap at some point.

    The only sure fire way is to bittorent it, play it, then support the author by purchasing it. I buy maybe one in 20 games I download... because 1 in 20 games are worth $40-$80 for it.

    The bottom line, I'm sick of being burned by demos not being representative of the actual game.

  • Re:duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:07PM (#24547361)

    Though it's quite easy to pirate these days, I think often the copy protection is like a bicycle lock. It's enough of a deterrent to keep the average Joe from just taking the bicycle, or just copying the CD and giving it to his friend...

  • Re:hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:09PM (#24547387)

    The experience, to me, is usually not worth the fifty bucks they try to charge for games.

    A person with honor would send the company money in the amount of how much it was worth to them. That option is available: after getting the company's address, you most likely have a post office where you can conveniently both get a money order made out to the company (using cash, so you are not identifiable) and the materials needed to sent the money order to the company.

    Somehow, I doubt you've expended any more energy on how to compensate companies past the minute it took you to come up with your present excuse.

  • Re:duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#24547409)

    Sharing is highly moral.

    It is a great way to preserve resources for your "pack".

    Who gives a crap about someone out of your 150 person monkey tribe?

    Who doesn't do immoral and illegal things all the time when they think they won't get caught?

    Immorality is the norm. Only public shame and rules keep it in check. Those rules are to protect society- not to follow people's personal norms.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cortana (588495) <sam.robots@org@uk> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:12PM (#24547435) Homepage

    It still may be a valid argument. Going to the Pirate Bay and downloading the full game may well be easier than tracking down a copy of the demo on the publisher's web site (we all know how terrible they can be) or, shudder, Fileplanet or similar... having to register to download it... memorising Yet Another Password... then being stuck in a queue before the download can begin... and then the download proceeding at a pathetic 12 KiB/sec. Not to mention that many demos seem to embed Starforce or other invasive DRM software these days, for god knows what reason other than publisher idiocy.

  • Re:hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#24547449)

    My solution to the CD problem is to have iso versions of the game with Daemon Tools installed... yes I know that is another 700+MB taken up on the HD, but with the size of most new computers HD's is that really that big of an issue?

    Of course the games I play the most are StarCraft and Diablo II so I don't need a CD anymore for either of them with the latest updates, if only more developers would do this after a few updates and some time from release.

    However CD Keys can be a pain, but it is easy enough to keep a spreadsheet/plain text document of all the CD Keys of all the games you own and store in off site, like on your web based email account or some such.

  • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cortana (588495) <sam.robots@org@uk> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#24547451) Homepage

    Depends which games you play. These days it is more common to find Starforce, SecuROM or some other incredibly invasive and destabilising DRM system to be a requirement to play the game that I already paid for. Not to mention onerous online activation, mandatory period reactivation, and even sometimes, a limited number of installations, ever before the game I bought self-destructs!

  • by Sparky9292 (320114) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:15PM (#24547469)

    Cliff asks, "Is it 10%? is it 95%? I don't know. Are they generally kids, or adults? I don't know. "

    IMHO, this is THE million dollar question here, it's more important to find out WHO, than WHY.

    I remember when Sierra released a multiplayer game called Tribes. It had absolutely NO copy protection. It installed completely to the hard drive. No cd-key was required to install it. It never performed a CD check. Even though it was multiplayer only, it did no online checks. Even the crudest CD-writing software could make a simple backup. I remember reading a developer blog which mentioned that at peak times, there were about 50% more people playing Tribes online than actual CD's sold. However, the game made a decent profit, and Tribes 2 was given the green light for development.

    This would be extremely useful information to justify expensive and time consuming DRM and anti-piracy schemes. I have not seen any studies done to see who pirates games.

    If you knew from a valid study that 99% of the people who pirate your games are less than 15 years old and live with parents, you might not spend as much money on incorporating DRM in your product.

    This would be an excellent PhD topic for some business graduate.

    However, if the study returned data that suggested a majority of your pirates are people in their 30's making over $80,000 a year and owned a Prius, then something to prevent trivial copy/burn might be justified.

  • Re:duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:20PM (#24547519)

    just copying the CD and giving it to his friend.

    Why bother, I send her the torrent link - it's faster and more convenient.

  • Re:hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Futile Rhetoric (1105323) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:22PM (#24547533)

    A person with honor would send the company money in the amount of how much it was worth to them.

    That, my dear, is what bargain bins are for.

  • Steam Powered (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kyngdom (1342095) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:29PM (#24547605)
    http://www.steampowered.com/v/index.php?area=about&cc=US [steampowered.com] This is the most effective solution I've ever dealt with for antipiracy. As someone who's pirated software for a very long time, I've spent quite a bit of money, happily, through steam on video games. The benefits of buying through steam however, meet the requirements of most everyone in here. No CD to put in the tray, no keys to enter (if you buy a game online [which i recommend]), constantly updated, and most importantly, the purchase is tied to the account itself, so you can download your game infinite times to infinite machines as long as it's tied to your account. I have Audiosurf on three different machines, legally :)
  • Re:Mutual respect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:29PM (#24547609) Homepage Journal

    People "put up" with Blizzard trying to put down a *cheat* in their MMO because the use of said piece of software directly impacts the game experience of other players. That is not acceptable, and Blizzard is well within the boundaries of reasonable behavior to take action against it.

    Screw Blizzard. They effectively made it illegal to run whatever combination of software you want to run on your own computer. They figured it'd be easier to sue you than to write a secure service.

    First rule of software development: "Never trust the client application." I don't get to sue people who browse my webpages with software I haven't specifically authorized. Instead, I have to make sure that my stuff won't break, regardless of what software is accessing it. You think Blizzard should get a free pass because their stuff is shiny and you have to pay for it?

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Creepy (93888) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:32PM (#24547625) Journal

    two problems with linking to an online account:
    1) you need Internet service to play (unless there is a timer or something).
    2) privacy

    #1 is more an issue when you don't have internet service - in a plane, a car, outside a wifi hotspot, power outages (I lost power for 6 days in a windstorm and ran my laptop sans internet on a generator), etc. When cell phone internet (and airplane) become common that will be less of a big deal, but at the moment I don't like it.

    #2 is an issue if you don't want companies generating statistical information for targeted advertising towards you and possibly collecting personal information on you which they can then resell to other companies. Battlefield 2142 says they do this right in the license.

  • Re:duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gerzel (240421) <.brollyferret. .at. .gmail.com.> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:33PM (#24547631) Journal

    "Most people are immoral when they are anonymous."

    This sentiment right here I think encapsulates a major assumption underlying a lot of what is going on today with DRM and even "Big Brother" and privacy issues in general.

    It seems to be a fairly commonly held belief that people who are unknown are immoral, and more likely to commit crimes than those who are known or at least identified.

    The problem is that this statement is put forth without any proof, just as a verified fact, which it is not.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:35PM (#24547649) Homepage

    Some people have tons of time and are low on money. And there is also the case of people piracting 'because they can', not because you actually want to use the item, i.e. when you find a tarball with a ton of games in it, you download the whole thing, instead of cherry picking the things that you actually care about. When things are free, people tend to just grab what they can, instead of thinking about what they need first.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:05PM (#24547897)

    It's more complicated than anyone really lets on. Plying a video game is no different than playing a board game with friends except that in the case of the video game, everyone has to own a copy.

    The thing that makes and breaks games for everyone is simple: have I had fun playing it?

    I have, at my disposal, a near infinite amount of games to play, and you're (the game manufacturer, not the person I'm replying to) installing barriers to entry into your brand new ones, and I'm supposed to be more interested in them for that? ha.

    And then you release a demo which is basically a pre-alpha state of your game. There's no guarantee that the final product will run on my machine but I'm supposed to take your word for it.

    And even then, you install policing software on my machine that I'm supposed to trust, when you've basically given it the ability to scan my machine and steal my personal information. How in the world am I supposed to trust that you (or one of your low-paid employees) aren't going to up and decide that you can steal all our bank account numbers with your DRM and run off to some cozy island with the billions you get from that?

    You've interpreted our buying decisions as a "threat" to you and your money and you call us "pirates" because we still have the right to say we don't want to buy the crap you're shoveling.

    If you make good games, we'll tolerate stuff like Steam. If your game is good enough, it will be popular. Take Sins of a Solar Empire, for example. there's practically no drm. you don't even need the cd to play. But the company that's made it has earned a lot of trust and respect which will be rewarded when they produce the sequel.

    If you want to make more money, take all that cash you're spending on "security" and put it back into your profit. Your security issues don't come from us, they come from your fears.

  • Re:duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:11PM (#24547959) Journal

    Exactly. I just recently bought an indie game because I thought the demo was very good and it looked like a fun game. Get the serial key and, what's this? You can only install this on one computer.

    Treat customers like pirates and you'll find a lot more of them acting like it. I know that, if I find another of that companies games interesting, I'll just pirate it. I mean, if they're gonna treat me like a criminal, why not act like one?

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:13PM (#24547983)

    It's all about the money - specifically the disposable share of income.

          I budget, and entertainment is a category that has no flexible spending cap. Games compete with both electronic entertainment such as film DVD's, and other entertainment, such as gas to go to the lake or new rock climbing gear. This is why I haven't bought an audio CD in 6 years - the money always seems better spent on video, or non-electronic stuff. This is also why I hate 99 cent music downloads, as it looks like buying a whole album's worth of tracks will usually cost about as much as buying the actual CD, so someone expects me to pay them as much as if they still had to pay truck drivers fuel costs even though they don't.
          I don't 'pirate' games (or at least I don't have a single pirated copy of any game on any machine I own right now), but I have avoided getting into some stuff that looks like fun (portal mostly), because I'm not sure from what I've read that the 'steam' system isn't analogous (at least somewhat) to the 99 cent downloads I have issues with.
          Of course, not a lot of people stick to a really rigorous budget or even live within their means these days. But, such behavior is usually short term, as people who run up huge lines of credit often end up too poor to be entertainment consumers at all. That's all pretty much an agreement with colmore, that the idea of people averaging over 100$ a month on pop culture isn't part of the long term pattern, and I think what I've just said pretty well explains why - it's simply non-sustainable.

          So here's my comments for the games industry.
    1. For your pricing structure to be long-term sustainable, most of your consumers need to be able to keep buying year to year - this looks absurd with current economic figures. You probably focus too much on the 14-18 demographic and hope their parents don't rein them in too much when the parents get tighter for cash, or that there will always be a new crop of overspenders before the old ones run out of flexibility in their budgets. Your business model becomes dominated by population aging demographics for select target groups, which can do wildly better or worse for a time than the general population, and which make it harder for you to plan for keeping your company in business long term.

    2. is it good (ethically) to have a business model that assumes large percentages of your consumer base will literally have to come from the people who don't much budget, save for retirement, or make financially informed decisions, to hit your target numbers?

    3. If you follow what passes for market wisdom among the industry's MBAs, your price point calculations probably look better than they actually function. You just possibly are making more in the short run (2-3 years or even less), but face substantial problems over periods as short as 10, and right now, face all the problems the whole economy is seeing in addition. As an independent, you probably wouldn't be involved in the business side at all if you thought it couldn't be sustained for a mere 10 years, rather, you'd focus on starting some other kind of business.

  • by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:22PM (#24548071) Homepage Journal

    It turns out that the article summary presents a very different question than what the actual article author asked. I responded to the SlashDot version first, and the real version second. I also primarily posted this on my blog [fullof.bs] so that trackbacks would go appropriately to his blog [positech.co.uk]. Still, since there are more people here, I'm leaving the response where I found it, so that I'll get responses.

    Assuming that developers are missing out on potential sales from disgruntled pirates

    ... is a flawed assumption. Mister Harris appears to fail to understand the mindset of the pirate, who is a person who has confused what they want with what is ethical.

    I've been running and co-running a number of small communities about game development for more than a decade now. Several of them have a real problem with pirates who show up looking for help with piracy. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between a pirate and a kid using the wrong terms for things ("how do I build my ROM", etc); as such there's sort of an ongoing competition among the people who run these groups to see who can get these goons to uncover themselves the fastest, usually by feigning sympathy.

    As a result, I've seen about three times as many warezers as the human population of Earth. Every single one tries to tell me, after they're removed, how it's not their fault they stole - the game is too expensive, or they don't want to feed EA, or they'll pay for it if they like it. Many of them have already forgotten that during the sympathy phase, they gave us lists of the games they had. Particularly galling are the people who brag that they have ROMs of every single DS game, or what have you, then turn around and pretend that it's just due to cost.

    With respect, Mr. Harris, you're asking the wrong question. You could be selling your game for a quarter with a change accepting machine in their rooms; they wouldn't buy your game. They're out there getting every game they can find, often just for the bragging rights of having stolen more than their peers. Many of the people stealing your game haven't even heard of it and will never play it. These people cannot be converted into customers; they are too used to theft to recognize it as such, invariably vomiting up the same tripe about a false and meaningless distinction between copyright violation and theft, because they don't think of themselves as thieves and cannot face the honest nature of what they're doing. These people will never voluntarily give up money for your hard work, and you cannot get them to stop taking your work.

    There are two somewhat more legitimate questions you might ask, however.

    The first is "how can I profit from these people." That's not the same thing as turning them into customers. For example, though I do pay for my games, I play a lot of free games on the web which I wouldn't pay for (I'd just play more Civ instead.) DesktopTD is a great example: when it was news to me I would not have bought it because it looks poor, and by now I've played it so much that I don't even play it for free anymore. During my addiction I might have paid a couple of bucks for it, but probably not, and the market doesn't offer a sales mechanism that hits that phase.

    However, DesktopTD has probably made about $3.50 from me by now. I'm not pulling that number out of thin air; I made an honest estimate of plays based on my best guess about when I found the game and how often I play, and ran it through the numbers for MochiAds. Admittedly, I'm not a warezer, so my example applicability is limited, and indeed I do know a few people who brag that they're running ad blockers so they're not inconvenienced with ten seconds of advertisement to put money in the developer's hands, even though the developer is giving their game away. Most of these people, unsurprisingly, are warezers.

    The other questi

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Risen888 (306092) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:31PM (#24548153)

    That's all true, but it shouldn't be the customer's problem. A business model has to have some way of dealing with dissatisfied customers, or it's not going to work in the long run. Crying "piracy!" and "processing costs!"...well, that's just too damn bad.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:32PM (#24548157) Homepage Journal

    I don't see why there has to be a difference between the game and the demo. Instead of making two versions, a real and a demo, just make the one. Make it be restricted in the same way the demo is. If you choose to buy it, it unlocks the full functionality of the game, and possibly gets you onboard to a monthly/yearly subscription model for online play like with warcraft.

    We see unlockable demos in the shareware arena, but I don't think I've ever seen a big title go this route before, and I don't see why it hasn't happened yet. This model seems to be ideally suited to online games that require a coordinating server (like steam etc) where they can verify your purchase. This makes the idea of someone writing a crack for the demo limits a lot less useful since the primary thing you'd want to unlock (online multiplayer) cannot be defeated with a crack.

    If they want a larger initial investment, then they could make the initial account creation expensive, on par with purchasing a game is now, and then then collect a small amount monthly for keeping your multiplayer online.

    Since most of the online games now have a steep initial cost and are free network, this would mean they could cut the initial signup cost to maybe 1/3 - 1/4 the cost that the game normally would fetch if bought, and make up the difference in the online monthly subscriptions. This makes a more fair setup. If you buy the game and four months into it decide it's not for you, your total cash outlay would be less than you would have shelled out to buy the game and get free online for those four months. But if it's a game you really like and play a lot, you would end up paying over the average due to the monthly fees.

    Seems like such a good idea. Why's nobody doing this? Depending on the nature of the game, little if any other features would need to be crippled for the demo, if the online play is that important. Maybe also prevent more than 2 people from locally networking a game together too unless they are registered. Cracks could be written to defeat that aspect though. Warcraft probably comes about as close to this as you can have now, it looks like they base their revenue mainly on the subscription. Now if they would just give away the game or lower the initial cost, you'd have it.

  • as opposed to stuff they have to pay for

    duh

    the real story is that there are people out there for whom this is an earth shattering parable bending conceptual leap forward

    if we must make an intelligent observation in a thread under a really stupid question, let it be this:

    once upon a time, some german dude invented the printing press, and previously uneducated clueless serfs were now able to read on the cheap, birthing the middle class, and fancy ideas from the likes of voltaire and jefferson about equality and democracy. no one intended this, no one planned it, but this is what the printing press did

    of course, the previous understanding was there was an aristocratic class, who knew all and decided all, and the uneducated rabble, who were to be herded and put to work, and that is the way god ordained it. there are still people coming to grips with the way the printing press has changed this equation

    well, now we have the internet, no less earth shattering than the printing press. and what is the internet going to change?

    it destroys the concept of intellectual property

    you either get that, or, like those who still believe in the preeminence of a ruling class, you don't get it. and you will be befuddled for many centuries to come

    intellectual property is dead. the internet killed it. understand that, or not, but it is the truth whether you like it or not. deal with it

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:38PM (#24548213)

    Why waste your time playing a game that isn't worth your money?

    Better yet: why waste your time on a game that isn't worth it ? Indeed, dear Game Developer, you shouldn't be worried about piracy, you should be worried about me who no longer bothers even pirating.

    Hold pirates like precious and fragile flowers in your hand, because their lukewarm interest is the last dying ember between you and the chill of oblivion. It's been a while since any game has captured my interest enough to pirate, much less buy; and your development costs can only ever rise, thanks to the advancing state of the art 3D graphics you use to sell the same crap again and again.

    Seriously, I knew it was all over when I heard they're making Fallout 3 and my first thought was: "I wonder how they will fuck this up ? Oh yeah, they'll remove drugs, sex and a large gaming area but make up by adding photorealistic 3D gore to make it suitable for children."

    Not intended as a troll or flamebait; that was my honest first thought. Game industry plays it safe, has to play it safe since it takes tens of millions of dollars to make a game in the age of 3D; but that also makes sure that the final product is as exiting as a McDonald's hamburger. It simply isn't worth the money they're asking for it; and frankly, it's gotten to the point where it isn't worth anything, not even to pick it up for free. Not that the game industry should be blamed; just remember the Hot Coffee fiasco.

    Basically, I guess I'm trying to say that it just isn't fun playing any more. Small games aren't worth the bother of pirating or buying, and large games are megalomaniacal slaughterfests. Doom's done already, come up with something new. Hell, it should say something that the most fun I've had with a game for a while was with X-Change 3 - which is a "choose your own adventure" porn slideshow, for crying out loud - just because the utterly ludicrous scenario caused the "let's see what happens next" reaction.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:38PM (#24548219)

    I think this is the real problem.

    I don't pirate games any more because I have sufficient disposable income to simply buy bad games without any fear. However there were two driving motivations when I was younger and had very little disposable income:

    1) What if the game sucks and I don't get my $50 worth out of it.
    2) I can't afford the 10 games that are on the Lan Party circuit. And except for many counter strike and team fortress those 10 games could cycle pretty quickly from month to month. I definitely can't afford the 40 odd games that come up during play at LAN parties.

    There was a third minor force and that would be:
    3) My mom doesn't approve of this game so I don't want to have physical evidence of its existance (ala Half Life) or a lot of questions to be asked about it.

    The real problem then becomes laziness and fufillment. By the time I've determined that it's a game that's got staying power or quality I've already got it installed. I've already played it and I while I feel like it would be worth my money I already have it.

    So what's my solution? Sliding pay amounts. I am willing to pay $25 for practically any 'feature length' game and $5 for any 'arcade' game. Turn games into Nagware:

    1) Let the consumer give a game a 'pre-purchase' value. Let's say it's $10 for a teenager or someone who isn't sure this is the genre for them. Then set a limit at which you will not be nagged. Say $40. Let the people who purchased it continue using it but inconvenience them for 20-30 seconds every time the game starts. Not enough to convince them to crack it. Just enough to be naggy.

    Now you've solved the big 2 problems all at once.

    1) those who want to try but often forget are given an opportunity to contribute to the game's income.
    2) those who are afraid of losing money on a bad game are able to manage their risk.

    and
    3) you've also increased your pool of income. I would spend $10 on crysis just to play with it every now and then but I'm not going to spend $50 on it. That's $10 more than the developer would make on me. On the other hand I might actually come to like it after tinkering and get addicted and decide that yes that nagging little window that just asks for my username and password for an impulse buy will simply authorize the game.

    You HAVE to make games impulse purchases to kill piracy. Impulse purchases have two factors:

    1) It's so easy to do you could practically do it accidentally.
    2) The price has to be so low you have no expectation of return.

    Music purchases now have met criteria #1 but not #2. I'm thinking for music piracy the cost has to come down to a quarter. Nobody will think twice about a quarter even for crap and they'll be so crazed with buying "free" stuff that their quarterly expenses will far outstrip their previous purchasing power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:24PM (#24548603)

    How many people play cracked counterstrike? I know I used to play 1.5 cracked, and damn it was a bitch to setup. Sure it is an online game and for the most part the new online games seem pretty secure. Even half-life 2 was so much harder play cracked than any other cracked games today. I still know some computer nerds(./ readers) who play hl2 cracked, but the majority of gamers would rather buy a game than have to go through the hassle of changing your hosts file and going through a multi-step process.

    I know they got a bad rap for all the overhead steam uses.... but come on if you're running SP2 or vista your 'upgraded' OS uses vastly more overhead.

    Not only did they mostly defeat piracy of their games they also offer great benefits to buying a legit version. You can download and install steam to any computer you use, anywhere in the U.S. from my experience. You can download all your games, there are no crazy DRM limitations. They also have great deals on games, I know I bought the orange box for like $70, and it was 5 games or something. They drop their prices pretty quick, and they are the only company I would PURCHASE games from.

    I don't often hang on to my old cds or dvds of video games and without steam I would have lost halflife 1 and conterstrike everytime I upgrade to a new computer or need to reinstall windows.

    Why doesn't anyone else get a clue and offer gamers what they want, cheap games, the ability to download it as many times as you want from anywhere you are, on any computer you have access to.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:59PM (#24548905)

    If I know a fair amount about the game I'll buy outright.
    If I don't know anything about the game I'll either grab a demo or a crack.
    If I don't like the game I'll stop at this point.
    If I do like the game : I have a partial demo and it's very very easy to buy[paypal and cheap] and obtain the game[steam] I'll probably buy.
    If I do like the game : I have a fully working crack, it's hard to get a full copy or the cracked version is less restrictive than the paid version [read, uncracked version calls home whenever I want to play single player] then the chances of me shelling out for the single version are slim.

    1:Make it easier for me to buy your game than to steal it.
    2:Make me feel safer with your version than the cracked one. I might get a virus or spyware with the cracked game but if I know for certain your game calls home every 5 minutes with an image of my ram then I'll go with the crack.
    3:Make it reasonably cheap. I have no problem shelling out 15 or 20 bucks on a game and how much each person is willing to pay varies so this is the hardest one. If I can get the game in 20 minutes from your network [read steam] or in 3 hours from a pirate site that time has value to me and affects how much I'm willing to pay. I guess look at your target market.

  • Re:Abundance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) * <mike@plan99.net> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:38PM (#24549221) Homepage

    The problem with your attitude is that it fails the "golden rule" - would my behavior still be OK if everybody did what I do? If it's not, that's a pretty good signal it's unethical. You can, if you wish, live your life without a tip of the hat to ethics but don't be surprised when nobody cries at your funeral.

    Your last paragraph in particular is pretty naive. You say the games industry thrived in the face of piracy. There isn't a binary thrives/fails outcome here, it's more subtle than that.

    Let's say you create a game on the assumption that 500,000 people will want to play the game, based on demographics and popularity of similar games. You want to sell it for $50 each so that's a $25,000,000 budget - pretty good! Although that has to pay for quite a lot of stuff. Not just salaries for a large team for several years, but business overheads, engine licensing, and then you need to make enough profit to cover your next game which might be a flop.

    Your game is awesome and indeed garners 500,000 players very fast. Unfortunately only 20% of those people pay for the game (this figure seems reasonable sadly). Instead of being rewarded with a nice profit and the ability to make a new game, you are now on the verge of bankruptcy. But let's say you're bailed out. For your next game, you'll rectify your mistake. Instead of budgeting based on how many players a game might get, you budget based on the sales you'll get. The result is a much smaller budget. Fewer programmers, worse artwork, perhaps some characters don't get voiceovers this time around. The whole project just doesn't live up to what it could have been.

    Piracy is not cost-free as you seem to believe. It results in a worse experience for all gamers, both through more limited games and less risk taking (because studios don't have as much money to cover the potential losses). Instead people stick with what they know can make money - boring MMORPGs that can't be pirated because they need an account, or console games that don't have a keyboard.

    This is what happens because of pirates actions. But wait - it gets worse. When the law is not upheld honest people start to wonder why exactly they inconvenience themselves by following it. Why, they say, should that guy over there get free music and movies and games when I work hard and can only buy one of those things this month? Why shouldn't I break the law too? This is how corruption starts and if you want to know what a culture of corruption is like take a visit to any developing country. It's not good for their economy and just keeps them poorer for longer.

  • Re:Abundance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by devman (1163205) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:00PM (#24549409)

    I realize that this will probably be an unpopular opinion here but I felt like it's something that had to be said.

    Producing the original material does take resources though, and it feels like a lot of people forget that. If we follow the strictly physical aspect digital products then the producer would have to recoup the costs of making the product in one sale because afterward it would be infinitely copied, which is obviously absurd. The point is that developers are selling something abstract not a physical good, an "experience" if you will, something which cost them time and money to put together.

    On the one hand people exclaim how digital products should not be treated like real products, as in the parent post, and then on the other hand people try to say that the consumer should enjoy all the same rights over the digital product as if he had just bought a real tangible product.

    You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either digital products are special and have special rules, or they are not. I don't think the lawmaking has fully caught up with this concept and right now its balanced to far over to the right holders. However, I think it's unreasonable for consumers to expect the same rights to control over the digital product as they are given over a physical product.

  • Re:Abundance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr2001 (90979) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:15PM (#24549985) Homepage Journal

    The problem with your attitude is that it fails the "golden rule" - would my behavior still be OK if everybody did what I do?

    In this case, I think the answer is yes.

    Think about it: if everyone pirated games, what would happen? Developers would quickly realize that selling copies is no way to make money. But -- and this is a fallacy that nearly every copyright advocate seems to commit -- that doesn't mean they'd be left without a way to make money!

    What it means is they'd have to focus on the thing they have that can't be copied: their skill and talent. In other words, their labor.

    The unimaginative ones might decide that making games just isn't possible anymore, since they wouldn't be able to look past the business model they've been relying on for the past couple decades. But the ones who can adapt will choose another business model, based on selling the service of writing software rather than selling a disc in a box.

    From our viewpoint here in the present, we can't know exactly what that future model would look like. We can, however, see that the fundamentals are all there: programming and game design skill is a scarce resource (unlike data), and it's one that people are already willing to pay for. We might need a novel system of middlemen to pick the wheat from the chaff, or a new payment model to allow millions of individual gamers to fund development rather than a handful of investors, but there's no reason to think selling copies is the only way to make money.

  • Re:Mutual respect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:46PM (#24550233) Homepage Journal

    It's perfectly ok to do whatever you want to the software on your own computer, as long as it doesn't negatively impact other people. Once it does, there should be consequences.

    If Blizzard was doing their job and enforcing rules server-side, then it wouldn't matter what players were doing. As I mentioned, my web applications make no assumptions about the integrity of your web browser or the nobility of your intent when making requests. When I try and succeed, I get to keep my job another day. When Blizzard tries and fails, they bust out the lawyers.

    For as much fun as we all used to make of Second Life, they took the exact opposite path. Instead of installing more locks and loading up the lawyercannons, they open sourced the client. Every third person there seems to be a griefer, but they used it as a learning experience to figure out how to better secure the server. Again, you're giving Blizzard a free pass for reasons unbeknownst me. For as long as there ever have been and ever will be multiplayer, there have been and will be people hacking their clients. The correct response is to accept that and work stop it on your end.

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:15PM (#24550467)
    another problem with an online account is you can't resell the product once your done with it, even if you buy a physical copy of the game. Of course, you could sell your entire account, but then you'd have to sell all games that are linked to that account. And if game devs think that resale shouldn't be allowed then they can go f*** themselves. If I can sell used furniture, why can't I sell used CDs. If the games were licenced as a "loan" or subscription model then they could argue against resale... but if that were the case I wouldn't be willing to pay nearly as much for a game. when it all comes down to it pirating is just so much easier and hassle-free... no need to insert the disc to play, no need to be connected to the web in order to start your game (ie how steam works). If a game is really good value and really enjoyable I'll pay for it, the last game i bought was the Orange box, the next game I buy will be fallout 3.
  • Re:Abundance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by servognome (738846) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:35PM (#24550619)

    But the ones who can adapt will choose another business model, based on selling the service of writing software rather than selling a disc in a box.

    Essentially you'd be promoting a sponsorship model which would destroy the risk taking and innovation of game developers. The sponsor would already have something in mind when they hire a developer. In the current model a developer has freedom to create something different then shop it around - sometimes their ideas hit, other times they miss, but what's important is they have incentive to take risks.
    You wouldn't have independent studios that make games to survive, you have a bunch of people contracted by the EAs & Activisions of the world. Any independent studio that creates a great idea on their own would just have it hijacked by the megacorps with much greater marketing and flexibility to extract money from alternate revenue streams than pushing product.

    From our viewpoint here in the present, we can't know exactly what that future model would look like. We can, however, see that the fundamentals are all there: programming and game design skill is a scarce resource (unlike data), and it's one that people are already willing to pay for. We might need a novel system of middlemen to pick the wheat from the chaff, or a new payment model to allow millions of individual gamers to fund development rather than a handful of investors, but there's no reason to think selling copies is the only way to make money.

    We have seen the non-box business model, software as a service. You never own a copy of the game, you pay to access it while it runs on some big mainframe. As I said before this would kill small studios and the innovation they bring. An EA has enough different games to make running a server farm profitable, and enough marketing muscle to exploit advertising or other ways to make money

  • Re:Abundance (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bravecanadian (638315) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @10:40PM (#24551661)

    So who pays for the initial development costs?

    Yup.. you caught the problem.

    In the new mythical fantasy world of the future (with unicorns and fairies) where no one charges anything for digital media of any sort, these development costs would be paid for out of the wizard's treasure chest. Or by some new business model if gosh, anyone could figure out what that is... in the meantime yay everyone pirate what they want for free!

    Makes me laugh.

  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Monday August 11, 2008 @12:23AM (#24552205)

    But the ones who can adapt will choose another business model, based on selling the service of writing software rather than selling a disc in a box. From our viewpoint here in the present, we can't know exactly what that future model would look like. We can, however, see that the fundamentals are all there: programming and game design skill is a scarce resource (unlike data), and it's one that people are already willing to pay for.

    So who pays for it? Perhaps a rich benefactor pays for the development of a game for their personal use, then decides to release it to the public free of charge. That seems unlikely though.

    More likely is the development of a model whereby the public can pay developers directly for the service they provide. Perhaps this would take the form of commissions, where members of the public get together and pool their money to pay for the development of a new game. But this raises many questions of coordination--how would the decisions be made as to what the game would be, and which developers will get picked to provide the service? As you mention, this would require a huge middleman layer.

    or a new payment model to allow millions of individual gamers to fund development rather than a handful of investors

    Perhaps the cost of the development service of each game could be broken up into many shares, and each person who plays the game could pay one share. That way only the direct benefactors would pay for the service, which seems fair.

    Is this sounding familiar yet?

    The unimaginative ones might decide that making games just isn't possible anymore, since they wouldn't be able to look past the business model they've been relying on for the past couple decades. But the ones who can adapt will choose another business model, based on selling the service of writing software rather than selling a disc in a box.

    I would say that you are the unimaginative one, since you seem fixated on the disc without realizing that the current business model is in fact the same one you're advocating. Developers are directly paid for their service by the public in the form of "shares" known as game licenses.

    You can't have it both ways. If you want to make the point that games are essentially a service not a product, then you have to ask who is the recipient of the service? The person playing the game, obviously. The current business model apportions the service cost to each service recipient through the concept of the software license. Forget the disk, what you are paying for is a small part of the service that developed what's on the disk.

    This idea of infinite abundance is totally ridiculous. Yes, after a service has been performed, the end result is already in existence. That does not mean that games are highly abundant in general, it simply reflects the reality of any service, which is that once it has already been performed, there is no natural incentive to pay. Pirating games is like dining and dashing. "Why pay for this dinner? I'm already full." People say, "Why pay for games? I can already get a perfect copy for free." But the very first copy does not just appear out of thin air.

    Most people do not dine-and-dash for two reasons. First, people recognize that it took time, effort, and expertise to prepare their food, and feel a moral obligation to pay for that. Even if they did not like the food. Second, this feeling has been codified in the law so that it is a crime to dine and dash. I would say the same concepts apply to game piracy.

  • Re:Abundance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Monday August 11, 2008 @12:32AM (#24552249)

    What it means is they'd have to focus on the thing they have that can't be copied: their skill and talent. In other words, their labor.

    What are you talking about? The product of their skill and talent is easily stolen/copied. That's like saying "DVD piracy isn't a problem, movie producers just have to concentrate on their talent and make better movies!". That's bullshit.

    Pirates need to own up to the fact that in the vast majority of cases, it's done because the user is too cheap to buy the game, and having it for free with a few mouse clicks beats driving to the store with money. That's the simple truth of it. Our society has ingrained into people that stealing is wrong - but because there's no shopkeeper that the user can see is being negatively impacted, neither sympathy nor empathy exists, and it falls into the category of "victimless crime".

  • Re:Also... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Candid88 (1292486) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:05AM (#24553121)

    "you wasted two weeks of your life writing ineffective copy protection that does nothing to slow down pirates"

    Just because someone managed to crack his copy-protection system doesn't mean writing it was a waste of time, it could still be having a massive effect on piracy levels.

    Security (intellectual in this case) is never about complete 100% infalliblity, that's impossible. For example: no matter how thick the walls of your bunker are there will always be some bomb somewhere capable of beaking them down, if not, some nuke, if not some asteroid... but that doesn't mean a bunker with 3-metre thick walls isn't a damn good place to be when bombs are falling nearby.

    Security is all about risk reduction.

    The overwhelming evidence shows that copy protection methods do still significantly reduce PC game piracy despite all being crackable to some degree by the most "l33t" crackers.

  • by Sky Cry (872584) on Monday August 11, 2008 @04:19AM (#24553207)

    Because it's easier to download a game than go to the shop and buy it?
    Because I'm going to use no-cd crack anyway, since I absolutely hate swapping CDs?

    Steam solves quite a few problems for me - when the game is on Steam, I buy it there (though I still hate the fact that it often costs more than buying it locally). Steam doesn't require me to swap CDs to play my games. Steam doesn't even require me to HAVE those CDs - I can uninstall the game at any time and simply redownload it later, when I feel like it.

    Yes, it doesn't solve all problems, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 11, 2008 @06:36AM (#24553911)

    It still may be a valid argument. Going to the Pirate Bay and downloading the full game may well be easier than tracking down a copy of the demo on the publisher's web site (we all know how terrible they can be) or, shudder, Fileplanet or similar... having to register to download it... memorising Yet Another Password... then being stuck in a queue before the download can begin... and then the download proceeding at a pathetic 12 KiB/sec. Not to mention that many demos seem to embed Starforce or other invasive DRM software these days, for god knows what reason other than publisher idiocy.

    your post was fine, except for the fact that you included KiB as a measurement. Goddamn SI goons. wtf is KiB? it reads like Kibbles and Bits. is that wtf data is nowdays? we no longer use KiloBytes, now we use Kibbles!

    fucking SI faggotry. i believe in metric as a valid measurement system, except in this case. for the love of god, knock it the fuck off. we never intended for the 'metric MB' jokes to be taken literally, EVER.

    What have we wrought?

  • Re:Abundance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mc900ftjesus (671151) on Monday August 11, 2008 @08:46AM (#24554901)

    "Essentially you'd be promoting a sponsorship model which would destroy the risk taking and innovation of game developers."

    Hahhhahahahhahahaha. That's priceless. Madden 2028, God of War 12, Pokemon Silver Tournament Card Champion Alpha 3, The Sims Universe, and Mario Party 234 would like to discuss how innovation and risk died when game budgets started hitting in the tens of millions.

  • by d3ac0n (715594) on Monday August 11, 2008 @09:50AM (#24555749)

    This was one of the large reasons I had held off on playing half life (2) for so long...

    Ditto.

    Until I pirated it, that is.

    I had and have no intention of dealing with Steam(-ing pile of crap). I found (and continue to find) the entire concept ludicrous. If I buy a single-player game, I expect to be able to play it whenever, wherever, forever. No SecrapROm, no Online checks, no Nada. I'm willing to punch in a CD Key, provided it is no longer than 32 digits, and even that long is pushing it.

    I think game publishers need to understand a few basic truths of business:

    1) There will ALWAYS be thieves. No matter what you do, or how much money you spend on stopping them, a small percentage of people will always find a way to steal your products. Some will do it for no other reason than because they can. Don't like it? Too bad, that's business in the digital age.

    2) Using DRM, rootkits, Online-checking single player games and spyware-like software to try and "secure" your game against "piracy" is at the very least ineffective and mostly nigh-on useless in actually stopping piracy. (See rule #1)

    3) Assuming that ALL your customers will be thieves and thus distributing software with the garbage listed in #2 UPSETS your customers. Surprisingly, people get annoyed when software they paid good money for treats them like a criminal and/or refuses to run due to DRM and/or breaks other things in their PC, up to and including the OS itself.

    4) Angry and annoyed customers means both lost revenue through negative word of mouth advertising, and by driving some customers and potential customers to outright piracy. Why should anyone pay for a game that is broken with DRM when the pirated version will come out in a week with the DRM stripped out and will be FREE to download?

    5) The best way to keep piracy to a minimum is to serve up a clean game, with no DRM or anti-piracy junk other than a CD key. (One that doesn't require the CD to play would be nice as well). And since you aren't wasting MILLIONS on third-party DRM crapware, you can charge LESS for the game, and still make a higher profit. In other words, Cheap and DRM-free games sell.

    I think that just about covers it.

  • Re:Also... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gnavpot (708731) on Monday August 11, 2008 @11:46AM (#24557271)

    The overwhelming evidence shows that copy protection methods do still significantly reduce PC game piracy despite all being crackable to some degree by the most "l33t" crackers.

    But does it increase sales?

    Game publishers do not earn more money by reducing piracy. They earn more money by increasing sales. What if the copy protection causes more lost sales than it causes extra sales?

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