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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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  • by Zarhan (415465) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:44PM (#24546415)

    ...and I will buy it, just like I have bought Sins of the Solar Empire, Galactic Civilizations II and Space Rangers 2.

    Note that SR2 I originally passed as it was originally published - it had Securom copy protection, so I let it pass.

    http://www.impulsedriven.com/ [impulsedriven.com] is Stardock's new system, looks very promising (and more friendly than Steam, which is also nice).

  • Paranoia Limits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RancidPickle (160946) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:45PM (#24546431) Homepage

    I think a lot of the true Pirates will avoid the contact because they'd be concerned about their anonimity. He'll hear from the part-time leechers and the 'try before buying' crowd, but the folks who do the actual work on cracking a game probably won't make a sound.

    What if Slashdot did one of those 'ask-the-developer-a-question' forum, and they took the top reasons, then sent them in (with the understanding that the developer would get back with replies and/or rebuttals)?

  • Re:Also... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kabdib (81955) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:53PM (#24546517) Homepage

    That's been my experience as well -- the crackers who broke one of my games (in three days -- took me two weeks to do the protection) lived in my apartment complex and chatted with me about it.

    They were just looking for a challenge. They had hundreds of games, and as near as I can tell they never really played them.

    But of course they gave copies and compilations away to anyone who asked, often with a "cracked by (stupid hackerish name)" splash screen.

  • by goldcd (587052) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#24546529) Homepage
    Not really for any specific reason, but here are some of them:
    I earn money now. As a student buying that game was taking food/alcohol money.
    I don't have less free time. I have to be more selective. I play less games and the cost to purchase is the least of my worries. In fact it probably saves me cash as if I was out doing something else, I'd undoubtedly be spending more money.
    I like on-line a lot. I bought Battlefield 2 for the magic code that let me go online - and I've not chipped my 360 for the same reason.
    Cracking stuff makes me feel guilty. I mean yes there's all the arguments about how paying for the game gives you a more restricted copy - but Oh I dunno. If it's a good game somebody has poured their heart and soul into it, and I don't want to make them sad.
    Steam - I like steam. I go there, I buy a game (after playing a demo maybe) and there it is to play a few minutes later. I can't be arsed fiddling with CDs, I usally lose/scratch them. If I'd put my thinking cap on and designed my own online distribution system - it'd look like Steam.
    I'm not involved in the scene. Getting a pre-Jap release of Metal Gear Solid through the post, complete with japanese stamps on the jiffy bag - that's exciting. Clicking on a torrent link or browsing usenet.. not really a challenge. Strange point this one, but I liked the days when stuff had to be posted, or tracked down to an obscure hidden FTP dir. Too easy now.

    How to stop piracy? Well that's a tricky one as I think everybody has their own reasons. If you genuinely can't afford the game - then nothing's going to stop that person pirating it (and if there's been no sale to lose - who cares?). If anything it keeps somebody in the market for future releases and hey they might turn into me and start buying them when they can.
    Possibly the other thing is to make the makers of games more important. If you've been reading the blog of somebody who is making something - or eagerly tracking the return of Sam and Max - then you're going to feel more inclined to show support and buy it. When some movie-tie-in appears on 9 formats the day of the films release from 'somewhere' - well I'm not feeling a great emotional attachment to the producers.
    Final bit is that I think game makers are starting to be nice to us and understand what we want. We don't have it too bad. Compare what's happening with online distribution of music and movies..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:59PM (#24546573)

    1. I'm lazy. Steam lets me get the games I want without having to do much work at all. If I wanted to buy a game before I had to go to do the store, or order it online, which took time and effort.

    2. It's portable. If I get a new computer, I just load up Steam and re-download the games I want. No searching for disks, or serial numbers. Steam also allows me to install the game on multiple computers (say a laptop and a desktop), and since I'm not using both at the same time, it's not a problem.

    3. It's getting better. The process continues to be refined, and the selection continues to grow. If I pre-order or order bundles of games, I can sometimes save significant amounts of money.

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

    by Original Replica (908688) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:07PM (#24546643) Journal
    you often just don't buy either... I know I never did. It was all about the money... I could get it for free so why pay for it?

    It is about money, and about a person's perception of their money. If money is just "what you use to get stuff" then there is little reason to buy. However if money is "a tool to effect the world around you" then there is a solid reason to pay for a game that you enjoy, regardless of if that money goes to a big corp, an indy developer, or shareware donation. Now I don't have a good study to point to but I imagine that thinking of money as a tool of influence is more a trait of the wealthy, as the acquisition of material goods reaches saturation but there is still money to be spent. Conversely, when material needs can't be met money isn't likely to be spent on idealogical matters. I wonder if there is a relationship between disposable income and piracy?
  • Re:"because i could" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#24546689)

    "because i could" ...and the fact that there are no consequences to me if I do.

    THAT'S the most important reason people pirate.

    There's no (realistic) way of getting caught. Therefore there's no punishment.

    Think about it, if you knew you couldn't get caught, how many laws would you break? Speeding, trespassing, voyeurism... to name a few. Victimless crimes, as long as nobody sees you.

  • by apankrat (314147) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#24546723) Homepage

    It is also a case of not "wanting something for free", but more of "not wanting to pay upfront for something that may suck". Right now buying a game is effectively a gamble based on whatever other people had to say about it. So it is, of course, easier to download "full version" and see if it lives up to its ratings. But the problem is that there's no easy way and no real incentive to purchase the copy of the game if it *is* good.

    In fact, I wonder if distributing a game for free and then having an easily accessible "pay us" button would work. I know that I'd pay this way in an instant if the product is good and I am using it.

  • Re:Flawed premise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BradleyUffner (103496) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:20PM (#24546795) Homepage

    It also doesnt mean they would not have bought it either. There are some people among the total number of people prating the game that actually would have bought it if there was no pirated version available. Those people might have the reasoning of "I would have paid $5, but I'm not going to pay $10". I would consider people in that boat to be people who could be converted into buyers by lowering the price. THAT is the type of information he is trying to get, "What would I have had to do to get that person who pirated the game to have bought it instead?". It could range from Lowing the price, to better graphics, to Including a free pony in every box.

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

    by Mr_eX9 (800448) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:21PM (#24546815) Homepage
    Why waste your time playing a game that isn't worth your money?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:23PM (#24546833)
    Their support forums [stardock.com] seem to suggest otherwise.
  • by iCEBaLM (34905) <<icebalm> <at> <icebalm.com>> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#24546935)

    Hey Cliff,

    This is going to get modded flame bait but this is probably one of the reasons why your games in particular are getting pirated and not so much bought: people are downloading the pirated version, trying it a couple times, but because the game play is boring and repetitive, they are deleting it.

    Your games are all the same with different graphics, they're all the "tycoon" style simulations with minor variations. I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but most people are generally good in that if they play a game a lot they will buy it.

    Your games are niche and your intended market isn't going to be going online and downloading them, they won't be that savvy. Your market is looking for them on the shelf at bestbuy and getting roller coaster tycoon instead.

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

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:34PM (#24546973)
    I'm the same. One specific title I remember doing this with was Battlefield 2. I never played the earlier Battlefield titles. So when Battlefield 2 came out, I assumed it was another generic WWII shooter game and never looked into it. I read some reviews that talked about how awesome the game was and decided I'd download the demo off of GameSpot. To my suprise, the game wasn't set in WWII and it was awesome! I promptly went out and bought a copy. In fact, it was a word of mouth thing, because I showed my friends who also hadn't tried it and they went and bought copies too. I think one of the biggest and best copy protections is linking the game to online account, ALA battlefield, etqw, steam, etc.
  • If it is good... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:36PM (#24546999) Journal
    If it is good, and I've got a pirated copy working, I still 'buy' a copy, but never bother installing it (if the cracked version works fine).

    that way, I'm supporting the devs and I've got a working game.
  • My Reasons... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brxndxn (461473) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:36PM (#24547001)

    Here's my reasons why I do not buy most games - and why I go out of my way to buy some..

    1. Copy protection - There should be nothing in a game preventing me from making a copy. There should be nothing in a game that installs 3rd party bullshit on my computer. I would rather not even enter a unique code. Face it, no matter how great of anti-piracy software there is, if I buy the game it inconveniences me - while the pirated version that is easily downloadable on the Internet will not have those inconveniences. If I want to loan the game to a friend, and let him play it a few days, LET ME FUCKING DO IT. I BOUGHT THE DAMN GAME.
    - THINK ABOUT THIS: Anti-piracy efforts typically only affect the people that bought and paid for the game. They are always an inconvenience. In all circumstances, the pirated version on the Internet (and it will exist no matter what game, no matter what copy protection), has most of those inconveniences removed - though the game may be missing material, have new bugs due to anti-anti-piracy, and generally have less value to the opinion of the game.

    2. Pricing - Every damn PC game comes out at a ridiculous price - $60, $65, even $75.. and every damn PC game is $19.99 bargain bin after 3 months. How about make the price somewhere in the middle and keep it there. I'll buy games on release date if I knew the price wasn't gonna fall by 2/3 in a month. I think $25-30 pricing for games makes it almost more convenient to buy it - provided my other points are considered.

    3. Community support - Let the community mod the games - and support them! Nothing is better than a game being released and the community taking over and creating unlimited amounts of new maps/levels.. unless the developer puts some of their own resources back into the community.

    4. Pirates buy games - Yes, many pirates also buy games. When I actually had time to play PC games, I pirated many and bought many - and I definitely bought more games that the average person. Consider that. I don't like being called nasty names when I feel perfectly fine with my reasons for pirating - usually too much copy protection.

    5. Don't make me have to insert a damn CD when I play the game!!! I bought the game. The pirated version doesn't make me insert a CD, why should the bought-and-paid-for version? My cd player is in my computer on the floor at the corner of my desk - and I'm a lazy gamer that doesn't want to have to open my book of cds, find the right one, and insert it! oh wait.. my cd is scratched. fuck me.

    6. Stop being so goddamn confusing with the patches! I have 'pirated' games I bought just because installing the original cds, downloading the patches, installing them in order were so annoying and time-consuming. Here's how you do it. Release a game. It is version 1.0. Patch it. It is called patch 1. Now the version is 1.1. Every new patch should not require the older patch. There should never be a game version like "Awesome Game 1.01.07.0003 p004 with Nvidia enhanced drivers". WTF is that.. That makes me wanna turn my brain off and play Xbox.

    7. Offer refunds. Yes, risky.. BUT DO IT. I bought X3 Reunion and was not able to play it for a long-ass time because I only had an external cd burner due to their fucked up copy protection. I posted on their forums. I was told everything was my fault and nothing was their fault. Think I'm ever gonna buy an Egosoft game again? Fuck no. Note: You would most likely have to offer 1/10 as many refunds if the game did not have copy protection. And, 'this game sucks' is not a valid refund request. The reviews are everywhere. If someone buys a game rated at 44%, they deserve to be out the money.

    8. Bump up the minimum requirements. Don't say the game will run on a P3 1ghz with 128mb ram if it needs a Core 2 duo at 2.6ghz with a Radeon 4850 just to look decent! Why? Because Joe-dumbass will buy the game and try to run it on his son's shitty laptop with Intel integrated graphics. After doing that once or twice, guarantee he will becom

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

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:42PM (#24547049) Homepage Journal

    Just because you didn't doesn't mean others don't. I have several games I managed to get my hands on to try (especially PC games, where I don't know if my PC is powerful enough up front to play it) and ended up paying for a copy because I enjoyed it so much.

    Morrowind would be one example that comes immediately to mind.

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

    by rogermcdodger (1113203) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:49PM (#24547143)
    The problem with this is that the industry is moving towards digital distribution, and obviously indie games are already nearly always distributed in this way. If all it takes is a few minutes online to get your money back then it will be abused heavily. As for holding on to the money of customers for a month, the developer would actually be losing money through processing fees, in addition I don't know if it costs the seller to issue a credit card refund. I just don't see how a refund model could work with digital distribution.
  • Return on Investment (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:51PM (#24547169)

    That's been my experience as well -- the crackers who broke one of my games (in three days -- took me two weeks to do the protection)

    Thanks for making that point. Let me ask you this: how much better would your game have been if you spent those 2 weeks on development?
    Better games sell better, logically and in practice, and you're no farther behind in "losses" after those 3 days without a crack.
    (No offense intended, but you'll know you're in the big leagues when you get 0day'd. ;-)

    Copy protection is like building a narrow bridge out of popsicle sticks.
    You can brag about how intricately you crafted the bridge, and you can't get anywhere without it...
    But it's awkward, so nobody else wants to use it, it's not wheelchair accessible, easy to break, and people looking for a thrill will just swing across and bypass it completely.

    I reckon software developers are more pissed off by the time and money they waste, rather than the inevitable underground distribution.
    But some of them just really enjoy playing with popsicle sticks... it's all a game from start to finish.

    (Feel free to post that on your wisdom blog. ;-)

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

    by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:56PM (#24547235)

    It also doesnt mean they would not have bought it either.

    This was certainly the case in college for me. The only (PC) games that I played were freeware/shareware or pirated copies that other students had. If the pirated copies didn't exist, it's not as if $50 would suddenly materialize in my pocket - and if it did, I'd probably go out on the town rather than buy a game. I didn't even buy new console games - just played what I went to college with.

    I'm sure there were other kids with different priorities (and more money), though. But you can't get blood (money) from a stone (college student).

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

    by colmore (56499) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:09PM (#24547385) Journal

    "All About the Money"

    Yeah, that's pretty much it. I don't make too much, and as I'm sure this will play into most peoples moral calculations of me: I don't plan on making too much, at least before I'm responsible for someone other than myself.

    My limited entertainment dollar is spent on social activities. I rent movies at a local shop. I see live music. I go to cheap bars. At very small concerts, I donate money to bands. I use my local library. If I were buying commercial records and video games, that money would be coming directly out of my more primary entertainment expenses. The decision to pirate a game or album comes down to "pirate this or read / play / listen to someting I already have / go to the library." It isn't priate vs. buy. I'm not really much of a fan. There's very seldom something coming out that I just HAVE to be a part of, and I don't really understand that kind of behavior. It's pirate vs. do something else that would be free or almost free.

    If mainstream commercial pop culture were to become inaccessible except at the kind of fees they seem to believe they deserve, I'd largely stop consuming it. I don't hate the stuff or consider myself above it, but I could do without it. It seems like only a recent development that large numbers of people spend over $100 a month on consuming pop culture. I think people from the 70s would think we're insane.

    The argument could certainly be made that if I want to have that many albums on my ipod I should just go get some job I'd hate and make a bunch more money. OK. Sure. Whatever. I'm not.

    I know this is about independent games specifically, and I can't say I play any. I'd probably pay for those. I'm a big believer in the little guy.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:15PM (#24547461)

    It is if you use wine. Often the demo works fine, but due to some change to the final game or copy protection the real game does not run. I need to know if it works in wine before I waste money on it. If you do not make a linux version, expect me to test your game this way.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:21PM (#24547523)

    yes. as a high school student with no disposable income and no (legal) way to purchase things on the net, pirating tv shows is my TiVo (I *could* have seen it for free at some point in time), pirating music is my radio, and [irating games is just because as long as I'm getting it illegally, stealing something has a much lower penalty than fraud (e.g. having an underaged paypal account)

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

    by oneiron (716313) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:21PM (#24547529)
    "You"

    Speak for yourself. I've downloaded far more games than I've purchased, but I've purchased all of the games I've ever played enough to warrant purchase. I've actually been burned a couple of times when I decided to make the purchasing leap of faith before trying the games out(bioshock, quake IV, and a couple of others). The one exception is gears of war...which I rented to play for 2 weeks straight on a borrowed x-box, and then downloaded for my PC to play halfway through. I almost feel like I should buy that one considering I loved it enough to beat it 5 times before finally downloading it.

    Everything else I've downloaded for my pc has either been a complete bust or a later purchase.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:24PM (#24547545)

    That's all fine and dandy until Steam suddenly shuts down one day and you have absolutely no way of playing all of those old games that you love.

    Meh. Valve has un-DRM'ing tools for the games. I have personally only bought a single game through Steam (BioShock) but it works like a charm and has always done so. People should use Steam some more.

    One problem with buying online-focused games, even through Steam, is that you have no idea if there are still people online playing that game. Before buying games like Unreal Tournament, I would like to know how alive the online community actually is. So far I have found no official way of finding out, and I'll be pissed to shell out lots of money and find that no one is there to play with.

    A problem with buying small, indie games is that usually they are fun for the first ten minutes, and then you and your friends become tired of the game and go on to play something else. The game simply isn't long/varied/fun enough to keep you entertained for long enough to justify paying those bucks.

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

    by Threni (635302) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:50PM (#24547769)

    > 1) you need Internet service to play (unless there is a timer or something).

    Non-multiplayer games are a bit tedious, so this isn't a problem (to me). Battlefield 2 in single player mode was as boring, easy and pointless as on any of the other games in the series.

    > 2) privacy (...don't want companies generating statistical information...)

    What information can someone gather about you when you're playing a game, other than when you're playing it? "Dave, have you got those figures for the number of gamers who start playing at 6pm on a wednesday and play for at least 50 mins, but who aren't any good compared to the other games on that server at the same time?". Also, all they've got on you is your email address (which could be a disposable one) and an IP address (which I can't see them doing very much with, especially as it'll be different for most users within a few days).

  • by vertinox (846076) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:01PM (#24547869)

    This is going to get modded flame bait but this is probably one of the reasons why your games in particular are getting pirated and not so much bought: people are downloading the pirated version, trying it a couple times, but because the game play is boring and repetitive, they are deleting it.

    I think he's just asking the wrong question. Instead of asking why pirates are pirating, he should be asking why aren't buyers buying?

    If he focuses on reaching out to his playerbase and building a community then loyalty will pay for itself.

  • by Reziac (43301) * on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:08PM (#24547927) Homepage Journal

    I'd never heard of 'em so went and looked at the various games. Sims bore me to tears, no worries about me pirating those! But "Wonderful End of the World" is a little different in concept and looks like it might be fun... *ONCE*, twice at most. And there's the problem. What will I pay for something that's only fun ONCE, that I'll never look at again? well, consider movies. The vast majority are one-shot entertainment, and $8 for a first-run ticket is pushing it. $5 is probably more like it. So there's your price range, at least for the base unit.

    Now, for folks who get addicted to a game -- extensibility is the key to continued interest. Fan-made add-ons available at no charge, or a whole CD full of 'em for a nominal charge -- that creates a revenue stream for games. Look at DOOM, the most extensible game of all time. 14 years later people are still making mods for it. In its early years, CDs full of mods sold pretty durn well. The mods themselves were free, but it was worth a few bucks to have someone else collect 'em all up for us.

  • by DG (989) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:09PM (#24547945) Homepage Journal

    You are quite correct to apply supply and demand economics to this problem. The "intellectual property" industries (movies, music, and computer software) rely on the artificial legal construct of copyright in order to extract profit from an activity that produces a "product" that, once produced, has an infinite supply and near-zero cost of distribution.

    The natural state of affairs is to eliminate the artificial legal construct of "copyright" and just accept that anything that can be rendered digitally is free to copy.

    The usual objection is "well then how do artists/writers/producers make money without copyright backing them up"?

    The first response to that question is to point out that it is not the responsibility of the state or society at large to see that any industry remains profitable. Once upon a time there was a thriving buggy whip industry, but there was no legal construct erected to protect buggy whip manufacturers from being obsoleted by the forward march of technological development.

    Notwithstanding, the question of "how can an artist make a living without copyright?" is a valid one. Happily, there is a historical answer - patronage.

    Not so very long ago, it was practically impossible to distribute artistic product at all. Without any form of recording device, the only way to hear Mozart was to go see Mozart. Want to see Shakespeare? Go to the Globe Theatre. Want to read Ovid? Pay the enormous costs of finding a copy and then having a monk copy it by hand.

    The flip side to this is that as an artist, given that the costs of producing your art were so very high, the only way to make a living doing art was to find a rich man who would hire you to produce the art - a patron.

    The nice thing about zero-cost duplication and distribution of artistic content in the modern age is that it allows the cost of patronage to be spread across a very much wider audience, meaning that the cost of being a patron is very much smaller.

    In effect, erect a means where your customers/fans can get money to you, and then let it be known that if they wish to see future product, then they need to contribute to the pool, or development will cease.

    Yes, many people will just download the game/song/whatever and never pay. So it goes. But if the product is good enough, enough people will contribute to allow you to continue developing more product - and that's a win. How many of us get to make a living at their passion?

    DG

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:13PM (#24547985)

    Ahhh - I guess we interpreted that differently. I read it as:
    1. Get crappy game
    2. Play crappy game
    3. Realize game is crappy

    And you see #3 before either 1 or 2, which changes things...

  • Re:duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#24548029)

    Sure, but then rather few of them have to work speculatively for months before any hope of getting any money at all, either.

    In markets where that is the case, there have to be different economic rules so people doing the work can expect a reasonable return on their investment, or the work won't get done. One possibility is to amortize the cost of development plus a reasonable profit over all the consumers instead of just the first one. Copyright is one mechanism through which this can be achieved.

  • Things to look at (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:21PM (#24548057) Homepage

    There's a number of reasons I'd personally need to get a "pirated" copy of a game, even a game I've actually bought. Let me summarize a few of them.

    1. Games that require the disc to be in the CD/DVD drive to play. The game isn't the only thing on my computer, nor the only thing that wants/needs that drive. If I have something else that needs the CD/DVD drive, I have to choose between the game and that something else. That ends up annoying me, and if there's a "pirated" version or a crack that bypasses the disc check I may be inclined to get that just to free up the drive.

    2. DRM and anti-cheating software. When a game installs that stuff, it usually winds up affecting more than just the game. Remember, the game is not the only thing I use the computer for. If the DRM and anti-cheat software the game requires is nasty enough to interfere with other legitimate things I'm doing on the computer (and it usually is), I'm going to either dump the game or go looking for ways to get rid of the interference. I'm sorry, but I simply can't afford to dedicate a piece of hardware with a 4-digit price tag to the job of playing one single solitary game. I don't care how good the game is, it's not good enough to justify a 4-digit cost. On-line checks are just as bad. Unless the game's specifically a multi-player on-line game, I may not have an active network connection while playing. If the game demands that I do, it may not be physically possible and even if it is I may not want to go to the hassle of running a wire or setting up wireless on a computer that doesn't otherwise need it.

    Notice that the two have a common theme: games that assume they're the only thing on the machine and that satisfying their demands is the only priority. That's fine on a dedicated console, but a PC isn't a console. You want to make it less likely I'll have to go looking for a pirated or cracked copy? As a game designer, start taking into account the fact that your game has to live alongside everything else on my computer and not cause problems for me when I'm doing all the things I do with the computer when I'm not playing your game.

    3. Economics. Look at the target market for your game, and how much disposable cash members of that market will have. Then look at the price of your game. Can they afford to buy it? If you're pricing your game at $45, and targeting early teens, you're going to have rampant piracy. 13-15 year old kids don't have $45 burning a hole in their pocket. Especially not with the economy the way it is right now. And no, the fact that your game really is worth $45 isn't relevant. As people trying to sell homes they can't afford are finding out, the value of something isn't what it's worth, it's what a buyer can afford to pay for it. If the buyer can't afford the price, you'll have no buyers regardless of how good a deal it is. If you go about deliberately creating a demand for something in a market that can't afford the price you've set, don't be surprised when piracy goes through the roof. Either re-evaluate your target market, or re-evaluate your price.

    4. Accessibility. How easy is it for members of your target market to buy the game? Again, if you're targeting early teens, they aren't going to have a credit card to buy on-line. If the game's also not readily available in stores, how are they supposed to buy it? And when it's available on-line, if it requires physical shipping (meaning a wait of several days to a week) people are going to go looking for alternatives like downloading. If getting your game legitimately is annoying, aggravating and takes a long time, and downloading a copy from a pirate site is convenient and fast, don't be surprised when people choose convenient and fast.

    Note that this last one's a good example of a rule I got from an old shopkeeper friend: "Whatever you do as a store owner, never ever make it hard for the customer to give you their money.". A lot of on-line stores could stand to listen to that advice. I put my stuff in the cart, go to

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

    by s4m7 (519684) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:12PM (#24548511) Homepage

    What information can someone gather about you when you're playing a game

    Great question. Really depends on the game, doesn't it? Other than the obvious determination of how much time you spend playing games, which is an important piece of data to game developers, and your contact info, there's possible connections with other players through a friends list, ip can usually narrow you down to a zip code or at very least a city. A game that was designed with collecting data in mind could gather all sorts of interesting data on how you make your decisions in game... whether this has any bearing on real life is a separate question entirely I suppose. But say you have name, age, gender, email, zipcode, a score for how much time you spend playing, and, perhaps from location and time they can project your income bracket. what more would marketers really want?

  • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:22PM (#24548575)

    I would agree with this one... I went through two phases in life.

    1) College
        a) Too poor to buy anything but food and that was a stretch sometimes
    2) Professional adulthood
        b) Had money became more particular about WHAT I bought and why.

    Some point between #1 and #2 above I realized something... If someone DID make something I liked, and I pirated it... why would they ever make another one? So I'll still get demos and download cracked games and music... if it's good I *DO* buy it... because I've realized that if I don't buy the stuff I like the people will stop doing it at some point.

    But that means I only buy the stuff I like...I know everyone else won't do the same thing, but for some responsible people it makes sense. I detest buying a game for $45 to play it for 2 hours and figure out I hate it. If I download that same game play it for 2 hours and love it I'll go buy it.

    My only exception to this is now some brand preference. Some artists have gained my trust to a point where I will buy something without ever having looked at or listened to it. I trust them.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:27PM (#24548629) Homepage
    While it may be OK to profit off art, that does not negate the need for some public funding. In a pure free market, art stagnates to a degree. You can hear it on American top-40 radio. Avant-garde art is initially unpopular and can't turn a profit, necessitating state funding, but it can then go on to renew commercial art. Just look at how Karlheinz Stockhausen, that obscure figure working in West Germany's colossal state radio studios, heavily influenced Miles Davis and Tim Buckley, who went on in turn to influence other popular artists. The creations of IRCAM aren't terribly popular outside a cult following, but the technology developed there has come to be widely used by popular artists (without Pierre Boulez's Repons, there might not be one track on Radiohead's In Rainbows). Sometimes it's a good thing for the world when an artist can noodle about without worrying about selling the result.
  • Re:duh (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:33PM (#24548677)

    No, that is the worst possible way to counter piracy.

    I've been gaming FOREVER, and I have many old games which I have to PIRATE/HACK in order to get them to work. All server-side authentication does is turn the CD into a frisbee when the company stops supporting the product.

    But I do agree that some protection is appropriate to prevent "casual copying". Just as long as it isn't a method that installs some backdoor app on the system, interferes with WINE, etc.

    Otherwise you get the situation with mp3s. Person A likes the songs on Person B's mp3 player, so they link up and copy them. No second thought whatsoever. Similar situation with games.

  • Re:Also... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:40PM (#24548729)

    Probably because his publisher insisted on it. I've added some extremely vile copy protection to a PC game I worked on, simply because the publisher wanted it. They pay the bills, and think it's a good idea. Common sense has nothing to do with it.

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

    by malkavian (9512) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:44PM (#24548765) Homepage

    Actually, they DO need to consider returns. If you buy a game, and it just plain won't work on a PC due to some problem or another (and yes, it happens!), then the company needs to take that into account, and take the damn game back.
    If I buy a DVD, and it doesn't work in my player, you can guarantee I'll take it back. And I'll make sure the shop refunds me the money. And you know what? They do.

    Now, I've taken a game back in the past, where the install CD was absolutely blank. No tracks burned on it.. Nada. I took it back to the store, and they simply said "We don't do refunds on games". I had to drag that right back to their head office with a legal threat under the consumer protection legislation before they deigned to offer me a refund.
    I've also had games that plain just bombed out as soon as I started to run them. Not playable.
    And you try getting a shop to take them back.
    Software is the one product these days that shops will absolutely refuse to take back and refund for. Which for me, makes me far less likely to buy, as I have no faith in their need to produce something of quality.
    If they're not confident that something will work, then I'm not going to part with hard earned money in faith that I'll be getting something of merchantable quality.
    Put DRM into the mix too.. Which I consider breaks a product, then I'm really not going to buy.

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

    by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @04:57PM (#24548865)

    But in many cases a game is like a movie, where they aren't designed for replay value, the first time you complete it is the last time you'll enjoy the game to its fullest.

    If the demo is too good, players might get their fix and move on. If it's not good enough, people lose interest or gain interest in a crack. Demos definitely act as advertising and often a blueprint for pirates to crack the full monty.

  • by Bluemumba (1320257) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:13PM (#24549023)

    Lets face it. When you download a pirated game, you're not doing it for copyright reasons, philosophical reasons, or even ethical reasons. Trying to rationalize one's behavior behind "acceptable" reasoning is pretty bad, and I can guarantee 99% of the people who claim they "buy the game" do not.

    Don't be ridiculous... people pirate games because they cost money. I've pirated plenty of games, ever since I was a teenager--why? Because I didn't have the money to buy them. And what's easier, paying money for a game, or not paying money for a game? Seriously, do you really think sites like GCW et al exist because people have huge personal issues with DRM (that are apparently circumvented by theft) or because demos don't exist? Be realistic. Don't hide behind false reasons.

    I'll be perfectly honest, since it seems people don't want to be. I'll buy games that I know I'm going to enjoy--I own all the HL2 expansions, TF2, etc., because I enjoyed their successors and had a reasonable expectation that their sequels would be equally good. It wasn't a risk I was taking--it was a sure thing. And even though most of the people posting here won't admit to it, I have the feeling that its that uncertainty--whether or not one will enjoy a $50 game--that makes people more willing to pirate than to take a monetary risk.

    Not to mention one of the same excuses I used to hide behind--regardless of whether or not I'm going to pirate the game, if I wasn't going to buy it anyway, is the company really losing money on me?

  • An honest answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tknd (979052) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#24549413)

    Here's an honest (non anonymous) answer:

    When I was a kid/teenager, pirating was preferred because:

    • I was poor and even if I wanted the game, I couldn't have it.
    • I had a lot of free time to do nothing better.

    Now there were still games I bought as a kid, but each game was after saving precious allowances over months just to buy a stupid game.

    When I was a teenager and working, pirating still occurred because:

    • I was still poor (money is not infinite).
    • I still had lots of free time to do absolutely nothing.

    However, I will say that legal purchases increased quite a bit for games that were better than others.

    Now that I am an adult, and working full time paying for everything. I can afford your crappy games but I know better, I know that most of the time your game sucks so I refuse to buy it unless I can try it either by playing it at a friend's house or pirating it and trying it. If there's a demo I'll try that. But if the quality (time spent for fun received) doesn't justify the asking price ($50 or whatever) then I delete your pirated data from my computer because it isn't worth my time. If it is, I will make a legal purchase to support you and your industry.

    Finally there is a phase for some poorer people where they pirate simply to pirate. They collect what they can get for free even though they never use it. It isn't the fact that they are playing your game every day and actually having fun. No, your data just sits on a hard disk somewhere but it is never read. Even if you prevented these people from pirating, they wouldn't buy your product.

    The other thing is most of the people pirating (as I've described above) simply can't afford your product. $50 seems like so little yet for someone who's working at McDonalds, $50 is probably a lot. Therefore these people would not buy your game either if they couldn't pirate it because they simply can't afford it either.

    So when you see a pirate, each pirated copy does not necessarily mean a sale was lost. Even if you stopped all pirating, you probably wouldn't get good sales, or even worse sales, because the pirates are no longer contributing to word of mouth marketing or hype.

    Finally, I will give you the trick to why this is so. If you charge a flat rate for your product, you are alienating out a certain markete while giving another market a price benefit. In a real market, people would not pay a flat rate, instead each purchaser would buy the same product at a different price based on their circumstances. So for example, if I'm as rich as Bill Gates, and I really really am a fan of your product, I probably wouldn't mind throwing you $1000 for your game because I really really like what you did and I feel that your game is worth $1000 I'm throwing at you. Now if I am a poor kid who gets lunch money from my parents and that is it, I'm not going to give you $50 even if I think your product is the shit. As a stupid and poor kid, I don't have the buying power to give you money. But if you lowered your price to $1 or even $2, as a kid, I might be able to make something worth with my birthday and christmas gift money.

    So if you are a game developer, sell your product at whatever price the target market you want to hit will pay. If you want poor people to buy your product, sell it for a dollar or two. If you want middle class people to buy your product (be warned, these folks don't have all the free time in the world), sell it for $40 or $50. If you want rich fucks to buy it, sell it for $100 or $1000. Finally if you want to sell to all three markets, then you're going to have to alter your product or marketing in some way: poor people can only download a copy of the game, middle class get a fancy box + cd/dvd + poster or toy, rich bastards get a 5 dvd set, autographed 'gold plated' dvd set and HD movie disk, etc.

    But don't come crying when it is obvious your marketing strategy sucks balls and you're whining because you can't deal wi

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

    by Holmwood (899130) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:40PM (#24549713)

    This business of impulse purchasing has a lot of (ironic in the case of this developer) truth to it.

    I just bought three of the developer's games (Kudos, Democracy 2, and Rock Legend). And now I want to pirate the games.

    Why?

    Because his order fulfillment processor tells me I have to wait up to 48 hours to be able to get access to digitally download the games I've purchased.

    That's just madness. I'm left with a bitter taste in my mouth and quite annoyed. I've never seen an online order system like that.

    I will not only go look for copies of the games I bought to download (technically illegally), but I will probably not purchase games again from him, because I now know he uses an order processor that wishes to play games with customers rather than sell games to customers.

    (I won't cancel my order, or download games of his that I haven't purchased, but I certainly won't go through a system where I have to wait days to get access to a digital download).

    Petty on my part? Perhaps. But I work hard during the week and have limited gaming time -- and that only on weekends. If I can't play for some hours on a Sunday, that delays things a week or more for me.

    So much for an 'impulse' purchase.

    That's my take.

  • Re:Obvious. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:40PM (#24549715) Homepage

    Fileplanet actually has very good download speeds, even when their servers are full. I routinely maxed out my connection speed back when I lived at my parents' house, downloading from Fileplanet.

    Steam makes finding demos even easier (assuming there is a demo). Go to the game's page (easy to find), click "Demo". Downloads from Steam are also snappy - in the last week I've (re)downloaded several titles at 1.5MB/sec (and that's over encrypted 802.11g).

    Standard disclaimer: I don't work for Fileplanet (or whatever company owns it), nor do I work for Valve.

  • by Technician (215283) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @07:37PM (#24550181)

    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!

    This is exactly where most games lose me. I work full time, have a family, etc. There isn't much between minesweeper and Unreal for non-dedicated PC gamers. Nintendo game found this market wide open with easy to learn games that doesn't require complex manuals and a large dedication of time to enjoy. Much of the piracy is simply limited time and money budgets and wanting to try lots of games. They are not priced for casual gamers. I've never spent over $20 for a single game. I sometimes pick up recycled games as I don't need the latest and greatest. With online registration and failure of right of first sale, even this has died.

    Now days, I stick to older games, Linux games, and other mindless time wasters. (the demo games are fun)

    Often the demo is almost playable to encourage you to buy the full version, but the full version is priced for hardcore gamers.

  • Re:Steam Powered (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Spatial (1235392) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @08:22PM (#24550531)
    It's not all good. I've bought about ten games on Steam, and one major disadvantage is that they have absolute control over everything even after you've bought things. For example, in one patch they put adverts in Counter-Strike, which I hated. I would never have bought the game if it had them from the start and nobody would have downloaded that patch if they had a choice. Updates are forced, even if they ruin the game. If I had bought Stalker via Steam I couldn't play my favourite mod anymore. Luckily I didn't.
  • Re:Abundance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by majorafro (1342235) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @08:46PM (#24550731)
    Fair points. However, I'm still at a loss as to who is going to pay the developers for their skills in your scenario. Why would an entity pay for their skills in the first if they cannot turn that skill into something they can make a profit on? barring artistic and volunteer efforts, if people will no pay for the end product, the middle men will not pay for the workers. I especially enjoy your idea of a model that would allow "millions of individual gamers to fund developemnt." Isn't that what already happens when people buy a copy of the game? Granted, there's no reason to believe we've found the one and only distribution method, but what model actually works better?
  • by caywen (942955) on Monday August 11, 2008 @02:29AM (#24552569)
    I think there's a more general, obvious question: Why do people steal? Software is unique in that there is the *potential* to thwart thieves through the same medium that makes up the goods. I suppose just like Masterlock likely uses its own product to prevent breakins to their warehouses, developers try to adopt the same strategy. However, perhaps this is a lost cause. Thieves will get what they want, despite the technology. However, the useful function is about the percentage of honest people out there. Perhaps the real problem is that software just costs too much. If bread bakers charged $50 per loaf, I would suspect they would suffer the same thievery rates as software. Perhaps Microsoft Office should be $50, not $500. After all, there are more than 100 times the number of honest potential customers than there were when they started that product. Indie games should cost less. There is often a sweet spot where the effort to steal is just not worth the cost of the software.
  • Re:Abundance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr2001 (90979) on Monday August 11, 2008 @03:59AM (#24552881) Homepage Journal

    How is that going to work? Hmmmm. I fancy playing WoW tonight, I'll shop around for some programmers to write it for me?

    How strange. You have a link to Sellaband in your signature, so I'd expect you to understand this model easily.

    As I'm sure you know, at Sellaband, every band has the same $50,000 goal (which they can raise from any number of people, as long as it totals $50k), and the money is always used to rent a studio to record a CD. But imagine if bands could set whatever price they wanted, and spend the money however they wanted (including keeping it for themselves), as long as they still managed to record an album. And imagine that instead of selling CDs, the album was just released for anyone to download and share freely.

    That is what I'm proposing. A model where developers present their ideas to customers, convince them to fund it, and then release the game and move on to the next project. The developers and their customers agree on a price for the work, and the developers are paid directly for doing the work -- no matter how many people end up downloading copies later.

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

    by cliffski (65094) on Monday August 11, 2008 @01:58PM (#24558165) Homepage

    show me a payment provider that integrates sending out license codes, emails and collects taxes and doesn't have fraud checking and occasional delays.

    I'm serious,
    I use BMT because they are the LEAST intrusive and annoying for the customer.

    Less than 1% of customers get any delay whatsoever, and BMT tell me its only if the card data isn't 100% as on the card AND they have a free email address that they stop it for manual review.

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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