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PC Games (Games) Your Rights Online

Game Developer Asks To Hear From Pirates 1085

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 @12:32PM (#24546295)
    If I can't try before I buy, I often just don't buy.
    • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:36PM (#24546333)

      If you *can* try it before you buy it (using a cracked version), 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? Even if it was a crappy game, I'd still get a cracked version and play it.

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

        by Physicser ( 1104279 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:42PM (#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.
        • Abundance (Score:5, Informative)

          by Brain-Fu ( 1274756 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:38PM (#24548227) Homepage Journal

          There is a fundamental, philosophical, problem with the traditional means of distribution: the product is abundant.

          Cars are not abundant. It takes a significant expenditure of materials and effort to put one together. When I drive off in one, I cannot simply dupe it and give the dupe to my friend. The laws of physics dictate a level of scarcity to this good, and as such it makes perfect sense to expect to receive money from every person who obtains a car.

          The world of "data" follows different laws of physics. Once I have the data in my hot little hands, I can dupe it and give it to my friends at zero direct cost to the producer. There is no deprivation of use nor loss of mineral resources nor expenditure of manpower nor anything of the sort on the part of the original developer when I dupe the game. None. And I can keep duplicating this ad infinitum, at the same cost (of zero). Furthermore, my friends can do the same thing with the copy I gave them...there is no quality loss. Once the good exists, it can instantly exist everywhere. It is "abundant."

          So, since data follows these laws (rather than the laws of physics as they apply to physical goods) people feel like they are being cheated when they are asked to pretend like data follows the laws of physical matter. They feel like they are buying into a game of control that is unfounded in reality and ultimately to their detriment (since they have to pay money for something that doesn't cost anything to produce *at this point* (excluding initial development costs).

          I think that is the crux of the issue. We all know the good is abundant, and we all feel like pretending it is not abundant is just silly, and harmful to us (our money is valuable and if we can get games for free then we have optimized our entertainment budget and have more money left over to spend on things like real cars or educations for our kids or what-have-you).

          What about the potential sale that we are "stealing" by copying a game? We tend to respond to such a representation of the situation with great cynicism. We feel like the only reason you feel entitled to every single "potential sale" is because of your insistence in everyone pretending that an abundant good is not abundant. We also feel that the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism doesn't guarantee a ROI on any kind of development project, so when you pound your fist in frustration at your inability to monetize your efforts we just say, "so try something else...thats what every other entrepreneur in the world has had to do...what makes you special? If you can't make money making games, do something else, and stop whining." That is the same answer we get when we complain about being downsized, or having low-paying jobs, or we are just responding in turn.

          Lastly...the age-old mantra that if you can't get money for every copy of a game sold then nobody will produce games. I call BS. Piracy has been alive and well since before the computer games industry even existed...and since long before DRM existed...and the games industry thrived anyway. And it still thrives, despite the continued piracy. Enough people pay for the games (even though they don't have to) that the industry remains profitable. If that model suddenly stops working, alternative models will take its place (subscription-based games and so on). If that doesn't work, and we actually reach a state of utter cultural impoverishment where no games (or music or movies, for that matter) are being produced because nobody can figure out how to make a living doing it (and no hobbiests manage to churn out anything but crap)...which I maintain is an economic impossibility...but if it actually does occur THEN it might make sense to talk about legislation...and there would be a conscious buy-in to the legislation from the masses who are hungry for cultural enrichment. However, this has not happened, and I therefore submit that it makes no sense to try to preemptively pass laws based on the premise that it might happen (given that it is unlikely and that the situation could be remedied after the fact anyway).

          • Re:Abundance (Score:5, Insightful)

            by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) * on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:38PM (#24549221)

            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.

            • 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:Abundance (Score:5, Insightful)

            by devman ( 1163205 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#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: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: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: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?
        • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:38PM (#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:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:38PM (#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.

            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.

            • 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.


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

          by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:35PM (#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.

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

        by MikeBabcock ( 65886 )

        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: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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Artifakt ( 700173 )

          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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oneiron ( 716313 )

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

        by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:05PM (#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:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Affenkopf ( 949241 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#24546459)
      If your read TFA you see that it's not about why people pirate games in general but about people who pirate Cliff Harris' games [].
      Since all games on his site have a demo lack of demos is not a legitimate argument.
    • Re:Lack of demos. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thejeffer ( 864748 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:05PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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 w
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Risen888 ( 306092 )

          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 )

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

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:06PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hpavc ( 129350 )

      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.

  • Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:34PM (#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.
    • Re:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by abigor ( 540274 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:08PM (#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:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) <slgonser&gmail,com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:20PM (#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.

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

        by cortana ( 588495 ) < minus threevowels> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:12PM (#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: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:Obvious. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:19PM (#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.

  • by virtigex ( 323685 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:35PM (#24546321)
  • "because i could" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopCulture ( 536272 ) <> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:36PM (#24546331)
    i'd imagine that would be the case of many
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:37PM (#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.
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:49PM (#24546473) Journal
      I don't pirate games. I tend not to buy many anymore either though. I won't download pirated games largely because I pretty much expect them to contain trojans. I won't buy most commercial games because the hoops the DRM makes you jump through take away a lot of the fun. When I was younger, I used to buy games but (in many cases) actually run a cracked copy. Now I value my time too much to bother with this. If I want to waste some time with a game, I want to waste it playing the game, not persuading it that I really did buy it. These days I tend to mostly play browser-based or open source games, because they don't have this problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by me at werk ( 836328 )

      Or it could be like Duffy says [], 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?

    • 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 ac

  • Also... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Xtense ( 1075847 ) <{xtense} {at} {}> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:38PM (#24546363) Homepage

    Also, pirates do it for fun. No, really, they do. Read some nfos from respectable groups like Razor1911, Deviance or Fairlight, and you're bound to find a note on "why" etc. They also tell warez-users to go buy the stuff they pirate. "If you like it, buy the game - we did!", or something in this context.

    • 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.

      • Re:Also... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:12PM (#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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MaineCoon ( 12585 )

          When it comes to big name commercial games, those first 3 days can make a big difference in total sales. If it can be delayed out to a week, even better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houghi ( 78078 )

        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."

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:39PM (#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.

  • 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. [] 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)?

  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#24546463)

    I'm a lazy git who couldn't be bothered to pay if he had the money and wasn't a skinflint. Also, there's lots of games/movies/music out there that I want, I don't have the disposable income to pay for them all, and because I don't want to bother with deciding what's more worthy of my money I just don't pay for anything.

    Besides, why should I pay for something I can get for free? Not trolling, I and masses of people think that way. The only way I'd consider buying a game is if it couldn't be pirated, and had a playable demo that made me want to have the real thing really badly. Hasn't happened in at least a decade, so good luck with that!

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

    by Goyuix ( 698012 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @12:49PM (#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 [] - 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 @12:53PM (#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:Flawed premise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quickbrownfox ( 900989 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:18PM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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 pe

      • 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).

  • 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..
  • Out of print (Score:3, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:03PM (#24546603) Homepage Journal

    A lot of programs get pirated because they're not available through legit channels. For instance, Zero Wing gets pirated because it's out of print and the public doesn't know who owns Toaplan's assets. Another case: Over a decade ago, I tried to register a shareware application for Mac. I mailed a money order, but two months later I got it back, marked return to sender. I assume the developer moved without a forwarding address.

  • Mutual respect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:04PM (#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.

  • Yaar! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:08PM (#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.

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

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:14PM (#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).

  • Availability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:16PM (#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.
  • Wrong Focus Group (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DannyO152 ( 544940 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:23PM (#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.

  • Because ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LordKaT ( 619540 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#24546927) Homepage Journal

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

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm@ice[ ] ['bal' in gap]> 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.

    • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      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

  • 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 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

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

    by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @01:53PM (#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

  • by Sparky9292 ( 320114 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @02:15PM (#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.

  • 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

  • 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 [] so that trackbacks would go appropriately to his blog []. 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

  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Sunday August 10, 2008 @03:35PM (#24548195) Homepage Journal

    as opposed to stuff they have to pay for


    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

  • by Jekler ( 626699 ) on Sunday August 10, 2008 @05:11PM (#24549017)

    I identify most with a group which I'll label "The Conditional Pirates". Pirates who see a critical flaw in your product. They can be converted to sales, but you flubbed something significant that's a barrier to their willingness to buy. Game lacks crucial features or was abandoned.

    The flaws I notice the most which will prevent me from buying is overzealous tamper protection (like GameGuard, PunkBusters, etc.) which somehow restricts my use of software which I paid for (or would have). As a Linux user I'm particularly offended when developers use tamper protection to make sure I don't run their program in Linux. Once I pay for their software, they shouldn't care or have any say over which computer, operating system, or environment I run it in. Because of that, I won't pay for software which will police how I use it after I buy it.

    The other flaw is abandonment of a game. Buying a game comes with an expectation of support because game developers ship games fully aware of the many bugs it contains and intend to patch them later. When I buy a game, I'm not given the option of "abandoning my payment", but game developers/publishers choose to abandon each game at an arbitrary point, sometimes that point is acceptable, many times it's not, and pirating games is really the only weapon people have against abandoned game rot.

    If you build a relationship based on lies and deception, expect it to go both ways. Game developers/publishers lie about the fitness of their product, and the consumer lies about their purchasing status.

    A few specific cases:

    Shadowrun (Windows Vista/XBox 360) - Released June 2007, Abandoned September 2007. Company closed a few months after release, the game still has many critical bugs that lead the game to have about a 20% crash rate. There are no game servers, it's entirely peer-to-peer so the company was able to wash their hands of this mess 100%. Take notice, the game developers felt no obligation to let players know they closed the studio and abandoned the game. For 8 months after the release, the game's web site still had information leading people to believe it was a vibrant an active game supported by the company with a message that you could "play against the developers!"

    Giants: Citizen Kabuto - Released December 2000, Abandoned immediately upon release. I bought this game on the day of the release and the game's link to play online brought you to a web page which said they had changed their mind about supporting online play, and recommended you give Gamespy Arcade a shot if you want to play multiplayer. To make a decision to pull a game's support on or before the release date is shady by any definition. It didn't stop them from talking up the multiplayer features on the box or on their official web site.

    Tribes: Vengeance - Abandoned upon release. The company even stated in future messages on the forums that support of the game was conditional on the game's success. They knew the game had a lot of flaws when they released it, and even completed development of a patch, but decided not to release the patch because they didn't see a future in supporting the game. That's real hard for my mind to process. That they would actually pay for a patch, get it, and decide not to release it for spite of poor sales. Their refusal to release a patch they had already developed was nothing short of malicious.

    When game developers are so willing to treat customers maliciously, why should I feel like I owe them something? To address the argument that "My company doesn't screw people like that..." As an industry, developers and publishers who do screw people aren't ostracized by the ones who don't. The first time Vivendi Universal screwed people, every development company under their umbrella should have turned their backs on them. It should have become virtually impossible for Vivendi to stay in the industry. But companies which have poor practices aren't ostracized, it's seen as business-as-usual or a "toug

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN