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PC Games (Games)

Game Developers Should Ignore Software Pirates 458

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-insert-the-play-disc-to-continue-reading dept.
wraith808 points out a story about remarks made by the CEO of software and game development company Stardock about sales in the PC game industry. His suggestion to other developers is simple: ignore the software pirates. From Ars Technica: "'So here is the deal: When you develop for a market, you don't go by the user base. You go by the potential customer base. That's what most software companies do. They base what they want to create on the size of the market they're developing for,' Wardell writes on his blog. 'But not PC game developers.' Don't let people who aren't your audience control the titles you make, and ignore piracy. This is much like Trent Reznor's strategy, although the execution is different. Instead of worrying about pirates, just leave the content out in the open. The market Reznor plays to will still buy the music; he's simply stopped worrying about the pirates. He came to the same conclusion: they weren't customers, they might never be customers, so spending money to try to stop them serves no purpose."
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Game Developers Should Ignore Software Pirates

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  • Bull (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oddster (628633) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:36AM (#22815912)
    Firstly, I would like to say that I work for a major games label, and I have specific knowledge of why we do put DRM on the discs, and I call bull on this CEO. I dislike DRM just as much as the next /.er, but we actually do have a damn good reason for DRM, and it has nothing to do with preventing you from making copies of the game for backup, or your friends, or putting it up on a BitTorrent tracker - honestly, we don't care about the individual small-scale pirates. That's why there is not Game-Developer-IAA hunting after college kids.

    What we do care about is when somebody in the mastering lab, or somewhere else along the line in between when the title goes to manufacturing and when it hits shelves, decides to take the game to a wholesale bootlegger. What we do care about is when a bootlegger makes half a million copies of our game and gets wide distribution to retail stores that either don't know any better or don't care. This is a major problem in Asia, particularly China. Bootleg retail copies hurt us in two ways: (1) Obviously, we lose revenue, but just as importantly (2) Customers tend to blame us, and not the bootleggers, when something goes wrong with a store-bought game because it was a bootleg (CD's that start flaking, etc) - it's a major problem for the brand-name.

    Yes, it sucks that backup copies are collateral damage in this battle. But you tell me a better method for us to guarantee that no wholesale bootlegging will occur, and I'll take it to my superiors.
  • Pirate conversion. (Score:3, Informative)

    by davolfman (1245316) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:40AM (#22815936)
    Actually there's a very valid reason to consider pirates: possible conversion into paying customers. If you provide a reason for someone who has already pirated to buy the game then piracy becomes a sort of free advertising. This is one of the good things about unique CD-key requirements on online games: it doesn't really prevent piracy, but it provides something extra for pirates to come into the fold in the form of multiplayer. It can even be legal. Just look at the spawn-copy and CD sharing systems blizzard implemented in Warcraft 2, Starcraft, and Diablo. Shareware also served much the same purpose. Sure you could get a full copy of a game off a pirate BBS back in the day, but if you already knew you liked the game you couldn't shake the lingering feeling you were being a total scumbag as you did it.
  • by Protonk (599901) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:53AM (#22816022) Homepage
    Shareholders aren't managers. A company's discretion is not changed wildly by their public/private status. Shareholders may vote, choose new managers, or in RARE cases, sue, but they usually don't get (or want) control over the day to day running of a business. Most shareholders aren't active investors concerned with specific policies. they are mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and the like. They don't know and don't care. They invest based on fundamentals and their needs to diversify. That they would become involved in an issue this arcane is silly.
  • Re:Bull (Score:5, Informative)

    by Runefox (905204) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:23AM (#22816190) Homepage
    That's nice, but as you say, the small-time pirates can crack it pretty easily; What makes you think that the bigtime folks in China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, etc are less skilled in doing so than Cousin Timmy?

    The real solution (aside from digital distribution) is to pull the game from the shelves altogether in these places. This will save your company the time, money, and effort of localizing, manufacturing, marketing, and competing against bootlegs, which should save you guys tons of cash. Chances are, the bootleg copies cost less and sell far more quickly than the real deal, if the real thing actually sells to begin with, and chances are your market really doesn't exist there (or barely exists), as such, because of it. Observe the rampant piracy of Vista in these areas. Why did Microsoft continue to attempt to compete with it? To spread their OS, same reason they "tolerate" piracy with WGA. What's your company's reason, it being a company creating entertainment software? Why should we Canadians, for example, have to sacrifice our right to a backup copy of (x) software because the Asian market is flooded with counterfeits? Why should your company have to spend money on DRM/Antipiracy software when it's only going to be cracked a few weeks after release? Does your company not realize that people are employed full-time in these areas to reverse engineer this software? No software is uncrackable (oh, except BD+. BD+ is God. Right, Sony?), and the sooner the software industry realizes it, the better it will be for the consumer.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Informative)

    by William Baric (256345) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:32AM (#22816238)
    I don't have any statistics, but my personal experience is that not a single small or medium business I saw viewed Microsoft as a partner. I always have to fight to make them buy (some of) their softwares and there are very few which have no pirated software at all. Saying the majority of businesses love to support the businesses supporting them, does not apply to Microsoft, Adobe or most other big software businesses.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:07AM (#22816422)
    That's called StarForce 3.6 Advanced with drivers, probably the most feared copy protection on earth (except perhaps for its later versions, which have not been cracked for years).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:26AM (#22816516)
    "What we do care about is when somebody in the mastering lab, or somewhere else along the line in between when the title goes to manufacturing and when it hits shelves, decides to take the game to a wholesale bootlegger. What we do care about is when a bootlegger makes half a million copies of our game and gets wide distribution to retail stores that either don't know any better or don't care. This is a major problem in Asia, particularly China. Bootleg retail copies hurt us in two ways: (1) Obviously, we lose revenue, but just as importantly (2) Customers tend to blame us, and not the bootleggers, when something goes wrong with a store-bought game because it was a bootleg (CD's that start flaking, etc) - it's a major problem for the brand-name.

    Yes, it sucks that backup copies are collateral damage in this battle. But you tell me a better method for us to guarantee that no wholesale bootlegging will occur, and I'll take it to my superiors."

    If Asia is so non-profitable because of bootleggers, then just don't sell your game in Asia. This is a perfect example of what Stardock's CEO was talking about. You're looking at the huge user base in China, but ignoring the fact that Chinese IP law makes the customer base much smaller.

    Asking for a better method to stop wholesale bootlegging implies that you already have a method that works. This is yet another delusion that the games industry seems to have fallen under. Piracy, and to an even greater extent, bootlegging are not stopped by DRM. DRM has been a near complete failure for the games industry. All DRM does is force bootleggers to do things to the game that may make it less stable, and you just said that you get blamed for that.

    The games industry is under the mass delusion that DRM increases their profits. The only people with measurable profits as a result of DRM are the companies making the DRM packages.

    Stardock is one of the few sane game developers I've encountered. They have NEVER lost money on a game. They have NEVER made a bad game. For any other developer, that is called success, and commands respect. Yet, because what this guy is saying flies in the face of the standard nonsensical business practices of the games industry, "big" developers - who regularly make unprofitable and often terrible games - are thumbing their noses. It's very "high school" to be honest.
  • by LordLucless (582312) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:43AM (#22816596)
    Any product which takes significant production costs but can be gained for the use of a user's time (read: free) will lose money if the product is sold at marginal cost--or, if the product is offered at some rate above marginal cost but that cost is avoided for most users.

    Probably true. But the question is, does having copyright protection change the number of users who would avoid paying the game significantly? This guys argument is that it doesn't. The people whom copyright protection thwarts are the people who probably wouldn't try to pirate it anyway. Anyone who is even marginally determined can google a crack pretty quickly.

    As far as I can tell, piracy rates have only increased along with increased copy protection. Now, there have been other factors of course: the growth of the internet, the growth of the gaming industry, the increasing technical competence of the average user. But still, I've never seen copyright protection suddenly stop game piracy, and I've been playing computer games since the C64 was around.

    The point of the article is, it's going to happen. You can try to stop it, but you won't. So fighting the perpetual copy protection arms race just costs you money (and the opinion of those who do pay for your software if it becomes too intrusive).

    I still don't expect games companies to follow it, but I wouldn't expect it to make much of a difference to their bottom line if they did.
  • by satoshi1 (794000) <satoshiNO@SPAMsugardeath.net> on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:44AM (#22816602) Homepage Journal
    You.. um.. don't need the CD Key to install it.. It says "Enter a CD Key here.. if you want. You get all sorts of benefits if you do have a CD Key, but we're not gonna bother you if you don't want to put one in. Enjoy the game!"
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:07AM (#22816724) Homepage

    I don't mean to sound like a copyright hawk (I'm not), but this advice is awful for game makers outside the freeware/shareware model.
    You are aware that Stardock is neither a freeware, nor a shareware company. He is not an armchair philosopher, he is describing a business model that works.

  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:3, Informative)

    by mpe (36238) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:11AM (#22816734)
    Additionally, for some reason everyone seems to assume that a lack of anti-piracy software means you are going to give your product away. This is not true, you can sell it just like you do at the moment, you just spend less money and effort trying to fuck your legitimate consumers

    Note also that this money and effort isn't just in developing the software it also applies when your software generates a false positive.

    and inadvertently developing a market for your pirated goods, which are now higher quality goods than the one you supplied.

    Another part of the "law of unintended consequences" is that all your effort in "anti-piracy" may detract from whatever it is the software is ment to do in the first place. e.g. fixing bugs in the DRM being given a higher priority than fixing bugs in function. There also isn't a fixed relationship between how much effort you put into "protecting" vs how easy it might be for "them" to defeat this.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @08:36AM (#22817820)
    Pirated software (that will never be bought) at a business I used to work at:
    Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Windows XP Pro (some licenses legal due to coming with the computers) and more...

    Never once did I hear "Hey we should really buy SolidWorks if we're gonna keep using it!". I admit that this isn't the only way things happen though.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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