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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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  • Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slobber (685169) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:16AM (#22815756)
    Perhaps this is something that Microsoft should embrace for their own good...
  • by TheMiddleRoad (1153113) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:17AM (#22815766)
    But copy protection still stops a lot of piracy, especially for shareware authors and multi-player games.
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:18AM (#22815768)
    Devil's advocate here:

    Public game companies can't just ignore pirates because shareholders will be all over them for not doing anything about such a big "loss of revenue".

    Yes, to us, CD-ROM protection and such is worthless and only encourages cracks, but a lot of companies use it as CYA, mainly to fill out the "due diligence" checkbox for the blank of "stopping IP loss", so when the copy protection stuff does get cracked, the company can shed crocodile tears, tell their shareholders at the next quarterly meeting that they did their best, but the old evil pirates beat them again.

    Private companies, or those not shackled to having to keep their quarterly profits up, to heck with anything else, its different In the long run, not having some form of copy protection brings in more revenue because more people see the game and will at least pick it up, especially if it has expansions.
  • Not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:20AM (#22815788) Homepage Journal
    These days a lot of the money from games comes from places other than boxed sales. There's add-on content and online play. If you charge $5 a month to play the game, who really cares if the player pirated it or not?
  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:30AM (#22815858) Homepage Journal
    TFA says "stopping piracy" is irrelevant.

    That is... it doesn't matter to you, the profit-minded game publisher, how many people play your game. All that matters is how many people buy the game. If spending money on copy protection doesn't actually increase sales, then that money has been wasted: you would've been better off using it to make the game better, or just keeping it in the bank.

    Strong copy protection might stop people from playing games they haven't paid for, but that doesn't mean it makes them go out and buy legitimate copies of those games. It might just make them move on to a different game (freeware or more easily cracked payware), or spend their time watching TV instead.
  • by Protonk (599901) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:34AM (#22815890) 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. for one, no large game company is going to listen to this guy, so this ends up another tidbit for armchair game developers on slashdot to tell each other and assume it is true.

    For another thing, it isn't true. It's bad advice on face. 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. The nature of game design is huge up front costs and a probable revenue stream to make up for those costs and generate a profit. If the average user out there can costlessly pirate the game, a good deal of that revenue stream is lost.

    This does NOT mean that games should have 100% piracy protection features. That's also stupid. It is arguably physically impossible to prevent a (non-remotely authenticated) game from playing on a computer where the user has custody. All of the required parts are there--it's the same argument for DRM. No one is going to generate a copy protection scheme for computer games with 100% efficacy. What it SHOULD mean is that a reasonable protection should exist to prevent most copying, just like plenty of games have now. No spyware, no intrusive checks. Just some reasonable authentication measures. All you need to do is prevent a good percentage of people who would pirate it costlessly by downloading it. Not everyone.

    Steam is a flawed example of what might work very well. Steam can (probably) be spoofed, but who cares? Most of us don't spoof it. WoW is another good example, their game works on a subscription model, so it is almost pointless to pirate it. Q3 is close to the extreme--it's probably pretty easy to pirate it and the demo basically includes the game (for the most part).

    the right answer is to find an envelope type solution. Envelopes don't prevent people from stealing or reading your mail. They don't even ensure that you can check 100% if your mail has been read in transit. but they deter the least motivated due to the minimal effort required (versus a postcard) and they deter others based on the threat of detection. there is no reason to build a piracy scheme similar to the HDMI demands--don't get me started. but it also is not even remotely realistic that major software companies will take a shareware outlook to piracy in the near future.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:39AM (#22815934)
    Eh... maybe, maybe not.

    Assuming we agree with TFA (and I mostly do), I'm not sure we can automatically draw the parallel that what makes sense for entertainment items (e.g. video games or music) makes sense for, say, business software. A guy who is a Nine Inch Nails fan will probably give them his money even though he can easily download their album for free. A business that wants to use Windows or Office is probably not setting aside money in their budget to give to Microsoft if they don't legally have to. I can't see getting a "We're Bill Gates fans, so we want to give him a bunch of money" line item through most corporate budget committees.

    I don't know, convince me. Specifically, that it would be in MS's economic best interests in the form of making more money or whatever exactly warms the possibly-black hearts of their shareholders.
  • by Protonk (599901) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:41AM (#22815944) Homepage
    But presumably someone who pirates the game and plays it won't buy the game. That's not a bad argument.

    Here's the deal sparky. Money spent on copy protection sees some pretty high diminishing marginal returns. The first few bucks (say, on actually having a CD key) stop the 8-12 year olds who would just download it and play it. The next large chunk of money (some online authentication) stops another class of people from just getting the iso and the crack and running it. After that you are investing HUGE amounts of money pissing people off with rootkits and background processes and not deterring too many pirates per dollar.

    Having diminishing returns on the dollar does not automatically mean that the first dollar shouldn't be spent.
  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobBebop (947356) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:45AM (#22815966) Homepage Journal

    That's right! The value, the thing people are willing to pay for, is not the bits which load the game onto a computer. The magic of increasing sales is in the experience that is offered. More often than not, DRM does not improve that experience.

    And following up on the example from the story, the experience can be worth significantly more than can be earned from sales through a traditional RIAA member company (who are notorious for skimming 80-90% off the top anyway). Instead, NIN cashed in on their album by offering a "Deluxe Package" and made $750,000 [slashdot.org] in the first 4 or 5 days after the release. On top of that, I know people who spent $5 for the full 2-hours of Ghosts who have not purchased music in 5+ years (not me personally, but I still have not taken the time to listen to the Ghost I, which I had gotten for free).

  • Better idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamacat (583406) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:46AM (#22815974)
    Find out why the piracy happens in the first place. Most PC users will not think much of spending $20 for a reasonably entertaining game or $50 for a great one. What went wrong? Lack of being able to complete the purchase 100% online? No substantial demo to help one evaluate if the game is worth buying or works on a particular computer? Need for "$2 per level pricing" so that people who loose interest do not hesitate to buy the next game? Lack of differential pricing for developing countries.

    Most restaurants do not have problem with patrons running off without paying the bill. Game/general software industry needs to figure out how they encourage the behaviour that hurts them.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:50AM (#22816000)
    Parent is not only correct, but behind the curve- MSFT have been ignoring piracy in developing markets for years, specifically because they know it's free advertising.

    I've discovered loads of the bands I like through 'Piracy', and have thrown a lot of money at those artists as a consequence.

    Sure, The ones I like only account for c.5% of the music I've downloaded, but I was never going to pay for that stuff anyway. The other 95% have lost no revenue.

    Also, I have a friend who was a furniture designer/maker, on a low level. As he had been talking about it, I grabbed him something like Autocad (can't remember now) as a favour. He now runs a business where I figure they have half a dozen licensed versions. He'd still be in his shed knocking up one chair at a time if it wasn't for 'Piracy'.
  • by brit74 (831798) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:03AM (#22816066)
    "Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, has a much different point of view: the pirates don't matter.... ignore piracy"

    Uh huh. I call BS. With his Galactic Civilizations II, they didn't use DRM. You know what they did do, however? They enticed users to own legitimate copies by limiting updates and bug fixes to those legitimate users. At that time, he argued that DRM could be cracked and was burdensome on legitimate users. But - by offering upgraded service to legitimate users, he was aiming to make sure pirates had a weaker experience of his game. Brad Wardell is *not* ignoring the pirates - he's got his own ideas about dealing with them, but "ignoring them" is not his strategy.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:04AM (#22816072)
    There are some things the article leaves out. First, Galactic Civilizations 2 requires a valid cd key to get game updates with more content and more detailed textures. Second, GalCiv2 is an amazing game, probably as good as any Civilization game or Alpha Centauri. Third, the AI is the best I've ever played, difficult to an extreme at higher levels. While the first is the only one that contributes to their bottom line, the last two create a lot of good will. Their prices are reasonable, they don't treat me like a criminal, and they have a top notch game.

    Microsoft's updates are of the "hey, remember when we fucked up? Oops, paying customers only" variety. Windows isn't top notch per se, but its market share lets it define "good" on their own terms, so I guess they qualify on that one. The difficulty of windows is also best in genre.

    Huh, that wasn't the conclusion I was going for, but whatever fits. Once again, Microsoft excels through brute force and incompetence. Viva la clippy!
  • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:06AM (#22816088) Homepage
    Copy protection works for software. The error that most people seem to be making is thinking that if it doesn't stop everyone it failed. That is not true. Reznor's argument is only partially correct, only higher level pirates can not be converted. Lower level pirates can be, and they are more numerous. This also means that the most intrusive and questionable anti-piracy methods do not need to be used.

    On numerous gaming forums over the years I have witnessed a recurring story. Kiddies saying: I burned a copy of my friend's disc and it didn't work so I went out and bought my own. Copy protection worked.

    On a larger scale I am familiar with selling academic software in a university bookstore. I've seen required software sell 1/15th of what the required textbooks sold, software that was initially released without copy protection. The developer then added some copy protection, simple and easily defeated copy protection, a package that is known and had pre-existing cracks. It worked, the next quarter's sales of the required software was nearly in line with required textbooks. Copy protection worked. I'd like to add that this was in a university environment, no shortage of people with the technical knowledge to crack the discs for someone else. Also, these were pretty inexpensive software packages, the textbooks came with coupons reducing the price to about $30.

    Most pirates will pirate software if it is trivially easy to do so, regardless of a low price. If you erect some sort of barrier a large number of these will buy.

    Trying to stop all piracy is futile. But not using simple non-intrusives copy protection does cost sales. There is an optimal point balancing protection and incompatibility, and it is not zero protection.
  • by Runefox (905204) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:06AM (#22816090) Homepage
    No, see, that's not it at all. The biggest problem plaguing most PC releases nowadays is that in order to keep up with the high power of most console games, a huge amount of PC horsepower is required; Hell, the X-Box 360 is more powerful than my PC. The Wii probably is, for that matter.

    So, PC game developers whip up these massive, beautiful games (Crysis), wherein no earthly system of the time can possibly run it at a decent speed, and what can people do? Your $500 Dell desktop isn't going to cut it. You'll need at least $1000 ($1400 for a laptop) worth of hardware just to hope to be able to play the game at a playable speed, and you'd better hope you didn't skimp on the video. The problem with this is, not many people opt for the heavyweight PC; Most families, companies, bachelors, etc will want to run as cost-effectively as possible and thus won't bother with expensive video cards (the ones in question being at least $200 and at most $600-$700). There's really a very small market for "hardcore" PC gamers (the ones who want a 360/PS3-style experience and are willing to spend the sum of both consoles' worth in high-end gadgetry to do so), though it's very, very lucrative for hardware manufacturers.

    So, why should I, stuck with my crappy old Radeon 9600 Pro, go out and buy Crysis, even if I really wanted to? The answer is: I shouldn't. There's no possible way I could even squeeze 2FPS on that one. That's one sale gone. And what about all those people with $500 Dells who are also gamers? There's more missing sales.

    The point is, you can't blame software piracy for making a piece of software so unwieldly that only a niche market of users can actually hope to run. At least a 360, Wii, or PS3 will, hopefully, be capable of playing anything certified for release on it. The PC doesn't have such luxuries, and that's where the stumbling block is. Until IGP chipsets become powerful enough to compete with discrete graphics solutions (never), you'll never find the massive reception that you would otherwise find on a platform that's actually genuinely capable of pushing the graphical "wow" you want. End of story.

    In summary, you're comparing apples and oranges. PC's have wildly varying specs, and even users interested in playing your game, in many cases, may not be able to. Consoles are rigid, and have typically zero differences between variations of the same model in terms of horsepower; Thus, anyone who owns a 360/PS3/Wii will also be able to, without question, play your 360/PS3/Wii game.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by definate (876684) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:08AM (#22816098)

    A business that wants to use Windows or Office is probably not setting aside money in their budget to give to Microsoft if they don't legally have to.

    I don't know, convince me. Specifically, that it would be in MS's economic best interests in the form of making more money or whatever exactly warms the possibly-black hearts of their shareholders.
    You're right. Good point! No business in their right mind is going to support the business that support them. That is just insane! That is why absolutely nobody pays for Linux! ... oh... wait a minute.

    </sarcasm>

    All joking aside there are other strategies which don't require the law, such as:
    1) pricing strategies (If the cost wasn't so absurdly high, most people would rather the original)
    2) value add (If you want all the driver support, update support, telephone support, forums access, etc, you need to pay for a plan)

    Additionally when talking about businesses. The majority of businesses love to support the businesses support them, the ones that don't, have a short term strategy and won't last long.

    Businesses are creative. In the absence of government beating people into paying for them, they will find a way to be profitable.
  • Re:I'm sorry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:14AM (#22816134)

    Dear Slashtards,

    Keep telling yourselves that... as much as you want to believe otherwise, making this kind of stuff available for free does not make them more money, unless it's a completely unknown product.
    Oh I dunno, that depends on how much PC gamers have been annoyed by games that require the disc or games that fail to run due to over-zealous protection. I'd also say it depends on if a game gets a sequel or not. A no-sale on the first game may create a fan for the second. That no-sale in the beginning wasn't necessarily money lost, just not money earned.

    I'd say more but I'm arguing with an AC calling people tards who obviously hasn't put any thought into what he's so opinionated about. Good night.

  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaltBusterkeys (1156557) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:18AM (#22816154)
    Don't forget that a few games have found a form of "copy protection" these days through the physical hardware that comes with the game. It's awfully hard to pirate Rock Band or Guitar Hero; by the time you make your own big plastic guitar you might as well have bought the original. Same with Wii and emulators -- it's not worth programming your desktop computer to emulate a Wii without the fancy controllers.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aleph42 (1082389) * on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:25AM (#22816200)

    The other 95% have lost no revenue.
    Except for those heavily-advertised CDs that you would have bought if you hadn't have a chance to hear how bad they were.

    My guess is that's exactly why the record labels are against downloading: they simply fear losing that safe investment that the nth album of Britney is, pretty much like a block-buster movie (lot's of advertising, direct relation between budget and revenue, low visibility of inventive competition).

    Artists at large have everything to gain of a system where people listen to a hundred time more music.
  • by filthpickle (1199927) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:30AM (#22816222)
    they give you (or don't hinder you from stealing) the single player to entice you to buy the multi.

    Imagine if blizzard gave away a single player WoW that you could play over hamachi with your friends...maybe you would even play it A LOT over hamachi with your friends.....but eventually (because the game is so good) you will want to play it online with more ppl. you weren't going to buy it anyway before you played it....what did they lose by giving you a piece of it?

    that is pretty much exactly what occurred with sins of a solar empire with me. got the torrent, got sick of beating the shitty AI at a great game....played my friends (who also got the torrent) on hamachi (when they wanted to)...felt shamed for stealing such a great game (gasp) and wanted to be able to play whenever I wanted to...then bought it.

    I am an unrepentant software thief and I bought soase. Maybe there is at least a tiny bit of truth to what he is saying.

    I am not disagreeing with what you say in your post, just pointing this out.
  • In other words... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:33AM (#22816242) Homepage Journal
    ...a pirated copy does not usually equal a lost sale. Duh. That's what I've been saying for years. People pirate stuff because they wouldn't or couldn't buy it in the first place.

    I'm not talking about counterfitting, which is entirely different in my mind from piracy. Counterfitting is when someone produces copies of a product and passes them off as the real deal for profit. Counterfitters should go to jail for trying to make a buck off someone else's hard work. Piracy is when someone snags a free and obviously unofficial copy for themselves and no one makes any money off the deal. Pirates should be left alone because they're not hurting anyone.

  • Re:Bull (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:36AM (#22816248)
    Digital distribution and don't send physical copies to countries where this is a problem.

    You can make it out to cash, thanks.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:46AM (#22816308)
    Very true. I believe that at some point, the big record labels realised that they serve 2 main demographics- Music lovers, and those who see music as another consumable fashion item.

    The first require artistry, which is fickle and hard to control. The second require 'product', upon which it is much easier to project future revenues, and all the other businessy things.

    Perhaps all we are seeing is the de-coupling of these, into two broadly separate industries.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by definate (876684) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:57AM (#22816368)
    That is because of Microsofts predatory practices and absence of competitive pricing. Which is somewhat, what the article was addressing.

    If you don't treat your customers badly (Read: Don't unnecessarily narrow your target market), then you will have more customers and less cost, since less development time is spent on worrying about the bad people, and more is spent on producing a quality product.

    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 and inadvertently developing a market for your pirated goods, which are now higher quality goods than the one you supplied.
  • by incinerator3 (688554) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:05AM (#22816418)
    I think the article is pretty insightful, and shares a lot of my own sentiments that I've had since the "Don't copy that floppy!" era. The average software pirate on the Internet is not within the publisher's potential customer base. Honestly, how many young adults do you know who have the money to plunk down on Adobe Photoshop, yet how many have it? If they weren't able to get Photoshop for free, they would not get it at all, and would instead go with a free (or at least cheaper) alternative. Net money loss for Adobe: 0. Popularity and word of mouth advertisement (maybe reaching those that DO have money): priceless.

    Personally, I'm a starving college student. I also love video games. The problem here is money: I really can't afford to pay for my favorite hobby, yet I keep my finger on the pulse of the gaming industry. Unfortunately, until I graduate, I won't be able to contribute, effectively excluding me from the potential customer base (though rest assured, I do buy games whenever I can). Whether the publisher prevents me from playing their game or not makes no difference, they can't take money where there is none. Though, there is a boon... gamers come in packs. If I download a game that I end up loving, and give a glowing recommendation to my friends, they will pay for it. Sure, the publisher didn't profit from me directly, but this one penniless pirate hooked 2 or 3 paying customers that wouldn't have otherwise bought the product. The publisher still wins.

    I have never met a person who could comfortably afford to pay for their games and does not. Though many do pirate games here and there, the game industry still gets their money from games they do buy. A person tends to spend an allotted entertainment budget no matter what; even if a game is potentially free, if the customer has money to blow, they will blow it.

  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonberling (1256136) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:09AM (#22816428)
    I don't think that the parent was suggesting that microsoft give away windows for free, just that they remove copy protection. You would still be legally required to pay for windows. I think it's a good suggestion. I have legal and free (well, someone else pays for it) access to most MS OS's. After having to call MS to varify that I don't have a pirated copy of XP/Vista running on my computer for the uptinth time, I finally said "Screw it!" and now use Ubuntu.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:11AM (#22816438) Homepage
    Lately I bought XP and was then treated as a criminal by MS because I accidentally thrashed the installation. When I installed XP the second time it didn't want to 'activate' anymore. Next time I'll just download a corporate edition somewhere.
  • Re:Bull (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c0d3g33k (102699) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:15AM (#22816456)
    Thanks for the lecture, sonny. I understand the purported arguments and rationalizations in favor of DRM. No, I haven't "grown out" of games. I play nearly every day (either older games, games w/o intrusive DRM like Introversion's stuff, or FLOSS games). I have grown into an income that lets me buy what I want, when I want it.

    "If you wouldn't pirate it or buy it, then who cares what you think?"

    You weren't listening. You should care what I think because I have abstained from buying games that I WOULD buy because they contain ever more potent DRM. I represent a lost sale based on a feature of the product that devalues it for me. How does that land me in the "irrelevant" group exactly?

    "I would bet that the mere absence of DRM isn't what brought you to sins of a solar empire."

    Again, you weren't listening, because that statement is correct, so fails as a challenge to me. If SOASE sucked, I would NOT buy it just because it lacks DRM. That's just stupid. But I would REFUSE to buy it if it did not suck but contained DRM. Because DRM diminishes the overall value of the software for me.
  • by Cannelbrae (157237) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:20AM (#22816488)
    While I have a great deal of respect for the author, this doesn't help quite a few of the companies (and PC gamers) out there.

    Basically, the position 'we will only attempt to sell to people who would prefer to buy over download' doesn't scale to big budget titles. There are a lot of gamers out there who like AAA, content rich games. These are the games that need to sell a million+ units just to break even. Ignore the programming - some of these games have dozens of artists and designers working for multiple years.

    The 'make niche games' position doesn't help these developers (or the gamers who love their games). We're talking about shops like Valve and Relic here.

    The game industry is certainly eyeing whats going on in the movie and music industries. The basic truth is that most people would rather download for free than vote on what they want to see in the future by buying it.

    Consumers demands for content rich games is exceeding sales. This means that big blockbuster titles are likely take a hit similar to flight sims several years back. For some gamers, this is probably great. There are plenty out there who would love to see the death of the FPS/action genre if it means a few smaller games come out in their place.

    Its going to be a rough few years as big devs figure out how to stay in buisness. Its likely to drive the 'big/blockbuster' titles even more towards the consoles which big markets and lower piracy rates so far this generation.
  • by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:29AM (#22816526)
    I don't think that's quite right. Quite a few shareholders do want to know, and do care about detailed aspects of the business. These types of things are the essence of detailed fundamental analysis, and knowing these things are what gives good investors an advantage. The better mutual funds' managers are all over this kind of stuff. They are not active managers, but they are active evaluators of management. That's how you try to make money in this space.
  • Re:Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b0rsuk (1109751) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:29AM (#22816528)
    [quote]As evidence that more accessible titles do better, Wardell points to not only the success of games like The Sims, but also of Sins of a Solar Empire--a low-budget, real-time strategy game published by Stardock that's reportedly sold 200,000 copies in its first month already. To put things in perspective, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare sold 383,000 units within its first couple of months of release. Unlike COD4, Sins of a Solar Empire didn't benefit from huge media coverage, and it doesn't even have copy protection--something Wardell says Stardock chose not to include because "the people who actually buy games don't like to mess with it." He adds, "Our customers make the rules, not the pirates."[/quote] http://techreport.com/discussions.x/14383 [techreport.com] I'd say this guy knows what he's talking about.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:44AM (#22816600) Journal

    Well, Microsoft ignores piracy, but there's still the legal pressure. So it's not a Reznor thing...

    But I think this would work much better for Apple than it would for Microsoft. Specifically:

    We're Steve Jobs fans, so we want to give him a bunch of money

    Fixed it for you.

    Not that it makes any sense, and not that they'd ever do that, but I think it might make money.

  • by hao3 (1182447) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:47AM (#22816618)
    Bullshit. Economics 101. They will also gain loads of customers who's Marginal Utility from the good is greater than or equal to Marginal Cost, but lower than the price it was when they had to spend money on costly DRM. i.e. demand will increase if they lower the price. If the consumers's Marginal Utility is lower than Marginal Cost (or whatever the price was before) then it will always be cheaper for them to get pirated products, in which case they will never be potential customers. (Assuming of course that pirated products cost less than or equal to the consumer's Marginal Utility, which in this case is less than or equal to Marginal Cost) If the product is not worth it to them, adding DRM won't make it any more worth it, it will probably make it less so. Stop looking for customers who aren't paying, and look for ones that will pay. Saying no DRM lowers the cost of pirating doesn't work either. They would only pirate if the product was worth less to them than the asking price in the first place (since pirating still has a positive Opportunity Cost). All this assumes Demand is Elastic, which it clearly is in the case of entertainment. I would think this probably doesn't apply to software (most people don't care if their computer runs Microsoft or Linux, they just want it to work.) Maybe DRM might work in that case.

    As for the post below about bootleggers, that is also bullshit. Just flip the problem around. In this case, bootleggers are suppliers. They can spend time and resources on developing their own product, but it will always be cheaper for them to crack the DRM of anything else and sell it as their own. Bootleggers will always crack any DRM, no matter how hard or complicated. This is clearly the case in practice. It is already addressed through other laws, it's illegal for them to deceptively pass off some product as their own, DRM or not. DRM is also a waste of money in this case. Stop 'em through other means.
  • Some mod up.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:49AM (#22816636)
    ..the person quoted in the article to +5, Insightful. I think he's got the right of it, game pirates are always going to find a way around your protection scheme you spend $1,000,000 developing, so why worry about it? Most people will pay for the game anyway.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:14AM (#22816750) Homepage

    A business that wants to use Windows or Office is probably not setting aside money in their budget to give to Microsoft if they don't legally have to.
    They legally have to. The article doesn't advocate making freeware, it is advocating ignoring the people who violate your copyright. It is not quite the same.

    In fact, Microsoft mostly follow his advice, Microsoft products traditionally don't come with the annoying control measures of the game industry. "You can only edit word documents of you have the original Office CD loaded."

  • Re:Bull (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:27AM (#22816800) Journal
    Or digital distribution, period. The places where people have money to spend on games are also getting faster and better Internet. And yes, game data is getting bigger, but if you remember, Half-Life 2 was a little under a gigabyte -- and the original Half-Life is playable without downloading the whole game first.

    So, your users can handle it. The only problem left is you managing all that bandwidth, and Amazon pretty much has you covered -- it'll cost you $0.18 per gig, flat rate, less if you let them be a torrent seed. So your raw material cost is $0.18.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xtravar (725372) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:47AM (#22816864) Homepage Journal
    While that's damn insightful, it assumes that there is a substantial rift between 'pop' music and 'real' music.

    I used to be pretty judgmental of pop music. But, shit, somebody has to write it. Somebody has to perform it. Somebody has to slave for hours for the final mix. Is the sum of all that talent worthless just because we think we're better than that? Just because there's more division of labor, does that make it any less musical? Does that mean I should snub it even if I find it catchy?

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a musician, I understand the resentment toward, what is perceived as, Wal-Mart music. I hate the music industry just as much as anyone. However, I don't think that this division you bring up is that simple.

    I know people who only listen to indie bands... just so they can say they only listen to indie bands... because for some reason, being indie makes the music more authentic. If the music were that good, you'd think the bands would be signed to a major label. Then the fans would complain that the band sold out!

    Human beings have this illogical obsession with originality and authenticity. Look at synthetic vs real diamonds, generic vs name brands, anything vs Apple, etc.

    There will always be music made for 'profit', and there will always be music made for the hell of it, but I don't think that means that one or the other will stick firmly to a specific distribution model.
  • exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smash (1351) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:57AM (#22816902) Homepage Journal
    Another "yay somebody gets it" post... but with an addition.

    All copyprotection does is punish your legitimate customers. Slightly different industry, but mining software is appalling for this. Surpac/Datamine/etc all have the most god-damn-awful licensing software on the face of the planet. If you were to run a cracked version, you wouldn't have to deal with it.

    Effectively by going legit, you're paying to be fucked around by the licensing software.

    Same with code-wheels, safedisc, etc, etc. Its an inconvenience to your PAYING customers that the pirates don't have to deal with it. Fuck that.

    Include a decent manual, an additional online content (forums, news, ability to post suggestions for expansions, etc - whatever) for paying customers - but don't punish them.

  • How prescient. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xx01dk (191137) on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:11AM (#22816942)
    "they weren't customers, they might never be customers, so spending money to try to stop them serves no purpose" really hits home. Case in point, I am a NIN fan, one who is willing to buy the latest album even if have not previewed it. Same thing with Stardock. I own GalCiv, GalCiv2, and SINS (and also a copy of Windowblinds). Sure I could have pirated these and used them for free, but why bother? It's easier for me to justify spending my hard earned cash on worthwhile products that I enjoy while at the same time supporting the developers who make the products that I enjoy. Wins all around...

    Now. about that copy of CS3 that I downloaded... I'm at odds with this because I've grown accustomed to all the great features Adobe has provided. I can rationalize it by saying that if Adobe doesn't make a profit from me then I will not make a profit from Adobe's software, but this is still wrong and vexes me so. Not everyone that buys Photoshop is looking to make a profit from it and can justify it thusly, so I am still in the wrong.

    And now to my point. I would some day like to be able to afford a fully licensed copy of Photoshop. If Adobe were to employ the tactics used by the RIAA and MPAA I don't think I would be inclined to buy anything from them and would instead seek out alternatives to support. However, since I have not been subjected to any raids or subpoenas, I do not feel threatened, and it is merely my moral fiber that keeps me in line. It is that same moral fiber that says "I shouldn't be using this, but I will, humbly, so that some day I may be able to afford it" rather than "Oh yeah. CS3 is MINE, bitches. Suck it, 'The Man'."

    No it's not right, but it will do for me thinking that I'm morally superior to all the other pirates out there.

    Meh, humility... Sometimes it's for me, other times it's not.

  • by ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:34AM (#22817024)
    but "ignoring them" is not his strategy.

    In the sense that he is not pretending it doesn't happen, sure. But his strategy is more along the lines of "How can I make this better for people who bought it" than the standard "How can I make this worse for people who didn't". He is only directly combating piracy as much as making a better product that people want to buy combats piracy.

    That's my read on it anyhow; it seems a fair assertion on his part.

  • Re:Bull (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:57AM (#22817084)

    Not to be offensive, but you aren't the target of the DRM solution
    Just because we're not a/the target doesn't mean it doesn't directly effect us.
    We may not be the target of Anti-terrorism laws, doesn't mean they don't effect us.
  • He's 100% right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jzig (78831) <benzeigler@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:10AM (#22817134) Homepage
    I'm a working game developer and I totally agree with Brad (CEO of Stardock) about how to deal with piracy. I sort of cheat by dealing with MMO's, but the basic principle is the same: Who gives a shit how many users you have? Our job as game developers is to make money (and also feel fulfilled artistically, they're not incompatible), so we need to focus on paying customers. Pirates are just a force of nature, and we need to manage them correctly (that thing that Titan Quest did where it crashed for pirates is just plain idiotic) instead of fighting a self-destructive war against them. It's kind of like fighting a guerrilla war in the mideast: there's no way to win.

    Further ramblings are available on my blog at http://doublebuffered.com/2008/03/20/piracy-customers-and-making-money/ [doublebuffered.com].
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mxs (42717) on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:19AM (#22817162)

    I know people who only listen to indie bands... just so they can say they only listen to indie bands... because for some reason, being indie makes the music more authentic. If the music were that good, you'd think the bands would be signed to a major label. Then the fans would complain that the band sold out!
    I don't buy your premise (music good -> major label contract). In fact, if you as a musician have half a brain and an inkling of curiosity, you'd soon realize that being signed to a major label is not, in fact, a good idea for you -- either financially or artistically. There is a reason Madonna has her own label.
    There is plenty of excellent "indie" music out there, and I'd hate to see them get the "major label" treatment.
    (There is also plenty of excellent "major label" music out there, don't get me wrong. "Major labels" are not just Britney and cohorts, there is some genuinely good stuff in there too).

    Human beings have this illogical obsession with originality and authenticity. Look at synthetic vs real diamonds, generic vs name brands, anything vs Apple, etc.
    That's actually all just excellent marketing -- I mean REALLY excellent marketing, with all tools of the trade (psychologically-driven branding activities, subliminal information, astroturfing, etc.). It's not really illogical -- the factors at work are well known -- "Public Relations" is a rather well-developed science.

    There will always be music made for 'profit', and there will always be music made for the hell of it, but I don't think that means that one or the other will stick firmly to a specific distribution model.
    And music made for the hell of it is not necessarily better than music made for profit -- nor should it be. Even music made for profit can be a labour of love -- just one that is well-marketable.
  • by Turiko (1259966) on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:25AM (#22817190)
    Game developers generally put a lot of money into making the games harder to crack. The bad part is that they're still being cracked. So they lose money over nothing...
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:30AM (#22817200)
    Lately I bought XP and was then treated as a criminal by MS because I accidentally thrashed the installation. When I installed XP the second time it didn't want to 'activate' anymore. Next time I'll just download a corporate edition somewhere.

    Let me get this clear in my mind:

    • You bought a product.
    • The manufacturer of said product accused you of fraud.
    • You decided that next time, you'll still use the product but you won't pay for it. As opposed to, I dunno, using somebody else's product?

    You really showed them, eh?
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lyml (1200795) on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:59AM (#22817294)
    More like:

      * He bought a product
      * An automatic checker wrongly accused him of being a pirate
      * He decided that next time he'll just pirate it anyway since buying it legally doesn't do squat

    Nowhere did he say that he would pirate it to stick it up to the man as you are implying so for no reason does your argument that he should be looking at competitors hold water. Unless you are actually suggesting that he should hold a grudge to the manufacturers becouse of being accused of being a pirate.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asuffield (111848) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday March 21, 2008 @06:39AM (#22817394)

    Is the sum of all that talent worthless


    Given the amount of effort that the pop recording industry puts in to ensuring that all that talent doesn't get paid, their position would appear to be that yes, it is worthless.

    I'd have a lot more sympathy for arguments like yours if the money actually went to those people who did the work, but it doesn't. The money all goes to executives, and the "talent" gets thrown a few crumbs from their table. You simply can't build a moral argument when they're doing that.

    It's definitely not in any way necessary for things to be like this, because most of the rest of the music industry is nowhere near as bad. Interestingly enough, those sections of the industry have also shown little interest in abusing their customers. I find it likely that these two things are related.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdmkolbe (944892) on Friday March 21, 2008 @08:39AM (#22817844)

    I used to be pretty judgmental of pop music. But, shit, somebody has to write it. Somebody has to perform it. Somebody has to slave for hours for the final mix. Is the sum of all that talent worthless just because we think we're better than that?

    Yes.

    Value is determined by utility not by labor. I'll grant that just because it's pop music doesn't mean it's bad. But by the same token, just because someone worked hard on it doesn't mean it's any good.

  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Friday March 21, 2008 @09:15AM (#22818114) Journal

    I don't buy your premise (music good -> major label contract).

    I don't buy that premise, either. However, labels have traditionally served as imperfect filters - screening out TONS of really bad music, and also screening out some good music. What they actually sell is selected based on perceived commercial viability, which may include a musician's appearance and stage presence and touring record as much as the quality of their songs - but musical quality IS a factor.

    In many cases, big-label music is merely adequate in quality. But being an indie musician and having swapped CDs with a lot of other indies, I can tell you that there are ways of sucking, musically and lyrically, which do get effectively screened out by the labels.

    Labels are dying, or at least shrinking. As that happens, more of the burden of listening to every wanna-be musician's stuff and screening out the crap, trying to find the diamond in the rough, falls on die-hard music fans. It's probably a better system, but if you're on the front lines of it, you'll quickly let go of the notion that "indie" = "better."

  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday March 21, 2008 @09:40AM (#22818386)
    Your point about WoW is exactly what the article makes. Blizzard makes their money from the subscriptions. It's only in their interest to worry about people that crack the game and ruin it for paying customers. If a small percent want to crack and run their own servers, then what is the benefit versus the cost of stopping them... what is the COST to the good will from the PAYING customers if you put stuff like StarForce on their machines that trashes the CDRWs of the HONEST people? What the CEOs are saying is that the "perfect" protection anti-piracy companies are selling is a scam, more about proving THEIR software works and not increasing YOUR sales. Tt's often counter to your HONEST, PAYING customers intentions.

    Note, Stardock has a login system to get patches, you may get the game, but you won't get official patches or updates unless you pay and register. Because they don't have to pay for protection per copy, they can charge a much lower price for the game than the other titles. Also, they aren't "betting the farm" on sales either. They have a diversity of products and only spend time and money on a game they feel they can recoup REASONABLY. They budget 100,000 sales as good, if they make more money, it's all profit, but most importantly they don't LOSE money up front. That's the REAL key he's not saying... they are not putting the company in hoc to make the "best game ever" like 20 other companies are. They don't need to have the best graphics, just really good, they don't need massive amounts of content pre-generated. Keep the games simple and replayable.

    Compare to say Doom 3, big, complex, a financial drain on the company and investors, loads of highly specialized content that's not reusable, VERY short actual gameplay and not replayable, etc. Doom3 cost armies of artists and developer time for what? (it was a tech demo for an engine for games, more than an actual game anyway) Because so much money is sunk, the investors demanded putting nasty copy protection that trashes machines and upsets HONEST customers, etc. Of course you can STILL find it cracked before it ships! The Stardock guy is saying why bother, and release what you can Afford and make customers happy... then they'll come back and buy another!
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by camg188 (932324) on Friday March 21, 2008 @10:54AM (#22819294)
    Your criteria could also rule out Steely Dan and any other band that uses session musicians. It would also rule out almost every blues band as it's traditional for blues bands to do covers and songs from traditional origins.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Peter Cooper (660482) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:47PM (#22820924) Homepage Journal
    "Pop music nowadays" is not entirely oriented around Paris Hilton. "Pop" is an extremely large genre, with massive variations in production and song quality. There are both big name and unknown pop artists who write their own music and engage in extremely original, even groundbreaking, productions. You have decided to hold up a small fringe of pop music as representative of the whole. This is as dumb as when "regular" folks hold up fat, greasy, DND nerds as being representative of a "geek!"

    Sure, there IS a lot of trash that meets your definition, but it's not representative of "popular" music as a whole. Further, covering old tracks, throwing some "base" drums in and rapping about "bitches" is hardly representative of rap or hip hop as a whole. You've basically taken the popular (not as in "Pop"), low quality fringe (in terms of total output) of some musical genres, and held them up as being entirely representative of those genres. You're free to do that, but it's very sad that enough people here have such little knowledge of music to mod you up.
  • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:28PM (#22821508)
    I have a copy of "Crazy Train" that is incredibly good.

    So do I - it was recorded by Ozzy Osbourne's band in 1980, by real musicians with real instruments. Slapping a shitty sequenced beat over it doesn't make it any better, and it certainly doesn't make it more "fresh."
  • Re:Bull (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pugugly (152978) on Friday March 21, 2008 @09:33PM (#22825956)
    Except, here's the thing. I will accept that I can put up with the network check of a program if I'm collateral damage to keeping it from being pirated.

    However, actually, I'm collateral damage and stuff gets pirated anyway. You want to make me wait an extra minute while your overloaded server does a check so you can stop pirates, then by god, you need to actually stop pirates. Otherwise, you're putting yourself in the situation of competing with pirates putting out a superior version of your product.

    I don't mind being moral and ethical - I do have some objections to being punished for it.

    Pug

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