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Valve Takes Optimistic View of Piracy 509

Posted by Soulskill
from the non-customer-is-always-right dept.
GameDaily recently spoke with Jason Holtman, director of business development and legal affairs for Valve, about online sales and piracy. Holtman took a surprising stance on the latter, effectively taking responsibility for at least a portion of pirated games. Quoting: "'There's a big business feeling that there's piracy,' he says. But the truth is: 'Pirates are underserved customers. When you think about it that way, you think, "Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it." We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia,' Holtman says of Valve. 'The reason people pirated things in Russia,' he explains, 'is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television — they say "Man, I want to play that game so bad," but the publishers respond "you can play that game in six months...maybe." We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly,' Holtman says." Attitudes like this seem to be prevalent at Valve; last month we talked about founder Gabe Newell's comments that "most DRM strategies are just dumb."
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Valve Takes Optimistic View of Piracy

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  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zwekiel (1445761) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:14PM (#26507709)
    Finally some intelligent thought on this matter from game publishers. They should focus on benefits that will get pirates to switch over, rather than annoying DRM technologies which do nothing but hinder the use of the game by legitimate customers, while real pirates bypass them with ease.
    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zach297 (1426339) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:21PM (#26507771)
      DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money. In that respect DRM has been successful in some cases (but not all).
      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mabhatter654 (561290) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:29PM (#26507853)

        this is where they benefit by Steam. They make their money from online access. That is much easier to police. So a few people crack HL2... if they can't get updates easily or play on the main servers with their friends, regular people won't deal with it past a certain point. Make it slightly easier for the paying customers than for people to casually pirate... the "real" pirates won't be phased... but they won't ever pay anyway.

        • Re:Finally (Score:5, Funny)

          by Urza9814 (883915) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:19PM (#26508331)

          And people like me, who don't play games online because we will get our asses handed to us, can continue pirating without any problems :)

          • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

            by QMalcolm (1094433) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @06:14PM (#26509783)

            I've never really understood why people are afraid to play online if they aren't good. When you play tennis for the first time, you'll get your ass handed to you also. When you played chess for the first time you probably lost badly. Is it the fact that you might get chewed out by some 15 year old you'll never meet?

            • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@gi[ ]lis.net ['ndu' in gap]> on Sunday January 18, 2009 @07:22PM (#26510487)

              I can't speak for anyone but myself but my answer has two parts:

              1) Frustration: I'm no slouch at FPS style games. 10 years ago I was in my middle 20s and was a member of several clans for several different games. I was never the best of anyone in my clan but I was usually in the top 10%. However I could *never* figure out how to make the jump into the top brackets.

              It's even worse today in my mid 30s. When I hop on for a quick game of GenericShooter on either the PC or the 360 it's like I'm massively outclassed by at least 30% of the players. I'm still capable of fragging at least half the room but the players above me are so FAR above it's difficult to control shouts of "teh hax!" or "cheater!". What makes it even worse is that I KNOW some percentage of the players ARE cheating...even on the consoles.

              In short I'm frustrated by my seeming inability to be competitive at the level I would like to be.

              2) Embarrassment: Who wants to compete and consistently lose, especially when it's coworkers or online associates that you compete against?

              Put those two together with the constant stream of ABUSE you take, even if you're a good player, when you play online and I think it's obvious why so many people stay away.

              After being called a "n00b" about 2,000,000 times and a "fag" about 42,000,000,000,000 times during online play the better question is why does ANYONE put up with it!?

              • Re:Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

                by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @11:22PM (#26512269)

                Here's how you get to the top 10% of any server. (This is from back in my high school days when I would play so much that I would be top of just about every server I joined and was banned from many many more for "hacking".)

                You cheat.

                Now. I'm not saying that you install software which cheats. I'm not saying you change the game in anyway. I mean you understand how the game ACTUALLY works and play that.

                If you watch an old CS tournament in slow motion you'll see something fascinating. People don't just aim at the head. They don't just even aim at the body. There are so many bugs in all modern games the way to win is to understand all the bugs of the game and take advantage of them. Understand that the hit boxes don't always line up and aim where the hitbox actually is not where you think you "see" them.

                You also have to understand all the little idiosyncracies of a map such as the exact sound that someone running across a certain surface will make. "oh 1 second of brick then one second of metal they'll be coming around the left corner in 3... 2... 1..."

                You are shooting before they're even visible.

                You have to be able to bunny hop in TFC, you have to be able to do all the little micro-glitches that are legal and just 'part of the game.' You have to know how to snipe in Halo by using the autoaim to lock onto a head when swept.

            • Re:Finally (Score:5, Funny)

              by ubrgeek (679399) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @07:40PM (#26510669)
              > When you played chess for the first time you probably lost badly.

              Nah, I did pretty well.

              Sincerely,
              Deep Blue
      • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:30PM (#26507857)

        Typically when I download a game, it's before the release date. DRM does nothing to prevent this. If publishers used a digital distribution model like Valve and had a secure supply chain, they'd probably see less piracy.

        I usually end up downloading a game because it's available before you can buy it in stores - I'm not going to be noble and wait an extra week so the publisher can make it available for purchase; no, I want it as soon as I can get it.

        To that end, digitally distributed games should cost less than their physically distributed counterparts - I feel cheated when I don't get the neat box/manual/CD case/map/other goodies but I pay the same price.

        • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by flewp (458359) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:57PM (#26508109)

          To that end, digitally distributed games should cost less than their physically distributed counterparts - I feel cheated when I don't get the neat box/manual/CD case/map/other goodies but I pay the same price.

          I don't know, I personally think the same price is justified if I can download it as many times as I want, whenever I want. I can't count how many times I've reinstalled games via Steam, and been happy with the process. It's usually even pretty quick to download even ~4gb of data for an install.

          • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

            by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:04PM (#26508187) Homepage
            I've purchased games I wanted through Steam instead of pirating them simply because it was easier to get it through Steam.
            • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

              by andy_t_roo (912592) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @04:28PM (#26508923)

              I've purchased all my valve games irrispective of steam simply because they are good games, worth the money you pay for them, and i want to support the company that made them.

              Perhaps valve's secret to not having a large amount of piracy was to charge $20 for portal, and $80 for the orange box, both of which were easly worth that money. Another company would of said "portal is popular, $80 if you want it", at which point a significant group of people would say "i'm not paying $80 for a 4 hour game" and go pirate it.

              I do download games from time to time, but anything which manages to keep my attention beyond the first few times i play it, i pay for.

            • by dotwaffle (610149)

              Better than that, I've actually purchased games on Steam that I considered "cheap" with the intention of playing them when I'd finished with something else, and never got around to actually playing them.

              When you consider the cost of distribution is in the pennies, Steam actually works out like a really good deal - and the auto-update feature is very nice too!

              Put simply, Steam may have it's foibles, but it's revolutionised the PC game industry. I won't buy games in the shops any more, unless it's for a conso

      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ccguy (1116865) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:57PM (#26508107) Homepage

        DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money.

        Then why don't they get rid of DRM after those few weeks? That would be a reasonable compromise for me: "You will need to activate this game and it will connect to our servers until 1/6/09. After that period the game will not need an internet connection, or the CD to be in the drive".

        Now, I would wait for the set date before purchasing anyway, but that's better (for them) than never buying the game no matter what.

        PS.1. Yes, I know that DRM removal tools exist.
        PS.2. The real date can be checked from trusted time servers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          You know, that's actually a really good idea. I really like that idea.

          Although I'd think they'd release a patch to remove the check rather than have it check time servers, because checking time servers makes it really easy to crack right away.

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          After that period the game will not need an internet connection...

          PS.2. The real date can be checked from trusted time servers.

          Um...how are you going to connect to these trusted time servers?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kindaian (577374)

        What is the point then if they launch the game at diferent dates all over the world?

        Any DRM will be break in 2 or 3 days if enough interest is generated.

        The only thing that escapes this is when the suppliers band together to make an hardware/software lock-in like the one made with blue-ray disks.

        And even then, it only survives a few months.

        If they make global launches, and don't sectored the world they will gain:

        1. Cheaper production: one size fits all;
        2. Easier to manage launch: only one date to manage;
        3.

      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:51PM (#26508621)

        DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money. In that respect DRM has been successful in some cases (but not all).

        Name one single well-known DRM example where this has actually been the case, that the game wasn't pirated within the first week. Your assertion is actually quite reasonable, after all DRM may not be winning the war but surely it must be having one or two victories -- it's just that I don't know of one single popular example myself where this was the case.

        DRM makes as much sense to me as those nefarious FBI warnings that you can't forward through at the beginning of those DVDs. Only the non-pirating consumers are being penalized by that functionality, the consumers that are pirating on the other hand do not even see those.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WCLPeter (202497)

        DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever.

        DRM has nothing to do with pirates and everything to do with denying your right to first sale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine).

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Funny)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:50PM (#26508049)
      As an underserved customer, I'm glad that Valve is taking this move and I hope other companies will follow. However, they are still underserving one important segment of the market. And that's the one I belong to: people who want to get things without paying for them. I think that if Valve made a serious effort to cater to us by not charging money for their games, they would see their piracy rates drop almost to zero.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by linhares (1241614)
        You ARE paying a price, though it's not a monetary one. You are running the risk of running some pirated game that may infest your machine(s) in unpredictable ways, such as installing a keylogger or other shit like that.
        • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Frogbert (589961) <[frogbert] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday January 18, 2009 @06:35PM (#26509967)

          I'd trust RELOADED over Starforce any day.

        • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ekhben (628371) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @07:02PM (#26510281)
          I paid for Spore, and it still installed a trojan rootkit. Where's the downside to pirated software, again?
    • by Sj0 (472011)

      Yes, my reaction was a similar "Holy fucking shit!".

      Valve gets it. They're going to make a lot of money.

  • Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manfre (631065) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:19PM (#26507755) Homepage Journal

    Common sense is a lot better than DRM. Glad to see that at least some companies are willing to spend a few hours to identify reasons why people pirate games and think of simple solutions.

  • Naivete (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:20PM (#26507759) Homepage
    From my experience in various Eastern European countries over the last decade, the reason people pirate is not because they don't get attention from publishers. It's because people don't think films and games should cost much more than the cost of their storage media. Who doesn't want to get stuff for almost free?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nimey (114278)

      You think that's a holdover from the days of Communism?

      • by tftp (111690)
        It's a current principle of capitalism - the lowest bidder wins as long as his warez work as well as a legitimate CD.
    • I've got no idea why this was modded troll, it's perfectly accurate. That's not to say that people's perception of the value of media is accurate, but that there are large numbers of people who believe information is overpriced should be obvious.
    • Re:Naivete (Score:4, Interesting)

      by urbanriot (924981) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @05:06PM (#26509237)
      I don't know why you were moderated Troll, and if I had points I'd moderate you back up. It seems as though people in their (arguably) economically sound first world countries don't realize the attitude people have for items of enjoyment. If they can have them for free and they don't see anyone being physically hurt by their stealing, they feel perfectly justified in doing it. You're absolutely right.
    • Re:Naivete (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sj0 (472011) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @05:10PM (#26509281) Homepage Journal

      Science works, bitches.

      "We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly," meaning the prediction that piracy rates would go down when release dates became the same as other countries was proven true with hard data.

  • Many countries speak English, so release English versions same day everywhere, and localized releases shortly there after. And if people in China, Russia, whatever can buy a pirated copy of that game for $5, then you can't sell a legal copy for $60. In certain countries, they may just have to sell legal copies for $10-$20.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KingAlanI (1270538)

      How do you keep people from buying at the el-cheapo foreign price and selling at the ~$60 price? Postage costs & customs charges (even if you do get it with them) wouldn't fill up the difference.

      Thing is, I don't want to see region-encoding crap either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        I bought pirated X-Files DVDs from China. It cost $30 to ship it here from China, so yes, shipping would all but make up the price difference.

        However, it was cost effective for me to buy the pirated DVDs because I bought all 9 seasons for $80 total, plus $30 shipping. (It was $30 for one DVD, or $30 for as many DVDs as I wanted). At the time, individual seasons were going for $110-$120 in the US, and I got all 9 seasons for that price.

        • by Walpurgiss (723989) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:13PM (#26508273)
          My sister tried that with DVDs of the West Wing she got on ebay. They were pretty low quality, bad Aspect Ratio, and half of the last episode on each disc was cut off. The bitrate was awfully low, trying to crap 6 episodes per single layer DVD. Spelling errors all over the otherwise decent looking counterfeit packaging.

          So often with the counterfeit DVDs, quality issues can arise. It seems like a much better idea, rather than to import illegal/stolen goods, to do the piracy yourself. Then you could control the quality of the DVDs made from the source files, and it would cost nearly nothing.
          • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @04:28PM (#26508921)

            Maybe, but when you're dealing with Anime, it's interesting how often you actually get better quality from counterfeiters.

  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:21PM (#26507775)
    Steam allows you to get content online. They are leading the charge to remove boxes from shelves. Today there was mass chaos at some Circuit City stores, because their CEO ran that company into the ground and won the worst CEO of 2008 award - Philip Schoonover, possibly the worst businessman in retail history. And that's saying something.

    Next up is Best Buy - do you really need to travel there to pick up a disk to have a game anymore? No.

    Sony kinda gets it, you can download some games with a PS3 that are fun, esp. for little kids, without needing to go get something. Pretty soon all the consoles will realize the revenue stream in controlling the distribution channel for all software via broadband.

    Do that, tie it to reasonable encryption keys, and alot of piracy will go away. PS3 games aren't up on piratebay for a reason, while Xbox games are. Just make it available, and make it easy - to the world, and the internet will take care of it. The loss of sales via the retail front won't be as bad as the suits fear, and mail-order is always available for the PC gamer living in an Igloo.
    • by aztektum (170569)

      I can't wait until someone is trying to download their 4th or 5th game and get cut off due to a download cap. Granted today most downloadable content isn't that big, but with the Xbox 360 streaming Netflix and the other content already available, it won't be long before 250GB is used up the first of each month.

    • First of all, let me say that Steam has offered some great bargains. And I have used Steam, since my original pre-Steam copy of Half-Life finally had to be updated with Steam. And I've used them for some free demos. But I absolutely never ever will buy a game that depends on my using Steam. If Valve and Steam go away (not that hard to imagine in a world of financial and auto company bailouts and even Circuit City going belly up), then I still want to own what I paid for, not be dependent on some server som

    • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Sunday January 18, 2009 @05:21PM (#26509369)

      The Best Buys that I've been to don't have an insanely huge game section compared to the rest of the store.

      Yes, it's large - but what will they end up losing? PC games? There's still all of the console games to put on the shelves. Broadband penetration isn't good enough for the next console generation to be 100% game downloads like Steam, nor are hard drives cheap enough for game console pricing.

      Valve's ultimate victory, IMO, would be getting Steam in on one of the next generation consoles. Build the STEAM API into your console and everything is already handled - friends, community stuff, cross-game chat, voice chat, downloading games, secure payment - even a web browser. Publishers obviously get money when their games are bought on Steam, so the pricing arrangements can be made as well. I'm fairly certain Valve might even make some concessions if Steam was the sole system that a next-gen console used for pulling down games and playing them.

      Yes, the API needs work, but if Valve had a good reason to make major improvements (like debuting on the Playstation 4 or the Xbox Quad (whatever the Hell they'll be called)), they probably could without too much effort.

  • by Archimonde (668883) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:22PM (#26507799) Homepage

    I downloaded Team Fortress 2 via torrent and played on some cracked servers. But that was pain because the servers were changing daily, then had to manually download patches, update and then realize that the next day servers reverted to the patch before etc. But the game was excellent and I thought, those guys really deserve the money, and I would have a hassle-free experience. Then I went out and bought Orange Box (which includes TF2).

    Now year later I'm still playing this excellent game and it was worth every penny.

    But I see a problem though. I generally use Steam as the game updater, nothing more really. But take for example GTAIV. It requires three services to be active when playing: Steam, Games for Windows and rockstar social club. 3 separate registrations and 3 resource eating programs. That is way over the top.
     

    • Unfortunately, most people aren't like you. I have a lot of friends who brag about not having bought games or music for years. And, why would they if they're willing to battle the learning curve to pirate content?
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:05PM (#26508197)

        But those people aren't the ones that you will win over as customer as a producer of content anyway. Why bother trying? They will not buy your stuff, even if you somehow managed to magically find that holy grail of DRM (i.e. DRM that actually works and is unbreakable), they wouldn't buy your content. They'd settle for other content that they can copy because they don't buy on principle. I'm fairly sure they don't play games like WoW (or if on some half-assed "hacked" server), they probably don't play multiplayer FPS games (or if on some "hacked" servers that also don't check for cheats) and so on. This is not your customer base. This is your user base. And, frankly, I don't care for the users of my software. I care about the customers.

        Make software for the people that buy your software, not for the people that use it. It may look like the same, but it isn't as you pointed out quite directly. What would the customers of a FPS multiplayer game want? What can I offer to them as paying customers that they couldn't get from illegitimate copies? Focus on this and more people will buy it. The GP made a valid point. A "legal" copy has its benefits. Less hassle updating, more available game servers, anti-cheat tools at those servers ... actually that last point may well play into your hands as a manufacturer when you actually allow copies to exist but force them to play on cheater ridden servers because your cheat aware servers won't let them in. First of all, all the cheaters will avoid your servers, because it's less hassle to cheat on a server that has no anticheat means installed. Now, I tend to think that this demographic matches the "would not buy it anyway" group pretty well. Second, fewer attempts to hack your anticheat mechanisms would happen, since cheeaters have a place to play. And everyone who's fed up with cheaters will probably drop the 50ish buck for your game to get out of wallhack hell and play the game.

        In a nutshell, you have to give people an incentive to buy the game instead of copying it. So far, I've seen tons of incentives to NOT buy the game (stupid DRM, CD checks, limited installs, CD drives that can't deal with the DRM... all problems that only apply to actual customers but never to people who copied your content). Give the person buying your game something they can't get with a ripped copy, and people will buy your games.

        If someone is avoiding buying games on principle to show how "cool" he is, you won't sway him. No matter how much DRM you cram into your game and no matter how much you piss off your paying customer. At the very best, you may keep someone from copying it (let's assume some miracle DRM nobody has seen, i.e. one that actually keeps people from copying for more than a few minutes or hours). But that isn't a sale yet, quite far from it. The idea that "can't copy == sale" is flawed at best. There's a thousand other games out there that I can copy, if I can't copy yours, so be it. NEXT!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by p0tat03 (985078)

        Agreed. A few friends and I got together and got the Left 4 Dead 4-pack and having been playing the hell out of it - while an entirely separate group have pirated the game and seem incredulous that we chose to *buy* the game.

        Piracy will continue to proper until we as a society start looking down on it with the same disdain we treat freeloaders.

    • 4 resource eating programs. Steam, Games for Windows, Rockstar Social Club and Securerom.

  • Saying I heard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Caboosian (1096069) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:24PM (#26507807)
    "Companies need to stop treating potential customers like pirates, and pirates like potential customers." That's exactly what Valve is doing, and has been doing, and will continue to do. That's also why I continue to buy their games, rather than pirate them (hi EA).
    • by repvik (96666)

      It'd make more sense if it said "Companies need to stop treating potential customers like pirates, and treat pirates like potential customers".

  • by Jurily (900488)

    Finally, someone sees the light. Do they have Linux games? I might just sign up.

    Also, tag suddenoutbreakofcommonsense.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:34PM (#26507887) Journal

    Pirates are underserved customers.

    Just so, at least in my case. And I hope that music and movie publishers will come to this sensible conclusion as well. I'd love to be able to download a legal "zero day" copy of movies direct from the studios... or go see the movie in the week of its release. Not wait until they finally get around releasing it in my country. As for music... the not-really-legal AllOfMP3 should be an example to the music industry. A wide selection of music, and more importantly, a wide selection of formats, from MP3, WAV, to OGG. Now there's "plays for sure" for you... And you could choose the bitrate as well, from small files to files without compression.

    If publishers stop punishing their legit customers with crippled products and late releases, those customers might decide to not turn to piracy.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:19PM (#26508325)

      That is exactly what's wrong with content. A legally bought product has to be worth more than an illegaly acquired one. And it's usually the reverse when it comes to content.

      Usually, when you buy a piece of hardware, furniture or whatever, you have additional benefits when you buy it legally in a store instead of, say, off a truck. You get warranty, you get coupons for addons, you get support, you get all those nifty little things that you're either entitled to by law or because the manufacturer wants to keep you as a customer. All that is not at your disposal when you get something from Honest Henry's Fencing Outlet.

      It's the opposite with content. When you download a rip, no hassle. No DRM, no "keep that CD in the drive" problem, no messing with your driver setup, no limit on installations, in short, no DRM hassles. When you buy it, your HD is filled with crap drivers that clog your system or worse, you have to dig for that CD key codes every time you want to reinstall it (btw, why do they print that on the manuals, the manual is the FIRST thing I lose. Some are smart enough to at least put the sticker into the CD case... if you get a CD case at all these days, of course...), no phone hassle when you should dare to install it more than thrice (and then prepare to be accused of being such a pesky pirate, and cheeky to boot because you DARE to call them after you stole their crap) and so on.

      The same applies to music and movie content. In a nutshell, copy cripled content that you can buy is limited in its use, either to a certain format, forcing you to watch stupid commercials before you may watch the movie you paid for or wanting to limit you to the countries that you may watch it in... all those limitations and more do not apply to content you did not pay for.

      So, allow me the question, when content is worth more (in terms of flexibility and usability) to me as a customer when I rip it instead of buying it, explain to me why I should buy it? Just because of the legality issues? A business model that is based on pissing off your customer because you can, since he can't get your product legally any other way but to allow you to piss him off is not really what I consider a sound and sane business model.

    • by Rhapsody Scarlet (1139063) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @07:30PM (#26510561) Homepage

      A wide selection of music, and more importantly, a wide selection of formats, from MP3, WAV, to OGG.

      You'd have to be mad to insist on WAV, try for FLAC [sourceforge.net] instead. Typically compresses to 30-50% the size of WAV, the best hardware and software support of any lossless codec, can be tagged with Vorbis comments, and supports Replay Gain.

      Also, the last codec you're thinking of is Vorbis. Ogg is a container format.

  • GTA4 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:34PM (#26507895) Journal

    That's all great, but it's just words. On the other hand, when I wanted to buy GTA4 on Steam from Russia, I found out that the release was North America only (and despite this, I've got bombarded by ads urging me to preload and save, etc - all also NA-specific). After seeing the ads and the trailers, I really wanted to have that game, and getting such a slap in the face on release date was... very unpleasant. I immediately went and downloaded it from the torrent, and I am not going to pay for it anymore. I wanted to in the first place, but they said "no, we won't let you". So be it, then.

    I guess it's publisher policy really, not Valve, but still, Steam is and will be associated with Valve first and foremost, so maybe they should clean that mess up before speaking on this. Once I've got burned, I looked around, and I've found that there are many other games that are similarly released first only in North America, and then gradually elsewhere. There's even a Steam group, "Rest of World" [steamcommunity.com], that's dedicated to this problem, with over 10,000 members.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zippthorne (748122)

      Uh.. I think speaking on it is one of his tools for cleaning up the mess. A big, "Hey, stop asking for this delayed release thing, it's only hurting you" message.

    • Speaking as someone in NA I'm with you guys on this, I'm pretty sick of low populations because of region limited releases.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You do realize that that was why Gabe's saying something like this, right? He has an obligation to his customers (who, for Steam, are the publishers--not you; you're the consumer, Steam's the delivery channel) to do what they want where it's reasonable. The customers want delayed releases, he loses business if he doesn't accept that.

      But he's trying to change that. You should be cheering this on.

    • Staggered release dates are about the worst thing you can do in a global world. It's an invitation to copying and you either release everywhere at the exact same moment or you just forget about big sales outside your first sale area.

      The reasons are simple. Of course you started campaigning and rolled the PR and ad train across town for your latest and greatest product. Review pages wrote about it, maybe even liked it, and people have ants in their pants to finally get it. Pretty much what you described. The

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @02:38PM (#26507915)

    I think part of the problem companies have is they try and group everyone who copies games or music or whatever in to one group. They talk about "pirates" as though it is one homogeneous group with one mindset. That's not the case. There are important sub groups, and the question needs to be what do you do about each? For example I'd say you can divide people who copy along these rough lines:

    1) People who want stuff for free and wouldn't pay no matter what. You write these people off and just don't worry about them. They are the kind that even if you made it impossible to copy your stuff, they'd just do without. You aren't going to get their money so just don't bother. Let them do what they do.

    2) People who are doing a "try before you buy." In music in particular I've known people like this. They want to download albums to see if they like them and want to buy them. For these people you needn't worry too much, they are likely to buy if they like your stuff. Only things to do is make sure you are offering quality stuff, and try to offer a superior experience if they pay. For example in the case of a game maybe a nice online community and auto updater, that requires a legit copy.

    3) People who pay for some stuff, but don't have enough money for everything they want. They are somewhat similar to the first group, but they do buy things, just not everything they get. Something like university students with little disposable income. This is the only group that tighter DRM measures might help you get more money. However if everyone is tightening DRM, well you are back to where you started.

    4) People who would like to pay you, if only you'd let them. These are the people who either live in a country where you refuse to release your product, or people who have been screwed over by your DRM. They'd like to buy your stuff, but you won't let them, or your protection technology means it won't work. Thus they turn to copying it. These people the answer is less, not more DRM to get more money. Give them the ability to pay legitimately, and they will.

    Ok well when you start breaking it down, you see that really there are a number of groups that you just need to write off. You aren't getting any more money from them, so stop worrying. Don't screw over people who want to be customers just to try and screw over those who don't. It really needs to be looked at as a profit maximization thing. Implement DRM only to the point that it actually helps you make more money. Don't just try and "punish" people for copying your stuff. I mean really, who cares? You are in it to make money, not to be a justice crusader.

    I also think firms fail to take in to account the cost of DRM. It's never free. Most of it is purchased from a third party and there's costs for that, Macrovision isn't a charity, and if you develop it in house you are paying the development cost. Either way you pay the support cost. So if you spend $100,000 buying a DRM package, but it only gets you $50,000 in additional sales, it was a lousy buy because you actually lost money. If it then also loses you $25,000 more sales from people who can't play, well then it was a REALLY lousy buy.

    I think the best thing companies can do it make it easy for people to buy things legitimately, make the legitimate buying experience better than the illegal copying, and provide things that are a good value for the money. That will get the most sales. The copying figures don't matter, what matters is getting the most sales you can. If you do something that increases copying by ten times, but also sales by ten times, well then that's a win. Doesn't matter that copying went up, what matters is sales went up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Iceykitsune (1059892)
      5.) people who want games that are not sold anymore.
  • by Nimey (114278)

    this problem seems like it could also be solved, to an extent, with decent demos. I pirated Fallout 3 because I wanted to try it out before dropping $50 on this game all my co-workers were raving about, but there was no demo.

    I was sufficiently impressed that I bought the game on Steam a few days later.

    I don't know why demos aren't as prevalent these days as they used to be; perhaps the downloads would still be huge because of artwork, etc.

  • I never understood this editorial opinion in most posts here. I'm a software engineer and I'd be out on the streets if our customers illegally downloaded our software. Sure, there are underserved markets, but most pirates are people who want to listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free. I don't see what economic model is going to squeeze profit out of that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zironic (1112127)

      The basic premise is that there are enough people that are willing to pay for things that they like that the industry can go around, not everyone will get things for free just because they can.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DeadPixels (1391907)
      While I agree that there's a sizable group of those who want media for free, I don't believe you'd be getting their business no matter what you did. By ramping up DRM and other such "anti-piracy" methods, you're really only hurting the legitimate consumer. If someone wants your software badly enough, they're either going to pirate it or do without, and then you wind up in an arms race to see who can secure or crack the product faster.

      I'm not suggesting that you put your products out there with no protectio
    • by itsdapead (734413) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @03:24PM (#26508367)

      Its not that Slashdot loves piracy, its that many people on /. hate the idea of copyright infringement being treated as equivalent to theft of physical property, and they hate stupid DRM schemes that make life difficult for people who have acquired software legally but which the most serious, organised, pirates seem to have little difficulty circumventing.

      I'm a software engineer and I'd be out on the streets if our customers illegally downloaded our software.

      No, you'd be out on the streets if not enough of your customers paid for your software to keep the company profitable.

      but most pirates are people who want to listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free.

      In which case, they were never going to pay for your software anyway, so unless they physically stole a boxed copy which you had paid to manufacture, you have not lost a dime. Most software/recording industry scare stories make the ludicrous assumption that every pirate copy represents a lost sale.

      Conversely, some people who pirate your software will go legal when the next version arrives (or someone checks up), recommend it to others or (if its serious software) acquire skills in using it which result in future sales.

      Equally, if you try and stamp out piracy by treating your paying customers as potential criminals and using intrusive DRM, you will lose customers to the competition (be it pirates, other companies or open source).

    • by repvik (96666)

      [Citation needed]
      No, seriously. I'd like to see an independent study backing your claim...

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      >> listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free. I don't see what economic model is going to squeeze profit out of that.

      Funny how the same model works so well for Red Hat and many others.

    • by Sj0 (472011) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @05:53PM (#26509581) Homepage Journal

      It's really simple. Most people DO want to pay for their games.

      When I'm paying a game I paid for that I really like and I helped support the people who made it, it gives me a big rubbery one.

      The problem is, companies want to make it too much trouble to buy their damn software. Stores where I live don't carry most software, and I'm not about to pay 30 dollars shipping for a 30 dollar game CD. Even if I get the game, some distributors, like EA, think I'm going to tolerate not being able to install my game more than 3 times (I've already installed every game I've bought this year more than 3 times. Get over it.) With Steam, I can say "Hey, I want to play Half Life Blue shift. I've never tried it.", and 4.99 on my mastercard and a 1GB download later, I'm playing it. If I re-install and want to play some more, I just download steam, download the game, and enjoy.

      I design industrial control systems for a living. We have to follow human engineering principles all the time. For example, if an instrument is lower than a person's knees or higher than their face, odds are it won't get maintained. Therefore, you can get all moralistic about how tradesmen are lazy and they should do their jobs, or you can do the right thing and design your plant so people naturally are inclined to maintain the most important equipment. If you get all moralistic, though, be prepared to do it while your plant is down and you're losing tens of thousands of dollars of production per hour.

      This is no different. Companies like the RIAA member companies, who want to bitch and whine, who want to sue their customers, who don't want to make the experience of buying music any easier, they're going to see their profits fall, and piracy skyrocket. Companies like Valve who design their systems so it's easier to buy than to pirate, they'll see their profits rise, and piracy fall (as this article says they've seen).

  • TV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Repton (60818) on Sunday January 18, 2009 @05:19PM (#26509351) Homepage

    The reason people download tv shows in New Zealand is because kiwis are reading blogs and watching fansites - they say, "Man, I want to watch that show so bad," but the networks and distributors respond, "you can watch that show in six months...maybe."

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly

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