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Games Your Rights Online

Indie Game Dev On the Positive Side To DRM 440

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-an-excellent-whipping-boy dept.
spidweb writes "The online backlash against DRM has gotten a bit excessive, especially since the purpose of DRM is entirely admirable: to stop thieves and free riders and to help creators actually get paid for their work. This blog entry calls attention to XBox Live, a place where strong DRM is helping to encourage quality games at low prices which make money for their developers. Quoting: 'If I could snap my fingers and give myself the same absolute control over the games I make that XBox Live has over theirs (in return for lower prices), I would. The freedom of the current system is nice, but it comes at too high a cost. Honest people need to pay extra to subsidize thieves. The unfairness is just this side of intolerable, and it's only getting worse. DRM is fair if, for what the corporations take, we get something in return.'"
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Indie Game Dev On the Positive Side To DRM

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  • To me, DRM is about two things. First it's about making sure that people don't actually have control over the things they've ostensibly bought. The Amazon debacle is a prime example of this.

    Secondly, it's about trying to create artificial scarcity, which seems to me to be all the wrong strategy.

    And, on a different note, I don't think the low prices you're seeing are because of DRM. I think you're seeing them because developing good games shouldn't actually take the gobs of money that it's currently fashionable to throw at the problem. I know of several indie games that seem to be doing OK for themselves completely in the absence of DRM. Word of Goo [worldofgoo.com], and The Penumbra Series [penumbragame.com].

  • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:08PM (#29395767) Journal
    I like how the reason for high priced games is laid at the feet of piracy, instead of accepting the fact that the prices are based on what the market/gamer can bear. Who needs basic economics knowledge when you have a crusade?
  • "pay extra" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:08PM (#29395769) Homepage
    "Honest people need to pay extra to subsidize thieves." -- why? Honest people are perfectly capable of paying the same amount of money to subsidize thieves. It's not like most the thieves were ever really going to give you money anyway. And they laugh at your DRM and attack it with 1337 h4x0ring and steal it anyway.
  • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:19PM (#29395803) Journal

    I think you're seeing them because developing good games shouldn't actually take the gobs of money that it's currently fashionable to throw at the problem.

    But it does take gobs of money if you want to develop a very slick-looking game that, besides its graphics, is the most basic regurgitation of a previously innovative and hugely successful game. There is very rarely significant innovation in subsequent games of a given successful franchise, yet they throw similar amounts of money at the development of each installment. See: COD, Every-EA-Sports-Game, etc. Let alone the development costs for games (and this is most of them) that do nothing more than attempt to mimic the pioneers/true-greats. Ultimately, I think it's because it's infinitely easier, in the corporate setting, to pitch a remake/sequel/imitation of a successful franchise, than to take a risky stab at something truly innovative.
    How many hundreds of thousands of indie games are there that have never even approached the success of World of Goo?

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:20PM (#29395811) Journal
    All the honeyed words in the world won't change the basic, essential, fact that DRM is a system where somebody other than you controls your hardware, against your interests. It cannot work any other way. The purpose of DRM is entirely admirable in pretty much the same way that the purpose of mind control chips would be(just think of all the crime they'd reduce!!).

    That's the thing, even if everybody agreed that the objectives of DRM are 100% squeaky clean and wonderful(which is hardly the case, DRM schemes to date have had a nasty habit of trampling all over first sale and fair use, and generally giving the seller substantially greater power than copyright law would grant them) the means by which DRM must be implemented, namely taking control of everybody's property in order to protect yours, are simply unacceptable.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:22PM (#29395831)

    Sure, if DRM actually worked toward its purpose, there wouldn't be as much complaining.

    But DRM doesn't prevent piracy. It always get cracked. And furthermore, before it gets cracked, it makes stuff hard to use and not work right.

    Ergo, people are faced with a choice: buy the product that is crippled by DRM to the point that you probably won't even be able to play it on your computer, or get the pirated product without DRM for free. That choice leads to DRM not merely failing, but working against its ostensible purpose. After many years of this being painfully obvious in everyone's face that DRM causes piracy, we begin to doubt the motivations for DRM. Maybe helping content creators get paid, isn't what DRM is really for.

    In the case of music and movies, it's very clear that it's about controlling what playback equipment people buy, and creating monopolies for "standards" licenses. I can buy a bluray drive pretty cheaply, but a bluray player is expensive. And that is the purpose of DRM: to keep mplayer out of the player market. So it's about making sure someone gets paid, but that someone isn't the content creator. It's Sony's electronics (not movie) division.

    Now, on to your xbox gaming rant. You complain about low sales and the high price of your game. And you use DRM. You wish you could lower your price and gain sales. Well, there's one thing you can do that will not lower your sales at all, and will probably raise them: drop the DRM. You're thinking about pirates instead of the customers. Telling customers to join the pirates, isn't going to help your situation. All if takes is for someone to have one problem with your DRM, and you will have converted him to the other side: the pirates' side. Look to your customers.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:26PM (#29395847) Journal
    First sale is a right. In fact, it is a right to the same degree, and by the same means, that copyright is.

    The law could change, it isn't one of those inalienable self-evident rights; but it is not a "privilege".
  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:29PM (#29395865) Homepage

    "The online backlash against DRM has gotten a bit excessive..."

    DRM is still popular among game publishers, which leads me to believe there hasn't been enough of a backlash. Geeks like us know about DRM and can choose to avoid it when told of a product that has it, but your Average Joe won't know the difference until it bites him in the ass, and by then it's too late for him to demand a refund. Right now software publishers can sell me a game as part of a retail transaction and then impose additional terms, after the sale, at the point of installation. I see that as a kind of fraud, and say there hasn't been enough of a backlash.

  • Where to begin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:31PM (#29395879) Journal

    So difficult to pirate that nobody bothers

    So he's not a complete moron in thinking that a "perfect" DRM scheme exists. However, it's pretty stupid to think that something would ever become "so difficult to pirate that nobody bothers" -- remember, it only takes one person to bother.

    Defense Grid is ten bucks, and it's giving me more than ten bucks worth of fun. Sure, I'm at Microsoft's mercy, and I don't "own" the product, but hey. Ten bucks.

    It's also twenty bucks for the Greenhouse version [playgreenhouse.com], which seems more than a bit odd. It's worth mentioning, though, that you do own that one, such as it is -- the only DRM is a single Internet check on first installation, which seems reasonable for a downloaded game.

    I charge $28 for a new game. I would LOVE to charge ten bucks. But, to stay in business, I'd have to triple my sales, and that won't happen. Would sales go up? Sure. Would they TRIPLE? Almost impossible.

    I don't know about that. You didn't seem to have much trouble getting onto Slashdot, which would get you a fair number of sales. But your general attitude in this article already makes me skeptical, and there's no way I'm paying $28 for what I see in that game. $10? Sure, and if it was good, I'd tell my friends about it. $28? You just lost a sale, buddy.

    The result? My games get pirated like crazy,

    The question: Would your games be pirated less with more DRM?

    More importantly: Even if they were pirated less, would that mean more sales for you? Because if I was pirating your games, and I suddenly couldn't pirate them anymore, I'd probably go pirate another game, not start paying for yours.

    DRM is fair if, for what the corporations take, we get something in return.

    I will agree with that. However, very often, what we get in return is nowhere near worth the DRM.

    An example of a marginally fair trade: Steam. Being able to IM a friend and hop into the game he's playing is cool. Being able to back up games, with a tool that will nicely create DVD-sized files, is very cool. Being able to download every game I own -- saturating my fiber connection -- after a reformat, in case something went wrong with the backup -- and needing only a username and password to recover all my games, and they're even planning to include savegames and settings, at some point -- is awesome.

    But this is still a trade many users are unhappy with. I'm online all the time -- many users would like to play their single-player games offline.

    An example of a very fair trade: World of Warcraft. The DRM is pretty much inherent in the system -- it connects to a server, and that server is unavailable to anyone who doesn't work for Blizzard. While there have been a few pirate servers, they pretty much have to reverse engineer and/or build from scratch most of the content and gameplay, and there's still the network effect -- if your guild's on a Blizzard server, you're on a Blizzard server. This is a case where you give up pretty much nothing for the DRM to work -- the one thing it takes from you is the ability to play offline.

    One of the problems with eBooks is they take away the ability to loan or sell the books you buy online, not to mention the lack of a satisfying physical object, and they still charge the same price for the book.

    That is why those of us in the know insist on unencumbered PDFs. I can get one that's watermarked, so I can't easily pirate it to the world, but I can easily share it among friends.

    the purpose of DRM is to prevent free riders (aka self-justifying weasels and morally damaged scumbags).

    The purpose of the McCarthy trials was to prevent communism from taking over America. It's a noble goal, but the casualties are unacceptable.

    If DRM enables pro

  • Yes, I've noticed that somehow derivative games seem to be a LOT more expensive to produce. My suspicion is that basically the giant pyramid scheme that is the modern corporation siphons off too much money.

  • by localman (111171) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:40PM (#29395935) Homepage

    I absolutely hate DRM -- it creates problems for legitimate users and does virtually nothing to stop piracy.

    But... I think that it is attempting (and failing) to address a very real problem. It's all well and good for us to say "just don't worry about the pirates", but it's probably not a long term solution. Eventually, honest users feel like suckers for paying for music/software/movies/etc and they start moving towards taking stuff for free as well. I know that CD sales went up while Napster was big, but it is truly hard to imagine that such a situation unchecked would have continued for, say, a decade. At some point people just decide it's stupid to buy stuff they can get for free.

    And as much as we've become accustomed to the idea of free creative works, it's not really a cure-all either. Yes, some stuff will get created even without any notion of intellectual property, but some very valuable stuff won't get created in such a world. So without any other obvious solution to the problem, it's not so hard to see why DRM is attractive to desperate content creators.

    I don't have a solution. But I do believe there will be a growing problem for funding digitizable media in the future.

    Cheers.

  • by killthepoor187 (1600283) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:40PM (#29395937)

    I don't mine the intentions of DRM. I'm all for game developers getting payed for what they make. The reality, though, is that the drm gets cracked and the game gets pirated anyway. So the end result is that the game costs more to make in order to put the DRM in, the user experience is often worse from having to deal with said DRM, and the pirates still do what they do. So nobody wins.

    At some point (and it may have arguably already happened with some games) the consumer will be able to a get better game by NOT paying for it, simply because they will be able to find a cracked version that doesn't treat them like a criminal. (ie phoning home regularly for security, getting pissy about being reinstalled, etc.)

  • I agree with you. But I think there are things you can do that make the people who buy your stuff feel special and important. And as long as you do that, I think you'll end up with a lot of people buying your stuff.

    I look at what Radiohead and NIN have done in this regard. Johnathan Coultan [jonathancoulton.com] is also a good example.

    People could've gotten and can still get the work of any of those artists for free. Many people choose to pay anyway. And the reason is that those artists do things to make the fans who choose to buy feel appreciated.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday September 11, 2009 @11:58PM (#29396023)

    to stop thieves and free riders and to help creators actually get paid for their work

    "The" purpose? No, that's just the only socially acceptable purpose. There's also lock-in, forcing you to re-buy content you already own, the ability to take content back from you either intentionally or just by making a server go dark. You sir, are disingenuous.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:05AM (#29396043)

    I wouldn't have a problem with DRM...

    If it didn't violate the First Sale Doctrine.
    If it didn't violate the principal of Fair Use.
    If it didn't violate my right to format shift.
    If it didn't violate my right to backup my data as many times as I want, in any way that I want.
    If it didn't violate my right to use my content on any device I want.
    If it didn't violate my right to use my content whenever I want and without expiration, even in the event that the content provider no longer exists.

    These are all rights that content providers have not been able to bribe politicians to take from us in the US.
    These are all rights that DRM can strip away, by making the expression of these rights impossible without circumventing DRM and doing that is criminalized under the DMCA.

  • by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:09AM (#29396061) Journal

    DRM doesn't stop piracy in the slightest. A check of any torrent site shows that.

    As you rightly said, it's about control. This claim that "honest people subsidize thieves" is absolute nonsense as:

    A) Despite the claims to the contrary, most people wouldn't buy the games they pirate anyway (when I did it back in the day it was for the collecting). Also people should be grateful for piracy as they're preserving these titles.

    In ten years time, if you want to install Spore for example, will you even be able to install a legitimate copy and get it authorized so you can actually run it? The pirated version will still be around and you'll be able to still use it. DRM like Securom which requires online activation conveniently puts an expiration date on the games you buy. If you can't play them in ten years time, you're only choice will be to buy new games, which is exactly what EA and the like want. Once again, it's about control. Piracy is just a red herring.

    B) If piracy ended tomorrow, prices would NOT drop. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a rube. These are folk in the money making business. Look at Starforce protected titles. Uncrackable when they came out. GT Legends took TWO YEARS to crack. Yet the game came out at the exact same price as everything else within that genre. Actually $5 more here.

    The reason games are cheap on Xbox Live is nothing to do with piracy, and everything to do with market exposure and standardization. On XBLA games are released pretty much every week, promoted well on release etc... The points system sets down a very rigid price structure.

    It's more that than anything else. It seems rather than DRM being the selling point, it's convenience and standard pricing. Stats from the like of Valve have shown that when a game is put out at a cheaper price, sales increase far beyond what was expected.

    It would appear that the folk behind Xbox Live have figured this out when laying out the service. It's better to sell 10,000 copies at $10, than 2,000 at $30.

    Look at Steam last Christmas. Bioshock sold an astronomical amount due to it being reduced to $5. Left 4 Dead also did the same when Valve reduced the price. So much so they said how surprised they were.

  • by maeka (518272) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:12AM (#29396067) Journal

    Radiohead and NIN are poor examples, and you know it.
    They both were established through the system before their little experiments with downloads-for-donations.

    The fact you used this broken argument pretty much proves the other's point. (Not that I agree with all the bashing you've received in this thread, I just can't let this one slide by.)

    Fact is I can browse the internet and find others who did make some money with downloads-for-donations, but I can't point to but a few who made a good living at it.

  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:15AM (#29396083)

    PC gaming essentially died because of

    Whoa whoa there, I'm going to have to see a netcraft report before I believe that.

    And anyway, I speak for PC gamers when I say you can take your "major game developers" - we don't want them. These companies have been churning out wildly successful but completely inconsequential titles for years. Fantastic graphics, a hundred voice actors, celebrity scifi writers.. It's like a summer movie. It's awesome, funny, whatever, but months later you've completely forgotten it. Hundreds of summer movies roll by, each with their flashy effects and compelling premise and stratospheric budget, and they're all the best movie ever but they're all indistinguishable.

    Well while the greedy lip-licking journeyman game studios descended the mountain to found gaming's Hollywood and make their fortunes, the wizened masters stood and watched silently from their monastery gate. The masters filed inside, leaving the gate unlocked- their students would return, extravagantly wealthy, seeking the deep secret to making a single game that doesn't utterly suck. Have fun with your awful shooter controls, forced release schedules, and games designed by executives.

  • Dishonest Summary (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:18AM (#29396093)

    The problem with the summary goes deeper than that. It's full of weasel words, disingenuously conflating copying or filesharing with "theft" and suggesting that you cannot be an honest person if you are every the recipient of copyright infringement. Spidweb needs to get off his high horse. I think there are fewer honest people among those who shill for DRM.

  • The same is true for almost all musicians. Almost no musicians who go with a standard record label ever make any money at it either. Which percentage is higher?

  • by TikiTDO (759782) <TikiTDO@gmail.com> on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:21AM (#29396103)

    I really think that you could even do large globs of money games, if you were to target the game at enough audiences. How about instead of DRM, you have a counter that's very visible in the menu that says, "You have used this for whatever days. Since you like it, you really should pay us for this, then we'll keep making better things for you."

    The fact is, if a person does not like your game, chances are many of them wouldn't have bought it anyway. If they like your game, and have money, a lot of them will pay a bit to fund you further. You just need to make it really easy. In fact, have a "buy game" button which takes you to your paypal account/enter cc number window right under the "pay us" message. Maybe even offer payment plans ($5 a month for 12 months), that would offset the distaste for paying $60.

    Most importantly, don't cripple anything. People hate to be pressured.

    That, only logged in.

  • Re:Watermarking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by init100 (915886) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:32AM (#29396139)

    Except its none of their business who owns a particular license after the first sale.

  • by gnupun (752725) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:48AM (#29396187)

    I absolutely hate DRM -- it creates problems for legitimate users and does virtually nothing to stop piracy.

    That's not even the worst part of DRM. DRM is about spying on users, collecting their application usage data, and uploading that to the company server. Why the hell should anyone pay $60 to be spied upon? Is violating privacy so cheap? There must be at least a dozen ways to avoid/reduce piracy without violating user privacy and not using this DRM crap.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:01AM (#29396223)

    There are a few laws of nature, most laws made by man are just there because we wan't them to.

    Why is stealing cars illegal? Thats because we don't like to get our cars stolen, it's not a law of nature it's there because we want it to.

    Nope. Or at the very least nowhere near as directly as you've put it.

    Stealing cars is illegal because (a) we don't like it but just as importantly (b) it is an enforceable law. Cars are inherently rivalrous and excludable. Software, and pretty much everything else categorized as "IP," is not. It's that (b) part that which is a law of nature that makes the human law practical enough to be worthwhile.

    Immaterial rights is important today and will become even more important tomorrow, thats where the jobs will be created in the years to come.

    No, "immaterial rights" are a house of cards. Far better to stick with what is enforceable - charging for the labor of creation rather than for the copying of creations because the labor, just like the cars, is rivalrous and excludable but the copying is neither. And then there is the entire problem that people LIKE to share stuff, we it is an inherent trait of humanity to share ideas, people gain social points by discovering cool stuff and giving it to their friends. Our entire civilizations is built on the sharing of disocveries and ideas. So, unlike stealing tangible objects such as cars, there is no clear consensus that "we don't like it." Thus "IP" laws go against the grain of human nature and the laws of nature - that's a certain recipe for failure.

  • Incorrect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:31AM (#29396327) Homepage Journal

    [T]he purpose of DRM is entirely admirable: to stop thieves and free riders and to help creators actually get paid for their work.

    Incorrect. The sole purpose of DRM is to give publishers control over a copy of a work after it has been ostensibly sold to a customer. (Its effectiveness in achieving this purpose is a separate question.)

    It is laudable that you would only choose to use this control for legitimate purposes, but that does not make it the fundamental purpose of the scheme.

    Furthermore, even if, in your benevolence, only intended to use DRM for this purpose, you would still stifle all uses of your work unforeseen by you. Would you have a problem with a legitimate buyer of your work using it on an emulator to enjoy it again twenty years from now? I suppose not. But if the current legal climate persists you would make a criminal of him.

    No. DRM is a naked play for control. An attempt to sell something but still act as its owner. Your good intentions do not change this.

    Honest people need to pay extra to subsidize thieves.

    Can you substantiate this claim? I can't imagine how any cost burden is placed upon you or your legitimate customers by people who aren't your customers copying your work.

    I suppose you mean that the costs must be defrayed over a smaller number of copies due to some imagined lost sales. But the question of what your costs would be if people who obtain your work illicitly obtained it legitimately is meaningless. If you attempt to discover the answer to this question experimentally by shackling your actual, paying customers with DRM you'll never know what your sales would have been without it. Much more importantly, you may or may not achieve your goals relating to those who aren't your customers, but you will certainly abuse those you claim to be attempting to protect.

    The choice is yours: punish your customers out of a sense of moral outrage, or align your perception of who your customers are with reality. Either way, you, and only you, must live with the consequences.

    -Peter

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jhol13 (1087781) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:45AM (#29396367)

    I disagree. DRM is not about taking control of your property: you do have the option of not using DRM and then your property is no way affected. I do not have any problem with that.

    The sole reason for DRM is to make (more) profits: by enforcing you to buy music several times (car, ipod, home, after X years or when old mp3 dies, resale is impossible, virgin store closure, playsforsure, ...).

    It has no other design parameters. Therefore it cannot be "squeaky clean", it is designed to rip you off.

    The fact that DRM must limit your HW is solely circumstantial and if it could be done any other way it would be.

  • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:50AM (#29396391) Journal

    Many people that have been burned by a shitty game will pirate before buying. As piracy increases, so do sales.

    I recall reading a blog post from one of those indy devs, trying to figure out how much a "pirated copy" is really worth. I believe the final guesstimate was about 5% of the price. (which is to say, 1/20 pirates may buy your game if it's good)

    However, you also have to factor in evangelism. Most pirates are very vocal about being pirates, and can offer unbiased opinions on whether a game is shit or not. I know some pirates that downloaded Fallout 3, and they've tried to get me to download it. I prefer to buy my games, so I'm waiting patiently for it to show up on Steam for $10. Ultimately this is an extra sale.

    Those same pirates told me to avoid UT3, and go with Section 8 instead.

  • by spidweb (134146) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:55AM (#29396403) Homepage

    I've read the comments here with some interest, though I think they parrot a lot of conventional wisdom about DRM and piracy that is, at best, unproven. And is, most likely, quite wrong.

    I never say DRM can be unbreakable. Of course. But I AM saying you can make a system where the prices are low enough and the protection is strong enough that it's not worth pirating. For example, XBox Live. And it works beautifully.

    As for rights. I don't like having to put locks on the games/books/songs people own. But hey, in a democracy, we all get what the worst of us deserve. If DRM is the price we have to pay for creators to be able to afford to create, place the blame where it belongs. Pirates. I think there's room to worry about the rights of EVERYONE.

    Finally, I've been getting the comment that people who pirate will never ever buy a game. I've never seen one bit of hard evidence to prove this. Not all people who pirate are identical. I promise you that if the price is low and the bother of pirating is high (again, XBox Live) some people will buy the game who might otherwise have stolen it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:56AM (#29396405)

    If I had to venture a guess, I think "release first/patch later" had more to do with the decay of PC gaming than piracy. Contrary to what companies believe, there is indeed a limit with how many flawed releases customers will put up with, before simply walking away and taking their money with them to another platform.

  • by Totenglocke (1291680) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:57AM (#29396409)

    I've argued these same points with Eidos employees on the Eidos forums.

    Another great argument to use is when they try to claim that "games cost so much because of piracy". Really? The average price of a computer game isn't much more than it was around 15 years ago, when piracy was essentially non-existent (it may have been around, but not in an amount that would really have an impact). The price of computer games hasn't even increased enough to keep up with inflation, let alone have the mythical cost of piracy added in.

    As you said, the games people pirate are normally always games that they would not have paid for. Therefore you cannot count a pirated game as a lost sale (since they wouldn't have bought it even if piracy was unavailable). Game companies use piracy as an excuse to avoid the real problem - most games these days SUCK. The games that are good sell tons of copies and make a fortune - even if they are pirated to hell and back. Why? Because people are willing to pay for a good game (and many people use piracy as a "try before you buy" deal).

  • Re:Incorrect (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ctid (449118) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @02:17AM (#29396453) Homepage

    Can you substantiate this claim? I can't imagine how any cost burden is placed upon you or your legitimate customers by people who aren't your customers copying your work.

    Surely this is simply economics? If he wants to make a living out of his game but a proportion of people who play it don't have to pay, he has to charge a higher price to those who do pay. Charging a higher price means that those who pay have to pay more (obviously) and a proportion will not buy the game. So there is a cost to players and a cost to the author.

  • Re:Watermarking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash.omnifarious@org> on Saturday September 12, 2009 @02:33AM (#29396511) Homepage Journal

    If the contract says otherwise, then they didn't sell it to you as people commonly understand the concept. That's the basic assumption behind the doctrine of first sale.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 12, 2009 @02:33AM (#29396515)

    Also people should be grateful for piracy as they're preserving these titles. In ten years time, if you want to install Spore for example, will you even be able to install a legitimate copy and get it authorized so you can actually run it? The pirated version will still be around and you'll be able to still use it.

    Direct2Drive has a 5 year anniversary sale going on, I bought the X-Com collection (6 games) for $5. There's no reason not to think that I'll be able to go there in 10 years time and buy Spore. Posterity is a pretty weak justification of piracy.

    DRM like Securom which requires online activation conveniently puts an expiration date on the games you buy. If you can't play them in ten years time, you're only choice will be to buy new games, which is exactly what EA and the like want.

    DRM isn't a strategy by publishers to force gamers to buy new games in the future. I have dozens and dozens of games that are 10 years old that I don't play... not because DRM prevents me, but because they're old. Players move to new games on their own, they don't need any help from DRM.

    Once again, it's about control. Piracy is just a red herring.

    It's not a red herring: without rampant piracy, there would be no DRM. Publishers implement DRM because they believe that they lose money because a portion of the people who pirate their games would have paid if a pirated version hadn't been available... and they're right. How much money they lose is up for debate. We know that 1000 pirated copies doesn't translate into 1000 lost sales, but maybe there's 10 or 50 in there... enough to make a difference, at least in the minds of the people who make the decision to implement these schemes.

  • Re:Watermarking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by julesh (229690) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @02:55AM (#29396571)

    Not if their contract says otherwise

    Contracts are not allowed to override basic legal rights.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @03:14AM (#29396623)

    It's more that you have to "polish" more to get people to buy it.

    Take any game that spawned a genre. Usually, they don't come with too stellar graphics or controls. Even for the time it was created in. But they were genuinely new. Lemmings didn't have such omfgwowzomg graphics, even for its time, but it was something NEW. In a sequel, when you can't live off the new car smell of the game anymore, you have to pump resources into eye candy.

    And eye candy costs. You have to hire more and maybe better artists. You have to streamline the code because you're now dealing with way more graphics overhead. You have to work on balancing and streamline the interface or else people will go "yeah, better graphics, but $annoying_nuisance_of_original is still there, basically the same game".

    In short, you have to throw a LOT more money at sequels than at originals. Mainly because the "new game" bonus doesn't exist.

  • Why is it so damned hard to understand? You want folks to buy, yes? Then give them a good value for their dollar! Examples-I bought the entire Joss Whedon collection, I have the nice box sets sitting here in front of me on a shelf. Could I have pirated it? Sure, but then all I would have gotten is the episodes themselves, and not the actor and director commentaries, the "making of" featurettes, the makeup and stunts behind the scenes, etc. In short they gave me MORE for my dollar, so I bought.

    For an example of gaming, EA got me to shell out for MOH:Airborne, even though I had already heard that it wasn't that hot. How did they do that? By packing all of the older MOH games PLUS an interactive timeline PLUS a "music of" with remixes and original recordings. in other words they gave me MORE for my dollar, so I bought.

    The problem is the large game companies have been infected with the "too big to fail" mentality, where they pump out one really shitty POS after another, or worse call something "multiplatform" when it is just a really shitty X360 or PS3 port, and then get pissy when folks won't shell out $59+ for it. Well what do you expect? Are you giving them a good value for their money? or are you just putting alpha quality POS code in a box and acting like your shit don't stink? Give folks an honest value for their dollar, and back up the money truck. It was true 100 years ago, and it is just as true today. Try to assrape them with crazy prices, shitty alpha quality code that needs a half dozen patches just to at more than 20FPS, lousy games that are just a ripoff of a ripoff, filled with *&^^%*&^% DRM [metacafe.com] and watch them try to screw you back. It really ain't rocket science folks.

  • DRM Is Fine (Score:1, Insightful)

    by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @04:35AM (#29396803)

    DRM is fine for me as long as the DRM scheme fulfills the following requirements:

    • The game producer is required by law to ensure that the game can be used infinitely many times on subsequent machines,only one machine at a time but including virtual machines, for the next 50 years.
    • The game can be resold as many times as you like.
    • When the game is deinstalled, there must be an option to remove all traces of the game and the DRM mechanisms without any exception.
    • When the game is deinstalled, there must be an option to remove all traces of user data forever from any remote locations where customer data is stored, including backup copies of it.
    • The DRM mechanism may under no circumstances negatively impact performance of other software running on the computer system.
    • In case the user is required to insert a DVD in order to play the game, this must be indicated clearly on the retail packaging and a free replacement DVD must be sent to the customer via express mail within a maximum of 3 days whenever his old DVD ceases to work.
    • On the packaging of the game it must be indicated in clearly visible, large red letters that the software contains DRM protection.
    • Opened and installed software purchases can be returned within 14 days if the customer doesn't like them. (Why not? After all, it's DRM protected.)
    • The game start/launch may not be delayed longer than a maximum of one minute by the DRM mechanism at any time.
    • If any of these requirements are not fulfilled then the game producer and/or the persons responsible for the DRM mechanism have to pay individual fines of up to 5 million dollars or go to prison for up to 3 years.
  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:25AM (#29396919) Homepage Journal
    Sorry to rain on your communist hippie love parade, but nothing costs zero. Even the time spent has a cost - the other things that could have been done with it.
  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:33AM (#29396941)
    "You have the right not to use it" is an argument against regulation. It is not an argument against consumer outrage. DRM takes control of your property which is why you should not buy games that have it.
  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:53AM (#29396995) Homepage Journal

    Consider this: The PS3 is still a secure platform, the XBox 360 is not. Therefore, since apparantly we pay hefty sums to compensate for software infringers and the publishers and devs are always saying how they would lower their prices if only no-one was pirating their precious bits, the games on the secure PS3 are in fact cheaper than the games on the unsecure XBox 360?

    WAIT, NO THEY AREN'T!

    Conclusion: The absense of software pirates will in fact NOT lead to lower prices.

    In fact, I'd say the pressure works the other way, if they could price games however they wanted, prices would GO UP! Some infringement works as a safety pressure valve. Too much and the platform is destroyed, too little and the platform won't grow. Further point: Where we have console AND PC versions of a game, the PC version's always much cheaper. You know, the PC where there is the highest pressure from infringers?

    So the next time these guys complain and use infringers as an excuse for their pricing, ask them to explain why the PS3 version isn't cheaper than the XBox 360 version, and I'm sure they'll give you some bullshit Sony and MS. Then ask again why we should care about infringers if the larger cost comes directly from the platform controllers...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 12, 2009 @05:54AM (#29396997)

    I think Blizzard should be made aware of that. So far, they are doing quite good with their current IP, even factoring out WoW.

    There will always be a market for PC games. Why? Not everyone has a console. On the other hand, a PC with some rudimentary 3D capability is on a lot of tables in the US and Europe. The fact that the larger companies with stale IP want to move to a closed platform just means there will be more of a niche for indie game devs with new ideas to come in and make a buck.

    I say let the big names step off the PC game field. Then we will see a market vacuum and there will be someone willing to step in to take their place with new, playable games. It does not take an eight digit USD budget to make a good game. One can glance at the Apple Store and the tons of games there (and good ones too) to show that.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @06:54AM (#29397145) Homepage

    It remains to be seen that other things would have been done with that time- but the time itself isn't typically factored into the costs of a game, except where salaries come into the picture on it. You can't quantify things QUITE that way- what if the indie game was done in spare time as a hobby? Can I deduct the time you say "cost" on my Income Tax as a business expense? No? I think you've your answer on that one. As far as the SYSTEM we work with is concerned the cost is zero.

    It's not a "communist hippie love parade" and you shouldn't frame it that way.

  • by Marcika (1003625) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @07:01AM (#29397165)

    Radiohead and NIN are poor examples, and you know it. They both were established through the system before their little experiments with downloads-for-donations.

    Your own argument is broken, because it applies just as well the other way around: If you are a small unknown artist, you have nothing to lose from free downloads (since you don't have any sales to speak of, the free publicity and word-of-mouth will easily outstrip the loss-of-sales); and for big established bands there are other huge advantages (they earn more from one donation than from the ten lost album sales, because their recording label doesn't take away most of the revenue).

    Cory Doctorow had a recent article about this: When he was an unknown artist and released his books for free, critics said it only works because he has nothing to lose; today the same critics say that it only works because he is already famous -- you can't have it both ways!

  • True, but it takes even more money marketing it. Of course, that shouldn't come as a surprise. You have a (non-free) market with an abnormally high margin profits and relativly big initial costs compared to production cost. Marketing is the obvious tool to earn money here.

    Truly great games require little marketing. Someone sees them at a game convention knocking people's socks off, and they show up in all the gaming mags without anyone having to lift a finger. Rehashes and sequels, on the other hand...

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @08:50AM (#29397767)

    Why is it so damned hard to understand? You want folks to buy, yes? Then give them a good value for their dollar!

    Why is it so damned hard to understand this position has no validity in the least. If this position were true, piracy for iPhone and Android would simply not exist. The simple truth is, piracy is flat out killing Android and even with the major rooting hoops for iPhone users, piracy is very much alive. Even more insulting, most quality applications on these platform provide extremely high bang for the buck. Hell, even many applications which have many hundreds, if not thousands of man hours still cost $0.99, or not far off.

    The simply fact is, according to a recent UK study, 60% feel they are entitled to steal anything IP related they want, if for no other reason then they feel they are entitled to do so. And yet despite this unjustified self entitlement, piracy is killing small developers and FORCING prices to be higher. Which brings us to the second lie often used to justify piracy. High prices, just like every other product, are often a reflection of fraud and theft. Pirates steal and justify it by claiming they do so because prices are so high. In reality, prices are often so high because they steal.

    The simple truth is, piracy is seriously destroying the commercial potential of Android. Because of piracy, using the App Store for a scaled basis of comparison, even the largest of Android developers are making, at most, 1/8th what they should be making. Many others are simply not making anything despite having huge pirate install bases. I can't stress it enough, piracy absolutely is hurting developers, deters others from entering the market, and forces costs to remain high.

    So next time you hear someone justifying piracy because of high prices, kick them in the nuts for being an idiot.
    The next time you hear someone justifying piracy because no one gets hurt, kick them in the nuts for being an idiot.
    The next time you hear someone justifying piracy because viral is helping, kick them in the nuts for being an idiot.
    The next time you hear someone justifying piracy because of DRM, kick them in the nuts for being an idiot.

    The simply truth is, pirates are nothing more than selfish, self serving, self entitled, idiots, who are hurting everyone.

    The next time a pirate goes to work, I hope they don't get paid...after all, no one got hurt and nothing was stolen. That's EXACTLY the same as piracy. That's how piracy makes developers feel because that's what pirates do to developers. And if it were not for these idiots stealing everything they can touch, there wouldn't even be a need for DRM. These douches are creating all the problems which they then use to justify creating these problems. So go on, have you kicked a douche pirate in the nuts lately? If anyone deserves it, they do!

  • by Joe U (443617) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @09:43AM (#29398115) Homepage Journal

    You're making a good deal of references without sources, can you please cite some?

  • by maharb (1534501) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @09:59AM (#29398261)

    DRM coupled with extremely high cost makes it dumb as hell to purchase many things.

    Record companies sell millions and millions of copies of a song for $1 with virtually no distribution costs or anything. They just get millions of pure profits to stuff in their wallets. With today's economies of scale in IP copying prices for digital wares should be drastically lower. Yet they are rising. Have you ever considered that prices should be a fraction of what they are today. Imagine if record companies sold songs for $.25 and put them on a server where you could download them if you lost them. In other words 100% DRM free with even assisted recovery of your files. This would be a huge hit and the volume of sales would increase by far more than the loss by the price cut. It would be easier to download the songs than it would be to pirate and you would never have to worry about losing your songs because your HD crashed and you only had 1 copy.

    A system like this would cater to a few pirates but guess what; They are the people that would never have bought music to begin with. They are not even in the market for music. On the other hand you would capture millions of people who pirate because they are filling their iPods with every song they like but can't afford to pay the price to fill it up. Times have changed when it comes to digital wares. Spreading your costs over more people at a lower price is the future of how media will be distributed, it is just a matter of who steps up and does it first. There are millions of people just like me, willing to pay for TV series, movies, music and games once the price is cut and they spread the cost over more people. Right now media companies are being greedy and paying the price.

    Times have changed from the CD production days when they could charge $1 - $2 a song. It is easier to record, there are more buyers, and the prices are the same. There are less distribution costs. Yet you are telling me to be sorry for these people? It is their own damn fault for being blind to the way society has evolved in the last 10 years.

    As for the phone apps that you are quoting. Go read some articles on why that may be. I have read a ton of articles and most of them point to the 'one use' phenomenon: Apps get downloaded used once, then never used again. In other words even if you think the app is amazing, the average user is only using it once then never using it again. When this happens with nearly every app people are going to have a hard time paying for something they know they will never use again.

    With my iPhone I only use about 1% of what I have downloaded. Now I will only buy something if I have used a trial version for a few weeks and see if I really use it, or if it is just a gimmick app that sounds great but you never end up using.

    Also, don't think I am advocating piracy. I think that all piracy is doing is giving these media companies someone to blame for their issues and they are going to get even more powerful because lawyers are their buddies, and lawyers are in charge of the country. Soon we will be paying a media tax and in the end it is only going to help the big dogs. Not little cell phone devs (that is what you are right?).

    Like the parent said: Give me a good value and the money will flow easier than ever.
    Take a look at steam and how well they are doing by charging less for games.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @11:14AM (#29398769) Journal

    Whoever marked the person above that a Troll failed Economics 101.

    See, it's not as simple as that - by that reasoning, it costs money to get people posting to Slashdot, because of the opportunity cost of what they could have been doing instead. Technically that's correct, but people would think it a bit strange to say that, and it's misleading to imply that someone needs to pay thousands of dollars to get people posting to Slashdot.

    And since the OP implied what it would cost - what someone would have to pay - I'm not convinced he was talking about opportunity cost, anyway.

  • You're making a good deal of references without sources, can you please cite some?

    Aaawwww, shove it up your ass!! You an all the other citation Nazi's who will not allow a single item or point you disagree with to be made anywhere, anytime without an impeccable peer reviewed source, properly cited and referenced.

    A curse on Wikipedia and the [citation needed] meme. It would all be very well if the meme people actually promoted critical thinking, healthy scepticism and proper fact checking. But as it is, the meme just promotes the petty and frankly groundless rebuttals typified by the parent post. Instead of actually bothering to critique specific points in the grandparent, the whole thing is simply tarnished with the [citation needed] brush in a fairly transparent attempt to outright dismiss it.

    Considering that the meme originated on Wikipedia, it's not surprising that its purpose has twisted beyond its ostensible meaning. [citation needed] was always just another example of the stonewalling, wiki-lawyering and petty bureaucracy that thrive in that institution. From there, it has moved smoothly into the mainstream as a general purpose discussion terminating cliche. I have never seen actual honest debaters of any kind ask for citations in this way. Its a rhetorical technique, not an honest rebuttal.

    There are points in the grandparent which could have done with some justification. Maybe. The one about the 60% feeling entitled to "steal" IP. The Android and iPhone being sunk by piracy was pretty speculative. Android developers (?!) making 1/8 less than iPhone developers. It would be nice to have all these things confirmed, but I'm not going to dismiss the entirety of the post and lower the tone of the debate by jumping up and yelling; "[Citation Needed]!! [Citation Needed]!!! Unless you can prove it to me, it's not true!!!!"

    So, take your tricks back to the playground or some other net forum. Adults are talking.

  • by maharb (1534501) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:33PM (#29399481)

    "Interesting note, piracy forces prices higher which forces a reaction to integrate ever changing DRM., which in turn drives prices higher. Nasty cycle pirates have created."

    Interesting. I can just as easily blame the media companies for driving people to piracy. The increased piracy is forcing them to think they need to raise prices and then they drive more people to piracy.

    "Their distribution cost is completely irrelevant. Its a straw man's argument. Likewise is their profit. For it to be even slightly topical is to argue the free market and capitalism is wrong. Are you saying no one is entitled to make a profit?"

    Quite opposite. I think these media companies are incompetent at capitalism. I think they would make MORE profit by distributing their media to more people at a lower price. The profit per person they sell to may be lower but the overall profit higher. The end result of lower prices would be more money for the media companies, more media for the consumer, and more people getting to enjoy the artists work.

    "We can already imagine that with iPhone and Android applications. While not 0.25, piracy is live and well for $0.99 apps which have very real costs associated. People pirate because they feel entitled, not because of price."

    The reduction in price to $.25 is more than 1/5 the price. Saying this system exists currently is a lie. 1/5 is a LOT. Cut the price of a Porsche by 1/5 and it is now the price of a cheap Honda.

    "Yet another lie pirates tell each other. If they would have never bought the song in the first place, they would have listened to it once, deleted it, and never listened to it again. Like stock, they effectively devalued it. Go illegally grab up a bunch of stock and when you get arrested, tell them its all okay because you would have never bought it in the first place."

    Stock in a company and copyright can not be compared. Copyright is 100% intangible, stock represents something tangible. Stealing stock is equal to stealing money. Copying a song is not equal to stealing money.

    It is true that many pirates would have never bought the song if the pirating system didn't exist. A number of reasons can represent why: They don't have the money. They don't value the song at the selling price. They have never heard the music.

    Piracy allows for people to download far more then they actually listen to because it doesn't hurt copyright holders to download extra. If I downloaded 1000 albums and never listened to them I do not represent 1000 albums worth of lost sales. This the the most common misconception about piracy: that people listen to all this music they download. I know pirates that have 100GB of music and listen to maybe 30 minutes of music a day, most of it from a handful of artists.

    "Then you failed to read that issue seems to largely on affect iPhone users. And just the same, that's not true for all applications either. If the application remains installed, they are assigning value to it. If they use the application, they are assigning value to it. If an item has value, and it is obtained without paying for it, the item has been stolen. For IP, we call this piracy. For stock, its called theft, fraud and/or embezzlement."

    First off, piracy is not stealing its copyright infringement. Get your facts straight first. Second, if people get burned by applications that don't generate value then they are going to become skeptical of all applications. Just like you think it is stealing for someone to download an app without paying, users think it is stealing from them to buy an app that doesn't provide any value to them (regardless of if it could create value to them). And once again, using stocks as a comparison here is not correct. Stocks are a security that represents real value. Piracy is not the same thing.

    Pirates are not some other breed of human. If things were priced reasonably there would be far less of them. They will never go away 100%, much like regular criminals will never go away. But rig

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @12:45PM (#29399583)

    You write as if the current copyright model does not create its own set of problems for SOME productions. Just how many 50M+ productions would cost that much without the risk-avoiding behaviour of the studios paying out 20M+ salaries to big name talent? Because the ransom model can guarantee profit before a dime is spent on production, the need to pay big names in order to reduce risk of failure at the box office is eliminated.

    Trust me - if you got rid of IP laws entirely you'd see entire industries go under.

    Yes, we agree. Just as plenty of industries have gone under over the years when technology made them irrelevant. Stagnation is bad, especially legally mandated stagnation.

    Who would even employ scientists? Right now they're mostly employed in industries where IP protects their research, or in academia.

    I'm pretty sure you just don't fully grasp the implications of being paid for your work. Maybe its because I've worked contract for most of my life so it comes more naturally to me, but it shouldn't be that hard to sit down and see how pretty much all applied science doesn't require ip protection - just a willingness of a consortium of companies to contract for development in coopetition. Companies that want to keep their research to themselves can rely on that law of nature - the trade secret.

  • by happyemoticon (543015) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @01:29PM (#29399899) Homepage

    I think it's important to point out that a lot of the successful indie games out there are 2D, whereas most mainstream games are 3D. Creating the same level of detail in a 3D game requires exponentially greater work. Games like Braid (or even mainstream 2D titles like Odin Sphere and Guilty Gear) can be beautiful without much work - Braid was done by like 5 people, wasn't it? But to get something really beautiful in a 3d setting, you need tens of millions of dollars, and even then it might be like Heavenly Sword - breathtakingly beautiful but tragically short (At least it had Anna Torv - yum).

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