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Pirates as a Marketplace 214

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John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, made some revealing comments in an interview with Kotaku about how the company's attitudes are shifting with regard to software piracy. Quoting: "Some of the people buying this DLC are not people who bought the game in a new shrink-wrapped box. That could be seen as a dark cloud, a mass of gamers who play a game without contributing a penny to EA. But around that cloud Riccitiello identified a silver lining: 'There's a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace,' he said, pointing to DLC as a way to do it. The EA boss would prefer people bought their games, of course. 'I don't think anybody should pirate anything,' he said. 'I believe in the artistry of the people who build [the games industry.] I profoundly believe that. And when you steal from us, you steal from them. Having said that, there's a lot of people who do.' So encourage those pirates to pay for something, he figures. Riccitiello explained that EA's download services aren't perfect at distinguishing between used copies of games and pirated copies. As a result, he suggested, EA sells DLC to both communities of gamers. And that's how a pirate can turn into a paying customer."
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Pirates as a Marketplace

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  • Half a game? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:35AM (#30375780) Homepage

    As a result, he suggested, EA sells DLC to both communities of gamers. And that's how a pirate can turn into a paying customer.

    So what you're saying is that we should only sell half the game in the shops and make the customer download the rest of it as DLC?

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:50AM (#30375848)

    Or simply release a skeleton of the game, and then demand payment for the rest.

    And you could even release that starting representative little part of the game for free. After all, it's going to be pirated you'll be getting most of your revenue with the DLC, right?

    And you could even call that representative little part "demo", and then say that the first DLC is the "full game".

    Brilliant! ...

    If they start releasing a significative part of the game as DLC, DLC will be cracked as full games are now, anyway.

    This is just one more way to use "OMGPIRATES!" as an excuse to get more money for the same game from the paying customers.

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dave1791 (315728) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:20AM (#30375960)

    They learned this from the MMO model. Piracy is a non-issue for online games. So be prepared for a future with microtranscations in your single player FPS.

  • EA is a pirate! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CmpEng (1123811) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:26AM (#30375982)
    I used to heavily play BF2142 and then decided to take a break. Upon finding the game stashed away in my closest I wanted to try playing it again with some old university friends on my new computer. Needless to say, after contacting EA they would not validate my account ( their server said my account had already been activated )and the game would simply not work for online play anymore ( the vast majority of game and only way to unlock upgrades is online ). So regardless of the that I was the original purchaser, with box and serial in hand, I was out my purchase of BF2142. I have otherwise always purchased my games and respected copyright but this experience has been a turning point for me with EA. If you're going to lock honest people out of their own products you can't be upset that your products get pirated; because you're pirating the funds they paid you.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:34AM (#30376012) Homepage Journal

    'There's a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace,' he said, pointing to DLC as a way to do it.

    I had no idea diamond-like carbon [] could make money in the video game industry!

    Or maybe they meant Data Link Control. Anything with the word "control" in it has to be a moneymaker for someone.

  • by gringer (252588) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:42AM (#30376048)

    And when you steal from us, you steal from [the people who build]

    Really? Do the people who build the games get paid royalties for games that they help create?

    If so, I suppose we can get into the 'making a copy of a piece of software' vs 'removing cargo from ships without permission' debate. If not, those builders got their money for the game before anyone was able to take it from them.

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grygus (1143095) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:44AM (#30376054)

    I think the opposite is true; you need a quality game for this to work. There is a class of pirate who isn't going to buy anything, no matter what. He can be ignored for the purposes of this conversation. There is another class of pirate who regards torrents as a sort of extended demo program. These guys either buy games that turn out to be good, or at least they wouldn't object to that behavior even if they often never seem to get around to buying the game. That's the target here.

    If you put out a game that is good enough right out of the box (or the original torrent in this case), and then issue compelling DLC they might well go ahead and purchase the DLC if that's easier than (or just as easy as) getting a torrent. A lot of these people aren't stealing for financial reasons; they're stealing because the pirated version of most games is actually superior in some way(s) to the retail version. DRM is removed, you don't need the CD in the drive, and it's convenient to acquire. If the DLC doesn't introduce any of those inconveniences, and if the button to buy it is right there on the launcher or even in-game (like in Dragon Age,) I bet there are in fact some pirates who are stealing the game but then buying DLC.

    I don't think it's a solution; there is no solution to piracy unless your game was free of charge to begin with. However, I think it's a healthy attitude and I think it's a step in the right direction; instead of seeing piracy as this holy war to fight, approach it as a sales problem.

  • Re:Thanks buddy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Grygus (1143095) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:57AM (#30376132)
    Disregard above post. I am out of date. Sorry.
  • by FictionPimp (712802) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:16AM (#30376228) Homepage
    Maybe it's people borrowing the game. Fake example: I beat Dragon Age, my friend wanted to play it. I gave him my copy to use. I can not play while he has my copy, but he made a EA account and got the DLC so he could play. Now we have 2 times DLC for 1 copy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:27AM (#30376266)

    While it is true that the pay of most people working on a game is not tied to it's performance, their job security is very strongly tied to it. What if nobody bought the game and everybody pirated it? The people who worked on it still would have gotten paid for their work, but it's also pretty likely their studio will get shut down and they'll be out of a job. Even if only 10% of the users pirated the game, the company might not have hit their revenue goals and might lay off some of the people who worked on the game.

    So yes, by pirating a game, you are hurting the people who worked on it. Just because the money doesn't come directly out of their pockets doesn't mean they are unaffected by piracy; it can still affect them indirectly.

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kamokazi (1080091) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:31AM (#30376288)

    It's that kind of stupid thinking that made me pirate the DLC for Dragon Age. I paid the full $50 and change for the game, then I pirated all the DLC, even the free DLC (Which, IMO, was much better than paid...Soldier's Peak kinda sucked), because to hell if I am going to phone home to EA every time I play the game.

    I do this because I think DLC has turned into nothing but greed. I was always a big fan of expansion packs....$20-30 for a nice lump of additional story or content. Then a few DLC-ish things started popping up here and there, which wasn't bad either. A nice string of extra content, priced reasonably. Apparently it was quite popular, as it evolved into the monster system we have now, where DLC is oftentimes content that should have been present from launch.

    Also I think DLC is targeted at used much more than pirated...this is just smoke and mirrors to hide their true ambition, in that they want to get paid for every person who uses a copy...and not paid for a single copy that changes hands a few times. Otherwise they wouldn't give out 'free' DLC with every copy of the game...a pirate will just pirate it, but a used buyer may not.

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bakkster (1529253) <> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:36AM (#30376320)

    As a result, he suggested, EA sells DLC to both communities of gamers. And that's how a pirate can turn into a paying customer.

    So what you're saying is that we should only sell half the game in the shops and make the customer download the rest of it as DLC?

    As long as the game in stores costs half as much, or gives credit to download the other half of the game, that seems acceptable to me.

    Some genres of game might even be better because of it. For example racing, sports, and music games.
    Racing: a core group of cars from all the classes, then download packs for american muscle, touring cars, exotics, supercars, japanese late-models, etc. You only pay for the cars you want.
    Sports: soccer (football) game where you only buy the leagues you want to play. MLS, premier, and national teams, for example.
    Music: same idea, buy the disc and get $X to spend on downloadable songs. Never have to play that song you hate, just don't buy them.

    Of course, this is predicated on the idea that the initial game would be cheaper (har har), and the DLC of course necessitates DRM (otherwise it all gets pirated, and it's a bunch of extra work for no pay). This would work great in theory, but in practice I imagine nothing good.

  • by Drethon (1445051) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:50AM (#30376430)
    Seems to be saying that now the paying customer will buy half a game for full price then pay to complete the game whereas the pirate will only pay for the complete game. Now if they were to make the paying customer pay half first and then the other half for the DLC it would cost the paying customer no more but then again someone will figure out a way to pirate the DLC so why are we discussing this again?
  • Re:EA is a pirate! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#30376486)
    Imagine Walmart, or some such, implementing cavity searches at checkouts. Imagine they said it was necessary because of the shoplifters. Would you really blame the shoplifters with a fist up your ass?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:45AM (#30376856)

    See the grouping they're doing with pirates and second-sale customers? In their minds, they're the same, but they aren't. Second sale are legitimate customers, buying used games from previous game owners. They want to stamp this out, because they don't get a second cut, and spinning it into piracy in people's minds is the first step.

  • Re:Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sebilrazen (870600) <> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:00AM (#30376998)
    Honestly? Are you still trolling? This isn't a general population website that has the story it's an informed audience website, a gamer knows what DLC is, a gamer visits Kotaku. The rules for acronym usage clearly state that if the acronym is commonly known it can be used as a word and needs no explanation, however if your audience isn't expected to know the word you must spell out the words first then parenthesize the acronym that will represent the words and then use the acronym.from then on. That is why we can write IQ, FBI, CIA, Washington, D.C. without issue.
  • by jcnnghm (538570) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:00AM (#30377002)

    So what is your solution to this problem? You still want these same "oligarch's" to fund the creation of the content you want, right? Why would they do so if there was no possibility of a return on their investment? You are aware that a large percentage of projects fail, right? What would inspire people to take the risk if there was no reward? More government? Magic fairy dust? Bullshit fantasy land?

  • Re:Half a game? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eonlabs (921625) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:26AM (#30377244) Journal

    So anyone that doesn't buy the game in the original shrink wrapped packaging is now a pirate? Man, EB Games and Game Stop make half their profits off used games. How about Play and Trade?

    Am I missing something here? Is it no longer legal to sell the original copy of something you purchased?

    In the same breath, the DLC model still works in this situation as well and, provided the original game is worth playing, can potentially keep a game fresh for a while.

  • Re:30k (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kz45 (175825) <> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:52AM (#30377528)

    "As a former EA Developer, please do steal from us. We don't get any bonus, raise, or anything if our games sell well. They work us long hours in every office and pay us slave wages. I switched to business development and earned 5x the salary. I love making games, but I'm sticking to indie titles with former colleagues for now until we get paid more than call center employees and don't get worked 90+ hours / week on titles that are rushed because we need to raise quarter profits so this guy can collect a bonus."

    In this crowd, your pleas will fall on dead ears. Most people here don't even see copyright infringement as stealing or wrong.

    I find it a little ironic. When GPL infringement comes up, many open source zealots and slashdotters see this as stealing. When in reality, it's just as wrong or right as piracy.

    The original author of the GPLd app loses nothing (the rights to the original code are there

  • by garg0yle (208225) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @12:13PM (#30377726) Journal

    Should games companies move to the Gillette model - give away the razor, but sell the blades, in essence? With more and more gamers depending on the "online experience", it seems logical. Of course, the counter-argument is that the traditional model gives you a large influx of cash up-front when people buy the game, versus a series of micro-transactions to get to the same level of profit. But for a more patient company, I think the Gillette model could pay big dividends - you get more people playing the game to start, since it's free, so (assuming the same percentage downloads additional content) your download market is potentially a lot bigger.

  • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lemming Mark (849014) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @12:17PM (#30377772) Homepage

    I don't usually do this but really the parent has an excellent point. It's bad enough that they have increasingly large amounts of DLC you can't resell or buy on a second hand market. Treating the second hand market as basically piracy is a) bad for consumers and b) stupid. When they find a way to make me pay full price for all games by eliminating second hand sales *I will buy fewer games* and I therefore won't buy the DLC for them. The people who didn't like the games and traded them in so they can afford new games will also be able to afford less. They'll be shooting themselves in the foot but, like the music industry, they'll be doing it in a way which makes themselves *think* they're winning. And if they do that, it'll take ages for sanity to break out, if at all :-(

    Maybe I'm being a bit dire but this is the way I imagine stuff going.

  • Re:30k (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:07PM (#30381734)

    I've said this countless times but people keep repeating this fallacy. Personal home piracy is downloading. You downloading something has no consequences that reach beyond your computer - if 5 trillion aliens decide to pirate Call of Duty, the game will still be just as successful.

    Now, let's take the case of GPL violation. An author who distributes a GPL program has to have some motive to give it away for free. It could be the satisfaction of having lots of people use your program, it could be you wanting to sell services, there could be lots of reasons for it. If you distribute a program based on GPL software without distributing source, you're competing with compliant distributors and (assuming actual distribution occurs) people are using your program instead of a legitimate one, and you're causing the author to lose out on customers that could otherwise be benefitting him.

    For example, imagine OSS startup A released a GPL commercial software product, X, which they intend to support for money. Evil Company B releases a derivative, X++, which includes their proprietary technologies and does not have public source code. People switch to X++. Company A tries to support X++ but can't because of all the proprietary additions. Company A withers and dies.

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