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PC Games (Games)

Game Developers Should Ignore Software Pirates 458

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

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  • Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slobber ( 685169 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:16AM (#22815756)
    Perhaps this is something that Microsoft should embrace for their own good...
    • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

      I don't know, convince me. Specifically, that it would be in MS's economic best interests in the form of making more money or whatever exactly warms the possibly-black hearts of their shareholders.
      • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

        Also, I have a friend who was a furniture designer/maker, on a low level. As he had been talking about it, I grabbed him something like Autocad (can't remember now) as a favour. He now runs a business where I figure they have half a dozen licensed versions. He'd still be in his shed knocking up one chair at a time if it wasn't for 'Piracy'.
        • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

          Artists at large have everything to gain of a system where people listen to a hundred time more music.
          • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

            Perhaps all we are seeing is the de-coupling of these, into two broadly separate industries.
            • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                There will always be music made for 'profit', and there will always be music made for the hell of it, but I don't think that means that one or the other will stick firmly to a specific distribution model.
                And music made for the hell of it is not necessarily better than music made for profit -- nor should it be. Even music made for profit can be a labour of love -- just one that is well-marketable.
                • by Nerdposeur ( 910128 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @09:15AM (#22818114) Journal

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

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

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

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

              • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

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

                Is the sum of all that talent worthless

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

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

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

                by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @07:03AM (#22817460) Journal
                If there was really that much involved in pop-music we wouldn't turn up our noses at it like we do.

                It's a sad fact that this 'consumable fashion item' we call pop-music nowadays mostly consists of remixes of old songs (usually just overlayed with some heavy beats) with some production line peroxide blondie 'singing' either the original lyrics or some new stuff. pop-hiphop isn't any better. Take a classic, throw some base drums in and 'rap' about bitches, money and all the luxury items you own.

                And when said blondie doesn't cut it as a singer, use a computer program to make it sound 'good'. Our company had some musicians over at an event. We were all supposed to sing a 'company song' together (you know, motivational crap...). It sounded like someone was torturing a hundred cats and three babies. Then they showed us how they went about it all, a little echo here, a small change of pitch there and voila, it was reduced to merely twenty cats and half a baby.

                Seriously, that is not music. That is the china-produced clothing of music. It is cheap, sold at a hefty price.
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  "Pop music nowadays" is not entirely oriented around Paris Hilton. "Pop" is an extremely large genre, with massive variations in production and song quality. There are both big name and unknown pop artists who write their own music and engage in extremely original, even groundbreaking, productions. You have decided to hold up a small fringe of pop music as representative of the whole. This is as dumb as when "regular" folks hold up fat, greasy, DND nerds as being representative of a "geek!"

                  Sure, there IS a
              • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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


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

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by SoupGuru ( 723634 )
                I listen to indie bands a lot. Not *because* they're indie but because they are making cool music.

                Compare music with food (not cars, sorry /.ers!). Take your global franchise like Applebees or Olive Garden. Do you know why they're popular? Because they have a decent-ish product, they're consistent, they're everywhere, they're marketed, and their food is engineered to appeal to the broadest cross-section of people as possible. They make sure they don't offend anyone's tastes. If you want Mexican food,
      • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Insightful)

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

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

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


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

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

        Businesses are creative. In the absence of government beating people into paying for them, they will find a way to be profitable.
        • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:4, Informative)

          by William Baric ( 256345 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:32AM (#22816238)
          I don't have any statistics, but my personal experience is that not a single small or medium business I saw viewed Microsoft as a partner. I always have to fight to make them buy (some of) their softwares and there are very few which have no pirated software at all. Saying the majority of businesses love to support the businesses supporting them, does not apply to Microsoft, Adobe or most other big software businesses.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by definate ( 876684 )
            That is because of Microsofts predatory practices and absence of competitive pricing. Which is somewhat, what the article was addressing.

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

            Additionally, for some reason everyone seems to assume that a lack of anti-piracy software means you are going
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

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

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

              and inadvertently developing a market for your pirated goods, which are now higher quality
          • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

            by tsa ( 15680 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:11AM (#22816438) Homepage
            Lately I bought XP and was then treated as a criminal by MS because I accidentally thrashed the installation. When I installed XP the second time it didn't want to 'activate' anymore. Next time I'll just download a corporate edition somewhere.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jonberling ( 1256136 )
        I don't think that the parent was suggesting that microsoft give away windows for free, just that they remove copy protection. You would still be legally required to pay for windows. I think it's a good suggestion. I have legal and free (well, someone else pays for it) access to most MS OS's. After having to call MS to varify that I don't have a pirated copy of XP/Vista running on my computer for the uptinth time, I finally said "Screw it!" and now use Ubuntu.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

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

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

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

        Fixed it for you.

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

      • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

    • Re:Hmm,,, (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

      Huh, that wasn't the conclusion I was going for, but whatever fits. Once again, Microsoft excels through brute force and incompetence. Viva la clippy!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dzfoo ( 772245 )
        >> There are some things the article leaves out.

        Actually, if you read the article (no, not the one in Ars Technica, but the original opinion piece by Wardell, linked to from there) you'll notice that he indeed covers those topics. His point is not necessarily that piracy is irrelevant, but that it is *not* the absolute reason why games are not sold. He mentions, along with the piracy bit, that designing games for a specific market -- that is, making games that actual buying customers want to play -
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by smchris ( 464899 )
        Heh, heh. Not to mention that the original Galactic Civilizations was OS/2. Protection through obscurity. It had a pretty benign one-time code recognition to activate.

        Could be worse. Installed Chuck Yeager's Air Combat in a qemu session the other day. I had thankfully forgotten that each boot requires looking up a trivial fact in the manual. Similar to 688 Attack Sub.

  • by TheMiddleRoad ( 1153113 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:17AM (#22815766)
    But copy protection still stops a lot of piracy, especially for shareware authors and multi-player games.
    • by Mr2001 ( 90979 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:30AM (#22815858) Homepage Journal
      TFA says "stopping piracy" is irrelevant.

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

      Strong copy protection might stop people from playing games they haven't paid for, but that doesn't mean it makes them go out and buy legitimate copies of those games. It might just make them move on to a different game (freeware or more easily cracked payware), or spend their time watching TV instead.
      • by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:41AM (#22815944) Homepage
        But presumably someone who pirates the game and plays it won't buy the game. That's not a bad argument.

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

        Having diminishing returns on the dollar does not automatically mean that the first dollar shouldn't be spent.
        • Plus, if you can actually reuse that same copy protection on multiple games, you can achieve economies of scale.
        • The first few bucks (say, on actually having a CD key) stop the 8-12 year olds who would just download it and play it.

          CD keys come with the download (or so I hear). Besides, what 8-12 year old is going to go out and buy a turn based strategy game with their allowance?

          The next large chunk of money (some online authentication) stops another class of people from just getting the iso and the crack and running it

          And what percentage of people who actually bought the game are going to get burned by this? What about people without internet? What if your server goes down? I've seen downloads that include the crack right in the installer so you'll never need the cd. That's the beauty of piracy: people working together to make it easier for everyone. In this case it's une

          • by Protonk ( 599901 )
            Here's why. Because if something has a marginal product that is dropping fast (large diminishing marginal returns), that means that those first few dollars are REALLY, REALLY worth it. In a way, this makes sense. Word of mouth is STILL an important evenue for game advertising. If the word is "F this, just download it", then you have not only lost one potential sale but 2. As you raise that number, network problems ((2^n)-1) work against you. What is that 10-20k (just sptiballing) better spent as? Som
            • You're missing the point. Piracy is easier than getting the game legitimately and will continue to be so as long as pirates can crack the game. Once the lock is picked, it's picked for everyone. Don't waste money putting a better lock on the thing, put your money into providing value for legitimate customers.

              If you make the game just as easy to get legitimately as it is to pirate (remembering that you can't make pirating any harder), things become clearer. Pirates don't buy games and never will; honest p
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by harl ( 84412 )
          You are completely missing the point.

          There is no diminishing returns. The first penny spent is waste. The premise is that copyright infringers are people who are not going to buy your product. So you ignore them. Copy protection is incapable of increasing sales.

          It is impossible for copy protection to work since the end user has both the key and the lock.

          Copy protection costs money. Spending money on something that doesn't increase sales is the same as burning money. What they're saying is stop burning
      • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:06AM (#22816088) Homepage
        Copy protection works for software. The error that most people seem to be making is thinking that if it doesn't stop everyone it failed. That is not true. Reznor's argument is only partially correct, only higher level pirates can not be converted. Lower level pirates can be, and they are more numerous. This also means that the most intrusive and questionable anti-piracy methods do not need to be used.

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

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

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

        Trying to stop all piracy is futile. But not using simple non-intrusives copy protection does cost sales. There is an optimal point balancing protection and incompatibility, and it is not zero protection.
      • You underestimate the power of video game addiction. People will pirate the next version of Avernum if they can, but a lot of people who would pirate it will cave in and buy. The same thing goes for many other games. The right copy protection can and does increase sales.

        And yes, at the same time, there's no use in caring what somebody who will never pay is doing with your software.
      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        I know that my software purchases have reduced to basically 0. Why? Because I expect to be able to pull an old game out of the garage that was fun in the decade I bought it, and still be able to play it. I also don't want to have to reinstall my OS after installing a few different games. I know that I haven't all but given up on PC gaming because consoles are better. I have given up on it because the software manufacturers have driven me off. Well not entirely, I still play some flash games.

        So, I g
    • Nobody said they still had to provide services to pirates.. a WoW server doesn't have to let you make a character there without a valid account. Other forms of copy protection are completely worthless.
    • by c_forq ( 924234 )
      Are you sure? I know tons of people who have cracked shareware (in fact the pirate bay is filled with shareware files with a key or key generator). And most multiplier games that I know of don't really employ copy protection, they just require you to have an account that is paid up to play. I know a handful of people who play WoW and downloaded the client from torrent sites.
      • Well unless they are playing on private servers, they could just download it from blizzard. The 7 and 14 day trials are essentially free a free client.

        Really, blizzard sells accounts not the software.
    • by Runefox ( 905204 )
      If this is meant to be funny, I apologize ahead of time.

      I don't know about you, but I haven't seen a single retail box game (barring things requiring online accounts like WoW) that hasn't been cracked in some form, and yet they still trust their software with invasive, abrasive protection methods like Starforce. Even games that are solely online-playable are capable of being cracked to connect to alternative, privately-run server software (Phantasy Star Online, World of Warcraft, etc). Copy protection is a
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:18AM (#22815768)
    Devil's advocate here:

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

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

    Private companies, or those not shackled to having to keep their quarterly profits up, to heck with anything else, its different In the long run, not having some form of copy protection brings in more revenue because more people see the game and will at least pick it up, especially if it has expansions.
    • by mabinogi ( 74033 )
      Public companies can do anything the hell they like, as long as the inform their shareholders - if they tell their shareholders they're not going to worry about piracy anymore, then those shareholders can feel free to sell and invest elsewhere if it bothers them.
    • Shareholders aren't managers. A company's discretion is not changed wildly by their public/private status. Shareholders may vote, choose new managers, or in RARE cases, sue, but they usually don't get (or want) control over the day to day running of a business. Most shareholders aren't active investors concerned with specific policies. they are mutual funds, sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and the like. They don't know and don't care. They invest based on fundamentals and their needs to diversif
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don't think that's quite right. Quite a few shareholders do want to know, and do care about detailed aspects of the business. These types of things are the essence of detailed fundamental analysis, and knowing these things are what gives good investors an advantage. The better mutual funds' managers are all over this kind of stuff. They are not active managers, but they are active evaluators of management. That's how you try to make money in this space.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Protonk ( 599901 )
          No, it isn't. Managerial independence to run companies is fundamental in making profits in the long run. And as short sited as investors are, part of the model for stock valuation comes from long run growth prospect versus acceptable risk and alternatives.

          Due diligence is important, but is REALLY important for large individual shareholders. in other words, a large shareholder may be able to press a company into a course of events it might not have done so otherwise, but it will require a lot of pressure.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 )
      In my case approach of Stardock worked the other way - I have boxed versions of Both Galactic Civilisations and GalCiv II...and I even not really into 4X strategies! (though GalCiv II might be changing that, not sure yet...)

      I wonder if they sorted out availability of Sins of Solar Empire in EU...not only I'll buy this game because it DOESN'T MESS IN MY OS (similar to..."scene" cracked versions of many other games), but I might actually like it a lot.
    • Public game companies can't just ignore pirates because shareholders will be all over them for not doing anything about such a big "loss of revenue".

      There are two problems here:
      1. If the company sees financial savings with no ill effects from abandoning invasive DRM systems then it's reasonable to assume that they can provide shareholders with the same graphs, charts, presentations, and analysis that would convince them that it's a good idea. If they don't like it then they can take their dollars elsewher

  • by dpx420 ( 1210902 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:28AM (#22815844)
    For a moment I read the title of this article as "Game Developers Should Ignore Software Patents"
  • by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:34AM (#22815890) Homepage
    I don't mean to sound like a copyright hawk (I'm not), but this advice is awful for game makers outside the freeware/shareware model. for one, no large game company is going to listen to this guy, so this ends up another tidbit for armchair game developers on slashdot to tell each other and assume it is true.

    For another thing, it isn't true. It's bad advice on face. Any product which takes significant production costs but can be gained for the use of a user's time (read: free) will lose money if the product is sold at marginal cost--or, if the product is offered at some rate above marginal cost but that cost is avoided for most users. The nature of game design is huge up front costs and a probable revenue stream to make up for those costs and generate a profit. If the average user out there can costlessly pirate the game, a good deal of that revenue stream is lost.

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

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

    the right answer is to find an envelope type solution. Envelopes don't prevent people from stealing or reading your mail. They don't even ensure that you can check 100% if your mail has been read in transit. but they deter the least motivated due to the minimal effort required (versus a postcard) and they deter others based on the threat of detection. there is no reason to build a piracy scheme similar to the HDMI demands--don't get me started. but it also is not even remotely realistic that major software companies will take a shareware outlook to piracy in the near future.
    • by filthpickle ( 1199927 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:30AM (#22816222)
      they give you (or don't hinder you from stealing) the single player to entice you to buy the multi.

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

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

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

      I am not disagreeing with what you say in your post, just pointing this out.
      • by Protonk ( 599901 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:40AM (#22816276) Homepage
        I think we agree (or would) on a lot of things. Offering a full featured teaser and charging for the (easy to police for copyright problems) multiplayer is a GREAT solution. That offers copy protection for the customers that want to pay for it in an inobtrusive way. That's what the guy isn't saying. It's not like they would be cool with you ripping them off for the multiplayer (though it is clearly possible). That's their real game.

        He just needs to be clear about it. That isn't zero copy protection. That is smart copy protection designed to make customers happy, not pissed off. I like stardock. I like most shareware game companies. Since I grew up on macs, those are the only companies I knew, because most "real" games didn't get ported (except mist......woo....hoo....). Shareware companies have the right idea about copy protection for THEIR level of game making. If EA produced sins of a solar empire, you might feel less of a twinge about ripping them off. I alwas felt bad about ripping those shareware guys off because their site always made it seem like they were eating cat food and my purchase would help them feed their kids. The feeling of altrusism is hard to replicate.

        They are on the way to the right idea. but they deliberately (because they are pushing their business model as teh awesome) are understating the nature of piracy (queue scary MPAA ghosts and PSA's about how ripping GTA means you fund terrorism). The low level piracy problem is converting those firs few chunks of potential pirates/buyers to buyers. The money still means that most game companies will choose the conventional route for now.
      • Your point about WoW is exactly what the article makes. Blizzard makes their money from the subscriptions. It's only in their interest to worry about people that crack the game and ruin it for paying customers. If a small percent want to crack and run their own servers, then what is the benefit versus the cost of stopping them... what is the COST to the good will from the PAYING customers if you put stuff like StarForce on their machines that trashes the CDRWs of the HONEST people? What the CEOs are sayi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LordLucless ( 582312 )
      Any product which takes significant production costs but can be gained for the use of a user's time (read: free) will lose money if the product is sold at marginal cost--or, if the product is offered at some rate above marginal cost but that cost is avoided for most users.

      Probably true. But the question is, does having copyright protection change the number of users who would avoid paying the game significantly? This guys argument is that it doesn't. The people whom copyright protection thwarts are the p
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

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

    • Well, except (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:30AM (#22817006)
      They follow their own advice, and it has worked so far. Galactic Civilizations II didn't have any copyprotection. They had a CD key if you wanted to get updates (not that you couldn't copy those as well) but the game had no technical measures to prevent copying. Well, it didn't just sell, it in fact did very well. It sold well enough that a number of retailers ordered a larger second batch (normally your biggest sale is your first batch, the rest are just to replenish inventory). For that matter you can download games you've bought by logging in to their software. However the files you download aren't encrypted or tied to the software in any way, they could be copied to another computer no problem. So they aren't just talking out their ass here.

      Now will it keep working? I don't know, but we'll see. They just launched another game, Sins of a Solar Empire, that is supposedly the same, no copy protection. I can't tell you about it, my copy from Amazon hasn't arrived yet, I'll get it Monday.

      While you are probably right that companies won't do this, that doesn't mean his view is invalid. He isn't sniveling that other people should make no money like him, because in fact they do make money. Also, while Stardock is small compared to many, they aren't a "shareware over the net" company. They sell boxed software in stores. Go in to Target, Sins of a Solar Empire is on shelves right now. Thus he's got some room to talk about how he thinks things should be done.
  • Bull (Score:5, Informative)

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

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

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

      by c0d3g33k ( 102699 )
      Yeah, and it also sucks that you aren't getting any money from me because I won't buy your game due to DRM. Which is the point of TFA. I've been playing PC games since the late 80s and used to buy nearly every game on the shelves (there weren't that many). I don't any more, primarily due to DRM. I'll probably never play Bioshock or lots of other games, not that I care anymore at this point. (No, I don't pirate them - I don't buy and don't play.) And I'm not alone. So did stopping teh evul bootleggars
      • by Protonk ( 599901 )
        Not to be offensive, but you aren't the target of the DRM solution. you probably don't buy games like bioshock because you've grown out of them. EXPLICITLY, the reason for game DRM is to stop the people who would buy the game but would rather pirate it. If you wouldn't pirate it or buy it, then who cares what you think? I would bet that the mere absence of DRM isn't what brought you to sins of a solar empire.

        The reason for that DRM is based on that concern. It is a design problem to make sure that you
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          This is absolutely not true. I, for one, am anxiously awaiting playing Bioshock. It is supposedly a fabulous game, and I fully intend to purchase it legally. There's just a slight catch, that being Securom. I will go to the store and buy Bioshock the day they release it without their rootkit in it. I will happily pay their $40 for it, but I want it DRM-free. This isn't because I want to do anything they would possibly object to with the game; I don't. It's simply that I don't want to willingly put a
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Protonk ( 599901 )
            Fair enough. I forgot the BS rootkit nonsense in bioshock. That's not an example of good copy protection. Let's pretend that bioshock had you log in to a steam style system (with a reasonable provision for a server outage) to install or asked you for a unique CD key? Would that prevent you from buying it? That's a better question.

    • For starters, DRM is beaten by cracking, and these guys are smart.

      Secondly, "in-tuh-lectu-all property" in China doesnt mean squat, and there's nothing you can do to change that. That's a Chinese decision that they have to come to terms to. If they dont, then you all can punish them by not migrating software to Mandarin. You arent going to fix another government when they dont want to be fixed.

      And lastly.. I thought you all could punish the stores that sell bootlegs. Copyright allows that kind of violation,
    • Re:Bull (Score:5, Informative)

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

      The real solution (aside from digital distribution) is to pull the game from the shelves altogether in these places. This will save your company the time, money, and effort of localizing, manufacturing, marketing, and competing against bootlegs, which should save you guys tons of cash. Chances are, the bootleg copies cost less and sell far more quickly than the real deal, if the real thing actually sells to begin with, and chances are your market really doesn't exist there (or barely exists), as such, because of it. Observe the rampant piracy of Vista in these areas. Why did Microsoft continue to attempt to compete with it? To spread their OS, same reason they "tolerate" piracy with WGA. What's your company's reason, it being a company creating entertainment software? Why should we Canadians, for example, have to sacrifice our right to a backup copy of (x) software because the Asian market is flooded with counterfeits? Why should your company have to spend money on DRM/Antipiracy software when it's only going to be cracked a few weeks after release? Does your company not realize that people are employed full-time in these areas to reverse engineer this software? No software is uncrackable (oh, except BD+. BD+ is God. Right, Sony?), and the sooner the software industry realizes it, the better it will be for the consumer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PopCulture ( 536272 )
      "This is a major problem in Asia, particularly China."

      what are your prices in China, and do they factor in the large PPP disparity found between there and Europe and America? Would they really be honest paying customers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Digital distribution and don't send physical copies to countries where this is a problem.

      You can make it out to cash, thanks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Or digital distribution, period. The places where people have money to spend on games are also getting faster and better Internet. And yes, game data is getting bigger, but if you remember, Half-Life 2 was a little under a gigabyte -- and the original Half-Life is playable without downloading the whole game first.

        So, your users can handle it. The only problem left is you managing all that bandwidth, and Amazon pretty much has you covered -- it'll cost you $0.18 per gig, flat rate, less if you let them be a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erpo ( 237853 )
      Yes, it sucks that backup copies are collateral damage in this battle. But you tell me a better method for us to guarantee that no wholesale bootlegging will occur, and I'll take it to my superiors.

      I'm totally against copyright/DRM/preventing private copying, and it seems like most people on slashdot feel the same way, but you might actually get some constructive responses to a reasonable question like this. I'm totally willing to think about the problem, and if I come up with the winning solution I won't t
    • Re:Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

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

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

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

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

  • Pirate conversion. (Score:3, Informative)

    by davolfman ( 1245316 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:40AM (#22815936)
    Actually there's a very valid reason to consider pirates: possible conversion into paying customers. If you provide a reason for someone who has already pirated to buy the game then piracy becomes a sort of free advertising. This is one of the good things about unique CD-key requirements on online games: it doesn't really prevent piracy, but it provides something extra for pirates to come into the fold in the form of multiplayer. It can even be legal. Just look at the spawn-copy and CD sharing systems blizzard implemented in Warcraft 2, Starcraft, and Diablo. Shareware also served much the same purpose. Sure you could get a full copy of a game off a pirate BBS back in the day, but if you already knew you liked the game you couldn't shake the lingering feeling you were being a total scumbag as you did it.
  • Better idea (Score:4, Insightful)

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

    Most restaurants do not have problem with patrons running off without paying the bill. Game/general software industry needs to figure out how they encourage the behaviour that hurts them.
  • Trent Reznor's cost of manufacturing is quite low in comparison with the amount of effort spent on copy protection. A game that costs $200 million to make and hopes to earn $250 million can afford to throw $500K into copy protection without really hitting the bottom line.
  • As long as the Internet remains a free and open protocol (with the same effect seen in the sneakernet before it) then absolutely nothing will stop a pirate with half a brain cell. The trick is to find a way to not punish your customers who actually bought the product along the way. I hate the inconvienience of digging through a pile of hopefully unscratched from the digging discs to find the one I want to play. Fair-dealing here in Canada lets me use cd-cracks to avoid that hassle. I wouldn't mind seein
    • by Protonk ( 599901 )
      Your first paragraph offers a very sane solution. I think most games should be authenticated or delivered through a Steam style system with a "cd key" as an offline backup.

      debating your second paragraph is a task for another thread, but I don't feel that you are correct. Work doesn't get done without a promise of repayment. That payment doesn't have to be monetary, as we learned with Linux, but most people learned the wrong lesson. People thought that the Linux lesson was that the appropriate payment wa
      • Thank you for the first paragraph.

        To elaborate on the second, I believe that right now game developers in specific deserve to be compensated for their effort. For the fact that division of labor is of a much rougher granularity in that area. Linux is composed of hundreds of thousands (give or take what I'm wrong) packages that happen to get packaged together in tens of major distributions. The sheer number of packages means that an individual can concentrate on a very small focus and still meaningfully
  • by xkr ( 786629 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:51AM (#22816014)
    Whining about pirates is like complaining about all the girls you could have dated. But didn't.
  • by brit74 ( 831798 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:03AM (#22816066)
    "Brad Wardell, CEO of Stardock, has a much different point of view: the pirates don't matter.... ignore piracy"

    Uh huh. I call BS. With his Galactic Civilizations II, they didn't use DRM. You know what they did do, however? They enticed users to own legitimate copies by limiting updates and bug fixes to those legitimate users. At that time, he argued that DRM could be cracked and was burdensome on legitimate users. But - by offering upgraded service to legitimate users, he was aiming to make sure pirates had a weaker experience of his game. Brad Wardell is *not* ignoring the pirates - he's got his own ideas about dealing with them, but "ignoring them" is not his strategy.
  • In other words... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 )
    ...a pirated copy does not usually equal a lost sale. Duh. That's what I've been saying for years. People pirate stuff because they wouldn't or couldn't buy it in the first place.

    I'm not talking about counterfitting, which is entirely different in my mind from piracy. Counterfitting is when someone produces copies of a product and passes them off as the real deal for profit. Counterfitters should go to jail for trying to make a buck off someone else's hard work. Piracy is when someone snags a free and
  • by Cannelbrae ( 157237 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @02:20AM (#22816488)
    While I have a great deal of respect for the author, this doesn't help quite a few of the companies (and PC gamers) out there.

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

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

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

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

    Its going to be a rough few years as big devs figure out how to stay in buisness. Its likely to drive the 'big/blockbuster' titles even more towards the consoles which big markets and lower piracy rates so far this generation.
  • Some mod up.. (Score:3, Insightful)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How prescient. (Score:4, Insightful)

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

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

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

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

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

  • He's 100% right (Score:3, Insightful)

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

    Further ramblings are available on my blog at [].
  • by Turiko ( 1259966 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @05:25AM (#22817190)
    Game developers generally put a lot of money into making the games harder to crack. The bad part is that they're still being cracked. So they lose money over nothing...
  • by garylian ( 870843 ) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @04:13PM (#22831444)
    The article is essentially correct, copy protection is basically a waste of the game developer's money.

    I'm tired of having to keep a CD/DVD in the drive, as I tend to end up playing several different games each month, or going back to old games. Since I am swapping discs, I sometimes end up leaving one laying on the desk, and it can go unnoticed for a bit. I've had 2 game discs ruined by that, which is admittedly my own fault. But the game was already installed on my HD, so I should have been fine. I wasn't.

    The only copy protection that I've seen be effective against pirates is what I like to call the "zero day release protection" that seems to happen. All games these days are released too soon, with little to no beta testing or Q/A. So, bad bugs are present when the game hits the shelves, and often times the bugs are fatal issues to the game. Without a patch to fix those bugs, the game is basically a demo disc. Unlock the full game by getting the patch that was miraculously available a few days after release, and the game works much better.

    Really, I would much rather have to register my copy of a game so I can patch it, than have to keep the CD/DVD in the drive. Once validated, I'm good.

    It's why I've played so many MMOs over the years. No discs in the drive, the game gets patched all the time, and I get new content frequenly in most of them.

    I was really disappointed with Hellgate:London, as they made you keep the DVD in the drive for solo play, but for multi-player, they didn't need it. Why? Because they wouldn't let you play on a LAN, it had to be on THEIR servers. I found myself playing solo on the multi-plyaer servers so I didn't have to keep a disc in the drive.

    Most copies released on Usenet and through torrents are zero-day releases, so there is no patch available without a valid/registered CD key. Pirates get to play a "demo version" that will crap out within 2 hrs of starting gameplay in most zero-day releases. They get to see if the game is crap, without having to use the real demo that is usually so spit-polished that nothing ever goes wrong. That's the only advantage I can see to pirating a game. You know more than the flawless demo shows you, which is often some of the best of the game.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.