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How Piracy Affected the Launch of Demigod 613

Demigod is an RTS/RPG hybrid developed by Gas Powered Games and published by Stardock, a company notable for their progressive and lenient stance on DRM. The game was set to be released on April 14th, and shipped without any form of copy protection. Unfortunately, retailer Gamestop broke the street date and released it earlier in the week. A day after pointing this out, Gas Powered Games posted some numbers about the players hitting their servers. Roughly 18,000 connections were made from legitimately purchased copies; over 100,000 were made from pirated copies. Meanwhile, the servers, which were not yet ready for that level of traffic, buckled under the strain, resulting in poor experiences for people trying to participate in multiplayer. While some reviews were positive, others criticized the game for the connectivity issues. After another day, they were able to stabilize the servers to the point they'd planned on for the original launch.
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How Piracy Affected the Launch of Demigod

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  • by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:27AM (#27624821) Homepage

    I don't think anyone has really argued that. The main argument "in favour" is that piracy doesn't affect sales - most of those who download the game wouldn't have bought it in the first place. This example is interesting for me in two ways:

    Firstly, and somewhat negatively, it demonstrates that people pirating your game can increase the cost of running the servers for it considerably. That is a strong argument in favour of anti-piracy techniques such as DRM (assuming the DRM costs less than the cost of additional servers).

    Secondly, and rather more positively, in the case of a online multiplayer game, having 6 times the number of players from the off is a bonus. A community of 18,000 would amount to empty servers a lot of the time especially if the game is available globally. A community of 118,000 would still be quiet in comparison to games like Counterstrike, but it might well be large enough to attract more players, at which point perhaps the game 'snowballs' into a huge community.

    As with everything regarding piracy there are two sides to the coin. Only a very detailed statistical analysis of the numbers could tell you if it was a good or a bad thing, and even then people would still argue with the result.

  • Figures! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:28AM (#27624827) Journal

    This is so typical.

    The same thing happened to the game Titan Quest. I've never seen a game so stable and masterfully crafted before. The devs listened to the community and actually added features and tweaks to the game just for them.

    Yet all the reviews I saw were negative. "Yet another Diablo II rehash", "plagued with crash problems - can't even get past the cave in the starting area". Well, it's a rehash in the way WoW is a rehash of EQ or UO, I suppose.

    Unfortunately for them, the guy cracking their DRM failed and didn't care, so every torrented copy crashed 5 mins in. Also, he released it 1 month before TQ went on sale, giving time for thousands of people to download it (millions if it hadn't crashed 5 mins in :P )

    Ever since I bought three games that wouldn't run because of DRM, I've been a bigger supporter of Piracy - but seeing my favourite companies go down because of it makes me less happy. :/

  • by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:29AM (#27624833) Homepage Journal

    If one person who could crack the game had gotten it a week early, would DRM have helped prevent this?

    One store sells early, and then there are a bunch of downloads.

    One person breaks the DRM, and then there are a bunch of downloads.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:31AM (#27624837) Homepage Journal
    In this case does having a copy of the game entitle you to use the servers? Maybe they should charge for the service and use the revenue to expand their server farm.
  • by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:41AM (#27624899)

    Why, oh why is it that everyone is so gullible around here and just assumes that the data, as presented, has any relationship whatsoever to reality? Can any one of you verify this claim of hundreds of thousands of "pirates"?! Isn't the man telling you this a rather biased source, who has, based on his Stardock forums posts long since regretted not putting DRM in his stuff and has been increasingly draconian about the updates, activations, use of Impulse update software and what not? How is it that no one bothers to ask these questions before simply taking these dire proclamations at face value?

    Do you guys start pulling your hair out and beating your chests in penitence every time some Sony or Warner announces that they "lost" 20 times the GDP of France to "piracy" last week?! Do you?

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:31AM (#27625129)

    Irritating the few legitimate purchasers at that date is guaranteed to irritate those legitimate customers, who have personally done nothing wrong.

    An announcement that "GameStop released early, my god a lot of people jumped on, we're bringing the rest of our servers online ASAP" would be reasonable.

  • Re:Figures! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:40AM (#27625181)

    Possible. But if the cracker released the game a full month before the official launch, there could have been other reasons for the problems. For instance, he somehow got his paws on a beta that was not fully debugged.
    And then there are games where the bugs are the fault of the developers, or even the fault of uncracked DRM. My copy of X2 (original without any cracks) went from stable to reproducably crashing when I installed the patch to version 1.4. In the same patch, the copy protection was upgraded to a new, more aggressive version of StarForce. Coincidence?

  • by dr_wheel ( 671305 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:47AM (#27625225)
    While I'm somewhat disappointed by the staggering number of pirated copies vs. legit copies of Demigod, I'm not at all surprised. I fully support their stance on DRM and while I do admit to pirating some video games, I went out and bought Sins of the Solar Empire. It's a terrific game.

    Now, I have a friend who I was trying to coax into buying Sins. He didn't have the money at the time, so he downloaded the full game. We were able to play online together with no problems. Did he eventually buy the game? No. Why not? Like the rampant movie and music piracy that we see online, I think the answer is simple:

    People, in general, have no moral issues with not paying for something that is readily available for free. After all, if you've already received the full product and "gotten away with it", why should you pay for it?

    Now, Stardock has smartened up regarding Sins. You can no longer receive updates and play on the legit servers unless you register a legit CD key. In this way, most online games are safer from piracy in that they require a valid cd-key to play on legitimate multiplayer servers.

    But here's my question to developers... whatever happened to releasing a partial shareware demo of your games before retail release? This is the business model that seems to have worked so way back in the day and got me to buy games like Doom, Quake, and the like. When did it become so important to get the game out the door that a game demo became a crippled, afterthought that might be released several months after launch?

    Game developers really need to rethink their strategy on this one. Stardock has the right idea and should be applauded for their efforts to cater to the gaming community, but more can be done. Bring back shareware before release. Allow users to trying a full episode or 2 of your game, or maybe even grant temporary cd-keys to everyone at launch and let people play the full game for a few days and then lock them out. I want to buy your games. But show me that they are good and worth buying first.

    Side note: I'm still goading said friend into buying the game so that we can play the new Entrenchment expansion online. We'll see how that goes.
  • by Mprx ( 82435 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:24AM (#27625429)
    It doesn't matter how old that usage is -- it's still propaganda.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:38AM (#27625505) Homepage

    Similarly for me...
    I started off buying games based on reviews in magazines, i would get maybe 1 new game every couple of months... Some of those games i bought turned out to be lousy and a complete waste of money (they all had positive reviews), while some kept me entertained for weeks.
    After a while i realized i could copy games, so i started doing that, trading games with friends, buying copied games off a guy on a local market stall. I still spent most of what limited cash i had on computers, but now i bought less games (only the ones which would actually provide me weeks of entertainment), more blank disks and was able to upgrade my hardware.

    So yes, some game companies lost out, the ones producing lousy games and paying off reviewers... But because of that, the only games i ever bought were ones i knew to be good, so those publishers making good games actually got more sales from me because my available funds weren't being conned out of me by publishers of crap games.

  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:50AM (#27625559)
    In this case, occam's razor says they wanted the game, but could not buy it... These stats were produced before the legitimate release date in all shops, so the purchase vs copied ratio is going to be very seriously skewed. Be interesting to see what they are a month or so post official release...
  • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:53AM (#27625575)

    Stardock is known for being very open about the piracy issue - even lackadaisical. What I'm wondering is why they even bother distributing games anymore.

    No, this isn't a "They should just give up" post. We all know that the physical media isn't all that important considering that it can be ripped and uploaded.

    So why bother with distribution at all? Put your game up for free. Let people download it. And sell the serials. Boxed copies come with some sort of physical extra to make it worth it along with the CD-Key.

    Example situation: a college student torrents a Stardock game and finds that he's playing it a lot. He decides to buy a license/serial so he can play on the official servers. He pays via CC and gets his serial. That serial is tied to his CC info in a secure database (to allow for recovery in case of theft, much like what Steam permits), and the serials are generated in the "allowed serials" database for servers at the same time they are sold (so keygens wouldn't work).

    Some games such as WoW are ridiculously easy to pirate. There's emulated (private) servers floating around where people can get a simulacrum of the official experience, but it's never as good. When a company wraps its head around this fact - that it's the service they provide to the player that will get them the money, and not necessarily the game design - things will work out better for everyone.

  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:46AM (#27625815)

    Just because the wrong word has been used wrong for a long time doesn't make it right.

    Uh, that's *exactly* what makes it right. I am old enough to remember when "hacker" used to mean "computer enthusiast," and did not have any pejorative connotations. I am even so old as to remember when "hacker" meant "a bad golfer," before the word was co-opted by computer use entirely.

    Seriously, "Piracy" now equals "Copyright Infringement." Stop fighting it, you're embarrassing the rest of us.

    Like it or not, media influences language, and it's completely legit. If you want a fascinating and telling lesson in the process, look up the history of the word "geek."

  • by pancakegeels ( 673199 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:54AM (#27625853)
    Although these were exceptional circumstances, if we imagine that the ratios they experienced were true 18000/118000 is about 15% are payers... If they reduced the price to 15% of $40 = $6 ...Would that ratio change by much? Would more people buy the game overall?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:46AM (#27626589)

    Whether piracy (copyright infringement) is good or bad, is, if anything, the wrong argument. The reason for this is simple - copyright infringement is in HUMANITY'S favour - but not in the favour of certain people/groups/companies. This is why copyright is, and always has been, a double-edged sword - (which is now going so far out of balance in favour of certain people/companies and against humanity it's getting ridiculous).

    No - the problem we have now, is that INFORMATION (in itself), because of the invention of the internet, (i.e. the worlds greatest ever information distribution, storage and copying system), is now worth VERY LITTLE.

    This has caused two main problems:

    1) Too many people/groups/companies etc. still value their own information/content FAR too highly, without understanding or accepting why it's not worth as much any more.

    Which leads to:

    2) Too many people/companies etc., because of the over-valuation of their own information/content, are refusing to identify and use other methods of generating value by USING the fact that their actual information and content isn't worth as much. I.e. giving away a game for free, (the information), but charging for access to a server in order to play it etc..

    Piracy is NOT a problem, UNLESS your company is stupid enough to try and make money PURELY from selling information itself, but if you ARE that stupid, then when should you DESERVE to be in business?

  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:48AM (#27626605)

    because they barely read the summary, not the article and especially not the Stardock blog entry.

    This is the modern world, shaped by headlines and soundbites. Did you really expect anything else. Fortunately we have people like the the parent poster who take the time to put us right.

  • by MBraynard ( 653724 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @05:15PM (#27639421) Journal
    You don't understand distribution or software. The perspective of a very, very tiny and childish mind.

    It's a waste of money to have servers ready to go before people have the game.

    And stores need time to distribute their stock to all their locations so they can start selling at the same time, otherwise some will have an advantage over others. If GS cant' distribute as fast as Best Buy, then Best Buy would have an advantage of being able to sell the game out and sell it first, and then GS would decide not to carry the game at all.

    Release dates are for a reason.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.