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DRM-Free Game Suffers 90% Piracy, Offers Amnesty 795

bonch writes "Independent game Machinarium, released without DRM by developer Amanita Design, has only been paid for by 5-10% of its users according to developer Jakub Dvorsky. To drive legitimate sales, they are now offering a 'Pirate Amnesty' sale until August 12, bundling both the cross-platform game and its soundtrack for $5. Ron Carmel, designer of DRM-free puzzle game World of Goo, stated that his game also had about an 80-90% piracy rate, claiming that the percentage of those pirating first and purchasing later was 'very small.' He said, 'We're getting good sales through WiiWare, Steam, and our website. Not going bankrupt just yet!'"
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DRM-Free Game Suffers 90% Piracy, Offers Amnesty

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  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:33PM (#33180834) Journal

    The sad thing is that PC publishers will destroy their own gaming platform by breaking their games, instead of catering to their paying customers. Good example is Modern Warfare 2 which was heavily "consolised" and you have to admit, not having dedicated servers and everything else sucks.

  • Re:That's cute (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:36PM (#33180864) Journal

    So.. the people who are willing to support the things they love economically will get games. The people who aren't, won't. What is the problem here? Sounds like the free market working.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:29PM (#33181316)

    you are mistaken because you think about some forsaken places in the 3rd world where dragons live. Think central/eastern Europe. In Poland we have computers and internet but avg wage is somewhere around 800 euros/1000 bucks (gross). Unsurprisingly Poland scores high in the rankings of notorious pirates.

    standard edition of Starcraft 2 with its $60 price tag is 20% of a minimum monthly wage after deductions. Granted, usually games are somewhat cheaper than in rich western countries (music and movies are not, quite the contrary) but they are far far from being in the same ballpark in terms of price to purchasing power ratio.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:32PM (#33181340) Journal

    The 90% piracy rate is quite much the norm with PC games.

    Oh? And exactly how do you know this? We have the word of game developers, like this Jakub Dvorsky and that's about it.

    Assuming that they are correct (which I'm not willing to do), how many of those "90%" would have bought the game if it had DRM?

    I get the feeling that a lot of these claims from developers arise out a mediocre game (though in this case, a good-looking mediocre game) not doing as well as the investors hoped and the developer wants to divert attention for his so-so game by saying "It didn't sell well because of piracy" hoping that the investors will buy it and give him money to make another game. What's he going to say when his next game doesn't sell? They're basically claiming that if their games had DRM they would sell almost ten times as many games. Does that pass the smell test for you? Whenever I hear one of these claims, I like to go read some of the reviews of the game to see if it would have sold so much better with DRM. And you have to look at the user reviews, not the ones written by the websites that take advertising money from the game industry. I've always marveled how critic's reviews are so often way ahead of user reviews. Critics: "8 out of 10" / Users: "4 out of 10". Your opinion of a game is somewhat different when you've pulled that $50 out of your own pocket. If you're the one spending $50 for example, 3 1/2 hours of gameplay is not quite as impressive as it might be to a critic who received the game gratis from the marketing department.

    There are limited dollars in this world economy for people to spend on video games. I don't believe for a second that if every game suddenly had DRM that sales would jump through the roof. Even sales of Playstation 3 games are soft right now, so what's their excuse?

    All it takes for a loyal gamer to become a big fan of bittorrent is for him to spend >$50 a few times on a game that stinks. Try to bring that game back to Best Buy for a refund.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:36PM (#33181388) Journal

    With a 90% piracy rate on DRM free games, clearly catering to your paying customers is working out pretty well. What was the successful piracy rate on these very locked down games again?

    Making a game attractive to paying customers makes it attractive to pirates as well. The piracy rate tells you nothing important. A super effective DRM could reduce the piracy rate by 99%, but if it costs you one paying customer it's worthless.

    These excuses don't hold up in the market anymore. The data is conclusive: people are cheap and will pirate it if there's an easy way to do so.

    And if it's not easy to do so they're cheap so they'll just pirate something else instead of buying your game. Paying customers are cheap too, and if they see that the cracked version is better than the DRM'd version (as is often the case) there's a good chance they'll pirate it instead.

  • Re:Missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

    by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:40PM (#33181430)

    Actually, I use Steam because
    a) They regularly have sales, even on relatively new titles.
    b) My games follow my account, not my computer, so I don't have to worry if I'm using some random computer for some reason, just so long as I can log on to the internet for about 5 minutes (using the local backup ability means I just need to log on to the Steam service to get my list, not download the entire game).
    c) I don't need to keep CDs/DVDs around. I literally don't know how many games I can't play because I lost the disc or it's damaged just barely enough, and it's not sold any more.

    Downloading updates automatically wasn't even on my list, since most games have a "check for updates" feature built-in, either automatically on start, or through a menu, whatever. In my opinion, Steam is DRM done *correctly.* It offers various value enhancements to the user, rather than simply restricting rights. If you're against DRM on principle, it's not going to win you over, but if you only worry about the intrusiveness level, Steam is probably the most gentle scheme out there.

  • by judeancodersfront ( 1760122 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:42PM (#33181452)
    They are just comparing sales with completed torrents. It's actually a conservative estimate since there are other forms of piracy like private servers.
  • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:47PM (#33181508)

    People, especially PC games pirates, want to play the games that are hot right now. They don't sit down and say, well gee, pirating Call of Duty is kind of hard so I guess I'll download Bubble Pop instead. They sit down and say, well gee, pirating Call of Dity is kind of hard so I guess I'll buy it.

    Citation needed, as it doesn't match my personal observations.

    The assumption that every CEO of (nearly) every games company is an idiot is amazing. They use DRM because they have accumulated lots of evidence that it's worth the cost.

    So I guess the CEOs of game companies that *don't* use DRM are the idiots, right? and again, Citation needed on your "evidence", because IIRC Ubisoft's sales of AC2 were considerably lower than the first one, and (according to reviews) it's a superior game in every way outside of its DRM, and after Spore et al EA has actually pushed *back* on the DRM, preferring to spend their time fighting the second-hand market instead.

  • Re:Missing the point (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:47PM (#33181512)

    Sometimes, it's useful; or at least, bugging the un-customers is useful. A friend of mine sold a small app that futzed with outlook addressbooks, up until about eight years ago. It did some useful stuff (as a mac user I'm not familiar with the relevance, but it's not my story) that a few people liked, and the mailing list set up for users of the app filled with people using it, sometimes asking for support, but generally helping one another. At one count, there were at least a hundred and fifty users on the mailing list at one time, and well over a thousand over the two years he sold his app. Not earthshattering numbers, but clearly a small group of people found his work useful.

    He had a total of six registrations since the first release version. Six genuine paying customers for a program that cost about $10. Everyone else pirated it, used it, even had the audacity to appear on his mailing list as paying customers asking for support and bugfixes. Commenting on his mailing list about how many pirated versions there were garnered more people insisting they were current paid-up users than had ever paid in its entire life through all versions.

    Then one version he slipped in a couple of painful triggers that stopped the app working if it detected it was an unpaid pirated version. Within two months he had the vast majority of mailing list posters complaining about the new rego/detection system, how it was an invasion of privacy to check if it was registered, how it was punishing genuine users of his util, how it was just a clumsy assholish thing to do, how it broke trust with his user base - but in that same two months he gained well over a hundred paid registrations.

    It pisses customers off, but it also works.

    Rock and a hard place.

  • by Seth024 ( 1241160 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:48PM (#33181516)
    Yes, Korean law states that (in non legal terms): You may do what you want with what you bought.

    Kespa (korean e-sports association) ran SC:BW tournaments for many years on LAN and Blizzard couldn't do anything about that. Now that they would have to connect to the blizzard servers to play, Kespa would need to have authorization to host tournaments (which they won't get because Blizzard has already chosen GomTV to organize the tournaments)
  • by morari ( 1080535 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:00PM (#33181642) Journal

    Since when are people entitled to have whatever they want no matter their ability to pay - especially things that are merely entertainment?

    Exactly! Especially entertainment! Entertainment has no inherent value, as it is not needed to survive. Thus it cannot command a price.

  • by jaymz666 ( 34050 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:34PM (#33181984)

    > Many PC games are priced like Laserdisks. They are not priced, then lowered in price a year later like DVDs.
    No, games generally come down in price 6 months later, on the PC anyway. Then a while after that you get the game, all the expansions and patches for $20.

  • by Vaphell ( 1489021 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#33182106)

    valve experimented with game prices and they made most money on -75% off.

    Last weekend, Valve decided to do an experiment with Left 4 Dead. Last weekend's sale resulted in a 3000% increase over relatively flat numbers. It sold more last weekend than when it launched the game. WOW. That is unheard of in this industry. Valve beat its launch sales. Also, it snagged a 1600% increase in new customers to Steam over the baseline.

    Worried retailers, fear not. The weekend sale didn't canabalize sales from retail. In fact, they remained constant. Well, constant isn't a 3000% increase, but it's still pretty good, right?

    6:56 PM - Looking at a third-party game, it saw increases of 36,000% with a weekend sale. Oh. Em. Gee. Okay, Gabe is starting to convince me that PC at retail is going to die very soon.

    Oh, more data. I'm such a data nerd. Here's some data!

    During the Holiday sales:

            * 10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
            * 25% sale = 245% increase in sales
            * 50% sale = 320% increase in sales
            * 75% sale = 1470% increase in sales

    At 75% off, they are making 15% more money than they were at full price.

  • Valve showed that by dropping the price in half on the right game you can quadruple the sales, doubling your money.

    Doubling your revenue doesn't necessarily mean doubling your earnings. In some cases, the licensor of an underlying work (such as music, characters, a setting, etc.) wants a fixed royalty in dollars per copy, not as a percentage.

  • Yet, it is way better to have 10% of a 100,000 market than 50% of a 1,000 one. TFA is too simplist to get into any usefull conclusion.

  • by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:51PM (#33183410) Journal

    iirc, windows users payed the least, linux users payed the most.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @07:49PM (#33184226)

    DRM is inconvenient.

    Not in the case of Steam.

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