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Valve Takes Optimistic View of Piracy

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the non-customer-is-always-right dept.

Games 509

GameDaily recently spoke with Jason Holtman, director of business development and legal affairs for Valve, about online sales and piracy. Holtman took a surprising stance on the latter, effectively taking responsibility for at least a portion of pirated games. Quoting: "'There's a big business feeling that there's piracy,' he says. But the truth is: 'Pirates are underserved customers. When you think about it that way, you think, "Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it." We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia,' Holtman says of Valve. 'The reason people pirated things in Russia,' he explains, 'is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television — they say "Man, I want to play that game so bad," but the publishers respond "you can play that game in six months...maybe." We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly,' Holtman says." Attitudes like this seem to be prevalent at Valve; last month we talked about founder Gabe Newell's comments that "most DRM strategies are just dumb."

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first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507693)

yay! I win! or lose i guess...

Finally (5, Insightful)

zwekiel (1445761) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507709)

Finally some intelligent thought on this matter from game publishers. They should focus on benefits that will get pirates to switch over, rather than annoying DRM technologies which do nothing but hinder the use of the game by legitimate customers, while real pirates bypass them with ease.

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

zach297 (1426339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507771)

DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money. In that respect DRM has been successful in some cases (but not all).

Re:Finally (5, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507853)

this is where they benefit by Steam. They make their money from online access. That is much easier to police. So a few people crack HL2... if they can't get updates easily or play on the main servers with their friends, regular people won't deal with it past a certain point. Make it slightly easier for the paying customers than for people to casually pirate... the "real" pirates won't be phased... but they won't ever pay anyway.

Re:Finally (5, Funny)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508331)

And people like me, who don't play games online because we will get our asses handed to us, can continue pirating without any problems :)

Re:Finally (1)

PsychoElf (571371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508557)

And people like me, who do not have the disposable income to buy these games until they are on the 9.99 rack, can continue to pirate without any problems. :P

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507857)

Typically when I download a game, it's before the release date. DRM does nothing to prevent this. If publishers used a digital distribution model like Valve and had a secure supply chain, they'd probably see less piracy.

I usually end up downloading a game because it's available before you can buy it in stores - I'm not going to be noble and wait an extra week so the publisher can make it available for purchase; no, I want it as soon as I can get it.

To that end, digitally distributed games should cost less than their physically distributed counterparts - I feel cheated when I don't get the neat box/manual/CD case/map/other goodies but I pay the same price.

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

flewp (458359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508109)

To that end, digitally distributed games should cost less than their physically distributed counterparts - I feel cheated when I don't get the neat box/manual/CD case/map/other goodies but I pay the same price.

I don't know, I personally think the same price is justified if I can download it as many times as I want, whenever I want. I can't count how many times I've reinstalled games via Steam, and been happy with the process. It's usually even pretty quick to download even ~4gb of data for an install.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508155)

Hrm, after posting I had a bit of further thinking on the matter. While yes, with CDs you should be able to install as many times as you want, I think the digitally distributed games have their advantages. You don't have to worry about scratched or lost discs(but I guess you have to worry about the service shutting down). As for purchasing games, it's quite a bit less hassle to order online and download than going to a brick and mortar store.

(Posting anon so it doesn't look like I'm trying to karma whore with 2 comments)

Re:Finally (5, Informative)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508203)

Gabe's gone on record saying that if Valve went under, they'd release a patch to remove Steam checks on all games.

AFAIK Valve has no debt and it's also not a public company, so it'd be pretty difficult for a hostile takeover or receivership to happen. It's possible, but the chances are slim.

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508187)

I've purchased games I wanted through Steam instead of pirating them simply because it was easier to get it through Steam.

Re:Finally (4, Interesting)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508107)

DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money.

Then why don't they get rid of DRM after those few weeks? That would be a reasonable compromise for me: "You will need to activate this game and it will connect to our servers until 1/6/09. After that period the game will not need an internet connection, or the CD to be in the drive".

Now, I would wait for the set date before purchasing anyway, but that's better (for them) than never buying the game no matter what.

PS.1. Yes, I know that DRM removal tools exist.
PS.2. The real date can be checked from trusted time servers.

Re:Finally (3, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508215)

You know, that's actually a really good idea. I really like that idea.

Although I'd think they'd release a patch to remove the check rather than have it check time servers, because checking time servers makes it really easy to crack right away.

Re:Finally (1)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508457)

I agree. I'm still trying to find copies of Tribes 1 to play. It's not in development or production anymore, so why should it cost money?

Re:Finally (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508369)

After that period the game will not need an internet connection...

PS.2. The real date can be checked from trusted time servers.

Um...how are you going to connect to these trusted time servers?

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508551)

Easier solution, just release the DRM-free version 1/6/09. No need to pre-distribute the non-crippled version.

Re:Finally (2, Interesting)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508565)

What is the point then if they launch the game at diferent dates all over the world?

Any DRM will be break in 2 or 3 days if enough interest is generated.

The only thing that escapes this is when the suppliers band together to make an hardware/software lock-in like the one made with blue-ray disks.

And even then, it only survives a few months.

If they make global launches, and don't sectored the world they will gain:

1. Cheaper production: one size fits all;
2. Easier to manage launch: only one date to manage;
3. Less appeal for pirating due to the fact that the product is truly available.

But i don't understand nothing of this... i just... don't buy if i can't access.

And i've also avoided to buy games due to DRM (mostly the dreadfull - you need a cd to play this game - nope i don't care to pack 50 cd's so that i can play my games).

Re:Finally (4, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508621)

DRM is not designed to stop pirates forever. It is designed to stop it for the first few weeks when a game makes a large portion of its money. In that respect DRM has been successful in some cases (but not all).

Name one single well-known DRM example where this has actually been the case, that the game wasn't pirated within the first week. Your assertion is actually quite reasonable, after all DRM may not be winning the war but surely it must be having one or two victories -- it's just that I don't know of one single popular example myself where this was the case.

DRM makes as much sense to me as those nefarious FBI warnings that you can't forward through at the beginning of those DVDs. Only the non-pirating consumers are being penalized by that functionality, the consumers that are pirating on the other hand do not even see those.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507973)

You're lucky that's all they do.

If I was a game programmer then I'd encode your credit card and other personal data into the content or binary of the game so that when you pirate it I can tell everyone where to get your data.

Oh, then I'd sue you for copyright infringement after you'd become in the red forcing you to sell all your possessions to pay for the legal fees.

It would be silly to leave this data unencrypted because you might find it so I'd encrypt it first.

Woops, I think I just gave them an idea..

Re:Finally (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508461)

Nice trolling, are you honestly suggesting that somebody capable of pirating a program, as in cracking the DRM, wouldn't be able to figure out that there was irrelevant encrypted binary globs in the program? Or that they would be getting the files from a purchase?

Realistically, it's implausible to suggest that files that get leaked before they go on sale are being cracked from a purchased version. More likely than not the pirates would notice the inconsistent md5s and just remove the offending code. Or possibly just repackage sans signature.

Re:Finally (1)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508583)

Better yet, repackage with the signature from someone high up from Valve (or the publisher in question). That's one thing I'd like to see...

Re:Finally (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508677)

And they you'd get you ass sued. EA, please make a game that will steal my credit card information, I could use a new house.

Re:Finally (5, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508049)

As an underserved customer, I'm glad that Valve is taking this move and I hope other companies will follow. However, they are still underserving one important segment of the market. And that's the one I belong to: people who want to get things without paying for them. I think that if Valve made a serious effort to cater to us by not charging money for their games, they would see their piracy rates drop almost to zero.

Re:Finally (2, Insightful)

linhares (1241614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508719)

You ARE paying a price, though it's not a monetary one. You are running the risk of running some pirated game that may infest your machine(s) in unpredictable ways, such as installing a keylogger or other shit like that.

Re:Finally (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508645)

Yes, my reaction was a similar "Holy fucking shit!".

Valve gets it. They're going to make a lot of money.

Common Sense (5, Insightful)

Manfre (631065) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507755)

Common sense is a lot better than DRM. Glad to see that at least some companies are willing to spend a few hours to identify reasons why people pirate games and think of simple solutions.

Naivete (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507759)

From my experience in various Eastern European countries over the last decade, the reason people pirate is not because they don't get attention from publishers. It's because people don't think films and games should cost much more than the cost of their storage media. Who doesn't want to get stuff for almost free?

Re:Naivete (2, Interesting)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507955)

You think that's a holdover from the days of Communism?

Re:Naivete (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508207)

It's a current principle of capitalism - the lowest bidder wins as long as his warez work as well as a legitimate CD.

Re:Naivete (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508483)

I've got no idea why this was modded troll, it's perfectly accurate. That's not to say that people's perception of the value of media is accurate, but that there are large numbers of people who believe information is overpriced should be obvious.

Same day release and appropriate pricing (3, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507765)

Many countries speak English, so release English versions same day everywhere, and localized releases shortly there after. And if people in China, Russia, whatever can buy a pirated copy of that game for $5, then you can't sell a legal copy for $60. In certain countries, they may just have to sell legal copies for $10-$20.

Re:Same day release and appropriate pricing (2, Interesting)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508023)

How do you keep people from buying at the el-cheapo foreign price and selling at the ~$60 price? Postage costs & customs charges (even if you do get it with them) wouldn't fill up the difference.

Thing is, I don't want to see region-encoding crap either.

Re:Same day release and appropriate pricing (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508073)

I bought pirated X-Files DVDs from China. It cost $30 to ship it here from China, so yes, shipping would all but make up the price difference.

However, it was cost effective for me to buy the pirated DVDs because I bought all 9 seasons for $80 total, plus $30 shipping. (It was $30 for one DVD, or $30 for as many DVDs as I wanted). At the time, individual seasons were going for $110-$120 in the US, and I got all 9 seasons for that price.

Re:Same day release and appropriate pricing (4, Interesting)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508273)

My sister tried that with DVDs of the West Wing she got on ebay. They were pretty low quality, bad Aspect Ratio, and half of the last episode on each disc was cut off. The bitrate was awfully low, trying to crap 6 episodes per single layer DVD. Spelling errors all over the otherwise decent looking counterfeit packaging.

So often with the counterfeit DVDs, quality issues can arise. It seems like a much better idea, rather than to import illegal/stolen goods, to do the piracy yourself. Then you could control the quality of the DVDs made from the source files, and it would cost nearly nothing.

Re:Same day release and appropriate pricing (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508235)

Steam charges different prices in different countries.

And Steam reflects that... (4, Interesting)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507775)

Steam allows you to get content online. They are leading the charge to remove boxes from shelves. Today there was mass chaos at some Circuit City stores, because their CEO ran that company into the ground and won the worst CEO of 2008 award - Philip Schoonover, possibly the worst businessman in retail history. And that's saying something.

Next up is Best Buy - do you really need to travel there to pick up a disk to have a game anymore? No.

Sony kinda gets it, you can download some games with a PS3 that are fun, esp. for little kids, without needing to go get something. Pretty soon all the consoles will realize the revenue stream in controlling the distribution channel for all software via broadband.

Do that, tie it to reasonable encryption keys, and alot of piracy will go away. PS3 games aren't up on piratebay for a reason, while Xbox games are. Just make it available, and make it easy - to the world, and the internet will take care of it. The loss of sales via the retail front won't be as bad as the suits fear, and mail-order is always available for the PC gamer living in an Igloo.

Re:And Steam reflects that... (1)

Piata (927858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507903)

You should read the whole article. Especially the part where adding new features to a game or having a free to play weekend generates both digital and retail sales.

You don't need a disc to play, but I wasn't really sold on the digital download idea until after I had bought the orange box and installed steam. I'm still not 100% on it, considering the way steam handled returns of GTA IV and how they can deny me all the games I've purchased on their service at a whim if they so desire...

Re:And Steam reflects that... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508115)

I have the same apprehensions regarding online-DRM (e.g. Steam.)

People have tried to assuage my fears by saying that Steam's a huge company, and that they won't be going out of business any time soon, and that really, they have no reason to annoy their customers.

I point to closures like Circuit City and DRM fiascos like Wal-Mart (who did eventually cave to consumer pressure), Microsoft (who killed off one DRM scheme to implement another), and Google (who, due to a PR nightmare, gave people store credit for their digital purchases.)

No one is immune to economic pressures forcing closure. I still go back and play old games from companies who have gone out of business. Others do, too. A little over a year ago, for example, http://bloggingultima.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] was started by a guy who loves the Ultima series of games. Origin Systems closed up shop in 2004. If their games had required online activation, they likely would be unplayable today.

I've bought very few games like this, and it's always for a minimal amount of money. The most I've spent, I think, was on Mega Man 9, which cost $10.

Re:And Steam reflects that... (0, Redundant)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508251)

Gabe Newell's gone on record saying that if Valve went under, Steam games would be patched to remove Steam checks. I'd be surprised if they didn't have this contingency plan already in place, to be honest; while I've never worked for Valve I do know a few of their developers socially and this topic came up, with an attitude of "it's handled" being pretty clear.

Plus, they aren't a publicly traded company, it'd be hard for them to get railroaded out before being able to release the patch.

Re:And Steam reflects that... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508341)

No offense to Gabe, but I don't know him. I don't know if he's honest, or if his word is good.

I also don't know if the patches will be downloadable and will work offline or not. Will I ever be able to reinstall a Steam game (assuming I got the media version and not the downloadable version.) If I reinstall, will the patch work? What if it's buggy?

When there's code in place to specifically disable software, all bets are really off. If Valve is going under, I wonder how well the quality control for these patches (which, frankly, aren't going to be making them any money) will be.

Re:And Steam reflects that... (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507981)

I can't wait until someone is trying to download their 4th or 5th game and get cut off due to a download cap. Granted today most downloadable content isn't that big, but with the Xbox 360 streaming Netflix and the other content already available, it won't be long before 250GB is used up the first of each month.

Re:And Steam reflects that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508311)

ps3 games arent on piratebay because noone has figured how to break the ps3 encription yet, not because sony got anything right in their sales model. In fact MS was first with the DLC and minigames thing.

but I refuse to buy Steam controled content (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508365)

First of all, let me say that Steam has offered some great bargains. And I have used Steam, since my original pre-Steam copy of Half-Life finally had to be updated with Steam. And I've used them for some free demos. But I absolutely never ever will buy a game that depends on my using Steam. If Valve and Steam go away (not that hard to imagine in a world of financial and auto company bailouts and even Circuit City going belly up), then I still want to own what I paid for, not be dependent on some server somewhere still running to let me play or even install something that I've paid money for.

When fools who endorsed and supported DRM schemes for low quality digital music loose access to their DRM controlled music because those who are enforcing DRM on them no longer want to run the server, I laugh and think "serves them right for supporting the DRM scheme in the first place". When the same comes around and affects the gaming industry as well, I'm not going to be a victim and a hypocrite by acting surprised.

Should EA Games take over Valve... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507797)

He'll have to retract his statement that game companies are the cause of some kinds of piracy.

Re:Should EA Games take over Valve... (2, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507985)

And he'll have to start working on "Halflife 2009." The hard part will be working the in-game ads into the plot. "Gordon, you've saved city 18, have a coke!"

Re:Should EA Games take over Valve... (1)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508111)

Hey, well they did have to press buttons on a "soda" machine to get access to Dr. Kleiner's lab. It would be trivial to slap a Coca-Cola logo over it!

It worked for me at least (4, Insightful)

Archimonde (668883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507799)

I downloaded Team Fortress 2 via torrent and played on some cracked servers. But that was pain because the servers were changing daily, then had to manually download patches, update and then realize that the next day servers reverted to the patch before etc. But the game was excellent and I thought, those guys really deserve the money, and I would have a hassle-free experience. Then I went out and bought Orange Box (which includes TF2).

Now year later I'm still playing this excellent game and it was worth every penny.

But I see a problem though. I generally use Steam as the game updater, nothing more really. But take for example GTAIV. It requires three services to be active when playing: Steam, Games for Windows and rockstar social club. 3 separate registrations and 3 resource eating programs. That is way over the top.
 

Re:It worked for me at least (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507951)

Unfortunately, most people aren't like you. I have a lot of friends who brag about not having bought games or music for years. And, why would they if they're willing to battle the learning curve to pirate content?

Re:It worked for me at least (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508197)

But those people aren't the ones that you will win over as customer as a producer of content anyway. Why bother trying? They will not buy your stuff, even if you somehow managed to magically find that holy grail of DRM (i.e. DRM that actually works and is unbreakable), they wouldn't buy your content. They'd settle for other content that they can copy because they don't buy on principle. I'm fairly sure they don't play games like WoW (or if on some half-assed "hacked" server), they probably don't play multiplayer FPS games (or if on some "hacked" servers that also don't check for cheats) and so on. This is not your customer base. This is your user base. And, frankly, I don't care for the users of my software. I care about the customers.

Make software for the people that buy your software, not for the people that use it. It may look like the same, but it isn't as you pointed out quite directly. What would the customers of a FPS multiplayer game want? What can I offer to them as paying customers that they couldn't get from illegitimate copies? Focus on this and more people will buy it. The GP made a valid point. A "legal" copy has its benefits. Less hassle updating, more available game servers, anti-cheat tools at those servers ... actually that last point may well play into your hands as a manufacturer when you actually allow copies to exist but force them to play on cheater ridden servers because your cheat aware servers won't let them in. First of all, all the cheaters will avoid your servers, because it's less hassle to cheat on a server that has no anticheat means installed. Now, I tend to think that this demographic matches the "would not buy it anyway" group pretty well. Second, fewer attempts to hack your anticheat mechanisms would happen, since cheeaters have a place to play. And everyone who's fed up with cheaters will probably drop the 50ish buck for your game to get out of wallhack hell and play the game.

In a nutshell, you have to give people an incentive to buy the game instead of copying it. So far, I've seen tons of incentives to NOT buy the game (stupid DRM, CD checks, limited installs, CD drives that can't deal with the DRM... all problems that only apply to actual customers but never to people who copied your content). Give the person buying your game something they can't get with a ripped copy, and people will buy your games.

If someone is avoiding buying games on principle to show how "cool" he is, you won't sway him. No matter how much DRM you cram into your game and no matter how much you piss off your paying customer. At the very best, you may keep someone from copying it (let's assume some miracle DRM nobody has seen, i.e. one that actually keeps people from copying for more than a few minutes or hours). But that isn't a sale yet, quite far from it. The idea that "can't copy == sale" is flawed at best. There's a thousand other games out there that I can copy, if I can't copy yours, so be it. NEXT!

Re:It worked for me at least (2, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508549)

Agreed. A few friends and I got together and got the Left 4 Dead 4-pack and having been playing the hell out of it - while an entirely separate group have pirated the game and seem incredulous that we chose to *buy* the game.

Piracy will continue to proper until we as a society start looking down on it with the same disdain we treat freeloaders.

Re:It worked for me at least (1)

BloodyIron (939359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507965)

Games for windows is just Microsoft trying to dip into the honey pot. I see no reason to use it.

I can already message people with steam, why bother with another unnecessary and bad MS product?

Re:It worked for me at least (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508659)

You need that Live stuff to play online.

Re:It worked for me at least (1)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508651)

4 resource eating programs. Steam, Games for Windows, Rockstar Social Club and Securerom.

Saying I heard (2, Insightful)

Caboosian (1096069) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507807)

"Companies need to stop treating potential customers like pirates, and pirates like potential customers." That's exactly what Valve is doing, and has been doing, and will continue to do. That's also why I continue to buy their games, rather than pirate them (hi EA).

Re:Saying I heard (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508287)

It'd make more sense if it said "Companies need to stop treating potential customers like pirates, and treat pirates like potential customers".

Woohoo (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507811)

Finally, someone sees the light. Do they have Linux games? I might just sign up.

Also, tag suddenoutbreakofcommonsense.

Re:Woohoo (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508265)

There are persistent rumors that they're working on a Linux client. No games that I know of offhand (except maybe something like the iD Pack, which has the various Quake games, since I know there are *nix ports), though.

WINE works for Steam stuff very well, though.

Hoping other media will follow suit (3, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507887)

Pirates are underserved customers.

Just so, at least in my case. And I hope that music and movie publishers will come to this sensible conclusion as well. I'd love to be able to download a legal "zero day" copy of movies direct from the studios... or go see the movie in the week of its release. Not wait until they finally get around releasing it in my country. As for music... the not-really-legal AllOfMP3 should be an example to the music industry. A wide selection of music, and more importantly, a wide selection of formats, from MP3, WAV, to OGG. Now there's "plays for sure" for you... And you could choose the bitrate as well, from small files to files without compression.

If publishers stop punishing their legit customers with crippled products and late releases, those customers might decide to not turn to piracy.

Re:Hoping other media will follow suit (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508325)

That is exactly what's wrong with content. A legally bought product has to be worth more than an illegaly acquired one. And it's usually the reverse when it comes to content.

Usually, when you buy a piece of hardware, furniture or whatever, you have additional benefits when you buy it legally in a store instead of, say, off a truck. You get warranty, you get coupons for addons, you get support, you get all those nifty little things that you're either entitled to by law or because the manufacturer wants to keep you as a customer. All that is not at your disposal when you get something from Honest Henry's Fencing Outlet.

It's the opposite with content. When you download a rip, no hassle. No DRM, no "keep that CD in the drive" problem, no messing with your driver setup, no limit on installations, in short, no DRM hassles. When you buy it, your HD is filled with crap drivers that clog your system or worse, you have to dig for that CD key codes every time you want to reinstall it (btw, why do they print that on the manuals, the manual is the FIRST thing I lose. Some are smart enough to at least put the sticker into the CD case... if you get a CD case at all these days, of course...), no phone hassle when you should dare to install it more than thrice (and then prepare to be accused of being such a pesky pirate, and cheeky to boot because you DARE to call them after you stole their crap) and so on.

The same applies to music and movie content. In a nutshell, copy cripled content that you can buy is limited in its use, either to a certain format, forcing you to watch stupid commercials before you may watch the movie you paid for or wanting to limit you to the countries that you may watch it in... all those limitations and more do not apply to content you did not pay for.

So, allow me the question, when content is worth more (in terms of flexibility and usability) to me as a customer when I rip it instead of buying it, explain to me why I should buy it? Just because of the legality issues? A business model that is based on pissing off your customer because you can, since he can't get your product legally any other way but to allow you to piss him off is not really what I consider a sound and sane business model.

GTA4 (4, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507895)

That's all great, but it's just words. On the other hand, when I wanted to buy GTA4 on Steam from Russia, I found out that the release was North America only (and despite this, I've got bombarded by ads urging me to preload and save, etc - all also NA-specific). After seeing the ads and the trailers, I really wanted to have that game, and getting such a slap in the face on release date was... very unpleasant. I immediately went and downloaded it from the torrent, and I am not going to pay for it anymore. I wanted to in the first place, but they said "no, we won't let you". So be it, then.

I guess it's publisher policy really, not Valve, but still, Steam is and will be associated with Valve first and foremost, so maybe they should clean that mess up before speaking on this. Once I've got burned, I looked around, and I've found that there are many other games that are similarly released first only in North America, and then gradually elsewhere. There's even a Steam group, "Rest of World" [steamcommunity.com] , that's dedicated to this problem, with over 10,000 members.

Re:GTA4 (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507945)

Uh.. I think speaking on it is one of his tools for cleaning up the mess. A big, "Hey, stop asking for this delayed release thing, it's only hurting you" message.

Re:GTA4 (0)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508077)

Ahhh nice to see that overblown sense of entitlement is still alive.

Re:GTA4 (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508283)

Why would a customer in one country less (or more) entitled to buy a game than a customer from some other country? We aren't talking here about people who expect and demand goodies that they haven't earned. In all these cases customers want to pay money.

Re:GTA4 (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508501)

Just a hunch.

Re:GTA4 (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508513)

Looks like /. editing system hates me today... Just a hunch, but the sense of entitlement comment was probably referring to the fact that he pirated the game and decided he would never pay for it rather than the fact that he was upset.

Re:GTA4 (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508095)

Speaking as someone in NA I'm with you guys on this, I'm pretty sick of low populations because of region limited releases.

Re:GTA4 (3, Informative)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508277)

You do realize that that was why Gabe's saying something like this, right? He has an obligation to his customers (who, for Steam, are the publishers--not you; you're the consumer, Steam's the delivery channel) to do what they want where it's reasonable. The customers want delayed releases, he loses business if he doesn't accept that.

But he's trying to change that. You should be cheering this on.

Re:GTA4 (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508485)

Staggered release dates are about the worst thing you can do in a global world. It's an invitation to copying and you either release everywhere at the exact same moment or you just forget about big sales outside your first sale area.

The reasons are simple. Of course you started campaigning and rolled the PR and ad train across town for your latest and greatest product. Review pages wrote about it, maybe even liked it, and people have ants in their pants to finally get it. Pretty much what you described. Then the release date and people are pissed off: Not available in their area. Or available in 3 months. Or 6 or "to be announced".

Yes, localizing takes time. But fuck, I don't give a rat's behind, our versions are usually either horribly translated anyway or the thinkofthechildren crowd insisted that blood has to be green, soldiers have to be robots and suicide bombers have to be cutsie little tables on wheels with a comic-style bomb on top (as seen in C&C Generals). You think I want THAT version? Keep it, and gimme the original, NOW!

You don't? Well, I'd really love to buy the game (honestly, I do! I want to pay for a game that I play), but the temptation to head over to TPB and dig around for it is high. Many will give in. They will download and play it, maybe even with the good intention to finally buy the game when it is released.

How many will keep this intention when the game finally ships half a year later and you're already done with it, and the next game is out that you want to play... well, ask yourself what you'll do.

Glad to see someone figuring it out (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507915)

I think part of the problem companies have is they try and group everyone who copies games or music or whatever in to one group. They talk about "pirates" as though it is one homogeneous group with one mindset. That's not the case. There are important sub groups, and the question needs to be what do you do about each? For example I'd say you can divide people who copy along these rough lines:

1) People who want stuff for free and wouldn't pay no matter what. You write these people off and just don't worry about them. They are the kind that even if you made it impossible to copy your stuff, they'd just do without. You aren't going to get their money so just don't bother. Let them do what they do.

2) People who are doing a "try before you buy." In music in particular I've known people like this. They want to download albums to see if they like them and want to buy them. For these people you needn't worry too much, they are likely to buy if they like your stuff. Only things to do is make sure you are offering quality stuff, and try to offer a superior experience if they pay. For example in the case of a game maybe a nice online community and auto updater, that requires a legit copy.

3) People who pay for some stuff, but don't have enough money for everything they want. They are somewhat similar to the first group, but they do buy things, just not everything they get. Something like university students with little disposable income. This is the only group that tighter DRM measures might help you get more money. However if everyone is tightening DRM, well you are back to where you started.

4) People who would like to pay you, if only you'd let them. These are the people who either live in a country where you refuse to release your product, or people who have been screwed over by your DRM. They'd like to buy your stuff, but you won't let them, or your protection technology means it won't work. Thus they turn to copying it. These people the answer is less, not more DRM to get more money. Give them the ability to pay legitimately, and they will.

Ok well when you start breaking it down, you see that really there are a number of groups that you just need to write off. You aren't getting any more money from them, so stop worrying. Don't screw over people who want to be customers just to try and screw over those who don't. It really needs to be looked at as a profit maximization thing. Implement DRM only to the point that it actually helps you make more money. Don't just try and "punish" people for copying your stuff. I mean really, who cares? You are in it to make money, not to be a justice crusader.

I also think firms fail to take in to account the cost of DRM. It's never free. Most of it is purchased from a third party and there's costs for that, Macrovision isn't a charity, and if you develop it in house you are paying the development cost. Either way you pay the support cost. So if you spend $100,000 buying a DRM package, but it only gets you $50,000 in additional sales, it was a lousy buy because you actually lost money. If it then also loses you $25,000 more sales from people who can't play, well then it was a REALLY lousy buy.

I think the best thing companies can do it make it easy for people to buy things legitimately, make the legitimate buying experience better than the illegal copying, and provide things that are a good value for the money. That will get the most sales. The copying figures don't matter, what matters is getting the most sales you can. If you do something that increases copying by ten times, but also sales by ten times, well then that's a win. Doesn't matter that copying went up, what matters is sales went up.

Re:Glad to see someone figuring it out (2, Insightful)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508061)

5.) people who want games that are not sold anymore.

Re:Glad to see someone figuring it out (3, Informative)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508339)

6.) People who want to copy your games on a mass production scale and sell them, undercutting you significantly on price. These are the people, and the only people, that you should be using the law to go after.

The original iTunes philosophy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507925)

When Apple launched iTunes, with what was at the time the most open and permissive structure available, Steve Jobs' comment was "Customers are tired of being constantly treated as potential criminals." This was one of the major factors in building what's today a hugely successful business.

It's not rocket science.

Re:The original iTunes philosophy (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508205)

Except rather than being criminals, until recently, iTunes customers were actually prisoners, tethered to iTunes and their iPods to play their purchased music. Fortunately with everything going iTunes Plus, this is getting to be no longer the case.

Demos (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507929)

this problem seems like it could also be solved, to an extent, with decent demos. I pirated Fallout 3 because I wanted to try it out before dropping $50 on this game all my co-workers were raving about, but there was no demo.

I was sufficiently impressed that I bought the game on Steam a few days later.

I don't know why demos aren't as prevalent these days as they used to be; perhaps the downloads would still be huge because of artwork, etc.

Mirror's Edge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508057)

I did the same, I'll be buying it later today.

Slashdot loves piracy (1, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26507931)

I never understood this editorial opinion in most posts here. I'm a software engineer and I'd be out on the streets if our customers illegally downloaded our software. Sure, there are underserved markets, but most pirates are people who want to listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free. I don't see what economic model is going to squeeze profit out of that.

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (2, Insightful)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508075)

The basic premise is that there are enough people that are willing to pay for things that they like that the industry can go around, not everyone will get things for free just because they can.

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (2, Interesting)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508175)

While I agree that there's a sizable group of those who want media for free, I don't believe you'd be getting their business no matter what you did. By ramping up DRM and other such "anti-piracy" methods, you're really only hurting the legitimate consumer. If someone wants your software badly enough, they're either going to pirate it or do without, and then you wind up in an arms race to see who can secure or crack the product faster.

I'm not suggesting that you put your products out there with no protection, because that is just setting yourself up for massive amounts of piracy. The trick is to find a balance that is not too restrictive for your customers yet still keeps your product (reasonably) secure.

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (4, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508367)

Its not that Slashdot loves piracy, its that many people on /. hate the idea of copyright infringement being treated as equivalent to theft of physical property, and they hate stupid DRM schemes that make life difficult for people who have acquired software legally but which the most serious, organised, pirates seem to have little difficulty circumventing.

I'm a software engineer and I'd be out on the streets if our customers illegally downloaded our software.

No, you'd be out on the streets if not enough of your customers paid for your software to keep the company profitable.

but most pirates are people who want to listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free.

In which case, they were never going to pay for your software anyway, so unless they physically stole a boxed copy which you had paid to manufacture, you have not lost a dime. Most software/recording industry scare stories make the ludicrous assumption that every pirate copy represents a lost sale.

Conversely, some people who pirate your software will go legal when the next version arrives (or someone checks up), recommend it to others or (if its serious software) acquire skills in using it which result in future sales.

Equally, if you try and stamp out piracy by treating your paying customers as potential criminals and using intrusive DRM, you will lose customers to the competition (be it pirates, other companies or open source).

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508493)

[Citation needed]
No, seriously. I'd like to see an independent study backing your claim...

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508633)

>> listen to music, watch movies, or play games for free. I don't see what economic model is going to squeeze profit out of that.

Funny how the same model works so well for Red Hat and many others.

Re:Slashdot loves piracy (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508657)

I'm a software engineer and I'd be out on the streets if our customers illegally downloaded our software.

If they are illegally downloading your software, they aren't customers.

moD down (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26507937)

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Oi! Politicians! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508011)

I love the quote and I love how making sure people can actually buy the stuff now instead of in six months makes the "piracy" drop.

I think that all the we're seeing pop up in NA and EU against filesharing will not manage to put a significant dent in overall filesharing at all. Something I'm sure the lobbyists like our politicians to overlook.

Write your Congresscritter/Senator/Member of European Parliament/Political Representative/what-have-you today. But politely, please. We need less misguided nannying laws. There's much better things we can spend public money on.

Hmm... (2, Interesting)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508037)

If I ran a major gaming company, here's what I would do. (Internet Connection Required)

Make software CD's completely FREE. Yes, FREE. Lets take GTA4 for instance. You could go to Best Buy or whatever and walkout with the game but when you got home and wanted to play you'd have to make an account which you must log into before the game starts. In order to activate the account, you could either pay a monthly fee until the games fully paid for (you could stop payment at anytime if your not liking the game) or you could pay the total up front. And of course, only one person could log onto the account at a time.

Now lets say your friend decides he likes this game. You could lend him the CD and he could go make his own account ect.

It virtually eliminates piracy/DRM and makes everyone happy.

Please post thoughts/ideas to add on!

Re:Hmm... (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508301)

The software CDs being free is insane. Production costs exist.

The monthly bit is very unlikely to work (many games wouldn't last that long!), but a total-up-front deal after the game is installed would be fine by me (full version of the game available for download with an account requirement? sure, why not).

Steam's better, though.

Re:Hmm... (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508533)

It's a nice idea, but there are several hitches. A major one being that when (not if) the company that sold you the game goes tits-up, you're buttfucked.
Also, how do you plan on playing for extended periods of time offline?

Pirates are underserved customers. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508039)

Pirates are people willing to take a look at your game. But not pay you anything. This is a good thing. These are potential customers. Potential good word of mouth.

Really you're lucky they have any intrest at all in your game. And if they like it. Some might buy it. Some might tell their friends to buy it. Some might play it for free and never buy it... Can't win em all.

On the other side... Some might also tell everyone they know that your game has such shit invasive drm it's not worth fucking with for free.

Let alone paying money to deal with the hassle of activation, cd checks, blacklisted programs, online activation, expiration dates, hidden rootkit like programs. And other garbage.

It's sad when your game isnt worth paying for. And real sad when its not worth the price of FREE.

You game companys are lucky anyone bothers to take the time to pirate. You never lose anything you were going to get without piracy. You can only gain from it.

Game companys drive priacy. You treat everyone like a thief. Even the people who PAID YOU!

So why not pirate? It might be good. We might consider paying you.

Maybe.

If you're real good.

Re:Pirates are underserved customers. (1)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508307)

You never lose anything you were going to get without piracy.

Newell knows more about game piracy than you do, and he's pretty clearly called "bullshit" on this in the past.

Rationalizations are dirty.

What would REALLY help the gaming industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508059)

Be smart about licensing games that are no longer brand new.

There are a lot of games out there that I'd like to play that came out a few years ago. But the publishers only sell the games for the full retail price, thickheadedly determined to wring the "full value" from any sales they happen to get.

This is basically the foolish thinking that created the second-hand gaming market (which benefits publsihers not a whit).

There is probably not a large number of people out there that are still willing to pay $50 for a copy of Bioshock. However, if they were to offer it at $25, there are probably a lot of people like me who would strongly consider it as an alternative to spending $50 on, say, RE5. (YGMV)

A sliding scale would still extract most of the value when the game is new, but would considerably enhance the "long tail" value by still keeping the title viable long after the initial launch.

Sorry if this seems like a tangent, but this is also piracy related. One option for people who have some interest in picking up older games, but don't want to pay the launch retail price, is to pirate them.

Re:What would REALLY help the gaming industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508347)

Take a look on Steam. They do this, often with insanely awesome packages. I mean, hell, they've got the iD Super Pack [steampowered.com] (Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D/Spear of Destiny, Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Hexen II, Quake 1-3, Doom III) for $70. In the New Year's Sale, when I bought it, it was $34.99.

And BioShock is $19.99 on Steam [steampowered.com] .

-FishWithAHammer (what the fuck is with this 25 posts per day bullshit, Slashdot?)

Piracy will never stop, but... (1)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508123)

I believe Valve has one of the best stances on the issue and has put themselves in a great position to release games with a minimum of loss.

For one, they're realistic: They know piracy exists, but they also don't fearmonger and exaggerate the amount of it to a ridiculous degree. Piracy will never stop. As long as people want more for less, media will be pirated. The focus of the industry should not be "stopping piracy" so much as striking a proper balance between the security of their product and its usability. I believe Valve has struck a good balance with their products.

Secondly, Valve has (as was mentioned earlier) Steam, which is quite possibly their greatest asset. Digital availability, auto-updates, and a fairly solid program to allow interconnectedness of players is a huge boon to those who buy legitimate versions of the games.

The fact that Valve is generally pretty sensible about not having overly-draconian DRM policies and makes what I consider to be quality games will ensure that they will continue to receive my business.

On Game Piracy... (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508201)

Although I haven't used Steam in particular, I applaud this guy for being a realist.

Maybe people "shouldn't" pirate your content, but the fact remains that people can and do, and that it's nigh-impossible to stop, so you have to learn to live with it, hopefully being able to manage/control the problem.

Kind of reminds me of a lot of other things that many people find unpleasant that seemingly can't be stopped. Some people feel that way about firearms, other people feel that way about porn or drugs. [I do *not* mean to start a flamewar about *those* topics right now...]

Sort of reminds me of the spam checklist (http://craphound.com/spamsolutions.txt) whether technical, market-based, legislative or vigilante, there are all sorts of reasons why various approaches won't work well.

I'm not saying that *I* find moderate levels of piracy offensive...

Re:On Game Piracy... (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508321)

Learning to live with piracy as "a fact of life" is sort of like living in the inner city and taking the attitude that gang violence is a "fact of life" and nothing can be done about it. Yes, it is pervasive and all that, but how could it be stopped?

Certainly the folks a Valve found a way to effectively stop piracy. You tie the game's value to a server that doesn't let pirates in. Surely others can follow this model, somehow?

it is easy for Valve to say so (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508223)

... because they have only effective anti-piracy tool in world: Steam.

This is some PR to embrace the pirates to join the Steam.

Second part of Valve's success is figuring out that every game has to have very good multiplier that is controlled from the central server, so that pirates can't do much beside play on some hacked high-latency server with bunch of losers.

Steam sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508289)

Steam sucks. I really do try to like it. And yes, there are several parts of Steam that I do like (those parts being the "social network" portion and the game stats portion), but I dislike that the prices of the stuff online is the same (or at times more) than when I get it offline. For example, last year I bought the HL Anthology pack from *shudder* Circuit City for $7.99. And how much was it on Steam? $14.99. $7 more for no CD and no case. Make me want to buy it off Steam. Make it cheaper.

And now we get into the performance issue. The posted (http://store.steampowered.com/about/) system requirements are Win2k +, 64MB RAM, 400Mhz processor, 1 GB + HDD space, and an internet connection. I tried running Steam (to play HL) on more powerful, yet similar, hardware. That was: 800MHz P3, 192MB RAM. Steam performed like crap. HL, however performed rather nicely. Hell, if I didn't know better I'd think this was a subtle way of telling me "while the games you want to play will run nicely, we DEMAND you to get a new computer".

Re:Steam sucks. (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508567)

800Hz Pentium 3 is hardware old 8+ years. You can't use modern stuff with that ancient machine. 10 yrs old computer is like 100 yrs old car. Do you see 100 yrs cars on interstate? Minimum system requirements = game runs as crap.

Gabe Newell is a liar (-1, Flamebait)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508323)

I agree with Gabe that DRM is basically dumb. At best DRM does not work (can be cracked), at worst it causes the game to not work for legitimate customers. That said, Gabe Newell is a liar. This is the man that claimed to have written the source engine. Touted it at E3 as the next big thing, showed us demos and told every this is the greatest FPS code ever written. Then someone hacked his box [metafilter.com] , found out that the much lauded "source" was just a modified version of the Quake 2 engine and Gabe thought he could modify it enough to call it his own creation. I'm sure this plan would never come to fruition as Gabe Newall is a total programming novice and John Carmack would have typed his secret back door blowup code and demanded millions in licensing fees when it was discovered. As it is the hacker that exposed Gabe as a bald face liar saved him from millions of dollars in legal fees. I totally agree with Gabe "I made Quake 2" Newall in this instance, however, Gabe is still a liar and I will always see him as a liar for as long as he can pull air into his lungs. Sir, how dare you call 'your' engine source when you didn't even write the god damn source?! People don't forget Gabe! you fucked up brother!

if you want to stop piracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26508363)

if you really want to stop piracy of games, simply stop making pc games and move only to consoles. pirating console games is much more difficult and the gaming experience is much more consistent on consoles.

And the future is.... (1)

DeltaQH (717204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26508733)

Just ditch DRM,it annoys your best customer first.

Get the games easy to download from the internet. Put a low enough game/subscription price so is more of a bother to get the pirated game or play with pirate servers than the real ones.

Profit from merchandise, game events, championships, maybe even some advertisement.

Stop shooting your own feet,
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