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Game Developers Should Ignore Software Pirates

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the please-insert-the-play-disc-to-continue-reading dept.

PC Games (Games) 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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Hmm,,, (5, Insightful)

slobber (685169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815756)

Perhaps this is something that Microsoft should embrace for their own good...

Re:Hmm,,, (5, Insightful)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#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,,, (4, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#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,,, (5, Insightful)

aleph42 (1082389) | more than 6 years ago | (#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,,, (5, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#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,,, (1)

definate (876684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816390)

I think I'm the parent thread, else your post makes less sense. :-)

Re:Hmm,,, (4, Insightful)

definate (876684) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

</sarcasm>

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,,, (4, Informative)

William Baric (256345) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Hmm,,, (3, Insightful)

definate (876684) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816368)

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 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 and inadvertently developing a market for your pirated goods, which are now higher quality goods than the one you supplied.

Re:Hmm,,, (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

I'm sorry (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22815760)

Dear Slashtards,

Keep telling yourselves that... as much as you want to believe otherwise, making this kind of stuff available for free does not make them more money, unless it's a completely unknown product.

Not really (2, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815788)

These days a lot of the money from games comes from places other than boxed sales. There's add-on content and online play. If you charge $5 a month to play the game, who really cares if the player pirated it or not?

Re:Not really (2, Interesting)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815884)

These days a lot of the money from games comes from places other than boxed sales. There's add-on content and online play. If you charge $5 a month to play the game, who really cares if the player pirated it or not?

I think this is what has driven games to online play over the last several years more than anything -- online play as copy protection, or alternately online play as making game piracy mostly pointless. Yes, a lot of people are trying to make the 'next WoW' now, and that's driving a lot of games and dev teams towards online play that probably never should be, but ask yourself, why was there a WoW in the first place?

Although there were subscription-model MMOish games earlier, I think the success of Blizzard's Battle.net was the first big success story of online play. You could easily find a key generator to 'crack' any of their games... but not so easily to play online on their servers, and for most people, you wanted to. Online play drives sales drives word of mouth drives more sales, and before you know it the laws of gaming thermodynamics have been broken and a perpetual money-printing machine has been created.

Re:Not really (2, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815966)

That's right! The value, the thing people are willing to pay for, is not the bits which load the game onto a computer. The magic of increasing sales is in the experience that is offered. More often than not, DRM does not improve that experience.

And following up on the example from the story, the experience can be worth significantly more than can be earned from sales through a traditional RIAA member company (who are notorious for skimming 80-90% off the top anyway). Instead, NIN cashed in on their album by offering a "Deluxe Package" and made $750,000 [slashdot.org] in the first 4 or 5 days after the release. On top of that, I know people who spent $5 for the full 2-hours of Ghosts who have not purchased music in 5+ years (not me personally, but I still have not taken the time to listen to the Ghost I, which I had gotten for free).

Re:Not really (4, Insightful)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816154)

Don't forget that a few games have found a form of "copy protection" these days through the physical hardware that comes with the game. It's awfully hard to pirate Rock Band or Guitar Hero; by the time you make your own big plastic guitar you might as well have bought the original. Same with Wii and emulators -- it's not worth programming your desktop computer to emulate a Wii without the fancy controllers.

Re:I'm sorry (2, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816134)

Dear Slashtards,

Keep telling yourselves that... as much as you want to believe otherwise, making this kind of stuff available for free does not make them more money, unless it's a completely unknown product.
Oh I dunno, that depends on how much PC gamers have been annoyed by games that require the disc or games that fail to run due to over-zealous protection. I'd also say it depends on if a game gets a sequel or not. A no-sale on the first game may create a fan for the second. That no-sale in the beginning wasn't necessarily money lost, just not money earned.

I'd say more but I'm arguing with an AC calling people tards who obviously hasn't put any thought into what he's so opinionated about. Good night.

They May Become Customers (3, Insightful)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815766)

But copy protection still stops a lot of piracy, especially for shareware authors and multi-player games.

You're missing the point. (5, Insightful)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815858)

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.

Re:You're missing the point. (5, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815944)

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.

Do those really stop anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816020)

> 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.

Given the level and sophistication of the cracks out there, I'm not convinced that any of those measures stop very many people. Even an 8-year-old can download a crack these days!

Hell, there's even bnetd, which I'm pretty sure you can still find online, in spite of the lawsuit, which basically killed even the online authentication bit.

Re:Do those really stop anyone? (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816036)

they stop people who don't know that first level. that might be a huge fraction, depending on the game audience. I'm not advocating just using CD keys. I personally think that some variant of Steam is preferred because it offers the most chance for authentication with the least intrusion.

I'm not disputing that the cracks are easy to find, but the that doesn't change the basic argument. some large chunk of people will be tempted to say "fuck it, I'll just buy it at EB" rather than d/l a gigabyte game and find a crack.

This will get EASIER, not harder, as digital distribution makes it so that it is reasonable to distribute say, Madden online for a credit card charge. Then the choice is download it for free and mess around w/ the crack or pay 30 bucks and download the game in the same time.

Re:Do those really stop anyone? (5, Interesting)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816184)

Think about what you're saying for a second. Sure, a tech-savvy kid can easily find cracks and apply them, but such skills are still relatively rare in the marketplace as a whole. Not to mention the fact that if you picked 1000 random people out of game shops around the world and asked them about bnetd, the VAST majority would probably not know what it is!

I still remember when Counter-Strike got popular... All the kids at school were playing it, and the VAST majority had legal copies - despite being otherwise shameless pirates in every other way. Some enterprising individuals tried to circumvent the protection via key sharing, etc, but in the end all of THEM just went out and bought it for sheer convenience (having WON kick you off for duplicate keys sucks). I have ZERO doubt in my mind that Valve took a fair chunk of piracy out just by using something as simple as a CD key.

Then there's the other end of the spectrum... Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It ran random crap in the background that will refuse to run if ANY semblance of a virtual CD driver is present, or certain models of CD drives... Suffice it to say it generated LOADS of false positives and was a pain in the ass. IMHO that game is the TEXTBOOK example of how NOT to implement anti-piracy in your software.

Re:Do those really stop anyone? (-1, Flamebait)

digitrev (989335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816336)

Two things. One, /. has tags, including bold and italics. Use them instead of caps lock. Two, maybe the Splinter Cell game was trying to demonstrate Chaos Theory, not let you play it.

Re:Do those really stop anyone? (0, Offtopic)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816378)

In re: tags. Eat me. Hitting shift is easier than inlining .

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816078)

Plus, if you can actually reuse that same copy protection on multiple games, you can achieve economies of scale.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816112)

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 unethical and illegal, but that doesn't change the fact that one talented person (out of the thousands doing the pirating) is all it takes to enable everyone to pirate the program with less hassle than getting a legitimate copy.

So, instead of spending any money on copy protection, why not spend that money on making your game better through a series of patches? Give people the feeling that they're getting a lot of value and continuing value and they'll pay. This is the great secret of the internet and piracy: as long as they don't require a connection to your central server (like an MMO), you'll never be able to keep the pirates from pirating your game. Once your game has been pirated by one person, they'll make it so that other pirates don't need to duplicate their labor.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816196)

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? Some more flashes in a battle sequence? Hiring Spock instead of Chekhov for voice acting?

I'm not making an argument FOR 100% piracy protection. That's lunacy. I'm saying that it is WELL worth the money to prevent the simplest attempts at piracy.

How that impacts paying users is important. But...only so. For one, if the choice is between a few slashdot types getting their panties ina twist about putting a cd key in and 500,000 dollars in sales, the answer is clear. But it should NEVER come to that. Design should be such that piracy protections are transparent. When designers find that tradeoffs become unbearable, they should be able to show this to the producers and recommend throttling back on the restrictions. Your satisfaction as a paying user should be important to the company, but that doesn't mean that anything that you might consider an inconvenience should be jettisoned.

The work of the company should be in making it less difficult to get a legitimate copy. That's the other half of copy protection. Digital distribution is the way to do that. I bought wow at 10:30 PM. It took about 20 minutes to download, about the same time it would have taken me to get to best buy. Blizzard would have done better by updating their digital distribution version to the newest live rev, but whatever. The idea was that both sides of the equation need to be dealt with.

redundant (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816240)

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 people do and always will as long as you don't punish them for it. You can't stop the pirates and you don't need to stop the honest people; who are you protecting against?

Re:redundant (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816326)

I don't think you are being fair. There is a segment of people who might pirate games and who might buy them. For one, I'm a member. for another thing, there is some empirical evidence to support the notion that the populace isn't divided into unrepentant pirates and la abiding dopey citizens.

I also feel that you are understating the costs to piracy for the user. It is a non-trivial expenditure of my time to look for cracks and downloads of these games. It is probably much harder for my mom. If I had to, I could probably get a cracked copy of a game after a few tries, but if the game costs 50 bucks it probably isn't worth it. It gets less worth it as chances of failure (for the crack) go up. For a program like photoshop, I am willing to spend more time and effort getting a crack (if I didn't use gimp) because I'm not spending 11 bajillion dollars to get it. But if my time is worth something, I'm not going to bother pirating a 20 dollar game if it takes me more than an hour or so. Some people are more efficient at getting those copies than others. Presumably you could find a pirated copy of whatever in 10 seconds flat and you could distinguish between good copies and bad copies with ease. That means that you face a much shallower tradeoff for your time. My mom faces a considerably steeper tradeoff, probably steep enought hat she would never contemplate piracy, just on the grounds that she would spend days just figuring out how the fuck to do it.

I can't stop you from pirating the game. I've already said I don't care. But I can stop me. Your assertion that once a game is cracked for one person it is cracked for everyone is an oversimplification. It's true for the people who download it and get it to work. For everyone else, it is still locked.

I'll say it again, a consequence of those drastic diminishing marginal returns is that the first few dollars spent in piracy prevention REALLY pay off. More than in other areas (probably). It doesn't pay to spend all your money as a company on it, but it is an easy choice between having minimal copy protection (that is easy to break) and having none. Don't oversimplify things. I'm not missing the point.

Copy protection works for software ... (5, Insightful)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816088)

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.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816094)

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.

Re:You're missing the point. (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816130)

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 guess the correct statement should be that I have not given up on PAYING for PC games because consoles are better. I have have given up on PAYING for PC games because the software manufactures of FOR PAY games have driven me off.

I still remember the final straw. It was "Freedom Force". I bought the game, and when I got it home, I found that they had not packed the CD-Key in with the game. When I called their tech support line all it was was a recording saying that to get a key I would have to mail, yes mail, them a photocopy of the cd, and wait for them to mail me a key. I hung up and went online to find a 'pirate' key. That was the last commercial PC game I ever bought. I figured if I had to go to the trouble "pirating" the game anyway, there was no point in paying for it. When it came down to it, it turned out that buying the game was part of the fun, and it wasn't worth the effort to me to copy commercial games.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815860)

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.

Re:They May Become Customers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22815864)

But copy protection still stops a lot of piracy, especially for shareware authors and multi-player games.

That's a common sense argument, but do you have any statistics to back it up?

Furthermore, who cares if copy protection inhibits piracy, the only thing that matters is if it increases profits.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815876)

Maybe so, but does it net them any more profit?

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816118)

as long as the price paid is above the average cost of making it....uhhhhhh, yeah. What kind of question is this?

Re:They May Become Customers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816206)

as long as the price paid is above the average cost of making it....uhhhhhh, yeah. What kind of question is this?

It is exactly the question that any sane business-person should ask. If the cost of creating DRM protection exceeds profits supposedly gained from implementing such protection, then you would have to be fucking insane to implement said protections. The problem is, most businesses are insane.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816236)

Well, most businesses are insane because the managers are in some sort of KEEERAZY world where perfect DRM is right around the corner and it will only be a matter of time before every instance of every digital product is paid for. Some of them (like id, blizzard, valve (sometimes)) understand the nature of the copy protection problem they face and respond to it appropriately. Some don't.

Still, the cost paid for DRM is sunk. Marginal costs are very low. The companies face a declining average cost curve. IF your price is higher than the average cost (including DRM) they make money (and thus will sell the game). If selling to you would be a loss (and it isn't a razor blade situation), they won't do it.

Sensible, non-intrusive copy protection like a saner version of steam is a perfectly reasonable solution. A rootkit is not.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815930)

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.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816002)

I don't think Blizzard cares much how you get the client. You just pay to play on their servers.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816046)

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.

Re:They May Become Customers (1)

Runefox (905204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815952)

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 hurdle that generally takes maybe a few weeks at most to crack, and that's a reality. I haven't done it in a long time (right around the time I got a job and became able to pay for software), but that still seems to be the case. But big deal, people who own PS3's get to wait far longer than that to get their fix. And hell, if copy protection worked, Windows Vista should be uncrackable, given the loving care Microsoft put into the activation and authentication system. Such is not the case. Even WGA, their major weapon against piracy, can be bypassed in almost every regard. It's simply more work, and that's the same deal with pirating copy-protected games.

Point is, it's pointless, like TA says.

It stops alot of customers too (1)

Myrcutio (1006333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816346)

I for one will never buy a game that uses Starforce copy protection. When i bought Call of Juarez i was unable to play it without reinstalling windows because it was convinced that i was running a CD emulator.

Cd keys, online authentication and the like are fine, but there is a limit to what is really necessary. There will probably never be a game that cannot be cracked and redistributed (Although WoW came close) so the author is absolutely correct. Spend the time and resources on the game, not the pirates who will thwart you anyways.

Oh yea, the cracked copy of Call of Juarez I downloaded from pirate bay worked great, thanks pirates!

Re:It stops alot of customers too (1)

TheMiddleRoad (1153113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816410)

That's just bad copy protection that screws up your system. You can trash that, but it just belongs with all other crappy coding.

Public companies can't -- or shareholders will sue (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Public companies can't -- or shareholders will (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815894)

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.

Re:Public companies can't -- or shareholders will (2, Informative)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816022)

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 diversify. That they would become involved in an issue this arcane is silly.

Re:Public companies can't -- or shareholders will (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816054)

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.

Re:Public companies can't -- or shareholders will (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816146)

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 elsewhere. they don't actually have any control in the company aside from the threat of selling their shares.

2. "Ignoring Pirates" wouldn't be such a big deal if the estimated loss due to piracy wasn't so ridiculously over-inflated in the first place. If any company has a hard time convincing shareholders that it's not worth worrying about pirates it's only due to their own fear mongering at a prior date.

The purpose of anti-piracy actions should be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22815806)

The purpose should not be to stop copying, but to convince those who would otherwise get a free pirated copy that getting a hold of that pirated copy will not be something easy to do. If all it takes to get a free piece of software is downloading some file, you'll have many more people copying. While most of those people wouldn't buy the game regardless, some would have. The point? Make some security, just so that those who would by don't become convinced that it's really easy to copy. Do everything you can without impeding upon the normal, legal user's experience.

Re:The purpose of anti-piracy actions should be... (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815838)

Perhaps, if there has to be any protection, the best would be to have a multiplayer network, but only one of the same CD serial number can be on at a time. This would encourage people to purchase the game.

For example, Neverwinter Nights 1 and Warcraft 3 as of now has the CD protection patched out, but people definitely still buy the game to access multiplayer features such as server lists.

Re:The purpose of anti-piracy actions should be... (1)

niteice (793961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816116)

That's essentially what Steam does. In fact, the CD key isn't even needed, as evidenced by the fact that loads of people purchase games entirely online. Valve just associates a game with an account.

If only it were that simple... (4, Funny)

dpx420 (1210902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815844)

For a moment I read the title of this article as "Game Developers Should Ignore Software Patents"

Re:If only it were that simple... (1)

Runefox (905204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815980)

So I wasn't the only one. :P If only.

PC games are dying compared to consoles (0, Offtopic)

adisakp (705706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815862)

FTA "So even though Galactic Civilizations II sold 300,000 copies making [eight] digits in revenue on a budget of less than $1 million, it's still largely off the radar. I practically have to agree to mow editors' lawns to get coverage... [Sins of a Solar Empire] has already sold about 200,000 copies in the first month of release. It's the highest-rated PC game of 2008 and probably the best-selling 2008 PC title. Neither of these titles have CD copy protection"

The game I work on, Mortal Kombat, sold close to two million units on all SKU's on the last release. Guitar Hero sales have just racked up $1 billion for the franchise. That's correct, $1 billion. When you're the top selling title of '08 on the PC and you're gonna make $2-3 million that's nothing compared to being just a contender on the consoles where you can make $10-20 million.

Dying? (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815886)

I won't believe it until Netcraft confirms it.

Re:PC games are dying compared to consoles (4, Insightful)

Runefox (905204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816090)

No, see, that's not it at all. The biggest problem plaguing most PC releases nowadays is that in order to keep up with the high power of most console games, a huge amount of PC horsepower is required; Hell, the X-Box 360 is more powerful than my PC. The Wii probably is, for that matter.

So, PC game developers whip up these massive, beautiful games (Crysis), wherein no earthly system of the time can possibly run it at a decent speed, and what can people do? Your $500 Dell desktop isn't going to cut it. You'll need at least $1000 ($1400 for a laptop) worth of hardware just to hope to be able to play the game at a playable speed, and you'd better hope you didn't skimp on the video. The problem with this is, not many people opt for the heavyweight PC; Most families, companies, bachelors, etc will want to run as cost-effectively as possible and thus won't bother with expensive video cards (the ones in question being at least $200 and at most $600-$700). There's really a very small market for "hardcore" PC gamers (the ones who want a 360/PS3-style experience and are willing to spend the sum of both consoles' worth in high-end gadgetry to do so), though it's very, very lucrative for hardware manufacturers.

So, why should I, stuck with my crappy old Radeon 9600 Pro, go out and buy Crysis, even if I really wanted to? The answer is: I shouldn't. There's no possible way I could even squeeze 2FPS on that one. That's one sale gone. And what about all those people with $500 Dells who are also gamers? There's more missing sales.

The point is, you can't blame software piracy for making a piece of software so unwieldly that only a niche market of users can actually hope to run. At least a 360, Wii, or PS3 will, hopefully, be capable of playing anything certified for release on it. The PC doesn't have such luxuries, and that's where the stumbling block is. Until IGP chipsets become powerful enough to compete with discrete graphics solutions (never), you'll never find the massive reception that you would otherwise find on a platform that's actually genuinely capable of pushing the graphical "wow" you want. End of story.

In summary, you're comparing apples and oranges. PC's have wildly varying specs, and even users interested in playing your game, in many cases, may not be able to. Consoles are rigid, and have typically zero differences between variations of the same model in terms of horsepower; Thus, anyone who owns a 360/PS3/Wii will also be able to, without question, play your 360/PS3/Wii game.

This is TERRIBLE advice (4, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815890)

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.

Re:This is TERRIBLE advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22815982)

His "ignore the problem" advice wouldn't work for those securing computers. Why should it work here? The success rate for those doing security isn't 100% so why shouldn't they give up? All or nothing advice usually ends up being bad.

the stardock games I have played are a bit diff... (5, Insightful)

filthpickle (1199927) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:the stardock games I have played are a bit diff (3, Interesting)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816276)

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.

Bull (5, Informative)

Oddster (628633) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Bull (3, Interesting)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816048)

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 get you enough sales to make up for the ones you lost? Plus some extra to cover the money spend on DRM? If not, or if you broke even, then you wasted your time and money that could have been devoted to getting sales from me. Which, if you did a good job, would have guaranteed you a sale on your next title too. So what did chasing down the bootleggers gain you exactly?

I *will* buy Sins of a Solar Empire. Not because of the absence of DRM, but because it sounds like a good game that I would want want to buy, and there's no DRM to turn me away. If I like it, StarDock just found themselves a new long-term customer. One that you could have had. So "Bull" right back at you.

Re:Bull (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816104)

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 aren't put off by it as a paying consumer. That's it. It should be up to a software designer to make a DRM scheme that doesn't screw customers over. Unfortunately, it is and will remain a design need to have DRM on these games. This doesn't mean it needs to be intrusive. I would prefer it not act like microsoft or generate too many false positives. I would honestly prefer that it be invisible, known only to the user if there is a problem. Unfortunately right now our software designers seem to be pumping out DRM that is in everyone's face. That will change.

The market just doesn't work like video and music. The arguments are different.

Re:Bull (3, Interesting)

SiriusStarr (1196697) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816262)

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 rootkit on my computer. Windows is awfully vulnerable as it stands, and I really don't want to open up another potential vulnerability. Not to mention its interference with process explorers.

I know few will believe me and most will simply say that I obviously don't want the game that much, but oh well... Honestly though, the only thing that has kept me from purchasing the game is the DRM.

Re:Bull (2, Interesting)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816342)

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.

Re:Bull (1)

ZeroNullVoid (886675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816096)

Which brings up smart-tags and RFID in packaging and product. The US tends to see this as the future of thwarting counterfeit drugs. Just have the retailers verify it with a online activation list at the register or upon shipment unloading. The unique id is expired or the tag is reissued another verification hash which is stored centrally to keep track of inventory.

Re:Bull (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816102)

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, doesnt it? If ol Mal-Wart starts selling your game but bought a bunch of rip-off disks, sue them for the 750$-35000$ per copy, just like the music industry is doing ;) (yeah, tounge in cheek).

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816124)

Why would your copy protection work any better against professional bootleggers than it does against the general hacker public?

If Joe Q Hacker can get a copy protection crack program written in the first two weeks of a game hitting the shelves, what makes you think your copy protection scheme is doing anything vs. the professional pirates who are motivated by money?

If you were genuinely concerned about piracy in China, you'd have your CDs pressed in a country where that kind of thing isn't common. Instead you're pursuing a scheme that obviously doesn't work, fails to punish the right people, and eventually irritates your paying customers.

The only people I see benefiting are the ones who sold you the copy protection scheme and got you to buy into the idea that their magic software can stop professional pirates. The customers aren't getting any benefit and you're not getting any benefit, so hey - maybe that extra five cents you save by going through communist China instead of a country with more effective copyright laws wasn't worth it after all.

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816158)

Logic flaw alert: Copy protection does not stop bootleggers with distribution channels capable of moving 500,000 units from paying people to crack protections.

If it did, you might have a point. Unfortunately, Gamecopyworld.com demonstrates otherwise. Do you think these people are cracking the games out of the goodness of their hearts, or over payments from the black market?

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816168)

"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. "

Point noted, however technology turns anyone into a potential bootlegger as far as scale of effect. Also I'd argue that much like the illlegal drug market. Both markets are fueled by end-users.* There's little difference between someone who buys a hot disc on an asian street vs someone sittting at home and illegally downloading your products.

*So's the spam market and no one here would argue that the end-user has no effect on the rest of us so why should household piracy get a free pass in the discussion?

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816176)

Look, I'm sorry, but that's an awful argument.

You seem to be under the impression that DRM will both stop bootlegged copies, and that they are the target. If that's so, someone's been sold fairy dust.

I can download copies of any game released. That means there is a copy, somewhere of whatever DRM'd game you pick. So how the fuck do you imagine a well-funded bootlegger is unable to duplicate your game, when the average technically-minded idiot can?

That's a joke of an argument, a pretty rationalisation sold to employees. There is no technical means to prevent bootlegging, therefore justifying DRM in that way is a sham.

Re:Bull (5, Informative)

Runefox (905204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816190)

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:Bull (2, Interesting)

PopCulture (536272) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816226)

"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:Bull (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816248)

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

You can make it out to cash, thanks.

Re:Bull (2, Interesting)

Erpo (237853) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816298)

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 try to charge you a dime. I'll be happy if you just use it. Please, consider submitting this question as an "Ask Slashdot" for a variety of responses.

Just to be sure I understand you, you have two goals:

1. You want to ensure that people who are willing to pay for the game will send their money to the people who actually authored it.
2. You want to ensure that people who buy discs are receiving quality goods.

Here are my thoughts:

1a. Ransom licensing (i.e. only take preorders). Not only does it totally eliminate the freeloader problem, but it ensures that there won't be any profit in making knockoff discs. Ransom licensing would work best for a big company with a solid reputation for making good games. However, this is a big departure from the way games are traditionally financed, and big game developers seem to be quite risk averse/conservative.
1b. Holograms, maybe? I don't know how good people are at duplicating those.
1c. Program the game to ask for the retailer's name during registration, and explain why you want to know. Normally I feel that it's my own business how old I am and how many TVs I own, but if you explain your plight to a gamer who honestly wants to send money to the developers, I'm sure he or she would be willing to register and help you check if the disc came from your company.

2a. Digital distribution. Either a digital download is bit for bit identical to the original or it isn't. There's no such thing as a file that is pretty much OK today but rotten next week because it was fabricated poorly. If my hard disk or CD-R holding the download fails, that's my fault as a consumer, not your fault as a game developer. For extra brownie points, let me use my serial number to download additional copies of the game installer in case I lose my original.
2b. As a last resort, publish CDs but don't use any physical-medium-based DRM. If your game discs can be copied using standard, cheap CD-Rs and don't require sophisticated mastering machinery, commercial pirates will be more likely to gravitate to more readily available, more mature duplication techniques that are more likely to produce quality goods. It's not an ideal situation, but it won't reflect as badly on your company because Takamura's Shady CD House is the only company in town who can duplicate Madden 2010 DVDs and all of the discs coming out suffer bit rot after a month.

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816320)

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.
Except that doesn't really work. For the most part, I can find games prereleased through bittorrent, pre cracked and in iso form(ready to be burned en masse) before they come out legitimately - just like I can find DVDR copies of movies to download. Watch gamecopyworld, the nocd crack/patch or backup mini image are almost always out before the game is. HOODLUM released San Andreas to top sites a whole month before it was even in stores stockrooms, and Oblivion was out about two weeks before it was in stores. If it's not already out and cracked before your release date, it will certainly be cracked and released on the day of, or shortly after it's release. Many groups like deviance do it for the challenge of doing it, and they almost always get prereleased copies to play with, making it fairly easy to find a copy with no protection what so ever on release date.

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816340)

I'm not sure which bit of 'we don't develop games for the Chinese market' you didn't get?

And where DRm fit in ? (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816356)

Please explain us carefully where DRM will stop any pirate bootlegging 1/2 million CD/DVD copy of a game. Especially that most crack appear within hours of the game being released. So a good bootlegger would break in/pay somebody inside to give an iso at the same time as the gold master is pressed. And the bootlegger would still have a leg on you, because frankly they probably have the same equipement as you do to press their bootleg, or can pay professional hacker to remove the freaking DRM. DRM was NEVER EVER against the bootlegger, it has always been against CASUAL copying !!!. And that is where the article shine : who cares about casual copying ! Only an extreme minority would buy the game instead of casually copying it. And that minority is MOST PROBABLY offset by people having problem with the DRM, be it software problem (freaking DRM don't always work) or philosophical problem (why should I root my PC for your piece of crapware ?). You are NOT increasing your market share by ANY means, you are lowering it !!

Just use Steam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22815916)

It is going to become the defacto distribution for PC games and maybe even other opportunities with media.
Their library of games is huge and you can take them with you anywhere to play.

Pirate conversion. (3, Informative)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Pirate conversion. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816304)

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.

And conversion doesn't have to take place on the same product. That's something that doesn't make business sense for the EAs and Vivendis of the world, but it can help within the context of indie houses.

I warezed (shame on me!) the first GalCiv back in 2003. It was fun, but pretty unpolished. No crashes, but there were typos everywhere, and once I discovered the AI would sell me gamebreaking technology for cheaper than it would cost me to design it myself, that was that. Still, an interesting game. If I'd played it another week, I'd have bought it.

But it must have stuck with me, because I'd completely forgotten about it until I read the Wired review of SoaSE this morning. Something about that game sounded familiar... As soon as I found out who was behind SoaSE, I bought it. Sight unseen, demo undownloaded.

When a large game house does something cool, it's usually an accident, or it's because they bought the talent rather than developing it in-house. (EA, I'm looking at you!)

But when an indie studio does something cool, it's usually not an accident. I bought Introversion's DEFCON on the strength of its demo... and when I saw they had PC, Mac, and Linux ports, I paid for Darwinia and Uplink sight unseen, and was richly rewarded in each case.

Same with Stardock. Bought SoaSE sight unseen this morning on the strength of the company's brand -- said strength from a drive-by warezing of a proof-of-concept game five years ago. I didn't buy SoaSE of guilt for warezing GalCiv, I bought it I wanted to see what they'd done over the past five years, and even though it's only been a few hours, I like what I see. I like it a lot.

I don't know what Stardock will come out with next. But they're now firmly on my radar as a company to watch. Like Introversion, these guys get it. I want more, I'm delighted to pay for it, and I just wish I'd paid more attention (and money!) to them five years ago.

Better idea (3, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Entirely different businesses... (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815976)

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.

Punishing Customers. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22815984)

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 seeing a two stage system for games, if you're online contact a authorization server to play (yes single player) so you don't have to have the disc in the drive *or* if the server is unavailable then require the disc in the drive. For me this would mean not even going into the grey area of cd-cracks because the hassle would be mitigated - I wouldn't be punished because others steal the effort of the developers.

As an aside, Information should be free in a perfect world but until shelter and food is then damn well pay what someones asking for their effort. You pay the publisher they pay the developer, they pay their employees, they pay their rent. Until that last requirement is removed then a effort sharing system (aka capitalism) is just required for luxury items. Linux is an example that sidesteps the monetary requirements in that the effort is spread around enough people that the cost per person is actually minimal. If entertainment matured more towards current open-source models then it could benefit from the same situation: organization - open model, sound, geometry, engine packs would mitigate entertainments profit dependence.

Re:Punishing Customers. (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816068)

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 was ZERO. That's not true, there are payments made to the makers of open souarce software, most of them just aren't monetary. Status counts, in a big way. Status explains why schoolteachers in singapore are largely talented and highly competent where in the US they are much less so (no offense to any teachers, but you know what I'm talking about). For people not motivated by status, monopoly rights on information (which can't be secured any other way, obviously) allow for some motivation to create. This doesn't mean I support the CURRENT US copyright scheme, which is asinine in so many ways. But the basic idea is sound.

Re:Punishing Customers. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816164)

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 contribute to a project. Game development on the other hand is a much more vertical development process. Small concentrated teams of artists and programmers work together in concert over a period of a year or three and in contrast each individuals contribution to the project is of a greater ratio than an individuals contribution to a distribution. This is not counting areas in Linux where corporate sponsoship come into play although. But the point I'm trying to get across is that a person developing games to produce something top-notch needs to devote much more of their time across the same number of years than an equivalent developer in the open world working in a much smaller focus to produce something noteworthy. Open-source has the advantage of reusability games tend to be mostly custom per project work wise so more effort needs to be expended on them. And everyone has to buy food.

Re:Punishing Customers. (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816208)

Oh, I see. Well, then we are pretty much in agreement. :) hear, hear!

I knew I had heard it before ... (3, Funny)

xkr (786629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816014)

Whining about pirates is like complaining about all the girls you could have dated. But didn't.

Raise your glass and say cheers, someone gets it! (1)

ZeroNullVoid (886675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816060)

Raise your glass and say cheers, someone gets it! The people who pirate seem to have a common bond, they are not willing or able to pay for it. Ignore them and they will walk all over you, but at least your not wasting your potential profit trying to stop them. It's a "cat and mouse" game. If the cat catches the mouse, it just craps it out... there always seem to be more mice. Mice find ways around obstacles, even if they have to chew through it (reverse engineer) or sacrifice one of their own (get someone on the inside.) Mice tend to want to help one another. For the people willing to pay for it, they will buy it. Some want to taste the milk before buying the cow, even if it means draining an entire cow and buying another cow (beating the game and then buying it because they liked it). By putting a copy protection on a game, it just means that once the company goes under, legitimate owners of a media will not be able to recover or play an old archived version of a game. Many purchase the products and use cracked or patched games to get rid of the need for media insertion. This is especially true for laptops that make a humming noise when a disc is in or creates vibrations you feel while gaming. Don't waste money to create an hassle for the consumer. Waste the money to make it better for the consumer. Everyone hold up your glasses and say cheers. If you are not wearing glasses then hold up a glass. If one is not around you than pretend to hold up a glass (if you have no arms and cannot physically hold up a glass than you can still pretend to.)

I call BS on Brad Wardell (4, Insightful)

brit74 (831798) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I call BS on Brad Wardell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816128)

Brad Wardell is *not* ignoring the pirates - he's got his own ideas about dealing with them, but "ignoring them" is not his strategy.

How do you come to that conclusion? He is doing nothing to deter the pirates, and instead is concentrating on pleasing his legitimate users. That certainly sounds like "ignoring", to me.

Re:I call BS on Brad Wardell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816220)

Have you even played GalCiv or Sins?
There may be a way around it, but the games and all updates are installed through the StarDock software if purchased online. So they use a steam like model. I'm unsure how the physical media installer works.
If he ignored pirates, he would have the game install without so much as a CD Key.
Not that having a CD key is in anyway intrusive, like other piracy measures, but I wouldn't call it "ignoring" pirates.

Re:I call BS on Brad Wardell (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816186)

Stardock has used this model for updates and bug fixes for many years. It is very close to steam in experience. This isn't drm, and it does not effect the use of their product by paying customers. If a person buys their game they can get updates and bug fixes easily. I will admit that I like Stardock. I use Windowblinds on windows because I do not like the way windows looks by default and I prefer some of the themes that only work on windowblinds and not with the uxtheme hack. I have never had any problems with their update software, and it provides a very convenient way of installing their software and keeping it up to date. A simple username and password is all that is required and once inputted you never have to deal with putting it in again. While this method does discourage pirates, it has other benefits that make me like it just like I like steam. In fact, steam makes me buy stuff when maybe I shouldn't because its so easy. A simple method for discouraging pirates that makes the users happy sounds like a good idea to me.

Re:I call BS on Brad Wardell (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816322)

In cases of steam, the company has control whether you can run what you paid for or not.

They can also de-activate you for any reason (EULA garbage). I do not trust them, or any of their methods.

I abide by First Sale Doctrine, and I expect all products that I buy do the same. If I cant transfer at will, it is worthless.

RIAA (1)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816126)

This is what I've been saying about music. Ignore the pirates. Oh, same about all the stolen beer. Hiccup! Oops. Err wasn't me.

yup (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816180)

No matter what a game company does to protect their game as in terms of copy protection, its never gonna stop the pirateing. about mostly only effective is the cd-key for online play, if person likes game enough for single player a lot of them will buy a legit copy to play it. Granted there have been private server cracks for pirated versions but usally for game is hard to find them, and its much nicer to just buy game and have axx to every server.

"Pirating" games should be encouraged. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816202)

I am absolutely sick and tired of wasting money on these idiot game companies. I don't mind paying actual money for games; in fact, I PREFER to do so. But I have been burned very badly by these idiot game developers who have no idea how to architect things correctly.

Often when I used to buy a game, I'd find out that the rocket scientists in charge of development have absolutely no concern with what hardware I'm running. Especially the video card. They demand the latest and greatest card, which means I have to shell out a good chunk of money just to play their game. And hopefully there are no other compatibility problems with the other hardware and software on my system.

So, to play their stupid $50 game, I have to spend $100 or much more just to upgrade my system.

So I've given up on buying a game and praying that it works (feh - their supposed compatibility list is usually a lie).

What I do now is download their game off of bittorrent, and try it out in a VmWare image. If it works, then I'll actually buy the game. The reason I use VmWare is that it adds a layer of security, because there are a lot of free games out there which contain various trojans and whatnot. Anyone who would run one of these blindly is just asking for trouble. So that's why I will actually spend money and buy the game from the store, but ONLY if I know that the game will work first.

Or, to use the more popular recent buzzword in high-tech, consider it a try-and-buy.

This works out well for the game company, and it works out well for me. So yes, this so-called "piracy" is actually in the game industry's interest, and benefit.

Now, if only they'd learn about backwards compatibility and standards, then that would make my life a LOT easier. But that seems to be a rather impossible task with game developers.

In other words... (2, Insightful)

c0d3h4x0r (604141) | more than 6 years ago | (#22816242)

...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 obviously unofficial copy for themselves and no one makes any money off the deal. Pirates should be left alone because they're not hurting anyone.

blogspam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22816402)

This is an amazing blogspamming circle jerk. Slashdot posts a summary about a summary on Ars, about a summary on TechReport, about a blog post from the CEO of Stardock.

RTRFA (read the real f'ing article) here:
http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/303512/Piracy_PC_Gaming [joeuser.com]

Dear Internet, please stop this crap, thanks.
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