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Piracy and Stuff

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May 18, 2010 6:59:17 AM

First off, this is not flame-bait. This is a topic I honestly care about, and I am asking an honest question.

On this website, and many others I read, any article discussing piracy's comments section is filled with comments dismissing the issue. For example, the comments on the Epic interview today consist of "Meh. Generic over-used excuse," etc. Piracy is undeniably a huge issue - although obviously ever pirated copy does not equal a lost sale, it's stupid to think that none do either. The honour system does not work; this is an established fact, and the reason we have law enforcement officers. And the problem is only going to get worse, barring magic DRM. When nearly every major release sees hundreds of thousands of pirated copies plus, there is clearly a big issue. Why else do you think publishers risk their reputation and spend thousands of dollars on DRM schemes?

Speaking of DRM, it is my opinion that most of it takes a lot more flak than is truly fair. The way I see it, the attacks on DRM come from four different directions:

1. But the publishers are treating us like criminals! This is true. And to be honest, they are right. Spore sold just over two million (citation needed) copies in 2008, while the conservative piracy estimates hover around 1.5M. That is huge amount of piracy, almost 45% in a casual game, whose target audience isn't very tech-savvy, while the CEO of Crytek estimates the ratio of pirated users of Crysis to legit users is 20 to 1. Which is astronomical. Assuming those numbers are even close, and only one in ten of those pirates is a lost customer (which I doubt), that's a loss of two-thirds of their customer base, right there.

2. But DRM hurts legitimate customers! This is a slightly more legitimate claim. However, I believe that it, too, is blown well out of proportion. I will go on record, before God, as saying I, who have played a good number of heavily protected PC games, have never had a serious DRM-related issue, and I do not personally know anyone who has. I have played games with SecuROM, Starforce, and most of Ubisoft's crazier schemes, and I have had bigger problems activated my (perfectly legitimate) copy of Windows XP Media Centre Edition after a motherboard replacement, and that amounted to a single long phone call to somebody with a very strong Japanese accent. I do, however, understand that there are a significant number of serious issues that have cropped up, and that some companies have done a very poor job of handling the fallout, but I honestly believe this is the exception, not the rule, and the DRM gets an undeserved bad rap. As evidence, I present Valve, the proud owner of an untarnished "By the gamers, for the gamers" reputation, 's Steam. Steam is copy-protection in and of itself, and less reliable than most. And contrary to popular belief, it usually delivers games with their previous protection intact. Most gamers won't hear a word against it.

Furthermore, Ubisoft's new scheme, which requires a constant internet connection to play, has been lambasted non-stop. This I really do not understand. Ubisoft made no bones about the need for a constant internet connection, willfully removing those with unreliable internet connections from their target audience, the same way Crytek willfully excluded anyone without a powerful machine from Crysis. It was a business decision that was theirs to make, and shouldn't be insulting anybody. And it absolutely shouldn't be an excuse for piracy - if you can download the damn game, you're internet's good enough to play the damn game as is.

3. But DRM doesn't work! This is true, sort of. DRM will not likely ever stop piracy completely, but it does help. A locked door won't stop a thief who really wants to get in, but it may make it not worth his time, and lead him to move on or think twice. Aside from increasing the effort needed to pirate a game, if the game isn't leaked before the release date, it will take time for a working crack to be developed. And going by the amount of rage found after a delay notice, gamers are an impatient bunch. That's really all there is too it.

4. But DRM makes it harder for me to pirate games!!1!1! That's the point.

Obviously, the issue isn't that simple. Many people will bring up the music industry, which, contrary to the RCAA would have you believe, still exists despite rampant piracy. It is even theorized that filesharing may have helped the industry grow, especially to developing artists. But there are big differences between the situations: the millions of dollars of investment required to make a videogame, the lesser replay-ability of videogames, the identical quality of a pirated game to a new game, and the fact that most artists make more money touring than from record sales. The final point is likely due to the absolute pandemic of filesharing in the music industry. Movies are similar to record sales, while the only source of revenue for the PC gaming industry is initial sales, which in the era of unlimited freedom of copyright infringement, is likely not sustainable.

People give a number of excuses for their piracy, very few of which are even remotely valid.

1. It doesn't hurt the rich publishers! Contrary to this logic, lost sales do hurt the companies, and they very much do need more sales. Very few publishers made money this year.

2. If they didn't protect their games with DRM, we would buy them! This is hard to prove, but seems unlikely. This article claims that over 300,000 people were pirating Mass Effect 2 before the game even officially released. No copy protection whatsoever.

3. If they made good games, I'd woudn't pirate them! This crap isn't worth $50 This argument doesn't even really make sense. Why would somebody steal a game that isn't good? It's not as if there aren't any good PC games out there - 18 already in 2010 with Metacritic scores over 80%, and 90 since 2008. No lack of good games.

So why isn't piracy and issue, and why is DRM the devil?

More about : piracy stuff

May 18, 2010 12:21:00 PM

Basically DRM punishes the people who bought legitamately, with limited installations, security risks, hangs, bluescreens and lots of other issues. The pirates just strip it out and then have a copy which actually works.
Steam isnt perfect but its a step up from drm, although some software companies also bundle their drm thru steam as well tho :( 
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/28/ubisoft_drm_cra...
It also appears that the devs are resorting to cracked versions when their DRM stuffs things up too much, hahaha!
http://www.ubergizmo.com/15/archives/2010/05/cracked_ve...
DRM is pants.
You shouldnt need to pirate decent multiplayer games anyway due to server authentication when trying to play online.
May 18, 2010 2:52:20 PM

In the first place in reality the DRM is not to prevent Piracy but to curtail reselling a game after you use it - the game makers do not make any profit from a game that is rented or resold so in order to keep that from happening they use DRM that will only allow a single user to register the game thus stopping any resales or rentals that would cost them profits (Why do you think STEAM and other download sites forbid the reselling of games or user accounts that have been purchased ? Probably because the game manufacturers would try to shut them down if they did allow it !! (I mean you buy the game you should be able to resell it once you no longer want to play it but DRM is used to keep that from happening) - but as is the norm they can not admit that is what they are trying to do so blame it on Piracy. If they would just get a bit more realistic and sell the games for $10 - $20 dollars instead of wanting to make all of their development costs in the first week of sales by charging $50 or more for a mediocre game then that would be just as effective at curbing the resale and rental market and at the same time cut down on the amount of Piracy so that these DRM schemes are not needed -- especially for those games that offered things like an online multi-player option because people wouldn't bother trying to get an illegal copy if they could easily afford to buy a legitimate one and not have to hassle with finding a pirate server to play online.
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May 21, 2010 11:21:50 AM

Its really stupid to think that DRM works for piracy, in most cases it gets cracked within hours so it simply doesnt work for piracy versions, meaning the only ones who have problems with DRM are the people who buy them.

I never had problem with DRM as well but i read on some forums that the new DRM that connects to the internet while you are playing to check if the game is real has received alot of flak, especially one time when the servers were down for a whole weekend making the people simply unable to play.

I wont say they should get rid of DRM but it simply doesnt work its only punishing the people who buy the games.

- Xadro
May 21, 2010 12:01:34 PM

So far this argument/discussion has remained civil, so it will be allowed to continue with a fair warning, anyone posting any type of copyright infringement information in this thread will get permanently banned from THGF, so keep it civil, and clean word and insult wise.

Police your own comments and make sure the links you link to, to enforce your points, do not lead to any type of copy protection removal websites!

Ryan
May 23, 2010 11:44:48 AM

This has been done to death here and other places. Steve Ballmer claimed Vista's lack of market sales were due to piracy, but lately he's admitted to the more significant issues rather than taking the easy answer other CEO's have used.

I've reformatted several client machines when DRM's gone wrong, I've had my own machine fail to boot due to a DRM driver being outdated (DRM I didn't even know I had, so wouldn't have been updating), and of course there was the Sony rootkit mess I got to help some people clean up after.

It is more of an inconvenience to paying customers, as cracked versions remove all of the hidden applications and nag screens. If they merely wanted to stop casual copying, there are much simpler methods than the ones they're using. Resale is the apparent current reason, but annoying DRM is still not necessary for that.

Slowly, publishers seem to be figuring out that people want to play online. They don't need to spend thousands of man-hours developing a multi-faceted AI opponent when an online opponent will do as well, AND let them administer a use-once CD key registration system for online play. That ensures the product's not an illegitimate copy and hinders resale, without interfering with operating system access to optical drives and other things DRM does.

I'm slowly, after years of resistance, accumulating games with Steam. They have a few limited install games I still refuse to purchase, but most offer the convenience of digital distribution without many limitations.

I still avoid DRM when possible, it's an additional layer of software you have no control over, often running continuously even if the product it's for is installed once and removed. I have games in shrinkwrap I will never install except maybe in a virtual box due to SecureROM, but most likely I'll eventually just throw them away, mistaken purchases made without checking DRM types prior to purchase.
May 23, 2010 3:02:47 PM

Xadro said:
Its really stupid to think that DRM works for piracy, in most cases it gets cracked within hours so it simply doesnt work for piracy versions, meaning the only ones who have problems with DRM are the people who buy them.

I never had problem with DRM as well but i read on some forums that the new DRM that connects to the internet while you are playing to check if the game is real has received alot of flak, especially one time when the servers were down for a whole weekend making the people simply unable to play.

I wont say they should get rid of DRM but it simply doesnt work its only punishing the people who buy the games.

- Xadro

I completely agree. DRMs slow down piraters for less than 24 hours, and who wouldnt wait 24 hours to save 50 bux. They DO just hurt the people who legitimately purchase the games. The point of a DRM, however, is just to slow down piraters for a couple days so that the company can make a profit, and I guess that DRMs succeed at that.
It comes down to the fact that these companies can limit their games and do everything they can/want to do to stop piraters but IT JUST WONT WORK. The people who make all these cracks and patches are as smart as the people behind the game. There isnt any way for these companies to stop it. We just have to hope that it doesnt get so bad that they stop making games or that the quality of the games goes down.
In the original post by smithereen he gives four points on "People give a number of excuses for their piracy, very few of which are even remotely valid."
All of those are total BS and he obviously doesnt know of anything that piraters say in their defense. Those four points made me lose respect for his whole post because they were so ignorantly thought of by him.
Once again, the piracy of a game cannot be stopped, it can be hindered for a small period of time, but thats it. lets just hope that it doesnt create too many issues that directly effect our games.
May 23, 2010 5:43:13 PM

I thought that Demo's were there for testing game out and to get an idea if it was worth buying or not, so downloading the full game and saying it wouldn't be worth paying for can also be found out just playing demo, correct me if i am wrong. I just play demo, if demo suck, well I won't buy game, if demo is really cool and I am hooked on it, I will go buy the game. so can't technically use the excuse I was just trying it out, if you wanted to try it out you would download demo and make fair judgement based on the demo itself.
May 25, 2010 4:47:30 PM

A publisher / developer as a right to protect their digital product, afterall games just don't pop into the market out of thin air. Pirating games directly hits the publisher's / developer's bottomline revenues which can adversely affect future game releases in terms of overall quality and the number of games released.

The problem with games is they are simply a bunch of codes put together. These codes can simply be altered or bypassed. That is the greatest weakness of any program. Thus, DRM is applied to slow down pirating.

I don't mind DRM as long as it is not too invasive. I can live with the necessity of being connected to the internet when installing a game for validation purposes, but I'm not too keen on the requirement to be connected to the internet when simply playing a non-multiplayer game.That's going a bit too far in my opinion.


JDFan asked why not simply sell games for $10 - $20? Well, that might sound reasonable (or fantastic) to the consumer, but I really doubt that would cover development costs of many, if not all, the big budget games. Also note that the publsher / developer does not get all $10 - $20 of the sale; the retailer also gets a cut of the retail sale. How much is publisher's / developer's actual cut? I don't know.

Let's take Crysis as an example of a big budget game since it cost roughly $22 million to develop. If Crytek got $20 for every sale, then that means they would need to sell 1.1 million copies to breakeven. As of June 27, 2008 there has been 1.5 million copies sold. At that point in time they would have made $8 million on the assumption Crytek is getting $20 for every copy sold. I would not call that stellar profits since that just represents a 36% return on the initial $22 million development cost. If Crysis sold for just $10 and Crytek got to keep all that to themselves, then they would need to sell 2.2 million copies just to breakeven. As of June 27, 2008 they would have a shortfall of $700 thousand which is not chump change and Crysis 2 probably would have been a pipe dream at that time.

So, is there a more recent sale figure for Crysis since June 27, 2008? I'm sure there is, but I couldn't find it using Google.
May 25, 2010 6:37:52 PM

Crysis is a complicated example because the publisher and developer are separate entities, who shared the revenue and the costs - I'm not sure how. The $22M development cost likely does not include distribution, marketing, or manufacturing, either. So if Crysis was developed and produced by the same company, had no marketing budget, was distributed digitally over magic zero-maintenance servers, and still sold well over a million copies, then could have made money. That would have been impossible, of course.

Whether it would have sold more copies if it didn't include an unobtrusive form of SecuROM is up for debate, however. I'm not sure, but I maintain that SecuROM gets an unfair bad rap. Limited installs may or may not be bullshit, but I've never had a problem with SecuROM'd games.

DRM may or may not 'not work'. It took weeks for a working copy of Assassin's Creed 2 to hit the Internet, for example - though the particularly restrictive DRM likely did hurt sales as well as help them. DRM as we know it today will all be bypassed sooner or later, but it does make it harder to pirate than say, Mass Effect 2 or Sins of a Solar Empire.
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