I'm currently a 3rd year writing a dissertation on how piracy is changing business models with a focus on video games and music. One part of my work is to look at particular cases which may be considered turning points or generate substantial discussion.
I've got a good few ideas already, but I'm interested what you people think about it and perhaps highlight certain game releases or significant industry changes.
I think a great example of "pirating" is World of Warcraft private servers.
Because WoW is constantly evolving on the official servers, but the private servers move at a much slower rate of expansion, or even don't update besides minor bug fixes, there are all sorts of issues you could tackle there, such as:
The legitimacy of the server,
The reasoning behind the creation of the server (simple desire to avoid cost, or actually unhappy with the current version of the real game and therefore trying to maintain an older, "better" incarnation - could this be the start of gamers beginning to take the developmental decisions upon themselves to make? Why? Good/Bad overall?)
The effect of private servers on the official servers.
The similarities/differences between them (comment on interesting innovations which may not be present in the main game despite being perhaps beneficial, and use this to prove that piracy can be creative, etc.)
Whether these private servers (which are well known among WoW players) have any impact upon those playing officially.
The relationship between server owners in each case, and the effect this good/bad relationship has on the development of each version of the game (many have recently left WoW due to unhappiness with the development of the game and the lack of communication between devs and players - this is the biggest drop in WoW's playerbase, and many say they'll go to private servers - is this a trend? Could this hail a future where players take a more active role in game creation/maintenance, following a piracy style route and eventually becoming mainstream and legitimate (we see a lot more games that are created by players for other players - Minecraft for eg. ...could you perhaps find a link, or find some evidence to suggest that this is following some sort of trend?))
Whether this is a trend that is viable for future releases?
What effect such private servers could have in years to come?
Another benefit of this is that if you tried these private servers (which are usually free) you could encounter other players to research on, and you could even interview the owner of the server.
Have the effect of private servers had any impact on many developers choices (including WoW) to move towards a Free to play model, rather than the subscription based business model? Is it strange how free to pay (or pay to win) has been incredibly unpopular among players on official servers, but was perhaps the reason for the creation of private servers and their steady stream of traffic (avoiding cost)?
Edit: The only issue with WoW I think you'll find is research. If you choose to research among the community, you'll find strange statistics that perhaps don't point to a general concensus. The WoW playerbase is actually a psychologist's heaven, with all sorts of strange behaviour and mindsets appearing that don't always correlate with the opinions that you find presented. Especially on the official forums, there are all sorts of divides among the community that actually really warp (or totally negate) any attempt at accurate information gathering. This is especially apparent if you try to inject ideas for feedback. Due to all sorts of factors (lack of authoritative figures, frustration, mass divides among the playerbase, overall playerbase divide between continents which encourages pockets of stagnation among those who feel ignored, anonymity, lethargy, clash of cultures/lifestyles, competitivity, complete range of ages, a lack of verifyable and objectively accurate data to back up ideas/opinions, and a very interesting form of mood inception among a large percentage of active forum goers that often appears to subconsciously change their whole outlook on various topics) it's often very difficult to ascertain a statistically representative opinion (not to mention that only a fraction of the total players actually visit the forums), so beware of that difficulty.
One thing to look at is how the Steam client is used to prevent piracy but at the same time since it is an online store is causing conflicts with other online retailers. Many people on these forums will agree that Steam is a great place where you can buy great games at discounted prices (when they have the sales) and there is no need to have DVDs lying around or CD keys.
However, because Steam is also an online store other retailers dislike the fact that if they sell a product that requires steam they are giving their competitor props. Some companies refuse to sell games with Steam (or Steamworks) integrated games.
They've certainly been very helpful and will attempt to use some of what we've discussed in my work (A lot of the points you bring up I have been aware of for some time)
We often look at piracy and the draconian laws to prevent it, but we often overlook the other means of how companies adapt to this environment. One example I've brought up is Radiohead distributing their album Rainbows for free online and allowing fans to donate how much they like to the band. I believe a similar scheme was used for World of Goo?
Feel free to go into more depth about what you've already talked about. Do you think the above are cases worth acknowledging and are there any others similar to releasing things free or encouraging them to play their games or listen to their music that could be considered a trend.
I think any case is at least worth acknowledging. Certainly there are some which are more valid than others, or better examples rather, but in essence I think (and I realise you're the one with the knowledge compared to us so I may be wrong) that it's worth noting each different case, especially those that are less well known when one initially thinks of piracy.
I don't know of any games devs who've released their games for free due to pirating. It may have been a contributing factor in some games going for free, but I can't think of any that have changed from paid to a free business model.
As for free, games release demos or trial periods which could be considered as free.
World of Warcraft (sorry to harp on) has just increased it's free trial to level 20, and I believe have made the trial limitless to try to attract more players.
A lot of multiplayer games also have open betas which again could be seen as a common trend among companies, not only for testing but also for marketing.
You could do worse than to read this short article by PC Gamer, which interviews Tom Chilton, a big name at Blizzard commenting on the rise of F2P games.
Hope that helps a little, though I realise it's certainly not as informative as you may like.
July 19, 2011 12:36:54 AM
Thanks again Nihilis
Gaming developers, musicians and so forth changing business models in any regard due to piracy is still notable for my work. I highlighted the transition of free to play as a extreme example to get that point across. I'm happy to focus on more under-reported games changes as long as it generates enough discussion. I've been warned not to do too many examples and not discuss each in enough detail but this is all still good stuff for me.
As far as music is concerned, I'm sure you're aware of the entire Napster saga and the debate of 'policing' the cyber world? If not, try and get your hands on the Grokster Case (MGM v. Grokster - District Court, Supreme Court), (A&M RECORDS V NAPSTER)
Another one was the Sony Corp. case (SONY CORP. v. UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC., 464 U.S. 417 (1984))
These were the pioneer's in the field of copyright infringement and piracy.
You might want to look at the first sale doctrine also. Ubisoft and some others are now making it so you need a key to play the online version of the game. If you were to buy one of these games used, you will have to pay $9.99 for a new key if you want to play the multiplayer portion of the game.