Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Making It Hard For Pirates Loses You Paying Customers

Posted by Stropp on May 12, 2011

I remember hearing a simple tip about how to protect your property in case of a burglary. You leave a moderate amount of cash, say a hundred dollars, in an obvious location. That way, the burglar doesn’t trash your house looking for your well hidden cash and possessions. Now I’ve never been burgled, but when I read this post about protecting your games from pirates this morning from indie RPG developer, Jeff Vogel, that old tip immediately came to mind.

Jeffs advice for game developers is to simply make it hard for your players to forget to pay for your game. Putting up all kinds of roadblocks to pirates also puts them in front of your paying customers. In his post, Vogel relates a couple of stories that occured when he did have barriers to players, and upon removing these barriers saw a net positive effect in the number of people buying his games.

The thing is that if someone wants to pirate your game, they will. Just like you cannot stop a determined and smart burglar from breaking into your house, there’s no way to prevent someone pirating a game. Your only hope is to delay them.

But this comes at the cost of pissing off and losing legitimate buyers. Isn’t it better to lower the barriers and gain extra sales from people who want to pay, than keeping those barriers and losing customers, and still not preventing pirates from breaking through them?

Do The Big Game Companies Even Care About Their Customers Anymore?

Posted by Stropp on April 13, 2011

Ars Technica: DRM run amok: how Bioware and EA are screwing users right now


Sometime on Friday morning, Dragon Age:Origins players who booted up the game for a session of single-player dungeon crawling were greeted with a nasty surprise: all of the downloadable content (DLC) that they had purchased for the game had been flagged as “unauthorized,” so their saved games wouldn’t load. Again, these were vanilla, single-player saved games, representing untold hours of gameplay and investment, that users were suddenly unable to load.

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I mean, it’s common practice when you’re having server issues to post an announcement somewhere, so that people don’t waste their time troubleshooting. In Bioware/EA’s case, that announcement didn’t come until yesterday afternoon—over three days after the start of the incident—when an official company rep finally graced the forum and acknowledged that this was a server-side problem.

I guess it’s more important to make sure that no one can pirate your game, than it is to actually let your customers get access to what they purchased. It also seems it’s less important, when your DRM screws up, to tell your customers that the problem is your fault.

Good one, EA.

Piracy Works

Posted by Stropp on March 8, 2010

That’s probably what an awful lot of Ubisoft’s customers will be thinking right now, at least those who loaded up Silent Hunter over the last day or so hoping to enjoy some quality gaming time.

It turns out that Ubisoft’s incredibly stupid DRM scheme has completely shafted all their legitimate customers according to reports from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The DRM servers that each customer has to be connected to, all the time, just to be able to play the game have been down for an entire day.

No gaming for you!

What’s even more precious is that the claims that Ubisoft made concerning the inability of pirates to crack the DRM code in a way that allows players to play while these servers were down seem to be false too, according to the Rampant Coyote. It turns out that those who pirated the game were able to play it when the servers hit the deck.

I’m going to admit something bad. No, not pirating games, I don’t believe in doing that. But I have enjoyed a bit of the old schadenfreude in reading these reports. This situation reinforces the whole concept that treating your customers like criminals is a bad thing, and that it will backfire. In this case it backfired sooner rather than later. And that’s absolutely wonderful because it reinforces this position. Will it affect sales of other Ubisoft games infected with this customer hating crap? I hope so, since that’s the only way these companies will stop pushing this nonsense on their customers.

I also noticed over the last week or so that a couple of bloggers made the assertion that there’s no difference between an always connected DRM and the need to be connected to play a MMORPG. I just want to spend a moment to say that assertion is not entirely true for the following reasons.

First of all, nearly every modern MMORPG is meticulously designed to cope with random disconnects in such a way as to prevent the loss of progress as much as possible. That’s not the case with this DRM. Disconnect or get line lag and expect to restart from the last checkpoint. Ubisoft’s DRM is designed to interrupt the game experience. MMORPGs are designed to prevent interruptions even in the case of individual server crashes.

Secondly, the fundamental expectation of playing a solo single player game is to be able to do it anywhere. Some people just don’t have good internet. They may not be able to play a MMORPG, they shouldn’t be able to play single player games either?

And as we’ve seen today, server downtime can affect legitimate customers. Should a single player game be unplayable if the publisher has a bad server day?

PS. Don’t pirate games. It’s wrong, and it’s part of the reason these companies are doing this.