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?

Just Incredible. And Stupid.

Posted by Stropp on February 19, 2010

The big news item in the gaming world this weeks, aside from the various expansions and stats related to MMORPGS, is the completely dumbarse move by Ubisoft to add a form of DRM to Assassins Creed 2 that is so evil, it kicks you out of the game if you suffer even a momentary disconnection to your internet connection.

In other words, if you’ve ever suffered lag, ISP disconnects, interference to your wireless connection, or a cat suddenly choosing to sit on the router and unplugging it, then Ubisoft will stop you playing Assassins Creed 2. In fact, it the disconnection won’t even give you time to save your progress.

Given this, I won’t be buying AC2. I wasn’t too impressed with Assassins Creed 1 since it crashed my XBox 360 every five minutes or so it seemed. But even if AC1 ran flawlessly I wouldn’t be buying Assassins Creed 2. My internet connection often has little pauses that give a touch of lag in the MMORPGs I play. But AC2 will disconnect me.

The way I see it, companies like Ubisoft are now forcing players who have gone out an bought  legitimate copies of games into acts of piracy.

If I buy Assassins Creed 2 and at the first kick out, I reckon I’d have two options, depending on how much I like the game.

  1. Stop playing. I can be a little temperamental with games sometimes. It doesn’t take much to sour the experience. If Ubisoft kicked me out, I’d likely stop playing completely. I’d possibly then avoid Ubisoft games in the future.
  2. Find a cracked version. If I really liked the game and wanted to keep playing with interuption I might be inclined to find a way to beat the DRM by downloading a cracked version of the game. (Although this sort of software is inheritantly risky. I’d probably just stop playing.)

The fact is that companies like Ubisoft are not preventing piracy by pulling crap like this on their customers. It’s not the pirates being affected. They’ll avoid the DRM in the first place and just download the game. No. It’s Ubisoft’s customers who suffer. It’s Ubisoft’s customers who will then go out and find a cracked version of the game. And it’s Ubisoft’s customers who have then discovered how much else is out there that can be downloaded free.

Congratulations Ubisoft. By screwing your customers you’ve increased the ranks of the people who will happily pirate your games.

Well done. Dumbarse.

EA Layoffs – Piracy Is Not To Blame

Posted by Stropp on November 10, 2009

Tobold has just posted a thought for today: That the EA Layoffs are due to the piracy of their games.

Now first of all, after re-reading, I’m not sure if he’s being serious or just being a tad sarcastic. For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume he’s being serious when he says: “What did people think would happen to a company making bad games and being constantly robbed, in the middle of an economic crisis? If you wanted to save an EA programmer’s job, all you had to do was buy some EA games legitimately” in response to the amount of ‘outrage’ today against EA for laying off 1500 employees.

Now me, I think that piracy-is-a-bad-thing, it is a violation of a long standing set of laws designed to protect those who create those things that we love against the unscrupulous. It’s not theft as such, technically anyway, since no-one is actually deprived of anything, but that can be a hard distinction to make. It seems like theft.

But that’s where I think Tobold is off base. There is no real evidence that the people who pirate software, music, or other media were actually going to buy those things in the first place. So a single act of piracy cannot be logically equated with a lost sale, or a lost amount of revenue or profit. I’m not sure if anyone even has any statistics on what the ratio of pirated goods to lost sales really is. Is it one in a hundred? Or would one pirate in a thousand have bought that copy if a legitimate sale was the only option.

Having said that, I do believe that piracy results in lost income, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as much as publishers are saying.

In fact, I’ve seen in print statements made by the RIAA and MPAA where the figures they are stating for lost revenue seem indicate that their ratio is more than a lost sale per act of piracy.  Does that seem a bit strange to you? How can you lose more than what was pirated?

Secondly, and as Tobold points out in his post, it is an economic crisis. People haven’t just lost jobs and have less disposable income to buy games, a lot of people — a huge number in fact — are turning away strongly from using debt to buy things. This I think is the first key to EA’s financial woes. Less disposable income plus a reluctance to use credit means people are buying less of everything.

Which leads to the second key to EA’s crisis. They do a lot, and I mean a huge amount, of sales of their sports franchise games. They’re the only game in town for the US football games, yet each year they produce what is basically the same game with a few enhancements and a set of roster changes. These games also appeal to the more casual gaming sports fan, a fairly giant demographic.

Less disposable income plus a reluctance to use credit plus casual gamers owning the five previous versions of the same game equals cutting out Madden from the discretionary spending.

The clincher for me is that up until this last year, the game industry reported strong growth year after year. I’m sure you read the reports that said that the computer game industry was going to overtake Hollywood in revenue in just a few short years. This strong growth was all happening at the same time as people were pirating games. Computer game piracy hasn’t jumped by 200 percent in 2009 has it? How much of an increase in piracy would it take to drop revenue by 20 percent, especially considering that those pirates must come from the buying customers. People who would normally buy a game, but have defected across to the pirates.

If nothing else has changed, then EA’s woes must surely be the result of something other than piracy.

Saving that programmers job would have been a little more tricky than buying that sixth version of Madden.

By the way, I agree with Tobold on this; Piracy is a crime. It’s a bad thing to do. If you want to play a game — buy it!