July 27, 2006

[Piracy] Follow-Up

Okay, there's been a lot of discussion as a result of my blog entry over the weekend and Chris Remo's interview yesterday, so I thought I'd do a quick follow-up to some of the most commonly brought-up questions.

1) Once I've established that someone is using a pirated version of the game, I end contact, unlike how I've been portrayed by Acetone over at SA. However, active deception in an effort to receive support has not been uncommon.

2) I'm not saying that we have five times as many pirates as we do legitimate customers. I was saying that recently, we've had five times as many tech support questions related to the pirated version than we have for the legitimate version.

3) I'm not saying that piracy is the only reason that games or studios fail. I am saying that piracy is significantly more widespread on the PC, and while the problem isn't going to be going away any time soon, we do need to acknowledge it as a problem and deal with it openly. Like all problems, there are solutions. I don't think that Starforce or its ilk are that solution, but the longer we ignore the problem, the larger the problem becomes, and the harsher any potential solution becomes.

(Update: Blogger didn't take my previous title for some reason.)

11 comments:

sp0rk said...

Whoa now, in the heart of Dallas, Texas a few blocks from the DART station, y'all only had (2) real testers for a wide release game title? Dallas, home of the CPL, a city of several million, and you couldn't find a few high schoolers to intern for nothing / drop by after school to help y'all test the game out?

You sure didn't address some of the criticism brought up by the SA shank - who lost their houses because of piracy? What have you really seen? Sounds like you're just pulling a James Frey.

I liked Ritual and I did a day tour there & some testing for EFII. I also think that if you have such a serious glitch that you have the attitude of "We can always patch it," you've failed at your job and should probably get 1) Demoted or 2) A paycut, because Quality wasn't Assured.

How many best selling novels have you read with more than one spelling error? I've yet to buy a book with a few pages f'd up pretty bad and then get a postcard or envelope in the mail with the "corrected" pages.

Your blog got attention for all the wrong reasons. I'd play a song for you on my violin, but somebody didn't Quality Assure the strings very well and they were broken when I took them out of the package. Maybe they'll send me some good ones if I wait patiently. Bummer.

Octagon said...

From what i understand, they couldn't have kids drop by and test their product cuz its a game called "Sin" that revolves around needlessly shooting peoples foreheads, that and sex offenders aren't allowed near children.

Octagon said...

Also, this site is the same color that farts smell.

Warren said...

What's with the lack of anonymous comments?

Anyways, as a valid Steam user, I'm happy with the service that Steam provides, and I've yet to call the customer service hotline. I do not have any plans to buy the SiN episodes.

Of course you've had 5x more pirates calling you! They're the only ones with problems (remember that they didn't get the patch).

I would not say that Piracy is a significant problem in the gaming industry today. And you have to remember that a certain amount of piracy is helpful to companies. It's introducing software to potential customers that previously did not have access to the software.

Andrew Timson said...

Whoa now, in the heart of Dallas, Texas a few blocks from the DART station, y'all only had (2) real testers for a wide release game title? Dallas, home of the CPL, a city of several million, and you couldn't find a few high schoolers to intern for nothing / drop by after school to help y'all test the game out?

Not true. He's mentioned multiple testers in other blog posts (like this one, and they did indeed bring people in from the community to help test. (I can't find a supporting blog post at the moment, but it was advertised on the main Ritual/Sin Episodes sites, and he's mentioned it in multiple forum posts.)

I also think that if you have such a serious glitch that you have the attitude of "We can always patch it," you've failed at your job and should probably get 1) Demoted or 2) A paycut, because Quality wasn't Assured.

And where did he ever show any evidence of this attitude?

How many best selling novels have you read with more than one spelling error? I've yet to buy a book with a few pages f'd up pretty bad and then get a postcard or envelope in the mail with the "corrected" pages.

I can name at least one book (Star Trek: Stargazer #4: Oblivion) where they had to put up a PDF of misprinted pages on their website. So it's not unheard of.

Octagon said...

That's probably true, the rampant illegal distribution of adobes products is no doubt crucial to securing them as the "standard" The bottom line is that the games are going up in cost along with the hardware and the cost to develop "next gen" content, now most games weren't good enough to spend 20 bucks on let alone 50 to 70 especially when the game sucks and is only a few hours long. The fact that a bunch of companies aren't going to make it isn't a bad thing. All the companies that squirt out lame fps titles with maps made almost entirely out of crates should go out of business. Let them disappear and make room for individuals and companies that can make "fun" games.

Octagon said...

"I can name at least one book (Star Trek: Stargazer #4: Oblivion) where they had to put up a PDF of misprinted pages on their website. So it's not unheard of."

Jesus freakin Christ, Star Trek books... Fuck you Andrew.

Acetone said...

spork, I don't think the issue is that Sin is a buggy game or anything. I played through it and it doesn't seem any more or less buggy than any other game.

I also have no issue with the guy being frustrated with his job or anything, but it's this idea that piracy is running rampant and it's going to be the downfall of the industry. It's insane. Piracy has been a part of PC gaming for a long long time, and PC gaming is still going strong.

Has there been some slowdown? Sure. Consoles, cost of development, and frustrations with copy protection are all factors. NPD reports that PC sales are down. But they don't take into account online distribution and Maple Story.

I think Maple Story and Gunbound and all these free Korean MMOs have more of an impact on PC game sales than piracy. How's that for a gloomy picture of things to come?

Andrew Timson said...

Fuck you Andrew.

No thanks. :)

Okie said...

OK, I don't know why I'm adding to this flame, but I feel like it...and in advance I apologize because I can get long winded and ramble. ;) I spent some time dealing with the annoyance of injecting copy protection software into shipping titles. No system is full-proof. And from the development side, it can be a HUGE PAIN to get it to function properly (often causing a slew of bugs in the process).

I fully agree that piracy is a Huge cut on the industry. Warez sites are going strong. Peer-to-peer sharing and other forms of illegal "sharing" of digitized information (be it games, movies, etc.), is only getting stronger. Kazaa today got "legitimized" by paying a fine and sucking up to big-wig lawyers.

Will Piracy be the thing that kills the industry? Probably not. Will it help bring down smaller companies by decreasing their revenue? Possibly.

What I take away from this thread of posts, interviews and comments is this:

Not all games are great or bug free. Piracy hurts games even if only by requiring development houses to devote time to anti-piracy instead of spending that time on game polish. If Mike could be spending his time managing QA for forthcoming Ritual products instead of dealing with piracy from EPI, it would help ensure better quality on the next product.

At the same time, the potential fallout from the amount of piracy may lead to him and his team having to do more anti-piracy work the next go round and thus sacrifice quality anyway.

I liked the comments about requiring users calling tech support to provide their steam ID at the beginning of the call/email. However, that doesn't eliminate the entire problem...that just masks it since then they wouldn't call in and get the stat out there. One thing that this has shown is just how many pirates there are out there.

It's because of those support calls that we are able to speculate on just how large the piracy problem could be. There was a ratio of 1 to 1 (peaking at nearly 5 to 1) pirated users versus legitimate users. And those are ONLY the users who had to call tech support for some reason. It's tough to speculate if pirates would need tech help more or less than the average user (they might be more tech savvy because they had to figure out how to get the pirated copy...but they might have lucked into it...or the pirated copy might have problems in itself).

Even just assuming a pirate rate of greater than one...that means that the development house is only getting half of their profits. Whether that means pay cuts or pink slips...or just no raises or bonuses...or makes no tangible change...that's not the point. The point is, that the studio missed out on immense profits.

Using strange math, you could say the pirated copy counters the legitimate copy and as such they sold no copies.

As to the questions of who's lost houses, jobs, studios because of piracy...I don't know of any concrete cases where it's the sole cause, but the cost of piracy both after a title release and the cost it places on a product under development certainly can hurt the bottom line.

Octagon said...
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