Dear PC Developers: How to reduce software piracy

A brief recap: June 2010, I found out I won a contest for about $2000 worth of Xbox Live Gold and Microsoft Points (a "lifetime", in their words). It took me six or seven months, but I sold most of it off and ended up buying a handful of new goodies with it, most importantly some new PC hardware that finally put me in the same generational ballpark as everyone else. I can now comfortably run Crysis, Unreal Engine 3 games, so on and so forth (see also: my last blog).

A pretty marked improvement, I'd say.
Something I've noticed now that I have new hardware is that I want to try everything.  I want to see how my system measures up. How does this run? How does that run? Crysis was obviously a big target, as even now, years after its release, it's still one of the high watermarks for computer graphics (until Battlefield 3 comes out, anyway). Eventually, I decided I wanted to see how well the PC version of Grand Theft Auto 4 ran. GTA4 has earned a pretty notorious reputation for being the kind of game that runs amazing on some system configurations and absolutely horrible on others, regardless of how powerful the hardware in question actually was.
 
Not too long ago, Team Meat's co-founder Ed McMillen said something controversial about PC game piracy to IGN. To summarize: Super Meat Boy doesn't have any anti-piracy DRM. Ed McMillen doesn't care if anybody pirates his game, because to him, anybody who plays Super Meat Boy (even if it means not paying for it) is that much more likely to buy Team Meat's next game, whatever that may be. In his opinion, malicious pirates are rare.
 

"The dinosaurs of marketing are really upset by piracy. They think it's literally stealing," he says. "They're old. That's really the reason. They're old and their ideas are old. They don't understand where we are now. They don't understand the mentality of people who are pirating things. They see them as thieves, the same people who go and shoplift. I don't f*@#ing shoplift but I have pirated sh@%-loads of stuff. Like it's just not the same, it's not the same thing at all."

"Sh@% changed," says McMillen, warming to his theme. "Deal with it. Sh@% went digital and this is how it works now. It's really easy to copy and give to other people."

I don't own a copy of Grand Theft Auto 4 for the PC. If it really is true that the game may, for no discernible reason, run absolutely awful on my system, I don't want to roll the dice and buy it. That leaves me with one of two options: Satisfy my own curiosity through the dubious medium of software piracy, or try really really hard to forget that the PC version of GTA4 even exists at all. The latter option is fine, I guess - I already own GTA4 for the Xbox 360, though that would mean missing out on all of the rad car mods and graphical patches people have been producing for the PC version (which as I've found are 90% of the fun). 
 
But going by Team Meat's example, it doesn't have to be this way. If there was a demo for Grand Theft Auto 4 on the PC, this problem simply wouldn't exist - I could download the free trial version, see how it runs, and make a decision from there. The idea here is that a large number of pirates are simply curious about a game, so they, in essence, "make their own demo" - and oh, how convenient - this "demo" just so happens to include the entire rest of the game, too. Unfortunately for a platform that defined itself by the concept of " Shareware", freebie demos for top-tier game releases these days are getting fewer and farther between. Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski has made it clear that he believes having to take time to produce a demo eats up money and effort that could be better spent on the main game itself - and you'll notice that the only Epic-developed game in the last six years to have a demo was Unreal Tournament 3 ( Bulletstorm was developed by People Can Fly). Gears of War certainly has never had a demo, not on Xbox 360 or even on PC for the release of Gears of War 1. Another prevailing train of thought is that if your game is "important" enough, you simply don't need a demo. I'm sure everybody remembers the Silent Cartographer demo for the original Halo - but the franchise didn't see another demo release for nearly a decade. Even then, it's been implied that the demo for Halo Reach was only to test an Xbox 360 Dashboard upgrade. 
 
And then there's an even bigger problem: developers and publishers who release demos in an attempt to trick consumers in to buying the full product. Bulletstorm, despite having a playable demo, loses points for the fact that what you're allowed to play is literally 3 minutes out of a 20+ minute mission. Before you're even offered an opportunity to get a feel for the game's ebb and flow, you're pulled out of the action and told to buy the full game. In comparison, the original DooM, a game that popularized the first-person shooter, gave you practically an hour of content for free before asking you to pony up the cash back in 1993 - and I'd say that franchise made parent company iD Software very, very happy. 

So to the Cliff Bleszinskis of the world, I say this: take the money you're funneling in to SecuROM, or Starforce, or whatever "You must always be connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever" anti-piracy solution you've developed, and redirect it in to creating a meaty demo for your game. Something that offers a good, long, detailed look at the work you've done, and does not try to fool the consumer in to a purchase with some sort of stupid "Gotcha!" bait-and-switch moment. This goes  back to another recent blog I wrote, about Tom Kalinske's aim to make the Sega Genesis a bigger success than Nintendo's hardware offerings: Kalinske was the man who proposed packaging copies of Sonic the Hedgehog for free with the Genesis. Sega of Japan's board of directors were genuinely offended at the idea of giving their best content away at no charge to consumers. Kalinske did it anyway, and it proved to be one of his first major successes at the company (before Sega of Japan eventually drove him away - read my blog on the matter if you haven't already).
 
The ultimate goal in all of this is to satisfy a would-be pirate's curiosity. To showcase everything from how well the game runs on a particular computer system, to what the game itself is even about. No smoke and mirrors, no teasing, just a lengthy, worthy demonstration. I guarantee piracy rates would see a decline.
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Posted by BlazeHedgehog

A brief recap: June 2010, I found out I won a contest for about $2000 worth of Xbox Live Gold and Microsoft Points (a "lifetime", in their words). It took me six or seven months, but I sold most of it off and ended up buying a handful of new goodies with it, most importantly some new PC hardware that finally put me in the same generational ballpark as everyone else. I can now comfortably run Crysis, Unreal Engine 3 games, so on and so forth (see also: my last blog).

A pretty marked improvement, I'd say.
Something I've noticed now that I have new hardware is that I want to try everything.  I want to see how my system measures up. How does this run? How does that run? Crysis was obviously a big target, as even now, years after its release, it's still one of the high watermarks for computer graphics (until Battlefield 3 comes out, anyway). Eventually, I decided I wanted to see how well the PC version of Grand Theft Auto 4 ran. GTA4 has earned a pretty notorious reputation for being the kind of game that runs amazing on some system configurations and absolutely horrible on others, regardless of how powerful the hardware in question actually was.
 
Not too long ago, Team Meat's co-founder Ed McMillen said something controversial about PC game piracy to IGN. To summarize: Super Meat Boy doesn't have any anti-piracy DRM. Ed McMillen doesn't care if anybody pirates his game, because to him, anybody who plays Super Meat Boy (even if it means not paying for it) is that much more likely to buy Team Meat's next game, whatever that may be. In his opinion, malicious pirates are rare.
 

"The dinosaurs of marketing are really upset by piracy. They think it's literally stealing," he says. "They're old. That's really the reason. They're old and their ideas are old. They don't understand where we are now. They don't understand the mentality of people who are pirating things. They see them as thieves, the same people who go and shoplift. I don't f*@#ing shoplift but I have pirated sh@%-loads of stuff. Like it's just not the same, it's not the same thing at all."

"Sh@% changed," says McMillen, warming to his theme. "Deal with it. Sh@% went digital and this is how it works now. It's really easy to copy and give to other people."

I don't own a copy of Grand Theft Auto 4 for the PC. If it really is true that the game may, for no discernible reason, run absolutely awful on my system, I don't want to roll the dice and buy it. That leaves me with one of two options: Satisfy my own curiosity through the dubious medium of software piracy, or try really really hard to forget that the PC version of GTA4 even exists at all. The latter option is fine, I guess - I already own GTA4 for the Xbox 360, though that would mean missing out on all of the rad car mods and graphical patches people have been producing for the PC version (which as I've found are 90% of the fun). 
 
But going by Team Meat's example, it doesn't have to be this way. If there was a demo for Grand Theft Auto 4 on the PC, this problem simply wouldn't exist - I could download the free trial version, see how it runs, and make a decision from there. The idea here is that a large number of pirates are simply curious about a game, so they, in essence, "make their own demo" - and oh, how convenient - this "demo" just so happens to include the entire rest of the game, too. Unfortunately for a platform that defined itself by the concept of " Shareware", freebie demos for top-tier game releases these days are getting fewer and farther between. Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski has made it clear that he believes having to take time to produce a demo eats up money and effort that could be better spent on the main game itself - and you'll notice that the only Epic-developed game in the last six years to have a demo was Unreal Tournament 3 ( Bulletstorm was developed by People Can Fly). Gears of War certainly has never had a demo, not on Xbox 360 or even on PC for the release of Gears of War 1. Another prevailing train of thought is that if your game is "important" enough, you simply don't need a demo. I'm sure everybody remembers the Silent Cartographer demo for the original Halo - but the franchise didn't see another demo release for nearly a decade. Even then, it's been implied that the demo for Halo Reach was only to test an Xbox 360 Dashboard upgrade. 
 
And then there's an even bigger problem: developers and publishers who release demos in an attempt to trick consumers in to buying the full product. Bulletstorm, despite having a playable demo, loses points for the fact that what you're allowed to play is literally 3 minutes out of a 20+ minute mission. Before you're even offered an opportunity to get a feel for the game's ebb and flow, you're pulled out of the action and told to buy the full game. In comparison, the original DooM, a game that popularized the first-person shooter, gave you practically an hour of content for free before asking you to pony up the cash back in 1993 - and I'd say that franchise made parent company iD Software very, very happy. 

So to the Cliff Bleszinskis of the world, I say this: take the money you're funneling in to SecuROM, or Starforce, or whatever "You must always be connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, forever" anti-piracy solution you've developed, and redirect it in to creating a meaty demo for your game. Something that offers a good, long, detailed look at the work you've done, and does not try to fool the consumer in to a purchase with some sort of stupid "Gotcha!" bait-and-switch moment. This goes  back to another recent blog I wrote, about Tom Kalinske's aim to make the Sega Genesis a bigger success than Nintendo's hardware offerings: Kalinske was the man who proposed packaging copies of Sonic the Hedgehog for free with the Genesis. Sega of Japan's board of directors were genuinely offended at the idea of giving their best content away at no charge to consumers. Kalinske did it anyway, and it proved to be one of his first major successes at the company (before Sega of Japan eventually drove him away - read my blog on the matter if you haven't already).
 
The ultimate goal in all of this is to satisfy a would-be pirate's curiosity. To showcase everything from how well the game runs on a particular computer system, to what the game itself is even about. No smoke and mirrors, no teasing, just a lengthy, worthy demonstration. I guarantee piracy rates would see a decline.
Posted by poik007

Good read :)

Posted by Witzig

I learned a thing or two from reading that, thanks.

Posted by mrhankey

I agree. But in other news, who honestly cares about EPIC when it comes to PC Gaming anymore? As far as I'm concerned they have two types of games: classical shooters (Unreal series) and classical shooters with cover (GoW), and the former, which seem to exist on the pc more so, are no longer as entertaining because they use old style gameplay to make up for bad story telling.

Posted by RIDEBIRD

But PC demos are piracy!!! THEY CAN BE USED TO CRACK THE FULL GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN OTHERWISE IF IT WASN'T FOR THE DEMO, NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's usually how it sounds anyway. Regardless, I will fucking pirate every single multiplatform piece of shit port and see if it's OK before I buy it. If there's a demo, I will try that instead - there's almost never one for the ones you need, however exclusives always comes with them, and then I don't need them.

I've been thinking about becoming some sort of PR infueled preacher for PC gaming, going around to devs and holding easily worded bulletpointed seminars explaining why PC gamers pirate your shit and how to avoid it. Basically, something like this:

  • We don't like DRM because it quite often messes up the experience and sometimes prevents games from being played. This is uncommon, but happens.
  • We don't like DRM because our free and beautiful format gets locked down.
  • We like demos. We can see how well it runs then. If you don't give us a demo, we will get ourselves a demo.
  • We like mods because it makes your games last longer. This might lead to increase in DLC sales for you. Support modders, it's very easy.
  • We don't like games being 60 dollars, since you do not have to pay license fees.
  • Don't bother with retail, and please release everything at the same time world wide for an equal amount of cash. 50 euros are not 50 dollars. Your accountants will tell you this.
  • Please make sure the PC version looks okay with high res textures. This makes all the difference.
  • Please, don't outsource your ports to China. Make sure they work fine yourselves and are not completely broken.
  • Don't release games two months after console. We will buy it on release if it's good and you don't do stupid shit.
  • Please release on Steam and other well known services. We don't care for your own system, because all our friends are already established on others. We like our friends, and they will buy your games too if we say they are good.
  • Last, do not bother with any kind of activation or DRM. Your game will be cracked in no time regardless and you're wasting your time.
Posted by scarace360
@Ertard: Hes right you know.
Posted by Lunar_Aura

A surefire way to eliminate PC piracy 100% is to not release a game on the PC.

Posted by benjaebe

Why did you say that Super Meat Boy doesn't have DRM. Of course it does, it's only sold on Steam.

Posted by CrazyPaladin

In a word, don't punish your customer. If they would listen.
I say for anti-piracy, serial number is enough.

Posted by Vinny_Says
@BlazeHedgehog said:
  That leaves me with one of two options: Satisfy my own curiosity through the dubious medium of software piracy, or try really really hard to forget that the PC version of GTA4 even exists at all.
Or you know...get the demo. 
 
(P.S. I know GTA 4 has no official demo, but many games do....)
Posted by vidiot
@BlazeHedgehog: This is an absolutely fantastic read, and your solution is so simple it infuriates me. 
It's not perfect, but I can see it working. I wouldn't have bought Doom back in the day, if it wasn't for it's shareware release. While those glory days are over, there was a part of me the other day questions why there wasn't going to be a Syrim demo. 
Yeah, sure, a huge RPG is not an acceptable game to make for a demo...But wait, why not? Why not give us a few quests to check-out? We have the technology, to then continue your character into the full retail product. Why isn't this happening?
 
I assume the reason is not much a developer issue, but a publisher one. In this age of making you pay extra money, for a used game: I'm surprised that we get so many demo's these days. Making a demo requires it's own scheduling, and money. It's also something that's designed, by itself, not to make money. In other words: You would have to convince the big-boys up at the top. 
It fluctuates from project to project, but in turn, you are correct about this: Not many people know how a game is going to play most of the time, until they buy it. Give people a reasonable out-let to try your game, and go back to creating interest via the actual game, and not poorly staged quick-looks with deadpan developers staring into a camera. 
Posted by Ghooble

If WoW manages a trial/demo then I think many games should be able to. It's real simple to limit gameplay for a demo game whether it be limiting the account or just providing a chunk of gameplay. Either way I think demos are fairly necessary and always assumed there was no PC demos for the reason that the publishers thought it would be cracked in 3.14seconds flat.  
-Ghooble

Posted by BlazeHedgehog
@blacklabeldomm said:
@BlazeHedgehog said:
  That leaves me with one of two options: Satisfy my own curiosity through the dubious medium of software piracy, or try really really hard to forget that the PC version of GTA4 even exists at all.
Or you know...get the demo.   (P.S. I know GTA 4 has no official demo, but many games do....)
 
You realize this comment is kind of pointless, right? Considering what I was trying to say, and all.
Posted by BlazeHedgehog
@benjaebe said:
Why did you say that Super Meat Boy doesn't have DRM. Of course it does, it's only sold on Steam.
There are games sold on Steam that come with separate DRM, and I'm pretty sure it's not very difficult to patch Steam out of games that use it. I remember hearing about no-steam patches all the way back when Counter-Strike Source launched in 2004. 
 
(sorry for the double post, guys)
Posted by Doctorchimp
@LunarAura said:

A surefire way to eliminate PC piracy 100% is to not release a game on the PC.

So that way it can be absolutely savaged by Xbox modders who flashed their disk drives?
Posted by DillonWerner

I'm not going to lie, i pirated The Witcher just to beat it and see if I liked it before I bought Witcher 2

Edited by CornBREDX

Something you seem to forget (in your demo talks) is that Shareware was not free. It was cheaper then the full game, ya, but it wasn't free. Either you got it with a game magazine subscription or if we go farther back you got it at a tech fair or something out of a shoe box at one of the booths.

The demo's you get today are free, and are just that. Demos. They are intended to give you an idea of what your looking to get and get you interested, nothing more. They are not intended for any actual value because that's what your paying.

Doom had shareware (you paid for it, full version or shareware version)- therefore you got a large chunk of the game (arguably to some the best part was almost always in the shareware).

We're also talking about 2 different eras though. In one era games were childrens toys or for tech junkies (more commonly known as nerds) and not at all big business yet in the league of movies or television (entertainment). In the other (this era) they are an up and coming major market just about on par with movies and I think possibly above Television at this point. They cost upwards of 100 million or so to make (or more maybe) and are big business. They are no longer made in a garage and whored out at fairs with the hopes to get someone interested enough to send a check or money in an envelope- although one could definitely mention the awesome indie sector arising from it. They're a big deal.

Demo's are for video games what coupons were for retail. They get people interested. Shareware was a business practice- at least you made something even if not as much.

I do not think demos are all that comparable to shareware as they are two separate business practices but I guess you could argue they both serve a very similar purpose.

Online
Posted by Marz

Shareware was a good idea back in it's day.   Also GTA4 ran like shit because it was one of the most CPU limited game ports ever made despite what powerful graphics card you may have had.   It's a little bit better now that it's been patched a bit. 

Posted by crusader8463

I use piracy as a means to test games. As a PC gamer one of the sad things you accept with the platform is that every time you buy a game you are rolling the dice on whether or not it will run on your machine. Generally speaking the newer your machine the higher your odds of not having problems will be, but sadly we live in a world where games are made for consoles first and PC a very distant second; generally third as it's made for 360, then ps3, then PC. So even if it runs well we now have to make a saving throw on top of that dice roll when it comes to terribly designed controls, piss poor ui, and tons of other things that PC gamers expect in games that the console people never even think about because console gamers don't even know to ask for the stuff in their game.
 
When you factor all of that in with games costing so much dam money, and that there are so many that look good in trailers but suck once you actually get your hands on them and play the meat of the game, if a game doesn't come with a demo then I'm going to pirate it to make sure I know it's going to be worth it at full price or if I should wait for a sale.

Posted by SeriouslyNow

@Marz said:

Shareware was a good idea back in it's day. Also GTA4 ran like shit because it was one of the most CPU limited game ports ever made despite what powerful graphics card you may have had. It's a little bit better now that it's been patched a bit.

The GTA IV patches have mainly been about increasing GPU performance by optimising shaders (1.0 4.0) and more recently about adding DX10 support (1.07.0 / EFLC). Earlier on, GTA IV truly ran like shit because it was bogged down by GFWLive and Rockstar Social Club running at the same time - people using the crack and Xliveless were getting between 20-30% performance improvement. This was also true for Fallout 3 and Xliveless.

Posted by lettuceman44

Except, most of the time demos don't really show us the full game anyways.
 
And I have no source for this, but I'm pretty sure most pirates don't pirate to "try out the game." I'm sorry, I'm sure a few might do that, but overall I doubt that demos will reduce piracy in any meaningful way.

Posted by BombKareshi

Like the lettuceman says, most people don't pirate to try out the game. They pirate because they want to play the game for free.
  
Me: "Don't pirate, just buy the game!"
My cousin who is a student: "I don't have the money."
My girlfriend who is a working individual: "I'm not gonna waste my cash."
 
They just won't listen.

Posted by niamahai

i believe that most PC devs won the 'pirate' war by focusing on console development.

as for "I use pirated copy to demo" seems too much of an effort for me personally. I just read reviews or watch whatever QL anybody has about the game.

Online
Posted by lettuceman44

Y@BombKareshi said:

Like the lettuceman says, most people don't pirate to try out the game. They pirate because they want to play the game for free.   Me: "Don't pirate, just buy the game!"My cousin who is a student: "I don't have the money." My girlfriend who is a working individual: "I'm not gonna waste my cash."  They just won't listen.
Yep, exactly.
Essentially, they do it because they can get away with it.
Posted by ajamafalous

You know, I was thinking about how a shitty demo impacts my sale a few days ago. I thought back to some iPhone games and Bulletstorm, specifically. It's as if developers (or publishers, as you say) no longer want to sell you on their game, and it's just there for a checklist of "Do we have a demo?" If the demo for your RPG only lets me play the first level and doesn't even let me assign my skill points or look at the skill tree to see how the player progression works after I finish the level, I'm deleting your demo and never thinking about the game again. If your demo lets me play two or three levels and see how the game will function and what I can expect, I'll probably buy the game if I enjoyed my time with it. It's as if they're going for some type of bait and switch with the first situation, but the bait isn't at all compelling. Like the developer doesn't even play games.

Bulletstorm is another interesting example. The demo was a chunk of one level, but they removed the entirety of the weapon choice/upgrade stuff. So, again, you're removing one of the pivotal systems of the game from the demo, arguably one of the selling points of your game, and you still expect me to drop $60 (read: not even $50 on PC) on your game without even seeing that?

A good demo sells games. A bad demo can hurt sales. I just wish the people making games would realize this, and put more time and effort into their demos.

Posted by valrog

It's been proven that pirates are in fact the greatest consumers whether it's Music, Film or Games. So that takes care of that.

Posted by Vade

100% of people I know pirate games to play them for free. They don't care a single bit about demos when they can get the whole game with the same effort. Games they actually buy are multiplayer games with robust client support that would make pirating "slightly inconvenient". Single player games don't have that issue.
 
Regarding to demos, I used to download them as a kid when I didn't have money to get that many games and wasn't even sure if they would work. Nowadays I just buy the shit I want after checking out few gameplay vids and reviews. The lack of demos doesn't make me pirate games because I just don't pirate games.

Posted by misterhaan
@CornBREDX said:

Something you seem to forget (in your demo talks) is that Shareware was not free. It was cheaper then the full game, ya, but it wasn't free. Either you got it with a game magazine subscription or if we go farther back you got it at a tech fair or something out of a shoe box at one of the booths.

the name shareware means you’re encouraged to share it.  as in give a copy to all your friends, or post it on a bbs where anyone who can afford to connect their phone line for long enough to download it can get it.  shareware itself is free, though access to shareware isn’t always free.   you had to get it to your computer somehow, and if you didn’t know how to use a bbs or didn’t know somebody who already had it, yeah you had to pay someone to put it on a disk and ship it to you.  you’re not paying for the software itself though, and there were legal ways to get it without having to pay anything you weren’t already paying.
 
in the same vein, access to a demo isn’t free either.  the internet makes things simpler, but access isn’t available to everyone for free.  sure if you have a laptop and can bring it to a coffee shop with free wifi you can get a demo for free (ignoring that you had to buy the laptop), but if you live somewhere without free wifi or only have a desktop you have to pay for internet access.  chances are you’re doing that anyway, just like i was connecting to the local bbs anyway, but i really don’t see the freeness of demos as any different from the freeness of shareware other than the times they came in making demos more accessible.
Posted by topgunner87

Good talking points.
 
The serious lack of demos for PC games has astounded me for quite some time.  PC gamers all over the internet cite "try before I buy" reasons for piracy, and yet the simplest way take away that argument is to release a demo.  I'm not defending Demo Pirates (for lack of an appropriate term) and their trains of thought as I don't think it's ever acceptable to pirate something, but I completely understand where those gamers are coming from.

Posted by BlazeHedgehog
@CornBREDX said:

Something you seem to forget (in your demo talks) is that Shareware was not free. It was cheaper then the full game, ya, but it wasn't free. Either you got it with a game magazine subscription or if we go farther back you got it at a tech fair or something out of a shoe box at one of the booths.

The demo's you get today are free, and are just that. Demos. They are intended to give you an idea of what your looking to get and get you interested, nothing more. They are not intended for any actual value because that's what your paying.

You have to pay for your internet access, too - basically the same as paying for a magazine to get a disk, or paying to get in to a trade show. It's still money being exchanged for a service with ancillary "free" bonus content attached. Plus, consider the name: "Share"ware. You were intended to show it to your friends, pass it around, let them play - they weren't paying for anything, they were just lucky enough to know the guy who had the disk.
 
@lettuceman44 said:
Y@BombKareshi said:
Like the lettuceman says, most people don't pirate to try out the game. They pirate because they want to play the game for free.   Me: "Don't pirate, just buy the game!"My cousin who is a student: "I don't have the money." My girlfriend who is a working individual: "I'm not gonna waste my cash."  They just won't listen.
Yep, exactly. Essentially, they do it because they can get away with it.
I never said it would be the absolute cure to 100% of all piracy - just that it would reduce piracy. Nothing's ever going to completely stamp out piracy, but you can take progressive steps towards reducing the circumstances that make it seem like an acceptable practice. Instead of automatically treating all legitimate consumers like potential thieves, head them off at the pass and stop giving people reasons to pirate games. 
 
That's part of the reason Steam itself has been such a success - why would I pirate a game that's on sale for $3? That's less than most people spend on lunch for a day.
Posted by Zidd

@Ertard said:

But PC demos are piracy!!! THEY CAN BE USED TO CRACK THE FULL GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN OTHERWISE IF IT WASN'T FOR THE DEMO, NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's usually how it sounds anyway. Regardless, I will fucking pirate every single multiplatform piece of shit port and see if it's OK before I buy it. If there's a demo, I will try that instead - there's almost never one for the ones you need, however exclusives always comes with them, and then I don't need them.

I've been thinking about becoming some sort of PR infueled preacher for PC gaming, going around to devs and holding easily worded bulletpointed seminars explaining why PC gamers pirate your shit and how to avoid it. Basically, something like this:

  • We don't like DRM because it quite often messes up the experience and sometimes prevents games from being played. This is uncommon, but happens.
  • We don't like DRM because our free and beautiful format gets locked down.
  • We like demos. We can see how well it runs then. If you don't give us a demo, we will get ourselves a demo.
  • We like mods because it makes your games last longer. This might lead to increase in DLC sales for you. Support modders, it's very easy.
  • We don't like games being 60 dollars, since you do not have to pay license fees.
  • Don't bother with retail, and please release everything at the same time world wide for an equal amount of cash. 50 euros are not 50 dollars. Your accountants will tell you this.
  • Please make sure the PC version looks okay with high res textures. This makes all the difference.
  • Please, don't outsource your ports to China. Make sure they work fine yourselves and are not completely broken.
  • Don't release games two months after console. We will buy it on release if it's good and you don't do stupid shit.
  • Please release on Steam and other well known services. We don't care for your own system, because all our friends are already established on others. We like our friends, and they will buy your games too if we say they are good.
  • Last, do not bother with any kind of activation or DRM. Your game will be cracked in no time regardless and you're wasting your time.

Way to reinforce the super elitist PC Gamer stereotype.

I can't think of a single game that fulfills such a vast list of stringent requirements. Publishers are in the business of making money and therefore are not going to waste valuable development resources catering to at most 10% of their total sales when they can't even get that small audience to even purchase the game in the first place.

There are cases where demo executables have been used to crack full release titles because the demo has a very similar executable to a full release. Publishers know that PC games are going to be cracked eventually they aren't delusional. The way the publishers see it (that I've read anyway) is that each day after a big release a crack isn't out for that game the DRM was successful because its another day pirates have to wait and if someone really wants to play the game they may go out and buy it instead.

Edited by RIDEBIRD

@Zidd: Well you do realize that implementing DRM is MORE work, right? It also costs money (Securom want dat monay). Demos cost nothing extra if they're on consoles, just port it during the development process or just give access to half an hour of the game via Steam - very simple. So what if the exe can be used to be cracked. It will happen very, very soon after release anyway, but yes, I see your point of avoiding launch day piracy. Ditching retail is also cost effective.

But yes, ensuring that it's ported fine, looks okay, has some kind of mod support (basically it doesn't flat out kill mods), releases on the same date, releases on services where the publisher makes money and where we customers are is.. Um, stupid demands?

By the way, EA makes most of their money on PC, so does Activision. Both of their very recent quarterly reports show this, and PC can no longer be said to be dying, to have a small audience or to be riddled with only pirates - hence why EA is pushing BF3, very likely the biggest game this year, hard on PC. I really don't think that list is totally out of order.

edit: Also, my point was that if you do these things and push them PC gamers will buy your game. Will you eliminate piracy? No, because people are dicks. Will you sell more? Oh hell yeah. Personally I don't really mind DRM. I do mind shoddy ports and low res textures though.

Posted by KillyDarko
@Ertard said:
I've been thinking about becoming some sort of PR infueled preacher for PC gaming, going around to devs and holding easily worded bulletpointed seminars explaining why PC gamers pirate your shit and how to avoid it. Basically, something like this:
  • We don't like DRM because it quite often messes up the experience and sometimes prevents games from being played. This is uncommon, but happens.
  • We don't like DRM because our free and beautiful format gets locked down.
  • We like demos. We can see how well it runs then. If you don't give us a demo, we will get ourselves a demo.
  • We like mods because it makes your games last longer. This might lead to increase in DLC sales for you. Support modders, it's very easy.
  • We don't like games being 60 dollars, since you do not have to pay license fees.
  • Don't bother with retail, and please release everything at the same time world wide for an equal amount of cash. 50 euros are not 50 dollars. Your accountants will tell you this.
  • Please make sure the PC version looks okay with high res textures. This makes all the difference.
  • Please, don't outsource your ports to China. Make sure they work fine yourselves and are not completely broken.
  • Don't release games two months after console. We will buy it on release if it's good and you don't do stupid shit.
  • Please release on Steam and other well known services. We don't care for your own system, because all our friends are already established on others. We like our friends, and they will buy your games too if we say they are good.
  • Last, do not bother with any kind of activation or DRM. Your game will be cracked in no time regardless and you're wasting your time.
I just really wanted this to be shown again :)
And to the OP, great read!
Posted by lettuceman44
@BlazeHedgehog said:
@CornBREDX said:

Something you seem to forget (in your demo talks) is that Shareware was not free. It was cheaper then the full game, ya, but it wasn't free. Either you got it with a game magazine subscription or if we go farther back you got it at a tech fair or something out of a shoe box at one of the booths.

The demo's you get today are free, and are just that. Demos. They are intended to give you an idea of what your looking to get and get you interested, nothing more. They are not intended for any actual value because that's what your paying.

You have to pay for your internet access, too - basically the same as paying for a magazine to get a disk, or paying to get in to a trade show. It's still money being exchanged for a service with ancillary "free" bonus content attached. Plus, consider the name: "Share"ware. You were intended to show it to your friends, pass it around, let them play - they weren't paying for anything, they were just lucky enough to know the guy who had the disk.
 
@lettuceman44 said:
Y@BombKareshi said:
Like the lettuceman says, most people don't pirate to try out the game. They pirate because they want to play the game for free.   Me: "Don't pirate, just buy the game!"My cousin who is a student: "I don't have the money." My girlfriend who is a working individual: "I'm not gonna waste my cash."  They just won't listen.
Yep, exactly. Essentially, they do it because they can get away with it.
I never said it would be the absolute cure to 100% of all piracy - just that it would reduce piracy. Nothing's ever going to completely stamp out piracy, but you can take progressive steps towards reducing the circumstances that make it seem like an acceptable practice. Instead of automatically treating all legitimate consumers like potential thieves, head them off at the pass and stop giving people reasons to pirate games.    That's part of the reason Steam itself has been such a success - why would I pirate a game that's on sale for $3? That's less than most people spend on lunch for a day.
Except you are assuming a good chunk of people pirate to "try out the game.' I really doubt that. 
In fact, I think it is such a few number, that if no one pirated to try out a game, no one would notice.
Posted by Zidd

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

60 dollar PC games is something everyone will just have to deal with. The development cost of games is astronomical and the price of games has stayed pretty stable over the past almost 40 years compared to everything else.

Activision-Blizzard makes a majority of their PC money off of WoW and EA is probably due to free to play microtransaction games like need for speed world and battlefield heroes. EA is pushing battlefield 3 hard on the PC because thats where it probably looks and plays best.

Posted by Napalm
@Zidd said:

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

You live in some delusional, hyperreality. Modding communities have greatly extended the lives of most, if not all PC games, and they help to update and fix the complications of older games running on new systems.
Posted by Zidd

@Napalm said:

@Zidd said:

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

You live in some delusional, hyperreality. Modding communities have greatly extended the lives of most, if not all PC games, and they help to update and fix the complications of older games running on new systems.

While the life of the game is extended, the publishers make no money from that which is why mod tools have more or less gone away while DLC has more or less the same purpose but the publishers make money from it. I'm not saying that I like it or that its right thats just how it is.

Posted by amomjc

I really like this post because it points out one thing that I do all to often: Pirate games as demos. I have never in my career of gaming completed or played the majority of a game that I pirated, but instead tested it out to make sure it runs and felt the waters of its story and game play to make sure that my $60 purchase was worth it.

Now, I do not agree with full force demo's, as just the name makes me feel icky when downloading a product, but honestly if they just made tons of tidbits like Dead Rising Zero, I would be sucking them up in a heartbeat as it would be an interesting part of the game that shows me whether or not I can run this game and whether or not I will want to buy it.

$60 is a lot of money, at least for me, and anyone who says I should just go off a whim and buy it and that It's "just $60" (a lot of people say that nowadays), can stick it.

Posted by Napalm
@Zidd said:

@Napalm said:

@Zidd said:

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

You live in some delusional, hyperreality. Modding communities have greatly extended the lives of most, if not all PC games, and they help to update and fix the complications of older games running on new systems.

While the life of the game is extended, the publishers make no money from that which is why mod tools have more or less gone away while DLC has more or less the same purpose but the publishers make money from it. I'm not saying that I like it or that its right thats just how it is.

DLC and modding is nowhere near analogous.
Posted by Napalm
@lettuceman44 said:
Essentially, they do it because they can get away with it.
I could probably get away with rape if I really tried. Your argument has no validity because everything eventually boils down to, "because they can," no matter the situation or action.
Posted by BlazeHedgehog
@lettuceman44 said:
@BlazeHedgehog said:
@CornBREDX said:

Something you seem to forget (in your demo talks) is that Shareware was not free. It was cheaper then the full game, ya, but it wasn't free. Either you got it with a game magazine subscription or if we go farther back you got it at a tech fair or something out of a shoe box at one of the booths.

The demo's you get today are free, and are just that. Demos. They are intended to give you an idea of what your looking to get and get you interested, nothing more. They are not intended for any actual value because that's what your paying.

You have to pay for your internet access, too - basically the same as paying for a magazine to get a disk, or paying to get in to a trade show. It's still money being exchanged for a service with ancillary "free" bonus content attached. Plus, consider the name: "Share"ware. You were intended to show it to your friends, pass it around, let them play - they weren't paying for anything, they were just lucky enough to know the guy who had the disk.
 
@lettuceman44 said:
Y@BombKareshi said:
Like the lettuceman says, most people don't pirate to try out the game. They pirate because they want to play the game for free.   Me: "Don't pirate, just buy the game!"My cousin who is a student: "I don't have the money." My girlfriend who is a working individual: "I'm not gonna waste my cash."  They just won't listen.
Yep, exactly. Essentially, they do it because they can get away with it.
I never said it would be the absolute cure to 100% of all piracy - just that it would reduce piracy. Nothing's ever going to completely stamp out piracy, but you can take progressive steps towards reducing the circumstances that make it seem like an acceptable practice. Instead of automatically treating all legitimate consumers like potential thieves, head them off at the pass and stop giving people reasons to pirate games.    That's part of the reason Steam itself has been such a success - why would I pirate a game that's on sale for $3? That's less than most people spend on lunch for a day.
Except you are assuming a good chunk of people pirate to "try out the game.' I really doubt that.  In fact, I think it is such a few number, that if no one pirated to try out a game, no one would notice.
 
Based on what evidence? Your own moral-high-ground assumptions? 
 
DRM isn't working, dude. The harder publishers push anti-piracy, the harder the pirates are pushing back. Developers aren't winning, and consumers DEFINITELY are not winning. Even when Ubisoft declares it's internet-enabled "always-on" DRM a success, there's still ways around it - I should know (there's no way I'm letting them tell me I can't play my legitimate copy of Assassin's Creed 2 for the PC just because I'm not connected). 
 
@Napalm said:
@Zidd said:

@Napalm said:

@Zidd said:

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

You live in some delusional, hyperreality. Modding communities have greatly extended the lives of most, if not all PC games, and they help to update and fix the complications of older games running on new systems.

While the life of the game is extended, the publishers make no money from that which is why mod tools have more or less gone away while DLC has more or less the same purpose but the publishers make money from it. I'm not saying that I like it or that its right thats just how it is.

DLC and modding is nowhere near analogous.

He is right, to a certain degree. 

DLC extends the life of a game while also bringing in additional revenue for the developer. Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it doesn't bring in any extra money beyond what was already earned from the initial sale.
 
Despite a number of really great Battlefield 2 mods getting released, EA is axing mod support for Battlefield 3. It's all part of their plan to lock down the shelf-life of their games. When Battlefield 4 is ready, they can kill Battlefield 3 and force everybody to upgrade to the next version. Having mod support in BF3 would throw a monkey wrench in to all of that, so they're axing it so they have as much control as they possibly can as to what versions of what games people need to buy.
Posted by Napalm
@BlazeHedgehog said:
He is right, to a certain degree.  DLC extends the life of a game while also bringing in additional revenue for the developer. Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it doesn't bring in any extra money beyond what was already earned from the initial sale.  Despite a number of really great Battlefield 2 mods getting released, EA is axing mod support for Battlefield 3. It's all part of their plan to lock down the shelf-life of their games. When Battlefield 4 is ready, they can kill Battlefield 3 and force everybody to upgrade to the next version. Having mod support in BF3 would throw a monkey wrench in to all of that, so they're axing it so they have as much control as they possibly can as to what versions of what games people need to buy.
Like I said, DLC and modding is nowhere near analogous.
Posted by TotalEklypse
@Ertard said:

But PC demos are piracy!!! THEY CAN BE USED TO CRACK THE FULL GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN OTHERWISE IF IT WASN'T FOR THE DEMO, NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's usually how it sounds anyway. Regardless, I will fucking pirate every single multiplatform piece of shit port and see if it's OK before I buy it. If there's a demo, I will try that instead - there's almost never one for the ones you need, however exclusives always comes with them, and then I don't need them.

I've been thinking about becoming some sort of PR infueled preacher for PC gaming, going around to devs and holding easily worded bulletpointed seminars explaining why PC gamers pirate your shit and how to avoid it. Basically, something like this:

  • We don't like DRM because it quite often messes up the experience and sometimes prevents games from being played. This is uncommon, but happens.
  • We don't like DRM because our free and beautiful format gets locked down.
  • We like demos. We can see how well it runs then. If you don't give us a demo, we will get ourselves a demo.
  • We like mods because it makes your games last longer. This might lead to increase in DLC sales for you. Support modders, it's very easy.
  • We don't like games being 60 dollars, since you do not have to pay license fees.
  • Don't bother with retail, and please release everything at the same time world wide for an equal amount of cash. 50 euros are not 50 dollars. Your accountants will tell you this.
  • Please make sure the PC version looks okay with high res textures. This makes all the difference.
  • Please, don't outsource your ports to China. Make sure they work fine yourselves and are not completely broken.
  • Don't release games two months after console. We will buy it on release if it's good and you don't do stupid shit.
  • Please release on Steam and other well known services. We don't care for your own system, because all our friends are already established on others. We like our friends, and they will buy your games too if we say they are good.
  • Last, do not bother with any kind of activation or DRM. Your game will be cracked in no time regardless and you're wasting your time.
All valid points.
Posted by ShiftyMagician
@TotalEklypse said:
@Ertard said:

But PC demos are piracy!!! THEY CAN BE USED TO CRACK THE FULL GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN OTHERWISE IF IT WASN'T FOR THE DEMO, NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's usually how it sounds anyway. Regardless, I will fucking pirate every single multiplatform piece of shit port and see if it's OK before I buy it. If there's a demo, I will try that instead - there's almost never one for the ones you need, however exclusives always comes with them, and then I don't need them.

I've been thinking about becoming some sort of PR infueled preacher for PC gaming, going around to devs and holding easily worded bulletpointed seminars explaining why PC gamers pirate your shit and how to avoid it. Basically, something like this:

  • We don't like DRM because it quite often messes up the experience and sometimes prevents games from being played. This is uncommon, but happens.
  • We don't like DRM because our free and beautiful format gets locked down.
  • We like demos. We can see how well it runs then. If you don't give us a demo, we will get ourselves a demo.
  • We like mods because it makes your games last longer. This might lead to increase in DLC sales for you. Support modders, it's very easy.
  • We don't like games being 60 dollars, since you do not have to pay license fees.
  • Don't bother with retail, and please release everything at the same time world wide for an equal amount of cash. 50 euros are not 50 dollars. Your accountants will tell you this.
  • Please make sure the PC version looks okay with high res textures. This makes all the difference.
  • Please, don't outsource your ports to China. Make sure they work fine yourselves and are not completely broken.
  • Don't release games two months after console. We will buy it on release if it's good and you don't do stupid shit.
  • Please release on Steam and other well known services. We don't care for your own system, because all our friends are already established on others. We like our friends, and they will buy your games too if we say they are good.
  • Last, do not bother with any kind of activation or DRM. Your game will be cracked in no time regardless and you're wasting your time.
All valid points.
Seconded for nice common-sense, even though a little of it got preachy.
Posted by neoepoch

I agree that DRM is bullshit, and I also agree that there needs to be way more significant PC demos (something that indie games seem to do well that big budget games can't...Ironic no?). The only point I would disagree with is saying that piracy isn't stealing. I still believe that pirating anything is a form of theft. Now I'm not going to flip my shit over someone who does pirate, hey we all have our reasons and we all have done it (might be an exaggeration but whatever). What really sucks is people have to resort to these measures because of lack of demos and fucking stupid DRM. I think that the points Ertard makes are probably the best solutions to the "PC problem" and if big name publishers wouldn't be so fucking bitchy about it, they would see a gradual increase in sales.

Posted by TotalEklypse
@Zidd said:

@Napalm said:

@Zidd said:

@Ertard: The difference is that DRM is easily cost justified. Mod tools are not because its extra time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. It would be pretty hard to cost justify spending resources on mod tools for people to generate content for your games that you can't control or generate revenue with. I could see a future where mod tools are no longer free though.

You live in some delusional, hyperreality. Modding communities have greatly extended the lives of most, if not all PC games, and they help to update and fix the complications of older games running on new systems.

While the life of the game is extended, the publishers make no money from that which is why mod tools have more or less gone away while DLC has more or less the same purpose but the publishers make money from it. I'm not saying that I like it or that its right thats just how it is.

Mod tools have gone away? 
 
Seems 80% of the games I have bought in the last few years came with mod tools. I buy a lot of games mind you.   
 
I am just going to say this the nicest way possible. Dude you are blowing smoke up peoples asses.   

Also you do realize.. DLC  a lot of the time, is done way before the game is released or damn close. Many times it is on the disc or file you purchased already. Plus how many total conversion DLC items have you seen? I can think of one right now. No.. 2.   Bad Company Vietnam and The Undead Nightmare for RDR. MOST... DLC is just some costumes or really minor shit. 
 
Have you ever even modded? You do realize a lot of games don't need actual tools to mod anyway. If you go get the UDK you can mod unreal games, If you get the SDK you can mod source games.. etc.  
Posted by ShiftyMagician
@neoepoch said:

I agree that DRM is bullshit, and I also agree that there needs to be way more significant PC demos (something that indie games seem to do well that big budget games can't...Ironic no?). The only point I would disagree with is saying that piracy isn't stealing. I still believe that pirating anything is a form of theft. Now I'm not going to flip my shit over someone who does pirate, hey we all have our reasons and we all have done it (might be an exaggeration but whatever). What really sucks is people have to resort to these measures because of lack of demos and fucking stupid DRM. I think that the points Ertard makes are probably the best solutions to the "PC problem" and if big name publishers wouldn't be so fucking bitchy about it, they would see a gradual increase in sales.

Also to add a little more depth to this, the Industry itself is to blame for making games bigger and bigger way too fast without first putting some research and development into procedural generation of assets.  A lot of the costs that goes into games are not just marketing, but in plenty of assets that only get seen once and most of it are hand-made assets.  If they look into more ways to reduce costs they can make more time for making demos without affecting their development cycles as much.  Of course it isn't the single solution to solve the whole issue of 'the cost that goes into demos', but it is definitely a key element. 
 
As for DRM, there are already games that use no DRM that have reaped significant profits due to successfully convincing the gaming crowd that their game is good.  Bigger corporations need to really look into that trend and take some risks of their own.  At the very least, their costs go down if they don't invest in DRM that can always break or provides nothing but hassles to the end-consumer, producing risk that the install-base becomes smaller when it comes time to promote the next big product.
Posted by TotalEklypse
@BlazeHedgehog said:

 Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it doesn't bring in any extra money beyond what was already earned from the initial sale.  
Let me point you towards something like Counter-strike.  
 Let me point you towards TF2 maps and items. 
 
All originally made by mod community. LEt me correct your sentence. 
 
"Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it only makes money for the company if the company would actually embrace the fans and come to terms financially." 
 
You are welcome :D
Posted by BlazeHedgehog
@TotalEklypse said:
@BlazeHedgehog said:

 Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it doesn't bring in any extra money beyond what was already earned from the initial sale.  
Let me point you towards something like Counter-strike.   Let me point you towards TF2 maps and items.  All originally made by mod community. LEt me correct your sentence.  "Mod support may extend the life of a game, but it only makes money for the company if the company would actually embrace the fans and come to terms financially."  You are welcome :D
 
Those are the exception, not the rule.
Posted by Napalm
@TotalEklypse: And there's a lot of great shit released from modding original games and engines, too. I'm glad you pointed to UDK and SDK. Without SDK, we wouldn't have Left 4 Dead, which was originally a fan mod, or Divine Cybermancy, which uses Source.
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