GWJ Conference Call Episode 140

Conference Call

Prototype, Tiger Woods 10 (Wii), Sims 3, AAA Blockbuster Games, Your Emails and more!

This week Cory Banks is in the captain's seat as he steers the show through the treacherous waters of AAA blockbuster games. Also, Sean Sands uses saucy language to make his point! If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"PodunkStump" (Ian Dorsch) - 0:37:01
"Los Pistoleros" (Ian Dorsch) - 1:04:27

Comments

Jayhawker:

Please, please watch Matt Mason's speech in the attached video.

I have no respect for holders of copyright who extend it to be legacy items for the good of them and theirs for decades. I have no respect for publishers who produce nothing.

You see, a publisher is someone who purchases IP and is in the business of distributing them. They are merchants, not producers. I do not wish to impose my own brand of compensation for them. I like iTunes and I didn't think that up. Jobs did. Do you hate him, too?

I want software and content producers to be compensated for their labor better and more appropriately. A digital future allows YOU to be both producer and publisher because of the efficiencies of digital distribution. EA and Activision do not want this because it cuts out the middleman - it cuts THEM out. This requires them to change their business strategy and model. As Mason mentions in his speech,

"What business are you REALLY in?"

EA is in the business of hype, pomp, and DVD sales. It also distributes games (the information), but that's merely the manner and kernel of its DVD sales model.

Presented with a more efficient method of distributing GAMES - EA says "NO!!!!" and that tells you all you really need to know.

If you were in the farming industry and someone presents you with a technology that allows you to mill your grain yourself, how would you feel? Ecstatic, right? How would the millers feel? Not so good. They will do everything in their power to retard this technology and convince everyone that the use of it is unhealthy, even immoral. EA is a not a producer. Publishers do not make games. Developers do.

LarryC wrote:

EA is a not a producer. Publishers do not make games. Developers do.

Your argument kind of breaks down here because publishers directly fund and make games. They advertise, they have in-house developers and they also pay third party developers to finish the games they otherwise couldn't (e.g. Brutal Legend) and wouldn't be able to get development money from the public for anyway. They also help supervise (sometimes negatively) and coordinate the teams (e.g. Stalker). It's one thing asking for money for incomplete 'free roaming, sandbox -style games' but i believe that it's 100% more difficult to do the same thing for a purely story-driven endeavour.

Take for example Teltale games. They effectively use the model you describe for Mount and Blade and they're lucky that they're pretty much the only development house doing so in a heavily under-supported genre. A counter example to this is Sin Episodes, a completely serviceable and IMO, fun game whose storyline we will never see finished because the episodic/developmental model isn't very reliable when placed in a highly competitive landscape - you need to have a large sum of either money laid aside or public interest.... they also said that a lot of support costs were expended on people who didn't buy the game but instead pirated it. Certain genres are more prone to piracy because they have more mainstream appeal and i think that there is no one right or wrong way to produce a product in light of these hurdles. Just because EA might be against DRM free downloads (because they are certainly not against digital downloads) doesn't preclude them from happening - in fact you see already there are a number of independent, small studios that are releasing their products DRM free because they see no benefit between releases that have DRM and those that don't.

Going to put this in a new post because reading a wall of text just isn't fun

After watching the linked video, the difference between the type of piratcy that Matt Mason is describing for much of his presentation is that those pirates use a vehicle to provide new, previously unobtainable and unique content. Currently, the piracy that is being used through the peer to peer services is just copied content.

I think that's where he makes the logical mis-step towards the current system in relation to most software, music and film piracy. Even the radio, Nike and Wolfenstein/Smurfenstein examples highlight this difference.

Then his talk kind of went off on a tangent since the whole mod/machinima communities are not considered pirates, nor is it considered piracy or does it allow companies to compete with piracy because those same tools are distributed whether through the paid game or via the pirates. iTunes has hardware lock-in and the same 'celebrity' status symbol that the fashion industry uses to monetise trends and brands. I'd also argue that tap water vs bottled water isn't about 'experience' it's about quality: most tap water tastes like crap compared to bottled water (unless you count that as 'experience' in the way he describes it). Games are the same experience (as long as there's no copy protection/DRM) whether they are provided by pirates or by the content industry... it's not like having the choice of going to the cinema or watching a DVD at home nor is it like the choice between going to a concert or listening to a CD.

There are other revenue streams for the games industry though: micro transactions, DLC expansions etc. but they all, without fail, rely on copy protection of some kind ranging from CD keys to full blown activation DRM with limited installs. Now, i don't know if there is some way to offer content without copy protection like this but removing it doesn't mean that they can compete with the pirates. Free Realms or is a locked system - you can't play Free Realms on a non-official server (well, you probably can somewhere but it's not going to be the same experience). I'd really prefer that games do not all become like this and i also don't want them all to be full-blown DRM extravaganzas so, for me, the best point is with CD keys and small-scale copy protection like the Sims or Sins of a Solar Empire utilises.... but even then there are key gens and this method is not directly competing with pirates because the pirates are offering the same content at a price of zero. The only other way to enable games companies to compete with free is via advertising and currently this is not worth enough to develop all games on this model... and it also means constant connectivity/authentication DRM to be of any guarranteed success.

So there are quite a few logistical differences between the historically successful 'good' pirates and pirates of most digital content.... and by going digtial download they are losing the 'physical copy' aspect that Matt mentions in relation to books/authors.

On the other hand he's right, in the sense that piracy is adding the value to a broken system: the system is/was broken because there is no scale with which to enjoy the content and this scale of 'buy-in' is getting narrower all the time (no rentals, no returns etc.).... DRM, apart from enabling the reduction of the buy-in scale, also reduces the effective worth of a product which ironically it is supposed to replace for the content producers that are in competition with the pirates. It's a huge mis-step on the part of the gaming industry and it's one of the reasons why i'm against DRM.

I'm losing the plot with this "piracy adds value thing".

Duoae:

I think that, not having experienced the depth of the pirated game landscape, you do not really know what you are talking about. I do not pirate my games, but I do peruse and try out pirated copies of games I already have. I have paid for the content, I think I'm entitled to see what's on it, even if it's unofficial, no?

Software pirates DO add value and content. If nothing else, pirated games are much easier to acquire because they're online all the time, and in most cases, they do away with onerous DRM issues and usually also fix graphical issues and compatibilities issues. In some cases, they even directly ADD content - mods and skins and such, or else release the cracked game in a compilation with games previous - more convenience.

I do not want to have to deal with DRM, ever, at all. I put up with it because I want to pay developers money to keep on developing. Boycotting them destroys the industry, because they will interpret the complete lack of sales as a lack of demand. As events in the Far East have shown, software piracy changes the industry, but it does not destroy it.

This is not some theoretical crap-shoot we're discussing here. This has ALREADY happened. I'm very sympathetic towards the lack of protection Eastern developers have had to deal with, but it's made them better, and that's a good thing.

Let's look at the music industry again. All music distributors NOW do not "protect" their content. ITunes downloads are NOT hardware locked. You can choose to purchase DRM-free music. They even come in mp3s. I believe most purchased DL music is now the same way. The reason for this is that not having onerous conditionals on content is ITSELF added value. Jobs realized this and acted accordingly.

iTunes sales have increased since the offers of DRM-free music were added to the store. Illogical? Not really.

Those small companies that release DRM-free copies of their code do so because of two things:

1. No-DRM is added value - it makes their product more desirable.
2. Obscurity is worse - not having an audience that knows you is worse than having your content pirated.

Mason makes a good example for this in saying that Windows sells for $3 in China. I'll tell something I know about that. It doesn't sell all that well, even at $3. For the most part, Windows is cracked and pirated. Microsoft knows this and does nothing about it. Why?

Because they do not want a billion people developing open-source software for Linux. THAT would be bad - much worse than any money they're NOT losing because of software piracy in a market they don't care about. It would be total disaster.

Microsoft wants the average Asian to get used to using Windows for convenience - so that they would prefer to use it in bigger businesses and establishments, where MS CAN charge a small nominal fee for the use of the software. If these billions and billions of people can't use Windows - they'll then use Linux - its only real stumbling block right now is that it doesn't have a critical mass of users providing content for it. Guess what happens when Chinese and Indians start using it en masse?

I think that EA and Activision, for the most part, are being a LOT less savvy about dealing with their piracy issues. They've since smarted up. The Sims3 is the most pirated game in history. What's EA doing about it? Nothing. This is because they, too, have realized that adding value to retail versions is better DRM than DRM - Sims3 has an online store where you can purchase items for your Sims. If the store performs well, we may see a strong move by EA to adopt the microtransaction model for most of their games.

This model works for most games. Basketball games? Yep. Dance games? Yep. Sim games? Yes. Anything and everything works with it. Look at the Eastern software landscape. Please. Do not cite bad games that did not sell. Rather, look to more successful models that DO sell.

EA is finally, finally realizing and deciding that they are in the SOFTWARE business, whatever form that may take. The public does not buy DRM - so they're now releasing games without them for added value, and it looks like Sims is en route to justify the move beautifully. In this, they are emulating the model of Level Up games - Level Up isn't a development house either. It is ALSO a publisher - but it makes the core play and engines of its games available online for free - making use of the P2P channels to make sure it has as close to 100% saturation as possible.

Level Up has an insane number of games under its hood - all of them active revenue streams.

For adventure games, the current active supported ones are:

Rohan
Silkroad
Flyff
RF Online
Perfect World
Ragnarok

All of those are successful revenue streams. No duds there.

For casual games:

Grand Chase
CrazyKart
Free Style

There are minigames as well.

The Ragnarok MMO alone has over 60 million unique accounts - over 6 times that of WoW. Not only are there larger MMOs in the East, just this one publisher has 5 other MMOs all of which are currently active, supported, and profitable.

All of this without disk-based DRM, and freely allowing their game engines and initial content to be "pirated." They don't care. They'll even ask you to seed the game on torrents if you want to - no compensation for that, of course.

Level Up doesn't care because it's not selling these games. It's selling the experience. That is why it can have 6 profitable MMOs under its hood - each of those is a different experience. You could play FreeStyle or Rohan on a pirate server, but it just isn't the same game - you don't have the same store, the same new content, probably not the same friends, either.

Western distribution is now moving towards this model, which I think is all for the better. Demigod released with little to no content protection. It is also one of the top-selling games on the PC. Despite that, more Demigod games are pirated rather then licensed. If Stardock can find a way to monetize all those pirated copies, they're got a potential gold mine sitting under them for the next Demigod game.

I live in Bangkok and have a pretty good idea about piracy in general, though I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm an expert or that my opinion is the definitive one, and while I believe the topic has gotten sidetracked I hope you'll allow me a little more room for discussion.

DRM seems to be the latest fad for advocating piracy and I find it completely disingenuous. It's possible that there are those who have various moral high-ground reasons for advocating piracy but they are in the extreme minority. The majority of those who pirate software do so simply because they can, yet the fact remains that the reason why anyone pirates software is totally irrelevant.

In Thailand new legal games are sold for about 600 baht (~$18US) yet there remains a thriving and hugely competitive market for piracy, sometimes no more than a few steps away. Prices of legal games here are approaching that of pirated games, yet piracy flourishes because it is more convenient (and incredibly prevalent).

One note that specifically requires correction:

LarryC wrote:

Mason makes a good example for this in saying that Windows sells for $3 in China. I'll tell something I know about that. It doesn't sell all that well, even at $3. For the most part, Windows is cracked and pirated. Microsoft knows this and does nothing about it. Why?

The version of Windows you're referring to is a feature-limited version of Windows. Releasing a feature-limited version of Windows into the chinese market was MS's first serious attempt to do something about the piracy and you're right that it doesn't sell well. The reason it doesn't sell well is because the full-featured pirated edition is available for the same price (or cheaper). It does sell though, which is a significant milestone. Microsoft are planning to reduce the limitations on the Starter Edition of Windows 7 and while I don't exactly recall the specifics of the changes, I'm sure they will do better next time.

Not that any of this refutes your idea that companies like Microsoft and Adobe are allowing their software to be pirated to reel in future customers, which I happen to agree with.

harrisben:

I live in the Philippines. I think it's great to have a discussion between those of us who are living in and observing unregulated pirate activity, for the benefit of those who do not have the same first-hand experience.

Did you know that The Sims3, the full retail version, even, sells locally for about $28? It's more than the $18 you apparently get in Thailand, but I think that this is a step in the right direction. Directly competing with pirates is doable - perhaps the best way to combat it.

The reason Western-made cheaply sold games still do not sell well in the Eastern sphere is because developers and publishers who are attempting to break into the Eastern market do not understand what is going on. Right next to their stall is a pirate selling the exact same game - only theirs has a no-CD crack, graphical fixes, and added content!

It does you no good to attempt to monetize your IP on a per-copy model in that environment. You must sell something OTHER than copies - experience and added value are viable options.

As for Windows - my point isn't that MS is allowing Windows to be pirated to allow for future customers. They're allowing Windows to be pirated because they do NOT want Linux being used by the Chinese and the Indians. The last thing they want is for some pirate Chinese startup to develop a Windows-like application for Linux that significantly brings down the learning curve - that would be totally disastrous.

I think you're not reading properly and that you're extrapolating things unnecessarily or misunderstanding things.

LarryC wrote:

I think that, not having experienced the depth of the pirated game landscape, you do not really know what you are talking about.

Right, and you assume i know nothing because? I'm not understanding where you somehow are privvy to my life; past and present.

Let's look at the music industry again. All music distributors NOW do not "protect" their content. ITunes downloads are NOT hardware locked. You can choose to purchase DRM-free music. They even come in mp3s. I believe most purchased DL music is now the same way. The reason for this is that not having onerous conditionals on content is ITSELF added value. Jobs realized this and acted accordingly.

Last time i checked, iTunes only sells music in apple's format... meaning that you have to use a third party product to change the file format to .mp3 or you have to know that you can rip the songs to a CD and then convert the CD to .mp3 format. Not only that but once the files are on the ipod they cannot be removed without the use of a third party application (that's a hardware lock). That sounds like a lock-in system to me. Most consumers in the mass market will not be tech savvy enough to know that these third party 'illegal/unofficial' applications exist.

iTunes sales have increased since the offers of DRM-free music were added to the store. Illogical? Not really.

Digital sales have been increasing constantly from their inception. Is there some data you can point to that shows there was a marked increase from the start of DRM-free music unrelated to the curve of increase? I know that not all online stores around the world changed their DRM strategy at the same time and that especially non-US countries took longer to gain the ability to download songs from Amazon/iTunes etc without DRM included. Not to mention that the third party DRM removal software existed before the DRM was removed from the 'store front'.

Software pirates DO add value and content. If nothing else, pirated games are much easier to acquire because they're online all the time, and in most cases, they do away with onerous DRM issues and usually also fix graphical issues and compatibilities issues. In some cases, they even directly ADD content - mods and skins and such, or else release the cracked game in a compilation with games previous - more convenience.

Right, and the mods, fixes and skins etc are not available outside of the pirates version? No, i don't think so. I made this point above and i think you misunderstand the situation. How do the pirates add value (aside from cracking the game - which i mentioned as a positive) when those same things exist exactly as they are outside of the pirated version? It's just a compilation of things that are easily accessible to anyone with an internet search engine. So that 'added content' doesn't count as a positive to the pirated version because it is also freely available to the non-pirated version - taking other people's work and adding it to their cracked version does not constitute adding more value.

I do not want to have to deal with DRM, ever, at all. I put up with it because I want to pay developers money to keep on developing. Boycotting them destroys the industry, because they will interpret the complete lack of sales as a lack of demand. As events in the Far East have shown, software piracy changes the industry, but it does not destroy it.

Actually, i think there's little proof to say that piracy doesn't destroy the industry but boycotting does - i believe that you're placing your own personal preference over this particular issue. Boycotting, as long as you are vocal about it, is an effective means to make a producer change their stance on something and it has been seen time and time again.

Those small companies that release DRM-free copies of their code do so because of two things:

1. No-DRM is added value - it makes their product more desirable.
2. Obscurity is worse - not having an audience that knows you is worse than having your content pirated.

Yes, this doesn't contradict what i wrote and i have mentioned this in other places/threads on the subject. Small developers do not need to add DRM because it will cost too much and more than likely hinder sales/spread of their game.

Mason makes a good example for this in saying that Windows sells for $3 in China. I'll tell something I know about that. It doesn't sell all that well, even at $3. For the most part, Windows is cracked and pirated. Microsoft knows this and does nothing about it. Why?

Because they do not want a billion people developing open-source software for Linux. THAT would be bad - much worse than any money they're NOT losing because of software piracy in a market they don't care about. It would be total disaster.

Microsoft wants the average Asian to get used to using Windows for convenience - so that they would prefer to use it in bigger businesses and establishments, where MS CAN charge a small nominal fee for the use of the software. If these billions and billions of people can't use Windows - they'll then use Linux - its only real stumbling block right now is that it doesn't have a critical mass of users providing content for it. Guess what happens when Chinese and Indians start using it en masse?

I'm not sure where this little bit has gone. It doesn't prove that pirates add value to games/software and in fact all it proves is that MS wants to lock in customers to their OS, whether that be via legitimate or not so legitimate means. There's still DRM in legitimate copies of windows and to be honest the whole $3 isn't relative. What's the average monthly wage (in dollars)? How much is the cost of living per month and therefore what percentage of their disposable income is $3? Selling software 'at a loss' in some parts of the world doesn't constitute a business change when the business plan is to maintain dominance of the OS market in both business and home.

I think that EA and Activision, for the most part, are being a LOT less savvy about dealing with their piracy issues. They've since smarted up. The Sims3 is the most pirated game in history. What's EA doing about it? Nothing. This is because they, too, have realized that adding value to retail versions is better DRM than DRM - Sims3 has an online store where you can purchase items for your Sims. If the store performs well, we may see a strong move by EA to adopt the microtransaction model for most of their games.

And how do you access the store? Can pirated copies access the store or are you limited by the presence of the CD key that comes with the game? (a copy protection scheme/lock-in mechanism like i mentioned above)

This model works for most games. Basketball games? Yep. Dance games? Yep. Sim games? Yes. Anything and everything works with it. Look at the Eastern software landscape. Please. Do not cite bad games that did not sell. Rather, look to more successful models that DO sell.

Not sure who you're replying to here - who's citing what games? Like i said, this model doesn't work well for all game types. First person shooters (download by the level/weapon microtransactions?), RTS (unit microtransactions?), non-online RPG (mission microtransactions)? In order for them to be successful the base game content would have to be relatively sparse because none of those games rely on content from the developers/publishers to enable the player to gain the experience... nor does it require being locked into the game through a server like with MMOs to be able to gain the experience you want.

EA is finally, finally realizing and deciding that they are in the SOFTWARE business, whatever form that may take. The public does not buy DRM - so they're now releasing games without them for added value, and it looks like Sims is en route to justify the move beautifully. In this, they are emulating the model of Level Up games - Level Up isn't a development house either. It is ALSO a publisher - but it makes the core play and engines of its games available online for free - making use of the P2P channels to make sure it has as close to 100% saturation as possible.

Level Up has an insane number of games under its hood - all of them active revenue streams.

The Ragnarok MMO alone has over 60 million unique accounts - over 6 times that of WoW. Not only are there larger MMOs in the East, just this one publisher has 5 other MMOs all of which are currently active, supported, and profitable.

And like i said, how many of these games are accessible without creating an account and connecting to their servers? None. Each player is effectively locked into the game through official means and are dependant on the whims of the publisher/developer to access the game.

All of this without disk-based DRM, and freely allowing their game engines and initial content to be "pirated." They don't care. They'll even ask you to seed the game on torrents if you want to - no compensation for that, of course.

Wait, so you're making the distinction between authentication DRM and authentication DRM? It makes no sense. The authentication still occurs, you can't play these games offline and you are still locked into their system. Of course there's no disc-based DRM because they don't need one they have authentication servers instead and that's why the client doesn't need to be protected.

Aside from that fact MMOs are a service as opposed to a commodity: they are dependent on the continued support of the developers/publishers to be able to operate as opposed to traditional media (including games) which operate independently of the developers/publishers.

I'm not saying that these methods can't be profitable - all current methods have shown that they can be but i think it's stupid/naieve to switch to one method only.

Level Up doesn't care because it's not selling these games. It's selling the experience. That is why it can have 6 profitable MMOs under its hood - each of those is a different experience. You could play FreeStyle or Rohan on a pirate server, but it just isn't the same game - you don't have the same store, the same new content, probably not the same friends, either.
Free Realms or is a locked system - you can't play Free Realms on a non-official server (well, you probably can somewhere but it's not going to be the same experience

Like i keep saying, MMOs are services, not commodities... they rely on the experience and locking customers into their way of accessing the experience.

Western distribution is now moving towards this model, which I think is all for the better. Demigod released with little to no content protection. It is also one of the top-selling games on the PC. Despite that, more Demigod games are pirated rather then licensed. If Stardock can find a way to monetize all those pirated copies, they're got a potential gold mine sitting under them for the next Demigod game.

I hope not. I do not wish to be able to access my games like i can my MMOs.... Yes, it's good that Demigod released with no DRM but that seems more a function of being released through Stardock than anything else and (as i pointed out earlier in the thread) Stardock use DRM to manage updates to their games. Now, maybe the pirates have pirated the updates but as far as i know you have to be registered with Impulse/Stardock to be able to receive the updates for their games.... once again, you're locked into their system if you want to play the complete game and you can only do this through purchasing the game - they don't need microtransactions and they can't monetise the pirate's versions without cheapening the fully paid-for versions that their legitimate customers have. It's a different sales model.

FWIW the iTunes store uses the AAC format, which is not proprietary to Apple. I don't know how many other music players can play AAC, but there is nothing keeping them from supporting the format.

The DRM used by Apple *was* proprietary and only supported by the iPod. But that's gone now with iTunes+.

Oh, and on the topic at large, I don't have much patience for after the fact rationalizations for piracy, which, when one is honest about it, is simply stealing. There is no doubt that this behavior has an effect on the market at large, but it's not really *good* for anyone except the people doing the stealing.

Edit: Also, the iTunes app can transfer songs from the iPod to your computer if you happened to buy them on the iPod (e.g. via the iPod touch or iPhone). The content is not encrypted in any way, the file names are just not human readable. I guess you can call this a lock if you want.

psu_13:

True. Of course, public radio was ALSO "stealing" as was a bunch of other things Mason mentioned in his speech - that we now take for granted.

If you are against piracy because it is stealing, you should also be against Hollywood and public radio in general.

Duoae:

Last time i checked, iTunes only sells music in apple's format... meaning that you have to use a third party product to change the file format to .mp3 or you have to know that you can rip the songs to a CD and then convert the CD to .mp3 format. Not only that but once the files are on the ipod they cannot be removed without the use of a third party application (that's a hardware lock). That sounds like a lock-in system to me. Most consumers in the mass market will not be tech savvy enough to know that these third party 'illegal/unofficial' applications exist.

It's statements like this that lead me to believe that you don't really know much about piracy and the pirate landscape. Do not think that I am merely pooh-poohing for lack of information.

Apple's format is non-proprietary, which is one big reason why it's outselling Sony (but not the only reason!). Creative and recently, Sony digital players can play the format with no problem. I believe iRiver and Samsung can do so, as well.

Your iPod syncs with your iTunes on the computer and creates a backup file as a default every time you sync them together. If you're NOT using an iPod, you can use Creative's applications to search for such music and load them onto your player, or drag-and-drop from the appropriate music folders on your comp, which is also easy to do.

Seriously man, do you have players that are not iPods?

Digital sales have been increasing constantly from their inception. Is there some data you can point to that shows there was a marked increase from the start of DRM-free music unrelated to the curve of increase? I know that not all online stores around the world changed their DRM strategy at the same time and that especially non-US countries took longer to gain the ability to download songs from Amazon/iTunes etc without DRM included. Not to mention that the third party DRM removal software existed before the DRM was removed from the 'store front'.

Separating the DRM-free factor is hard to do from the data, but yes, sales have increased somewhat since the release of DRM-free music. You can get that from the iTunes sales profiles for the period, though ascribing one to any one factor is hard to do, for or against.

That said, it's widely regarded among the retailers and Apple forum-goers that this move was in reaction to DRM-free online distribution initiated shortly before it (Amazon, was it?)

The fact that you can remove DRM from iTunes downloads only makes that kind of "protection" even more pointless - removing it from the storefront only adds value.

Right, and the mods, fixes and skins etc are not available outside of the pirates version? No, i don't think so. I made this point above and i think you misunderstand the situation. How do the pirates add value (aside from cracking the game - which i mentioned as a positive) when those same things exist exactly as they are outside of the pirated version? It's just a compilation of things that are easily accessible to anyone with an internet search engine. So that 'added content' doesn't count as a positive to the pirated version because it is also freely available to the non-pirated version - taking other people's work and adding it to their cracked version does not constitute adding more value.

Yes, actually. Many of the fixes for various games only exist in semi-isolated pirate communities. In fact, the no-CD crack and various mods for Civ IV made by its online community on Civilization Fanatics are all technically illegal - and yet they add such value to the game that it would have been pointless (and probably suicidal) for Firaxis to marginalize this community.

Many of the no-CD cracks available commercially on fly-by-night Eastern pirate storefronts come preloaded with unique mods and skins, plus a variety of upgrades to the game itself, fixing stability issues and even framerate issues, not widely available.

Actually, i think there's little proof to say that piracy doesn't destroy the industry but boycotting does - i believe that you're placing your own personal preference over this particular issue. Boycotting, as long as you are vocal about it, is an effective means to make a producer change their stance on something and it has been seen time and time again.

Really?

So how much has boycotting changed the landscape of Western software sales? Not much, I'm thinking. A boycott essentially kills sales and disallows a company from recouping its development losses - without any surety of success, and decreases public awareness of content relevance.

Public radio in Europe publicized Rock and Roll. The vast piracy of Demigod generated more publicity for it in various ways than its native hype machine ever did.

This is no personal preference. As I said, I do not pirate my games. I'm only commenting on an observable phenomenon.

I'm not sure where this little bit has gone. It doesn't prove that pirates add value to games/software and in fact all it proves is that MS wants to lock in customers to their OS, whether that be via legitimate or not so legitimate means. There's still DRM in legitimate copies of windows and to be honest the whole $3 isn't relative. What's the average monthly wage (in dollars)? How much is the cost of living per month and therefore what percentage of their disposable income is $3? Selling software 'at a loss' in some parts of the world doesn't constitute a business change when the business plan is to maintain dominance of the OS market in both business and home.

My point here is that Microsoft is essentially tacitly allowing Eastern pirates to freely get ahold of its OS and use it for free - because they are NOT in the copy-selling business. They're in the "dominating OS" business. Essentially, they're using pirate technology to further their business model.

For them, fighting pirates is not a good way to go.

And how do you access the store? Can pirated copies access the store or are you limited by the presence of the CD key that comes with the game? (a copy protection scheme/lock-in mechanism like i mentioned above)

Look man, you're focusing on the wrong thing. I am not FOR piracy. I think that software producers not getting compensated for their efforts is BAD.

Current pirated copies of The Sims3 do not access the store. The store is in-game. You do not need to key in your CD-key in order to access the store.

That said, I think it'd be stupid for EA to act on future pirated copies of the game accessing their store - these guys are never going to buy the game, and yet want to buy store content - it'd be like refusing people who are pushing money into your wallet.

Not sure who you're replying to here - who's citing what games? Like i said, this model doesn't work well for all game types. First person shooters (download by the level/weapon microtransactions?), RTS (unit microtransactions?), non-online RPG (mission microtransactions)? In order for them to be successful the base game content would have to be relatively sparse because none of those games rely on content from the developers/publishers to enable the player to gain the experience... nor does it require being locked into the game through a server like with MMOs to be able to gain the experience you want.

There are already first-person shooters that are free online games. I don't know how well the various models are going to work out, but it seems to be doing okay-ish.

RTS games could be sold on a map-sale basis, since varied maps are the bread and butter of RTS games - I can't tell you how many people keep on buying "new versions" of Starcraft just because they contain new maps - which they could have totally made themselves using the in-game map editor.

Mission microtransactions are viable for non-online RPGs, I think, as well as all the other kinds of things you do for that kind of game, like special clothes, and armor, and such.

The main game experience doesn't have to be gimped - it fact it has to be NOT gimped because you're using your game to sell your product. If people don't like your game, they won't play it enough to buy product for it. Your kind of thinking is the main problem that underscores the failure of Western models (up until recently) to take advantage of the model - you think that you HAVE to present a gimped product for people to buy ancillary products.

It doesn't work that way.

You have to provide your customers with the real deal - the full product that they will love and endorse to their friends. Then you sell them ancillary products to improve their already awesome experience.

And like i said, how many of these games are accessible without creating an account and connecting to their servers? None. Each player is effectively locked into the game through official means and are dependant on the whims of the publisher/developer to access the game.

Most of those games featured pirate servers at one point or another. Logging onto the official server to play isn't required.

Wait, so you're making the distinction between authentication DRM and authentication DRM? It makes no sense. The authentication still occurs, you can't play these games offline and you are still locked into their system. Of course there's no disc-based DRM because they don't need one they have authentication servers instead and that's why the client doesn't need to be protected.

Aside from that fact MMOs are a service as opposed to a commodity: they are dependent on the continued support of the developers/publishers to be able to operate as opposed to traditional media (including games) which operate independently of the developers/publishers.

I'm not saying that these methods can't be profitable - all current methods have shown that they can be but i think it's stupid/naieve to switch to one method only.

You're right - Level Up games don't sell games. They sell services.

That has been my point all along.

I do not oppose alternative methods to monetize game influence - I'm all for it! But this copy-sale model is not one of those methods.

I hope not. I do not wish to be able to access my games like i can my MMOs.... Yes, it's good that Demigod released with no DRM but that seems more a function of being released through Stardock than anything else and (as i pointed out earlier in the thread) Stardock use DRM to manage updates to their games. Now, maybe the pirates have pirated the updates but as far as i know you have to be registered with Impulse/Stardock to be able to receive the updates for their games.... once again, you're locked into their system if you want to play the complete game and you can only do this through purchasing the game - they don't need microtransactions and they can't monetise the pirate's versions without cheapening the fully paid-for versions that their legitimate customers have. It's a different sales model.

You don't need to access Stardock to get the updates. In fact, you can play Demigod on a LAN and never need to access their sites at all - getting pirated updates whenever those come up.

I think that the vast number of pirated copies that are accessing their servers is a missed opportunity for them - all of these users are cows they can milk, but the manner of their milking isn't very efficient.

Requiring a separate purchase for a user who was sold on the game through a pirated copy is unnecessarily roundabout and inconvenient. Asking him to pay for content he may like is a lot more direct and makes him feel better about himself and the game. Microtransactions work.

I'm going to repeat this just so we're clear: I am not for cheating software makers out of fair compensation. That is why I buy legal copies of games I don't really use. However, we have here clear examples of business models that take advantage of P2P technology to make their games cheap and accessible while maintaining relatively large profit margins. I think it's high past time Western companies took note.

psu_13 wrote:

FWIW the iTunes store uses the AAC format, which is not proprietary to Apple.

I got confused between the old DRM and the file format - my mistake.

LarryC wrote:

Duoae:

Last time i checked, iTunes only sells music in apple's format... meaning that you have to use a third party product to change the file format to .mp3 or you have to know that you can rip the songs to a CD and then convert the CD to .mp3 format. Not only that but once the files are on the ipod they cannot be removed without the use of a third party application (that's a hardware lock). That sounds like a lock-in system to me. Most consumers in the mass market will not be tech savvy enough to know that these third party 'illegal/unofficial' applications exist.

It's statements like this that lead me to believe that you don't really know much about piracy and the pirate landscape. Do not think that I am merely pooh-poohing for lack of information.

Apple's format is non-proprietary, which is one big reason why it's outselling Sony (but not the only reason!). Creative and recently, Sony digital players can play the format with no problem. I believe iRiver and Samsung can do so, as well.

Your iPod syncs with your iTunes on the computer and creates a backup file as a default every time you sync them together. If you're NOT using an iPod, you can use Creative's applications to search for such music and load them onto your player, or drag-and-drop from the appropriate music folders on your comp, which is also easy to do.

Seriously man, do you have players that are not iPods?

What? One bit of confusion and i know nothing about piracy? Okay, i'm sorry for not owning and being knowledgeable about every portable music player device out on the market.
Only items bought from the itunes store are retrievable from an ipod -> PC transfer (if your computer's HDD is dead for example) using the official software (or they were) and that's what i was talking about with the third party software. How many bog-standard people are going to be able to do that when they don't even know how to configure a firewall or whatever? I wasn't mentioning other third party players because Apple doesn't have a lock on them - as you point out...

I guess there's not much point in replying to the rest as i think we're going round in circles now and some of the points we're agreeing on but you seem to think that i disagree with you on them... which is confusing.

It's not that. I'm merely clarifying my position - and not just for you. I'm only using you as a jump off point to clarify my point.

You see, far too many people here and in major businesses today are getting far too hung up on the morality of software piracy and not nearly enough on how to make money on pirate activity.

Public Radio was pirate activity - until it got legalized and proceeded to work on a for-ads business model.
Internet music DL was pirate activity - until Jobs figured it (REALLY late) out and headlined a DRM-free music store.
Software DL is going to be pirate activity until someone in the industry finds a way to monetize it. I want this to be sooner rather than later.

I don't get how Public Radio (by which I assume you mean things like NPR?) was a "pirate" activity in the same way as software piracy is.

Also, last time I checked, Valve, PopCap and Blizzard have done very well at monetizing software that is either primarily or largely distributed by downloads.

As Matt Mason mentions in his speech in the attached link above, back in the day, public radio was illegal in most of Western Europe because it allowed people to listen to music for free. Essentially, it allows one user who had a copy of the music to broadcast it for the consumption of other users who did not buy the music themselves.

Sound familiar?

Valve's model is only successful in that no other significant competitor is on the market right now, and they're still overcharging for their games (price fixing again). Steam is great when you don't know anything else, but the need to launch a proprietary browser and the awful support isn't something I'm very ecstatic about. Still, Steam is the go-to store simply because it has no big slew of notable competitors.

PopCap is actually a lot better as far as games go, but $20 for Plants vs. Zombies is still a little on the high side - reasonable, but kind of expensive. The same game at $10 on Steam is much more palatable. Blizzard's online MMO is exactly the model we're looking for, but most people look at the disk sales and think that that is the reason why Blizzard sells and makes profit.

Of course it's not.

Still NONE of those sellers take advantage of P2P technology to advance their business models. Digital distribution is moving forward, but it could be a lot better than all of those sellers, which most people think is the pinnacle of D2D business. They are not. They are most emphatically not.

LarryC wrote:

The reason Western-made cheaply sold games still do not sell well in the Eastern sphere is because developers and publishers who are attempting to break into the Eastern market do not understand what is going on. Right next to their stall is a pirate selling the exact same game - only theirs has a no-CD crack, graphical fixes, and added content!

You had me until the end. No-CD cracks are of course expected, but I'm not aware of any case where pirated copies have been graphically or content superior to retail releases. Perhaps they're out there but I'd say it's an edge case and not representative of the situation at hand. It would be akin to decrying industrial pollution because there exists in the world a single frog with three eyes.

Living in Thailand has opened my eyes to how much the rest of the world is getting ripped off when it comes to content of every and any kind. Prices are set to whatever the market can bear and it took moving to Thailand for me to see the true meaning of that statement.

Anyway, there is one reason and one reason only why I'm certain that retail will never die: collectors editions. Publishers make an absolute killing from these and they are not likely to want to give them up any time soon. I can't imagine anything that might replace them digitally because even 'exclusive items' don't cut it.

Regardless of how much we may dislike how some companies distribute their software, they are free to do so however they wish. Some people tend to give far too much importance to our right to these products. If publishers turn computer games into a hobby that no longer holds value to me, there are countless other things I can do with my time and money.

I don't need to play Madden 10. I can spend my disposable income on movies, books, cable TV, radio controlled cars, poker, strip clubs, putt-putt golf, softball, art classes, martial arts, gym memberships, board games, bourbon, guitar lessons, landscaping, restoring old cars, rehabbing houses, season tickets for a local team, writing a book, making a short film, fishing, sudoku...

Pirates can play games about the value they add and all other means of BS, but it's not their property to make those decisions.

harrisben:

It's possible that this only happens in the Philippines, but it's likely that it happens elsewhere as well. Just because pirates don't develop the game doesn't mean that they don't have in-house software development. In fact, they have to have that in order to develop cracks. When there's a bunch of pirates on the market, you have to compete, and adding content is one way to do that. Locally, it's accepted lore that a pirate you purchase from regularly will support you better than the retail release, and will probably provide various patches and additional content besides.

It is only recently that retail releases have become more competitive when it comes to content, and even then you'll need an internet connection - the brick and mortar store won't let you download patches onto your flash drive.

Is it possible to read all 5 pages of this thread? Wow.

I may take a more simplistic (and less intelligent) stance on the digital vs. physical media thing, but that's just how I am. I honestly think it's us vs. them in this war. We are the consumers and they are the publishers/developers. They want to charge us the maximum amount possible, and we want to get the greatest value for our dollar. I'm not characterizing all dev/pubs as evil, but I do think that they would like nothing more than to have a siphon hooked up to our bank accounts and withdraw monthly.

That's what scares me so much about digital distribution. And when I talk about it, I talk about it in console terms. I don't and won't use Steam. I'm not a PC gamer anymore. I like the convenience of popping in a disc and it just works. I also want to have something to show for my money at the end of it all, and I don't feel that a digital copy gives me that.

Regardless of the legal implications of owning a license instead of owning a copy of the game, my feeling is this. I purchased this disc with this game on it. It is mine to do with what I want. If I just use it as a coaster, Frisbee, or mirror is my business. Also, if I lend it to a friend or sell it online, that's my business. As they tighten their grip by moving towards DD, I will stop buying games that come out that way. I do not purchase XBLA titles. I rarely purchase PSN games, but at least I don't have to be jacked into Xbox Live to play.

Anyway, great show and great posts up above. Truly an intelligent community.

Why the Prototype hate? [i]If you REALLY need to compare, it's a lot more fun than inFamous. I've been having a blast since I got it this morning, griefing NPCs and doing the parkour, and upgrading my powers. It's the most wish fushfillment I've had since CRACKDOWN. It definitely sticks out in the game market right now, which is why it's Number 1 here on the UK chart, beating Sims 3. If you want Crackdown 2, this game is IT.

Although I have to take a person's impressions from RENTING a game with a lot of grain of salt.

Moeez wrote:

Although I have to take a person's impressions from RENTING a game with a lot of grain of salt.

Why? Do you get a different game if you rent it?

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Moeez wrote:

Although I have to take a person's impressions from RENTING a game with a lot of grain of salt.

Why? Do you get a different game if you rent it?

Yes, you get a different perspective. You want to finish the game as soon as you can, OR you can have the perspective that the game is a throwaway bit of fun for some hours in the day. OR you can go in with a negative attitude and just wait for it to be re-affirmed.

If you buy the game, you put some effort into the game, and have no deadlines, and get to explore every nook and cranny of a game.

The game doesn't change, but your perspective changes everything.

I agree with Gemini Ace and Duoae whole heartedly about DD except for one thing.

I don't think it's down to laziness as much as it is a naivete on the part of consumers who think that the companies are always going to do the right thing, when they are more likely to prop up their dead grandmothers in a nudie show if it would make them an extra buck.

Lard wrote:

I agree with Gemini Ace and Duoae whole heartedly about DD except for one thing.

I don't think it's down to laziness as much as it is a naivete on the part of consumers who think that the companies are always going to do the right thing, when they are more likely to prop up their dead grandmothers in a nudie show if it would make them an extra buck.

Darn those companies trying to make a profit!

I think this conversation has run out of steam guys. Time to mosey on to greener pastures.

Jayhawker wrote:
Lard wrote:

I agree with Gemini Ace and Duoae whole heartedly about DD except for one thing.

I don't think it's down to laziness as much as it is a naivete on the part of consumers who think that the companies are always going to do the right thing, when they are more likely to prop up their dead grandmothers in a nudie show if it would make them an extra buck.

Darn those companies trying to make a profit!

Hey, I'm trying to keep myself out of the red, too. Only difference is, I'm not making billions a year, I'm making thousands.