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Should We Fight Piracy?
by Koen Deetman on 04/16/14 03:31:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

As developers of digital products we have to deal with piracy at some point. Especially if we sell our games through traditional models. Have gamers become so greedy they do not want to spend money on games anymore? Do games not harvest any value anymore? Or is something else at play here? In this article I will try to awaken some ideas to counter this phenomenon and prepare ourselves for a brighter future.

 

If we take a look at the market today, a large share of our clients and customers are playing pirated versions of our passionately created games. My question is 'why do these players find the pirated version more attractive?' I think we can't completely blame our players, and perhaps take a closer look at ourselves.

 

source: http://www.marsecreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Worrying-Surge-in-Piracy-in-Gulf-of-Guinea.jpg

 

 

Why Do Players Pirate?
I am sure a lot of you would think players pirate games because its 'free'. I agree, for some this reason is indeed a motivation, but we can then immediately question why they would decide the game isn't worth their scarce money. If we compare getting a game for 'free' with spending around $50 for certain Console or PC games, I would understand some of them choose pirating. Especially games that focus on generating income rather than on delivering a great experience. These developers/publishers do not take their customers seriously, they only seem to care about filling their pockets with your hard-earned cash. This 'trick' has worked for a while, but players are starting to catch-up on this method.

Not all players would consider 'free' to be their main motivation to illegally download games instead of buying them. They just want the immediate satisfaction of playing the game 'now' and 'fast' without any trouble with required logins or subscriptions, DRM checks, installing mallware applications, and having to contribute their complete birth certificate to start playing. They know buying this game would take them at least 40 minutes to enter your beautiful game world. Pirated versions offer you a smoother and faster road to the doors of the game world.

Some players are not directly convinced to pay big bucks for your game, they have to take it for an ' illegal test drive' to decide. I have heard this reason a lot. "Oh, Yes I pirated it, but I will buy it eventually, because it's awesome!". Apparently, sometimes these games need a player's approval before being valued as a game thats worth investing money in.

 

source: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Media/Pix/pictures/2008/07/25/illegald460.jpg


 

A Good Thing About Piracy?

Are there any good things about Piracy? Hell yes! Players massively downloading your game would be a dream to all of us developers! Also the wide spread of availability is greatly appreciated. When people are enjoying your game, this could be a great opportunity to establish a fan-base which might even generate future buyers! Some of them buy the game eventually after they have pirated it and the pirated version thus served as a 'sneak peek'.


Besides bringing the game to the consumer, it can also be used to measure your games' 'value' among players. If a game is largely pirated, players could think its not worth the money. This could be a real and harsh eyeopener for you as a developer. It helps you raise the bar and strive for more quality to establish that 'value'.

 

 

 

 

 


 

How To Outsmart Piracy?
Trying to completely eliminate the possibilities of acquiring pirated versions of games would not help us one bit
. If we eliminate one source, the next one will pop-up elsewhere and we can start all over again. The piracy system is greatly established and is still beating us in a lot of ways.


I think it's important to stop fighting this illegal system with solutions that are definitely harming our digital freedom online. Instead, we should be focusing on finding ways to beat piracy all at once - possibly by delivering better on each single aspect piracy has to offer.


For instance, I personally think our games are easier played through a pirated version of the original. Hell, I have even read an article about some developer recommending their players (the ones that actually bought the game) to download a pirated version, because their failed DRM security options held them back from playing the game properly. A serious confirmation that fighting this system, even with heavy security solutions, is not a wise thing to do!

When looking at the type of piracy that takes place in the movie industry, one can conclude that this industry is using interesting methods to win the popularity race from piracy.

 

Movies and TV shows have been suffering from piracy for a long time . I think movies have a few 'key' reasons to be an interesting target for piracy;

Availability
Not all movies or TV shows are available or accessible globally.

Release dates
Whenever
 movies or TV shows are published globally, their release dates differ greatly.


Download speed
Some systems are unbelievably slow when downloading your freshly bought movie.


Pricing
Digital versions or even rental copies are often priced unreasonably high and compared to cinema experiences are not considered worth it. Hard copy products can be watched endlessly and are able to showcase in your actual 'collection', a fair reason why they are priced higher.

Piracy delivers on all these aspects. Its free, directly available from all over the world at any time at very high speeds.

I think if people had to pay $1 each month to freely pirate anything they want legally, they would have a very large user base of subscribers because certain websites constantly deliver new content at high speeds. Because piracy has such an 'illegal' vibe to it (or is actually really illegal), many of us would not commit to this, scared to violate something like this being a one way ticket to jail. Since we have learned that we are being monitored on the internet by our government, the fear of possibly doing something wrong or illegal has only gotten worse. Not a very subtle solution if you ask me. However, most of us have likely pirated something off the internet. Even if you didn't do it yourself, you were probably watching a pirated movie at a friend's house. Therefore, it's almost impossible to avoid contributing to piracy.


In the case of movies and TV shows, we now have a great system that is gaining a lot of popularity. This, of course,  is "Netflix". I think Netflix is a great example of how we can beat piracy. They are however not fully armed yet. So in which aspects is Netflix already beating piracy to the punch?

Availability
Movies and TV shows on Netflix are directly available, however they still lack to deliver the newest movies quickly enough to satisfy every consumer. Piracy is still winning and delivering on this part.

Release Dates
Directly available through all Netflix accounts, however their catalog still differs from country to country. Piracy is losing here, but they haven't lost yet.

Download speed
No downloading and unzipping needed, directly streamed in 1080P HD. A huge win for Netflix. The only downside would be, without internet you can't access Netflix while having downloaded a set of pirated movies these are available to watch even if you don't have access to the internet.

Pricing
A low monthly price to access almost every TV show or movie you can think of, and eventually forgetting that you are actually paying them $7,99 per month for this. Big win for Netflix here. You have actually subscribed to the feeling of 'legally watching movies'.

We can conclude Netflix is competing to outsmart pirated content.

 

source: http://www.axiomfiles.com/Files/383260/SeaBattle.jpg

 

Active Solutions In The Game Industry
There are already innovative approaches occurring to beat Piracy within the game industry. Some of them only partially help to beat them, others evade piracy by creating a different path to play the game.

 

Free To Play
The most important weapon of 'free to play' against piracy would be that it is free, equivalent for pirated content. Some 'free to play' games do not need to be downloaded and are therefore directly winning from piracy. If 'free to play' games require a download, and pirated distributers offer you these downloads as well, piracy hereby would be helping us get more users, and actually functions as a publishing platform, a win win situation. 

Most F2P games generate money by offering extra or helpful content within their game structure. A structure that seems to work for the casual games market. I doubt it works for a hardcore audience accustomed to pay $50 to have it all. This is of course debatable but it doesn't fix the problem. Besides, not every game is 'fitted' to have a 'free to play' structure. Some games want to offer you a complete experience from start to end without harassing their players with locked content. It would even destroy their goal and would fail to communicate the game experience to their players.

Only Online
Most MMORPGS are played by being online all the time. To play the game will require an account. This would allow developers to check for 'genuine' versions among their players. A direct counter part is you have to be 'online' and you need an account to play. In the case of MMORPGS being online is one of the 'core' elements of the genre, not particularly designed to counter piracy. Some single player games do require an online component or account to be played. Two
 barriers players have to deal with if they want to play your game. A connection to the internet and an account would hereby be a major blockade. I remember the discussion about Microsoft claiming their Xbox One would 'always' need a connection to the internet. Something Netflix also requires to be used, however Netflix uses a cloud to pull movies and TV Shows from. A logical reason why you need to be online.


Pay What You Want
It should have occurred to you platforms like "Humble Bundle" and Indie Game Bundles surprised us by making profit. Sometimes these average revenues go even higher compared to fixed prices. There is however a threshold 'triggering' us to at least pay above a certain amount to get the complete bundle. The fact players decide to pay above that amount proofs they think it's valuable and meaningful enough to pay the minimum. It does also leave 'space' for players its worth more money than the minimum, a positive thing. It proofs players really DO want to pay money for our creative work. Not to forget the players that DON'T think its worth the minimum. They are still able to pay an amount suitable to their 'standards of value' for these games. These players could be proven wrong when they have finished the game and are turned into a large ambassadors investing more money in your second game the next time.

A very interesting part of Humble Bundles is that the 'customers' have the ability to see and decide where the money is going. I remember I bought the "Botanicula Humble Bundle" for $15 (the average threshold at $8) and used the 'sliders' to give the largest share of money to the developer. (Knowing how much effort they have put into it, because I am a developer myself). I don't think I would have 'over payed' if I did not have this option. Assuming this opinion is shared, I think knowing where the money is going is definitely a factor why people 'over pay' these bundles.

Early Access
Offering access to alpha and beta versions of your game could be something interesting since the pirated networks mainly offer finished game experiences. It makes their release system unstable, since you are not promised a time of delivery by a pirater. It would mean they have to upload new versions each time a developer does. The advantage of already having bought early access, gives you priority to this version 'earlier' and than anyone waiting for the pirated version. 

 

If Netflix would offer us the newest films in their catalog when film companies would release, they would beat Piracy by far. Of course this could be considered a problem for Cinemas. If Cinemas do not invest in meaningful and special cinema experiences, Netflix customers able to see the newest films will stay at home. I am not talking about investments such as doing a 3D version of the movie, those improvements are 'too thin' in my opinion.


Kickstarter
I decided to mention Kickstarter, because its the best way to earn actual money without ever losing your game to the pirated network. It does however need great conviction to get players invest up front. This doesn't actually mean you 'earn' money for your game. It supplies funds to 'create' the game. When you are 'over funded' you could say you start to earn money for the game. Because of that possibility I consider it a great way to earn honest money without it ever going through pirated networks and you evaded them for now. 

 

source: http://i00.i.aliimg.com/img/pb/597/126/793/793126597_474.jpg



Ideas For The Future
So what do I think our future will look like?

Free To Buy
I think more meaningful content focused on enriching the players experience with your game product rather than focusing on profit and money will become more common. Giving players a 'choice' to meet their standard for 'value' will be even more popular. Communicating the use of money to your players will be an important piece of information to convince them with trust in your developer.

Subscribe To Be Free
Taking Netflix as an example, we can assume these models will also appear for games. We have seen "On-Live" and "Gaikai" already taking the first steps in the right direction. Extra complexity has everything to do that games have the 'input' and 'direct feedback' while sending data packages online. Systems as such for games are a little more complex if compared to Netflix. Nonetheless I think we will see more platforms like this.

 

More Free To Play
Games to play for free will become more and more available. I think a lot of variations on free to play models will be designed and the ways to earn money will become fairer. 

 

Pay What You Want Catalogs
Instead of 'one' bundle being sold this way, it could be complete catalogs of bundles, or  standalone games are going to be sold this way. Maybe each one of them will include certain thresholds, but hopefully they do not focus too much on these average prices. This would mean its actually a flexible fixed price, only differing with the possibility to pay more or less. 

 

Transparent Development
To establish trust I think transparent development (getting to know developers, their goals and believes) will help adding 'value' to our games. Only 'Rockstar' is able to keep things secret for years and still outsell anyone. Taking a look at indie-game successes, you can notice nearly all of these developers are personally known as well. That is because these games are made out of their personal passion. This could also mean developers would easily generate a budget on platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo to at least 'create' the game. Customers can put a 'face' on a company, something we could only 'guess' about some developers years ago. I think we rather give money for a game made by someone we know than a corporate company.

 

source: http://1-media-cdn.foolz.us/ffuuka/board/tg/image/1333/93/1333931095718.jpg

 

 

Concluding

In my opinion the most important message would be "Outsmart piracy in every way possible to make their system unstable and meaningless" beat them on everything that makes it easier for customers to acquire and play our games. If we create easier and affordable doors faster than piracy can work up to, we will most definitely win.

 

 

What do you think about piracy? Do you have any suggestions to beat piracy?

 

 

 

/Koen

 

Find Me On:

Blog: http://www.koendeetman.com

Twitter: @KoenDeetman
Facebook: Koen.Deetman

Company: KeokeNInteractive

 


PS: For the people suggesting I pirated my games,

The picture below is a part of my hardcopy game collection (all originals).

Not even showing my digital games collection on Steam.


I think I have contributed royally to the games industry ;-)

 

 

 

 

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Comments


Simon Ludgate
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I'm surprised you left out "demo" as an active solution, though perhaps "free trial" is a better term these days. You talk about people pirating games because they want to "try before they buy" but you don't offer a way to address this as an actual solution.

Demos (limited versions of games) or free trials (limited time period of games) both accomplish something similar to piracy without being actually illegal, and making the pirate more likely to convert to a paying player rather than just continuing with the pirated game indefinitely.

One notable problem with converting from pirated copy to legit copy is that you generally have to re-download or re-install the newly purchased product. It might be blasphemous to suggest this, but perhaps having installers play nicely with pirated copies would be a good thing: allow users who buy the game to install it over their pirated copy and convert the pirated copy into a legit copy with as little fuss as possible. At the very least, it saves you on bandwidth having to serve up the game files to a client who already has them?

One elegant solution is the "free weekend" I often see on Steam, where users can download a game and play it for free and then it gets locked from their inventory at the end of the promotion. Buy it and continue playing it without having to re-download anything. I would like to see these more frequently and extended to longer periods. I don't want to buy games that I dislike after a week, so putting it up for a week-long free trial is a great way to show how confident you are in the quality of your game. Plus, the longer someone plays it, the harder it will be to let it go after the trial, I'd imagine.

Perhaps Steam could also add this kind of feature on a user-triggered level: download a game and play it for free for a set number of days, rather than tie the free trial to a promotional period. Then, any time a gamer stumbles on a game that they're interested in but not sure about, they don't have to pirate it first: they can get a free trial right there. This is particularly important on a platform like Steam that doesn't allow any kind of refunds. I'm EXTREMELY cautious about buying speculative purchases on Steam without playing them first...

Koen Deetman
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Hey Simon,

You are right! I completely forgot about the oldskool 'demos'. They of course 'are' a sneakpeek to the game. However I like your thought about free weekends even more. This is because most demos not fully communicate a full experience 'feel'. Having a few days to play the 'full' game would really allow the player to experience content that wouldn't have shown up in a demo.

I agree on your idea we need systems that covert pirated versions easily into legal versions.

Thanks for your insights!

Dane MacMahon
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The problem a lot of publishers and developers see with going the demo or trial route is that you have to actually make a good game people want to pay for after the trial ends.

Koen Deetman
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Exactly :)

James McDermott
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I would posit user-triggered "free weekend"-style demos on Steam would be superior to traditional demos in a number of ways (other than the excellent ones Mr. Ludgate already stated):

0. Caveats

Firstly, this reply will solely focus on Valve Corporation's Steam digital distribution platform. Secondly, when I use the term "traditional demo", I mean "an interactive, standalone, scope-limited demonstration of a game's gameplay and features".

1. No additional development time required.

Unlike traditional demos, which require additional development time for coding, asset development, QA, and release, "free weekend" demos ARE the full game, just time-limited. Furthermore, unlike similar, pre-existing trial services, no additional coding is required for a "free weekend" demo to work - Steam handles all the required components.

2. Built-in DRM

Unlike most traditional demos, which lack DRM and, as such, may act as a sort of aid to pirating the full release due to sharing a similar codebase, a "free weekend" demo would be protected by Steam itself and whatever DRM the game uses.

3. DRM is transparent to the user.

As has been discussed previously by other authors in other articles, one of the reasons Steam is so popular in spite of being a form of DRM is due to all the features and services it offers in exchange. This would also extend to any user-triggered "free weekend" demos - provided a succinct explanation of how it works and what it does, it would likely be seen as yet another feature by Steam's userbase.

4. Provides a fuller experience

As stated by Mr. Deetman in an earlier comment, most demos do not fully communicate the full experience to players. However, with a "free weekend" demo, players have access to the full experience for a limited amount of time.

Unfortunately, there are some issues with the current "free weekend" approach as it exists now if it were extended to be user-triggerable:

1. Game must be exited manually.

Currently, "free weekend" games expect the user to not be in the game when the time limit expires. If the user is still playing, they will not be forcibly-exited from the game - which can be exploited by never exiting the game until the user is finished with the game. There would need to be some way to forcibly exit players from the game they're playing without requiring code modifications (i.e. Steam tracks the "free weekend" application, then terminates it upon time expiration), along with ways to more gracefully exit - and allow the player to save their progress! - with minimal code additions.

2. Game time needs to be adjustable

Currently, players typically have between 48-72 hours to play a game during a free weekend. If, in a "free weekend" demo, a user could play through enough of the game in that timeframe to get a meaningful experience to them - as in having gotten their subjectively-complete fill of the game - then the "free weekend" demo is effectively a free version of the game. While there will be edge-cases who will be satisfied by demos enough to not buy the full game, developers would need to be able to adjust how long the player has to complete the "free weekend" demo such that players will get just enough content to entice them towards buying the game, but not too little or too much.

3. Timeframe starts irregardless of whether the game has been fully downloaded

Due to the nature of Steam's free weekend advertisements, the timeframe players have to play the game rationally begin counting down once the weekend begins. This is no longer rational when a free weekend can be user-triggered. What happens if someone tries to download a "free weekend" demo with a period of 8 hours, but a combination of bandwidth and download size means they'll finish downloading it 6 hours, thus giving them a mere 2 hours to play the demo?

Therefore, since Steam can confirm whether the game has been fully downloaded, I believe a "free weekend" demo should start as soon as the game is fully downloaded. Also, because game components can and will get corrupted and require redownloading, the timeframe for a "free weekend" demo should pause if the game needs to be redownloaded.

Obviously, there are some issues with my proposed extension of Steam's free weekends, such as it assuming users will only ever use Steam on a single computer. However, with some tweaking, I believe it could be a viable alternative to traditional demos which takes advantage of digital platforms.

Freek Hoekstra
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I would love to see a netflix for games
pay 10$ a month to play any game I want when i want.
maybe make the games available 3 months after launch there or something to not completely undercut the modern market but I feelt hat is the way forward.

and looking at PS+ and Live we are getting there.

Koen Deetman
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I would like to use such systems as well :)
I think it won't take very long until we see various systems raise from the ground, or current systems being upgraded.

Eric Hauchecorne
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I think it would be a great idea too, Netflix and Spotify are already making results in the movie/tv showss and music industry by bringing something more practical than piracy.

A platform like Steam could experiment a 10$/month for package of games, by giving back 70% of this money to develloper base on the time played. Then devellopers would have the option to be part of this package or not.

Though the issue could be that games with a dense but short content with a strong storyline would receive way less money than highly replayable multiplayer games.

Daniel Boy
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There have been already some failed attempts on subscription based all-you-can-play: gametap or to a lesser degree onlive.

edit: spelling

Lee Thompson
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I've known some pirates here and there over the years and some of them just see DRM as a challenge to crack. The 'challenge pirate' could care less about the software.

Overall though I think the reason the non-challenge pirates pirate is all of the above.
1. Game is too expensive (especially the $60 price point).
2. Sometimes the DRM has malfunctioned and the legitimate customer just wants to play the game.
3. Release dates/region lockouts.
4. DRM used is so draconian the person pirates it cause they want the game but don't want to deal with something that goes too far (something that rootkits, or phones home every 30 minutes, etc.)
5. Potential customer is "on the fence" and wants to try it first (especially if it's expensive) and no demo is available (btw I agree with Simon that the free weekend is a great idea).

I do realize that demos pose some coding problems/extra code branching and I can see why a developer doesn't want to do it. At the same time, it's a bit unfair to expect everyone to buy the title "on faith".


My personal stance, is I understand why DRM is used on games (and videos, etc) but at the end of the day what usually happens is you punish the customers and the pirates just keep pirating. Has any DRM (other than maybe just an account/subscription model) ever actually stopped something from being pirated?

Koen Deetman
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Hey Lee,

Thanks for your comment,

I strongly agree that DRM is creating more problems than it actually solves.

Dane MacMahon
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I don't think anyone would say DRM stops piracy unless it's always online and server dependent, but they do say it makes legit copies easier to use. Steam arguably is more convenient than piracy, especially around release time. Steam made a lot of headway (and money) converting pirates through ease of use.

I would never want to buy a DRM'd video or MP3 but I found myself accepting Steam because I basically had to, everyone else did, and I know cracks exist should I ever need them.

Sam Derboo
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But Steam as a user platform gains absolutely nothing from using DRM. Steam is in some respects more convenient than piracy, but that convenience is not gained/enhanced by applying DRM. Actually, DRM accounts for the parts that are less convenient than piracy (for example DRM where you have to be logged in to Steam to play the game). How do people claim does it make legit copies easier to use? Sounds like a fake argument to me.

Dane MacMahon
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I've had to pirate a few games I owned in the last few years for weird reasons and every time I did the piracy process was a considerable pain in the butt compared to clicking "install" on the Steam interface.

I take your point about the DRM not being inherent to the Steam experience, and indeed many indie games on Steam are not actually protected. I would imagine they still use the DRM simply to try and prevent day one cracks, whether it always works or not.

Robert Green
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I'm not sure I understand this sentence near the start of the article:
"I agree, for some this reason is indeed a motivation, but we can then immediately question why they would decide the game isn't worth their scarce money."

Why do they have to decide that? Our basic model of economics assumes that paying less is always preferable, so if people are able to convince themselves that piracy isn't inherently wrong, and they aren't afraid of getting caught, then why should they have to "decide the game isn't worth their scarce money"? In this situation it isn't worth it by definition, for the same reason that a pair of shoes being sold for $100 isn't worth it if the store across the street is selling the same pair for $70.

The real questions should be: "is the pirate getting the same product/service?" and "what can we do to stop piracy being an option?".

Simon Ludgate
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Shouldn't the second question be: "What can we do to stop piracy being a BETTER option?"

I don't think we can ever meaningfully stop piracy from being an option.

Robert Green
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Actually no, that's exactly what I meant. We don't have to literally stop it from being an option, which is likely impossible, but very rarely do you see anyone discuss what it would take to convince people not to even think about piracy. There are, after all, many laws that each of us could be breaking on a daily basis, but don't even seriously consider. I'd like to think it's not just because of fear of being caught either, but because there is actually some good in people. By contrast, the attitude of "what can we do to stop piracy being a BETTER option?" seems to suppose that humans will break the law for no better reason than "it was slightly more convenient"

Koen Deetman
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Hi Robert,

I get what you mean.
Though I think not all of us 'always' prefer to pay less.
Sometimes money isn't the most important factor in my opinion.

The sentence was set-up to provoke ideas "why" wouldn't they decide to buy the game. "What" factors are in play here.
Maybe I should have rewritten that part :) Anyway thanks for your ideas!

Robert Green
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"Though I think not all of us 'always' prefer to pay less."
Given exactly the same product, that's a fundamental principle of our understanding of market economics. Of course there are almost always additional factors that mean it's not exactly the same product (and/or service), but that's the basic idea.
Given that idea, all I'm suggesting is that if people consider piracy to be an option, and if they consider it to be effectively the same product, then surely we don't need to ask that question of why they decided not to buy it.
The idea you're discussing (and to be fair, seems to be the only narrative of piracy) is that people are driven to piracy, but has anyone ever established that this is the case?

Koen Deetman
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True,
If someone asks me if I would like to pay $20 dollar instead of $30 for a product I would sure accept it. Only if it doesn't violated any quality about that product.

Well, the article is about "piracy" so, we are discussing why I think a large share of people are attracted to piracy. I do not suggest all of us are 'driven to piracy'. Excuse me, if this could be miss-interpreted =)

Michael Joseph
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another reason for pirating is immaturity. Many pirates grow out of pirating software.

and society doesn't really care about pirating software, movies, ebooks or whatever. This is evidenced by the fact that people will casually admit to pirating a game or film in strange company.

People clearly don't feel that pirating a $60 game is on the same level as shoplifting a $1 pack of gum.

Part of this perhaps has to do with the perception of games, tv shows, films, etc. having saturated our lives and being so available that individual copies of these commodities aren't really worth anything.


Koen Deetman
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Hey Michael,

Interesting thought you have there.

I always like the comparison of 'value'.

I think it's the same problem with Apps in the AppStore.
Some Apps take months to develop and could be compared to certain console or steam games. There are also Apps that can be done in a month.

If you price your App at $5 a lot of people would rate that as "expensive app" while on Steam customers would say its "very cheap" for a game.

Andreas Ahlborn
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The Pirating of software is imo just one of the many Ouroboros
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uroboros )-shaped Problemcircles our modern society faces.

In my 20+ years in the industry I practically never worked at a company/studio which did not use themselves a great deal of pirated tools, in many cases there were even pirated versions of every day tools like MS office in use. This was also a habit during my university days, if you wanted to compete on a high level you simply had to pirate all the fancy tools your university didn`t had the budget to make available.

So the cannibalizing foodchain is ubiquitous, and if anybody on these forums would try to tell me he never has and never would use pirated software as part of his game development process, I would seriously doubt her/his honesty.

Koen Deetman
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Hi Andreas,

You said:

"if you wanted to compete on a high level you simply had to pirate all the fancy tools your university didn`t had the budget to make available."

That proves the main reason to pirate was availability & pricing. Its too expensive for a small studio to acquire such expensive software at once.

Kyle Redd
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I'm surprised you didn't mention Steam as being an example of better service that pirates do not offer. Pirated copies of games do not come with free updates, Workshop support, achievements, trading cards, or any of the other little perks of the Steam version.

Koen Deetman
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True,

However, I remember a talk by David Perry explaining the old system Steam had. There were 50+ clicks between the customer's choice and the actual start of the game. A system greatly holding back players to enter the game worlds.

Luckily they reduced this to I think 5-10 clicks now. In my article I described the "Early Access" something that catches popularity these days. A great weapon against Pirated content. Especially because some of them even update once a week on schedule.

Bernardo Lazo
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Excellent article! Piracy rates in my country are incredibly high, and as a person intending on living on copyright, I have given a great deal of thought to the issue.

I think your implied approach to segmenting piracy (as in market segmentation) is key. Not every person pirates for the same reason. A few groups I've identified (feel free to add more!):

º "The I am Poor" - Feels that he does not have enough money at all to buy the original. Of course, that is not really the case, the real reason is: value for money/prioritization. That same person might be driving, say, a $10K car, so he does have the money. Spending it on a game is just not a priority compared to that.
º "The Free Sample" - As you mentioned, if no demo/trial is available, piracy is a tool to make sure he likes the game before committing $60 to buy it.
º "The Blind Stingy" - A particularly nasty variety. Does not even check for pricing of the original. Just automatically assumes that piracy is the only way to acquire games/software. I have seen street vendors of piracy in my country (sad to admit) selling UBUNTU (yes! an open source product!) for about $10 dollars. Same dude was selling Plants vs Zombies also for $10 dollars. At that time the product was priced lower at legitimate mobile store. I have read online accounts of Pay-what-you-want bundles being pirated. Those people are not willing to pay even a penny for the game!.
º "The Woldn't Buy Otherwise" - This variety does not represent a loss, actually could be beneficial. These people would have never bought the content if it was not free. At any price. The product does not appeal for them beyond a simple curiosity. These pirates, however, can be agents of word of mouth that lead to sales from their friends.
º "The I Want Better Service" - Before the advent of the iTunes store, the only legal options of downloading music were highly inconvenient (mentioned on the Steve Jobs biography). Could not compete whatsoever with the friendliness of napster/kazaa, etc. The iTunes store did a great job capturing this market by making things truly friendly for the customer. A sure win against piracy. DRM Inconveniences also fall in this category.
º "The Hollywood Stupidity Backfires" - In a globalized world, where information travels in seconds around the world, let's divide the earth on convenient "regions/territories" and assume everybody will patiently wait entire months for our great content. Most Americans may not know/care about dvd regions, as most of the content is released first in the US. But the rest of the world was not ready to wait and simply bypassed the regional locks by purchasing multi-regional dvd players. Hollywood has not learned and insists on dividing the global world into arbitrary territories to date. Big names in games follow this same pattern. Excepting studios that make global releases, I give the pirates this one.

My two cents. Have a great day!

Koen Deetman
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Hey Bernardo,

Thank you for the compliment and for sharing your additional thoughts on my post!
Very interesting read!

Peter Eisenmann
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The "stolen car" illustration is only a valid analogy if you are making cars for a living. And in this case, people getting cars for free would actually be the worst thing that could happen to you.

Koen Deetman
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Haha, True,

It was actually meant as a 'joke' inbetween =)

Michael G
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I wonder how much piracy truly correlates with the decline of game demos. I'm sure we've all bought games that turned out to be a big mistake, often with quite a hefty hit to the wallet.

We may think our work is of the highest order but unless we give gamers more than carefully controlled media, many of them will not believe what they are given and with the behaviour of some in the industry recently, I can't blame them.

Peter Eisenmann
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I always have to chuckle when I try to imagine any serious percentage of pirates getting an illegal copy, and after "testing" the game to death actually laying down 60 bucks to buy a copy.
It may happen in very rare cases, but I doubt any serious money is made this way.

Kyle Redd
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Maybe not $60. But would they buy the game for some amount? Yes. I admit to having done this myself - There was a game whose official release came with onerous DRM with a pirated version readily available. I downloaded that version, and then a couple of years later, a Steam version was released at a lower price with the additional DRM layer removed, which I payed for. I never did actually play much of the game, either pirated or legitimate, but there you go.

Mark Velthuis
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Good article.

I used to pirate quite a lot on "ye olde days". This has changed quite a lot since steam started publishing most games digitally. Staying at home and downloading the game is usually faster for me than going to the store and buying it. Not to mention that because I have a job, I'm quite limited in when I can actually go to a store.

Money is realy no issue for me ever since I got a full time job. But I do have certain principles/standards. For example, I saw watchdogs on steam for 60 euro. The first thing that went trhough my mind was "Yeah, that's not the normal price for a tripple A PC game." So I'll definately be thinking twice before buying it. But when buying from steam or GoG, I do feel I get more value for my money than a store would give me. There's no disc to lose or damage. Steam has save game synchronization. I can redownload whenever I want with a generally better speed than the average illegal source.

The last time I pirated a game (if I remember correctly) was when Darksiders 2 was released .... in the US. The reason ? Because the european release would take another week or 2.

From my experience, both as pirate and as someone coding DRM-Like systems, the only way to fight piracy, is to provide a better service.

Koen Deetman
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I agree, a better service would definitely be a huge step to beat piracy.

Junxue Li
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Hi Koen, all your discussions are around UX. But in my country, the long and short about piracy is not quite about UX. You can read my blog post about this issue http://gamasutra.com/blogs/JunxueLi/20140306/212424/The_spending_
habit_of_Chinese_mobile_gamers.php

Koen Deetman
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Thank you Junxue, I will definitely read it!


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