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With Pirate Bay blocked, UK groups turn to freemium to stop more game theft
With Pirate Bay blocked, UK groups turn to freemium to stop more game theft
May 1, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

May 1, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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Following the UK High Court's decision to block The Pirate Bay in the country, major local game industry groups have said more needs to be done to combat game piracy, and have championed the free-to-play model as an effective measure.

The High Court ordered local internet service providers to block the filesharing site on Monday, which would prevent online users in the UK from accessing The Pirate Bay. Many, however, worry this will do little to stop people from pirating games and other media on similar websites, or from finding a way around the barricades put up by ISPs.

Indeed, a representative from The Pirate Bay called on visitors to circumvent the block and posted instructions for doing so today. He also told supporters to "stand united against the censorship from [The Pirate Bay's] opponents," and advised them to write letters to their ISPs and members of Parliament to protest the ruling.

While ISPs blocking The Pirate Bay likely won't halt illegal downloads, many game companies are shifting toward business models that better protect their properties.

"The video games development and digital publishing sector is leading the way in addressing the piracy issue," Dr. Richard Wilson, CEO of The Independent Games Developers Association (TIGA), tells Gamasutra.

"Rather than taking legal action against consumers, game developers and digital publishers are typically adopting new business models such as 'freemium' and 'games as a service' to reduce the incentive for piracy and to work with consumers rather than against them.

"Ultimately, this is the best approach to doing business in the internet age."

UK Interactive Entertainment's CEO Jo Twist adds, "As an industry we quite rightly pride ourselves on the different innovative business models we have. These give people easy access to what they want to play and how -- from premium boxed products and cloud-based games to free to play apps, casual, and social games."

She also notes that beyond shutting down file sharing sites and pursuing new business models, more needs to be done to fight piracy: "Protecting intellectual property rights needs lots of different approaches: education about copyright, enforcement against criminal activity, and great, accessible, legal offerings at the right price are all crucial."


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Comments


E Zachary Knight
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Sounds like these guys need a little more training and education from the likes of Stardock and CD Projekt. While it is nice to see them consider alternatives to direct sales, they seem to be approaching it from the wrong angle.

You should NEVER choose a business model on the idea that it will help fight or limit piracy. That is a fools errand and will end up ruining otherwise good games and companies. This is where DRM came from. This is where removing features like modding and LAN came from.

You should make your business model decisions based on two factors:

1) Is this model the right fit for this game?
2) Is this business model the right fit for my target market?

If you answer "No" to either question, you really need to reconsider the business model.

Jon Shafer said it best last week. The best way to increase sales is to treat your customers with respect. I would add to this that you should also treat your games with respect.

I will say this just to mitigate any concerns, I am not against the idea of freemium and games as a service. I think both models are good alternatives to direct sales. I am even using the freemium/service model for my first major game. However, the use of those models really need to be weighed early in the process on how they fit with the overall game direction and strategy. Shoehorning them into games that would benefit from a different model will be a tough sell to customers.

Simon Ludgate
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I completely agree. Business model should match the game, not expectations of return or protection from piracy.

Remember: the best way to prevent piracy is to make sure no one wants to play your game; choosing the wrong business model does help, in that respect.

Joe McGinn
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Sounds to me like a game association mouthing off about the government pet peeve (content piracy) not what game developers are actually doing. I've never met anyone making freemium games for the purpose of combating piracy. As both you and Simon rightly point out, that's a mugs game. No intelligent person or company plays it.

Cordero W
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This won't do a thing. And freemium assumes it's online. Most pirated games are single player, since network games require server-side authentication, so they already have a pirate prevention system in place. They'll have guaranteed sales regardless. Freemium is an okay model, but even it has a lot of flaws, mostly because it creates a division between players and leads to abuse of gameplay elements of "pay to win." So what are they going to do with single player games? Freemium abuses DLC-like content more than console games.

I rather play a complete game or not pay for a game at all. That is just how it is.

Cordero W
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This is mainly because they somehow got hold of the server program, which normally you cannot unless someone behind the scenes was able to apprehend it. This is exactly what happened with Ragnarok Online. Private servers are the same thing as having an illegal version, but users cannot initially host such a thing unless someone was able to leak it.

Nathaniel Marlow
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As far as I know there was never a leak of any server-side stuff for WoW, just some impressive reverse engineering that took a (very) long time to produce a reasonable facsimile.

But I might be going off of outdated information, there could've been some kind of leak in recent years.

Anyways, point is, even without someone on the inside to leak stuff like that, if your game is popular enough people will reverse engineer that bad boy and play on emulated servers.

Bruno Patatas
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Look at Gog.com. Look at CD Projekt. In other media, look at Netflix, Hulu and Spotify.
People will pay money when they feel that the money they spend is worth it.
'Freemium' and 'games as a service' to reduce the incentive for piracy? They are a different business model, and even on freemium/social games you have piracy, with experienced players using bots to hack the economy systems for unlimited energy, gems, etc...

Focus on creating a great game experience. Don't rip-of players with DLC on-disc. Make the act of buying a game a worthwhile experience for the player.

In the end, a lot of gamers want one thing: buy a game, playing it from beginning to end, and say "that was a great game!".

Treat your customers with respect. Look at them as fans, not numbers. If you treat them well, they will follow you and support your games. Give them the great game they are expecting. That is the best way to reduce piracy.

Emmanuel Navarro
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I completely agree with your assessment on games but Netflix, Hulu and Spotify are 'media as a service' and are very different from GOG or CD Projekt. These services also seem to help reducing the incentive for movie and music piracy, so it's only natural to think that 'games as a service' should do the same to game piracy.

Bruno Patatas
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I have nothing against 'games as a service'. Services like Gaikai and OnLive seems to go on that direction, the equivalent of Netflix for games.
I just don't think the freemium model with in-app purchases works for all game genres. I would hate to be playing a deep rpg like Baldur's Game, and then suddenly run out of energy or whatever, and having to purchase new items. That type of action takes you out from the game world context, and breaks the immersion.
A service that uses 'games as a service', where I spend a monthly fee and have access to new and classic games, both freemium and non-freemium, seems a great thing for me :)

Bob White
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The level of pirating per game is simply a measurement of two things:
1. Its level of popularity/enjoyment
2. Its price point

The more enjoyable/popular a game is, the higher the level of pirating. Simple as that. What publishers fail to realize is that while they can't control how enjoyable the game is, the CAN control its entry price point. The days of $50-$60 games are coming to a close. Start pricing lower, say $40 on release day, and you'll see the level of pirating drop along with it. Sales will increase significantly to offset the lowered price, and everyone wins. Of course greed will, ironically, stop many publishers from even considering such an "absurd" business model.

Wylie Garvin
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Of course they can't prevent piracy, but what most of the publishers seem to be trying to do is *discourage* piracy, or at least delay it for a week or two, hopefully converting some of the "casual" pirates into paying customers. With popular games (mainstream AAA etc.), they get pirated so much that if you could convert even 10% of those pirates into paying customers, it would significantly help the sales.

Unfortunately, its pretty hard to slow the pirates down without using techniques like DRM and on-line registration, which cause collateral damage: They annoy your paying customers and will inevitably cause problems for at least some small fraction of those paying customers, who will then bear a grudge against you for the next 10 years, not to mention telling everyone who will listen to them about how your horrible DRM burned them and what an evil company you are, etc.

Example: I haven't bought a PC game from Ubisoft for about 7 years now because the last one I did, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, had some DRM thing that just refused to work on my machine. Ironically, I've been an Ubisoft employee for the last 5 years and I *still* won't buy our games for PC, because of the DRM.

This post expresses my personal opinions only, not those of my employer.

Shea Rutsatz
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I definitely agree.

A lot of people pirate because they just can't afford the game (or justify buying one for $70), which means that pirating is no loss for the company, since they would never have had a sale to begin with.

Torben Jorba
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Some teams manage to get insane sales on steam, xbla and PSN with $15 games. And some of them are _true_ AA by all means. Just cut off the other 2-3 middlemen who want $15 each from the usual markets you can't sell anymore? Those times might not be over for the AAA-monster bash circuit.

But all others? The facts are there. Games are too expensive and the ever growing used game market should be an indication to act instead of creating useless first day DLCs and trying to keep prices in cloudy heights.

Every media business is changing. Books -> ebooks. Music Albums -> Single tracks. Because nobody pays for filler track albums anymore. That is a whopping drop from $12 to a single track 0.99$. Its not the pirates fault that only two songs from an mediocre music album are "good"?

Even the movie business diverts from the big studios to smaller private financed international venues, where they don't need to feed structures, insane salaries and other expensive "inherited burdens" that always are there - even if you don't want it.Suddenly, an $120m studio movie can be shot in Europe for $60m and make a nice plus with +$160m worldwide play - while the studio movie would not even reach a dark zero.

Both would be pirated like mad, for sure. But the studios would claim that its 101% all "the pirates" fault that the didn't get back their investments. There is nothing else that could be "changed", nothing that can be done, nothing to react to.

Sound like the guys on stage coaches with strange hats, who laughed at the idea of cars without horses.


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