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For  Football Manager  dev, piracy is a recurring headache
For Football Manager dev, piracy is a recurring headache
November 14, 2013 | By Kris Graft

Sports Interactive's Football Manager series continues to prove popular with paying customers and software pirates alike.

At this week's London Games Conference, Sports Interactive director Miles Jacobson said Football Manager 2013 for PC has been illegally downloaded 10.1 million times since the game was cracked in May this year, MCV reports.

It's not the first time that Jacobson has run into piracy issues. Last year, he was open about how Football Manager Handheld for Android reached a 9:1 piracy ratio (nine illegal copies to one legitimate copy).

At LGC, Jacobson said it'd be "ridiculous" to think that Football Manager 2013 could've had 10.1 million in extra sales, but by measuring a drop in activations he estimated about 176,000 in lost unit sales, or $3.7 million in revenue.

"Crackers are going to crack and people will download," he said, admitting that piracy is just a reality developers need to deal with.

Jacobson commented on the MCV article, inviting academics to work with him and treat piracy of Sports Interactive's titles as a case study. "That would help legitimize the info and make it able to be used for education purposes - which we'd welcome," he said.

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Jed Hubic
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Wait a minute! Most people that pirate games just pirate it to demo the game and if they like it they buy it. So really he should be getting a ton of sales still. Right...right...?

Scott Jackson
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I bet if they did a survey study on this issue, they'd find percentage of reasons why people pirate. Some don't have the money but want to play and maybe one day will buy it on sale, some are casual and just want to play because of hype but don't see the price tag worth it to them personally and may never buy it because maybe they are not into the game after all.

I'm sure there is a ton of reasons, all developers can do is try and price their game to the best of their knowledge, have specials frequently, little deals like 2/4 packs or included DLC.

If people have money and find your game to be a bargain or see long term value with mods, they will buy the game.

A large portion of pirates could probably be considered as people that would never buy the game anyways, just players bored trying to find something different to play that they normally don't. Though I'm no expert so a study on this would help to understand the psychology behind it.

Peter Eisenmann
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Maybe those millions of pirates all hated the game and deleted it after their 10 minute test run? :-)

Michael Joseph
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This genre seems like it would be ultra competitive. When you start disclosing customer/player numbers in the unexpected tens of millions then you can probably expect even more competition.

I think it's fascinating that these hardcore simulation are in relatively high demand by enthusiastic football fans. People management games (particularly business oriented ones) are a curious breed of simulation and I wonder if management sims for other types of entertainment enterprises would fair as well? Would the formula of "take two things that people love - making money and [insert entertaining activity here] - then make a management simulation about it" work elsewhere? _____ Tycoon games work but they're not quite the same thing because the player is removed from low level management responsibilities.

Somebody should make a manager simulation for recording artists. After 10 years of bottom fishing, you've finally landed someone who's got "it." It's up to you to make them a star and in doing so, bring in tons of cash and prestige But can you prevent your recently signed Molly Syrus from ruining her career before it's really gotten started?

Recording Star Manager 2014!

And for the really twisted, there's Strip Club and Pr0n Star Manager. Get those domains registered! Actually just forget i brought those up. Pet Store Manager 2014... now THERE'S a winner!

Sebastian Cardoso
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Perhaps a different business model? F2P?

Kyle Redd
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His estimation that 1.7% of the pirates would've bought the game is probably conservative. Still, he doesn't account for the sales they gained from the pirates who evangelized the game to their friends - friends that otherwise would've never played the game at all, but ended up buying a copy based on the recommendation.

Those extra purchases are probably not enough to equal those they lost, but neither are they an insignificant amount.

Peter Eisenmann
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Pardon my laughter, but do you honestly think any of those friends will go out to buy a copy, when their buddy has the cracked version readily sitting on his laptop?

However, I agree that 1.7% is very conservative (if conservative means 'too low' here.) I'd say even 10% would be a low estimation, given that this is not a mainstream genre where there are a lot of alternatives, or which is played primarily by kids that can not afford it.

9:1 seems to be a good rule of thumb for Android though. Yeah, you have those countries where a dollar is a lot of money or people even cannot buy from Google play at all, you have the kids without a credit card and all that, but even if that reduces it to a 3:1 ratio of "real" piracy, f*** you people. There, I said it.

Dane MacMahon
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In addition to kids and a vast number of overseas players, there are also the "I don't like this that much and would rather not play it than buy it, but since I can get it free why not mess with it briefly" players. They are not a lost sale either.

I honestly think the number of people who really like a game but pirate it anyway is rather small, and filled with ignorant assholes you can't talk rationally to anyway. We're all guessing though of course, to some extent.

Peter Eisenmann
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300% in opposition to 900% could be considered rather small, but in absolute numbers, it is crazy. I would like to believe that at least dedicated players go the legal route, but there are just so many counter-examples I know about that the assumption is unrealistic.
To test out a game, usually there are free versions or demos. If not, there are reviews, videos, refunds etc.
I simply have no sympathy for "rich" folk (the majority of adults in the west) to not spend a few bucks on their entertainment (this includes music and films).

Kyle Redd
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The friends of pirates are not just traditional, "my buddy down the street" acquaintances, who they could easily transfer a copy of the game to. They are Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and Reddit members. When the pirates praise the game in these venues, some of those acquaintances who would otherwise not have played the game will go out and buy a copy as a result of the recommendation.

I'm not sure why you see that as so outlandish a concept. Artists give away free music tracks all the time - Do you believe that those giveaways result in lost sales, because now everyone can get the song for free from a friend who has it "readily sitting on his laptop"? Do you think artists would continue to give away free music if that were the case?

Peter Eisenmann
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I'd hope that a song given away for free is free for everybody. It's called a promotion. Anyone who wants to offer free stuff should do it and I applaud them for it; but what is free and what not should not be dictated by pirates.

Kyle Redd
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I wasn't justifying piracy. I was merely pointing out that stolen games do end up leading to *some* sales through word-of-mouth promotion - not enough to make up for what was lost, but they are sales nonetheless.

Peter Eisenmann
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Ok, I think we can agree on that.

Alexander Womack
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Rather, when your activations drop in sequence with a crack becoming available it can also mean something else entirely... The game did not live up to player expectations.

Jed Hubic
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No it means people didn't want to pay for it, because they can get away with it.

Alex Nichiporchik
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You should probably invest millions into DRM and make sure the game cannot run when offline, and definitely in no way think about integrating into a service that makes buying the game worthwhile

Yong Wu
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Yep and that's exactly how they lost my sell. Haven't played a FM since 2009, on the plus side it's help me saved money for other things.

Dane MacMahon
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Football is an international game and in many countries, countries with billions of people between them or even within their own borders, the idea of purchasing a video game is laughable. Trust me I've lived there.

We can't change the world, so...

E Zachary Knight
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So how many copies did they actually sell? I don't see those numbers. They mention that they could have added 176,000 sales if it wasn't cracked, but how many did they sell before then?

Terry Matthes
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Pirated copies do not translate in a linear fashion to sales $$$. Pirates don't and won't pay for games. It bugs me when publishers/developers don't acknowledge this. Perhaps it's that they don't understand?

If you tightened up the the games piracy measures to the point where it couldn't be pirated you wouldn't see those extra copies being used because it couldn't be played for free. It's that simple.

I'm not trying to downplay the frustration to be had by developers. I'm simply pointing out that the aforementioned mind set is out of sync with with the actual root of piracy. I believe a true fan of your football game would want to support you and that's why they buy a copy. If they can't crack it, they'll just move along to something else they can play for free.

You have to ignore the pirates and say your market is not based purely on active users, but rather, how many of those active users are willing to pay to support you. With piracy all games are "free to play". Whether you like that model or not that's what all PC games fall under now a days.

Ask people like Cliff Bleszinski why the original gears of war was developed as a console title. It (for the most part) locks out piracy and directs people into a pay to play monetization model.

If you don't like "free to play" (including piracy) you're going to have to leave the PC market. There is almost no way around it. That's why I believe indies have a better shot of making money on consoles.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Software piracy has been going on since around 20 years, and kicked into high gear 15 years ago becoming popular. To date all counter-measures, be it software or hardware, have failed to eliminate or even reduce piracy.

15. Years.

One would believe that after 15 years we would have just settled down with the fact that this is inevitable and just a natural part of the market. We would just recognize that piracy doesn't affect anything. It has been going on for 15 years and, surprise, the Industry didn't spontaneously combust because of it.

But no, we need have articles about it every week as if we forgot that software piracy is, in fact, still happening.

1999 - Software Piracy is happening
2000 - Software Piracy is still happening.
2001 - Software Piracy is still happening.
2002 - Software Piracy is still happening!

Yes, software piracy is, in fact, still going on.
More news at 11.

Having a slow news day are we?

Ian Young
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In the retail industry, they call theft "Leakage", where it is an inevitable part(and cost) of doing business. There will always be an element of theft in any industry. You just do what you can within reason to mitigate it, but understand you will never eliminate it.
Any encryption can be broken, and any built-in DRM can, and will be removed by someone, usually because they simply enjoy cracking software, then giving it away for free (many self styled crackers have a "Robin Hood" mentality, and see software houses as faceless money grabbing corporations).
There is no perfect answer to the problem of software piracy. If you make a product that is worth buying, by proxy it is also worth stealing.
You can spend vast sums of cash trying to prevent those people stealing your stuff, and you may even be somewhat successful, but the bill for that anti piracy tech/advertising/what-have-you, has to be paid by someone, and that someone is usually the same people who are actually paying for the games, which makes paying customers feel pretty bad about coughing up 50-60 for a game. Better to cut your losses and keep the games cheap, which keeps the paying customers coming back for more.