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May 12, 2021
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The Anti-Piracy Experiment

by James Grimshaw on 10/04/11 03:22:00 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.

 

I have been an illegal downloader for some time and a fan of the PC gaming industry for even longer. Like most, it is all too easy to illegally download, with good intentions of purchasing later. Other times illegal downloaders believe PC games are too expensive, which they feel gives them the right to download and play for free.

Is this right, no, but what is worse is this has become all too acceptable. It seems the more it happens the less people seem to care. And I can see the PC gaming industry getting scraps from the masters table, and yet I don’t blame publishers for this!

Being a party to illegal downloading was my fault… Sharing is great, but publishers and developer need to be in on this. I understand piracy, I know of all its weaknesses, and that’s why I am the perfect person to stop this.

Vigilant Defender just needed a chance to show what we could do…

 

On the 31st of May 2011, a pre-build of Deus Ex: Human Revolution was illegally uploaded to the p2p networks. It was cracked a few hours later by a p2p group, ALI123, using modified files from a well known scene group called Skidrow.

This gave us an opportunity to demonstrate our anti-piracy strategy. Using the crack and the pre-build files we constructed a “Trial” version that looked identical to a full illegal working version. Our version basically allowed a user to play for the first two levels and directed them to a website.

The website questionnaire asked a range of questions on illegal downloading habits, current DRMs, and about Deus Ex itself. But we wanted to take it further, to see if illegal downloader’s would be willing to purchase games. Based on the answers given, we carefully targeted a specific demographic, and asked will you buy a download of the full working game? Basically to sell the illegal download of Deus Ex: Human Revolution to the illegal downloaders.

… and potential customers responded with: €382,233!

Piracy won’t be won with the best DRM system, it will only be won when illegal downloader’s realise that there are more benefits as a potential customer.

 

We learnt a great deal from the questionnaire, which you can read in full here:

http://www.vigilantdefender.com/Questionnaire.php

Or you can download the full PDF document from here:

http://www.vigilantdefender.com/files/Questionnaire2011.pdf

  

In short:

Downloading from torrents is very simple and convenient, which is preferred to using file hosting services. And yet … these areas of mass market distribution have yet to be utilised!

Illegal downloaders find that PC games are too expensive, or rather that they are not as good value as a Console game. Retail shops offer a trade-in deal for all games except the PC, due to restrictive DRMs. This makes purchasing Console games a better value proposition.

Illegal downloaders, of PC games, generally download 1 to 5 GB, which is a small amount of data per month. This could be due to the ISP broadband cap, though more research is needed.

39% of illegal downloaders would purchase PC games, in varying quantities, if there was no other way of getting them for free.

DRMs do not encourage purchases and publisher would be better offering “price incentives”, “added value”, and “Unlimited installs” instead.

Being the most graphically advance is no longer an incentive, as this depends solely on the power of the users machine. PC gaming rigs can be very expensive, over double what it would cost to buy an Xbox360 or PS3.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is considered to be a very good game, scoring very highly. GameRankings scored it at: 91.26% and Metacritic at: 89/100 (With a user score of 8.4/10). In our survey the illegal downloading population scored it at an average of 82.09%.

23.8% of the illegal downloading population pre-ordered and paid full price, while the distribution suggested most downloaders would purchase at €22.49 or $24.99. With a total 62.1% of illegal downloaders who would pay for this game at €22.49 ($24.99) or higher.

Regional prices are probably the highest cause of piracy in PC Games. When doing a price check 2 weeks before launch we found that Deus Ex: Human Revolution was being offered in Europe for €49.95 from Gamestop, and €44.99 via Steam. Even though Spain, Italy, Greece, and Ireland were going through, and still are, a severe economic crisis. And yet… Gamestop prices for Deus Ex: Human Revolution in the UK was £24.95 (about €29) and Ireland was €29.95. It is also interesting to note that Spain and Italy are often known for having the most illegal downloaders.

A digital playground needs to be created where downloaders can pick up any game they want, at anytime. If they enjoy playing that particular game, then a contribution can be made to the publishers/developers. It’s a playground where the gamer gets to make the choices, and sharing and benefits are for everyone.


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