Spore "The Most Pirated Game of the Year"

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Matt Barton's picture

Since we've been talking so much about DRM controversy lately, I thought I'd post this news item: Spore the Most Pirated Game of 2008. The data is based on torrent stats. There's also a link to our friend site GameSetWatch that provides a lovely overview of the issue and "countermeasures." Interestingly, Svennson of the PC Gaming Alliance seems to share my views on the issue; the DRM needs to be as unobtrusive and not inconvenience the user any more than absolutely necessary (indeed, I'd like to see it handled at purchase time and that be the end of it). However, one interesting part of the article is that people who get pirated copies sometimes end up with a lot more bugs (an effect of the not-so-well-cracked DRM). This wouldn't be a big deal, but these types tend to complain loudly about the "bugs," assuming that these bugs are in the game rather than a result of being cracked. This reputation can, in turn, persuade innocent gamers not to buy the game--since no one wants to get stuck with something buggy. It's an intriguing insight that I hadn't seen before.

Anyway, a few questions arise from this. One, are people more likely to pirate a game if they hear it has "nasty" DRM (i.e., securom, etc.?) I think the answer is a definite YES. Two, does this mean that "nasty" DRM is, in effect, self-defeating, since it might very well be driving people who would otherwise buy the game to pirate it instead?

I personally don't care if a game wants to do an internet check, provided that it is reliable and doesn't break on me. However, this would be a huge inconvenience if I didn't have always-on broadband. These checks should be sporadic, though--once upon installation, and maybe once a week or so if I continue to play the game.

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Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
This week I learned that

This week I learned that iPhone games are being pirated. Even those that only cost $0.99. Evidence, I think, that piracy will always be around no matter how cheap & easy it is to buy the game. Some games can detect if they have been cracked, and developers are reporting that in some cases they have more pirate users than legitimate ones.

Bill Loguidice
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Piracy - the better the value the incredibly more lame it is
Catatonic wrote:

This week I learned that iPhone games are being pirated. Even those that only cost $0.99. Evidence, I think, that piracy will always be around no matter how cheap & easy it is to buy the game. Some games can detect if they have been cracked, and developers are reporting that in some cases they have more pirate users than legitimate ones.

That sickens me. I think .99 for a game or a song is more than fair, particularly when it's true ownership. Piracy for the sake of doing it for getting free stuff is just wrong. Those kind of people should be sent to Cuba.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Yeah, that's definitely

Yeah, that's definitely lame. Why go to the trouble (and risk) of downloading an unauthorized copy when you can get the real deal for so cheap?? Doesn't make sense to me.

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Sex, Lies & Piracy

Well, no sex actually but it sounded like a great title! ;-)

A few years ago I was still thinking of my experiences as an adolescent of 13-15 years - with no income to speak of and games being prohibitively expensive at that time. I got "my games" at birthdays and christmas and as I had an Atari 400 which wasn't nearly as popular as a C64 in Germany I luckily had no "connections" to get the newest stuff on a regular basis like my friends.
When I got my first PC several years later I was already earning money and could buy games myself - and I did. In fact I still have the majority of the stuff like Ultima 7, Descent or System Shock.
So, my basis of thought was always: The most important factor in software piracy is that the people doing it simply have no money and won't buy the software anyway - because they *can't*.
As I had known people with a C64 and lots of pirated games back then I also knew that those guys always had their "originals" - also birthdays and christmas presents.

Therefore I was pretty sure that people lose the "piracy thing" when they become adults with income.

With time I learned to my amazement that people with *big* incomes don't even think about paying for software - when it can be gotten for free. "Free" meaning no money except the blank CD or whatever and more importantly "no legal action" against them.

In other words: Give people the opportunity and a large number of them will exploit the people trying to make a living creating, publishing and selling games.

I learned that lots of people gladly accept a burned CD with a possible blockbuster movie for free instead of paying the price of admission in the cinema. "Buying a DVD? Are you out of your mind - it's way too expensive!"

Maybe I am out of my mind - I have 780 DVDs and ZERO burned movies...

Back to games: Of course games for $0.99 are getting pirated!
It seems to be the nature of man to pay for expensive hardware (in this case the iPhone - which is/was very expensive in Germany) and stealing the software.
I have seen many PC owners doing the very same - why should a phone owner be any different?

And, finally, what does the catchy phrase "The Most Pirated Game of the Year" really mean?
It simply means that somebody put out a game that had a very large and varied target audience in the first place (think "Sims"-large) and attracted even more cheapskates. A hardcore RPG could never become "TMPGOTY"...

take care,
Calibrator

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Rowdy Rob
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Piracy = wrong, but what is Piracy? What about AA books?

I think one of my first posts at AA (if not THE first) was a post detailing my stance and my history in piracy. I was a massive pirate for the Atari 8-bit... pretty much everyone I knew was. I also detailed how and why I gave up software piracy.

Piracy is just wrong, and the hackers are wasting their talents cracking these programs. Also, they are making life worse for legitimate purchasers of software, who now have to put up with DRM, rootkits, and continual online checks to confirm they are legitimate purchasers of the software. What if I want to play "GTA IV" on my non-net-connected PC in the other room? From what it sounds like, I'm up the creek.

On the other hand, what is piracy? Using a commercial product you didn't pay for? It's going to hit home for you AA guys now.

Although I have purchased a fair amount of DVD's (100+), I have also watched many movies via rental. I have also loaned out my purchased DVD's to friends. Am I a pirate?

I have never pirated PC software, but I have given away software I purchased to PC-owning friends. Some of these games I purchased I have never played, but most of them I played at least briefly. Am I a pirate?

Mr. Loguidice and Mr. Barton are now published authors. That means that the books you wrote are going to be commercially available (and I will pay for them). However, it's a pretty safe bet that your books are going to be available in public libraries, meaning many people will now be able to enjoy one copy of your book(s) for free. Any objections?

That may be a disturbing, personal question, and I don't mean to post something upsetting to you, but it is (in my opinion) a legitimate question. There are going to be people, perhaps LOTS of people, who will enjoy your blood, sweat, and tears, for free. I, for one, would love to see you guys make serious bucks on the books you write; it would make my day! But I have also gained a lot of knowledge by reading books at the library in the past (although I prefer to just buy the books I want now, and rarely if ever go to the library).

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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The library/used resellers

The library/used resellers have long been a scourge to the book industry. That's why textbooks have a brazillion editions---they keep releasing new editions to try to destroy the used book trade, since they make zero when a student buys a used book instead of a new one. If you look at the history of this, you see where book publishers fought hard to destroy libraries and make it illegal to loan books out, but they lost. The government argued that people had to be educated to participate in a democracy, and having access to books was seen as key. A joke now, I guess.

I know that stores like Blockbuster have to pay a lot more money for a copy of a DVD than consumers, though. I'm not sure if that's the law or what, though.

In any case, I'd argue that borrowing a book from a library or renting a game/DVD is less convenient. There are many reasons why it's better to own something than borrow/rent it; no need to hash that out. I think most people would agree that there are some DVDs you want to own, but others are only worthy of renting (if even that).

I know the text publishers are in love with online subscription models...Instead of buying a book that can be resold, you "buy" an access code to an online book that expires at the end of the semester. That's probably where this stuff is headed.

I don't really buy the moral argument about it, though. Sure, it's better for the author/publisher if somebody buys a copy of Vintage Games than checks it out of the library, but I can live with that. I'd rather have poor people able to read the book than not, I guess, and if people don't care to own it--that's their business. I'd be more upset if someone was making their own copies or illegal PDFs and putting them up everywhere, especially if they were selling them or claiming they wrote it.

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Clashing Interests
Matt Barton wrote:

The library/used resellers have long been a scourge to the book industry. That's why textbooks have a brazillion editions---they keep releasing new editions to try to destroy the used book trade, since they make zero when a student buys a used book instead of a new one. If you look at the history of this, you see where book publishers fought hard to destroy libraries and make it illegal to loan books out, but they lost.

Guess their lobby wasn't as mighty as some others then...

Quote:

The government argued that people had to be educated to participate in a democracy, and having access to books was seen as key. A joke now, I guess.

I wasn't in a public library for more than 20 years as I either buy the books that interest me or read stuff online. However, I found them incredibly entertaining as a kid (they are working wonders for showing a kid how much knowledge exists) and most people I've seen there were borrowing novels (mostly women). It's hard to see a connection to educating people for democracy then.
But even if they are only an excuse for that some people need them as they simply have not enough money (lots of older people with tiny pensions) to participate in most cultural activities.

Quote:

I know that stores like Blockbuster have to pay a lot more money for a copy of a DVD than consumers, though. I'm not sure if that's the law or what, though.

This was the case in the past with VHS tapes which cost hundreds of Deutsche Marks (today equivalent of hundreds of dollars) each. They were only intended for rentals and had to loaned out a lot to be profitable for the buyer. There simply were no cheap VHS tapes available to the consumer.

Then came the DVD and the industry discovered that they can make much more money selling the discs directly to the consumer. I don't know the prices of a DVD meant for rental but they are often inferior (less bonus material, less sound tracks etc.).
Apart from movie nuts like me there are lots of people having ten or so DVDs sitting below their TV set - something which they didn't have in the past (as VHS tapes). DVDs have made movies into a commodity and the industry was making more money every year.

But of course nobody is ever content - neither the consumer nor the industry which both got avaricious. The former is trying to get movies for free and the latter tried different methods:
- "Ultimate Collector's Editions" with much improved picture quality (yeah sure!) and added trailers of the sequels to sell the same movie to the same person over and over again
- legal action against the person copying disks (running up an anthill)
- and finally changing to a fresh system - the HD format and HDCP protection (introducing funny DRM glitches to the broad masses). But because of their avarice the industry couldn't unite on a single format (like the DVD back then) and nearly killed the HD market before it got successful.

So what I'm trying to say here is that the industry has only two options:
- Sell media for high prices to rental shops - and not to single customers
- or sell them for relatively low prices to the consumers

IMHO only the second option makes sense and this is not only where the movie industry must head - it's where all content industries have to go.
And no, selling only a license won't work with most people as they *like* to own things. It gives that warm, fuzzy feeling to be able to watch a movie or whatever whenever the need arises. In consequence the industry must invent something that caters to all needs - registering can't be the solution as it robs the customer of too many "rights".

Quote:

In any case, I'd argue that borrowing a book from a library or renting a game/DVD is less convenient.

Not anymore - there are online rentals for both and both don't take more time than buying a book online - which is often the way to go considering book prices!
Personally I buy approximately 50% online - when I *know* what I'm after - and the other 50% in a book store - when I don't (often as gifts).

Quote:

I know the text publishers are in love with online subscription models...Instead of buying a book that can be resold, you "buy" an access code to an online book that expires at the end of the semester.

"Alert! This book will autodestruct in three days! Read now or else!"

Quote:

That's probably where this stuff is headed.

This is exactly where it is headed!
More than a third of the new books presented at the German book show in 2008 was in electronic form - more or less bound to the person paying for the download. I doubt that most of them will ever see the inside of a public library.

I bought several ebooks for my Palm for example and these are personalized like the games industry (desperately trying to get back on track here! ;-) tries to establish for their products. But there is a major difference between buying the right to read a book and the right to play a game: It's the price of admission.
While I'm willing to spend less than 10 bucks on a book I read and may like or not I'm surely not willing to spend 50 or 60 bucks on a game that I can't sell when I'm not happy with it.
Yeah, sure, the games need much more resources to get created in the first place and therefore are much more expensive - but is this really the problem of the consumer? Does he really have to pay full price when the games are not only filled with problematic DRM measures but also stuffed with paid advertisements?

Quote:

I don't really buy the moral argument about it, though. Sure, it's better for the author/publisher if somebody buys a copy of Vintage Games than checks it out of the library, but I can live with that. I'd rather have poor people able to read the book than not, I guess, and if people don't care to own it--that's their business. I'd be more upset if someone was making their own copies or illegal PDFs and putting them up everywhere, especially if they were selling them or claiming they wrote it.

I'm sure that public libraries can act as catalysts. Especially young people will find out if they like books and get "addicted". In that case they will buy them as adults when they become too lazy to go there or not have enough time to do that. People not getting addicted to books won't buy books in the future anyway - so no harm done except the money lost for the publishers for negative experiences on the reader.

take care,
Calibrator

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GeneralDebacle (not verified)
Indeed

Of course many people will turn to pirated copies when the DRM becomes too much. I honestly cannot count how many time I have read the following passage over the past two days:

"Rockstar, you totally f*cked up! How dare you put this POS out on the market the way it is! My computer is a blah blah that can run all the latest games and this game only runs 12 fps...etc etc, blah blah, and the DRM!?! The pirate copies are being updated daily with better cracks, talk about customer service! I am now returning this POS and downloading a copy so sucked in Rockstar!!!"

Or words to that effect.

They lost a customer who now (perhaps temporarily, but who knows?) hates the company and feels totally let down. They feel the need to then pirate the game to get the experience they found to jarring using a legit copy of the game, as well as "pay the company back" for all the hassle and emotional stress they suffered...;)

Valid? I cannot say. I wanted the game and have refused to buy it, but I am not going to go and download a pirate copy either. That isn't my style. You could somewhat sympathise with many who, after suffering frustration and the indignation of having to get everything verified by Mr Daddy AFTER they have paid in full, then experience more headaches with the DRM; and on top of that the game is a poorly ported piece of shit. I have some sympathy for them.

Unlike you though Matt, I am totally against any sort of electronic checkups. As an avid gamer who regularly plays games made by companies long since dead, the idea of, years later, wanting to play a game and having something like "Cannot compute! Company no longer exists/You have a pirated copy/error 55555 No signal return (or something along those lines)" really worries me.

Would we then have to use pirate copies? HAHA, how ironic. Or perhaps some trojan filled crack to play our paid for games?

No, I like to own my games once I pay for them. No gaming company will last forever. The huge companies of yesterday are mostly dead now, who will put a bet that the majors of today will be around in 20 years time? I know I wouldn't like to cover that bet. In effect, the new DRM types actually put unknown time limits on your gaming pleasure, we just don't know when the music will stop.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Do we agree that there needs

Do we agree that there needs to be SOME type of protection? If these really were free of any protection, then surely piracy would be just as bad if not worse, right, particularly in the example of the .99 (or less) videogames and music still being pirated? What do you guys think the most practical answer is, assuming even online activation and validation is not the answer? Code wheels and manual protection are out, since those can still be posted and shared online.

Actually something just came to me from the days of old - the dongle. As long as your computer has a USB port, it should be able to read something off of the dongle as ownership validation, allowing for a validation check even after the company goes away. Of course likely even the best dongles can be cracked and overridden. I am truly at a loss. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that nonsense for the top games. Frankly, I don't envy either side. I understand that companies need to protect themselves and legitimate users shouldn't have to be bothered.

The ones we need to get on in this equation it seems are the pirates, the ones who want something for nothing or take it as a challenge or a badge of honor to be the first to crack the game and share it. They're the ones who are ultimately hurting everyone and may finally succeed in killing off PC gaming. Perhaps the only solution may be something like a GameTap, where you play games from a centralized server. That doesn't solve the ownership issue, though, which is a very valid concern (I know I like actually owning what I buy).

Maybe the PC does eventually become the domain of the online game, a la World of Warcraft, while everything else is left to consoles, though of course as we speculated in another thread, those will likely go to more downloadable content over time, so that's not going to be much of a haven either.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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DRM
GeneralDebacle wrote:

Unlike you though Matt, I am totally against any sort of electronic checkups. As an avid gamer who regularly plays games made by companies long since dead, the idea of, years later, wanting to play a game and having something like "Cannot compute! Company no longer exists/You have a pirated copy/error 55555 No signal return (or something along those lines)" really worries me.

Wow, yeah, that's an excellent point and one I hadn't considered. That would definitely suck, especially if there was never a patch or update released that let customers continue to play without validation.

As for Bill's question, it does seem that online options are becoming more and more popular. I think of MMOs like amusement parks; it's much easier to charge people at the gate (and keep people without tickets out).

As far as DRM goes, I've never liked it (I can't think of any consumer who does), but who knows what other options might work. Way back when I was interviewing people for an article on the subject, I talked to a casual games developer who didn't have any DRM at all. His argument was that it would be more expensive to pursue that, and the casual games market was mostly people who either didn't know how to get cracked games or didn't care to. It also helped that they were cheap ($10 or so), which I think also helps tremendously.

I can think of several possible solutions to the DRM issue.

1. No DRM, lower prices. This is what seems to have worked for the MP3 market. Make them cheap enough and few people will bother. Let's say you could buy the latest AAA title for $20 or even $10. Would people still feel compelled to pirate that? I doubt it. On the other hand, they'd have to sell a bunch more copies, but they've got that stripped down to what--a cheap plastic case and a PDF manual anyhow? What if all those people (who knows how many?) downloading the game illegally bought it for $20. Sure, they'd lose $40, but at least they'd make $20 off people who were currently getting the game for free (and spreading it).

2. Online checks, disc validation, rootkits, dongles, higher prices. Throw everything you can to prevent people copying or sharing games, then raise prices to cover these efforts. Even if you only sell 25 or 30% of what you could otherwise, you're making more per unit sold. You don't have to sell that many $70 games to make a profit, perhaps. You can always go full-throttle at first and then ease up (lower prices, less DRM) when you release the bargain bin version, since piracy seems to hurt the worst during the first few months or year of release.

3. Online gameplay/subscription models. I thought this was the future with Gametap, but that didn't work out. Other companies seem to be having better luck with it. Again, you don't get that "ownership" feeling that's important to us, but who knows if the next generation will care about that.

4. Focus on taking down torrent sites, P2P, etc. - in other words, focus less on DRM and more on the distribution. This seems better to me, since, as well all know, the pirates will find a way to crack the DRM, so it's more imperative to stop them from spreading the games once they have done so. If all the money going to secuROM or validations went instead to fighting this sort of thing, who knows what might happen.

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