Spore "The Most Pirated Game of the Year"

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
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.

Comments

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
No solution? Maybe I have a radical new one! :-)
Matt Barton wrote:

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.

The fact that these 99 cent Iphone games are being pirated would seem to argue against your theory. The "make up the low profit margin by selling in volume" strategy may work with other commodities, but with software being inherently "crackable," there's little reason to believe that you'll recover your costs (much less make a profit) by trying to sell in volume. If you eliminate all copy protection, you're at the mercy of the public.

Matt Barton wrote:

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.

This seems to be the current marketing strategy. Arguably, it is working in the short term, but it will probably fail in the long term, as it did with MP3's. When you buy current software, it seems the philosophy is "you are paying for the right to use the software on our terms," rather than "you own the software." Obviously, people don't like this, and perhaps will eventually reject this model.

Matt Barton wrote:

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.

Well, that ties in to #2, and "ownership" is fundamental. However, if I go see a movie in the theater, I don't "own" the movie just because I paid to watch it. Perhaps, like you said, the next generation will see gaming this way.

Matt Barton wrote:

4. Focus on taking down torrent sites, P2P, etc. - in other words, focus less on DRM and more on the distribution.

A valid approach, but then you end up playing a game of "Whack-a-Mole;" take down one site, up pops another. Plus, it would require an international effort, and some countries apparently don't have the means or incentive to go after such sites.

So what do we do? The current solution, hinted at by Bill in several other threads, is: CONSOLES! You want to play a game, buy a console!

Ok, that might be unacceptable... no games for the PC? There's always been computer games, we can't end that history! So what else can we come up with?

Alright, let me brainstorm..... (loading..... loading... loading... progress meter 75%... done!)

Introducing the "DONGLE DRIVE!" Basically a mini-console/dongle that plugs into your computer, it uses a proprietary disk format/shape that makes it near impossible to copy with a PC. On top of that, it houses a proprietary processor for some gaming purpose (physics processor?), meaning that pirated code just won't work without the processor, and the "Dongle Drive" can't be tricked into running the game without the disk! Since it doesn't have to handle all the other tasks the PC handles (video, controllers, sound, etc.), it could be produced much more cheaply than the typical console! Players would load their purchased games into the dongle drive, register the software (yes, we'll still have online registration), and play away! No DRM, no rootkits, etc.

Essentially, you'd have a sort of compromise between a PC and a console.

Ok, I can already see a few potential holes in my idea, but maybe we can rescue the game industry with some ideas! By the way, the idea above was entirely conceived of by me (in about 5 minutes), and any resemblance to any other similar idea is entirely coincidental.

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

Catatonic
Offline
Joined: 05/20/2006
Even hardware dongles get

Even hardware dongles get cracked though. Here in Canada a lot of people steal satellite TV with cracked smart cards. It is actually illegal here to watch American satellite TV even if you wanted to pay for it.

GeneralDebacle (not verified)
This is what I think, for what it is worth.

Lets not overcomplicate the issue. Let us simply do the twin check: usability vs effectiveness.

Let us look at the newest copy protection. It is savage...on the legitimate user. I believe we can all agree with this. Massive hassle, lots of possibilities of complications. No advantages for the legitimate user at all. It also makes the possibility of playing the game in the distant future somewhat of a lottery because the end user never really owns the copy they bought.

Now that we have gotten that out of the way, the next step is to check its effectiveness for what it is meant to do. It failed. Completely. Cracks were online and ready when the game (GTA4, though any game could be substituted here, give or take a day (yes, some have cracks before the official release...)) hit the shelves. Complete and utter Fail with a capital F. Who knows how much money was wasted on the rubbish. It didn't work at all.

Ok, so we see that the current idea is a failure, and also a major kick in the pants for the end user.

Pirates will not be stopped. It is as simple as that. However, users can and are being put off buying games due to the unfriendliness and downright insulting nature of the newer DRM's. It is a lose/lose situation for gaming companies. My suggestion? Take back the centre ground.

Make buying and playing a game a virtually hassle free experience, and use the money you would have put into the newest, useless DRM into goodies, or more beta testing, a better manual, etc. Use a simple DRM, a disk check, or something like that (Nothing that needs online checks, etc) that the average bear couldn't crack by themselves, nothing more, nothing less. ie: Reward the paying customer, not kick them in the pants!

Why a simple copy protection scheme? Because you won't stop the pirates. Forget trying. It ain't going to happen. They effortlessly destroy the newest DRM on the market on day one. Nothing will change that unless you go to stupid lengths (Fingerprint? Rectal probe? etc), and even then they will adapt and overcome.

Instead, make it a) boring for the pirate (no challenge, they LOVE the fact that companies keep trying to stop them. These are actually the games THEY want to play) and an easy and pleasant experience for the paying customer and b) the average bear wouldn't know how to break the simplest of copy protections nor are they interested most of the time. Having a simple system with no hassle would stop them being tempted to try copying it for a few extra bucks like some did back in the C64/Amiga days.

It is simple, and it works just as good as the current super systems, and it will sure as hell get more people back into gaming that have left it due to all the stupid hassles. They would have gotten a number of purchases from me alone for games I simply refuse to buy due to the electronic checkup system (yes, I have never and will never buy a game that requires this shit. I payed, I own for all time or I am not interested).

Calibrator
Offline
Joined: 10/25/2006
My take
GeneralDebacle wrote:

Why a simple copy protection scheme? Because you won't stop the pirates. Forget trying. It ain't going to happen. They effortlessly destroy the newest DRM on the market on day one. Nothing will change that unless you go to stupid lengths (Fingerprint? Rectal probe? etc), and even then they will adapt and overcome.

Instead, make it a) boring for the pirate (no challenge, they LOVE the fact that companies keep trying to stop them. These are actually the games THEY want to play) and an easy and pleasant experience for the paying customer and b) the average bear wouldn't know how to break the simplest of copy protections nor are they interested most of the time. Having a simple system with no hassle would stop them being tempted to try copying it for a few extra bucks like some did back in the C64/Amiga days.

It is simple, and it works just as good as the current super systems, and it will sure as hell get more people back into gaming that have left it due to all the stupid hassles. They would have gotten a number of purchases from me alone for games I simply refuse to buy due to the electronic checkup system (yes, I have never and will never buy a game that requires this shit. I payed, I own for all time or I am not interested).

Your post contains several really important aspects:
1 - crackers crack, gamers game
Of course there's some congruence but the real danger in the cracking of games is that they distribute the cracked stuff to shine publicly (ie the other crackers).
It really is a game of which dick is the longest (who cracks first/best etc.).
Crackers are a proud folk that likes to brag like gamers with highscores - and you can't substitute that with *any* other means (money, fairness)
2 - crackers can't be stopped
Neither by better protection (that's their "game" - you are absolutely right!) nor by legal action (most are minors and what can happen to them?) - even if they can be prosecuted there'll be others - it's "The Flood"! ;-)
3 - most crackers are juvenile
Meaning that they can't really be prosecuted (PC gets confiscated, dad has a financial loss, son can't officially use computers for two years ... whatever) and they don't have developed a firm morale yet that stops them (which would be the only thing in the current world).
They also normally have no real income and see money as something not really connected to their cracking hobby as money is either there or not (depending on how willing mommy & daddy are).

My take on possible solutions:

a) Hardware can't be copied/cloned as easily - because it costs more money than a simple disc and often would be too expensive for a game to distribute.
Combine that with heavy encryption with long keys and a hardware platform that doesn't accept non-encrypted media of a certain kind. Decode the data with the reader or drive and prohibit and prosecute sales of cracked or modified drives.
One would need a certain infrastructure and agreements to make that work, too, but games and console companies usually shit on each other.
Problem is that games may get too expensive and higher prices increase copying even more.

Better:

b) Make cracking an Olympic discipline
No joke, actually, as many crackers see their occupation as a sport and their existance as competition. They distribute the stuff to make their deeds public.
The answer: Help them get recognition by having leagues and clubs trying to beat each other publicly. Begin with the "Official Cracking League" (OCL) and internet broadcasts with teams trying to crack games under supervision like on LAN events. At fixed weekly or bi-weekly dates - coinciding with the public releases of the games...
Step up to TV broadcasts when a critical mass has been reached and when most industry countries are affiliated make an Olympic discipline out of it.
Let the proud little fuckers show what they really can under pressure!
And give them price money and recognition to have goals. Enforce that with a crackers honor codex (and a colorful batch) so that they outcast and punish the black sheep themselves! Let *them* solve the problem!

Without crackers the distributors lie flat on their backs as they are simply too dumb or incompetent and voila no more cracked software as simple copy protection will suffice against opportunity copiers like Joe Schoolkid.

take care,
Calibrator

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
I really like those ideas,

I really like those ideas, Calibrator, since I think you've hit the nail on the head--the industry is desperately searching for a technological solution, when they should be looking for a social solution. Make it uncool to crack and illegally distribute games, and you've got a winner.

The problem is that crimes are often portrayed as "cool," and perpetrators are described as dangerous, ruthless, geniuses, etc. Hell, what 12-year old wouldn't want to live up to that stereotype? If the stereotype was a greasy, pimply fat ass living in his mom's basement because he can't hold down a job and dropped out of school--fewer kids would want to be like that. I also like the angle that all this illegal trading hurts the developers, resulting in fewer quality games.

I would like to see these crackers competing to see who could crack games the fastest, but it'd also be neat to have them competing to see who could thwart their competitors (force them to defend their title, so to speak). Still, I'm not sure if this would really solve it, since how would kids "practice" to get good enough for the big times? What I'd like to see is more emphasis on creative hacking (i.e., demoscene productions) than cracking. Put those incredible talents to good use.

n/a
Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Drugs are uncool - so is hacking / copying

Attempts to make drugs uncool have failed, so will attempts to crack or pirate software uncool. Did you guys notice this 'swearing is uncool-rap' and campaign that soared through the US last year? Wasn't that just plain awful? I just hate hackers...eh foodoodles. The whole campaign was about using substitute words which make you sort of sound like Mary Poppins. I don't swear in my standard operation mode but might do so if I was ircked to the max. What I do try is to make humoristic slightly sarcastic remarks including long sentences with complicated grammar thus subliming it into humour which is a far better coping style than swearing.

Back on topic:
The whole nature of computers and the internet sort of invokes the hacker cracker nature in specific individuals. It's like a battle of minds/wills, it makes some individuals feel very smart if they outwit a company or encryption/copy protection scheme. Now isn't that what teenagers are supposed to do? Fight the establishment, outwit the adults? Crack a game?
I am afraid I did during my c64 days. Bought a lot of games too.
Now that I've grown up I spend quite a bit of money on DVDs - like some others I too have several hundreds - and games. Today it is all about getting good deals on legit games and be smart that way.
Emulation is a grey area but I dp tend to buy the retro-emulation stuff that is coming out for the consoles and I have many classic-game collections for just about any console I own. In fact I do own a lot of classics several times.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
More copy protection stuff
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Back on topic:
The whole nature of computers and the internet sort of invokes the hacker cracker nature in specific individuals. It's like a battle of minds/wills, it makes some individuals feel very smart if they outwit a company or encryption/copy protection scheme. Now isn't that what teenagers are supposed to do? Fight the establishment, outwit the adults? Crack a game?
I am afraid I did during my c64 days. Bought a lot of games too.
Now that I've grown up I spend quite a bit of money on DVDs - like some others I too have several hundreds - and games. Today it is all about getting good deals on legit games and be smart that way.
Emulation is a grey area but I dp tend to buy the retro-emulation stuff that is coming out for the consoles and I have many classic-game collections for just about any console I own. In fact I do own a lot of classics several times.

Hacking is the genesis of our industry. Always has been. The problems happen when piracy hurts legitimate business, which stalls the market. Occasionally we hit cross-roads, as we are now with PCs and DRM.

I too was a big C-64 pirate as a kid, though I bought stuff whenever possible back then. The older I've gotten, the less and less I've pirated, until the present day when I buy everything, typically for the best deal I can. It's hypocritical for me to tell kids/teenagers not to pirate, but adults it's another story. When you're a part of the "system", you need to be a responsible member of the system. If everyone stole, none of us would have anything.

My old argument remains the same. Games are not a life necessity, so there's no reason for ANYONE to have a game they didn't pay for. There's no justification for pirating a game period. It doesn't matter if you feel it costs too much, it's too buggy, it has DRM you don't like, etc. A game is a product like anything else, presented as-is, and you know what you're getting going in. If you don't agree with any of that stuff associated with it, you don't have to have the product. Some argue that these people who pirate the game wouldn't buy it anyway. That's fine, but then they shouldn't be allowed to benefit from playing it. It's that simple. If they're playing it, they're benefiting. If the copy protection was truly foolproof and they desperately wanted to play the game, they'd have to buy it like everyone else. Due to the nature of digital bits, they are able to copy it and benefit from it, to the detriment of the people who put in the hard work to make it. That can mean the difference between those developers working again or not.

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

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Yeah, you've got a point

Yeah, you've got a point there, Mark! Stuff like that has to come from within. If it's the teacher saying drugs are uncool, who cares. If it's your own personal hero saying it, that's different. It may sound silly, but I looked up to comic book heroes growing up, such as Spiderman and Batman. I can't imagine growing up with the same enthusiasm for Snoop Dogg or TuPac or what have you.

n/a
Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
The future as it will be....

Games - no matter how badly damaged they are because of DRM techniques are the intellectual property of the creators. To gain profit by bypassing the means of protection and then distribute the software for a (financial) gain is wrong especially as an adult.

What bugs me is that 'acquiring a game' isn't the same as purchasing a good or product. Sure you get it on a physical medium - which is actually quite polluting - but you don't actually own it. You can't do with it whatever you want as you get the goods with specific do's and don'ts. With game cartridges things were easy - nobody cared what you did with the cartridge as they couldn't be copied easily and the game / cartridge combo was the 'goods' you got.
It all changed when cd-burners came onto the market. Suddenly everybody was interesting in copyright / ownership / drm. Today the companies reserve the right to switch on and off the software you have - and if the company goes bust the means to 'activate' the software you have bought the rights to use for disappears altogether. Now the latter I do have a problem with.

Look I can fire up the 2600 and plug in commando in 30 years time and stand a good chance it might still work. This will not be the case for many of today's 'big brother activates or deactivates the game over the internet' games on optical media or in downloaded form. Today we have something that is called Retrogaming.
The retrogaming of the generation that is now beginning to play games, like Bill's children, probably won't exist as the companies won't be activating old/dead software anymore. Perhaps nobody wants to do any retrogaming in the future and I am worried about nothing. Look the 360 is great now that it is current and all. Millions of units have been bought - those games, those adventures will become obsolete as soon as Microsoft decides to pull the plug. Sure the system will be able to play discs in stand alone mode but it won't be as fun as it was with the added-Live-experience.

Culture is becoming something of a consume and 'throw-away' and forget about it thing, where instant gratification and the now is important and nothing else. Today's culture is very digital and despite the fact that the information in it is easily duplicated the longevity of it is far less than the old parchment the monks from the middle ages were writing on. Sometimes - especially during 2 month holidays after graduating from a 19 year study - I just want to go back to just reading a book and if I don't want to read a new book I can go pick out a book I bought 20 years ago and enjoy reading it. Without activation - but on the front or last page of it always some copyright warnings and threats by the publishers - I always skip that text. ;-)

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
What difference does it make

What difference does it make how old someone is? I'm not seeing why it's okay for kids to enjoy pirated software, but not poor people. If you can't afford it, what difference does it make if you're 13 or 30? I don't want either one to have to live without the joys of gaming.

I don't really buy the "necessity" argument. Sure, you won't die if you don't play games, but that doesn't mean anything. If you want to play games but can't afford it, hearing that kind of stuff isn't any consolation. A life of basic survival (subsistence living) isn't worth living in my opinion. If I felt that way, I'd just live off the wild in the woods somewhere and never interact with humans. I also don't like the idea that only rich people should have access to new games. I'm not a communist, but there ought to be some way for even poor people to enjoy this stuff, whether it's renting a system or game as opposed to buying it, checking something out at a library, second hand stuff, playing it at a friends' house, etc.

That said, given the abundance of legal options to enjoy games and the cheapness of the hardware, the excuses for piracy aren't very convincing. It only really gets pricey if you insist on the latest games and owning all the stuff outright. I guess what I'd like to see is more giving; maybe people donating their old games or systems to needy families and the like who might otherwise never get to play.

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.