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The current state of DRM and piracy in casual gaming
November 18, 2008 6:50 AM   Subscribe

You may have heard by now about World of Goo, an independent game which can best be described as a "physics/construction puzzle game" that touches on everything from beauty to consumerism to internet privacy. The developer, 2DBoy who had originally released the game under a "no-DRM, don't screw us" policy now estimates a piracy rate of 82%.

The authors cite a related figure of 92% found for a game called Ricochet Infinity, which was, in contrast, released with DRM, and whose developer studied the effects of their continued efforts to patch up the keygens and exploits in its DRM along the way. From this article:

"As we believe that we are decreasing the number of pirates downloading the game with our DRM fixes, combining the increased sales number together with the decreased downloads, we find 1 additional sale for every 1,000 less pirated downloads. Put another way, for every 1,000 pirated copies we eliminated, we created 1 additional sale."
posted by tybeet (46 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Never heard of the game before but it looks great so I bought it. DL now.
posted by Manhasset at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2008


Safari can’t open the page “http://2dboy.com/games.php” because it can’t find the server “2dboy.com”.

Last login: Fri Nov 14 14:37:02 on console
christopher:~ cjorgensen$ ping 2dboy.com
PING 2dboy.com (69.89.31.190): 56 data bytes
^C
--- 2dboy.com ping statistics ---
42 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss
christopher:~ cjorgensen$
posted by cjorgensen at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2008


Geez. And 10 minutes ago it was up and working fine.
I'm getting a "This Account Has Been Suspended" when I visit now.

(I imagine the site will be up soon as they realize this, but in the meantime if anyone's interested, the game is available alternatively on Steam and Direct2Drive and WiiWare.)
posted by tybeet at 7:23 AM on November 18, 2008


Also here's an alternate article about the piracy rate of 82% at rockpapershotgun for the meantime.
posted by tybeet at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2008


Doesn't "World of Goo" kind of downplay the prospects of nanotechnology?
posted by crapmatic at 7:30 AM on November 18, 2008


Put another way, for every 1,000 pirated copies we eliminated, we created 1 additional sale.

So basically, the impact of piracy on sales is almost nonexistent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2008


So the only practical differences between a game with and a game without DRM are:

1) with DRM, you're letting all your paying customers know you feel they are filthy thieves, and you'd rather do without their money, proving it by giving pirates a better user experience.
2) with DRM, you're spending a lot of extra money for nothing, on the DRM software, and on the support issues you get from that.

So, why are companies still using DRM, then?
posted by DreamerFi at 7:32 AM on November 18, 2008


Hell, the company agrees with me. Quote from the RPS article:
“by the way, just in case it’s not 100% clear, we’re not angry about piracy, we still think that DRM is a waste of time and money, we don’t think that we’re losing sales due to piracy, and we have no intention of trying to fight it.”
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2008


I got this game for the wii at release, and we love it. It cost what, $5?
posted by mwhybark at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2008


I didn't even know I could pirate WoG. I put it on my Xmas wishlist and, at $20 and given how fun the demo was, I'm content to pay for it.

FROM MY PARENT'S BASEMENT I STAB AT DRM
posted by DU at 7:34 AM on November 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wait, Goo runs on the Wii? We're getting ourselves that for Xmas as well--maybe I should note that I want WiiGoo.
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on November 18, 2008


World of Goo really is a great game. It will be a shame if this (small) company is not able to profit from it. If you visit Metacritic, for example, World of Goo is the highest-rated WiiWare game ever. It is second only to Mario Galaxy as the highest-rated Wii game overall.
posted by MotorNeuron at 7:37 AM on November 18, 2008


Interesting article, and yes, World of Goo is great. We have it on the Wii, and it is a really good match for the Wiimote. As a bonus, it was only $15 on WiiWare, vs $20 on Steam -- and via the Wii, the wife and I can both play (alternating levels). Good times!
posted by tocts at 7:50 AM on November 18, 2008


If you have the means, definitely get it for Wii. Playing with the Wiimote is really fun.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2008


Yeah, you buy it for download via the um, WiiStore? The download doohickey.

It seems as if Nintendo is using the mumblemumble store thingy as a test-release channel for games that are not likely to sell well on shelves but which are really interesting and different, as well as a way to milk more money out of older games.

and $15, not $5, right.
posted by mwhybark at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2008


The world of goo
is a world of goo, and yet
and yet.
posted by LionIndex at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's good on the PC, too. I bought it right away. It's like Bridge Builder, with added glee.
posted by Malor at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2008


I watched the trailer flash vid, earlier. I has not even heard of this game before. As soon as this comes out for Linux, 2DBoy gets my cash.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2008


Ooh, I think I will get this for the Wii. Once I figure out how to connect it to my network.
posted by Mister_A at 8:30 AM on November 18, 2008


As soon as this comes out for Linux, 2DBoy gets my cash.

It ran perfectly under Wine for me. But maybe you'd rather not pay money for something you have to "hack" to work.
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2008


I paid for it on wii, so I'll be seriously considering pirating it for linux when it comes out.
posted by jepler at 8:34 AM on November 18, 2008


How can I pirate it under Steam?
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2008


I played a prototype of this game maybe three years ago on ExperimentalGamePLay. It was a lot of fun then when it was a 3MB game, it must be truly great now.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:18 AM on November 18, 2008


What I find interesting about this is that they are tracking piracy by paying attention to people logging into their high score servers. Jesus, people, if you pirate a game don't fucking allow it to connect to the internet. That is what firewalls are for.

I tried the demo, and thought it was an interesting puzzle game but not really for me.
posted by graventy at 9:24 AM on November 18, 2008


I tried the demo, and thought it was an interesting puzzle game but not really for me.

I tried the demo too. It didn't really seem to have any goals, other than making a bigger and bigger tower.

Also, the thing kept triggering my malware detectors for some reason. Was it adware or something?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:47 AM on November 18, 2008


Oh man, this is great on Wii, if a little stressful at times. If you have a Wii, this is a must-dload.

I feel bad that we blew up their server.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:03 AM on November 18, 2008


I tried the demo too. It didn't really seem to have any goals, other than making a bigger and bigger tower.

You can't have played very many levels.
posted by DU at 10:14 AM on November 18, 2008


What I find interesting about this is that they are tracking piracy by paying attention to people logging into their high score servers.

Surely this method underestimates the piracy rate. If I pirated their game, I at least wouldn't have the gall to connect to their high score server.
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on November 18, 2008


I keep looking for it in WiiWare, but it isn't there - has anyone outside the US managed to get it on the Wii?
(I'm in the UK.)
posted by wilberforce at 10:56 AM on November 18, 2008


I've been playing this for a couple of weeks now. I completed it a few days ago. It is awesome. It's one of the best games available for the Wii, easily the equal of Super Mario Galaxy. Even after finishing it all, it's still surprisingly fun to try to get the tower up as high as possible.
posted by JHarris at 11:09 AM on November 18, 2008


Surely this method underestimates the piracy rate. If I pirated their game, I at least wouldn't have the gall to connect to their high score server.

It could just as well overestimate the rate, since some ISPs dynamically assign IPs.
posted by JHarris at 11:10 AM on November 18, 2008


It won't be on WiiWare in the UK until December, unfortunately.
posted by tybeet at 11:11 AM on November 18, 2008


It could just as well overestimate the rate, since some ISPs dynamically assign IPs.

Since you can't read the original article right now, I'll just tell you now that they had an original estimate of 90%, but after so many people mentioned confounds (multiple IPs or multiple player logins) they adjusted for these things and arrived at 82%.
posted by tybeet at 11:13 AM on November 18, 2008


munchingzombie: I played that one as well. In addition to the World of Goo Corporation area, which is nearly a clone of the original game with the added ability to remove balls once placed, there's a level in World of Goo call Tower of Goo. The Sign Painter's note in that level is a sly reference to the earlier game.
posted by JHarris at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2008


(The earlier game, in case you're interested, the first game released for the Experimental Gameplay Project, is free for download, as is an updated version with infinite building space.)
posted by JHarris at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2008


You can't have played very many levels.

Yeah, it looks like I played that Experimental Gameplay Project version. In that, the game seemed to be limited to how high you could make your tower before it fell over. Kind of fun, in the way that an executive toy is, but not something you'd spend a lot of time with.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:49 AM on November 18, 2008


PeterMcDermott: In fact there is a limit to how high the tower can be built, but it's more tied to the maximum number of nodes. It's possible to make some very large towers if they're constructed carefully, but that's harder than you'd think. My own record in the World of Goo Corporation area is about 25 meters, which wasn't even using the maximum goo balls (it's limited to 300 in all).

This site allows people to upload their save files, then renders their towers next to each other for comparison. The tallest there is 41m.
posted by JHarris at 12:22 PM on November 18, 2008


I had no idea this was available for the wii. I will be buying it this evening. Awesome.

(incidentally, perhaps the best way to decrease piracy is to simply develop only for captive platforms like the wii, where piracy is extremely difficult.)

Oh, and the reason companies still use DRM is because CEOs and marketing people are generally (not always) unimpressed by studies like these, and persist in either personalizing the battle with pirates against logic and reason, or reject the numbers in favor of their "gut." That, or simply believing that every pirate would be a legitimate purchase if piracy could be stopped, and wow would that be a lot of sales.
posted by davejay at 5:06 PM on November 18, 2008


It's not on wiiware or steam in the UK either, and every time I've tried to get to the site this last week, it's down, even assuming they have a direct download option.

In case the developer is reading this - I'd love to buy your game, on either platform. But since you don't want to sell it to me, there you go. I may buy it, if and when you deign to release it to Brits, or I might just get it off the pirate bay instead. Sorry.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:28 PM on November 18, 2008


I didn't see this math in the article, so I'll add it.

If it's 5 to 1 pirated (80%) and 1000 pirates is the loss of one sale, then piracy has reduced their sales by a half of a percent.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:51 PM on November 18, 2008


(incidentally, perhaps the best way to decrease piracy is to simply develop only for captive platforms like the wii, where piracy is extremely difficult.)

That's the way it's going. I still don't own a console. But, I do want a Wii, just can't justify the expense yet. But the PC game market is getting pretty sad lately ...
posted by krinklyfig at 9:08 PM on November 18, 2008


Dammit, JHarris, now that I know what I'm supposed to do, I've got an urge to download it again and have another go. Which is kind of annoying, because I've always been rubbish at those physics games, but I played WoG quite a lot without any clue at all what I was doing (other than make a tower, watch it fall.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:49 PM on November 18, 2008


Yay! December is just in time!
posted by wilberforce at 7:40 AM on November 19, 2008


davejay: (incidentally, perhaps the best way to decrease piracy is to simply develop only for captive platforms like the wii, where piracy is extremely difficult.)

Aaaah... I don't really want to spread this information, because the Homebrew Channel is an extremely wonderful thing that lets people do all kinds of awesome stuff on their Wii, like play media files and even DVDs. There's another physics simulation, WiiPhysics, that's rather neat in itself and is free. All these things made possible because of the HBC, unquestionably the most-used channel on my own Wii. BUT....

Another program on the HBC is the WAD Manager, which is basically an alternate interface to channel installation, one that doesn't require, you know, paying. Because of the HBC, it's now rather easy to pirate WiiWare, or so I hear. Easy enough that Nintendo has taken steps to stamp it out in the most recent update.

PeterMcDermott: It is unquestionably a game that requires practice. There are a few tricks that the player must basically discover for himself, like how to brace a bridge, and how to finish that "Hang Low" level. (It's a laughably simple solution, but the player pretty much must luck into it the first time.)

One of the nicest things about it is that, although there is a definite planned progress to the levels, where the things learned in prior areas are built upon, there's very little tutorial there. Other than slight hints from level titles and the Sign Painter, the game doesn't tell players how to do anything.

Oh, and from the 2D Boy site, in reference to yesterday's outage:
Hi everyone, we’re in the process of moving to a new server, so some parts of this site are still gradually coming back online. Our old web hosting provider (bluehost, avoid them!) canceled our account with no warning for using too much of our “unlimited” resources. If you emailed or tried to contact us in the last 24 hours, you might want to try again. The good news is, there’s actually a level about crappy web hosts in World of Goo!
posted by JHarris at 1:43 PM on November 19, 2008


But the PC game market is getting pretty sad lately ...

This always happens in the first half of a console cycle when the consoles are more closely matched in power to PCs. But wait a year or so and the improved power of the PC becomes more and more irresistible to developers.
posted by straight at 2:05 PM on November 19, 2008


Aw dang, I'm late. Anyway, loved the game and loved that I bothered to pay since it's one of those rare games that really deserves the encouragement.

Favorite level: flipping the bridge end over end with balloons. It's like Wonka Brand Everlasting Drawbridge.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:20 PM on November 23, 2008


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