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Almost like an anti-Doctorow
December 15, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

TweakGuides presents a very long examination of software piracy as it relates to PC gaming: "PC piracy and related topics such as DRM seem to have become so shrouded in illogical excuses, hysteria, scaremongering and uninformed opinions that having a sensible discussion on the topic is virtually impossible."

The first couple of pages are fairly broad introductions to basic legal and technical issues that can probably be skipped without losing much but he eventually gets into evaluating such claims as "DRM causes piracy" and "DRM never works," and offers apologies even for the reviled Starforce and SecuROM. Link via RPS.
posted by camcgee (153 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fair warning, this is ~30,000 words.
posted by camcgee at 9:34 AM on December 15, 2008


"having a sensible discussion on the topic is virtually impossible."

We're here to prove that.
posted by orthogonality at 9:36 AM on December 15, 2008 [11 favorites]


So what's their point?
posted by dunkadunc at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2008


We're here to prove that.

Fingers crossed.
posted by camcgee at 9:45 AM on December 15, 2008


There will always be piracy, it's impact will always be non-zero but overrated, measures to prevent piracy are largley just going to hurt legitimate uses, Doctrowesque justifications for Piracy will always be bullshit. Embrace the grey.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on December 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


So what's their point?

The last page has a conclusion. Wait long enough and someone will distill it to a Twitter post.
posted by camcgee at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: illogical excuses, hysteria, scaremongering and uninformed opinions
posted by Joe Beese at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Too long, actually did read, but not quickly enough to make a MeFi post about it. Interesting stuff.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:50 AM on December 15, 2008


Paraphrasing the conclusion:

Developers: Help gamers try before they buy. Don't do stupid things like charge for support with DRM issues or release to different regions at different times.

Gamers: Don't pirate games, it does hurt the industry and DRM is not an excuse. Support indy games and don't blindly support Steam.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:52 AM on December 15, 2008


Way too long, didn't read. But if you want the brief, here's a summary of their suggested solutions:

Producers shouldConsumers should posted by Nelson at 9:55 AM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Too long - anyone got a .torrent to an audiobook version?
posted by porn in the woods at 9:56 AM on December 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Conclusion: Everybody be nicer to each other.
Corollary: The system never changes.

How about a fundamental restructuring of the system? I play tons of free games without pirating anything and the creators aren't going hungry (that I know of). Granted, these are mostly "toy" games, if I may confusingly call it that, but it's just a matter of scale. I am, right this very second, using an untold multitude of software that is orders of magnitude more complicated than any game and I'm not pirating a bit of it.
posted by DU at 10:00 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I prefer my summaries done by British rappers.

Sidebar: the author talks about "free riders" being disliked by The Scene on page 3. I think the issue safety, beacuse publicly "sharing" releases makes The Scene more vulnerable to crack-downs.

DU: those folks might make money from adverts (if you play web-based games), or have fun making the games. Maybe they survive off of donations, or just make games in their spare time.

When you have giant companies focused on making games which require massive processing power, you're probably dealing with a large group of coders and managers, artists and sound recorders, etc. etc. etc. There are marketing campaigns and publicity stunts. "Toy games" can survive on the small scale, but you I think it would be a lot harder to scale up those economies for games which cost so much on the front-end. This is pure speculation on my behalf, but I don't imagine freeware games would result in the multi-billion dollar industry that it is currently.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2008


A big chunk of his "scale of piracy" figures seem to be based on taking the number of times a .torrent file has been downloaded, and assuming that's how many actual copies of the game have been downloaded. To justify this he basically points at some BitTorrent site that used the same methodology to compile a top-10 list.

That's pretty flaky. A .torrent file is only a few hundred kB; the actual product is GB. It wouldn't surprise me if the number of successful downloads is a fraction of the number of .torrent grabs.

But that, plus some stats from the BSA, are pretty much at the core of the "scale" claims. And although he does at least mention (and I give him a lot of credit for this) that each pirated copy shouldn't be valued as the loss of a retail sale, there's not much effort put in beyond that to quantify a better number.

Obviously this is anecdotal, but I know a fair number of people who represent the core of the PC and console-gamer market: young to middle-age people with jobs who can afford to drop a few hundred bucks a year on a new console or PC upgrade, and $50-70 every few months on a new game. These are the sort of people who keep the game companies in business. There's not a ton of overlap there with the people I think represent the majority of software pirates, who fall into two camps: a very small core of "hobbyist" pirates, who crack and trade software just for the heck of it, in many cases without ever even using it; and the vast majority, mostly students, who could barely afford an Internet connection on their own (but who have one from their parents, school, or some other location), much less to regularly purchase expensive entertainment software.

Given that, I'm highly suspicious of the whole "piracy is killing gaming" premise that seems to be invoked from that point in the article onwards.

I'm not sure exactly how the methodology would work, but I'd be really interested in seeing some research into what the people pirating software would (and have the ability to) actually buy, if the pirated stuff wasn't available. I'm sure there's some lost sales there, but I suspect it's greatly overestimated by the BSA and similar organizations who profit off of hysteria. My suspicion is that if a pirated copy of a new game wasn't available, a lot of would-be pirates would just continue to play an older game, or play something that was available for free; i.e., that they're going to exhaust all the reasonably-entertaining options available for $0 before they spend anything at all on a new game, and that the pirated game is really just one of a whole lot of options available at no cost.

Personally I detest software piracy, because I think it takes attention away from low-cost alternatives to the big-buck OS, entertainment, and productivity apps, and I think this damage is actually greater than the impact of piracy on the core products themselves. (The canonical example is Windows piracy adversely affecting Linux adoption, but I think there are a lot more subtle examples around if you look. Photoshop versus a host of other products comes to mind. At several hundred bucks a license, Adobe isn't really losing anything when some kid pirates Photoshop, but some low-cost or free alternatives are.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


Don't pirate games, it does hurt the industry

And to that I would respond: bullshit, piracy is PART of the industry. Piracy has existed since before there WAS an industry. That argument might be more serviceable for music and movies (although it's still crap, but for different reasons), since the ability to download them freely as data hasn't existed for very long, comparatively. People have been downloading software for free since most of it was produced by individuals in their basements, since the dawn of the personal computer. The industry has grown up around piracy from its infancy, and piracy in no small part helped interest in personal computers themselves in earlier years (in the old days, there was always a guy at the little non-chain computer store or at school/work or wherever that would show you how to copy games and give you the "secret" BBS numbers). In short, piracy was here first. It's not something that suddenly showed up and sapped all their sales like some medieval plague. It existed before the current big players in software and it will exist after they are gone.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:15 AM on December 15, 2008 [12 favorites]


...it would be a lot harder to scale up those economies for games which cost so much on the front-end. This is pure speculation on my behalf....

Which is why I mentioned large-scale, non-speculative projects like Linux, FireFox, the Internet, etc.

....but I don't imagine freeware games would result in the multi-billion dollar industry that it is currently.

No, I don't imagine it would. But are dollars a good way to measure game quality?
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


this sounds to me like it's part of a campaign to give companies an excuse to abandon pc game development - something that much of the industry is doing anyway for non-pirate related reasons

the old turn-based pc games weren't flashy or "exciting" enough to compete against console games - console games have been outselling pc games for quite some time - and the pc games he lists are pretty close to console like games, with real-time action

i don't think piracy is responsible for any of that
posted by pyramid termite at 10:21 AM on December 15, 2008


A big chunk of his "scale of piracy" figures seem to be based on taking the number of times a .torrent file has been downloaded, and assuming that's how many actual copies of the game have been downloaded. To justify this he basically points at some BitTorrent site that used the same methodology to compile a top-10 list.

I think he does a pretty good job of explaining the difficulty of getting accurate numbers, based on the lack of hard data, and there is definitely speculation in all of the figures.

The torrent downloads as raw numbers might not be that informative, but he does use them as a basis for an argument about the relative number of pirated copies vs. sales to address ideas such as the one that games with DRM are pirated more often or that games with bad reviews are pirated more. In that case, even absent absolute numbers, having relative numbers is useful.
posted by camcgee at 10:23 AM on December 15, 2008


the old turn-based pc games weren't flashy or "exciting" enough to compete against console games - console games have been outselling pc games for quite some time - and the pc games he lists are pretty close to console like games, with real-time action

What?
posted by camcgee at 10:27 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


What?

it's simple - pc games have changed to compete against console gaming - more flash, more action - and in doing so, they've discovered that the pc isn't all that great a platform for console games and decided to slowly abandon it

it's nothing to do with piracy at all
posted by pyramid termite at 10:33 AM on December 15, 2008


The problem with quantifying the cost of piracy is difficult because even if you knew how many times a software package had been pirated, it doesn't tell you how much money was lost by the maker. Assuming 1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale is ludicrous. Many people pirate things, play with them a bit, then delete them. Many people couldn't afford the software in the first place.

The problem arises when you have someone who could afford the software, really wants it, but is happy pirating it instead. Those users really do reflect lost sales.

The real problem with the article is that he thinks we shouldn't "fight" DRM. That's bullshit. The argument about DRM, fundamentally, is "who owns your stuff"? A DRM laiden entertainment device, whether it's an XBOX or DVD player is fundamentally not yours because you can't do whatever you want to too it. Software DRM isn't as big of a problem, in my view, because it doesn't actually mess with your hardware (provided it's not a rootkit type), but it does sort of invalidate the right of first sale.

But, I would much rather see the game industry go away then lose the ability to own my own PC. This idea that, you know, somehow we just can't get by without commercial games, music, and movies is a bit over the top. And that technology should only exist to help content creators make money is ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


the obvious solution is to put the guts of the game on the internent and don't allow for play off the net.

That'll be $100,000 please, game companies.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:40 AM on December 15, 2008


Don't blindly support Steam

?

If you buy through Steam, that's support.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2008


The console competition argument is definitely a good one - I used to play a lot of PC games, until sometime around midway through the previous generation of consoles, when the console games were getting really amazing and the PC games industry was just trotting out boring networked FPS after networked FPS. Now, every game that's worth playing, other than the aforementioned boring FPS retreads (and even some of those eventually), comes out for at least 2 of XBox360/PS3/Wii and PC. If I want to play them on PC for whatever reason, I need to make sure I have the latest $500 mega-GPU, a system that's not more than a year or so old, all my drivers and such need to be up to date, and I'm still playing a game that was probably designed for a console gamepad with a goddamn mouse and keyboard, which sucks for any game other than, again, boring FPS retreads. Consoles are just easier and better, and although I modify my consoles to play burned discs, 99% of people that buy them would never even try to do that as it takes a lot of technical knowhow and often soldering things to tiny little SMD chips.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:45 AM on December 15, 2008


it's simple - pc games have changed to compete against console gaming - more flash, more action - and in doing so, they've discovered that the pc isn't all that great a platform for console games and decided to slowly abandon it

My reaction was disbelief, because I honestly don't see how this could be the case. Are there examples that illustrate this theory?

I agree that there are games that are better played on a console and those better played on a PC, but the distinction I see between them has nothing to do with one being more action-oriented than the other and more to do with control schemes and game complexity.
posted by camcgee at 10:45 AM on December 15, 2008


Assuming 1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale is ludicrous.

Ah, but that's standard back to the 80s/90s, when (ahem) associates of mine would pirate and play every single game that came out for the Commodore Amiga – no way did um, they have the money to buy all of those, nor if playing the game had a cost would they have done so.

Now of course everyone involved in that sorry state of affairs is an actual adult with a job and stuff, and actually pays money for the few titles that they have time to play between having a family and working for a living.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2008


Their recommendations are deeply one-sided, and are pretty much starting from the conclusion that piracy is harmful. On top of that, the article claims that there's "no solid evidence to substantiate" even the most obvious pro-piracy argument (that at least some people try-before-they-buy). I mean, to paraphrase what Nelson posted:

Producers should

* Basically do nothing that even remotely addresses the core issue, which is the completely bullshit price/quality ratio on 99.9% of games

Consumers should

* Bend over
* Stop making excuses for not bending over
* Drop the "ow my ass" hysteria
* Don't blindly support not wanting to be screwed
* Support small innovative developers.

Give me a break. There are two sides to this issue, and as long as industry is completely ignoring the motivations and cultural standards behind one of them, widespread piracy will continue.

Your hint for this level: there is a not-so-secret new-game price point at which 80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate, assuming that most games are of reasonable quality. It's measured in dollars, and is hidden somewhere between "ten" and something which starts with "twe" and rhymes with "plenty-five"! Find it, Captain Industry! Unlock the Reasonable Prices door using the Red Quality Key, and rescue the princess from the Evil Pirates!
posted by vorfeed at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2008 [18 favorites]


Are there examples that illustrate this theory?

all you have to do is to remember what a babbages' looked like 20 years ago, 10 years ago and now - pc gaming has changed dramatically - and for all those changes, it's gone from most of the shelf space to four very crowded racks in a corner of the store - and it's gone from turn-based strategy and adventure to real time clickfests - and as decemberboy notes, it's a lot easier for the end user and the developer to use consoles for that sort of thing instead of pcs

of course, they're going to blame piracy for their business decision to move to consoles rather than telling the pc world that their platform sucks for the kind of games that are popular these days
posted by pyramid termite at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2008


MetaFilter: "ow my ass" hysteria
posted by DU at 11:01 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


more to do with control schemes and game complexity

Not to turn this into a console vs. PC argument, but having one key of the keyboard dedicated to every possible action doesn't make a game "complex", it just makes it poorly thought out. Games like "Shoot the virtual 12 year old while he screeches racial slurs at you VIII"* and "Kill small mammals for pretend money for so long at a stretch that you need a catheter XIV" do not a "thinking man's platform" make.

* I am conveniently ignoring the Halo and Gears of War franchises here
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:02 AM on December 15, 2008


The problem with quantifying the cost of piracy is difficult because even if you knew how many times a software package had been pirated, it doesn't tell you how much money was lost by the maker. Assuming 1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale is ludicrous.

One publisher estimated: "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." (Previously on MeFi) Game designers and publishers can do their own cost-benefit analysis to determine whether implementing and supporting DRM for their products is a profitable investment.

Meanwhile, the Gamer's Bill of Rights defuses the pro-piracy arguments much more convincingly than Ghazi's prolix, padded piece - beware the author who mentions that he's "originally an Economist by training" with a capital "e". (Incidentally, I see that the author has taken a similarly accomodating approach to Vista's DRM.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:04 AM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Reasonably well-written but no really outstanding parts or conclusions.

As the author points out, the real issue is that there's a large # of people who would pay for the game, but not the full retail price. If everyone could pay a price that corresponded to the utility they derive from the game, piracy would be next to zero. But unlike airlines, it would be very hard for game companies to charge everyone a different price. So piracy continues. *shrug*
posted by GuyZero at 11:04 AM on December 15, 2008


Your hint for this level: there is a not-so-secret new-game price point at which 80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate, assuming that most games are of reasonable quality. It's measured in dollars, and is hidden somewhere between "ten" and something which starts with "twe" and rhymes with "plenty-five"!

The iPhone application market is a good counterargument for lowering prices on software. Most of the 10K+ applications are between free ($0.00) and $1.99. There are griefers who will download this inexpensive software — apps of genuine quality, not the pull-my-finger crap — and still complain through the review system, fucking up average ratings. Even for free applications, believe it or not!

Pirates will pirate. The only way good developers can win with cheapskates is either to pay people to use their software, which isn't very realistic, or price themselves higher than cheapskates are willing to pay and take the hit from piracy, which was inevitable to begin with.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on December 15, 2008


....but I don't imagine freeware games would result in the multi-billion dollar industry that it is currently.

Last I was looking at open-source / free-software FPS's, they did seem several years behind the curve.

Similarly for many other complex games. FreeCiv vs Civ4 is not a comparison. OpenMW is pre-alpha vs Oblivion. That C&C-alike isn't so hot in my opinion. Wesnoth wasn't very interesting, again, my opinion.

They face similar problems to other free-software projects, but more intense. Since creating content for an engine is very time consuming and expensive, the easiest bet is online. However, for a multiplayer online game to be fun you need a significant player-base, and you don't get one of those until the software actually works.

Like most free-software areas, there are many half-way completed useless projects, but that's even more problematic since it becomes difficult to recruit to making something like last-year's game. For projects that solve problems for people, there's going to be a stream of people with that problem until a solution exists. People will also continue to reuse your problem-solving software and give feedback as it changes. For games, the target keeps shifting as people want something like the newer games, and rarely replay games on a long timescale. The desire changes faster than the production timeline.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:12 AM on December 15, 2008


People say that PC games can't compete with Xbox, PS, etc.... one word: Blizzard!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:17 AM on December 15, 2008


Your hint for this level: there is a not-so-secret new-game price point at which 80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate, assuming that most games are of reasonable quality.

World of Goo has a 90/100 score on Metacritic, costs $20, and had (according to its developer) a 90% piracy rate.
posted by camcgee at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2008


Game designers and publishers can do their own cost-benefit analysis to determine whether implementing and supporting DRM for their products is a profitable investment.

DRM is not zero-sum. It exists to deter piracy, not eliminate it, so the idea that it is used to get that "one more sale" is probably not in the minds of developers and publishers. DRM deters some percentage of piracy, allowing a certain expectation of sales, and one can expect that this cost/benefit analysis was done well before writing DRM into the new game release.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2008


But unlike airlines, it would be very hard for game companies to charge everyone a different price.

They could. It would help if games from two years ago weren't full price. That might induce more people to buy, or it might induce more people to wait. I'm sure that economists have worked out which model extracts more profit. Games where you pay per-use (like WoW) do this exactly, and it's part of why they make so much damn money. I can pay an amount proportional to how long I keep playing (in months) which is proportional to how much I like it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:21 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


i have an idea:

developers build the games, then release demos.

developers set a minimum collective "bid" that they think will cover their costs.

based on their experience with the demos, gamers can pay into an escrow account if they like the game, and attempt to meet the bid.

if gamers meet the threshold, the developers release the game to the world, no strings attached. if they don't, they all get their money back and the game goes in the shitter.
posted by klanawa at 11:32 AM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The iPhone application market is a good counterargument for lowering prices on software. Most of the 10K+ applications are between free ($0.00) and $1.99. There are griefers who will download this inexpensive software — apps of genuine quality, not the pull-my-finger crap — and still complain through the review system, fucking up average ratings. Even for free applications, believe it or not!

Um, yes. Thus why I said "80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate", not 100%. There will always be some degree of piracy, simply because it's a hobby for some, but I doubt that the vast majority of people with iPhone applications are in this group, because the applications are cheap and decent and it's easy to pay for them. Compare this to PC games, which are $50, largely terrible, and often easier to torrent than to buy. The difference in piracy becomes inevitable.

Pirates will pirate. The only way good developers can win with cheapskates is either to pay people to use their software, which isn't very realistic, or price themselves higher than cheapskates are willing to pay and take the hit from piracy, which was inevitable to begin with.

Or they could choose a moderate, reasonable price and develop a decent game, thus encouraging all but the most die-hard cheapskates (who, as you say, are never going to pay anyway). Then they could pocket the cash they were going to spend on ineffective and annoying DRM crap.

There's a big difference between cheapskates and people who are sick of wasting their money on overwhelmingly crappy games. The former are a poor market to begin with, because most of them don't have money to begin with; the latter are not.

Your hint for this level: there is a not-so-secret new-game price point at which 80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate, assuming that most games are of reasonable quality.
World of Goo has a 90/100 score on Metacritic, costs $20, and had (according to its developer) a 90% piracy rate.


And what do you know, most games are not of reasonable quality! The problem is systemic, at this point, because people have been burned so many times that they simply do not pay for games anymore. This is what happens when an industry develops a long-term adversarial relationship with its customers: I find it really telling that my suggestions (make a decent product and then charge a reasonable amount for it) are received so poorly, when they ought to be an obvious equation in any industry, especially software.

World of Goo pretty much did exactly this, and that's why "We're doing ok, though. We're getting good sales through WiiWare, Steam, and our website," according to the developer. This strategy works, despite rampant piracy, and IMHO it's pretty much the only thing that'll affect rampant piracy in the long run.
posted by vorfeed at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not to turn this into a console vs. PC argument, but having one key of the keyboard dedicated to every possible action doesn't make a game "complex", it just makes it poorly thought out. Games like "Shoot the virtual 12 year old while he screeches racial slurs at you VIII"* and "Kill small mammals for pretend money for so long at a stretch that you need a catheter XIV" do not a "thinking man's platform" make.

I agree that control complexity and game quality are not equal, and I wasn't suggesting that one platform is inherently better than the other or even that increased complexity is inherently good. In many cases, simpler games are better, whether it's controls, mechanics, or other elements.

Personally, there are games that I don't want to play on consoles and games that I don't want to play on a PC.

Being able to assign keys to individual actions means that you can, for example, select individual actions instead of having to bring up an option or scroll through choices -- weapon selection in FPS being a prime example. It's not efficient or desirable on a gamepad but the keyboard makes it possible. I happen to prefer it, but it is definitely a matter of personal preference and what one is accustomed to.
posted by camcgee at 11:44 AM on December 15, 2008


...an industry develops a long-term adversarial relationship with its customers...

That's the key, right there. When companies act1 like they hate the customer, piracy is going to go up. It is morally justifiable (in the emotional sense if not the ethical one) to steal from someone who has a history of screwing you.

1I'm talking about actions. Not "customers are our most important asset" BS.
posted by DU at 11:44 AM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


If something’s on Steam isn’t it basically DRM’ed to the hilt? And yet a lot of people these days (myself included) buy games exclusively through Steam.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on December 15, 2008


make a decent product and then charge a reasonable amount for it

For the developer to recover costs, the unspoken assumption in your equation is that 100% of the buying audience all agree on what constitutes "decent quality" and "reasonable cost", and that the buying audience will act in good faith by paying for the product.

That's a big and simplistic assumption and, again, I feel the need to bring up the iPhone market as a strong, empirical demonstration against this notion that lowering prices increases the likelihood that people act in good faith.

The reality is that most people are cheapskates and would prefer not to pay for software, music, etc. at all, regardless of their own economic situation.

People now expect things for free, and get indignant at having to pay at all. One might even say that they have a sense of entitlement.

This is what happens when an industry develops a long-term adversarial relationship with its customers

People have been pirating software since the advent of cassette tapes and floppy disks made copying economically feasible. That adversarial relationship has been a two-way street for some time now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:49 AM on December 15, 2008


the author's XP tweaking guide is fucking incredible. close to 300 pages but very well worth going over if you want a solidly tuned system. Also regularly updated.

He also has a vista one.
posted by spacediver at 11:50 AM on December 15, 2008


I thought the secret to selling iPhone apps was gaming the shit out of the appstore?
posted by Artw at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2008


Trying to charge money for an integer, which is what all software implicitly is, is a losing game in the long run.
posted by mullingitover at 12:07 PM on December 15, 2008


DU, looking at major video games vs Linux, Firefox and The Internet isn't a balanced comparison. While there are a whole slew of Linux distros, it's not the same as a whole slew of game releases. I see more correlation between big games and big movies. Sure, they can be made for less money and with fewer people, but you lose the flash of graphics, and all the hype that swirls around major movies. Some people enjoy the plot and characters of well-crafted indie films, while others enjoy the temporary distraction the newest action film provides.

Plus, Linux, Firefox, and OpenOffice for that matter, are day-to-day functional items, not entertainment items. You can be entertained by these, but games are (primarily) intended to engage for a while. There are some games that last, but like movies, they are enjoyed for a while then people move to the next thing. Firefox is the conduit for viewing websites, and Linux is always there when you boot up. Neither need to be "sold" on a daily basis, with new competition released every week or month.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:08 PM on December 15, 2008


vorfeed, I don't disagree that having great games at reasonable prices is a bad thing. But the evidence so far demonstrates that games are heavily pirated regardless of price or quality.

The quality issue is basically a non-starter, since developers don't set out to make anything other than good games. Some are just better at it than others. By the same token, they can't reasonably be expected look at their finished game and think "well, we busted our asses for this but we really missed the mark, so let's knock $20 of retail and see what happens." That's not the responsibility of developers, though it does happen at the retail level, when games eventually get discounted. (I agree that this seems not to happen early or often enough.)

Consumers benefit from downward pressure on game prices but piracy does not create that pressure -- the message that pirating a game sends to the developer is not "I would buy this game if it were cheaper" or "I would pay this amount (or less) if this game were better." There is nothing so subtle -- the only message sent is "I don't want to pay for this game."

Unfortunately, gamers don't have enough opportunities in the current market to send the message to developers other than waiting for the discount bins, which can take far too long for a group of impatient gamers. That's where alternate channels -- be they Steam, Good Old Games, or elsewhere, potentially offer a benefit to both parties. As long as the pricing for electronic distribution remains basically the same as retail, though, neither side is really able to take full advantage.
posted by camcgee at 12:10 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


the author's XP tweaking guide is fucking incredible. close to 300 pages but very well worth going over if you want a solidly tuned system. Also regularly updated.

He also has a vista one.


Jesus christ. There's no way you're going to tune your system well enough to 'save' the amount of time it takes you to read and perform this guide.
posted by Jairus at 12:13 PM on December 15, 2008


It's interesting to read discussions like this as a person who plays games, but not the kind of games you guys seem to be talking about. I am an addict for hidden object games, which seem, in my limited knowledge, to fall somewhere between the cheap flash games that are free and supported by ads/hobbyist creators, and the "gamer" games that cost $$ to produce. One of the things this segment of the industry seems to do well, I think, is accessible and useful demos (most give you 60 minutes of play, which is enough to tell whether something is worth buying). They also have done some great stuff in terms of making new content available frequently, and using old content to sell you on the new content (I got a free copy of an old game as an inducement to buy the new "Return to" game).

Of course, this is all from the perspective of someone who knows not much about the industry and the amounts of money and pirating involved. I just like playing them. But it seems like most of the analysis I've seen about the game industry and piracy focuses on the "gamer" games - could anyone point me at a good article about the puzzle game section of the industry?
posted by marginaliana at 12:20 PM on December 15, 2008


Gotta go with bp on this one. When the piraters' rhetoric gets put to the test, it fails, again and again.

games are too expensive!

Here's a cheapie for you.

there's too much crap!

Did I mention it's highly acclaimed?

too much DRM!

This doesn't have DRM!

ORLY? *yoink!*

I used to be a big defender of piracy on the grounds that I was one of many who bought what they tried and liked, with the idea that the other stuff "didn't deserve" to be bought, at least for those asking prices. I still buy games but don't often buy DVDs anymore, partly just because I feel less of a need to own stuff. So in my case at least, torrents are in competition with rental houses. The loser is obvious. I still buy games, but that's at least partly because of the ordeal it seemingly requires to get any torrented game to work, plus I have a different cash/time ratio than I used to. There are lots of people out there with more time than money, though, and many too who'd rather spend hours getting something to work "for free" than simply go to work, earn the money, and buy the game.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:22 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


While I think that piracy is a problem, I think that there is one point that is often overlooked by content producers. I am not unwilling to spend money on a product. Books, for example; I love books and will happily buy them, even to the point of paying more for nicer versions. But I don't find myself willing to shell out a lot of money for games, or other software. I don't buy that much music or movies. There are many reasons for this (lack of disposable income, for one) but a large part of it is that I don't like the idea of paying for something that I may be unable to use in two years.

For example, the movie industry spent insane amounts of money convincing us that DVDs were the shit. So, we all threw out our VHS tapes and VCRs. Now we're supposed to drop our collections again, buy a $300 BluRay player and replace all of our movies with new, higher-def versions. Or, as another example, look at the average cost of a gaming platform, which we are told is the most awesome thing ever, except that in a year or so we will be told that it now sucks and we must shell out an additional $500 for the newest version of the same old thing.

The industry keeps building the perception that old is outdated, and new is better. This means two things: First, psychologically it becomes easier to justify pirating older media. I can download a free coppy of Diablo II now because Diablo III is about to be released; nobody cares if I pirate Halo because it's outdated; that sort of thing. (Granted, I'd be happier if games older than version X were simply open-sourced, or at least greatly reduced in price - but that's another argument altogether). The second thing is that constant upgrade cycles means money isn't spent where it helps media developers. As far as I can tell, rather than buy new media, people spend all of their disposable money on new platforms (for movies, music, games, etc.) and just pirate the media that goes with it.

Even when the price of entry is lower (Wii, for example) there's a dilemma caused by the constant push to adopt new formats. In my basement, I have a bunch of old Nintendo games, for the original system and for the N64... because I bought these games, does that mean I should have the right to pirate images of the Wii ports to play my old games again? I won't buy the argument that one should be able to freely steal media because it costs too much, but I definitely understand the resentment held towards distributors when they repackage things you already own and try to sell them back to you. This sort of situations rewards the pirates, who always have the newest and latest of everything, and punishes the people that actually supported the content producers in the first place. DRM just compounds that situation, because it is only the pirates that don't have to deal with the DRM.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:25 PM on December 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


I printed it out and made a papercraft steampunk Katamari out of it which I registered under a Creative Commons license. Take that, "Anti-Doctorow!"
posted by mattholomew at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just looking through this, I found it interesting that there appears to be no comment at all from any of the actual card carrying MeFi PC gamers (unless under a different nick, or I missed it).

Probably lost 'em at "Quit liking Steam" though.
posted by First Post at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2008


We're in the first half of the PC vs. Consoles development cycle where the new consoles are more powerful than the average home computer.

In a couple of years, the average PC will be more powerful than the current generation of consoles and more developers will again be unable to resist making games that take advantage of that extra power.

And then a couple years after that, when the PS4, XBOX XTREME, and Nintendo Vagina are released, everyone will say PC games are dead again.
posted by straight at 12:46 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ. There's no way you're going to tune your system well enough to 'save' the amount of time it takes you to read and perform this guide.

You'll learn a great deal about how your operating system works in the process. It's not just spoonfeed. The time spent reading the guide will provide an actual education.

Check out his other guides. His site is a genuine gem.
posted by spacediver at 12:56 PM on December 15, 2008


Trying to charge money for an integer, which is what all software implicitly is, is a losing game in the long run.

I'll remember that next time I want to get a team of 50 designers, artists, writers, and programmers together for a year to build something. "It's just an integer, why do you expect a paycheck?"
posted by Foosnark at 1:06 PM on December 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


For the developer to recover costs, the unspoken assumption in your equation is that 100% of the buying audience all agree on what constitutes "decent quality" and "reasonable cost", and that the buying audience will act in good faith by paying for the product.

No, the unspoken assumption in my equation is that there's some point of price and quality at which most of the buying audience will agree to pay, and that higher prices and lower quality drives increasing numbers of potential buyers away after that point. Combine this with a widespread atmosphere of piracy, and you've got both motive and opportunity not to pay. One of those two is a given with software, and it sure ain't motive, so I'm not really getting why addressing motive through pricing and quality is such a controversial idea.

The idea that "everyone's a cheapskate so no one will pay" is ridiculous. That's not even borne out in piracy itself (how's your seed ratio? how many torrents has your group released? etc), much less in industry. We already have close to total pirate saturation, and yet people still pay, in numbers which are still capable of driving an entire industry. Thus, it makes sense to seek a way to increase the number who pay... and I'm sorry, but high prices combined with poor and just plain annoying software is not going to do it. The idea that added value, reasonable pricing, and decent quality is anathema to software is half the reason why we're in this mess; it's not the solution to the mess.
posted by vorfeed at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2008


There are two sides to this issue,

Sure. There's the side where people want to be paid for the work they've done, and there's the side where people want to take shit for free and make up silly excuses as to why they should do so.

I'd take the latter side more seriously if more people arguing it were offering to spend 20 - 90% of their working week working for free.

Thus why I said "80-90% of gamers will pay rather than pirate", not 100%.

For someone complaining about industry "making shit up" you seem to have a nice line in it yourself.

Doktor Zed: Game designers and publishers can do their own cost-benefit analysis to determine whether implementing and supporting DRM for their products is a profitable investment.

Silly man, don't you know a bunch of game nerds know more about this than people whose living it is to analyse this? Blasphemy!

a robot made out of meat: They face similar problems to other free-software projects, but more intense. Since creating content for an engine is very time consuming and expensive, the easiest bet is online.

I think it's even more than that. There are plenty of programmers happy to noodle around at interesting-to-them code. There are far fewer artists, designers, and so on, willing to give their work away for free (possibly, I suspect, because they are generally rewarded much less well than aforementioned programmers in the first place).

Moreover good games tend to flow from good design, and one thing that free software has a problem with is often good design; a big part of that is because people working for free on a code project are generally uninterested in being told what to do, unless the person telling is some sort of alpha geek who they want to work with.

Artw: If something’s on Steam isn’t it basically DRM’ed to the hilt?

Yes. This is why vorfeed's argument that a publisher doing well out of wii and Steam sales undermines his argument.

looking at major video games vs Linux, Firefox and The Internet isn't a balanced comparison

It's a particularly silly comparison when you consider that Firefox and Linux have both benefitted from companies dumping money into them as loss-leaders for other things they find interesting. If you developed games as a way of selling gaming PCs (for example), you might be comfortable sinking tens or hundreds of millions into making games to inflate your sale, which is a rough analogy for why IBM (for instance) have dumped huge amounts of money and IP into Linux over the years (hiring Ted Tso, JFS, LVM, LVM2, countless other stuff). If you make money out of subscriptions you can give games away (consider MMOs), like RedHat.

If you want to make the games that are currently still the bulk of the market - standalone or small-scale multiplayer games like Halo, Fallout 3, Oblivion, Rock Star, blah blah blah - you need actual sales to make money.

I still buy games, but that's at least partly because of the ordeal it seemingly requires to get any torrented game to work, plus I have a different cash/time ratio than I used to.

I buy games because if a game is good enough to play, it's good enough for the people who wrote it to get paid for their work. I wouldn't be happy if I got to the end of a fortnight and got told, "well, we've decided that we aren't going to pay you because we don't feel like it." Other people deserve the same courtesy.

Probably the biggest horseshit argument for piracy is, "well, games are crap." Oh really? So crap you spend hours downloading them, hours playing through them, and then, "Oh well that wasn't worth paying for, I'll download another."

card carrying MeFi PC gamers (unless under a different nick, or I missed it).

That would be me 8).
posted by rodgerd at 1:09 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


The problem with big game companies is they're caught between markets. If they wanna be mainstream juggernauts, start selling more Wii-style games that appeal to families, who mostly don't buy pirated games and think torrents are found in rivers. If they wanna sell to people who care about game design, they better learn to tolerate piracy and even embrace it as a part of their model.

But the market of "hardcore" gamers who will pay for sub-pixel rendering and light blooms is a dead end. May that market die quickly, and may piracy be hailed as a savior for killing it and the companies that cater to it.

The best new game of the last two years is Dwarf Fortress. ASCII graphics. Donation-driven. The best new game of the two years before that was Puzzle Pirates. Very friendly and creative service-based monetization scheme.

Let's please stop pretending that good game design comes from huge, massively-leveraged organizations. When those companies produce good games, it happens despite their business models and cultures, not because of them.

Good games come from people who love games. They'll make whatever games they can, using whatever models and tools they can find, and get them into the hands of their friends by whatever means they feel like. When they stop being creative and start thinking about house payments, we can only pray that instead of starting big game companies, they all get jobs working for Microsoft's MSOffice division and leave games alone.

Games don't need them. They need Games.
posted by macross city flaneur at 1:13 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


We're in the first half of the PC vs. Consoles development cycle where the new consoles are more powerful than the average home computer.

In a couple of years, the average PC will be more powerful than the current generation of consoles and more developers will again be unable to resist making games that take advantage of that extra power.


If I develop for consoles, I have a few hardware and software configs per console I need to support. I get pervasive, fairly effective DRM virtually no-one who owns a console complains about. Low testing budgets, lower development costs, lower rates of piracy.

If I develop for the PC, I have two major processor architectures (with many minor variations), multiple major operating system variations, two major and multiple minor GPU variations to worry about, and I buy into this whole fight with a higher rate of piracy and a holy jihad against anyone trying to protect themselves from it. Higher costs, lower returns. Why bother? That's what publishers and developers are actually starting to ask themselves. The people claiming that's bullshit are, for the most part, PC gamers who want free shit, with the notable exception of Stardock.

People who think platforms won't die are living in lala land. Plenty of viable platforms have gone titsup then the cost:benefit of developing for them has gone away, and the PC isn't magic.
posted by rodgerd at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Vorfeed: The whole "make better games, cheaper!" shtick is a fairly standard apologia for game pirates. But it is utterly ridiculous. You propose that the games industry make nothing but good games and then sell them all for $20, and piracy will be much less of an issue.

Sadly, there are at least four things wrong with that argument. Which takes some doing since there are only 3 parts to the argument itself.

1) The games industry doesn't deliberately make bad games. There are some practices that do contribute to poor games being released such as aversion to pushing the release data for big titles in order to finish them properly, but even if those practices were eliminated a lot of bad games would get made. Look at movies; do you think that studios deliberately invest $50million dollars to make crap? No, they don't. But a lot of crap gets made anyway. So "make better games" is a stupid argument.

2) Then sell them for $20. Wait... you want them to invest more time (and thus money) into the games and then sell them for much less than they do now? Where are they supposed to make their money? How do propose that they put even more money into developing, say, Diablo 3 and then charge a third as much for the product? They'd have to sell like 4x as many copies just to break even. The economics just don't make any sense at all.

3) Fewer people would pirate! There is little evidence of this. Oh, sure, it's probably inarguable that the cheaper you make something the fewer the total number of people who pirate it, but it is nothing like a steep curve with 0 pirates at $0.99cents. A large percentage of pirates will pirate a game regardless of the price. As was pointed out, World of Goo is a great game with no DRM and $20 and it doesn't appear to have made much of a dent in the number of pirates.

4) The idea that even if ALL of the above were true, it was justify piracy. It would not. I'm not claiming that downloading a game is the moral equivalent of breaking into your local jewelry store and making off with a bunch of diamond earrings, but neither is it morally neutral. Obtaining for free a product that a lot of people worked a lot of hours on as their means of earning a living is not a good modus operandi. Yes, piracy happens. No, it's not like mugging someone. But it isn't something you can justify ether.

Pirates want free shit. They aren't freedom fighters. They are champions of liberty fighting against THE MAN. They want free shit and they'd still want free shit if it was better quality shit sold at a reasonable price. "Free" is still better than "reasonably priced", and so they'd still steal it.
posted by Justinian at 1:17 PM on December 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Trying to charge money for an integer, which is what all software implicitly is, is a losing game in the long run.

For that matter, all music and books could be expressed as an integer too, why should anyone get paid for those?
posted by mattholomew at 1:18 PM on December 15, 2008


i have an idea:

developers build the games, then release demos.

developers set a minimum collective "bid" that they think will cover their costs.

based on their experience with the demos, gamers can pay into an escrow account if they like the game, and attempt to meet the bid.

if gamers meet the threshold, the developers release the game to the world, no strings attached. if they don't, they all get their money back and the game goes in the shitter.


This is called "ransom funding" and has worked pretty well for some indie-produced tabletop pen and paper RPGs.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:21 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are champions of liberty fighting against THE MAN.

I'm trying to get away from correcting myself given it annoys some people, but obviously this shouldn't be AREN'T, champions of liberty. I completely reversed the meaning of that sentence!
posted by Justinian at 1:22 PM on December 15, 2008


No, the unspoken assumption in my equation is that there's some point of price and quality at which most of the buying audience will agree to pay

Do you believe that developers and publishers are so naive that they haven't already done the regression analysis to try to find this pricing "sweet spot", based on demographics and other inputs? They don't just pick a number out of thin air and cross their fingers that people pay up.

There are folks who make a living out of calculating these sorts of numbers, you know.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:22 PM on December 15, 2008


Trying to charge money for an integer, which is what all software implicitly is, is a losing game in the long run.

The point is descriptive, not normative; it's not that you shouldn't expect to be paid (you should), but that you are expecting to be paid in circumstances where you should be well aware of the unlikelihood of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:23 PM on December 15, 2008


This is called "ransom funding" and has worked pretty well for some indie-produced tabletop pen and paper RPGs.

Copying an industry that - by the admission of most of the people involved in it - is dying on it's ass is probably not the most appealing of strategies.
posted by Artw at 1:24 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, the day ONE established entertainment company goes out of business as a direct result of them producing a quality product which they take a loss on do to piracy, I'll start taking their cries for help seriously.
Until then, just look at their salaries.
posted by eparchos at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2008


Copying an industry that - by the admission of most of the people involved in it - is dying on it's ass is probably not the most appealing of strategies.

It's also arguably producing some of the most interesting innovations in its history, to wit Burning Empires and Universalis.

When an "industry" dies, what's left is a worthwhile hobby.
posted by macross city flaneur at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


*on which
posted by eparchos at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2008


The best new game of the last two years is Dwarf Fortress.

I suppose this is true if you are a tax accountant who, in his spare time, enjoys playing with spreadsheets and memorizing the Fibonacci sequence out as far as possible.

I'm not one to pick a "best game" as different types of game serve different purposes. But to pick just one example as a better game than Dwarf Fortress, I'd nominate Portal as one of the best games of the last two years.
posted by Justinian at 1:33 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd nominate Portal as one of the best games of the last two years.

Which was developed by relative unknowns at a company with a relatively experimental approach to both game design and marketing. For which it has frequently been ridiculed.

Would Portal have been greenlit by EA? Over Superman or Madden? Doubtful.

Which raises the question, can a big company not be evil? Hard to say, but precedent shows it's difficult to hold out for more than a decade. I wish Gabe Newell and co all the best, however.
posted by macross city flaneur at 1:41 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


For someone complaining about industry "making shit up" you seem to have a nice line in it yourself.

I have not claimed that, nor anything close to it, anywhere in this thread. The problem isn't that industry "makes shit up", it's that they cling to a pricing and development model which doesn't make sense, and then blame their customers when they refuse to buy.

Yes. This is why vorfeed's argument that a publisher doing well out of wii and Steam sales undermines his argument.

My argument is that price and quality are more important factors than anti-piracy measures. I really do not see how Steam and wii -- i.e. distributors who are selling decent games for less, in a more convenient manner -- refute my argument. Steam sells most of their games for $20, half price compared to the same game in over-the-counter stores, so in what way does Steam's success refute my argument that reasonable, roughly-$20 prices get people to buy? And I especially like how you left off the "and our website" part of that quote; classy move!

Achievement unlocked: Convenient Paraphrase!

The obvious effectiveness of Steam and wii style platforms lies in pricing and convenience, not DRM, especially considering the amount of DRM on games sold elsewhere. I'm not much for DRM, myself, but the idea that it's always going to outweigh price is ridiculous, especially considering that I've said over and over throughout this thread that price is the major problem, here.
posted by vorfeed at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2008


rodgerd said: I buy games because if a game is good enough to play, it's good enough for the people who wrote it to get paid for their work. I wouldn't be happy if I got to the end of a fortnight and got told, "well, we've decided that we aren't going to pay you because we don't feel like it." Other people deserve the same courtesy.

If you weren't intent on selecting a piece of what I said and ignoring the rest, you'd see that I tend to try first, then buy, when it comes to DVDs, so when I said I purchase games partly because torrents don't work easily, I'm saying that I don't follow the same model of try then buy. Yes, the "games are crap" is an absolutely valid argument for anyone who started with an Atari 2600 right through N64 and probably beyond -- I wouldn't know, because I stopped dropping $50-60+ per title for about 90% garbage. Now I tend to choose only the most reliable titles (game of the year, etc.) because I don't have time or money for the rest. I'm sure I'm missing out on a few other gems, but oh well.

Also a PC gamer here. Basically I have a console for Rockband and a PC for the rest.

so crap you spend hours downloading them, hours playing through them, and then, "Oh well that wasn't worth paying for, I'll download another."

Yes, because downloading is like running in a hamster wheel. Oh wait, it's not. Someone can have a dozen torrents running on any titles the person is half-interested in, take ten minutes to check them out when they come in, and toss them if they aren't worth the time. The result is an extreme version of giving your kid three new toys -- where two even if they're pretty good will essentially be ignored. So "value" here is definitely skewed, but yes, that's according to a process that takes next to no effort and no cost. I can't even wrap my head around the fantastical way you're attempting to bolster your point of view here.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:51 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Insightful, but I lost a little bit of respect for the article when he used the "downloaded" number from Mininova.

Do this experiment:
- pick a random torrent on mininova
- note the "downloaded" number on that page
- download the .torrent file, then throw it away to /dev/null
- refresh the page and note that the "downloaded" number has increased by one

Congratulations, you have now downloaded the complete game according to the article.

(If you wonder why this is relevant - there is a lot of cross-site scraping of the .torrent files between the different sites, which inflates the "downloaded" number. The only way of getting accurate download stats is by monitoring the actual tracker.)
posted by ymgve at 1:55 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


So my question is, is piracy killing the game industry, or is it just that the game industry is not making as much money as it thinks that it should?
posted by moonbiter at 1:56 PM on December 15, 2008


Which was developed by relative unknowns at a company with a relatively experimental approach to both game design and marketing. For which it has frequently been ridiculed.

Would Portal have been greenlit by EA? Over Superman or Madden? Doubtful.


Of course, Valve is explicitly called out by the article for being THE MAN.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on December 15, 2008


Pope Guilty writes "The point is descriptive, not normative; it's not that you shouldn't expect to be paid (you should), but that you are expecting to be paid in circumstances where you should be well aware of the unlikelihood of it."

Exactly. Integers are not scarce. However, talent is.
posted by mullingitover at 2:04 PM on December 15, 2008


moonbiter writes "So my question is, is piracy killing the game industry, or is it just that the game industry is not making as much money as it thinks that it should?"

It's killing the industry. This is why there are so few games.
posted by mullingitover at 2:05 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


It’s certainly easier to blame than, say, rising costs and increased competition.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


...and I already got beaten by Kadin2048. Whoops.

Anyway, there is another way of trying to measure the impact of piracy: One console against the other.

Right now, there is no piracy on the PS3, while piracy on the 360 is somewhat common. So, you could take some AAA game released on both consoles, compare the number of copies on each platform with the number of consoles sold. The percentage difference between the PS3 and 360 numbers should show how much piracy hurts the game sales.
posted by ymgve at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then sell them for $20. Wait... you want them to invest more time (and thus money) into the games and then sell them for much less than they do now? Where are they supposed to make their money?

Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End Cost to Make $300,000,000 Cost to Buy 25.94

Grand Theft Auto IV Cost to Make $100,000,000 Cost to Buy 51.79

My only point, as a non-frequent game player is that a consistent and fair pricing plan (like we have w/ DVD's) would certainly encourage me to invest more in this area of entertainment. In my case, the price of games alone keeps me sitting on my wallet.
posted by theroadahead at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2008


It's killing the industry. This is why there are so few games.

The last I checked the number of games was less of an issue than the ratio of quality to garbage.
posted by macross city flaneur at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2008


The games industry doesn't deliberately make bad games, Justinian, I'd like to introduce you to the movie-tie-in platformer category of games, starting with the craptastic Atari 2600 E.T., a game so bad, it ended up in a landfill. There are definetly games made wherein everyone involved knew it was a crap idea, with a crap implementation, but figured they were at the top of the Ponzi scheme.
posted by nomisxid at 2:09 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do you believe that developers and publishers are so naive that they haven't already done the regression analysis to try to find this pricing "sweet spot", based on demographics and other inputs? They don't just pick a number out of thin air and cross their fingers that people pay up.

There are folks who make a living out of calculating these sorts of numbers, you know.


Sure, and those folks all came out with $49.99, a price point which hasn't changed for new games in almost a decade.

Yes, I really do believe that developers and publishers are so naive that they haven't already done the regression analysis to try to find this pricing "sweet spot", mainly because games development and publishing has not significantly changed until very recently, and piracy sure as hell has. Things like Steam are a great start, but the idea that games companies have historically been changing their pricing in response to piracy, instead of simply keeping things the same and demonizing their customers, is not borne out by the facts.
posted by vorfeed at 2:11 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


For example Doktor Zed cited this: "One publisher estimated: '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.'"

I find this fascinating, because if you take this estimate as somewhat accurate, and you plug it into even the most pessimistic numbers given in the article (for example, 650,000 downloads for Fallout 3) then you are looking at 650 x $49.99 = $32,493.50 dollars in piracy damage. Which, while a considerable sum for my own personal finances, doesn't strike me as a great deal of gain on the part of the game companies. Probably not as much as they would spend on developing DRM.

Now, of course, this estimate is probably not absolutely accurate, but it is pretty self-evidently not completely wrong either. So I guess the question is, what is that conversion factor? If not 1,000 to 1, what? Without that, it occurs to me that any numbers about "damages" people are throwing around are simply unreliable.

Also, mullingitover, how many games were released in 2008? And what is the optimal number of games that should have been released?

[I don't really know much about gaming any more since I stopped following it and playing games several years ago. But I find the whole debate surrounding DRM in all of it's digital incarnations interesting.]
posted by moonbiter at 2:17 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Aw, jeebus. "its digital incarnations."
posted by moonbiter at 2:19 PM on December 15, 2008


I'd really like to see a comparison of piracy vs game rentals and their impact on sales. I predict that rental rates for certain games have a drastically larger impact on game sales than piracy. Why else would there be serious talk of making the final boss battle paid content?
posted by mullingitover at 2:22 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


One contention in the article was absolutely ridiculous:

"If I spend $5 million making a game, someone paying $50 doesn’t 'own' it."

Talk about a bullshit statement. How much does Honda spend developing a new Accord? Do I in fact own it when I buy it from the dealer, despite paying only a fraction of that cost? It might cost the publisher of Stephen King's next book $1,000,000 to bring it to market--does that mean that the $34.95 I pay means I don't own that?

I pay for the few games I play, just like I pay for shareware I end up using, or intellectual property I use in my business. But at the same time, I have a friend of a friend who is a middle-level art guy in a big game dev house working on a particular game. He gets paid $150,000 a year for that, plus he will get a very large bonus if the game does well, two or three years salary. That, to me, says that $60 for a game is too fucking much. Mind you, I pay if I play, but nobody is starving at the game development house.
posted by maxwelton at 2:29 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End Cost to Make $300,000,000 Cost to Buy 25.94
Cost per hour of entertainment: about $13

Grand Theft Auto IV Cost to Make $100,000,000 Cost to Buy 51.79
Cost per hour of entertainment: about $0.79

We were pirating games when they cost £3.99 and came on tape from Woolworths. Pricing appears pretty much unrelated to piracy, and cheap pricing is also arguably harmful to quality: witness the iPhone App Store and its 99p jamboree of shite.
posted by bonaldi at 2:33 PM on December 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


straight : We're in the first half of the PC vs. Consoles development cycle where the new consoles are more powerful than the average home computer.

In a couple of years, the average PC will be more powerful than the current generation of consoles and more developers will again be unable to resist making games that take advantage of that extra power.


Maybe, but as someone who was a die hard PC gamer, I have completely given up on the format. I grew tired of constantly fighting with buggy releases, absurdly underestimated system specs, people using readily available cheats for online games, etc.

Console gaming eliminates a lot of that. And while it's certainly true that some console games don't live up to the depth that PC games have offered, I think that there are a lot of people out there like me who are just tired of struggling just to get the game up and running, and appreciate the fact that with a console it's generally a simple matter of just turning it on.

Personally, I don't care if the next generation of PCs are a thousand times more powerful, unless they can offer the same simplicity of getting started gaming, I don't see myself switching back.

Justinian : Pirates want free shit.... They want free shit and they'd still want free shit if it was better quality shit sold at a reasonable price. "Free" is still better than "reasonably priced", and so they'd still steal it.

Very true, but that goes to the definition of 'pirate'. Certainly there are people out there who will always steal it, but I suspect that they are in the minority of people currently engaging in downloading games today.

By way of example; it's trivially easy for me to get a pirated game, but I still generally rent, just because it takes slightly less time, I don't have to burn anything, and I know that some money goes back to the developer. And since most games can be beaten in the rental period, and I spend $7 as opposed to $60, I feel like I'm coming out ahead.

I think that if games were significantly cheaper, people like me who opt to rent would probably buy instead. But I'm a data-point of exactly one, so mileage-may-vary and all that.
posted by quin at 2:39 PM on December 15, 2008


You know, I occasionally look over at my console games and think "I should sit down and play one of those" -- there's some good shit there. Really good. But I just don't want to. I don't want to sit down on the couch with the dog and daylight and living room distractions and play on my tv. It's a nice big LCD with surround sound and all that. But I'd rather sit in my comfy den in a leather swivel chair, put on some big-ass headphones, and play a PC game 1 1/2 feet from the screen in the dark. The last time I really enjoyed playing video games on a television set was probably on an Atari. Another data point.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:51 PM on December 15, 2008


Grand Theft Auto IV Cost to Make $100,000,000 Cost to Buy 51.79
Cost per hour of entertainment: about $0.79


It seriously takes 65 hours to play GTA4? This is a serious question, and if the answer is "yes" I'm going to butt out of here with my tail between my legs. Obviously there's something I'm missing. I watched my nephew play one of the GTA series last xmas, and I couldn't stand more than 3 minutes of the gameplay.

OTOH, I've watched certain movies more than enough times to get the CPHoE well below a dollar.
posted by theroadahead at 2:57 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Doktor Zed: Game designers and publishers can do their own cost-benefit analysis to determine whether implementing and supporting DRM for their products is a profitable investment.

Silly man, don't you know a bunch of game nerds know more about this than people whose living it is to analyse this? Blasphemy!


That's why I linked to an article with a game company's own findings about their experience with DRM and piracy. Electronic Arts' first reaction to their recent ones, by contrast, was to spit out corporate boilerplate PR. Amid all the noise from the anti-DRM crowd over Spore and the latest Command & Conquer, there are plenty of anecdotes from angry paying customers on EA's forums and Amazon comments. These customers typically experience terrible customer service/tech support after installation problems through no fault of their own, e.g. getting locked out of a game after reconfiguring their computers' hardware because SecuROM regards that as too many installations. EA apparently had decided that this is an acceptable cost of doing business.

Of course, we'd all love to know how EA really estimates their revenue lost to piracy on their DRM'ed games, especially when their own flack admits that "every BitTorrent download doesn’t represent a successful copy of a game, let alone a lost sale." And if EA's piracy losses aren't significant, then it looks as though DRM is more likely to be used to curb the growing second-hand games market, which, incidentally, they regard as a "critical situation".
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:07 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's one major thing he's missing: how much it costs to make a high-end game. This is comparable to the cost of a movie; you need 50-80 people working for 18-24 months to make a big-name title for the modern consoles. Or more - how many people worked for how long to build a virtual New York for GTA4?

Nobody is going to spend that kind of time and money making an AAA-level PC exclusive game any more; nobody spends that kind of time and money making a game exclusive to any platform if they can help it. Unless the console's parent corporation is dumping a heavy chunk of change into the developers. You need to break even to survive and make another game; when you expand to having 2-3 teams working in parallel, you have a bit more slack if you can be sure that one team's going to make a game that'll sell well enough to cover a flop.

You get small-team labors of love released as computer games because the distribution is easier. You don't have to pay huge sums of money to get your game rated and certified (go read any small 360 dev's blog and you'll find out how ruinously expensive it is for a three-man team to get their game through the approval process); you can just put it up on the net and start chatting it up here and there. You'll get tons of piracy, and if your game appeals to people who aren't broke eighteen-year-old boys who spent all their money on their graphics card (so, not an FPS whose appeal is mostly the awesome graphics - hi, Crysis!) you might get enough people buying it to break even, or to make money. If you invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars in making it... don't hold your breath.

If nobody is willing to buy these expensive interactive equivalents of empty-headed summer action flicks, then they'll stop being made. Maybe that's better for the medium and the audience - what's the last 'AAA' title you really thought was worth increasingly limited time?

The best value for my gaming money in the past few years was buying Space Giraffe on the 360, which I gladly would've paid more for than Jeff and Giles priced it at. I'm gonna buy it again on my boyfriend's Windows box, mostly to finish paying what it was worth in the first place.
posted by egypturnash at 3:07 PM on December 15, 2008


Okay, as a diehard, card carrying PC gamer (and I suspect there are a few other MeFi's that can vouch for me), here's a short, sweet, plain English take on DRM and piracy -

I don't exactly mind DRM as long as said DRM allows me to play a game without problems. (For example a fresh out of the box Space Rangers 2 would not let me play due to a utility installed on my PC. So I ended using a crack to play it).

Yes, I realize Steam is a DRM laden platform of evil. But I use it (I have somewhere over 95 games in my Steam account right now).

Why?

Because it allows me to play games without a problem. It also cleverly offers several value added bonuses, like event scheduling and matchmaking (the other night, I decided to play a solo runthrough of one of the Left4Dead levels after watching Resident Evil: Degeneration since the movie really made me think of the game. A fellow MeFi found me playing, invited me to play with them and another MeFi, and we had a high old time pwning pubbies. Had Steam not offered such a simple way to find online friends playing and made joining them eady, that fun experience would not have happened). It even keeps me from dealing with patching issues, as it can autopatch games.

In addition, it allows me to avoid having to find that stupid little manual I lost weeks ago to look up the CD key. Yes, this is a real problem for me. I have, in fact, repurchased more than one game via Steam due to this (for example Bioshock, and the Titan Quest releases).

Also, I don't have to juggle a pile of DVD's/CD's every time I want to reinstall a game. I just decided to replay Dark Messiah of Might and Magic (since joy is kicking orcs off cliffs). No pawing through the frighteningly large piles and boxes of discs around here.

Does Steam's DRM infiltrate my system and affect the normal functioning? Nope. The DRM is only there when I play a Steam game.

So those are the salient parts of Steam and DRM for me. As far as Stardock goes, BTW, I have a subscription to their Object Desktop Network and have for years, and I have also purchased a few other products, including a few games.

Do I buy boxed games? Yes, I do. Generally since I am either too impatient to wait for or am unsure that there will be a Steam release. As I mentioned earlier, however, this can be a real burden for me, as with Space Rangers 2. I am currently unable to use any sort of downloadable content in Guitar Hero 3, as I have misplaced the license number. I have scratched disks, and not nearly enough storage space for all this plastic. In addition, I do not live in a place that could be described as a bustling hub of science and technology, and, as such, can also have trouble finding access to purchase the physical media in the first place.

So, in conclusion, and I am sure everyone was waiting for the end of this wall of text, I generally dislike less enlightened DRM when it presumptively treats the legitimate user as a criminal, limits the use of the legitimate user's computer, or prevents a user's full access to the gaming experience based on the presence of physical tokens. I don't mind DRM if it stays out of the way, doesn't break my machine, and might even value add new experiences.
posted by Samizdata at 3:11 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I often purchase games I might not really be interested in owning to support developers that try to do good things, like cross platform releases (as I use Windows, OS X, and Linux in the same house), or flexible DRM (I can actually install a second copy of a game for LAN gaming purposes?) as the only vote that counts is the one you make with your wallet.
posted by Samizdata at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2008


Reading over this thread, I can't help but notice something. We're all talking about big game companies, with a few mentions of steam and whatnot here and there. The recent history of the video game industry, imo, is something like this:
BIG VIDEO GAME COMPANIES!
EA!
EA OM NOM NOM BIG VIDEO GAME COMPANIES!
EA!
EA!
OMGWTF BLIZZARD???
BLIZZARD+EA!!!!
YAY!
(niche companies)

The interesting part, to me, are the niche companies. Recently, a lot of small companies have starting coming up. Primarily starting in wacky things like porting/developing app-type games for cell phones and similar handheld devices, as well as promoting themselves as advertising opportunities for web-based games.

The truly fascinating part, to me, is that we are witnessing the emergence of a unique information-based industry. What does it cost to make a video game? Well, we've got overhead. And... um... electricity? Printing?

So it's relatively cheap to make games, compared to other industries which involve things like manufacturing. Now that the intimidation factor has somewhat worn off, savvy entrepeneurs have started exploring new markets and forgotten markets. Sure, the Video Arcade didn't pan out (as much a loss to American culture as that was) but the Finns want video poker on their Nokias!

As a gamer and a cheapskate, I tend to try and find free games wherever possible. When those don't satisfy, I proceed to cheap games. When those fail, I start to bargain. Do I really think that Games Company X put enough effort into Game X for me to be willing to spend N dollars on it? If the answer is Yes, I buy it. If the answer is No, I pirate it. Generally speaking, the answer is "Well, I've got N dollars spare this month...." for me.

However, when I see a game that intrigues me and is less than 20 dollars, I buy it. If I have the money on me, I buy the sucker and take it home. Now that "take it home" is figuratively speaking, of course, as I am an avid gamer. I am familiar with Direct2drive and steam and whatnot. Therefore, if I am in an impulse buying mood and a game is what I consider a reasonable price (20 bucks for an "I'll probably like it" or 40 for an "I'll DEFINITELY like it" game), I buy it. Immediately.

I'm a pretty heavy-duty gamer, and, as such, the vast majority of my online friends are also gamers. When one of us says "hey dude, you should totally get this game, it's hella!" the rest of us jump on that bandwagon pretty quickly. My "gaming community", as it were, consists of around 10 people. This meant, in real terms, that when Callidus convinced us all to play Team Fortress 2, the makers of TF2 made 200 dollars within a day. Fundamentally, this came down to all of us, individually, saying "Well, even if it sucks, it's only 20 dollars."
That's Steam for you. Since then (TF2 having been my introduction to steam) I have spent probably 60 dollars on steam games. Heck, if I only play your game for a week, 10 dollars is still not much. On the other hand, if you expect me to shell out 50 bucks PLUS a monthly subscription fee (Yes I'm talking to you Blizzard) your game HAS TO BE PERFECT. If it's not, I'm "checking it out", thank you.
At the end of the day, this comes down to my pocketbook. If it didn't, I'd check myself into a clinic.
This is where niche marketing comes in. Clearly, I'm the sort of person who always wants a game at hand. So where do I turn when I'm in the Frankfurt airport? To my cell phone. I download some turn-based strategy game from 1995 far $10 to be applied to my next phone bill.
posted by eparchos at 3:19 PM on December 15, 2008


It seriously takes 65 hours to play GTA4? This is a serious question, and if the answer is "yes" I'm going to butt out of here with my tail between my legs. Obviously there's something I'm missing. I watched my nephew play one of the GTA series last xmas, and I couldn't stand more than 3 minutes of the gameplay.

The very fastest rush-through players did it in 15-30hours. An average gamer actually taking time to enjoy it will easily pass 60 hours. I'm on the final mission, and reckon I've had twice that out of it, easily.

And this is just the first playthrough: there are more things to keep you coming back, including online play, that will see the cphoe drop to fractions of cents.
posted by bonaldi at 3:25 PM on December 15, 2008


Yikes. Thanks, bonaldi; I'm obviously not the intended audience for this post. So as promised,
tail, check
legs, check
door, click
posted by theroadahead at 3:34 PM on December 15, 2008


The best new game of the last two years is Dwarf Fortress. ASCII graphics. Donation-driven. The best new game of the two years before that was Puzzle Pirates. ...

Let's please stop pretending that good game design comes from huge, massively-leveraged organizations.


Who is playing pretend?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:03 PM on December 15, 2008


Can I get Dwarf Fortress on Steam?
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on December 15, 2008


Another former hardcore PC gamer here, now somewhat softer and owning an XBox 360 as well.

One of the blogs I tend to read regularly is Twenty Sided by Seamus Young - he's heavily anti-DRM, or more accurately anti-DRM which limits future ownership and use. Back in September he posted an article which describes three models of DRM (original, Steam-esque and Online Activation): (the meat is below, but the full article is here)
1. The original Model: You buy a disc and install the software wherever you like. As the user, you have all the power. You also have all the responsibility. It’s your job to take are of the disk and whatever accouterments accompany it. If the disk is lost or scratched, it’s your fault and your problem. Buy another one.

2. The Steam Model: Valve has all the power. They decide if you own the game. They decide where you can run it. You can’t sell it, or even give it away. You can’t run it in more than one place at a time. If the Steam servers go down, your game will vanish and you will have nothing. On the other hand, Valve also takes on all the responsibility. Once you register your game, you don’t need to care for it at all. You can throw the disks away. All you need is your login and a ‘net connection. No matter where you go or how many times your computer gets wiped or how often you reinstall or upgrade, Valve will always let you download the game.

3. The Online Activation Model: The publisher - 2kGames or EA - has all the power. They decide when and where you run it, etc. But you bear all the responsibility. You take care of the disc, the manual, and the serial number. If you need to re-install later, the publisher will demand proof that you posses one or all of these objects before granting permission. If you lose the disc or the proof, you lose the ability to play the game.
I prefer situation 1 (at least, where the software included in 1 doesn't screw the rest of your machine), but I'll accept 2 - it does provide some benefit to the user, albeit it with a nasty fishook behind that wriggling worm. Situation 3, on the other hand, goes too far - I skipped Bioshock and Spore and will doubtless skip others because of it.

Although I did pick up On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, which sits somewhere between 2 and 3...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 4:38 PM on December 15, 2008


I'll remember that next time I want to get a team of 50 designers, artists, writers, and programmers together for a year to build something. "It's just an integer, why do you expect a paycheck?"

Not every team expects a paycheck.
posted by Izner Myletze at 5:33 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


another data point: I'm unwilling to shell out for a console (or the accompanying television), and too lazy to jump through hoops for piracy. And I run linux, so running most things involves at least a few hoops, and maybe paying $50 for that super-special version of WINE that's good at handling games. (But I never have to worry about virii! And lots of things actually run a bit faster under Wine than they would under windows, thanks to OS optimizations and lower computational overhead.)

So I mostly play nethack, and did actually take the gargantuan step of paying $20 for a copy of Neverwinter Nights a few months back. (The first one, with the linux support. Would probably buy the second, if they hadn't ditched linux.) I'm pretty sure this makes my opinion about as relevant as a caveman's. Or gives me a valuable outsider perspective...

There's clearly a value in DRM, as it discourages the lazy from piracy. No DRM = no hurdle to piracy => no reason to pay for games. As it is, _some_ DRM is probably necessary to keep people paying for games. People concerned about infecting their PC's with the rampant virii that comes with the piracy scene or the amount of trial-and-error involved in getting the game running.

So DRM doesn't need to be perfect - it just has to keep the price point above 0. The existence of DRM can't push the price point up to $50, because the question of whether or not piracy is worth the effort probably stops being an issue somewhere between 10 and 25 dollars for most people willing to pay for games - beyond that point it's a more traditional economic decision of cost vs. utility than piracy vs. laziness.

I also paid a dollar for Half-Life last month from Steam, but haven't played it because I couldn't get it to work. Steam worries me. When it's gone (and there's no reason to think it is immortal), a significant amount of IP will likely vanish with it.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:43 PM on December 15, 2008


All the people talking about small games, Portal, etc... thats fine, but that leaves out an entire set of games that just can't be developed with a small team.

Portal is a bad example, since they are really only creating content -- it relies on the engine developed by Valve and supported by Steam's DRM system --- and the licensing revenues.

So one answer is to develop and license a game engine as one product, and create content as another product. You do see a lot more of that these days, and it's a good thing (especially since it really doesn't make sense to have to build a new physics engine, graphics layer, etc every time you want a new game).

But this isn't the solution for all games, and it's pretty clear that big, expensive games still sell well (GTA4, Halo3, Gears of War, etc).

Of course, these are all console games. The PC industry for large games --- well, it may be doomed. But I'm OK with that --- PCs are increasingly irrelevant for gaming, and I think that trend will only continue.

Now that console games can use keyboard, etc the control argument is going away, and that was the last big one. (I use a keyboard in several 360 games). And new control schemes are getting better (like voice --- Tom Clancy's EndWar has a great voice command system, the first truly useful one I've seen in a game).

So, and this isn't exactly an original point, I'm guessing we'll see the Big Titles relegated to consoles, with PCs being the platform of choice for casual games (online, ad-supported games). Sure, you can pirate console games, but it's a lot more effort than porting a PC game, and it discourages enough people to be worth it. Plus, it's really a win for publishers, since testing and debugging 2-3 consoles is way easier than supporting N-million possible PC configurations.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:44 PM on December 15, 2008



Haven't paid for a game in a decade (used to work in the industry), but with Steam (lesser evil) I have, Orange Box, and 99c half-life. The fact that it is as easy as pirating, ie, click a button to download and install, then click a button to play, makes it fine to pay for it. I do not want a box, nor a DVD, and all that junk.

But it'd be nicer to know in advance which games with run in CrossOver/OsX like OrangeBox, then I would be happy to buy random games to try. Worse is when Demos run, but the full game does not.
posted by lundman at 5:49 PM on December 15, 2008


Most of the people I know have gaming PCs. We may start getting a lot more ports, but PC gaming is not going anywhere anytime soon.
posted by archagon at 6:26 PM on December 15, 2008


With regards to the whole issue of torrent use, I thought this was interesting: "According to Envisional, a web monitoring company, Australians are responsible for 15.6 percent of all online TV piracy, bested only by Britain, which accounts for 38.4 percent. The US lags behind in third position at 7.3 percent."

This article says that China started releasing DVD's for cheap shortly after a movie's theater opening, in the hopes of curbing piracy. Selling your product for less is definitely one way to curb piracy, which would apply to gaming as well. Some people want the box.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:23 PM on December 15, 2008


Wait, tv "piracy"? Downloading the stuff you would otherwise get for free if you had a tv? Or, excuse me, get as part of your cable package, if it's not on a broadcast station. And this, I take it, because I watch it commercial-free? Forgetting TIVO and more archaic methods of ad avoidance such as fast-forward.

I'm happy to pay for movies I like, but a tv show must truly rock before I buy it on DVD (I have sets from, I think, six shows) and I find very little morally compelling claim to anti-piracy when it comes to tv of all things. I mean the claim at least has to make internally consistent sense. Is it my duty to watch advertisements? These people are living in a dream world.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:31 PM on December 15, 2008


Selling your product for less is definitely one way to curb piracy, which would apply to gaming as well. Some people want the box.
There's quite a lot of anecdota and linkage in this thread that says it's really not "definitely" a way to curb piracy.

TV is a good example -- it doesn't matter how cheap it is, some people just want to see shows they've missed or want something to watch when there's nothing on. A DVD boxset has little appeal, especially when you can just download, watch and delete. Even $0 wouldn't be an attractive price to these guys, unless it could also be delivered to yr door at any hour within 30 minutes.
posted by bonaldi at 7:33 PM on December 15, 2008


Eh, well. There's "stuff I just want to catch up on" and stuff I love, which I buy. The same thing goes for movies. The difference is quality. No question.

It's not that different from reading a book from the library as opposed to buying it. There are a lot of books that are perfect library fare, and others I want to own. Sometimes those in the first category end up in the second. But yeah, lots I really have no wish to own, but I do want to read/watch them. So for me, pirating completely kills rental businesses for me. But not DVD stores.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:41 PM on December 15, 2008


By this metric you only love six shows, then. I don't think that'd be enough to keep a DVD store going. And for the rentals, the price to beat is $0. Since you don't love the shows you'd rent, quality isn't going to matter that much. So, for the show makers: no DVD revenue, no rental revenue, nothing. Except for six shows.

This is why the TV companies think of it as "piracy".
posted by bonaldi at 7:59 PM on December 15, 2008


Another massive value-add from Steam is for anti-cheating stuff in online play. If you get detected by the countermeasures, you lose your copy of the game a few days later (keeps you from knowing what tripped it unless you work extremely slowly). It's super effective! You never ever see cheating except during the occasional free signup weekends. Instituting artificial scarcity is extremely useful in this case.

For non-online Steam games, there's nothing preventing you from pirating them, you can just strip the generic DRM and don't have to crack it all over again for every release. I pirated Portal and later bought the Orange Box just to play TF2 online.
posted by blasdelf at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2008


"Some guy I know" uses rental places to get a pile of movies, rip them, and then watch them over the course of six months before deleting them. Everybody's happy, except maybe the law.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:48 PM on December 15, 2008


There's quite a lot of anecdota and linkage in this thread that says it's really not "definitely" a way to curb piracy.

To the extent that there will always be a percentage of people who would normally pay for the game if it were cheaper whether to have a reliable copy or just because they'd like to have the box, it does. But people who just want the free download are of course not going to be convinced.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:50 PM on December 15, 2008


To the extent that there will always be a percentage of people who would normally pay for the game if it were cheaper ...
These people don't really exist, in any sort of number that matters. Games firms have done their sums on that bit. If there were more money to be made at a lower price point, they'd be pricing accordingly. Boxes just aren't that big a fetish.

Even if they were, the question that matters is "Is the number of people who like boxes but balk at the price large enough to make up for the lost revenue from cutting the price?". And the answer is "no".

Price is about as relevant to game piracy as it is to music piracy. The real issue is the breakdown of business models in a world where it's now partly scarcity economics as usual (ie buying programmers food and paying for recording studios) but partly uncharted post-scarcity waters (unlimited, perfect, copying of games/music/movies).
posted by bonaldi at 9:07 PM on December 15, 2008


Other things that might cause low PC game sales figures:

1. A lot of (if not most) of those 'gaming PCs' are installed in businesses. First of all, remember that many expensive computers normally include decent graphics accelerators. Most $1500 laptops probably count as 'gaming' computers, and there's a fair number of those in the hands of graphics designers, engineers, middle management, etc. Not to mention bosses who want overly powerful computers for ego stroking, any computer bought for any sort of 3D work whatsoever, anything that needs an enhanced video card for any other reason, etc.

2. There's a lot of PC gamers who play one game and one game only and won't touch anything else. Usually, it's WoW. Sometimes it's counterstrike or something else. The console has a few people like that (mostly in Halo and Gears of War) but not many.

3. PC gamers commit to games and spend more time on any individual game while console players bounce around a bit. This is partly due to the incredible hassle of installing any given game, optimizing it, making it work, etc. It can be hours of work just to even try something. Hell, it took me like three hours just to get Mass Effect to run (the DRM didn't like a DVD-movie related process I had running in the background.) I have a couple of games that I picked up cheap but never even got around to installing, just because even trying something is such a pain in the ass. I don't pirate, but even if I did, I doubt I'd play any more games than I do now - simply because it isn't worth the effort for something I don't really, really want to play a whole hell of a lot. At that point, the money can be incidental.

4. Partly because of (2), PC gamers have a very low tolerance for crappy games. Even if installation wasn't a hassle, we're often playing with mods, or still playing a slightly older game that has more depth and a still lively community, or whatever. Many console games are of the type you simply play through once or twice and then never touch again, and PC gamers often ignore those (for one thing, there's no rentals and no resale market.) A lot of games that would make good money on a console from uninformed consumers, people seeking variety, or rentals will simply crash and burn on the PC (sometimes in the most literal sense, since those kind of games also never seem to get patched.) The negative aspect of this is that PC gamers are also notorious for letting good but unusual games bite the dust.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:24 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just looking through this, I found it interesting that there appears to be no comment at all from any of the actual card carrying MeFi PC gamers (unless under a different nick, or I missed it).

Probably lost 'em at "Quit liking Steam" though.


Well, I'd pretty much just echo what Samizdata said above, about Steam. I really hated it early on, as I still loathe technologies like Securom and the much-dreaded Starforce, but there is a difference here. Steam is a massive value-add for users in terms of community and portability and automatic patches, among other things, as well as being a DRM tool for publishers. Like Samizdata says, it doesn't fuck with my system in any way. It just protects the games. And even so, like any other DRM, it can be cracked. You can find pirate versions of any Valve game just as easily as any other.

Steam has downsides, definitely -- the way it wants to verify before launching offline games, say, or the way that it captures usage information in aggregate without really asking (although I assume it says something in the inevitably-unread EULA), the fact that it sucks up RAM like an automated RAM-sucking machine -- but it's really the way forward for publishers, and on balance is a boon for gamers. The way in which companies like id have put their entire catalog up on the service shows that some of the game development companies get that.

As far as the article itself goes, I read it last night. I think the conclusions are, if not unassailable, at least reasonable, for the most part.

What is missed, I think, is even though it's not at all unusual for adults to be bigtime gamers these days, a very significant portion of the user base for video games is still kids and university-age students, the very people who have the most technical chops and the least money to spend, and most likely to get a thrill out of fucking The Man out of a few bucks. That's not going to change.

Anyway, I was talking about Steam. I think Valve has the best take on the whole DRM issue, the best toolset (including their recent Steamworks tools, which allows any developer to take advantage of their patching/versioning/achievements/community platform for their games), the best online-delivery system for game content, and, arguably, some of the best games out there, all based on understanding how people play games and focusing on playability over spectacle and game design over pushing engine technology envelopes, not by trying to force gamers to jump through hoops.

Games for Windows Dead Live is a bad joke by comparison.

Yes, I am an unrepentant Valve fanboy. And as long as they keep doing what they've been doing for the past few years -- making games like the Half-life series, Portal, TF2, L4D, and focusing laserlike on what makes games fun -- I'll continue to be one.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:08 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


PC gamers commit to games and spend more time on any individual game while console players bounce around a bit. This is partly due to the incredible hassle of installing any given game, optimizing it, making it work, etc. It can be hours of work just to even try something.

You know what, I call bullshit. I've been a PC gamer most of my life; while I've owned consoles, the vast majority of the gaming that I've done has been on PC. And I have, in all that time, only once run into the "OMG I MUST SPEND HOURS GETTING THIS GAME TO WORK" nonsense that I hear about time and again. I've had 386's, 486's, Pentiums, Celerons, you fucking name the PC hardware and I've probably gamed on it. And only once- when I couldn't get Tropico to run out of the box and had to download and install a patch- have I ever had any issue greater than deciding which other game to uninstall because I'm low on HD space. I hear this nonsense out of "PC GAMING IS DEAD HURR" types all the damn time, and it reminds me of Windows fanboys who insist that there's no games on Apple computers or that all Apple mice have one button; you don't know what you're talking about, and you're repeating the same platform warrior horseshit that your platform warrior friends pass around to make yourselves feel good about yourselves not because you've done anything worth taking pride in, but because you prefer a particular platform to play games on.

Grow the fuck up and stop making it out like PC gaming isn't five-nines plug and play; unless you're trying to run games on some OS you yourself wrote that runs on hardware you built from twigs and old tires, most games will cheerfully install easily and run just fine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:45 PM on December 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


By this metric you only love six shows, then. I don't think that'd be enough to keep a DVD store going.

Yeah, six shows, and about 200 movies. Am I having trouble writing tonight or are people having trouble reading? Good night.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:17 PM on December 15, 2008


This article pricked something in my psyche, because I think this guy is missing an essential point. I don't know if I can properly put this into words (in fact I'm sure someone else has done a better job elsewhere), but I paid for my metafilter account and I'm 'bout ta focken use it.

Let's start with the idea that modern media is the driving engine in our culture. Games, movies, music, books, blogs, essays, magazines, digital photography, and many other forms of media subject to electronic distribution are the soul of our culture. We do not carve shit on stone temple walls, because we have a much, much better medium in our culture. It's a medium that multiplies the effectiveness and productivity of the old mediums by orders of thousands, maybe millions (if we're talking math a CPU power). We have chosen to use this medium precisely because of how it empowers us.

The current scale of piracy, whether you're for or against it, is the expression of that potential against what the market is willing/able to accommodate. If you stick to consoles, then you've just spent a lot of money on what you could have received for free, and you're limited to the inflexibility of the console. That's going to date your experience and make it obsolete, eventually. While in the meantime, there are people working in PC environments to crack the DRM controls, build emulators, and create systems that will allow those games to be played in 20 years, or an even shorter period of time, if you like. The original Atari, Sega, and Nintendo games are already de facto in the public domain, and nobody, least of all the companies involved, seem to mind. Why isn't Nintendo screaming rape about the way that I can play Super Mario Brothers with a USB controller right here on my PC? And you know what? I have Morrowind here too. I'll fire that bad boy up and play it any time I want. It's huge and there are gajillions of mods and the fact of the matter is I'll never have to play another game in my life so long as there's an active community surrounding it. Hell, Quake and Doom are the same deal.

These things aren't just old titles. They're part of our social fabric now, whether the gaming companies like it or not. There's already enough old, obsolete stuff out there, and things moving into obsolescence, that if you never wanted to buy another game (movie, song, TV show) again, you would still have an unending supply of entertainment at your disposal.

And god, let's not even talk about how developing cultures are starting to appropriate this stuff. Thailand has been ripping off the Japanese horror movie culture for the last 5 years and making a pretty mint, and they've done a pretty good job. Where I live, in Beijing, cock rock is alive and well. Counterstrike, oh my god, how many times have you walked into a net cafe and seen migrant kids sitting there banging away at each other. Net bars in China are just neighborhood LAN parties, and they're huge huge huge business.

In places without the legal controls to stop people from pirating, or in the case of media that's so old nobody wants to bother with the lawyer fees, you see these incredibly innovative businesses and derivations popping up (chipcore anyone?) and creating new opportunities for money to be made.

People have this power at their fingertips, and they will use it, whether the copyright holders like it or not. And what people will do with this power is - create communities that are potential new markets. He mentions in his article that many video game companies acknowledge it's impossible to prevent piracy and simply aim to prevent zero-day piracy. I think that's the right idea, but I also think that if you try to tell your consumers to take the game as-is and use it as-is, you're about the stupidest fucker in the market, and you're going to miss a lot of opportunities. The really interesting thing is that with Morrowind, Bethesda did not purchase and sell mods created by its users with the construction set they packaged with the damn thing. Apple and its developer apps for the iPhone have the right idea, but that's still too limited. Forget the piracy - buy back what your fans create and integrate it into your product. Treat your products as on-going investments. And make them affordable to as many people as you can, or you'll miss out on everything the fans can contribute to your business model.

A new game is only worth a big fuckoff $50 price tag so long as it's the newest greatest bestest thing that I've never seen before. Most of the profit in movies and games comes at their first release, right? So once the novelty is gone, make it cheap. Don't just accept that there is a long tail, build one. Charge $100 for a new game that maxes out the latest console machinery, because really, you put in all that time building the biggest and the best, and I think that's what it's worth. I won't buy that because I can't afford it, but some people will, especially if you learn to take your old games and build a community with them. And hell, I will buy it maybe once every year or so, 'cause c'mon, having the best new flashiest game and showing it off to my friends is fun, and having that exclusivity is part of what helps communities form around games. Game publishers need to let their old games out of the closet, invest some money in setting up fan communities, and just plain old put their stuff in the public domain after 5 years or so so that they can keep making money off of continued development for the hits. And that's all there is to it. Anything else, given the power of computer technology and the developing world's need for cheap entertainment, and you're just begging to get pirated.

Computers were a paradigm change. Media distribution is possible anywhere there are networks now, and the cost is already negligible, and keeps going down. The only relatively finite resource now is human time. The entire digital media market will have to reorganize itself around this concept and learn to charge appropriately for it. Slowly that is happening, but the limiting factor, as I see it, is human time again. It takes a few decades for cultures to come around to new economic paradigms, especially if they have substantial vested interests in the old ones. No culture is more heavily invested in traditional media distribution than the United States. In China they just choose to ignore the rules the developed world has laid out for them, because here it doesn't really matter either way - this is an economy vested in the production of physical goods at the lowest possible price. Here, the vested interest is in finding more uses for all this stuff. If piracy means we'll sell more DVD players, hell yeah, burn up a million copies of Iron Man. This is the future of media distribution, and all media companies, gamers included, are going to have to find ways to capitalize on it.

What's heartening to remember is that epics have always been written, and that in printed media, which found its happy mean for time vs. return a few hundred years ago, it was vastly harder to write an epic, get paid for it, and keep track of piracy than it is now. The sheer amount of output will only go up in the coming decades, and it will find new ways of selling itself. Our grandkids will play Mario too, and that's something that makes it easier for me to sleep at night.
posted by saysthis at 2:21 AM on December 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


3. PC gamers commit to games and spend more time on any individual game while console players bounce around a bit.

Not really sure about this. I do all my gaming on my PC, and have been downloading with impunity, flitting from one to the next like a hyperactive hummingbird. I have yet to clear any of them. Sometimes I'm downloading new games as I'm playing others. The variety of material out there enables me to "bounce around" a great deal.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:49 AM on December 16, 2008


A new game is only worth a big fuckoff $50 price tag so long as it's the newest greatest bestest thing that I've never seen before.

I heartily agree. I used to download all my games (over dialup, yay) because there weren't any nearby stores: Now that I'm in a larger city I can walk down to MediaMarkt and pick up some bargain-bin deals. (BioShock for 10€? Count me in.)

But there's no way I'm going to pay 60€ for a game, not even something as cool as Left 4 Dead. If I really want to play it, I can download it- or I can wait a few years, by which time the game, as well as the hardware that can run it, is cheaper.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:12 AM on December 16, 2008


And I have, in all that time, only once run into the "OMG I MUST SPEND HOURS GETTING THIS GAME TO WORK" nonsense that I hear about time and again.

how fortunate for you - because i have a usb dvd drive, the copy protection on any dvd game i have hangs it up and i end up having to get a cracked exe from gamecopyworld

no, it doesn't take hours - but as a legitimate customer, why should i be dependent on game crackers in order to run the game i bought?

and although i've never experienced real horror stories, the webboards of new games are invariably full of people who have spent hours trying to get their games to work - or who get them working and discover that they're a buggy crashy piece of crap that's pretty much a beta in all but name

I hear this nonsense out of "PC GAMING IS DEAD HURR" types all the damn time

the shrinkage in retail shelf space speaks for itself - it's probably not going to die, but it's not ever going to be what it was 10 years ago
posted by pyramid termite at 7:45 AM on December 16, 2008


PC gamers commit to games and spend more time on any individual game while console players bounce around a bit. This is partly due to the incredible hassle of installing any given game, optimizing it, making it work, etc. It can be hours of work just to even try something.

Pope Guilty already responded to this, but I'll add - complete and total bullshit. I'm seriously straining my memory to think of any game that didn't install and play straight away in my past 10 years of PC gaming. Having to mess around with autoexec.bat and config.sys to get your memory configuration sorted out went out with Windows95. As PG said, PC gaming is (and has been for a long, long time) five-9s plug and play.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:03 AM on December 16, 2008


it reminds me of Windows fanboys who insist that there's no games on Apple computers or that all Apple mice have one button

That's not true! You can run Windows games! And use a PC mouse!

(or that multitouch blob attrocity thing, if that's really what floats your boat)
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2008


This is partly due to the incredible hassle of installing any given game, optimizing it, making it work, etc. It can be hours of work just to even try something.

Possibly downloading everything off of Steam means I avoid a lot of this?

I did have to switch the graphics on Deus Ex to OpenGL before it would work properly though.

(BTW, it's interesting to see that Eidos are hoping to sell more of Deus Ex 3 by removing every single aspect that would have meant I might buy it. Oh well, their call. )
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on December 16, 2008


Deus Ex 3?! But am I to understand from your comment that it will be more of what we found in 2 and less of what was there in the original? Cause man, what a letdown.

Agree with others on the most recent two points: a bit of tweaking (update those drivers if you dare) is not a ton of work to get a game to work, and while there may be some single-game PC players of the MMORG stripe, most I think are far from it. Hell, I tend to return to old favourites if even to play a level I'm fond of (in Stronghold, or Homeworld, for example, nevermind an occasional game of Civ IV) -- that's beside whatever "new" thing (usually 1-2 years old but still) I'm playing. Currently The Witcher. Before that I'd gone back to the original Fable because I'd never finished it, having gotten bored and wandered off to play or do something else.

There have been a couple of tweak-heavy games, though. Despite Myth II: Soulblighter working like a charm without any trouble, I recall something (an expansion?) requiring a ridiculous amount of messing around. And of course Morrowind needed a little more than many wanted to give, though it rewarded those who did.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2008


Yeah. I just picked up Deus Ex on advisal from people here (and the additional advice to avoid the sequel) , and it’s a fantastic game that wears it’s age well – but I can’t help wanting to play something similar but with modern graphics and physics, and maybe better voice acting. So when I hear about 3 I’m pretty happy, until I read a Preview where some Eidos type explains that the original was “too slow” and “more of a simulation than a game” and that the new one will be much better because it will have boss fights.

Fuck… that.
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2008


I read a Preview where some Eidos type explains that the original was “too slow” and “more of a simulation than a game” and that the new one will be much better because it will have boss fights.

Fuck… that.


I know it's not your job, but somebody should make exactly the game you're thinking of, and if you got the time...if you don't I understand, but hell, I bet you if you made it and sent it to them, they'd option you on the expansion pack they make out of it. I always hated boss fights.
posted by saysthis at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2008


Not snarking, btw, I just don't have the time to do this myself. Wish I did...
posted by saysthis at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2008


Sadly the days when my "hey, what if I made an awesome game?" daydreaming could ever come to anything are long behind me, and I have become a humble web dev, albiet one who writes comics on the side.

And we will get on-rails games punctyuated with bossfights forever, because in the words of Warren Ellis "This Is What They Want". That's right, the soulless zombie fuck face from Eidos is not at fault, it's actually YOU the consumer that demands these things and dooms Deus Ex 3 to being an identikit clone of every other FPS which will quickly fade into obscurity.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2008


I know it's not your job, but somebody should make exactly the game you're thinking of, and if you got the time...if you don't I understand, but hell, I bet you if you made it and sent it to them, they'd option you on the expansion pack they make out of it. I always hated boss fights.

Ooooh, there's a wicked idea for a game. I call it "Boss Fight". It's just a string of bosses, one after another. Then, to break things up a little, every once in awhile you'd face a... a, uh... a SUPERBOSS. Yeah, that's it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:20 PM on December 16, 2008


I’d suggest a game where cutscenes outweight actual gameplay, but the makers of Metal Gear Solid beat me to it.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on December 16, 2008


Hmm, or a movie with more slo-mo than regular speed. Oh wait, Mission Impossible 2.

Artw -- have you played Max Payne? It's not exactly Deus Ex, but it is pretty, ah, Excellent.

Ugh. It's been a long day.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:34 PM on December 16, 2008


I've avoided it on the grounds that it looks kind of moronic and hateful - am I wrong in that?
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on December 16, 2008


Hmm. Hmmmm. No, I can't say I found it either moronic or hateful. I mean, "moronic" is pretty subjective. You have to appreciate that it is over the top noir. That being said, well-written over the top noir. To the point where I wanted to grab paper and scribble down some lines they were so stupendously magnificently over the top. I mean, the game features a pair of mobsters called the Finito Brothers, capiech?

Hateful, no, I don't think so. Very violent, yes. And somewhat ruthlessly so, but I wouldn't use the word hateful. At times freaky and it certainly glamourizes the violence (go slo-mo for Matrix-like moves while firing twin firearms of choice) but that being said, it basically re-receates the famous bank scene from The Matrix, does it with the free input of the player, and does it well.

I'd call it a masterpiece fps, really. And I'm just not that into fps's.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:42 PM on December 16, 2008


I'll take that strongly into consideration - MeFi has yet to fail me on games recomendations.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on December 16, 2008


Well I hardly represent the hive mind, but it's bargain bin material for some time now so you won't blow much money to find out if you'd agree.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:11 PM on December 16, 2008


"Ooooh, there's a wicked idea for a game. I call it "Boss Fight". It's just a string of bosses, one after another. Then, to break things up a little, every once in awhile you'd face a... a, uh... a SUPERBOSS. Yeah, that's it."

Am I the only one who thinks this would be seriously awesome?
posted by archagon at 8:19 PM on December 16, 2008


Hikoza Ohkubo thoght that would be seriously awesome, so he wrote WARNING FOREVER.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:33 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Warning Forever is brilliant.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:32 PM on December 16, 2008


Doctor Zed said something that's now way upthread that I think bears repeating: there's a fair amount of evidence suggesting that DRM is less about preventing piracy, than it is about eliminating the secondary market.

At least by some companies' own admission (via the figures that have been mentioned previously), DRM doesn't make sense as an anti-piracy measure. It costs way too much for the people it actually converts from pirates into buyers, because most people who are pirating (for whatever reason) aren't going to shell out money in any event, and it almost always ends up getting bypassed anyway. There are enough cracked DRMed games up on Bittorrent to amply demonstrate that it's a speed-bump, at best, to people who want free games.

But it is a near-total elimination of the secondary market, depending on how it's implemented. While most DRM is a crappy solution to the piracy issue, it's an extremely effective "solution" to the resale "problem," if you are a company that views resale as a problem in need of an iron-fisted solution.

It's here where I think console DRM diverges from PC-based DRM schemes like Steam, or limited-activation systems; at least with console games, there's typically no per-console or per-account lock (although as more console games move to an online-download instead of disc-based format this may change dramatically) and it's quite common to pick up used console games. When I was younger, I used to regularly factor the resale value of a game into the purchase price; I'm sure I'm not the only one. And I used to regularly sit on my wallet until a game came up used rather than purchasing it brand new.

The PC DRM schemes currently in use make a lot more sense if you analyze them as anti-resale tools rather than strictly as anti-piracy ones. Without assuming ridiculous pirates-to-buyers conversion rates, I can't see how paying the big bucks that DRM systems almost certainly cost make sense. But converting a secondary-market buyer to a primary-market buyer seems like a much easier task: unlike the pirate, who isn't prepared to pay anything, the secondary-market buyer at least has their wallet out -- they're just looking to pay less. It's here where I suspect the sales pitch for DRM systems starts to win over the hearts and minds of executives.

To me at least, while preventing piracy is a reasonable (perhaps even noble) goal, restricting secondary sales is deeply offensive. And that's why, although I have no real issue buying disc-bound console games with transparent or invisible copy-discouragement systems, I've never wanted much to do with Steam or similar systems that are openly hostile to resale.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:35 AM on December 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd be a little more upset about the demise of the used PC game market if the price of new PC games didn't drop so much faster than the console versions.

For instance, right now on Amazon, the Windows version of Fallout 3 is $50 and the XBox version is $60. A small handful of PC games hold on to higher prices for a long time (hi there, Diablo II), but unless Fallout 3 turns out to be one of those, it'll hit $20 before the XBox version hits $40, and, by then it'll be worth far more than the XBox version because there will be a ton of mods and other user content available for the PC version. If you waited a year or two to play Oblivion on the PC and added the best user content, you got a game that is probably 10x better than the console version.

Not much comfort if you were on the supply side of the used market (buying brand new games and then selling them when you were done), though.
posted by straight at 11:28 AM on December 17, 2008


Heh. You forgot the "copying them" step.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2008


Ooooh, there's a wicked idea for a game. I call it "Boss Fight"


Something like Shadow of the Colossus?
posted by dunkadunc at 1:29 PM on December 17, 2008


Heh. I was kidding, because of course an endless stream of same-strength foes of any calibre turn the infrequent, stronger foes into the new "bosses", but that's a good call, dunkadunc. SofC is definitely a distinctive series of "bosses". And Warning Forever looks interesting. Will have to check it out.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:42 PM on December 17, 2008


I'm considering getting a Playstation just for SoTC and Metal Gear Solid 3.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:43 PM on December 17, 2008


But it is a near-total elimination of the secondary market,

Yep,

Epic Games president Mike Capps had this to say about the used game market in the U.S.:
The secondary market is a huge issue in the United States. Our primary retailer makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales, and so you’re starting to see games taking proactive steps toward that by… if you buy the retail version you get the unlock code.

“I’ve talked to some developers who are saying ‘If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free’. We don’t make any money when someone rents it, and we don’t make any money when someone buys it used - way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it.”


From here.
posted by Tenuki at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2008


Ubisoft releasing Grey's Anatomy game in March - That's a surefire winner.
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on December 17, 2008


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