Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
 
Pirates complaining about piracy

Game Dev Tycoon is an indie game that costs only $7.99 in the Windows app store, and is DRM-free. A free demo is also available. Nevertheless Green Heart Games determined that only 6.4% of the players on release day had bought the game legitimately, the other 93.6% were playing a pirated copy. So they struck back and put a slightly modified "cracked" version of the game on torrent. In that version your career as game development tycoon ends in ruin, because of simulated piracy.

The funniest thing about the story is that the people playing the pirated version of the game were then going to the official forums to complain about piracy in the game. You gotta love the irony!

Comments:
Best story I've read all year. I'll be buying their game in support, they deserve it.
 
It's not piracy if the devs uploaded the game for people to download.
 
Of course it still is piracy. Just because the pirates fell for a honeypot operation doesn't change the fact that they deliberately searched and downloaded a file marked "Game Dev Tycoon CRACKED VERSION".
 
Great story and the move seems to have worked out well for the indie devs because they are getting a tonne of positive publicity.

This can be a risky strategy though. Wasn't there a similar case a few years ago where a game got a lot of bad publicity for bugs when the bugs were actually deliberately put into pirated copies of the game.
 
Arkham Asylum had a similar copy protection". That might upset the pirates, but to me it sounds like legitimate defense.
 
Sure it's a legitimate defense, as long as the paying customers aren't affected I have no problem whatsoever with it. :)

I'm almost tempted to buy Game Dev Tycoon just because of this story. But I've got enough to play at the moment at least.
 
That's about as good as the people who call the cops to complain that the hooker stole their cocaine money.

 
Almost sounds too good to be true, especially the part with the pirates complaining and not getting the irony. Some elaborate and creative kind of advertising maybe?

Also: Aren't there some country where the behaviour of the programmers would fall under aiding (or triggering) a criminal offense or something? Not sure how to phrase the crime-type in english ;)
 
$7.99? There goes their lame excuse about piracy being justified due to high game prices. That is the same price as a budget spectrum or c64 game in 1985.

I am staggered that only 6% paid for it. I will enjoy playing my tiny violin for these guys when "always on drm" becomes a reality across the board.
 
As far as I know, no legitimate consumers were affected by this.

Therefore I'm cool with it.
 
Amusing. This is a pretty clever form of DRM, and one of the only ones I approve of, seeing as it doesn't bother regular customers.
 
It's funny.

I bought a copy, and it's a pretty addictive game for $8. Even without piracy as a major issue, I still tend to end up losing my shirt. In the universe of the game, sequels are not rewarded as heavily as they apparently are in the real world. My best performance led to $32 million in the bank, and that got slowly drained off by low performing/high cost big budget games.
 
It's obviously a tongue-in-cheek bit of exaggeration, given that piracy can actually ruin you very quickly in-game, whereas in the real world you might notice that the pirate bay's current most-pirated games include Bioshock Infinite, Skyrim, Far Cry 3 and other games which I think will probably survive what is likely the highest piracy in the world.

Not to mention the games which achieved personal record-breaking sales AFTER posting their own games to the pirate bay with a note asking that if you like it, please chuck some money their way.

There's more at play than pirated copy = lost sale, that assertion has been continually disproved so often it's boring and frustrating to see people still clinging to it as an easy excuse for why they fail so hard.

But as a tongue-in-cheek joke? My God, I saw an article which linked some of the pirate responses which displayed side-splittingly hilarious levels of irony. "I'm getting raped by piracy! Is there some kind of DRM I can research?"

It's a great joke, but just like any joke, you have to be careful about the underlying basis being taken for granted.
 
There's more at play than pirated copy = lost sale, that assertion has been continually disproved so often it's boring and frustrating to see people still clinging to it as an easy excuse for why they fail so hard.

This is one of lamest and most frequently used argument by pirates. Just because 1 pirated copy is not equal to 1 lost sale, it doesn't follow that a million pirated copies mean no lost sales at all. Even if it is just 0.1 or 0.2 lost sales per pirated copy (although I would personally suspect the numbers are a bit higher), a 93.6% piracy rate can ruin any game studio.

The sad thing is that the pirate will thus assure that the game studios that make games without DRM die out, while those with the most intrusive forms of DRM will survive. Well done, pirates!
 
Pirating an $8 game is really lame. Play the bloody demo.

It's not that piracy is great thing, it's that the solutions you are so enthusiastic about are terrible for the legitimate buyer. Now we're talking piracy here, not used games.

IMO Steam is everything we need on the DRM front, and the if you're really worried about piracy, stop selling copies elsewhere. They check for piracy without demanding you be in constant contact with a server, and give the user certain perks for submitted to the regime.


 
"Even if it is just 0.1 or 0.2 lost sales per pirated copy (although I would personally suspect the numbers are a bit higher), a 93.6% piracy rate can ruin any game studio."

What makes you think the numbers are higher than that?

There are 3 types of pirates:

1.) The cheap/stingy, and would have bought the game if no pirate copy was available
2.) Those who can't afford the game anyway
3.) Those who can afford the game but don't feel the game is worth the price-point.

2 and 3 were not going to buy the game even if no pirated copy was available. So what proportion of the public that would buy the game if no pirated copy was available falls into category 1?

If you are experiencing piracy this high, its most likely because your price point is way too high for your projected customer base. And therefore an unusually large proportion of your game's audience is falling into category 3.

My advice, get over the fact that your game isn't that great, drop your price to a place where its quantity of sales*price reach a maximum.
 
You forgot about 4) The casual pirate: Has more than enough money to afford the game, would do so if it was required, but gets it for free just because that is possible.

I'm pretty sure that a significant percentage of pirates fall into that category. They don't pay because downloading the torrent is so easy, it's actually less of a hassle than going out to buy the game.
 
It sure is a good thing those non-DRM using companies die out forever and ever.

HA! Take that CD Projekt Red! Shows what you and your gog.com services know about anything ever!

Oh wait.

The real issue is the negative impact DRM can have. While you can antagonize and stop a million pirates (you can't) to gain that .1 or .2 or .01 or .02 extra in sales, the question is how much do you LOSE through bad publicity, loss of reputation and bad word of mouth?

This may have a greater or lesser impact depending on who your company is, but it cna't be dismissed outright.
 
"You forgot about 4)"

By definition, your 4) and my 1) are the same I think.
 
[...] a 93.6% piracy rate can ruin any game studio.

According to most articles, they sold less 214 copies of their $8 game. Kotaku is reporting that the 94% that pirated the game did so using the exact cracked version the devs uploaded. Which, honeypot or no, seems like a self-inflicted problem at this point. Nevermind that even at a 0% piracy rate and where every pirate was otherwise a paying customer, it's still less than 3,500 copies. I don't think piracy can even be remotely blamed for any ruin they experience.

The true irony here is that, once again, piracy is likely going to increase the total amount of legitimate sales going on by spreading word-of-mouth. Was anyone talking about this game before the marketing ploy? Are they talking about it now? Uploading a (broken) copy of their game to Pirate Bay is likely to be the smartest thing they ever did.
 
Which, honeypot or no, seems like a self-inflicted problem at this point.

The game is DRM-free. Are you really trying to tell us here that those 93.6% of players who downloaded the pirated copy wouldn't have pirated the game if the devs hadn't put up the trapped version on torrent? Somebody would have put up a real copy, and the same number of people would have pirated it without falling in the trap.

Whatever lame excuses you use, piracy hurts game studios, and kills some of them. And pirates are responsible for the rest of us having to live with crappy DRM from game companies trying to defend themselves against that scum.
 
"Just because 1 pirated copy is not equal to 1 lost sale, it doesn't follow that a million pirated copies mean no lost sales at all. Even if it is just 0.1 or 0.2 lost sales per pirated copy (although I would personally suspect the numbers are a bit higher), a 93.6% piracy rate can ruin any game studio.

The sad thing is that the pirate will thus assure that the game studios that make games without DRM die out, while those with the most intrusive forms of DRM will survive. Well done, pirates!"


If your game has a 93% piracy rate, you need to take a very serious look at why that it is, because you very obviously have more problems than the pirates themselves.

Not to mention the fact that percentages themselves are misleading. There's such a thing as fixed floor for some statistics. If you put the game up on a piracy site which has a few thousand people who will always download new things to check them out, but only advertise on other sites where only a few hundred people ever frequently choose to buy a new product sight unseen, then you are obviously going to get a very high percentage uptake on the no-risk curiosity-sating.

If you wanted to rig numbers to prove something, this is exactly how you'd go about doing it.

The problem with pointing at piracy being to blame for bankruptcy is that it can lead the complacent to say, "See! My problem is justified! It's totally the fault of pirates that I'm going bankrupt, not that there's something wrong with my game or marketing or platform choice!" The whole thing crumbles around them and they don't fix the fixable, because they're too busy blaming the 'unfixable'.
 
Why do you think that piracy is an "unfixable" problem? I am pretty sure that a large number of pirates are "casual pirates" and not hardcore hackers. For the casual pirates something like always-on DRM works extremely well.

Just look at SimCity: Shitty game, extremely high sales numbers because their DRM just works.

An indie game developer believing in the goodness of people and making a DRM-free game is just shooting himself in the foot. If he survives the experience, he'll add DRM to his next game. Just look at devs like Stardocks who were vocally anti-DRM, and now their new games have DRM.
 
Just look at SimCity: Shitty game, extremely high sales numbers because their DRM just works.

Let me correct this for you:

"Just look at SimCity: Shitty game, extremely high sales numbers because there's Simcity in the name".

If they had called in any other name, the sales would have been abysmal, due to the lack of connection with a well-established title (which is well-established despite the piracy, it would seem).
 
"Just look at SimCity: Shitty game, extremely high sales numbers because there's Simcity in the name".

THIS.

Sales for this game were a result of marketing alone, not quality and definitely not DRM.
 
Sales for this game were a result of marketing alone, not quality and definitely not DRM.

Sales of ANY game are the product of people willing to play the game multiplied by the percentage of people willing to buy it instead of pirating it. It is impossible for DRM to *not* affect sales.
 
Always online DRM has never been the issue for crackers. SimCity's online DRM was never an issue, it's save game state was.

And that was resolved by someone with a basic mod of game files, no cracking needed.

The issue is how to emulate whatevers going on server side. If your save games are depending on a server connection, it's easy to disable the connection, but making the save games execute can be difficult.

D3 was cracked almost the day it came out, what it DIDN'T do was emulate the server side drops and AI properly, that took longer... but it too was done.

Cracking the DRM isn't the hard part in "always online." And in many single player games, always online doesn't even compute anything server side. This is why always online for games like AC and such died nigh instantly.

Of course you COULD just arbitrarily do things server side.

That worked for FFXIV allright, and it was an MMO so server connections were indeed required! Ohhhh waiiiit... that's the game that's ruining the company because of they're overuse of server side effects to protect themselves thus making the game unplayable.

Simcity sold because it's Simcity. Unfortunate. Despite people like me who don't buy sequels or have loyalty to brand names, the majority just complain and then proceed to buy the games anyways. Nobody will learn their lesson until you stop buying.
 
The sad thing is that the pirate will thus assure that the game studios that make games without DRM die out, while those with the most intrusive forms of DRM will survive. Well done, pirates!

I still remember CD checks and CD keys long before broadband was around. And rotating passwords where you had to look in your manual before that.

Of course it's always easier to blame piracy when your game doesn't sell as well as you want it to.

Of course you COULD just arbitrarily do things server side.

That worked for FFXIV allright, and it was an MMO so server connections were indeed required! Ohhhh waiiiit... that's the game that's ruining the company because of they're overuse of server side effects to protect themselves thus making the game unplayable.


Or maybe it's because the game was terrible and all the negative feedback in the beta was summarily dismissed. FFXI did a lot of things server side too, and it is the most profitable title in the franchise.
 
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