Piracy

Yar har fiddle dee dee
Yar har fiddle dee dee

My approach here is only going to be pragmatical. The morality of the issue does not interest me, it’s a fact that people pirate games and to a degree it’s hurting our industry, so at least we should try to reduce the damage. Why only reduce it? Why not stop it? Well, maybe because it’s impossible to stop piracy altogether, as long as we have the freedom to do what we want with our files. Of course, companies are already trying to take that from us so we can’t pirate anything ever again, and as a secondary effect, have complete control of what we can and cannot do with our supposed “general” purpose computers. Yes, that article was written by Stallman, and yes, the guy can be a little bit over the top at times, but you have to admit that he has a point. A very strong point.

Anyways, supposing that the infamous “Treacherous computing” won’t be a reality in the future, what can we do to reduce piracy? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think that maybe we should start to pay more attention to it’s selling points:

  • It’s incredibly convenient: Any computer with internet access can download almost any game via torrent provided said computer has the bandwidth and space required.
  • It’s free: It won’t cost the pirate any money. Which makes it even more incredibly convenient and …
  • Better than the retail copy: Share it, burn it, copy it. No restrictions, no CD checks, no physical disk that you can scratch, break or loose.

Alright, so those are the pros, then what are the cons?

  • It’s morally reprehensible.
  • The developers need money to survive and piracy is not helping them. But this doesn’t affect the pirate directly in the short term, even worse, it can’t be proven that piracy hurts developers, so some people just couldn’t care less.
  • The downloaded material may be fake or even come with some kind of virus. Although this is very, very unlikely when using torrents.
An elephant and a cat, I wonder which one will outweight the other.
An elephant and a cat, I wonder which one will outweight the other.

Mmmmhhhh, this doesn’t paint a pretty picture does it? Of course most people are going to resort to piracy! Not only is it free, it’s also a better product that can be simply downloaded from anywhere in the world. It’s still wrong to pirate, most people don’t feel good about it, but they still do it, the pros are overwhelmingly trumping the cons.

So now that we know what makes the pirate world go round, what can we do about it? The anti-piracy ads are reminding people that pirating anything is bad (and wrong), which is simply emphasising on the cons, hoping to somehow out-weight the pros. I don’t know about you, but somehow those ads alone don’t seem to be the best strategy, we need to attack the pros.

First of all, we need to stop including DRM in our products. It’s money down the drain since it doesn’t actually do anything other than annoying and sometimes infuriating the rightfull customers, while the pirate will never, ever, see an authentication/CD check/online activation screen. Don’t even get me started on the limited installations, those things are nothing but giant neon signs saying “PIRATE ME”.

Second of all, offer demos so the customer will know in advance if the game will run on his computer. PC gaming is so convoluted right now that to really know if X or Y game will run on your computer the only way to be certain is to actually test it, but guess what? If said game doesn’t have a demo you will have to buy it and _hope_ the game runs. Or, you know, pirate it.

And third of all, offer digital distribution. Along with DRM, lackluster or non-existent digital distribution is one of our worst problems. Especially for people like me that live in the world’s navel and don’t have access to an international credit card. Yes, I’m screwed, I can’t buy anything off the internet. Yay me. (I have the money right here, come on, take it! … what? credit card? No, I don’t have a *get’s thrown out*). But that’s just me, anybody anywhere with an international credit card can buy any game, no matter how old or new they are, as long as they are available by digital distribution.

That's me land.
That's me land.

With digital distribution, regions like Australia wouldn’t have to wait for “localization” since, you know, internet is a global thing and last time I checked, that whole country speaks english. Or for yet another example: I live in Argentina, but the translations we get here are so awfully bad that I much prefer the english versions, but guess what? Retail copies are never in their original language (not even with subtitles, the games just have to be dubbed for some reason I can’t fathom). Which brings me to my next subject….

Latin America is seen as a lost cause, a region where pirates run free and most people don’t care for such petty things as “copyrights”. Just like Russia and China. Wanna know why piracy is so rampant in these regions? It’s pretty easy to explain: Most people here are too poor and/or ignorant. People can’t afford a hobbie this expensive, especially when it’s three times as expensive as it is in the United States.

Taking all of this into account, it’s clear why piracy is so rampant. Yes, it’s free and that will always make it a superior product, but you know what? Our current attemps at stopping piracy are failing miserably. I already mentioned DRM, so I’ll leave that dead horse alone, but even the ad campaigns are ridiculous since they are saying that downloading a movie is exactly the same as stealing a car or a handbag. We know it’s a downright lie, the audience at the theatre knows it, everybody knows it. However, pirating a game is exactly the same as photocopying a book, but I suppose “you wouldn’t photocopy a book” doesn’t have the same punch to it as “you wouldn’t steal a baby“.

All this corporate ignorance just baffles me. It’s not enough that they need to “try” to solve the problem by making it worse, they also feel the need to cry over the lost sales piracy supposedly represent. Really? I mean, really? You really think all those people that downloaded your game would have paid for it if piracy didn’t exist? Sure, some percentage may actually do that, but that represents… what? 1%? less? more? Nobody knows, and nobody can tell you because it’s a “what if” scenario. So, next time you see someone talk about “1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale” tell that greedy ignorant to take that argument and shove it up where the sun doesn’t shine.

As an addendum: This “research” may not be accurate, but those numbers seem pretty believable. I would really like to know the amount of downloads for each country. That way I could at least have a picture of where Latin America stands in terms of amount of downloads compared to the rest of the world. Also: Spore has draconian DRM. Spore is at the top of the list. Hilarity ensues.

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2 thoughts on “Piracy

  1. It will be very interesting if a big name publisher (EA, Acti-zard, Ubisoft, etc) suddenly threw caution to the wind and released its next hyped, high profile game without any copy protection whatsoever. Would the “evil corporation” rep be cleansed a bit?

    Right now, if I see or hear people/friends pirating some big-name game, like Spore or Red Alert 3, I couldn’t give a damn. But when I saw World Of Goo or Galactic Civilizations 2 being pirated on “the biggest tracker in the world”, I felt a sense of disgust for it.

  2. Diego Doumecq

    And the lord giveth. Haha, I seriously didn’t expect that the PC version of the new iteration of the Prince of Persia franchise would be released free of any DRM. Then again, they only announced it, they haven’t done it yet … but I’m willing to believe Ubisoft.

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