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How should online piracy be prevented?

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#1 BenW

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 10:53 AM

Software piracy is in the news a lot, especially after last year's SOPA protests.

 

So far almost all the attention has been on preventing overly draconian anti-piracy laws being implemented. But that doesn't solve the underlying problem of the piracy itself.

 

How would you deal with the issue?

 

Note: if you take a pro-piracy stance in your replies, that's fine, but please keep examples hypothetical and avoid promoting piracy in your posts.


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#2 WingedPanther73

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 11:48 AM

It depends somewhat on the target audience. When you're creating systems for corporations, piracy will tend to be far less of an issue. Companies tend to be highly risk-averse, when it comes to being sued for copyright infringement. On the other hand, individuals tend to view themselves has having a very low chance of getting caught, and expect the consequences to be negligible ("Okay, ya caught me, here's your $50"). 

 

With corporations, it generally doesn't take a lot of copy protection to finish securing it, as that will finish the discouragement process. If you have frequent product updates, so much the better (nobody wants to recrack a program every month).

 

With individuals, there are a few considerations worth having.
1) Are the pirates actually lost purchases, or are the just bums who were never going to buy your software anyway?

2) Is your contemplated anti-piracy scheme likely to drive away potential customers (Sony's SecuROM DRM comes to mind). This can range from security risks to annoying your customer all the time

3) Is your contemplated anti-piracy scheme flaky? I recent fought with a company for 3 weeks to get the demo of their software functioning. When their software demo won't function, I'm not inclined to buy.

4) What is the nature of your software? Blizzard doesn't have many issues with piracy, because you have to log into their servers to play their games. The best part of their games is the online experience, so it isn't much of an issue. Some of the text editors out there, by contrast, exist solely on your computer. They function fine with your firewall blocking internet access, so they're far easier to pirate, by nature. 

5) Is your pricing pushing people to pirate your software? We all know that Photoshop gets pirated like crazy, because hundreds of dollars is a lot of money to play around with it at home. By contrast, pirating Plants Vs Zombies at $15 seems kinda silly. I find it interesting that Good Old Games (http://www.gog.com/ ) offers completely DRM free games for download, yet doesn't seem to be having massive issues with piracy.


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#3 SdyessDev

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:06 PM

A good example of an attempt at anti piracy is the new SimCity. It uses an Always Online DRM.

 

SimCity used the DRM, couldn't handle server capacity on launch, and are even still having trouble with the game. It's currently rated 1.3/5 stars on amazon http://www.amazon.co...dp/B007VTVRFA. 

 

I agree with a lot of what WingedPanther has already mentioned and he makes a lot of great points. While Piracy is very active, it won't hurt most people. Maybe some very small start ups, but otherwise it should have little effect. I'm one of those who like to try something out before I fork out the money the buy it, so a good approach is perhaps having a demo for your product.

 

There is always going to be piracy. And trying to prevent it has only lead to worse consequences so far. To deal with it, I would definitely launch a demo of the product or just embrace it. I wish I could recall the software, but they acknowledged the people who pirate their game and just used a dialog window in their software to purchase the product if they enjoyed it.


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#4 WingedPanther73

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:15 PM

I read an article by the creator of Sins of a Solar Empire a while back, where he listened to feedback of his customers and lowered the price as well as removing all DRM. You can read it here: http://www.neoseeker...a_solar_empire/

 

Interestingly enough, the game is still alive and well, and the article convinced me to buy the game.


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#5 SdyessDev

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:18 PM

I read an article by the creator of Sins of a Solar Empire a while back, where he listened to feedback of his customers and lowered the price as well as removing all DRM. You can read it here: http://www.neoseeker...a_solar_empire/

 

Interestingly enough, the game is still alive and well, and the article convinced me to buy the game.

 

And on the other side, the creators of simcity are saying they have no plans to remove DRM and have told people that offline play is impossible due to server side calculations being made. However, someone has modified the game to the point that it can be played offline now. Makes EA and Maxis look terrible since they pretty much just lied to their customers.

 

http://www.forbes.co...d-offline-play/


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#6 gregwarner

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:26 PM

I agree with everything WingedPanther said, so I won't bother repeating it. What I do want to do is point out some observations about the piracy topic as a whole.
  • Pirates are a diverse group. Different people pirate for different reasons. There will never be One Policy to Rule Them All to fix piracy.
  • People will never cease trying to pirate stuff.
  • Corporations will never cease trying to stop piracy.
  • No anti-piracy mechanism is 100% effective. The very fact that the game is playable means that at some point, the restrictions must be removed, either legitimately or via piracy.
  • Ergo, there will always be piracy.
Now, having said that, I firmly believe the way to curb piracy is to give people a better alternative. A pay service which is more convenient and reasonably cheap is an example of this. EA's SimCity does not fall under this category because it fails the first requirement: Convenience. It is NOT convenient to play SimCity. On the other side, a lot of pirates have moved to platforms such as Steam because of the convenience and low cost. And those who still pirate probably weren't going to buy the game anyway, so there's no lost profit.

Edited by gregwarner, 14 March 2013 - 01:29 PM.

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#7 WingedPanther73

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 01:36 PM

Great article! Here's the original article by Draginol: http://forums.sinsof...x?postid=303512 He talks about viewing the whole issue from a business perspective: build a game that can generate revenue, not build a cool game and then figure out how to monetize it.

It's interesting to note that most games are made for platforms now, not the PC market. 


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#8 BenW

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 02:32 PM

And those who still pirate probably weren't going to buy the game anyway, so there's no lost profit.

I'm not a fan of that sort of argument. When it comes from a company, I feel like they're basically saying "this is free for them but not for you." Why should I buy the game if the company is okay with people not buying it?

From individual users, I simply don't believe it's as true as they'd like me to think. They clearly wanted the product; it's hard to say with certainty that they wouldn't have eventually bought it.

The makers of Football Manager (a popular soccer mannemenet sim in the UK) found sales increased a huge amount when they started using Steam for DRM. It was also the first time the game didn't leak on pirate sites before the official release. It showed up a week afterwards, instead, but that still translated into many more sales for them.
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#9 LinkChef

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 03:08 PM

Honestly, my opinion?  It's all about how you treat your customers.   I agree with previous comments, everyone pirates for a reason.  Not enough money overall, want to try it for a demo, refuses to support certain companies, (hello EA).  However, I've noticed recently that the more DRM free a game is, and how open you are to piracy, or how much of a joke you take it to, people respond better.  I actually have a few examples:

 

1:  Notch and Minecraft.  Minecraft is a terrific story, whether you like the game or not.  A single man, who became two, who became a team, who became a fairly sizable company.  He's always upfront and tells the world about what's up in Minecraft.  Then about 6 months to a year ago, I remember a tweet from one of his co-workers.  It was something to the tune of, "I'm so sorry I pirated Minecraft".  And later, the exact amount Mojang charged was sent to an account of Mojang's.  It was pretty cool.

 

2:  Anyplace that sells non-DRM games!  Usually these places are people who do indie games, or things of

that nature that aren't ridiculously overpriced.  However, they are good to the people simply state they hate it too.  Because of that, there's not a huge amount of piracy talk on these games.  Whether it's because they're indie and people actually care, or if it's because it's just cheap enough, I don't know.

 

Anyway, my final opinion.  Piracy will never stop.  It's an evil that will not be taken down at all.  All evil never will. Some humans just embrace evil.  So don't fight it, have fun with it, accept it, and charge fair prices!


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#10 Kamiliontti

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 03:46 PM

Honestly, my opinion?  It's all about how you treat your customers.   I agree with previous comments, everyone pirates for a reason.  Not enough money overall, want to try it for a demo, refuses to support certain companies, (hello EA).  However, I've noticed recently that the more DRM free a game is, and how open you are to piracy, or how much of a joke you take it to, people respond better.  I actually have a few examples:

 

1:  Notch and Minecraft.  Minecraft is a terrific story, whether you like the game or not.  A single man, who became two, who became a team, who became a fairly sizable company.  He's always upfront and tells the world about what's up in Minecraft.  Then about 6 months to a year ago, I remember a tweet from one of his co-workers.  It was something to the tune of, "I'm so sorry I pirated Minecraft".  And later, the exact amount Mojang charged was sent to an account of Mojang's.  It was pretty cool.

 

This^^

 

I myself don't believe that the problem is all about the money. Also localization can be a major reason for piracy or lack of service.

 

Here's a great video of Gabe Newell talking about piracy. It starts about at 1:00.

 


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#11 BenW

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:28 PM

2: Anyplace that sells non-DRM games! Usually these places are people who do indie games, or things of
that nature that aren't ridiculously overpriced. However, they are good to the people simply state they hate it too. Because of that, there's not a huge amount of piracy talk on these games. Whether it's because they're indie and people actually care, or if it's because it's just cheap enough, I don't know.

That isn't quite true - indie games are pirated a LOT. But the best selling ones are also the most pirated one, as with any software, and from indies we typically hear about the sales rather than the piracy figures. Many of the indies who do talk about piracy make the assumption that the high piracy rate is somehow the cause of the high sales figures, but there's no solid proof to back that up.

Even the Humble Indie Bundle, which lets you buy games for as little as one cent, has extremely high rates of piracy.

I myself don't believe that the problem is all about the money. Also localization can be a major reason for piracy or lack of service.

I think that makes a good point, but it doesn't solve the issue entirely. After all, he's talking about bringing the Russian territories up to the same level of service as the rest of the world already has, but piracy is still a major problem elsewhere too.

On the gaming side of things specifically, I'm interested to hear some opinions on free-to-play titles compared to regular pay-to-buy ones. Personally, I hate F2P games with in-app purchases for everything, I'd much rather buy a game up front and just play it as it was designed. But F2P seems to be a better solution to piracy than any form of DRM could ever be. Thoughts?
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#12 LinkChef

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Posted 14 March 2013 - 08:43 PM

That isn't quite true - indie games are pirated a LOT. But the best selling ones are also the most pirated one, as with any software, and from indies we typically hear about the sales rather than the piracy figures. Many of the indies who do talk about piracy make the assumption that the high piracy rate is somehow the cause of the high sales figures, but there's no solid proof to back that up.

Even the Humble Indie Bundle, which lets you buy games for as little as one cent, has extremely high rates of piracy.I think that makes a good point, but it doesn't solve the issue entirely. After all, he's talking about bringing the Russian territories up to the same level of service as the rest of the world already has, but piracy is still a major problem elsewhere too.

On the gaming side of things specifically, I'm interested to hear some opinions on free-to-play titles compared to regular pay-to-buy ones. Personally, I hate F2P games with in-app purchases for everything, I'd much rather buy a game up front and just play it as it was designed. But F2P seems to be a better solution to piracy than any form of DRM could ever be. Thoughts?

 

I see what you're coming up with, although it's just what I've seen.  I'm sure if we got some professional statistic guys they could tell us what some major reasons are, but sadly I am not.  I'm sure there's a 1000 different stories on what's going on around that area.  As for free-to-play, the only kind of game I hate in app purchase-wise are the ones who ask for any money to buy the game itself, and then ask for more money for in-app purchases.  That's why I've never been a huge fan of DLC, unless it's a while in the future, or it's free.  It's very strange, and just makes me think they want more money and don't care about the game, even if it's not the truth.  

 

As for your argument when it comes to being the best anti-piracy solution so far, I can contest that.  I know a person at my school who has pirated over $1,000,000 just in in-app purchases.  Although the entire game is non pirated, the way the game is supposed to receive money was greatly compromised, and he "stole" an amazing amount of money doing this.


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