Let’s Steal From the Rich People

I talked with one guy about games piratism (=copying/distributing/using illegal copies of games). One of the arguments he made: “If I don’t buy legal copy, the big company won’t lose that much money”. He also pointed out that he wanted to support small studios.

But it strike to me like… basically he was saying that it would be okay to steal from rich.

Like, if there’s some millionaire it would be okay to steal 1000 or 10 000 euros from him “because he is so rich that it wouldn’t matter that much to him”. When I presented it this way he said “Well, I know what you mean but…”.

Why is it “okay” to steal digital products, but it’s not okay to steal money from rich guys?

18 thoughts on “Let’s Steal From the Rich People

  1. “It’s illegal, people shouldn’t do illegal stuff.”

    Okay, this was poorly said. I should have added or used something along what Kant (for example) has said: “act so that your actions could become a general rule” (not his exact words, but that’s basically the meaning behind them).

    So – when I think about piratism – would I like that everybody would download games illegally? No. That’s why I don’t support piratism in any way (besides little bit the one way that I say soon)

    I must point out that “wouldn’t buy anyway” is not solid statement. I’ve heard some guys saying that if they couldn’t get their favourite artist’s music illegally (if there were police forces watching them or something) they would buy the CD. Now as there’s no fines or no chances to get caugh, they “wouldn’t buy it anyway”.

    Secondly: price is not always the barrier. If people think that games/music should be 50% cheaper, why don’t they gather some friends and buy the game together? If $20 is too much, why they all get it illegally and pay nothing when they could have one of their friends with them, and each one could pay $10. (I’m not saying this is legal, but it’s better alternative to paying nothing)

    Thirdly: some people say that “illegal copies / piratism” is good promotion for the next game. Could be, but as I already said: I’d like to be in charge about the marketing decision I make. It’s especially important for small studios to get their $$$, otherwise the “next game” might never happen.

    > “Sure, demos exist for some games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re worthwhile.”
    There’s also plenty of reviews, player comments besides the demo – and many indie games already offer 30-day or 60-day money back guarantee, so that should do fine.

    > “I, personally, am a fan of illegally downloading a game and then buying it – possibly after I’ve beaten it.”
    This is good if people really do this – although I’m still bit curious to know why demos and 30/60-day money back guarantees aren’t enough – or did you mean you would only get pirate stuff that doesn’t offer demos/guarantees?

    > “As an aside, I would like to say that yes, it is (sometimes) okay to steal from the rich. Have we learned nothing from Robin Hood?”
    *cough* – when ;) I’m rich, I don’t want people to steal from me, so I have to disagree with this rule.

  2. As an aside, I would like to say that yes, it is (sometimes) okay to steal from the rich. Have we learned nothing from Robin Hood?

  3. “It’s illegal, people shouldn’t do illegal stuff.”

    Laws are not and have never been an absolute definition of pure moral conduct – they are supposed to be designed to protect people from being oppressed or exploited. Since lawmakers are human, it can logically be assumed that laws are imperfect and that not all laws necessarily need to be followed – therefore implying that your statement is logically invalid. People shouldn’t do “immoral” things – whether software ninjutsu is immoral is a different story.

    Honestly, if you can’t support software ninjutsu as a method via which one judges a game, then I can’t really see what you could use to support that. Demos? Sure, demos exist for some games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re worthwhile. I, personally, am a fan of illegally downloading a game and then buying it – possibly after I’ve beaten it. I’ve run into too many games with tons of glitches and/or misrepresented gameplay to spend money on something I’m not positive about.

    If you think it’s wrong to download games that you’re not going to buy anyway, then I can feasibly see where you’re coming from. The person doing this didn’t put forth as much money as you did and doesn’t “deserve” it as much as the people that paid for it do. Of course this is a sort of selfish justification for that stance and doesn’t help the developer out in the least.

    On the other hand, illegally downloading software that you would otherwise buy is something that I, personally, am morally opposed to. I’d go into my reasons for this but they’re fairly obvious. And boring.

    In any event, if you think that something being illegal makes it inherently wrong then you might as well be Hitler (or Bush (their political stances are very similar)) and you should therefore be shot.

  4. You can fight piracy as much as you want, but its always going to be there. There’s always going to be someone out there who can and is willing to crack the next game copy protection system. The tougher a system is to crack, the more effort people will put into trying to crack it.
    Since you can’t beat warez, why not make use of the fact that so many more people will see and experience your game? Put advertisements for your other products in there, list your website where you can etc. It’s like having leaflets put through everyones door! Like they say, no publicity is bad publicity. :)

  5. “Juuso, some of your arguments seem like you are just trying to back up your intuitive standpoint with which you have emotional ties to.”
    - Well, I personally think that stealing is not okay.

    “In short, you are ignoring valid points from the commenters because you don’t like them.”
    - No, not true. I just cannot figure out any good counterattacks ;)

    “So, I’m just asking, if it does happen like that in this large a scale, could it be that the marketing plusses are, at least in part, reality in a bit smaller scale. Didn’t you have pirated music tapes as a pre-teen?”
    - Today my computer is clean (yippee – even bought Windows XP which was a big step to take… ;) But yes, in the past I have had pirate games and I don’t see how that helped any of those companies make money. When I come to think of it…. I suppose there’s like only maybe 2-3 apps that I’ve first used as pirate copy and then bought afterwards. Compared to 1000 apps I’ve pirated that makes my conversion rate quite low ;) Today I think quite differently.

    One thing I’m quite interested in… how these pirates can afford to buy expensive computers and expensive internet connections, but cannot afford to purchase the software…

    “Don’t you think that made the music that was copied a lot more popular?”
    I suppose – but popularity is not bringing money to developers (or making stealing any more okay).

    “In my opinion you are making the situation to be simpler than it is because of your own agenda.”
    Nah, I simply think it’s quite simple: it’s illegal, people shouldn’t do illegal stuff :)

    Sorry if I ignored some of the comments… luckily others have responded there. And thanks everybody for your insight. Feel free to tell your opinion.

    To add something about pricing: I really think that there *could* be different price zones depending on the standard of living (especially related to entertainment – like movies, games or music). I think those from “poorer” countries should possibly pay less for their (digitally distributed) copies. $20 can be one day’s salary in one country or hourly salary in another. I understand very well that countries with lower living standard have problems with this.

  6. Juuso, some of your arguments seem like you are just trying to back up your intuitive standpoint with which you have emotional ties to. Yes, we have more straightforward names to that, but I’m trying to be nice here. In short, you are ignoring valid points from the commenters because you don’t like them.

    The word of mouth argument is the most prominent one of them. You ever guessed why there’s so much piratism for western mainstream music in for example, say Afghanistan? That’s because it’s a policy for global music companies to allow / passively support it. Why, you ask? Well, about 20 years ago, there wasn’t much demand for western music there. As the globe is getting smaller, the western civilization is getting there too. And nowadays, those people really don’t have the money to pay any significant amount of money for the records (if you count the expenses too). But, in the future it is a big possibility that their economy is rising and in that future you can be sure that the piracy will bve stomped out. And there, you have a new flourishing market for western pop music untapped.

    This example came up as I was conversing with an afghanistani economics student and a well-respected american (US) economics professor. Both concluded that this is not only likely, but the most probable method of operation for the multinational record companies.

    So, I’m just asking, if it does happen like that in this large a scale, could it be that the marketing plusses are, at least in part, reality in a bit smaller scale. Didn’t you have pirated music tapes as a pre-teen? Don’t you think that made the music that was copied a lot more popular? That people wouldn’t end up buying the best records, going to gigs etc.?

    In my opinion you are making the situation to be simpler than it is because of your own agenda. That natural and I think that pirating indie games is about as low as you can go. The ethical pondering about piratism at large, however, much more complex a topic for me, involving world politics, criticism of multinational megacapitalism, that kind of things.

  7. Of course, big publishers consider your legitimately purchased game to simply be a “license” that can be revoked at their discretion. As far as their legal team is concerned you are merely “borrowing for a fee”.

    Consider the stolen $10,000 as an “advance on future screw-overs” that will inevitably be dumped on the end consumer. Compensation for the countless broken games sold as “finished”, downloaded patches with 10 digit version numbers, mutliplayer server outages and endless other annoyances.

  8. Lachlan Stuart

    I would like to compare Thieves to Pirates(the Yarr kind) and Pirates(the software kind) to Ninjas.
    Pirates steal gold, ships and rum. This directly causes harm to the opponent’s resource levels.
    Ninjas steal information, secrets and hearts. Though they’re not directly reducing the opponent’s inventory, if ninjas didn’t exist the opponent would be richer. Therefore, ninjas are indirectly causing harm to opponent’s resource levels.

    Clearly both are bad if there is just one opponent, but lets say one opponent is squandering said resources while another is losing a fight for market share, what then? I honestly cannot justify to myself feeding Microsoft or Sony (Monopolies are bad. Anyone who tries to bring morality into the picture here clearly doesn’t know how to look out for their own interests as a consumer). I also cannot justify supporting a game that has a multi-million dollar marketing campaign when I would enjoy a number of games that could not afford that luxury just as much. Between selective piracy and word of mouth, I believe that I’m ever-so-slightly influencing the direction of gaming towards the world’s best interests.

  9. I must point out that I am going to use a system where registration key is sent and checked every time player tries to fetch the “online servers” list. This way it’s easy to not let any pirates out there to connect to the main server (that lists all the games). (Pirates could only steal the single player version… )

    But nevertheless…

    “but some people never buy games anyway…”
    - Yes, why?

    “In fact, they may spread word of mouth which actually nets you more sales.”
    Umm… do you happen to know what type of word of mouth is that? It’s like “Here, I found this game that you can FREE from me – let’s play” :)

    “Whether the sales you make from that are greater than the losses from piracy or not is debatable, since it really can’t be measured.”
    *cough*
    So…. why don’t we all hire them as marketers instead of blame them ;) If I want to give free copies of my game, I want the control. Why don’t these pirates share the demo versions… ;)

    “For indie developers, I think obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy. Perhaps it’s a bigger problem for larger publishers, I don’t know (nobody does :-) ).”
    - In fact, indies often go through portals – and when the games hit portals the pirates grap & hack ‘em.

  10. Ah, but some people never buy games anyway… if they can’t pirate it, they don’t play it. So these pirates are a lost cause and you don’t need to care about them. In fact, they may spread word of mouth which actually nets you more sales. Whether the sales you make from that are greater than the losses from piracy or not is debatable, since it really can’t be measured.

    For indie developers, I think obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy. Perhaps it’s a bigger problem for larger publishers, I don’t know (nobody does :-) ).

  11. In a developing country (like where I live) the $ to rupees conversion can make games prices skyrocket making many games out of reach for the normal consumer. Thats why Piracy is more prevalent here.

    But it DOES NOT MEAN that we should indulge in piracy. I save up and buy an original Game just because if I do it whats stopping others from doing it. Although the rich companies don’t face much loss (Who says they don’t?) the smaller developers are forced to shut shop thus if I like one of their series and was playing pirated copies I have a hand in the closing of my fav title.

    Thats the reason why I get one game in 6 months! :-) Piracy may seem attractive now but as we go forward the results will be before our eyes….


    Sorry for deviating from topic, been quite a while since I came here. Nice new look! :-)

  12. if you download software and use it without paying for it, you are not wasting any resources of the person who made it, thus you are not actually stealing for example 1000$ out of his pocket …

    You have to remember that there’s always 2 people involved: the one who downloads and one who spreads the illegal copy. Are you seriously saying that when there’s two websites, both having the full version of Game XYZ:
    - Developer site: game XYZ costs $20
    - Somebody warez site: game XYX costs $0
    Then anybody can pick one of these sites and “compare prices” and think “Hmm… should I buy $20 copy or simply download for free?”. Are you saying that this “somebody” is not hurting the sales? and not stealing?

    Many of the people that download pirate software would not buy it anyway, so they aren’t really taking money away from them, because they would never spend it in the first place!

    See up there.

    Heck, sometimes pirate downloads are used as a way to test games to see if they truly are worth buying.

    Nowadays every indie/casual game demo/trial versions can be tested before buying. Most sites even give you 30/60-day money back guarantee (so if you are not happy with the full version, you get your money back)!!!

  13. The major difference is that you are not taking something away from them, of course, you should pay for that piece of software in order to own it. It is hard to explain, but the digital software is merely a copy, whereas the money would be the real thing. Many of the people that download pirate software would not buy it anyway, so they aren’t really taking money away from them, because they would never spend it in the first place!
    Heck, sometimes pirate downloads are used as a way to test games to see if they truly are worth buying.

    Another thing that encourages piracy is the lack of support per say.
    Where I live (Brazil), only a few games reach us. Mostly EA titles, but what about all the others? You either hope for a digital download (like GalCivII) or you import it.
    Importing can make the game cost go as far as U$150, and that for a U$50 game!

    I think a great way to counter piracy is by using channels like Steam, Direct2Drive, etc… since it basically kills all the hassle of the physical copy, also directly helping the companies, instead of filling only the publisher coffers.

  14. Lachlan Stuart

    Well, I’d personally extend that to “Let’s Steal From the Rich People That Neither Support Us or Make It Easy To Buy From Them”.

    Point 1: Among MANY other evils, producers cancelling/not continuing cult-forming serii, such as Fallout, Sam and Max, Full Throttle, etc. means that most gamers have grudges against big game producers! 999/1000 rich people have done nothing to annoy me, in fact a lot of them are incredibly charismatic!

    Point 2: Online Distribution. Pirates have had it for years, most big producers still aren’t trying to make it available. I don’t buy games from Electronics Boutique because they honestly add a calculated US$20-$30 to every game they import, compared to the same games in a US EB. If I could download dollars from rich people, I sure as hell would, but actually going to his house and stealing his jewels, gold and art involves a lot more effort thus a lot more grudge.

  15. Thats another reason to only do multiplayer games that you host yourself. Runescape for example can never be pirated.

  16. How does the average gamer (casual) KNOW that they’re not stealing from the little guy? Most portals, to my knowledge, will have their own splash screen on the game, not the developer’s, and they certainly don’t TELL you they didn’t actually make it themselves – unless you want to go hunting through the game credits. I suspect most casual gamers would consider the game as being made by the distributor and not even question it. So the previous attitude (it’s ok to steal from the big guys) may really be hurting the little guys who depend on their measly cut from the portals.

  17. Its kinda like a penny save is a penny earned, except in this case a penny saved is a penny stolen.

    Honestly though, piracy is natural entropy, it can’t be eliminated only minimized. The way to do that is with games that offer stronger emotional hooks with characters and plot, because these help generate audience solidarity.

  18. If you download software and use it without paying for it, you are not wasting any resources of the person who made it, thus you are not actually stealing for example 1000$ out of his pocket …
    You are stealing money that you did not gave him