The One Game You Cannot Pirate (Kind of)

So, the pirate ship took a maneuver and evaded from the horrible fate of getting sunk. I was checking some discussion that was surrounding this topic, and couple of particular comments caught my eye.

One on the ‘pirate side’ said that:

If you make quality content, people will pay for it.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’ll tell more after you see the following:

People are sick of paying too much to view or listen to what is ‘a pile of crap’ half the time.

Personally i wouldn’t pay to see half the stuff i download. If i didn’t have the option to download i wouldn’t buy it, therefore no money is lost as i wouldn’t buy ‘item X’ in the first place.

“Personally I wouldn’t pay to see half the stuff I download”? I suppose this means that the other half of the stuff he has downloaded, he is willing to pay for?

The problem with this approach is that I’ve actually seen only like one or two incidents when person (1) first pirated a copy of software and then (2) purchased the real product.

Both of those times it was me doing it, and I haven’t been using pirated software in years now.

When I’ve asked some of my friends about this, they have reported similar incidents – but they also give the “I wouldn’t pay for the crap” excuse. The thing is: if they purchase 1 product out of 10 000, enjoy 50% of the products and say “I wouldn’t pay to see half the stuff I download” then something is not matching.

If they don’t like 50%, but like 50% of the stuff – why they are only purchasing much less than 1% of the stuff? If their excuse is “I wanna test first see if I enjoy it before I buy it”, then logically if they enjoy the pirated copy, they will also buy it? Right?

That’s the reason why ‘if you make quality content, people will pay’ won’t work always… but I do think it’s the key issue to concentrate: developers should have their focus on making quality content, not on ‘how to fight pirates’.

After all, the more we focus on piratism, the more it expands. The more we focus on quality & our paying customers – the more that expands.

The old busines smodel doesn’t work in today’s world
One another comment came from a pirate:

It doesn’t mean an end at all, it’s just the old business model doesn’t work in todays world.

I agree to some extent, and I got 3 visions where this could lead:

#1 – More console games, less PC games I don’t think this will happen, but I think there’s slight chance that at some point PC developers start abandoning the platform when they see that console sales are doing better. This has been said for the last couple of decades, so I don’t really think that this will happen. I just mention this as one not so likely, but possible way. (Naturally they will get back the moment people start to share pirated console games… technology won’t save anything – pirates are always one step ahead)

#2 – More ads in games: Other option could be that there will be more ads in games. The natural response (of course) from pirates is that they will create ripped versions where these ads aren’t shown. This model might die before it’s born. Maybe.

#3 – Focus on online gaming: At some point it might happen that our games are played solely on servers, where you only purchase a client for the game (Think year 2019 rather than year 2009). If you want to player a game of Tetris, you’ll contact to a server which will give you information how the game goes. World of Warcraft is already doing this (and it’s kind of the only game type you cannot pirate, since you need a server) and we might see more of this type of games. I know there’s already pirate-servers for some online MMOs where you can play using a pirated client, so… who knows.

So, how will it end?
I think some of the pirates are giving legitimate reasons why they are pirating their products. Blocking, banning, DRM won’t be the way to fight against the pirates. Fighting pirates most likely just backfires: you end up alienating your own customers.

One good example comes to my mind: I had this DVD that I bought. In the intro text there’s “pirating is illegal, blah bla blah, don’t pirate”. The legally purchased copy I have has this 30 sec intro which I always need to watch when I play the movie. Do you know what the pirated copy has done better? It has removed this part (surprise, surprise!). So, now the pirates can watch the movie right away (without seeing “don’t pirate” messages), but I (who bought the darn thing) am stuck watching the darn intro every single time I play the movie.

Piratism will be here to stay, and it shows us that we need to adapt in the situation. Old business models are getting less useful, so we gotta find a way to use new ways. It could mean more advertising, paid content, monetizing using special collector editions, or even having servers like in massively multiplayer online games where pirating gets much more difficult.

Whatever it will be, fighting won’t be the way to win.

Just like in real life.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I know its like next year already, but this one is to Thomas D.. You say developers for games are using the PC platform less and less, such as GTA, FYI the developers have always released GTA on the PC 6 months to a year after it has been out on the console. Its a fact that goes on with many other game titles too. Also think about it, why would someone who doesnt know how to use the computer that well, buy a game for the PC, when they can buy it for a console, and just pop it in and it works….

    That also leaves another thing to question… in todays day and age, why not make an optical media that can be read by any optical device (such as your PC’s DVD burner) and run right off the disk, and not be copied at all? DRM isnt the way to go (obviously)

    Last, can you blame anyone who has to struggle to feed their families that work at factories, for not paying for a damn song or movie? So just because they dont make enough money to purchase movies or music or games, they shouldnt be allowed to listen to it when they want? Thats like saying you shouldnt be allowed to eat because your tight on cash.

    This can go on forever and ever, in my opinion things like this are pointless. Why havent humans learned after over 2 million years of existence that we should work for the embetterment of the world as a whole, not for our selfish selves.

    Piracy is only the start…

  2. I would also suggest using fans to translate your game. I’ve done this about 5-6 times and it has always gone very well. Free Units or an in-game credit is another option and is usually very appreciated. This is easier to accomplish if you have some way to daily contact your fanbase such as a forum or blog or both. You will have to manage the translation at some level and probably hire someone you trust to re-read the translation just to make sure of its accuracy. 10 cents a word is a good price if you just want to pay flat out. The very top rate is around 25 cents/word but that is for difficult legal documents or scientific journals so if thats what you’re paying then reconsider.

  3. “[…] there’s slight chance that at some point PC developers start abandoning the platform […]” – you mean like they’re doing right now?
    I think licensed games are a good indicator to what platforms do well – because being attempts to cash in on a franchise (that’s not aquality statement, just business), they naturally get multi-platform. Now, during the last two-three years, licensed games have started to get PC versions less and less often to a point were the PC is hardly getting any high-profile licenses.
    Also observe how the PC gets left behind in a number of former PC franchises such as GTA and genres slowly transfering to consoles such as FPS and (unimaginable just a few years ago) RTS.

  4. Interestingly, I’m working on a Portuguese translation of my game now. Now I kind of feel that it’ll be useless, considering what you say about Brazil, DivinoAG. :D

    Although my game is only $15, so maybe that’ll get around the “too expensive” thing. Although I do know that $15 is more in Brazil than it is here.

  5. This will probably be a strange thing to admit since I put my name up there, but yes, I do pirate games sometimes. And while you might hear arguments like “make more quality games” or “I’m using as a demo”, the only real argument is what Frant-Sheep said: you can’t compete with free.

    Actually, you can: you can make it cheaper. I live in Brazil, which sadly for content producers has a very big pirate culture, not only for games but also for movies and music. For me at least games are the biggest problem, since I do pay for my original DVDs and music CDs. This happens because of how incredibly expensive all that content is around here.

    My main reason for pirating games is that if I don’t, I simply won’t play them. I cannot go around spending 50 dollars for every game I want to play, specially when most of them won’t last more then a single weekend (I’m not much into multiplayer).

    I’m not against paying for games. I spent 3 years playing World of Warcraft, and just started playing Warhammer Online, both games which prove that vision #3 is a good way to provide a constant income for games. I also gladly payed for games such Penny Arcade Adventures, Sam & Max and a couple Popcap products, which have much lower price tags than triple-A titles.

    I don’t know about the efficiency of in-game ads, but for me that is probably one of the best ways provide additional income, if and only if used within context. If I see Nike ads on billboards on Need for Speed or NBA Live, or if some character on Far Cry drinks a Budweiser, I’m very cool with it. It makes sense within the game world, and this kind of contextual ads have been working fine on movies for very very long. The only problem is when you get a “feel good” Pepsi ad on a loading screen for, I don’t know, Gears of War or Resident Evil.

    The only thing I know for sure is that DRM are not the way to go. The only people who get to see it are the ones who bought an original copy. The argument that DRM helps avoid pirating such as a friend copying from another is total BS, because that is not the kinda of pirating that is causing the whole industry to get worried.

  6. You just can’t compete with ‘free’. The quote: “If you make quality content, people will pay for it.” is pretty much bullshit if you ask me. Especially when you are younger and not with a (fulltime) job you will pick ‘free’ above 60 dollar/euro.

    I think online is a good thing. I start to love things like Steam on PC. Which has its own methods for anti-piracy which are quite effective (correct me if wrong though). And more and more people are connecting online everyday.

    I still think that the majority of people wouldn’t have bought you game anyway if they downloaded it. Try giving things to people who do buy it something extra :) (may it be in goods, service or community support).

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