Piracy and the right to a demo
All was well in the world of Stardock. Their game, Sins of a Solar Empire, maybe wasn’t the biggest of hits but it did get its fair share of sales and unlike most publishers, Stardock did not want to go into the world of copy protection systems as they didn’t believe in them.
And then Demigod got released and 1Up refused to review it, saying the game was “busted”. Of course the editors contacted Stardock who’s president, Brad Wardell, openly replied saying that part of the problem was the huge amount of pirates:
“The challenge we’re running into is that our NAT facilitator servers are getting hammered by the number of requests. That’s the most significant issue as it results in users not being able to connect to each other. The solution to this is partly more servers (which we’re doing right now) and partly a code update to connect users without using so many resources. We expect to have this largely resolved in the next 24 hours or so.
The other thing we have to do is isolate the warez users off the main server branch so that legitimate customers aren’t competing with the 100k+ warez people playing the game for database resources.
The only reason why we haven’t had this happen on other games is because we’ve never had anything like this many users in such a short amount of time. Sins of a Solar Empire was a huge hit but its success came not from an immediate burst of users but rather sustained long term growth which allowed us to keep enhancing the infrastructure as needed with minimal issues for users.”
This comes only days after a post by the same president on the Demigod forums, saying that PC gamers are more ethical than game companies give them credit:
As most of you know, Stardock games ship with zero copy protection.
That means someone could take Demigod and post it up somewhere. But so far, no one has even though Gamestop violated their agreement and released the game early. So the potential for “0 day warez” with Demigod is more so than most any other game because there’s nothing to “crack”.
We (Stardock) have always taken the position that people are fundamentally honest. I tend to think that things get warez’d because the copy protection provides a sort of challenge to overcome. Since Demigod has no such copy protection on the DVD, there’s no challenge and hence no point.
Incidentally, we are working on a demo version as well that should be out as soon as we recover from the initial launch.
Both Gas Powered Games and Stardock have poured their life and souls into this game. We’re very proud with how it turned out and we thank those of you who have pre-ordered for sticking with us despite it being available. We’ll definitely find some way to thank those users in the future. We look forward to playing with you guys online and hanging out together in the growing Demigod community.
Happy Easter everyone!
The debate regarding piracy has been going on for decades already and I doubt we’ll see it end anytime soon.
In general there are three types of gamers in my opinion:
1. People who pirate anything
2. People who pirate to check out a game before buying
3. People who don’t pirate
Game publishers tend to say the third group are the good guys and everyone else is bad and is causing them loss of sales. I would like to counter this.
The first group is a group who will never buy games unless they’re really really really good. The loss of sales by these people is extremely minimal and should therefore not be taken into consideration. How can you talk about a “loss” if these people wouldn’t be interested in buying your product anyway? It’s like saying you would have won the lottery if you would only have played, which you didn’t. Nobody in their right mind would think you “lost” money that way. Still, most game publishers do follow this way of thinking it seems.
The third group isn’t an issue so the debate should focus on group number two. Those that pirate to “try before you buy”.
For this group, often demos are released and that’s the way it should be. People can check out part of the game and if they like it they can buy it.
Still, many publishers don’t see the need for a demo or release it only long after the game gets released. A stupid mistake.
Many companies state that reviews, screenshots and trailers give enough of an idea of what to expect from a game and therefore there’s no need for a demo. Allow me to completely thrash that argument:
- Reviews: Although they can give an idea of what to expect, they’re biased. They’re at best the opinion of the reviewer (who may or may not like the game) and at worst paid by the game publisher in the form of advertising. It wouldn’t be the first time a publisher decided to cut advertising spend for a magazine or website because they don’t agree with some of the editorial content.
I know it sounds like I’m talking against our own site here now, but thruth must be told. We too have already experienced pressure from publishers to change a review score and as we could care less about what a publisher thinks, we didn’t (and never will) comply resulting in a huge decrease of good will (invitations to press events, review material, …) from those companies. Luckily most companies don’t work that way but it does happen and should be taken into account that not every site has the luxury of being fully independant and doesn’t need advertising money to survive.
- Screenshots and trailers: these give static or moving images of a game but not the experience you as a gamer receive while playing. Hence, it is not a solid representation of what to expect.
The point is that if you buy a car, you get to test drive it. If you want to buy a magazine, you can look through it to see if the content interests you. And if you want to check out a movie, you can watch the trailer. Each time, you get an idea of the full experience that can be expected. Trailers and screenshots do not give you an idea of the full experience of a game. Only a demo does.
Some publishers release demos quite some time after a game is available. Again a stupid mistake. The hardcore gaming crowd doesn’t want to wait months to check out the latest hype. They’re the early adopters! The people that will spread word of mouth if your game is great and as such increase your sales! And they’re also the ones that will pirate your game to check out whether or not it is any good if there’s no demo and buy it if they like it.
I don’t condone piracy, but I think I’ve made my point clear. Piracy is a problem but the real losses made by it are small and can easily be countered by releasing a top notch product and a demo on day of release or possibly even before the game hits the store shelves.
People have a right to try a game before they buy just like they can test drive a car before purchase. Anyone who says differently either knows his product is crap or hasn’t got a clue about doing business.