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PC Piracy and DRM Analysis

An article on Eurogamer speaks with a few figures from the game industry seeking to answer the question "How Bad is PC Piracy Really?" The general consensus is that it is impossible to definitively determine what percentage of PC games are pirated, or how many legitimate sales are actually lost as a result, but that doesn't stop some of the people they spoke with from taking guesses: Reinhard Blaukovitsch from SecuROM vendor Sony DADC says "between 40 and 80 per cent of total copies of a game being played are pirated," and: "The commercial value of global software piracy is growing by 14 percent annually." Analyst Michael Pachter tells them: "Ubisoft told me that their PC game sales are down 90 per cent without a corresponding lift in console sales," and that he guesses "40 to 50 per cent of PC games played are not purchased." Capcom's and PCGA's Christian Svensson says he thinks it ranges from 50/50 at the low end and: "At the higher end you can see 90 per cent illegitimate usage to 10 per cent legitimate."

They also discuss solutions: "[There's] no public data to suggest that DRM works," says Pachter. "But the fact that more companies are imposing it strongly suggests that they believe it works." They also have a separate article about Pachter's comments. "Yes, piracy is ruining PC gameplay, and yes, it is forcing PC games online," the analyst says. "This happened in China 15 years ago, and in Korea in the last decade, and it's happening in the West now." One thing all their respondents seem to agree on is that it's a problem when DRM punishes legitimate users and encourages piracy. Here's a chunk with a few takes on that concept:

"Consumers are right to complain about DRM, since it impacts both legitimate and illegitimate users," reckons Pachter. "The problem is that the companies think it limits piracy, and an industrious and determined hacker can work around DRM, while a normal, legitimate user must deal with a hassle. I'm not sure where to come down on this, as I respect the companies' right to protect their intellectual property, while acknowledging the legitimate consumer's complaint about the problems created with DRM."

"The challenge nowadays is to reward loyal users," GOG.com's managing director Guillaume Rambourg believes. "If you make the whole gaming experience more complicated and more frustrating for people who buy the game; if it's easier to play a game that is pirated because they removed all the technical restraints, then I think there is a big issue on the plate now. It should be easier to play a game that you bought legally than play a game that you pirated."

"Through the use of DRM, a publisher can meaningfully improve profitability on a project." Christian Svensson, PCGA and Capcom "There's good DRM and what we call bad DRM," explains Svensson. "There's a huge breadth of parameters and technologies available, and no one technology is bad - it's the implementation that can be bad, the communication around the implementation that can be bad. What we try and do - and we haven't always been successful in this - is never hurt the legitimate user. If the legitimate user is ever going to have a more negative experience than a pirate, you've done something wrong.

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45. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 19:43 Jerykk
 
Most of what you wrote didn't really address my core point, which is that I don't see massive success statements from F2P shooters yet. The biggest multiplayer shooters are CoD, Battlefield, Gears, Halo, Uncharted, etc... none of them are F2P except TF2. On the flipside a ton of MMOs and MOBA games are F2P and successful.

As I mentioned before, the big-budget AAA retail games will always have more hype and marketing than F2P games, making their success more obvious. The existing F2P shooters have had little to no marketing but they're still around, so obviously they are having some measure of success. We also have a bunch of higher profile F2P shooters coming soon, like Firefall, Tribes: Ascend, Ghost Recon Online and Planetside 2. We'll have to wait and see how they do.

I am sure stuff like Battlefield Heroes makes money or else it would have been shut down, but is it really a lot of money? Is it really the kind of money that will entice them to replace the traditional model anytime soon? I don't see it yet.

It depends. Most games don't sell 20+ million units like CoD does. If a AAA retail game only sells a few million, it wouldn't be hard for a F2P game to surpass those profits over time. F2P games are a long-term investment and typically have much lower budgets than games like CoD, so it's much easier to turn a profit.
 
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44. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 16:34 ForgedReality
 
Cutter wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 14:24:
ForgedReality wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 13:27:
People only pirate shit because they can. Not because they would have otherwise bought it. 90% of the games out there aren't worth buying, at least not for the exorbitant amount they want to charge for them. Ridiculous. Yes, rush a product out the door so it's fucking horrible and half-finished, and then charge for a complete product. How about this: FUCK YOU.

People steal because they're assholes. I, like most people around here, can pirate if we want, but we choose not to. I do agree that most titles aren't worth their launch price, not even close, however, we'll wait untill it finally comes down to a price we feel is fair/reasonable. Being impatient is no justification for theft.

I didn't mean to suggest that it was justification for anything, nor that it was even a case of impatience. I just think a great deal of piracy simply comes from the fact that there is no other option for some people.

Perhaps they want a game but they're 12 so they can't afford to even wipe their own ass. Or perhaps it's something they might be considering buying, but they're holding out due to the fact that there's no way to see if they'd really like it or not because no shareware/demo version was made available. They then pirate it to check it out, and sometimes they then purchase it, other times they uninstall it, or if it's semi-decent, they might keep it because "hey I already pirated it..." or they might hold out until the price justifies the purchase.

Either way, I don't think it's as clear cut a case as these distributors would have the public believe -- that every copy pirated translates to a lost sale. I'd suggest that's far, FAR from the truth. Back when shareware was the norm, I checked out TONS of games to see if they were cool enough to buy. Most of them weren't. Since there is no other option for previewing software these days, many turn to piracy. Not every download is a guarantee that that person was going to buy it. When they figure out the game is shit, that's a lost sale, but not BECAUSE they pirated it, rather because the game was shit. Distributors just don't want to admit that maybe their product just isn't very high quality in the eyes of their consumers, so they blame piracy.
 
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43. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 15:25 Mashiki Amiketo
 
Ruffiana wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 14:10:
As for adapting, the industry is. The era of a cohesively bundled, big-budget, AAA game that's 20-30 hours neatly packed up on a DVD is coming to an end. Everyone is moving to a dedicated online game of one sort or another. Most are treading into the free-to-play waters where piracy isn't nearly as casual as it is everywhere else. This trajectory began the moment games started being released and has been rapidly accelerating as more and more people world-wide become connected through the internet and the rise of piracy as a perceived threat to revenues has increased along side it.
Well then I guess it shouldn't be too long before I'll be able to buy up dev houses on the cheap. After all who worries about market saturation and all that?
 
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42. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 15:21 Bhruic
 
There are literally a handful of successful indy games out there and behind them hundreds of failed attempts from people who didn't even make it to their audience.

Bullshit. There are plenty of successful indy games. Comparing Minecraft to Wow is fair enough, but a game doesn't have to sell as many copies as Minecraft to be considered successful. Minecraft is the runaway success, but behind that are plenty of games that have sold moderately well, and ensured that the developers A) got paid, and B) can continue to work on the game + sequel(s).
 
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41. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 14:36 KilrathiAce
 
Eurogamer should ask those "few figures fromt he game industry" about why so many PC game titles are treated as just a "console port" or being so lacking in polish, technology use of the PC and gameplay. maybe if they could nail down that problem more people would actually buy some of the games coming out on PC. Yes, a lot of the games on PC truly suck or are just sad ports off the console. I am surely not gonna pay for a game on PC when I clearly see developer and publisher does half assed job with it.

Oh and If EuroGamer ever speaks to few figures from UBI Soft, ask them about Silent Hunter 3 game many years back when they decided to cut support and told developer team to stop supporting the game after about a month. Game was clearly in non release version with list of bugs longer than Great Wall of China, yet they choose to cut support. Sorry but you can't have it both ways, as in not supporting or finishing products on PC at all and still selling them well.
 
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40. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 14:24 Cutter
 
ForgedReality wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 13:27:
People only pirate shit because they can. Not because they would have otherwise bought it. 90% of the games out there aren't worth buying, at least not for the exorbitant amount they want to charge for them. Ridiculous. Yes, rush a product out the door so it's fucking horrible and half-finished, and then charge for a complete product. How about this: FUCK YOU.

People steal because they're assholes. I, like most people around here, can pirate if we want, but we choose not to. I do agree that most titles aren't worth their launch price, not even close, however, we'll wait untill it finally comes down to a price we feel is fair/reasonable. Being impatient is no justification for theft.
 
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39. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 14:10 Ruffiana
 
fela wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 00:04:
To the gaming "industry": Industry is the problem, not the solution. The industry has adopted the bullshit Hollywood model of pumping out garbage after garbage (yay more sequels and clones!) while additionally nickel and dimming the customer with $10 patches packaged with malware (DRM) and bloatware that nobody wants. This is ruining gaming.

Thank the gods for the Internet and indie games. Developers should understand by now there are only two ways of making a living developing games:

1) Sign away your rights, games, and ideas to middlemen who lost their reason for existence over a decade ago while gambling on a archaic business model that has shown countless failures. Hopefully all the PR stunts will turn a profit for the game and make up for the eventual layoffs of your friends/co-workers and the fact you worked 60 hour weeks for a $60 "AAA" title that will be featured in the bargain bin in a month.

2) Ditch the parasites, self-publish, and make a quality game that rises above the sea of gaming garbage. Since you don't have to appease inept corporate overlords and the almighty profit margin, one can produce twice the quality at a fraction of the cost, and all the while still leaving your dignity intact! See "Minecraft" as an example on how this model works.

If one wants to make money on the Internet one must understand the environment. Since anything you put into 1's and 0's becomes virtually and infinitely abundant, "intellectual" copyright and the cute notion of claiming ownership over non-scarce goods has died its well deserved death. Sorry Mr. Old Guard Developer if you came up with the idea first, but copying and sharing is not theft. I cannot be "stealing" if I am not depriving anyone of their property first, and virtual (non-scarce) goods do not count sorry buddy.

Welcome to the Digital Age kids. Adapt or die.

I've been part of the "industry" for over 12 years now and have never, NEVER, worked a 60 hour week period. Meanwhile, I've drawn a nice comfortable salary week after week, month after month. Sure I've ridden through a number of layoffs and shutdowns in that time, but you know what...it's still better than sitting at home, not making any damn money while trying to support my family and make a supposedly super-awesome game to appease the mass of anonymous gamers.

You are grossly romanticizing indy developers. The majority of whom work as long or as hard as those in the mainstream industry with much more personal risk, far less security, and far less chance for success. There are literally a handful of successful indy games out there and behind them hundreds of failed attempts from people who didn't even make it to their audience. Pointing to Minecraft as the poster-child for indy games is the same as pointing to WoW for commercial enterprises. Hey, you can make a game that brings in more revenue that most countries...that muts be the model for success, right? Frankly, you get more than 3 people involved in a project and you run into the exact same sort or creative disagreements and politics involved in minstream game development. The problem is people, not big-business. And creative people are the worst because they all think they're ideas are the best thing since sliced bread.

Otherwise, your rant translates seamlessly to any creative art as a commercial enterprise. Movies, Music, Games pick your poison. It's the same thing. There's plenty of room in the world for both.

As for adapting, the industry is. The era of a cohesively bundled, big-budget, AAA game that's 20-30 hours neatly packed up on a DVD is coming to an end. Everyone is moving to a dedicated online game of one sort or another. Most are treading into the free-to-play waters where piracy isn't nearly as casual as it is everywhere else. This trajectory began the moment games started being released and has been rapidly accelerating as more and more people world-wide become connected through the internet and the rise of piracy as a perceived threat to revenues has increased along side it.
 
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38. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 13:49 ForgedReality
 
Fion wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 13:30:
Furthermore a number of pirate games to see if they like them and then go back and purchase them if they do (for the multiplayer, etc.)

Exactly. Remember back in the day when companies would produce demo versions of games so you wouldn't have to end up wasting your money on something you can't return?

Maybe instead of bitching about piracy and making up numbers, these companies should fucking take a look at WHY people are pirating and take steps to make their actual product and its after-sales support more enticing rather than simply looking at the bottom line. At least make an attempt to alleviate the feeling that consumers feel like they might be getting ripped off if they buy something essentially sight unseen.
 
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37. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 13:30 Fion
 
A lot of those numbers are bullshit and I think companies like Ubisoft know they are. I mean it would be difficult to determine actual numbers simply because a large portion of game pirates wouldn't have purchased the game anyway. Furthermore a number of pirate games to see if they like them and then go back and purchase them if they do (for the multiplayer, etc.)

Last, the whole craze of making everything online only doesn't work. Ubisoft is famous for requiring a constant internet connection to play, yet their newest game Driver: San Francisco was not only available on torrents two days before the game release but it was already cracked! Three very simple steps and you could play the game and completely avoid their harsh DRM. It's a lot simpler than jumping through hoops so you can play the game legally.
 
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36. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 13:27 ForgedReality
 
People only pirate shit because they can. Not because they would have otherwise bought it. 90% of the games out there aren't worth buying, at least not for the exorbitant amount they want to charge for them. Ridiculous. Yes, rush a product out the door so it's fucking horrible and half-finished, and then charge for a complete product. How about this: FUCK YOU.  
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35. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 13:17 [VG]Reagle
 
I thought we could Torrent all PC software FOR FREE? I mean this is 2011.

I HOPE THESE MORONS GET FIRED FOR EVEN THINKING WE ARE GOING TO PAY FOR THEIR SHIT.

Only GABE NEWEL understands us.
 
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34. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 12:35 Bhruic
 
They share more than just a similar feel. They all follow the same formula, share most of the same weapons, vehicles, settings, enemies, etc, and they all play pretty much the same. The differences between each iteration of CoD is roughly equivalent to the differences between each iteration of Madden. In fact, CoD basically is the Madden of shooters.

So what? That still doesn't make them "the same game". You dislike the existence of CoD, which is fine, but that doesn't make it permissible to tell outright lies about it.

Except if they follow the standard F2P business model, they can just buy the unlocks if they want. The key is to offer players a choice: grind to unlock stuff or pay money to unlock them. As long as every unlockable is available through grinding, nobody will complain.

Uh, says you. There have been plenty of complaints about every game that has allowed people to buy stuff that was normally only available through what you call grinding. Hell, even TF2 had constant complaints about it on this very website, and it's considered one of the "good" ways of handling it.

I don't quite follow you

Right now a game like CoD costs $60. If they are going to give up that $60, and give the game away for free, they are going to want to get at least $60 from all the people playing it to make up for the loss of the cost of the game itself.

If you have 20 million people spending $60 on hats, gun skins, etc, over the course of a year, that generates more profit than selling 20 million copies of the game at $60 a pop because microtransactions are pure profit, whereas retail sales only offer about $20 in profit per sale.

Even assuming your number is correct, again, it's a matter of how many people are actually going to do that. Sure, some of the more dedicated CoD fans are likely to spend money on it, but are the more casuals? If 20 million people paid $60 to buy the game, vs only 1 million paying $60 for items in the game, they most certainly aren't going to come out ahead.

And that, of course, leaves aside the fact that they are almost guaranteed to combine the two. CoD for $60, and then the ability to purchase in-game items. Best of both worlds from their perspective.

much like Battlefield Play4Free

Sure, and we all have seen how successful (or more accurately unsuccessful) that's been.
 
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33. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 12:18 StingingVelvet
 
Jerykk wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 04:03:
Except many millions more would play if there were no subscription fee at all. With that many players, the likelihood of people spending more than $10 a month on cosmetic items, XP boosts and unlockables rises exponentially. There's nothing really "supposed" about the subscription model being phased out. More and more formerly subscription-based games are going F2P and more and more upcoming games are being designed with F2P in mind.

Most of what you wrote didn't really address my core point, which is that I don't see massive success statements from F2P shooters yet. The biggest multiplayer shooters are CoD, Battlefield, Gears, Halo, Uncharted, etc... none of them are F2P except TF2. On the flipside a ton of MMOs and MOBA games are F2P and successful.

I am sure stuff like Battlefield Heroes makes money or else it would have been shut down, but is it really a lot of money? Is it really the kind of money that will entice them to replace the traditional model anytime soon? I don't see it yet.
 
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32. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 10:39 Creston
 
Blahman wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 04:09:
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 00:06:
As for all the figures: worthless. "Yeah, it's somewhere between 40 and 80 percent." Wow, way to nail it down there, buddy.

Creston

He forgot to mention there was a margin of error of 40%, so the actual range is 0 to 120%

He also probably got a nasty tweet from Cevat Yerli, who just KNOWS that 95% of all Crysis players were pirates.

Creston
 
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31. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 05:25 yuastnav
 
Cutter wrote on Sep 30, 2011, 20:56:
It's funny this comes up as I watched a brilliant show on CBC the other night, The Trouble With Experts - which you can watch online at that link. It is well worth the watch.

Seems that in several studies of 10-30 years by academics that almost all of these so-called experts are wrong over half to two-thirds of the time. They showed one experiement that The Economist did where they asked all the best financial minds and captains of industry to predict where the economy would be in 10 years and then they asked a bunnh of blue collar guys, like garbagemen and such, and 10 years later it turns out the blue collar guys were right and all the so-called experts were wrong.

Yeah but that's because economy is not a science and everything a so-called expert says is just a very vague prediction instead of a prevision. It cannot even be called an educated guess.
 
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30. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 04:09 Blahman
 
Creston wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 00:06:
As for all the figures: worthless. "Yeah, it's somewhere between 40 and 80 percent." Wow, way to nail it down there, buddy.

Creston

He forgot to mention there was a margin of error of 40%, so the actual range is 0 to 120%
 
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29. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 04:03 Jerykk
 
Any of those really successful though? TF2 we don't really have any press releases about, but I assume it's the most profitable. The others always seem to have press releases talking about trying to find the profit. It seems to me like all the F2P success stories are in the MMO genre along with LoL.

F2P games don't receive the same amount of hype or marketing as the big-budget AAA games, so it's hard to accurately gauge their success. However, if they weren't profitable, I don't think they'd still be around. On the contrary, the rapid growth of the F2P market seems to suggest that the sales model is quite successful. More and more multiplayer games are going F2P.

I know subscriptions are supposedly on the way out, but I bet millions would pay $10 a month for CoD multiplayer with large dedicated servers, consistent patches and new maps every month or so.

Except many millions more would play if there were no subscription fee at all. With that many players, the likelihood of people spending more than $10 a month on cosmetic items, XP boosts and unlockables rises exponentially. There's nothing really "supposed" about the subscription model being phased out. More and more formerly subscription-based games are going F2P and more and more upcoming games are being designed with F2P in mind.

The traditional retail model is inherently flawed. In order to get shelf space, games need to generate pre-orders and in order to that, publishers have to spend a ton of money on marketing and presentation. That's why marketing budgets are usually 2-3 times larger than the actual development budgets. When you factor in the manufacturing costs, distribution costs, royalties and retailer cuts, most big-budget games end up needing to sell millions of units just to generate a decent profit. It's significantly easier to profit from a F2P game, where you don't need a huge marketing budget and customers have lower expectations.

This comment was edited on Oct 1, 2011, 04:14.
 
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28. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 03:53 StingingVelvet
 
Jerykk wrote on Oct 1, 2011, 02:06:
Frankly, I'd be shocked if Activision didn't release a F2P version of CoD supported by microtransactions. It wouldn't even have to be a new game. It could just be the multiplayer component of an older game such as MW2, much like Battlefield Play4Free, Quake Live, TF2, etc.

Any of those really successful though? TF2 we don't really have any press releases about, but I assume it's the most profitable. The others always seem to have press releases talking about trying to find the profit. It seems to me like all the F2P success stories are in the MMO genre along with LoL.

I think a subscription CoD would be more successful. I know subscriptions are supposedly on the way out, but I bet millions would pay $10 a month for CoD multiplayer with large dedicated servers, consistent patches and new maps every month or so.
 
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27. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 03:36 OldTimber
 
I'm just shocked that a DRM vendor doesn't say 99% of titles aren't pirated copies. As to forcing pc games online? That has far more to do with lack of developing quality single player content that building a engine just for slapping a multi-player mode into it as a cashgrab title.

And honestly I don't mind online drm checking methods as long as they are not intrusive or so stupid layered methods. Like a online check and retaining a CD check hello EAtards. It is far better than keeping some dam code wheel around or a offcolor piece of paper with some codes on it around that you need a clear red plastic strip to read with. I've been playing games since the late 80's so I've seen alot of anti-piracy measures and piracy boils down to this, those that just want the warez, those that want to see if it's worth it, and those who would never buy it anyways as they are cheapassed to begin with.
 
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26. Re: PC Piracy and DRM Analysis Oct 1, 2011, 02:13 Cutter
 
Mashiki Amiketo wrote on Sep 30, 2011, 22:22:
MajorD wrote on Sep 30, 2011, 21:16:
Bummer, it doesn't stream outside of Canada, and I was looking forward to check that out, as it sounds really interesting. I'll have to find another way to watch it.

CBC is getting as bad as the BBC especially since they both take public funds for broadcasting. You can proxy in by the way, it should work. The CBC is pretty crappy at blocking most of them.

I know. That's really fucking offensive since this entire corportation is funded by the taxpayer. There have long been arguements, and still are, that it needs to be cut loose to sink or swim and I agree.
 
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