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Monday, January 12, 2004


Paul Jenkins

"It's true that the hardcore gamers do often pirate many games and either a)don't buy any, or b)buy only those they love enough to 'support'. I don't think this is much of a problem; I could be wrong."

I think you're wrong. At one point I had a friend who was CEO of a minor development studio with a large following for one specific product. Through heavy research they had managed to establish via multiple studies independently researched that four times more pirated versions of their software existed than legally distributed versions.

That same CEO decided that the loyal customer base who had initially pirated the software would probably be willing to pay, but may have been unable to do so at the time, and so granted "Amnesty" in that if a person registered their software for a 15 dollar fee they would receive an original CD key and the program would be thereafter considered a legally licensed version.

The result? Practically no one responded, while the community surrounding the software went up in arms because they felt that a product they'd paid for was being given away for a steal to those who had acquired it.

With the next release, the studio decided to avoid the entire ordeal by using a very reliable form of copy protection that required every end user to register their version by phone, mail, or through a direct link to the company site. The process took about 3 minutes.

In response, the same user base once again publically bashed the company until they had little choice but to remove the copy protection scheme with a publically available patch.

Granted, this is just one story from personal experience, but it illustrates yet another paradox of the software and games industry. Software piracy cripples sales, and copy protection methods turn off customers.


The best way to beat piracy is to have a game with multiplayer, implemented with a very good CD-Key system.

All other forms of protection for single player games (no net connection needed) are quite eaisly beaten. Even the likes of XIII which had 'the latest and greatest' protection was disabled in a week.

If you try to implement that into a SP game then gamers will go up in arms about needing to connect just to verify the CD-key to play a _single_ player game.

My solution? Don't include copy protection. Your just wasting money licencing or inventing a protection that doesn't stop pirates and just annoys the buying market. Just got to keep them out of multiplayer with the cd-key system.

Of course, it's not ideal for the devs and pubs but so far there's really no other way.


Actually I was talking console piracy, but I really didn't make that clear. I agree, computer software piracy is an entirely different deal. And an insanely larger one. My bad.


A question I have to raise every time piracy is being discussed: how many pirates would have bought the product in the first place if piracy hadn't been an option. Businesses always offer the most radical estimates possible on piracy losses (for obvious reasons) by assuming that every pirated copy means a lost sale, and that is so far from the reality of the matter it's crazy. Some of the most active pirates are people who wouldn't spend a dime on media / software if piracy weren't an option. For this reason I am deeply skeptical of any self-published piracy statistics. Yes, it's a problem, but most businesses are living in a fantasy world.

Brian Krueger

Regarding piracy:
If you are in the business of distributing media - be it music, movies, games, books, or otherwise - you'd better just accept that a certain number of people are going to pirate your product. Period. If you can't make money in that environment then get out of the business, because it's never going away.

That said, one way to ensure that you make money is to attempt to foil the pirates as much as possible. I like the approach Insomniac took for Spyro: Year of the Dragon (see Game Developer, 3/2001 or http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20011017/dodd_01.htm).

The basic idea here was not to prevent piracy outright, but to make a "crack protection" scheme complex enough that it took a couple of months for the pirates to truly crack the game. By that time, Insomniac had already sold the majority of copies they were going to sell anyway. An interesting approach IMO.


a quick look at what you have here and i can already see some handy hints for me to use in the music biz.
great work.

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