Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

One Last Time

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Shamus Young pitches in to the fray, with statistics about the markets these developers and publishers are catering to; namely, Gamestop, IGN and the console market, whose denizens lash back at the anger directed towards the ridiculous DRM with cries that such is the mere whining of would-be pirates.

The thing is, these publishers are so invested in making sure pirates don’t win that they’ve lost all sight of making sure customers do. This scorched-earth policy underlies how much they miss the point: They’re exploiting the customers and the customers react by exploiting them back.

The message was heard loud and clear for years: “Console gamers are more gullible a market than you. You will accept our crappy console ports and you will buy them six months late and you will pay full price for inefficient code. We do this because you have supported us and made us the big companies we are.”

How RIAA of them. Sounds like Metallica’s infamous argument.

The fanboys that accept the official word and blame this sort of action on pirates are not working in their own self-interest. They’re practically unwitting collaborators. They argue that the companies deserve those profits, and it is the customers’ responsibility to give it to them. The only problem is that it’s not in my interest to prop up publishers regardless of their product, for that isn’t commerce: That’s extortion.

The ‘principled’ customers who say that we should all shoot ourselves in the foot by simply not partaking at all are fooling nobody, least of all themselves, that such will make a difference in the publishers’ eyes.

It’s not a moral issue. It’s an economic one. Ubisoft is poisoning the well it drinks from. Just because they as a business wrap themselves in the flag of moral righteousness does not mean they’re not really bad at business.

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2 Responses to “One Last Time”

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis)
    on Feb 21st, 2010
    @ 4:22 pm

    I think you are missing the point. Microsoft closed down FASA and Ensemble rather than continue to do PC games from those two companies. Origin killed Wing Commander after selling 700,000 copies of the last title in the series.

    Companies are convinced that the statistic that 95% of all people playing their games are playing pirated copies. With Ubisoft, they are convinced that the following things are true:

    1. That upon launch, only people with high end computers will buy or play the game.

    2. That almost everyone with a high end gaming computer has an internet connection.

    3. That many pirates, who actually pay some to obtain pirated copies, would buy a copy if they could not pirate one. How many? 5% to 10% of all pirates.

    4. That of the non-pirates, probably only 10% will find the system troublesome enough that they won’t be willing to buy.

    What do those numbers do?

    Well, if 50% of the people who would have bought, don’t, but 6% of the pirates do buy …

    Of 100%, -2.5% from legitimate buyers who do not (50% of legit buyers is 2.5% of total players). +5% from pirates who do. Net, 7.5% of the market who would have played the game now buys it instead of 5%.

    That is a huge difference in sales. Sales are at 150% of what they would be.

    Impact? If I want to play when visiting the grandparents or at an internet cafe when traveling in Italy or anywhere else? I can. If I want to play when the internet is down? I can’t.

    But WoW seems to do ok while requiring people to play on-line.

    What is interesting is that games that were really solo games, like Hellsgate London, that played better on-line (they made access to an economy and a few other things possible that way), had a substantial number of on-line players (in spite of Hellsgate London’s terrible problems).

    So. Either you find a way to make on-line play a part of the game so that people don’t want to do without it (and ruin the solo campaigns) … or you find something else.

    But you are missing the way the economics look.

    If I’m selling a product to people who spend $1500 a year on computer parts and upgrades that costs $50.00 on, I can take a huge hit with on-line requirements and still come up ahead as long as I convert a fair number of the pirates.

    Personally? Wouldn’t it be easier if Intell’s code on a chip ID program had not met so much resistance and a company could, on authentication only, code a program to work only with the native processing chip on the computer. No piracy at all.

    Game collectors would save motherboards and old systems (which I did for a while anyway, to play games that did not port well to newer operating systems).

    That isn’t going to happen. But the economics mean that the alternative is that they design for consoles first, PCs get the bad ports, and more Ensembles and FASAs go out of business.

  2. Rott635
    on Feb 21st, 2010
    @ 4:55 pm

    High end computers != permanent broadband connections. As it stands, France has more broadband capability than America. Not that it matters, because no game has ever gone uncracked and Assassins Creed 2 will be no different.

    There are no statistics on how much piracy is “hurting” the industry, except those of the Business Software Alliance, which greatly understates (in many people’s opinions) the power of piracy today:

    Ultimately speaking, the PC gaming industry does not, nor has it ever, existed except under the yoke of piracy, and as such must deal with the situation at hand. The profitability of companies in the PC gaming industry have always, and will always, be in direct competition of piracy and until they accept the fact their policies will be for naught.

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