Reply Rant About Copyright Concerning Companies

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ZCochrane's avatar
I've just read an interesting journal by :icongundam-genki: about the frequent issues of piracy, DRM and the like concerning music, video games and movies, and I wanted to reply to that. Since I have more to say about this than just a little, I wanted to do this in the form of a journal instead of a reply, so that more people might reply and tell me what an idiot I am. I'm also posting what follows on my blog, which also has a hand-made german translation of this for those who care.

DRM and Music

As nearly always, xkcd sums it up perfectly.

Short story: We won the DRM war.

I've just updated yet another piece of music ("Live Like you Were Dying" by Tim McGraw) that I've bought in the iTunes Store to DRM-free. You and everybody else is completely right, and the record companies have finally agreed. That fight is over. So let's get to the next topic, which wasn't big in :icongundam-genki:'s original journal, but which I have a lot of things to say about nevertheless.

"Trying out" Video Games

Now, a lot of people are going to hate me for what I'm about to say, and I guess at least some might think that I hate them. I really don't, and none of what I'm about to say is personal.

See, the thing is that I am rather opposed to the orthodox geek opinion on things here. A lot of people say that they "try out" video games and buy them if they like them, and they more or less seem to consider this their right, or at least not very wrong. I completely disagree with that.

First of all, you simply do not get to do that. If you play through a game, even just a quarter of it or just a few hours if it's multiplayer, you have received value. Whether you liked it or not is completely irrelevant to this, you did receive some of the full value of the game. It's great if a company does allow you to try out a game with a demo, but in that case you are still receiving something that is worth money. The developer just books this as promotional.

Second, and this is probably where the hate will set in, I think most of the folks who claim the "just trying out, I'll buy it if I like" thing are not telling the truth. Some might be, of course. Still, I don't believe that all of them have never had the case where they kind of liked a game, but were just too lazy to buy it. Or maybe played through a single-player game, liked it, but didn't buy it because they wouldn't play through it a second time. Not all pirates are potential customers, not even most of them, but some are and sometimes that really does matter.

Some think that a little piracy does not hurt the games industry. I'm not certain where they get that idea from, though. As an example, Ragnar Tørnquist, director of the adventure game Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, says that piracy severely hurt that game. As a result, online activation and possibly online verification when you play it will be required for the next installment. In a more high-level view, Funcom, the company he's working for, is turning more and more of its attention to MMORPGs, since the different business model makes piracy less of an issue in that market.

Finally, you often hear that current video games are too expensive, and that they are too high a financial risk for the core audience of students. That may be true (I've been saying the same thing about model railroads for years, although obviously you can't pirate them), but it actually does not work out that way: World of Goo had a 80-90% piracy rate, despite costing $20, being free of DRM, and having the entire first chapter available as a free demo. Like the blog I've linked to you can certainly wonder whether the numbers are entirely sound, but the basic point remains: Cheaper games, DRM free, longer demos - those methods don't work, so most of those who have been using these points as a justification for piracy are hypocrites. If you find a different way to interpret the numbers, I'd be glad to hear it.

Obviously, blog posts against piracy don't work either, I'm fully aware of that. My hope for the future is that we will see more Steam-like solutions, where strict DRM is coupled with true advantages for customers, like being able to have all your games on every computer you want, achievements and the like. The alternative would be strict DRM (that might not even work) without any benefits for the actually paying customers (I think Spore is the canonical example for that), or all games except MMORPGs moving to consoles.

The Conclusion

What do you think? I wrote a lot here, but I'm really more interested in a discussion than in getting my point of view out, so if you have something to say, even just "You are an idiot", please do! Should you choose to post your own journal or blog post, it would be kind of neat if you could leave a link in the comments.

Not so important things I wanted to mention
Per the request of my sister, the locomotive has been turned dark red. What do you think? Also, you'd think that paying good money for a subscription gives you the right to use

in your journal. Well, no such luck...

© 2009 - 2022 ZCochrane
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EricForFriends's avatar
On the bright side, I've bought quite a number of games without ever playing them, so that should compensate for some pirate activity. :D
ZCochrane's avatar
An interesting solution indeed. My Pile Of Unplayed Games™ keeps increasing too, but I always used to think that was laziness instead of making a point against piracy. Now I know better, thank you! :D
p3rsh1ng's avatar
Somehow I didn't have nerve to read through loads of text so I'm saying only one thing: Copying and piracy kills only BAD music ;)
gundam-genki's avatar
On the DRM, I guess that was more directed towards games and films. Yes, music did have it's fair share of DRM, but I didn't notice a lot of it, my CD-player doesn't care about DRM :P

I actually don't know much about the I-tunes website since it apparently forces you to download Itunes, and I HATE that program (If anyone has tips on how I remove 'Ituneshelper' and 'Ipodservice' please do tell, I do not even OWN an Ipod).

People try out games to see if they are 'worth' buying. Regardless of value, it's easy to do, so why wouldn't someone? These are potential customers. People that download everything for free are NOT potential customers. They only want free stuff.

The people that DO buy it without trying are already potential customers. So basically, what I tried to say in my original journal, is that what I think is wrong is the economic approach. Companies are wasting money on preventing people who only want their stuff for free from getting that stuff for free. Sure, they get the 'value' now, but if they wouldn't have the opportunity to get it for free, they simply wouldn't get it at all. Yet, there is a portion in the 'free download' category who is actually using the free download as a sort of 'advanced demo'. Those ARE potential customers BECAUSE of the downloading.

Yes, you could label it as theft (though legally theft is something much more serious than copyright violation), but even if you manage to prove it IS theft you, as a company, don't gain anything from it. In fact, you'll only miss out on the small group of 'test downloaders'. So basically companies are spending money by fighting piracy, only to loose more money.

The basic plot of what I wrote wasn't so much from the consumer perspective, but rather from the business-perspective. Why waste money on something which won't help you earn money? Because they somehow stubbornly refuse to stop believing that each downloader is a potential client. And that illegal downloaders never buy their stuff...

I sidetracked a little into my personal state, which made it somewhat unclear that I was purely talking from the companies point of view.

Again, you can't sell your stuff to people who only want it for free. And in the case of the internet, it's incredibly hard to fight, so why bother? That was the point I was trying to make. They are needlessly making their products even more unappealing and expensive and are only driving away actual potential customers who are actually willing to PAY for their products. That is what is so annoying to me.
ZCochrane's avatar
OK, you raise some very interesting points there. Now, first of all, two things:
a) I think companies shouldn't care at all about the "test downloaders". I think most of them are just freeloaders who won't admit it, so while annoying them does not have to be a company goal, it shouldn't really matter either.
b) Games without DRM don't sell better than games that do have DRM, so it's really an overhaul of the entire system that is needed.

Other than that, though, I agree. Of course, an interesting point that has been brought up by Wil Shipley (I can't find the precise blog right now) is that effectively, PC game companies are doomed, since their business model mainly is to try and sell software to the one group in the entire world that is most likely to pirate it. I really don't want them to stop doing that, since I like PC video games, but it seems that piracy is really hurting their sales, so I have no idea what else they should do.
gundam-genki's avatar
On your point a), that's exactly what I meant, only in less words :P And probably a bit oddly explained. However, you say that annoying them shouldn't really matter. Yet in my opinion it is wasted money on trying to prevent them, when they'll succeed anyway.

On your point b): correct observation, but however unfortunately, games also do not sell BETTER when they have DRM. Conclusion: DRM does not alter piracy. Conclusion: DRM is a waste of money which could be better spent on additional ingame content.

I don't think PC-game companies are doomed for the easy-pirating factor. A friend of mine has an Xbox360, and the insane number of people having Halo Wars achievements before the official release date said enough about pirating on platforms other than PC. And that's exactly the point I'm making for game companies. Pirating on consoles is a largely ignored topic, but it does happen, and it does happen a LOT. yet, we hear no one about the dropping sales there. In fact, it seems like everyone happily pretends console-gaming is piracy-free... (OK, there is some discussion on it, but it is not as large as the PC, yet the ';problem' doesn't see an awful lot smaller).

I also think ';piracy' is being overestimated a lot. A lot of companies tend to conveniently forget the current situation... sales don't drop per game because of piracy, but mainly because the great increase in the NUMBER of games. And the price rising the last few years. True, piracy probably does take away some money, but I believe most pirates are kids without much money anyway.
ZCochrane's avatar
I don't know anything about consoles, so I'm happy ignoring their entire existence. :D

As for piracy: All the video game industry ever does is try to sell to kids without much money. Sure, it doesn't matter whether one individual pirates or just not buys it, but if ten people pirate it, one of whom might have bought the game otherwise, then there's a problem. So the problem might well be the very system of trying to sell to kids without money.

A different view is PopCap: They sell small games that appeal to everyone and don't cost a lot to make, and they are making a shit load of money with it, without ever worrying much about DRM. Now, if piracy cannot be kept under certain levels, then there's a good chance that before too long, those companies will be the only ones left that make any money.
HerrDrayer's avatar
I'll say you sound like the perfect German...Ordnung! Ordnung! Ordnung! Okay, I also agree with you. There are legit ways to test out a visiting a friend who already has it...or seeing if a demo is available on the developer's website. That's how most music download sites work now...listen to the first 15 seconds, and if you like that, you can download the entire song for 15 cents...or something like that.
ZCochrane's avatar
In the interest of full disclosure, it is my (probably unrealistic) goal to become a video game developer, so I am undeniably biased in these things. :D

I also admit that I did play some games that others had illegally downloaded; my point is just that you should then have the decency to feel bad about yourself.
HerrDrayer's avatar
...bare minimum...:)
hunter1828's avatar
I agree with everything you say here. The fact is, as you already realize, you are never going to convince those people who don't see a problem with stealing something that it is wrong to do so.

Of course, many of those same people that "try out" a video game - or a movie - and see no problems would quite likely go into total fury mode if, say, someone stole one of their photos or pieces of artwork. Go figure.
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