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Friday, October 07, 2005 

Anger: Apologist for Software Pirates

Do you want to see an example of something REALLY DUMB? Try this piece of bullflop found on the normally decent Gamasutra. It uses every stupid justification for software piracy in the book and then tries to tell indie developers that, get this, piracy is good for their sales. Here’s an example of this rampant stupidity:

In short, these are the Early Adopters - the people who, if they love your product, and know about it, will each generate 5, 10, or more sales.
Oh REALLY?? If this were true, I would be a millionaire making fun games without needing to worry about funding or marketing. Why would someone who stole your game generate more sales? If they like it and people asked them what was new and fun, why wouldn’t they say your game is good while reaching for the stack of blank CD-Rs? Can you really believe that they would send them to Wal-Mart to buy a copy when the “free version” is right at hand?
How does all this benefit the indie studio? Two benefits are self-evident: simple visibility (being seen, gaining name-recognition, etc, but without spending money on a marketing campaign), and exposure to a wider market (through social networks demonstrating your game to peers).
Gaining visibility with the people that are involved in stealing your product isn’t very valuable. Gaining name recognition among them is of even less value.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of exploiting the pirate networks for fun and profit is a reasonable idea, but it is making lemonade with the lemons that the existence of these networks are to developers.

From personal experience I can tell you that piracy kills jobs, destroys companies and is a major contributing factor to the game industry’s dumbed down approach to titles. Risks are big enough on truly original concepts, piracy magnifies those risks. Why make something original and costly when you can slap a license on some schlock from last year and sell it again? Why take the risk on new genres when you can just churn out another Madden or FPS based on middleware? Publishers that take risks go out of business real fast and Execs at publishers that push for taking risks are filing for unemployment in the very near future.

This brings me back to the poor indie developer trying to make a buck and have the freedom to do the games that they love. Mr. Martin’s article boils down to the following: Make a great multiplayer game while making the single player buyer happy. If you do this, you can essentially trade pirate copies of your single player game for distribution on their networks. As long as both the single player and multiplayer games are of high quality and you can control the server to deny access to pirated copies, and your game can detect when the copy-protection has been breached. That is a lot of conditions and I am still not convinced of the existence of any benefits.

Now, why would Mr. Martin take this sort of stance? Hmmm.. Maybe he has a vested interest in promoting backend multiplayer games.
Adam Martin specializes in online-security (cracking, cheating, and griefing) and MMOG development, and holds a patent in server back-ends for MMOGs.
I’m sure he would be very happy to help indie developers use his patented technology (an abomination in itself).

Come on Gamasutra, get it together, you’re better than this.

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