The Pirate Bay

It will be interesting to see the fallout from the Pirate Bay decision. I'm one of those people that is all about the industry moving forward, as technology and pirates always will.

What do I mean? Well the point is that Pirate Bay (and it's use of bittorrent) was generated from a bunch of smart people finding a convenient way to share files, and do you really think that will ever end? This decision will slow down the "overt" sharing but it's an impossible battle to win. It's like Sony when they release new firmware updates for the PSP handheld because hackers keep breaking the previous one. After countless firmware updates, at some point you accept that this battle is going to go on forever. Jail-broken iPhones being another example. It's actually impressive to last a full 24 hours before the next crack happens.

Blu-ray movies are already cracked and freely available on the internet. I'm sure they are all over the Usenet by now. Luckily for us, we are an interactive medium so we have a chance of control.

So what can you do to change the video game piracy paradigm? People are trying... For example, China, where Piracy was a massive problem until they switched to server based games. That stops it stone cold. I personally am investing my money into game streaming, hoping that it will give people a dramatically cheaper choice, and (for pirates) be way more convenient than having to download, burn, install, fix drivers and patch (then worry about malware.)

Media companies waste countless dollars, manpower and sales trying to fight that system, so ultimately the attorneys are the only winners.

The REAL way to beat piracy is to focus on "convenience", "quality", "access". I once heard a speech about the "right price" for music. That's a price where you'd rather pay for the quality, proper meta-tags, "The Real Thing" etc. That's nearly what iTunes offers, but it's too expensive (as the speaker said after his analysis), and so the first company to actually work out that "not worth piracy" price, will suddenly make piracy "inconvenient". You don't have to agree, but it's an interesting idea.

Downloading a Blu-ray movie would be a total pain, and you would only get the video stream, not all the other "features" on the disc, so again, there's a price that people would pay for "The Real Thing", even when offered a free (reduced experience) online.

I don't expect media companies to consider this option, they will keep charging more and more and more and more (just like the video game industry is doing), the prices will continue to rise, and piracy will be fuelled. I call it the "money wall" and we just keep making it higher, making the barrier-to-entry worse and worse. It doesn't require an MBA to see that's not a good strategy.

So for me the only thing that really happened with the Pirate Bay legal decision is that this will slow down "public" piracy a bit for a short period of time, until the next method surfaces (with absolutely no traceable central command, nobody makes money off it, nobody to sue), comes along. Will this happen? Of course it will, it's a certainty!

Our industry has very smart people too, and so if anyone can get this right, our industry can. But the solution isn't to fight in courts, or to play "revision ping pong" with hackers, it's to move forward and design convenience, quality and access at a mass market price. That's what will get people to pay, even if there's an inferior pirate version available on some dodgy website.

At Acclaim.com, ALL our games are free to play, you only pay if you fall in love with the game. For me, there is no better business proposal for the gamer. Secondly, if file sharers share Acclaim game files, they actually save us money (as we don't need to pay for delivery bandwidth). We have ZERO piracy, and file sharers our are friends!

My message is simple, look where the industry is going, and get on that train. Or, set up a direct deposit account with your attorney, so they can rack up thousands of hours pretending to protect you from these scary "Pirates!".

No lawsuit will make them go away, and continuing to raise prices is just throwing fuel on the fire.

I remember seeing Michael Moore get hit with the question of piracy on his work, and his response was kinda surprising:

Anyway, to be clear, I think our industry focus should be on generating new business models, new ideas, and move with the times. We have a unique advantage over static media and are just one step away from being the #1 form of entertainment.
In a weird, twisted way, the pirates of static media (movies & music) are going to help get us there.


Comments

In addition to the point that is made in the article, I see piracy as a strong force that would be not very smart to fight as the chance of the winning is pretty much non-existent (would you jump on the track in front of the full speeding train to try to stop it?). Rather think jiujitsu - masters use the direction of the force itself to win. They "correct" it. I think we can use the similar technique with the piracy. Study case: the games my company make were pirated by Ukranians and Russians. Apparently, they were so successful, that large Russian publisher contacted us in regards to localization. We have been partners for a few years since, our games grow stronger in Russian market with each release, and since publisher sells it at a very decent price (read: cheap) and we sim-release games with NA market, pirates don't have any reason to steal our games anymore (at least for this market =) ). So thanks to the pirates that originally marketed and promoted our games, we were able to jump on the speeding train instead of trying to stop it...

Posted by: Aleshka at May 24, 2009 1:37 AM

"At Acclaim.com, ALL our games are free to play, you only pay if you fall in love with the game. For me, there is no better business proposal for the gamer. Secondly, if file sharers share Acclaim game files, they actually save us money (as we don't need to pay for delivery bandwidth). We have ZERO piracy, and file sharers our are friends!"

That's the only way to work with the problem of piracy (not 'work around it', because it's here to stay). Release your games for free and just ask for a donation or ask people to otherwise pay for the game if they like it (let them pay what they think it's worth).

But instead of solely MMOs, this model should be extended to, or at least tested with, *all* kinds of games.

Posted by: Josh Milewski at April 21, 2009 5:22 PM

Hey DP,

I'm glad you said this.. I've been thinking the same solutions to help solve piracy or at least slow it down, by offering games cheaper prices for better "convenience", "quality", and "access". Personally I only buy games that give me a replay value of one full year.. Ever since I got into PC Gaming, I only game on PC Games. Why? Because I just couldn’t afford to renew a new home gaming consoles every few years, and buying/renting video games. I stick to PC games like, FPS online games, COD series, and Battlefield series. They offer a great replay value. COD offers great single and online experiences, and Battlefield offers a great online experience. Both have very good online features, such as an active online community offering casual gaming, competitive community, and modding community.. I can easily play years and just buy those 2 FPS game series.. I just don’t see a single player experience being worth more than $10-$15, without any a very strong online mode, like having a very active online community to offer mods, competitive gaming, and casual gaming. Even high end NEW single player only games are not worth more than $15 in my eyes. For example, FEAR, let’s say if they only had a single player mode, yea its an amazing single player experience, I just don’t see it worth $50+.. Now If I were to rent the game on PC for like 1-2 weeks, beat it.. don’t need it anymore.. All I need to do is beat it once, I’m done.. Games that last years are worth $50 to buy.. Once I heard about streaming games technology like Onlive I was stocked. Onlive will help the entire gaming industry to offer cheaper, convenience, quality, and access. And if the rumors are true that both console and PC games can be played on a mini console and on a PC, that would be amazing since I’d love to play more games that isn’t costing me tons of cash to play. Also not having to worry about upgrading my PC to higher end hardware to play newest games, will be amazing saving me tons of cash.

Posted by: Snakekilla at April 21, 2009 6:18 AM

DP,

As the media convergence flag unfurls, DLC is the ONLY way to future-proof any business model that wishes to make profit while combating piracy.

It takes me back to the 8-bit era and the days of cassette-tape loaders (being able to copy games on my hi-fi); I remember then budget games from CodeMasters, Ultimate and Encore/Hit-Pack struck a chord with me and my ability to buy these games. As a child with 'Pocket-Money' to spend on whatever I pleased, I opted for these value driven labels as I could afford these. By my calcuations now I would have maybe spent 10-20 pounds a year on one big game (whatever the big Ocean game was at the time) and quite possibly 70-90 pounds on budget titles throughout the year.
I am seeing this trend continue into new consoles especially with a budget line of games being driven with the ability to share on multiple systems. My experience shows that people actually buy up more of these games to share to mantain their status within a peer group.
Right now I see the biggest challenge to a world free of 'hard-media' is lack of broadband in some places, cable companies and ISPs should be running for the hills as wireless carriers are readying the world to make mobile access the industry standard. (On a side note do you realize how much this would make the price of copper dive if most cable laying industry was made redundant? Makes me wonder if there are conglomerates at work holding back this technology for socioeconomic reasoning such as this, I must investigate this).
Theories aside, I'm loving the Acclaim model keep up the good work!

Posted by: michaeljpmurray at April 20, 2009 10:46 AM

Hello David,

For me as an freshly graduated Game Designer it´s great to hear that even veterans (no pun intended) like yourself see more than just the "front page" of the whole piracy issure.
I too believe that (as in a lot of cases)the media tries to hang to old believes to get the most out of the paying customer.

However It would be a lot more refreshing (and in my opinion a lot more profitable) if we all would focus on values like quality,convenience and access.

Great article thank you for sharing your thoughts!

-Mark Peterson

Posted by: meesha at April 20, 2009 4:21 AM

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