People arguing that piracy is ruining gamedev routinely ignore the fact that those who pirate don't necessarily have the means to buy many games; their choice is purely between pirating and not playing. Of those 90% or more who pirate the game, it's probably less than 10% who can be persuaded to actually buy it.
Anyway, I'm curious to see how this attempt unfolds.
As a more overt example, in the game Bacteria Salad , created after one of the E.coli scares, profits trade off directly against food safety: bigger farms are more profitable but also spread contamination more quickly. This may or may not be an accurate explanation of the causal mechanism (at the very least it's an oversimplification), but it's the causal mechanism the game's author has chosen to implement in an attempt to make a point. The author of that particular game also wrote a book about the use of games to make points like that , which this piracy mode seems like a good example of.
So to successfully play the game, you will need to accept a range of economic theories far outside the European mainstream, that to a certain extent is directly contradicted by real-life experience. I found that unsettling even at an age when I didn't know much of the politics, given that the manual even of the original presented it as a simulation and went into great detail about the techniques they'd applied to make the simulation more realistic...
You say "it was nothing like what I knew from Norway." Does that mean in Norway you can have one crappy town charging 20% municipal taxes next to another crappy town charging only 10% municipal taxes, and this will have no effect on which town people want to live in?
I am not too familiar with the exact dynamics of the game, but I would think that as your SimCity becomes more awesome, higher taxes can be levied because people want to live there for other reasons. Is this not the case? I hope these social economists weren't just arguing, "taxes are high in Oslo, and there is no shortage of people who want to live there!"
Subsidizing maintenance of regional settlement has been a key part of Norwegian government policies for many decades, and is a generally accepted principle by parties ranging from the various communist parties (none of which have been in government for a very long time) to the conservatives. The only exceptions you find to this is far right libertarians.
This is a similar situation to many other European countries.
It is seen as a key way to maintain the heritage of the country. We talk of "cultural landscape" - very little of Norway is actually untouched nature. Rather most other than parts of the mountain-regions, including forests, have been tended to for centuries, in various ways, whether logging, agriculture or herding animals.
Remember that simcity is a socialist fantasy world: all development is directly purchased by central government. In the real world, zoning doesn't cost money, and stadiums are sometimes owner financed.
Even in the US, neither the state or federal government has so little impact at the municipal level.
The main criticism was actually not the tax rate, as much as the model. In most of Europe, most tax money flows to the national governments, and large parts of the municipal spending then flows back out from the national government earmarked for specific areas, such as education.
In many cases municipal governments have no power to alter tax rates, or are bound to a very limited range.
In many countries most tax revenue also comes from VAT, rather than income taxes, and highly progressive taxation is a large part of the discussion of income taxes. Just the idea of having a single setting for tax rate itself in the original was/is something you would occasionally find advocated from far right parties, but never the European mainstream.
You would also tend to see larger infrastructure projects funded by regional or national governments, rather than coming out of municipal tax revenue.
Of course a lot of this would complicate game mechanics, and so it might be considered "just" a simplification, but it creates a model that from a European perspective is bizarre.
I think in SimCity's case it was probably not intentional, at least originally. The first version of the game seems to have just been Will Wright coding up some ad-hoc city-simulation rules to make a fun sandbox game, not him trying to make a point about urban planning or economics on purpose. But nonetheless these interesting assumptions end up in there.
Isn't that pretty much accurate? I'm not aware of any serious theory postulating that raising taxes will have any non-negative effect on economic growth in and of itself.
Where it breaks down is once you account for what the tax dollars buy. If government takes $5000 from you but provides $6000-equivalent worth of health services (which it may be able to do through economies of scale or reduced transaction costs or solving a collective action problem etc.) then you have a net gain of $1000 rather than a net loss of $5000.
Imagine bifurcating the result: In one scenario, your country is the beneficiary of the efforts of a large international charity, you get $6000/citizen worth of health services without collecting any tax dollars from your population. Second, your country collects $5000 in taxes from each citizen and then sets the money on fire, or gifts the money to an international banking cartel in exchange for nothing whatsoever. Does anyone care to argue that the second could somehow be preferable to the first?
Which brings it back to the conservative position, which is that governments through incompetence or corruption will tend to convert $5000 of tax revenue to something less than $5000 worth of services to the population, resulting in a net loss to the economy and the country's people.
What so happens to be true as a factual matter is that a) governments can strike the balance in either direction depending on how well they're managed, but b) that the larger a government is, the more likely it is to allocate resources inefficiently, because as size increases economies of scale reach diminishing returns while the attention of legislators and their ability to perform due diligence is spread ever thinner over an expanding scope of government projects, leaving more opportunities for mistakes and corruption.
I always thought it would be an interesting experiment to eliminate 90% of federal spending but not lower federal taxes whatsoever, just give the money to the states whose residents paid the taxes, with no strings attached (i.e. the feds serving only to enforce uniform taxation and inhibit jurisdiction shopping), and letting the states individually decide how to spend the money. You can imagine a significant reduction in corruption: California residents would no longer be paying a pro rata share of the cost of boondoggles in Massachusetts (or vice versa), and Massachusetts residents may decide they don't want them either if they have to pay the entire cost out of their own pockets.
To begin with, there has been made the case that progressive taxation does, mostly, not mean a significant negative behavioral response in production. That is, taxes can in practice be increased a lot until the rich start fantasizing about going Galt. [D&S] estimate the optimal tax rate, for maximum social welfare, for the richest to be at 70%. It's now about, what, 20%? Citizen Romney paid 14%, and the Great Capitalist still behaves like a little bitch, whining about his being oppressed and all.
You also don't seem to take into account elasticity, the decreasing utility of money, or any notion of optimizing social utility. If I'm Bill Gates, I could not give enough of a shit that you taxed from me $5k dollars, or even $500k. But, use that to pay for nine or ten heart surgeries, and suddenly social utility is increased by, I would guesstimate, 100x (total lifetime earnings of those ten people, starting after surgery). Even if 20% of that is embezzled.
Also, there's not really any empirical support for a inverse relation between business taxes and economic growth. It's just one data point, granted, but we could take as an example Bush's years. Massive tax cuts, but very poor growth.
There's a point where packing and leaving is easier. And the richest the people, the easier this is.
Governments have to realize that, at a certain point, they are in competition with other countries. Multinational companies and rich people come to mind.
The rich can pay their way through most of the immigration burdens that prohibit the average joe from moving (yes, even to the US)
You're absolutely right about the ability of the rich to buy their way to the front of the immigration line, I just don't see it happening in significant numbers.
What about the flight of manufacturing from the US, c. 1980-2000?
The missing piece is that you don't always have to choose. If the low tax rate attracts businesses (or even just causes corporations to arrange to report all their profits in your jurisdiction) you may end up with quite a lot of revenue even at the lower rate.
The key to that game is convincing all the other countries not to play. If you have low taxes and no one else does, you win. If you and all the other countries have low taxes, all the countries lose and the corporations win.
The U.S. strategy is kind of interesting: The corporate taxes are nominally really quite high, but the largest corporations (i.e. the ones best able to leave or rearrange holdings) don't actually pay them.
The problem is not that they stop participating in the economy, the problem is that higher taxes induce more economically inefficient behavior solely for the purpose of tax avoidance. Corporations will engage in whatever contortions necessary and waste enormous resources and engage in otherwise-irrational activities with billions of dollars behind them solely for the purposes of reducing taxable income. If you can spend a billion dollars to save $1.2B in taxes then corporations will do it. So corporations hoard assets in offshore subsidiaries because repatriating it causes it to be taxed and issuing it as a dividend causes it to be taxed again, but doing neither allows the shareholders to take the profit as share price appreciation which can be tax deferred indefinitely and even then comes in at a lower rate. Result is that corporations like Apple end up as de facto mutual fund managers even though their business expertise has absolutely nothing to do with that. The amount of inefficiency caused by making poor (or just excessively conservative) investment decisions with billions of dollars per corporation is difficult to even imagine. Then there is the matter of jurisdiction shopping, so again, the problem is not that they stop engaging in economic activity, the problem is they move across borders, and each instance of that causes you to get 30% of nothing instead of 20% of something, meanwhile the businesses that stay are put at an economic disadvantage (or reduced economic advantage) against their foreign competitors.
>You also don't seem to take into account elasticity, the decreasing utility of money, or any notion of optimizing social utility.
That's because we're discussing business growth. And D&S have the opposite problem: They try to account for utility to the taxpayer (though they go on to assign that value to zero for high income earners), but they never account for the investment value of money. When a business owner pays more in taxes and in so doing has only enough earnings to reinvest into opening three new facilities instead of four, the owner may not have any change whatsoever in standard of living, but the employees who would have worked at the fourth facility might have a different opinion.
D&S also calculate the "optimal" tax rate as the one that generates the most revenue from high income earners, which ignores the essential question of whether the government can make more economically productive use of the money than the private sector. They punt on the question by assuming that because high earners have a lower marginal utility for the money than low income earners, shifting the tax burden at any given spending level toward high income earners will always result in a net gain in social utility, but that falls apart pretty quickly because the lowest income earners already have a negative effective tax rate. So that assumption devolves into the idea that redistribution of wealth has positive social utility and we should always take from someone who has more money and give to someone who has less money to take advantage of the social utility gain, i.e. naked Marxist rhetoric with no economic basis.
>If I'm Bill Gates, I could not give enough of a shit that you taxed from me $5k dollars, or even $500k. But, use that to pay for nine or ten heart surgeries, and suddenly social utility is increased by, I would guesstimate, 100x (total lifetime earnings of those ten people, starting after surgery).
This is a perfect example because of what Bill Gates actually does with his money. If you take $500k that could have gone to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates may not give one damn about the money, but what about the people he was going to buy mosquito nets for? And what if the government spends the money building F35s that don't fly rather than on heart surgery?
>Also, there's not really any empirical support for a inverse relation between business taxes and economic growth. It's just one data point, granted, but we could take as an example Bush's years. Massive tax cuts, but very poor growth.
Why are you assuming the result of low tax rates would be seen immediately? A business doesn't always decide to build a new facility when taxes change, they just decide where to build the new facility based on what prevailing tax rates are. You might also want to look into Chamley and Judd (as discussed in D&S at 14), regarding the consequences of taxing investment earnings that would have been reinvested. The short version is, because investments collect interest with exponential growth, taxing would-be investment capital has an exponential cost to the economy if future earnings would always be similarly reinvested.
D&S go on to discount this because most families or individuals will eventually choose to consume their savings rather than continually reinvesting their earnings forever, but that doesn't really apply when the entity collecting the earnings is a publicly traded corporation, and even for individuals the original reasoning still holds to extent that earnings are reinvested.
Part of the problem is that economies are basically nonlinear dynamical systems, and nonlinear systems tend to have lots of strange feedback loops and attractors, where varying some inputs rarely has a simple (or often, even predictable) effect on system dynamics. An analogy might be fluid flow: high-level generalizations you might make about fluid flow are typically right only in specific flow regimes, and wrong in others (due to effects such as switching between laminar and turbulent flow). For example, if you can assume flow is always laminar, then increasing the pressure-drop across a length of pipe increases the flow rate. But increasing the pressure-drop can also induce turbulence, which may decrease the flow rate. I think most macroeconomic generalizations that assume things like "lower taxes are better for business" ignore system-dynamic effects like regime-switching.
The main point, though, is that SimCity just posits a very simple relationship, rather than attempting to build a realistic model of the economy grounded in scientifically valid empirical data. This can have some propagandistic effects of basically defining a certain causal relationship as true, which may or may not be true in reality, but happens in the game's virtual world as defined. In practice, SimCity probably just did that for ease of coding and playing. An incredibly complex city simulation where your actions had unpredictable, very indirect effects, and random chance or exogenous factors or just hard-to-explain stuff overrode your policy decisions on a regular basis, might not be very fun to play, compared to an ultra-simplified world with predictable rules. But it's interesting to think of rhetorical effects as well.
I think the "economies are complicated" explanation is the wrong one for the point you're trying to make. If you can't predict what's going to happen, and taxes usually (but not always) result in lower growth, you're usually going to lose by raising taxes. And when taxes are broad-based, this is very likely to be the case indeed. Take "usually" and average it over enough repeated iterations and you get something that looks a whole lot like "always."
The place you can win just by raising taxes is where you set out to tax something that it would be economically beneficial to destroy through economic disadvantage. For example, one of the problems with sustainable energy has always been that they could achieve cost parity with fossil fuels, but only by gaining economies of scale that they couldn't do without first achieving cost parity, so you have the chicken and egg problem. If you tax fossil fuels at a sufficient rate then that in and of itself solves the chicken and egg problem, which allows sustainable energy to increase economies of scale and become even less expensive, in the long term even less expensive than untaxed fossil fuels (especially when accounting for externalities). I assume this is what you're referring to as regime-switching. But you don't, as a general rule, get that sort of thing by imposing broad-based taxes or specifically taxing anything that you wouldn't like to discourage the consumption of, you get it by correctly predicting the outcome of a targeted tax and intentionally destroying something undesirable through taxation. (Which I don't think Sim City allowed you to do.)
If you try to build a dynamical system as the model, things get weird very fast. Even in simple ones you can build as toys, there is a lot of system-internal behavior: there are feedback loops, oscillations, attractors. Minor changes can have significant counterintuitive effects, if they dampen or excite various resonances in the system (which we're assuming here is a stand-in for "economics of a city"). That kind of Sim City I'd be very interested in. :)
But would it be a fun game? Quite possibly not: players really tend not to find complex and chaotic simulations very fun, when the knobs affect the outcome in ways that are too indirect. Chris Crawford found that in a few of the games he made: a lot of players found Balance of the Planet, which tried to model all sorts of complex ecological effects, frustrating at best.
They kinda sorta tried this in SimCity 5 and it's at least partially responsible for how broken the simulation is at this point. They ended up having to hack in a bunch of things to keep it stable and it is still producing some bizarre results a couple of months after release.
>But would it be a fun game? Quite possibly not: players really tend not to find complex and chaotic simulations very fun, when the knobs affect the outcome in ways that are too indirect.
It's pretty fun games like Dwarf Fortress. You can essentially trace the downfall of an entire Dwarf Civilization to pet cat dying and setting off a ridiculous chain of events. I think it helps that the expectation coming into that game is, "Losing is fun." so players roll with it.
I remember seeing lessons from an economics class in Germany where the first lessons include conflict between capitalists and labor and the negative effects of income inequality. In America, we start with basic supply and demand models.
Even still, the above doesn't work out because you are responsible for providing city infrastructure as well, which costs money up front. If you don't collect tax revenues, you can't afford to build new infrastructure without going into debt.
You know, forget everything I said. It's a simulation game with only lose ties to real-world economics. It doesn't have to make sense.
Mind that this's not my own PoV but from what I've been taught in school in the USSR and read in the modern liberal media the general idea is that it depends.
If you just take 5K from every man, woman and child then it's not good. However if this is just the average number and you take more from the "rich" and less from the "poor" then the communists argue that you reduced the wealth disparity and the value of this could easily be over 6K per person.
 Barack Obama refered to Ireland as a tax haven recently http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/obama-forced-to-retract...
Well, in Ireland if you don't earn "too much" (less than +/- 32k€ per year) your (governmental) tax rate is 20%
The limit is actually ludicrously high if you consider municipal taxes. E.g. Norway has a tax load of somewhere around 40% (which includes the effect of up to 25% VAT - the income tax rate for most people is substantially lower), but only 12% of tax revenue, or 5% of income, ends up back in municipal coffers. The rest is spent in regional or national budgets.
Of those 5%, maybe 3% actually is income taxes, and they're outside the control of the municipal government.
So if we are to see it as municipal taxes, the limit is ridiculously high, from this perspective. If we are to see it as income taxes, or total tax load, it is way too low.
But even the idea that the municipal government can control tax rate to that extent, and has that wide latitude in where the money gets spent is (fairly far) right wing from a European perspective.
Separate municipal tax rates is pretty much absent from the political discussion in much of Europe, because it largely doesn't exist - local budgets tends to be handed out as grants from central government. Decentralizing this is seen as dangerous because it would jeopardize the provisioning of services that are expected to be available equally to everyone. To the extent that municipal taxes exist, they tend to be very low and tied to specific limited services under local control.
When Thatcher introduced the Poll Tax in the UK, which is what eventually morphed into the current Council Tax - the UK's version of municipal tax rates - it was a shocking development that even contributed to rioting (though to be fair, in part because the way it was created also explicitly disenfranchised the homeless). But even today, a large part of UK council budgets comes from central government.
I'm speaking less about the use of games as a rhetorical device and more about creating and reinforcing deeply held assumptions and worldviews.
I used to strongly object to rhetoric about how video game violence induces violent behavior in people; I thought that was bullshit coming from people who were scared of video games or did not understand them. It's been years now, and I have deeper (relatively speaking) understanding of the nature of conflict and violence. There are relatively few RPGs or shooters that give you the option of completing the game without killing vast numbers of monsters. And I haven't seen any where you can do things like, actively spend experience points or sacrifice your powerups to resolve conflict. People want to feel more powerful by beating up bigger and bigger monsters.
There are other interesting deep beliefs such as the notion of fairness. People get very, very upset when the game seem to cheat. People have gotten upset at games like Corrypt, when things don't seem to work the way they think it should.
I remember listening to a video online where the person explained how the american army had problems with the use of torture on TV because it always worked on TV when Jack Bauer needs it. New officers came in with these preconceived notions about torture because they had "learned" from TV that it worked (without saying it was moral or not).
And people who defend pirates routinely ignore that pirated products are also pirated by people who will take what they want for free if they can, because they can. Don't pretend to a higher level of intellectual honesty or moral strength. Your position can lay claim to neither.
I only bring this up because there's often an underlying assumption that every pirate is a lost sale, when in reality there maybe 1% of pirates that would have otherwise bought the game. I'm in no way trying to say pirating has any moral leg to stand on.
My experience with my social group is that this second group is quite high. I know (for example) people who have bought many xbox 360 games (as these are hard to pirate) and have never bought a PC game, despite playing similar number of games on each.
There is also another important figure that is routinely ignored: the number of honest customers who get screwed by or annoyed with DRM and other forms of copyright protection (20 years ago we had to enter words from the game manual, page X line Y word Z, in the middle of the game) and decide to buy fewer games in the future (and possibly pirate them instead to avoid such annoyances).
The CEO of Square Enix was fired because he produced the latest iteration of Tomb Raider, and it arguably is the best iteration of Tomb Raider ever, and plainly didn't make any money.
Also your argument about 20 years ago is plain incorrect. 20 years ago DRM was way more strict and customer screwing than it is today. 20 years ago if you wanted to play a top of the line game, you would have to buy a Nintendo Entertainment system. Arguably the most restrictive walled garden system that has ever been in the market.
The North American release of the NES was 28 years ago now.
But hey, if you want to compare Doom on the PC when it came out in 1993 to Doom on the SNES when it came out three years later, and consider the sub-standard SNES port that's three years late to be a top of the line game, go ahead.
Although why Doom was used as an example (not by you, I'm aware), I'm not sure. I don't remember any copy protection on it.
(EDIT: sorry for the rant, but this stuff really gets under my skin. If you are too cheap to spend 8 bucks on an indie game, SAY SO, don't come up with rationalizations about how the world is a better place for it)
Makes sense to me.
I thought he simply said they would spend the same amount. So they would consume less games and so have less "cultural" experiences if they couldn't pirate some games:
So, like, if they'd pirated Gears 1 and bought Republic 2 [made up names] then next period they might have bought Gears 2, but then would have pirated Republic 3 and ArmsRace 1.
With stronger anti-piracy measures Gears 1 comes out at the same time as Republic 2 but they can only buy one so they get Republic 2. Next period they get Republic 3 because they don't want to risk the new ArmsRace 1.
In both scenarios they bought 2 games - ie spent/bought the same amount. In the second they played 3 more games than in period 1. The makers of Gears benefited from piracy by winning a convert to their franchise (but notably the industry didn't gain in this scenario).
It's not as if kids rigorously budget their money and have a "video game" line item which cannot be exceeded. If they could easily sneak into movie theatres or hockey games and never get caught, they'd do that too and spend the leftover money on something else.
However, despite the high piracy rates on PC platforms, good games still do well.
Is it due to convenience , availability of cheap games in sales , extra features in steam or did a rise in your disposable income just happen to coincide with the launch of steam?
For me it was mainly 2 and 4.
The other day I saw a trailer about a game I found visually stunning (Anno 2100? I forget the number), and I checked the price on Steam. It was too expensive for something I'd play once or twice, and I thought of pirating it, but then couldn't be bothered to go through all the hassle. Therefore, I suspect it's mostly convenience.
I wonder if there were less sales whether I would spend more on games, spend the same on less games or simply pirate more.
To put it another way, they never planned to sell 10 million units at $60. They planned to sell 1 million units at $60, 2 million units at $30, 3 million units at $20, and 4 million units at $10. Price drops are the only effective and legal way to do that.
I buy from steam because I don't have to deal with any of this bullshit. It's stress free and easy to use. It's the same reason I buy from iTunes. The only computer game I bought that was not on Steam was Starcraft 2. And that was mostly because of nostalgia and great reviews.
The sales, prices, and income mean I buy more games. When I spend $60 on a game it's an investment. I want more than $60 worth of entertainment from it, otherwise I'll just take the g/f to the movies or on a date. When I spend < $20 on a game, it's on the level of a lunch. If it can last a few hours I'm happy.
When I think about how Valve built their brand, at least in my eyes, it was a two-step process. First, make a few great games (and no high-profile duds). That's your foundation. Then add all the Steam stuff, and be careful to never ever screw me over. EA isn't good enough at step 1, and while they haven't screwed ME over, there are too many people crying and screaming for me to ignore it.
Who else could diversify the digital-distro ecosystem? Maybe Blizzard? Except now it's Blizzard/Activision, and Activision seems sketchy this era.
Maybe ZeniMax? (I dunno what Zenimax is like as a corporate overlord, but if you sum up the brand credibility of all their subsidiaries, that's a lot of credibility! I might not enjoy playing id games any more, but I respect the hell out of them, and open-sourcing all your engines is exactly the kind of trust-builder that an overlord needs.)
"Games I haven't played since I bought them in a steam sale"
Maybe if I was a student again...
or a credit card. a lot of great games on steam are dirt cheap - back when i was a kid that played a lot - because i had the time and motivation - 2-8 euros a game would have been affordable. but games were always full priced - 50 euros maybe?, there weren't really any cheap bargain buckets yet.
of course back then i had neither internet and even if i had, no credit card. piracy was the only option mainly because the games weren't affordable nor obtainable.
nowadays i don't have a single pirated program or game on my pc, but neither do i have the patience to play games.
On an ongoing basis, #3 plays little or no role, but if you count "steam exclusive" as a feature, then it played a critical role in getting me onto Steam in the first place. I wanted to play Natural Selection (original, natch), and that meant I needed a Steam account. Back then I was too miserly to pay for HL1, so a friend gave me a spare serial (I'd argue this was borderline piracy in-spirit). Valve didn't get money from me on HL1, but they've definitely had the last laugh. These days I spend a hundred bucks a month via Steam, and I'm happy about it.
Also lack of time, I would never think of pirating a book or game because one will keep me going for ages. I listen to music every day though so until the streaming services come in maintaining a legal music collection as prohibitively expensive.
Conclusion: even if everyone on hacker news answered a survey on piracy practices the data would be useless because HN is not a representative population for all videogamers.
(Most folks I know who deal with game piracy figure a hypothetical conversion rate around 20-25%, which, especially for companies of the article writer's size, is easily the difference between make or break.)
If we look at freemium to paid conversion rates, 20% seems out-of-this world large. Almost no one has that high. Looking around, 1% or 2.5% is said to be the average for games.
Why would a pirate be 10 times more likely to be incited to buy a game, rather than those who play a game designed from the ground up to encourage high conversion rates? It sound to me that logic demand that games with features designed for high conversion rates will do better than games that don't.
Ie, to sum up, the conversation rate for pirate->paying should be far less than 2.5% in average, and nowhere near 20%.
You can't really compare what amounts to a SaaS conversion rate to a purchase of a completely realized product with significant media presence (like, even indie games get a ton of eyeballs and an implicit seal-of-quality when they hit Steam or XBLA). It just doesn't shake out that way.
Through, you don't answer the question on why games designed for high conversion rate should fair worse than games that aren't. You also add a additional questions when putting distinction to the population in question. Are we saying here that pirates are more likely to convert to a pay-to-play model than non-pirates are to go from a freemium model to pay? Whats the basis of such statement? All I see is a claim of inside knowledge, which in 2013 means as much (or little) as anecdotal evidence.
If all we have is unverified claims about high conversion rates, and in opposing side we have studies that shows low conversion rates for identical products, I will go with the study until proven different otherwise. I find the idea that the population in question would have a 2000% effect on the conversion rate, and that pirates are part of that group, to be a very large and unverified claim. The wilder a claim is, the more is it up the commenter to provide evidence to support it.
 says it was 18% in 2007. I very, very strongly doubt it's gone down. XBLA de-lists games with a Metacritic score below 65 (which is basically impossible) and a conversion rate below 6% (which is apparently really hard, huh?). Ken Lobb has referred to 20%-40% conversion rates for in-house games at MGS.
And you once again are bound and determined to ignore the differences between the markets you want to compare (hint: they're not identical products, they're not even substitutable products!), I think I'm going to bow out because there's no progress to be made here. HAND.
 - http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=15117
 - http://www.joystiq.com/2008/05/22/underperforming-xbla-title...
This will sound rude, but are you trying to fool others are have you just fooled yourself? Comparing a restricted store which only allow a few marked freemium games, with the PC game market in general is ridicules. The article is about the PC market and PC pirates. Not only is the PC market massive bigger than the total of 588 titles since 2004 that XBLA has, but XBLA has less freemium games per title than the PC market has. They also have a different demographic. A XBLA users is average ages 22, is a causal gamer, and has a middle class income. The average PC pirate age is lower, has less exposable income, and preference more hardcore game.
There is no shareable trait between the PC pirate, and the XBLA market. Trying to present the PC market as if its somehow would be the limited selection of XBLA titles is just false. Presenting a small selection bias as representable for the game industry is just...
Your number is ridiculous, and no-one assumes every pirated game is a lost sale either. Do you have any evidence to support this number?
Successful Free-to-Play games like League of legends are suspected to convert greater than 10 percent of players to paying customers. Of the millions of players who pirated Bioshock infinite, I seriously doubt that only 1 percent could have afforded to pay for it and had a desire to play it.
If we couldn't pirate something, we just didn't ever end up playing. It seems like the amount of money any one person will spend on games/gaming is very stable. So what game devs are really trying to do is to be a part of each of their customers game-spending pie. I know that's how it is for me and the people I interact with.
These people count towards the piracy number on hundreds of games yet would only ever buy a small fraction.
XBLA had an 18% conversion rate in 2007, and it's hard to say with a straight face that it'd go down. 2010 saw Ken Lobb (MGS) citing 20% to 40% rates in interviews for in-house games. These aren't perfect proxies for PC piracy but even if it's halved when you jump from console to PC, the 1% value just doesn't make any sense.
Not saying you're wrong, but recognize that you're completely pulling this out of your ass.
I think pirates actually harm people who make free and cheap software, by using expensive "pirated" software instead. Had they not used the pirated software, they would possibly be using the free stuff and boosting the use of that free stuff. The big boys don't lose out, because they wouldn't have bought it in the first place.
As such, the high moral ground the big boys think they occupy is equally suspect.
IMHO, given the lack of large software houses going out of business actually due to piracy, I don't believe piracy has any real effect. All that is happening is that people are using the software, and the software houses remain profitable.
If I am ever yo believe in piracy losing business money, I want proper proof that the vast majority of people which pirated software on their machine would have paid for that software. I suspect not. I suspect that if there really was a way to stop piracy, many more people would use Linux and all it's alternatives for free. In that scenario, MS and co would really start losing money and market power.
Also, most people spend the money they have. If they did buy all the stuff they pirated, software, games, music, movies, etc, there would be another sector that lost out. For example, pirating Far Cry 3 instead of buying, means £40 (whatever) to spend on clothes, food, cinema, fuel, etc. Its the same money, there is no extra. It just goes to different places.
If you replace "it" [that particular good] with "something" [that good, or a similar one], then yeah. People used to buy music, after all.
> "I suspect that if there really was a way to stop piracy, many more people would use Linux and all it's alternatives for free. "
How many people pirate their OS? Windows comes bundled with just about every retail PC out there. Enthusiasts who assemble their own devices are in the minority.
> "IMHO, given the lack of large software houses going out of business actually due to piracy, I don't believe piracy has any real effect."
That makes no sense. Simply because the largest companies aren't literally going out of business piracy therefore has "no real effect"? That's a bit like saying the financial crisis in Europe isn't having any effect because Germany isn't deep in recession.
> Addition Edit: Also, most people spend the money they have. If they did buy all the stuff they pirated, software, games, music, movies, etc, there would be another sector that lost out. For example, pirating Far Cry 3 instead of buying, means £40 (whatever) to spend on clothes, food, cinema, fuel, etc. Its the same money, there is no extra. It just goes to different places.
Yeah, but so what? Not only is that statement irrelevant, but it obfuscates that where resources are allocated is just as important as whether or not they are allocated to begin with. The allocation of resources (money) is a reflection of what society deems important.
For illustration, a society that spends 20% of disposable income on alcohol & tobacco is radically different from one that spends 20% of disposable income on tools, woodworking sets & raspberry Pis. Moreover, for the protectionists out there, allocating resources domestically is different than abroad.
Not an argument against you, but a point that I see glossed over a lot. Unless you somehow legislate away piracy across an entire budget category very broadly for families and individuals, you run the danger of picking winners.
I thought the point about demand signal was interesting that you raised. Do people consider rampant privacy in some specific area to be a demand signal that is coupled with an extremely high price sensitivity?
FWIW, I do think that "sharing is caring" is a higher level of intellectual honesty than "trust me - you'll like it," especially when the former does nothing to damage attribution.
I'm not going to fisk your post, which is largely self-serving rationalization. But I am going to touch on this.
The choice is not "pirate it" or "pay for it". You can also--shocker incoming--not pirate it and not pay for it. Don't like that a publisher doesn't have a demo? Don't buy it. Don't like that the demo's not long enough? Don't buy it.
But that's hard, and you can just take it for free. So, under the guise of "evaluating", that's what you do. And, yeah, I'm assuming some bad faith here, because the next person who actually compensates creators, without exception and at the price they ask for the content they pirate and use will be the first.
People pirate because it's available. The advice of "don't buy it" (by which you really mean don't play it) is therefore pointless moralizing; it's not going to sway people who are looking for something available to play.
If you just think abstractly about the problem as a bunch of kids who are bored and looking to play, and they come upon a ball which is not being used by anyone, that is a better mental model. Why are they playing with this ball that is not theirs? Because belonging is an abstract social relation which has far less cognitive importance to the kids than the immediacy of play, so who cares who the ball belongs to. Will having someone standing atop the ball forcing them to pay a fee to use it cause them to fairly pay for the ball? Probably not, because that's not the model that they're working under. Certainly it gets worse if they try to force every single kid to pay independently for a ball that they can share. "But surely someone made that ball, and made it available, and should be compensated for this!" Well, kind of. I think from the pirate's perspective that's already been taken care of, so to speak: the developers were paid for their creative works, while the pirate community has paid for the networking which made the content available, so if you're asking her to pay for anything, she is paying perhaps some investor, or perhaps she is paying for a future game title to be produced.
(Notice that none of this really "defends" any "side". In order to understand what's going on and try to work on a solution, I'm basically checking that sort of judgmentalism at the door.)
I don't pay for anything unless I can try it or read a ton of reviews about it first. I've still gotten burned a few times but never felt any moral outrage over it. It's not some inalienable right to download stuff for free.
Your willingness to pay before you play says more about your income than anything; if nothing else, you probably have reliable income and can afford to make riskier bets.
In your own words, you say copying is human nature. It sounds like the "pay-before-evaluate" model is hoping to change that. I'd say expecting human nature to change is unrealistic. Isn't it easier to just exploit human nature? I mean, isn't that good capitalism?
(Everyone's rationalizations are self-serving, including your own, otherwise thinking would be a liability...)
 - No, this is not a defense of Disney at al and ever-growing copyright lengths, but neither is it an allowance that running roughshod over the little guy is acceptable either.
Do not try to shoehorn a model where it doesn't fit, and for data: It doesn't fit. A different standard has to be adopted, and piracy is merely a symptom of that.
Copyright exists because we, as a society, want it to. We want people to make things for us to consume and so we enact laws to make it so they can do so and still eat. Don't like it? Feel free to try to change the law.
But that's hard, and hard things aren't fun, so let's just go pirate Game of Thrones, yeah?
I think it's not clear that "society" "wants" copyright to exist. Society, or at least the collection of individuals composing society, is pretty clearly conflicted on the subject. People want to retain creative control over their own work, to a degree that is clearly insane and impossible. And simultaneously people (some of the same people!) want to be allowed to do whatever they feel like with the works of others, to a degree that is... dubious. The sum of these positions is not clear.
And in any case, the legal status quo does not derive from any such sum. It derives largely from Disney's lobbying, as you acknowledged.
And in fact, what society does about statuses quo is not "take the bad with the good", and "try to change the law". Historically, that's not how the law gets updated. I'm not personally drawing an equivalence between copyvio and e.g. slavery or e.g. marijuana policy or e.g. religious intolerance... but hopefully those examples will demonstrate that in most cases the law follows popular sentiment and disobedience, not leads.
Copyright exists because a majority of society currently thinks its the best way to produce, and that very well may be in the real world of limited supplies. In a world where the only value is novelty, copyright makes no sense. Once something is created, it's value drops because it's supply is infinite. Currently society thinks the way around that is to artificially restrict supply.
I hope one day we will realize that were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
I would LOVE to pay for game of thrones... to be produced. Buying a copy of game of thrones is not worth its value, it has no value. It is in infinite supply. It is like air.
This is why we donate to blogs, subscribe to series, and fund kickstarters. Because that is the economy of the web. The true economy.
I assume that piracy of games behaves similarly to piracy of music and films, both of which have had research published suggesting that while piracy harms large, blockbuster style releases it actually helps sales of smaller, more obscure titles.
I've got quite a few games still in their shrink wrap on my shelf because I've never had to open them to get at their ROM/CD.
I think at this point everyone understands that there's piracy out there and it's not going away. The thing that irks me is the moral argument like yours (provided it's not a troll, I can't be sure) - I just wish people would admit that they're taking something for free that they shouldn't - no one is saying "trust me - you'll like it," don't give me that "after I evaluate" stuff - you can read dozens of reviews and watch full play-through movies on Youtube. I wish people would just admit that they are scumbags.
Extremely tiny scumbags in the grand scheme of things - less than folks taking a candybar from a corner store as digital goods, as you noted, are freely copyable without cost, but scumbags nonetheless as you are the leeches that make things worse for folks willing to pay for stuff. If you're a student and have no cash but want to play every game that comes out, you're probably going to pirate, but don't create this entire moral structure of justification to compensate for your being a freeloader. Just accept a the tiniest twinge of moral responsibility as you play your free game and become a better person down the road.
As someone who enjoys playing large-scale single player games on PC - Skyrim and the like - I'm upset because more and more developer resources are going to switch to F2P and "always online" games because those are the only ones that "beat" piracy and there are going to be less titles out for the PC and more that just are on console the next generation of locked-down consoles.
Now, what would kill the game industry is if everyone followed eropple's suggestion and solved the problem of not being able to evaluate games before buying them by just not playing any games in the first place. If everyone both stopped pirating and buying them, there is zero chance they'd decide to pay up after playing for a while, zero chance their friends would recommend the game, zero sales, and shortly thereafer zero games. Unlike piracy, that's genuinely unsustainable.
> In the past artists (and scientists) had patrons but today we have kickstarter. It is possible to fund the creation of large projects (movies, TV shows, games, hardware, research, etc) without as much risk to the people carrying it out.
There would most certainly be games, IMHO. I am also not trolling. I have been trying to rationalize copyright for over a decade. I just can't justify it anymore (and don't think that should mean I should have to ignore what my peers are talking about, and what tools are current, either).
The parent comment stated that he supports artists (probably financially).
For further reading, I recommend a book called Against Intellectual Property. You can download that legally for free. It's also for sale.
A 30-day money back, no questions asked, guarantee would offer this. Then you can take a risk on a game, evaluate it to your heart's content, and if you didn't like it then request a refund. That would be a useful downvote indicator.
For the recent SimCity, a stream of refunds would show as the product not being fit for purpose at launch, and as the refunds taper off and the sales continue to grow, that's a confidence indicator that the game has reached an acceptable playable standard.
Though, it would be more useful for unsolicited/open-ended feedback as to why the refund, so a company could do something to improve their games.
Granted, that system can be initially gamed by serial refund-requestors - but those people are further along the spectrum of "will not pay" anyway, but at least they've taken the step of purchasing, that's one step closer to making inroads into the pirate instead of purchase segment.
By making the refund rates public, and some sort of identifier, it should be easier to target the non-regular refund-requestor with special offers and promotions. A company should have the ability to reward loyal customers too.
From the company's perspective, people will be less inclined to ask for a refund after they've purchased a game that works and provides a decent gaming experience. That's just the nature of people who believe that they have received value on their purchase. That is one improved step beyond the "need to evaluate before purchase" mindset.
I guess this will mostly prove that the "evaluate before buying" mindset is a self-rationalisation for piracy. The Radiohead "name your own price" album is unsurprising in that it was heavily slanted to as close to free as possible, rather than reflecting a demand versus supply equilibrium.
They used to make it very difficult to return products, and rarely would you get your money back. But then they realized that if you make returns simple and painless people stop second guessing their purchase since there's less risk if the product doesn't work out later.
So more people are buying the product and those that do return it are not left feeling burned, making them more likely to purchase again from the same store.
Nobody wants to feel ripped off, and taking that risk away from customers helps remove that mental hurdle they face thinking "but what if it sucks?"
Game developers on the other hand have a bad track record. Returns are basically impossible, even with everyone's favourite Steam.
With paid reviews, gaming social media and relentless hyping. People are tricked into buying a game that's not as good as its made out to be and are left feeling scammed. Not a great way to treat your customers.
They make returns easy, and their customers are happy, but so are scam artists, ranging from people who "bought" the TV for the super bowl or the dress for the party and now are returning it, to people who bought the item somewhere else and are trying to return it to your store where they insist they bought it.
So then stores start making returns harder, dissatisfying the scam artists and their real customers. And then someone starts the cycle again, thinking they have a better handle on it.
That sounds a lot like the "copy-first, pay later - or receive a public shaming" de facto standard used by cautious patrons today (only ATM people receive their shame from other pro-copyright HN readers).
And luckily, a lot of games (this one included) come with a free demo, so that you can try them before buying them. So fortunately for all of us as customers, we don't need to download a cracked copy. We can play through the demo, see if welike it, and buy it if we do.
The question game developers should be asking is not "How many people will illegally copy it?" but "How many people will buy it?"
It doesn't matter if there are 100 free riders for 1 customers, as long as you have enough customers.
It isn't equal to total illegal downloads, but it isn't equal to zero either. It's probably also not uniform across different game genres.
There isn't really such a thing as "enough" customers either. The more you sell the more budget you have to produce the next game and the more confidence you have that it could be successful.
I cannot put into words how profoundly this line of thinking upsets me. It is, quite literally, the antithesis of Western society.
US companies make drugs. They patent them wherever they can. Places that don't acknologe the patent get the benefit anyways. And the drug users in the US bear the brunt of the costs.
I like being on the other end, too. If there's more than enough to go around, I state that it should.
Can you explain this to me? It looks like trolling, but I'm trying to extend the benefit of the doubt.
What does "Western society" mean? I'm both curious what countries or cultures qualify as Western for this purpose, and also what aspects of those countries/cultures you see as being the essential ones.
How do you equate the "accepting some free riders as long as some people pay" idea with the antithesis of Western society? Are you claiming that the fundamental premise of "Western society" is "don't let anyone have anything without paying for it"?
What does "quite literally" mean in that sentence? Is there some non-literal sense that you wanted to disambiguate, or is just an intensifier?
What a wonderful way of completely deriding any meaningful discussion possible.
There are also lots of factors in a financial proposition. Some people give away free samples, others invest in an education.
It's interesting that iTunes is doing so well, without mandatory DRM, while copying has only gotten easier...
a) higher prices to other consumers who have to pay a larger share of the fixed costs because other people are choosing to pay zero. this is not really a cost more a fairness problem.
b) some products not being produced because not enough people are willing to pay the higher price to pay off the fixed costs. even though there might be a price point X that is lower than what it is worth to some of the zero payers which would result in the fixed costs being paid. this is a real economic cost
I think following that approach further requires an untenable "enforcement" culture on private and social thinking and collaborative efforts. I'd rather put the cart back behind the horse (fund the work itself, to create the first copy, rather than pay mandatory royalties for all future copies - and endure the social unrest of preventing what boil down to thought-crimes, IMHO).
In the past artists (and scientists) had patrons but today we have kickstarter. It is possible to fund the creation of large projects (movies, TV shows, games, hardware, research, etc) without as much risk to the people carrying it out.
This can lead to products that are in fact popular being less economically feasible to produce under certain business models if the piracy rate is too high.
There are of course business models that are aided by copying (such as those based on open source software).
The difficulty is how the video games industry can adapt to this. The route they seem to be increasingly taking is to sell games as a service rather than a product but then this is decried as "always on DRM".
Every sale is still a negotiation. I've said in the past that I think the economics of copies boils down to begging, but that seems a much harder sell when I say it first, so I like to argue a bit first... :)
FWIW, I think people are also decrying the service-model appearing in games (similar to the Kindle model, where Amazon can delete your books) - recall the recent Microsoftie who was fired after some bad PR - so it looks to me like people are moving towards the same limiting equilibrium, with or without copyright: easy copying, and paying only when they feel an obligation. IMHO, we can get there the hard way (increasingly jack-booted copyright) or the easy way (accepting human nature and negotiating differently in light of it).
(Note: I have edited the first paragraph a few times trying to be clearer, for lack of a perfect analogy.)
Imagine the situation where you get your CS degree but find that few people are willing to pay for programmers or software and the people who are willing to pay will still not pay very much yet the demand for software is still very high. Such a situation doesn't make sense in a rational market.
Problem with piracy is that it isn't a "negotiation", a negotiation would imply that there are 2 sides attempting to reach a compromise. With piracy you can simply hit up TPB and download whatever you like without the consent of the author.
I can also turn on the radio and receive music for free, with ads. TPB has plenty of those (but isn't distributing anything themselves, so arguably isn't infringing... Perhaps they are facilitating, but if so they are largely facilitating non-commercial infringement; I can't imagine anyone downloading a movie and selling it would be common). Radio stations usually pay royalties, otherwise they would be commercially infringing copyright. I mention elsewhere that I can sympathize with commercial copyright enforcement.
Non-commercial copyright infringement is harder to value IMHO. In the case of commercial copyright infringement, there is positive income, and the profit can be fought over. Now that we have dropped boxed distribution media and gone digital only for most types of content (and, importantly, I pay for my ISP), the "profit" to the infringer, and the cost to the originator, from any given copy is at best very ambiguous. The profit to argue over could be positive, non-existent, or negative (heck, they might be wasting their life, watching Game of Thrones, when they could be creating value). There is nothing obvious to fight over in the case of non-commercial copyright infringement, except the copy itself (whether the copier had the right to copy). But preventing copies needs a system similar to a cable TV network, not an amoebae-like Internet.
I like the Internet and the ability to speak freely, and to mix what I find, too much to enforce copyright (even my own) anymore. It's taken a long time for me to get here, and I used to want to be a professional artist.
The issue isn't so much the copies themselves, I could download every torrent on TPB and archive them on a stack of HDDs somewhere and it wouldn't hurt anybody.
The issue is that there is no longer a requirement to pay to consume something where the business model requires that the consumer pay.
Perhaps this is no longer a viable model, but the question is how to replace it?
Does popular content simply move to locked down platforms? Do we deliver games under a SaaS model (WoW etc)?
Both of these models have disadvantages to consumers, arguably it would be better if people simply refused to consume pirated goods and always paid the asking price but this seems unrealistic.
I would also love to see people release commercial stuff more under CC-SA and similar (even if they still charge for distribution), or the FOSS licenses - assuming they need one. There's no reason they can't generate income, even while being shown through a subscription. The license doesn't change the distribution model. (Ubuntu is asking for donations. I would love to see some stats.) I think people just need to get used to flying without a net (copyright).
Take Netflix for example: they are producing their own shows. Like iTunes, all the content on Netflix can be torrented, but Netflix is easier for non-technical people. I don't even think copyright is necessary for either of Netflix's or iTunes' success. Netflix is a subscription, but I think they could make a similar amount if their shows were CC-SA licensed. People pay for both Netflix and iTunes because downloading is simply harder and more likely to give their computer an STD, even if the quality can be better ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5621119 ). Copyright still affects the food chain today, but Netflix has convinced me that they don't need copyright to keep the game going.
What's more likely however, I think, is that we will see something like the 6.4/93.6 ratio continue into the future, painfully and in spite of copyright, and with much resentment, until that hostility turns to acceptance (though, by then we'll probably have other generational gaps to deal with) - assuming we can get through the next 10-20 years without a censorship/copyright-centric police state. 6.4% of 7 billion, for something priced as low as $1, is still revenue of 448 million, even without budging that ratio, so I have no doubt creators will do well.
Edit: I don't feel like waiting 40 minutes for the reply button to appear on your comment, but I suppose only time will tell. In the mean time, the pro-copyright-ons and anti-copyright-ons will likely have to learn to live with each other, if for no other reason then so they don't collide and annihilate, sending us all back to the stone age (or industrial age).
Most kickstarter projects I see (games at least) are not proposing "If this gets funded the game will be free" they are proposing "If this gets funded the game will be $20, but you can get it for $15 if you fund us". So they are still relying on copyright to some extent.
Of course there are some games that appear to be sustainable as donationware (dwarf fortress for example) but I would be amazed if we saw a COD/Skyrim scale game on a "pay what you want model" simply because the up front development costs are so high that it would be too large a risk.
I suspect in the AAA areas you will see a move towards support for closed platforms where piracy is more easily controlled and IAP type models.
So probably two divergent markets , with starving artist auteurs in one corner and AAA publicly traded behemoths in another.
I paid $75 for my iphone 3GS. I bought it from some dude that had to buy the iphone 4 when it came out.
I then proceeded to jailbreak and unlock the phone to run any software and use any carrier.
I then got onto a carrier that charges $30 for unlimited phone/text/data ~ family mobile.
And I don't buy any app at all. I'll save my money for tangible things instead.
Culture, creativity and art have existed long before copyright and will continue to do so after it has been abandoned.
Personally, "I get other people's work for free" is outweighed by "I get other people's work that I actually want to play." Skyrim doesn't come out of a Kickstarter.
Please take a few minutes to rethink copyright from the ground up without any regards to what you have been told by anyone...
Where does copyright originate? What purpose does it serve in the society of today? Does it serve that purpose well? How does it match up to what most people would consider to be fair use in regards to personal and commercial use? Does copyright sometimes get abused and misused?
Are there better solutions to the issues we are trying to address?
You don't need to tell me or anybody else what conclusion you reach.
But you owe it to yourself to think it over and stop repeating what you have been told by others as most people here on HN does every time copyright gets discussed.
It is illegal, but that is not the same as immoral. For illegality to imply immorality the law would need to be shown to be itself moral. But unfortunately the law has (like the game concerned) been rigged by particular interests for their own purposes. No-one has so far produced good evidence to show the current laws are economically beneficial overall.
So the intellectually honest and moral position is to admit the law is unfounded, gradually abolish it, and try to figure out other better economic arrangements that allow people to do what is the obviously moral thing: freely use and copy non-rival, non-finite goods.
The law isn't a buffet for you to pick and choose from.
A) Raising awareness of the product and giving the product exposure to a larger group of fans raising awareness of the product and studio responsible for the production.
B) Converting a minority of pirate-based customers with limited financial resources into paying customers for current and future projects.
C) Establishing in the player community's mind that the media being pirated is a worthwhile competitor to other forms of entertainment.
D) Finally, the most important factor: The majority of pirates pirate material because they are the highest-paying and most discerning group of purchasers of media (Source: http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/Another-Study-Pirates-Are...).
So fighting against piracy is a losing battle. DRM punishes paying customers and sure, some games might suffer as a result of piracy. It's just that if more people are pirating your game than buying it, then nine times out of ten, your product probably wasn't worth purchasing to being with, which is a cold reality that the data supports that indie studios really don't want to hear. No one wants to be told their baby sucks, especially when they see what they perceive to be a "large number" of people playing it.
I think this is an interesting measure, because presumably if you got far enough into the game that you saw this message you like the game reasonably well. You've gotten past the point where you're not sure if the game is worth the money (nevermind that there's already a demo exactly for that purpose) and you have chosen to continue playing the pirated version.
He didn't mention whether or not savegames from the pirated version can be loaded by the legitimate version, but if they can then pirates who then buy the game wouldn't even lose much in the way of progress.
Although the 93.6% piracy rate the Greenheart Games article references initially seemed shocking, I was reminded of the stance Gabe Newell has repeatedly taken over the years, of piracy being a service issue. Part of that can be applied to this situation.
With third party content distribution, the customer is likely purchasing the game via an interface they're already familiar with. They are used to acquiring their content through this interface on a regular basis. For the sake of argument, if you were to compare: Steam, torrents, and a checkout form on the developer's website, the latter sadly doesn't stand a chance in the contest for convenience. Since Game Dev Tycoon isn't on Steam yet, which distribution method wins out? Piracy.
There's actually nothing wrong with the game's website purchasing process; it's quite nicely streamlined and requires no login. However, a lot of people tend to loathe buying games directly from a developer's website, because it results in fragmentation of their games library, and it's one more purchase to keep track of. Some users are militant about keeping the entirety of their games on one platform for just this very reason.
Game Dev Tycoon is currently on Steam Greenlight but not yet approved. If they have the good fortune to be green-lit, the piracy rate may just turn on its head.
The game is also available via Windows Store. To put it gently, Windows Store isn't exactly Steam. That said, I'd be interested in the ratio of sales between their website and Windows Store (my money is on the site).
If you search this story, you'll quickly notice that it has spread like wildfire across the gaming press. The game is receiving large amounts of publicity as a result. Said publicity may end up being what tips the Steam Greenlight scales in its favor towards availability on the Steam platform, which in turn would ostensibly result in a massive boost in sales.
Not to detract from the cleverness of Greenheart's experiment and subsequent article, but I find it more than a bit ironic that the egregious 93.6% piracy rate may in fact be what indirectly results in Game Dev Tycoon game making it on to Steam in the first place.
True, and also one had even heard of this thing yet, which is a big reason why the major distro was all pirate. Some of these folks who pirate grab any and everything new to try. There's also a large population who refuse to purchase anything that's not on Steam. I'd like to see the numbers on this with current users in a few months once the Steam version comes out.
This is a good marketing ploy though, and a unique solution considering the content of the game. I'm guessing they will sell a lot of copies due to this publicity. I've never heard of it before this, but it looks like an improved version of Game Dev Story, which I really enjoyed on mobile.
And there are people like me, who refuse to purchase anything from Steam.
I was once a teen who was a heavy pirate and although I said it was because I couldn't afford games (I didn't have a job in highschool) I had a $400 modded Xbox, I had a 1800 gaming computer I had a few real games. I managed to afford these things by getting money and gifts from family and working odds jobs here and there.
Really the only reason I was pirating was because I needed games right away, I was entitled to have them on release day. I simply couldn't wait to get money to buy it. Unfortunately now that I'm a bit older I realize that a lot people have this mind set. Its not that they can't afford it, its that they need it right away.
Now I have a nice paying job. I buy all my games. I pay for software. A few days ago an artist I like released an album on iTunes and other sites for free. I paid the $9 for it.
I'm not saying that pirating because you don't have the means to purchase something is right, but I am saying it happens.
Yeah. It's like these guys totally don't get that there are "individuals who either can’t make a legal purchase because of payment-issues or who genuinely cannot afford the game."
People don't ignore that fact.
If you complain so much about piracy, go in free to play mode and make your fans buy extensions or addons. This is known to work well if your game is designed around it.
A survey comissioned by Google for the American Assembly -research center at Columbia University- has been published recenetly where it basically concludes that users who download content from peer to peer sites buy 30% more than the ones who don’t.
I read that as: I liked your product but not above the $5 price limit.
The reality is that piracy does have some effect on game sales, but for the non-game designer it's not clear how much this effect is. Having a realistic unbiased simulation of the effects of piracy would likely do the most to convince those who can afford games to reconsider their choices.
Confession.... I own a modded Xbox and only use it to play pirated games, Why? I simply do not play it enough to justify cost, when buying it my consideration was simply hacked Xbox vs no Xbox. I last turned it on about 3 months ago for about 30 minutes. Games are way too expensive, I would gladly pay some money but not the crazy prices of most games vs my usage.
Most video rental stores used to rent games, before they were pretty much all killed by the triple whammy of streaming, Netflix, and the recession.
There actually may be a market segment of people like you, who are willing to pay small amounts for short-term access to games, which is being more-or-less ignored by most of the gaming industry. If the market segment is big enough, could it be an unexploited startup opportunity?
Elsewhere in this thread I've seen other figures bandied about, ranging anywhere from 1-30%. Where are they coming from? Was there ever any actual market research performed, or are we collectively inventing figures that sound reasonable to us?
But less and less true everyday.
Today, we have Steam, the Indie Bundles, etc.
But well, maybe that article combined with answers to the complaining players will spread the word wide enough. At least that now makes the game known.
The trouble is to get social research people to observe this without media influencing the result.
Still think it's a great idea, and I love the irony (especially since it's a game dev simulator), but if I were them I would have put a timed delay on the pirate punishment.
It isn't a shitty experience though. They were playing the game, getting immersed into it, trying to win, and they got stuck. Stuck enough, and interested enough in succeeding, that they asked on forums how to deal with the in-game piracy issue.
That isn't a sign of someone having a shitty experience. What is interesting now is what players of the pirated version of the game will do with the knowledge that their success is being hampered because they pirated the game originally instead of buying it.
I hope a nice chunk will opt to buy the game, it's obviously immersed them enough to have provided entertainment value, and hopefully there's sufficiently extra gameplay and opportunities in the non-pirated version to justify the "add-on" purchase.
Or, they'll crack the game to remove the pirated limitation. Or they'll walk away from the game. Or they'll find a genuinely pirated version of the real game.
I hope they see the funny side, and appreciate it, and give kudos to the game development company. It's not a £40 boxed game.
Stuck without any reason. Looks like shitty experience to me.
And the players are not completely stuck, they are at the local optimal of their current gaming model - a plateau. That doesn't stop them from taking a different path towards a different optimisation strategy and find one where the localised high point is better than this one.
The difference here is the developer makes the game a shitty experience by design. That's the definition of shooting himself in the foot.
That seems to hold very little replayability value. A better prospect is to make the game just a little more difficult that the current player's skill level, and adapt to that, so the game gets progressively more difficult as the player's skill improves, and the rewards/achievements are in line with that path. (It's quite a oft-given piece of advice for players wanting to get better at chess, that they play people a little stronger than themselves, and they gradually adapt and start winning more than losing)
I guess that's what's changed in gaming since the eighties. Back then the challenge and difficulty of games was a feature. Only a small crop of people completed them, the rest of us enjoyed the challenge of trying to get there. Where the journey to improvement is of more value than reaching the credits at the end.
But I do wonder if they were a little too subtle with the in game message. Agree some of those people just appeared to assume the game was broken, and probably struggled to make the link (while as obvious as it might appear).
Irrespective of whether you think pirates should be "punished", a situation where these people tell their friends "Nah, I played that game. It was shit, you just lost for no reason" isn't in the best interests of the publisher.
If you've never been in a situation where you have to sell that output to customers then you know less than a shit about what piracy can do to cripple a small business and should shut your fucking mouth about which market to serve. I'll take care of those that put the food on my table, thank very much, and you can give throat-fucking forced blowjobs to any random stranger if you want.
No wonder PC gaming is dead
It hurts me when people my age (27) don't consider buying stuff they like. I mean, you are paying the creators of the stuff you like so that they can create more of it.
No one wants to work for free, why should we expect others to do it? Just because there is zero cost to digitally copy something doesn't mean that it was made with zero cost.
I stopped buying games when I realized I don't actually play the games I buy. Some are still in their cellophane wrapper.. I recently signed up to Playstation+. Surprised I didn't do it sooner. £40 a year. Access to 10+ games a month to download and keep while subscription is active. Not going to buy another game for a long while.
Do you want to play more games from the creators of the games you've played and liked?
I too have a large collection of games that I will probably never play or finish. Doesn't matter though.
That's a familiar story, and a win all-round. It is said to be a main reason why Microsoft was very relaxed about pirated copies of Windows - young people who run a pirated copy of windows grow up to be workers who know windows and the business buys a seat (as they say).
> That's a very long-term game;
Maybe, but it is working for some. The players who are copying today will be (largely) the ones who are buying in a few years time. The ones who are buying today are like the grandparent poster.
Or to put it in a other way, how much of that $1000 is thanks to steams services, convenience and marketing? Many people claim, including the CEO of steam, that steam is not competing with pirates. People pay for the services, which in turn get partially sent to developers to create more content to be used in the service.
I would gladly pay for any service which offers one-click media consumption regardless if it was about games, movies, music, comics or some other.
Such a simple thing as having to fetch your credit card from your wallet, installing and registering on a game download service (such as GoG, Steam). If you are used to torrenting, if that is you normal way to get stuff like TV shows and movies, there is less _resistance_ to download the cracked version of a game.
I dont justify this, or think its good, just pointing it out.
Find a game, pay it, download it, play it.
Sounds perfect to me. Oh wait ... unless the game devs made a bunch of baseless assumptions that all pirates are lazy yuppies who have the cash for games but choose to pirate instead just to spite game developers.
There are still gamers who think that 'Batman: Arkham Asylum' had legitimately broken mechanics, due to a similar action the developers of that game did ( http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/94524-Arkham-Asylu... ).
I'm all for punishing pirates , but the unfortunate aspect of this is that you're punishing pirates & all of the possible legitimate customers that the pirate exposes to the game.
These people are potential customers , independent siblings, children who can beg their parents to buy the game, whatever, that are witnessing and at worst case experiencing a broken product, and having whatever faith they had in whatever company reduced.
I do like what it does to make you think twice about data legitimacy on the ether though. It's nice to be reminded that most of us don't know where that data is coming from.
yes, they've been inspired by it but "their version" does have different and more complex gameplay mechanics. a lot of people like greenhearts take on the subject more.
i've played neither, but i guess i'll give game dev tycoon a try - after not being totally happy with kairosofts ninja village, i guess ghg deserve a chance.
In any case I'm gonna buy a copy of GDT to see what it's like!
Double standards much?
Then I read:
We know this because our game contains some code to send anonymous-usage data
to our server. Nothing unusual or harmful. Heaps of games/apps do this and we
use it to better understand how the game is played. It’s absolutely anonymous
Apps aren't an exception, you'll find it in almost all of them. When you install the app it should notify you what is does or doesn't have access to, so things like your phone book and call history are not accessible for the app.
Similarly, I am rather positive that none of the applications on my phone phone home, since that would trigger a ‘Do you want to allow this while roaming?’ question each and every time.
Edit: Correction: Steam probably does that. I use it once in a blue moon or so. :)
Developers use the information to make the product better. They use crash reports to fix bugs without you having to report them and they can determine what operating system and screen resolution you're using so the next time you open up the app, it's been optimised so those ugly black borders have been taken care of.
Granted, they could ask your permission to do this, as some applications do. However, are you really going to spend time integrating an extra layer of complexity between your game, when you're on a limited development budget and the priority should be on making the game more fun?
Most people don't really know or understand what facebook is doing. That is why it's unethical to hide under privacy policies that state how non-private everything is under the guise of "your privacy is our highest concern".
Personally I agree with you. Modern OS's actually police and inform users of just how overzealous these programs are, and give you an opportunity to reject the terms the program sets.
Programs in response, refuse to work if they can't get access to your data, even though that data has nothing to do with the service they provide.
All of this is wonderful.
[ ] - Send anonymous usage statistics?
2) User action required to acknowledge they know and consent to it.
3) Can be disabled by anyone concerned with privacy issues.
If you fail at any of (1), (2) or (3), you're being a douche, and writing spyware, even if you bury some ridiculous disclaimer somewhere in your EULA.
Given the popularity of mobile and browser sandboxes, it seems increasingly likely that we're going to end up with a sandbox model and opt-in permissions for all apps, at least on consumer OSes. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. I suppose there are pros and cons.
I know and you know this kind of tracking is industry standard because we are in this industry.
Most people outside this industry don't know that, and are pretty shocked when they see. Seriously, if you have access to a Google Analytics account with a reasonable amount of data start showing people how much stuff you are tracking and see what their reaction is.
Telling OP their "phone home" concerns aren't valid because that's "standard practice" is a terrible argument.
Except the websites, servers can do what they want.
Most indie games (unless they're a hit) never make it to TPB or some other place because the game is only available through legitimate sources, and most indie-loving gamers care too much about the developers to casually crack a game and upload it onto some shady torrent site.
It's easy to blame inefficiency to piracy. Minecraft was pirated heavily, did Mojang go bankrupt?
Gaming has evolved, Games are no longer a product to be packed up and shipped off. Constant updates, content packs, etc (free or otherwise) keep a customer engaged. If someone really likes the game, the lore and whatnot they will pay to get the original game. Heck, I personally know a ton of my classmates buying CoD4 since they couldn't access various multiplayer modded servers.
Piracy in general(be it games, movies, or music) is a problem that the content makers need to solve. New and effective services, sources will conquer it - Online streaming music has to an extent, Bollywood has taken warmly to YouTube and uploads ad-supported official HD movies (barely months after they launch). As Gabe Newell said, Piracy is a service problem. It has always been and it always will be.
You don't need to crack DRM-free game. You can just upload it as is.
Edit: Not just lauding them on HN, "about to buy" has become "have just bought".
it also makes it seem likely to me that the screenshots of users posting on forums were fabricated. they seem a little too good (too ironic, too much like south park) to be true.
Googling seems to confirm:
This is a total hoax! :)
Those posts simply don't exist. (As of 11:39 CET on 4/29/2013.)
still, south park worthy, I laughed very hard.
OP, write satire: not hoax. good luck.
just out of curiosity, I wonder why "A minute after we uploaded it, my torrent client looked like this:" shows a screenshot with 3 torrents that were "Added a day ago" and "Added 18 hours ago".
it sure looks like this is a slight exaggeration :)
I DO believe that the screenshots show the formating of the forum. It's just that those particular posts were completely fabricated. (e.g. rewriting the source code of a comment in the html source and then taking a screenshot of it.)
Just to confirm that Google does index those posts, I picked a random one that wasn't too recent, and could find it without any problem:
If you find (and don't fabricate) these posts, could you reply with a screenshot and link? Neither link actually brings up anything.
You also offer no explanation why "literally ONE MINUTE" after putting his torrents up, his uTorrent screenshot shows a torrent added the day before.
if I verify I will retract my hoax allegations.
May I ask how you yourself found that post, given that google didn't have it indexed?
Anyone find the steam community comment?
The author also literally made up the lie that ONE minute after adding his torrent, look at all these pirates, this is a screenshot ONE minute after adding the torrent!
Screenshots show torrent added a day ago.
Also, it's neither here nor there but I personally would have linked to the posts in question in the write-up. However this is a matter of style and I don't hold it against the author.
As someone who eagerly pays extra for FLACs when given the chance, I'd rather a poke in the eye than a 128 kbit/s mp3.
EDIT: Just to preempt the righteous nerd-anger crew, I'm aware that higher bitrate MP3s are transparant; I value the bit-for-bit archival of the original record that flacs provide.
Cymbal wash is enough for me to never pay a dime for 128 kbits tracks.
You are probably both if you really believe that.
That may well be considered giving permission. However, since they are interested in the social aspect, not the legal aspect, that doesn't matter. The social assumption is that a game you get from a torrent is pirated.
> Can the devs then be sued for knowingly tricking people into committing a copyright violation?
(Ignoring for the nonce that in America you can sue anyone for anything) no. No one got "tricked." No one went out to buy a copy of this game and ended up on the torrent by accident.
I'm not a lawyer.
If it follows entrapment laws then the "violator" would have to prove that they've never pirated before and they were tricked into it by the developers.
If you do not want to go down the DRM route, this approach of publishing your own cracked version is probably best. A at least you have a little control, since you can make subtly change  the experience for crack users (very punny ;).
I agree with the author that convenience is a big factor. If it easier to download a cracked version compared to paying the developer, there is a problem. Since we are on HN, how about a service which helps game devs to put their games on as many stores (Steam,Desura,Ubuntu,Play,Apple,etc) as possible? It is probably a lot of work for single person devs. A little fee upfront and a percentage of the income, so it is a pretty quick buck for the game dev.
Great post guys, good luck.
Paid players get a game they enjoy, pirates who might buy, might buy a DLC so they can keep playing.
Also, you created a game that has pulled in $1600 in revenue so far and you're thinking that $24k worth of revenue is just not coming in because you can measure the freeloaders. Those freeloaders aren't your customers and likely never will be.
Focus on why 214 people bought the game and make them so happy that they will support you and the extended marketing of the game.
Had you not spent the hours developing, testing, etc. these features and trying to trick worthless freeloaders into exposing themselves for the sake of rhetorical blog posts, you could have improved your bottom line. You COULD have added features important to paying customers.
Also, the sad freeloaders posts stink of fabrication. They may well not be, but my cynicism puts together a picture of a hacker-news-abuse viral marketing scheme. Every link in the chain has an unsoiled feel to it. The game is about a game dev company, not FPS gore. The freeloaders write in full sentences and precisely nail talking points as if they came from a game industry association. The dev has taken great care to handle freeloaders gently in the post. exposing everything. Even if this were a marketing scam, the backlash would be ho-hum because everything is just so meek.
AND... of course there's an actionable pitch and link thrown right in there. You were supposed to hold back and wait for the crowd to demand links.
This game always had a very limited audience. RPG of a gaming software development company? Plan the scale and scope of your project accordingly.
"""The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt."""
I haven't played the pamphlet, but it sounds like it's implemented by substracting money from player's in-game funds. This means whenever someone pirates a game in this pamphlet, player loses money. In other words, theft as opposed to a loss of a sale. How cute!
I remember a case where someone wrote a script to automatically download a pirated piece of software or a music album. It was linked to a website with a counter. The website owner wanted the developer/musician to bankrupt. The idea was that by downloading the thing enough times, he could make the copyright owner go bankrupt.
 The latest game I bought on Steam was Counter Strike: Source, mostly because it was on sale and bundled up with some other stuff that actually works on my computer.
That list is just off the top of my head, without looking at my Steam library; all of those games, XCOM and maybe Portal excluded if you don't dig the user content, can easily take up multiple months of gameplay. Deep, involving games are more easily available than they ever have been. Claims that they're not are good-old-days nostalgia.
Civilization is also somewhere on the list, though the existence of FreeCiv doesn’t really help in persuading me to buy a very similar (for appropriate values thereof) game.
Maybe I should just go and invest some time into Dwarf Fortress :)
Nethergate: Resurrection is worth a buy, too.
Minecraft is a sandbox game. The zombies are just props. Just like any other good sandbox game it leaves a lot of the direction up to the player.
Frankly I would love to know what your definition of the term "gameplay" is because it seems unique. To me any interactive medium contains gameplay mechanics, even point-and-click adventure games do, hell even some BluRay menus could be described as having "gameply."
I even think Google's easter egg "zerg rush" (google it!) is a game and has gameplay.
I'll put it succinctly: The main source of fun in minecraft (without mods) is the same as the original creative mode. Creative mode is a pure building-blocks toy and not at all a game. The parts of minecraft that you can call a game are unimportant compared to what's actually fun.
That said, you can always play Creative mode and/or Peaceful difficulty if that's your style.
I don't care that you don't like a game, but you're wrong and should feel bad. :p
I do like minecraft, but the idea that the end screen represents any kind of progress wrt what you spend 95% of your time doing is ridiculous.
'hell even some BluRay menus could be described as having "gameply."'
Which should be a pretty sure sign that "can be described as having gameplay" isn't that meaningful.
(The problem with arguing semantics on the internet is that everyone starts obsessing about technicalities. Quake, SimCity, Minecraft and Blu-ray menus, all qualify as technically being games. And so technically qualifying as being a game is clearly irrelevant to anything interesting. It is obviously not what people usually mean by "is it a game?" and such.)
Base minecraft isn't that great, though some people seem to like it. Add on a pack like Feed the Beast, though, and it gets really interesting - I'm working my way up the tech tree in Mindcrack at the moment.
When I was young, I had poor taste in many things. I wouldn't waste time on most video games today, but I still remember liking everything when I was a kid.
We're also in the middle of an indie game explosion, with a renewed focus on solid gameplay. You won't see it if you only look at AAA titles.
My opinion is that there are more great games nowadays, but they're harder to find because there's also a lot more crap, and different people disagree on what is and isn't crap. The best games are not necessarily being produced by the big studios. So you have to go to the effort of finding the studios you like, and finding people with similar tastes so you can trust their recommendations.
when you're younger it's easier to lose yourself in the game, no matter how bad (and actually boring) it is.
they're still triggering your dopamine release like when you were young. i remember reading an article about why every older person seems to hear the music from his youth. the reason for this is that when we're in our teens, the brain releases dopamines more readily and we're losing that ability when we grow older - except for the already ingrained pavlovian triggers.
i can't cite any sources right now. i think i ... uh, saw it on cracked (yeah, shame on me).
here it is:
#7: Your Brain Will Stop Getting Pleasure from New Music
don't worry, it's natural.
/me goes off to feel old.
Prison Architect (http://www.introversion.co.uk/prisonarchitect/) with a video Lets Play here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXiJHJ2_Hwg)
Towns (http://www.townsgame.com/) with a Lets Play here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD5tbKITBT4)
and probably a bunch of others.
But then again, it's okay to not like games apart from the few you play. I love Total Annihilation, and haven't tried the various later 'versions'.
I guess I'll check it out with the pirated edition then.
It doesn't justify anything, but I think if we are allowed to speculate pirates being more likely to block the game in a firewall (I agree, it's highly likely that more of them are) I may speculate that pirates are far less likely than a customer that paid money to play the game for more than an hour, total. If the pirate doesn't it was essentially a demo run. Maybe the pirate is downloading just about every game released because it's free and drops it as soon as the next download has finished or just doesn't have the attention span to justify for themselves to buy games. The customers that did so that probably weren't happy with the purchase, even though the price is low, unless the game is advertised as being short.
Over 90% users being pirates is depressing, but I think if you look at usage it will be somewhat less so.
The description looks nothing like the NFOs typically included with scene releases. However, most people don't know what the scene is or what their NFOs look like (or what NFOs are at all), so this clearly wasn't a practical issue. However, my point remains.
There's an awful lot of strange rationalization going on in the comment. For those of you who point out "Hey a lot of those pirated people aren't going to pay anyways!" here's a sobering fact. If just 7% of those pirated copies were paid this developer would have DOUBLED first day sales. Could be the difference between getting to work on their dream, hiring another dev, or calling quits on the whole thing. 7%
I have a hard time believing 10% of those pirates are not just cheap, lazy folks who - per the irony of the comments - are the first to squawk if they ever feel short changed in life "The steal because it's easy" is a great way to encourage draconian measures. I'd be a little more fired up if we were inclined to self police than rationalize away.
7% of freeloaders is no small or easy task and compare time and energy trying to convert the sinful vs. pandering to the pious. Stop trying to fix culture or people and make a good product that makes life better and/or easier for paying customers.
This thread would be a fine place to enumerate the devs and studios that had success converting pirates to payers. That's a short list.
Given their platform, you would think progressive crippling of game play hits the correct balance of try before you buy and allowing for player investment to the point where they could be nudged in. Or, why not sell in-game DRM for $8?
I'm a paying gamer - I don't think I've seen this game for sale until now. I'll check out the demo over lunch :)
'other such licenses' have structure about them that limit what can be done with them
Instead of focussing on teaching pirates a lesson, they should have set up an in-game option to "pay $x to remove piracy issues from game".
Give special credit or in-game sales boost to people who get #2 after #1.
Also how stupid are windows users just downloading "FULL CRACKED WORKING DEFINITELY NO VIRUSES TURN OFF YOUR CHECKER FOR FALSE POSITIVES" in this day and age.
Most of them use Windows and forums as means of distributing software.
Somebody writes "Here is the new Bitcoin miner release, get it here http://someshadydomain - and everybody actually downloads and runs it.
And they somehow get by with it.
The one on ThePirateBay appears to be the malicious trojanized fake version described in the article.
You can get a proper copy of the game from the developers themselves for eight dollars.
They should consider themselves lucky if nobody sues them for the fraud they perpetrated by misrepresenting their product, the time they caused the public to waste debugging the issue, and the emotional harm of being prevented from enjoying the game.
Not that I really care, since the game is not on NFOHump nor RlsLog, which generally means the game sucks so much that nobody bothered releasing it.
Wait, what? Their genuine product is exactly what they said it was. The Pirate Bay version is the "fraud." And that was free. They effectively released a demo.
Someone else would have done the same, and you know it. I think this strategy was brilliant.