Friday, September 11, 2009

Some Kind Words About DRM. For Once.

Over the years, a lot of criticism has been thrown at DRM. (Which means Digital Rights Management. Which means tinkering with music and video games to try to make people actually pay for them.) A lot of that abuse has come from me. But I think this all this shouting at Electronic Arts and the RIAA might be starting to be a bit much, since DRM, at the heart of it, has a noble goal: To keep thieves from stealing things.

But I recently noticed one little place when where I think making games pirate-proof is resulting in a better world for everyone. In the interest of fairness, I feel obligated to point it out.

(Edit: When I say "pirate-proof," I mean "So difficult to pirate that nobody bothers," not "Impossible to pirate.")

Let Me Sell My Stupid Used Games! (Or not.)

When Half-Life 2 came out, around eight hundred years ago, I vented to everyone who would listen about how angry its new rights management scheme made me. You had to sign in through a Steam account (which, at the time, did scary things to my computer). And, to me far worse, your game was attached to your account, keeping you from loaning or selling it. This new game future seemed to strip too many rights away from users, and I wanted no part of it.

Lately, though, I've been finding that this is exactly the future I am living in, and I've been extremely happy. I'm having a great time, buying fun games for fair prices. I'm just doing it on the XBox.

The rights management in PC games is still generally hostile, punitive, and self-defeating. Requiring an internet connection to play a single player game or limiting the number of installations does nothing to prevent piracy (as hacked copies are always easily available from BitTorrent) but plenty to hurt legitimate customers. And piracy is rampant, no matter what. So the PC world is still screwed. (And there is increasing evidence that these problems are spreading to the iPhone.)

All I Want Is Fun, On the Cheap

But on XBox live, over the last month, I'm played Shadow Complex ($15), Defense Grid: The Awakening ($10), and I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 (a ludicrously low $1). These games are all seriously fun. They also have impenetrable DRM. I don't have to be online to play, but I can't sell or give away my copy. There's no piracy on XBox Live.

When the inability to share (or pirate) a product comes with a low price, I don't mind anymore. Defense Grid is ten bucks, and it's giving me more than ten bucks worth of fun. Sure, I'm at Microsoft's mercy, and I don't "own" the product, but hey. Ten bucks. And the manufactures can still make a nice profit at that low price (though probably not much lower) because ninety percent of its users aren't stealing it.

No DRM. But Plenty Of Injustice.

Compare that to the games I sell. I charge $28 for a new game. I would LOVE to charge ten bucks. But, to stay in business, I'd have to triple my sales, and that won't happen. Would sales go up? Sure. Would they TRIPLE? Almost impossible.

I have minimal DRM. People can transfer their registration to someone else if they want. I even have a one year money back guarantee if someone is unhappy. I've tried to be ethical in all the ways I want as a consumer. The result? My games get pirated like crazy, and I have to charge a lot to stay in business. I have a situation where honest people have to pay lots of money to subsidize the people who rip me off. The good people pay to buy games for the bad.

This, of course, infuriates me.

What I Wish I Could Do

I'm not going to be writing games for the XBox, sadly enough. My sort of games just work better on PC and Macs. But if I could snap my fingers and give myself the same absolute control over my games XBox Live has over theirs (in return for lower prices), I would. The freedom of the current system is nice, but it comes at too high a cost. The unfairness is just this side of intolerable, and it's only getting worse.

DRM is fair if, for what the corporations take, we get something in return. One of the problems with eBooks is they take away the ability to loan or sell the books you buy online, not to mention the lack of a satisfying physical object, and they still charge the same price for the book. What nonsense! Make the price of the books low enough to make people not mind what they are costing and I promise you the eBook business will improve.

DRM Has Its Points

DRM has developed a terrible reputation. Heck, it's earned it. But remember, the purpose of DRM is to prevent free riders (aka self-justifying weasels and morally damaged scumbags). None of us like being told that we don't deserve free things, but it's still true. If DRM enables products to be sold for a price that is cheap to users and fair to developers, it is something we should all grab with both hands.


  1. Points to consider:

    - There is no such thing as "impenetrable DRM"
    - XBLA (and Steam) might be great for indie/classic games. If they decide to cancel/die on me, it's "hey 10 bucks". However, the goal of DRM and digital distrubtion is primarily the destruction of the second-hand market, not stopping piracy. Because of this there is a movement to go digital distribution for all games.
    - Devoid of games on physical media, people who enjoy cracking copy protection will turn their eye to digital distribution channels. See point 1.
    - Most of the scumbags who pirate your games would be highly unlikley to buy them - at any price.

  2. Jeff, ask yourself - why do your customers pay you? Is it because you force them to with DRM? Without DRM, would they just pirate your game?

    The answer is no. If they wanted to pirate your game right now, they could. But they don't. Those people are your customers, and they are the ones you should be focused on - and DRM just annoys them.

    Pirates will never be your customers. Even if you had impenetrable DRM (which is impossible), they would not be your customers. How much time and money do you spend implementing the DRM in your games to defend them from people who will never pay for them? How many support contacts with paying customers have been solely due to the DRM? DRM isn't free, and it drives up costs as well.

  3. DRM tends to work the most effectively when users don't perceive it as restricting their rights. One of the reasons why Steam has become popular is because users can install games on any computer, despite purchases being tied to accounts. DRM doesn't have to be nasty, even though it is often perceived as such. Users are often more interested in activating their game if they think they are getting a cool online feature rather than giving in to the "man".

  4. I hate DRM and love Steam. Because I've never had to worry about the DRM attached to Steam. In fact, as someone with an always-on internet connection, it gets me around a major complaint with regular DRM -- I don't have to keep the stupid DVD in the drive.

    Steam is also the system that is most similar to Bittorrent. I pick the game I want out of a list, and click on download and hey! It's here! I don't even have to install it, so it's technically MORE convenient than BitTorrent. Which gets around my biggest hate of DRM: The pirates end up with the superior product. Not with Steam.

    Granted the question of resale has never been a big one to me, so I wouldn't be mourning that loss much anyways.

  5. - There is no such thing as "impenetrable DRM"

    This. The basic problem with DRM is that it's literally nothing more than security by obscurity. Relying on locked-down, proprietary hardware like modern consoles ups that obscurity quite a bit, but if someone cares enough to spend the time, it most certainly can be cracked.

    I'd also echo the suggestion that games with a significant online component are the way to go for non-evil copy protection. This can range from offering updates only to logged-in customers (easy to do), to allowing players to show off their characters on a website (nontrivial work), to taking the whole game online (probably impossible). There's also the Blizzard-y route of requiring purchase verification before allowing players to post on the appropriate forums.

  6. OK. I'll bite. People are buying tons of games on XBLA Arcade. Show me the piracy. Where can I go to get my hacked version?

    Answer: Nowhere.

    As for the thing about how people who pirate would never buy, a lot of people say that, but I consider that statement to be unfounded and unproven. I think, if piracy wasn't possible but prices could be lower, a lot of people wouldn't buy my games and a lot of people WOULD.

    - Jeff Vogel

  7. "... but if someone cares enough to spend the time, it most certainly can be cracked."

    -- if they care to wait till the sun turns into a red giant.

    Look, Jeff, encrypt your binary & get 'em one of those USB locks with 65536-bit RSA & big integer multiplication wired into the chip.

  8. Actually, you do have to be online to play "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1"

    That's true for all the Xbox Indie games, unfortunately. It's a real pain when I want to show somebody my game (Being) at a party or something where getting my xbox online is non-trivial.

    I don't think it has anything to do with DRM, though. It's because the games aren't rated by the ESRB, I think.

  9. I think services like Impulse are awesome because they provide you with something that boxed games can't: the ability to redownload at any time, for free. Services like Steam and XBLA provide that as well, but they come with an added caveat: if Valve or Microsoft go out of business (ha!), you lose your game collection. More immediately, in the case of the 360, what will happen when the Xbox 720 is released? Is there any guarantee that 360 games will work on next-gen hardware? Impulse and Steam may not stop piracy as effectively as their console counterparts, but if a pirate really wants to play 360 games, they can always modchip their Xbox. No solution is 100%. And the Impulse model is much more effective at not pissing off your customers in the long run.

  10. Perhaps this is because I am connected to the internet effectively 100% of the time I am using my computer or either of my gaming consoles, I don't really see a big problem with requiring the player to connect to the internet to play a single player game.

    Sure it is a bit unorthodox, when the game itself isn't using the internet, but I think that if developers can use that to put a stop to piracy, then by all means, they should.

    Additionally; I have to agree with the fact that reduced prices does not equal stopping piracy. Like Matt said, there are those out there who will pirate no matter what, until they can't, regardless of how low the price is, this doesn't mean that every pirate is that way. Of the few people I've introduced to Avernum, there have been a few put off by the high price point, and have decided that the demo is enough for them, I'm sure that a lower price point would certainly convince some of them that Avernum is worth the purchase, but as Jeff stated, there are reasons that a price reduction is unlikely.

    I'm no technological genius and I am sure I am a bit naive when it comes to this sort of thing so I really can't come up with a workable solution to piracy on my own, but the way I see it, I wouldn't have a problem with logging into an account via the internet to play a single player game, I don't think that is a hassle at all, I'm sure others may, but then there are also people who think Registration Keys are read into that what you will.

    A bit off topic, but will you be making a blog post about your PAX experience at all? I'd love to know what you thought about what games there interested you, and your overall thoughts on the convention.

  11. All these arguments about how the always-online component of digital distribution is the best way for DRM to go forgets the essential issue -- it's only great when Internet access is convenient and almost-ubiquitous.

    When it's not, it's not.

    Mind you, if you want to completely remove piracy, then open-source the game. What happens then? Well, no piracy.

    ...but then of course you'll have the problem of getting paid for your efforts, but you won't have piracy no more.

  12. "... not to mention the lack of a satisfying physical object..."

    This is what I like about many older games that shipped not only with a nice box and a manual but also with a few other gimmicks that made it more valuable to buy the original game.
    This would be one thing to consider but I'm not sure if it does enough to deter piracy. Inserting a DVD and installing a game from there is often already too much for some gamers today.

    btw: Why can't I copy and paste text into the comment box?? Coursor keys also don't work? This is why I hate blogspot!

  13. @sascha: Both copy&paste and cursor keys work fine for me.

  14. It seems to me that you are assuming that the same people who steal games would otherwise be paying for them.

    That simply is not true. Many people who illegally download games often do not have the resources for one reason or the other to buy the game regardless of the DRM.

    I'm not in any way advocating stealing. It's just that claiming that DRM will drive down prices because people who usually steal games will now purchase them is patently ludicrous.

    They just won't play them.

    BTW I am an indie game dev.

  15. I think the truth is slightly in between. People who are used to pirating games instead of buying them, will avoid games that are not available pirated. But that's because they are ACCUSTOMED to pirating games. In the same way, people who are accustomed to playing games on the Xbox will not be paying for games on the PC. I'm not talking about technical differences between the platforms here; I'm talking about them associating "game" and "Xbox" strongly in their head, the way I associate "refrigerator" and "eggs". If I want some eggs, I go to my refrigerator. I don't seek out a chicken and wait for it to lay.

  16. "That simply is not true. Many people who illegally download games often do not have the resources for one reason or the other to buy the game regardless of the DRM."

    People keep saying this, as if everyone who pirates a game is completely identical and none of them would ever ever pay for software ever. I have never seen any hard evidence to show this is the case. If fact, based on how many games they sell on XBLA, I suspect the opposite is true.

    Saying this is just throwing your hands up in the air and giving up. I just don't think that's smart.

    - Jeff Vogel

  17. I can't see the point of your post, honestly.
    If you like the XBLA model, just release your games on Steam.

    I hate DRM myself and won't buy any game with DRM technologies such as SecuROM. However, I have a huge list of Steam games. Just bought Braid for $5 this weekend - it's the top seller today because of this weekend sale.

    I like Steam because it's convenient. To be honest, these days I either buy a game through Steam or just don't buy it at all (in the past, I would download it from a torrent site but Steam spoiled me to the point that even looking for a torrent seems like a lot of work).

    Finally, I think that physical copies suck because you eventually lose/damage them and they insist you need the damn disk in the drive. Digital copies directly from developers sometimes have this same issue: you can only download it once (or a few times).

  18. I have to be honest I have not 'pirated' a game in probably 15 years, in large part because the reasons I would pirate a game (Almost always because I wanted to try before I bought) became irrelevant in the age where demos can be downloaded with ease.

    So, I have lived in sin. That said -

    I will give up a game before I will buy a DRM'd game. Maybe I'm just old, shouting "get off my iLawn", but there is a principle involved, in that even the copyright code explicitly recognizes rights for the "Owner of a Copy" as separate from your rights as "Owner of Copyright", and I cannot in good conscience aid and abet the attenuation of those rights.

    More to the point, the society in which those rights are gone - and that is the end game of DRM and the copyright lobby as it stands now - will be a stagnant and dead society.

    Maybe I'm not your target market. But, if I am,are you quite certain that your DRM gained you another *paying* *customer* in exchange for losing me.

    Thanks - Jonnan

  19. I'm unfortunately stuck on dial-up because of location and having to connect to the internet to play a single player game == I don't play that game. Period. The only games I'll tolerate that on is games that are multiplayer. Also, even though I buy PC games, I've been known to used a CD crack or 2 just to avoid the hassle. I won't name names, but I have bought some pretty expensive professional software with draconian DRM, and I use pirate copies of my store-bought apps to avoid the hassle. Point is, real men (and women) buy!!

    I've experienced a good deal of piracy with my music, and it can cause the blood vessels in your eyes to squirt. I think there's a bit of difference between music and games though, since a lot of people want to basically DL the known history of music, where people want to DL games to play. If you eliminated piracy, I don't know what ratio of folks would actually buy games, but I think the shallower, trendy games would fair worse than involved, quality games. Even though I buy, I buy FEW games, only the ones I know I'll like. If piracy disappeared, I think the overall QUANTITY of games people play would go down, which would put higher emphasis on quality. SpiderwebSoftware++!

    @Jonnan: Like has been said, there's DRM, then there's ***DRM***!!! If you're talking about "you only have 3 installs", I'm with you there. If you're talking about entering a short code and that's it, that's like refusing to buy any car that require a key to start. Jeff's copy protection is about the most liberal I've ever seen.

  20. As a writer and programmer, I'm all for creators getting paid for their work, but there's nothing inherently fair about any sort of copy protection, be it legal or technical.

    The usual argument is that without these things people couldn't get compensated and therefor very little would get produced. This is a short-sighted interpertation.

    At first, yes, that might be the case. Given the lack of traditional compensation models, less would get produced for a while. But the demand isn't going to go anywhere, in fact with the lack of copy protection distribution costs go down even further and demand actually goes up. People will find a way to pay people to make the things that they want made.

  21. OK. I'll bite. People are buying tons of games on XBLA Arcade. Show me the piracy. Where can I go to get my hacked version?

    Answer: Nowhere.

    Answer: Nowhere yet. Fancy a wager? My prediction:

    While XBLA stays with small, indie and old games, it might stay safe. As soon as they push to have digital distribution replace all traditional media for big AAA games (i.e. becomes the ONLY distribution channel), it will get cracked/compromised/hacked.

    Also, I would like to point out that Steam is succesful, even though you can find most (all?) of its games in a pirated form.

  22. Sorry for the double post - just wanted to add that instead of DRM it may be far more effective to simply educate the public.

  23. I want to beleive you, I really, really do.

    The idea of DRM to prevent freeloaders is a laudable goal, but that isn't really the goal of publishers. If it was, wouldn't we see patches removing DRM shortly after the game is available on bittorrent?

    The problem with DRM from a buyers point of view is that it's inconvenient, it makes playing a game that I've bought legitimately harder than one that's been pirated. It makes lending a game to a friend more complicated too.

  24. Great article Jeff. My response to this proved too lengthy, so I moved it to a blog post of its own.

  25. Buy any music from Walmart recently? They shutdown their DRM servers... so it just OK by you to screw people who pay for it?

    The ideal that is being pushed is that the honor system doesn't work and we need DRM to protect our content. That just isn't true, go get a copy of Freaknomics to understand the issue.

    The honor system works with 96-98% of people, punishing 98% of your customer base on the vague assumption that the 2% who do steal your game would buy it if they couldn't is assinine.

    Explain the Penny-Arcade game then? 10$ and a simple online check when you first install it... no big deal and I am happy to pay 10-15$ for a decent game that I can play anywhere and anytime I want.

    So the real question is, how much of a kick back are you getting for this article. SOMEONE paid you to write this total crap.

    Oh and btw, the reason you games don't sell that well is probably because they are overpriced and not that good..... hmmm but it's not YOUR fault right, your the awesome creator guy that we should fall all over and keep shelling money out to you ever time we look at your game.

    Do better.

  26. I personally won't touch any software (or music or movies) with most kinds of DRM. The exception, I guess, is DVD (and, in theory, BlueRay if I ever have a TV nice enough to bother upgrading), because I should be able to find a player as far in the future as I care to (and, for the most part, I don't care about viewing them on my computer).

    The fundamental issue is trust. DRM exists because publishers don't trust their users. I see why (though not literally -- even if I was interested in pirating media, bittorrent tracker sites are possibly the only part of the Internet sketchier than porn). The problem is that I don't trust publishers any more than they trust me. Small ones can go out of business. Big ones can (and do) just stop caring (see WalMart, Microsoft). In the case of the vertical music download scheme, I'd have to choose one (iTunes or Zune) and trust that either (a) the device and its connectors will last forever, (b) the same company will continue to make the best devices on the market, or (c) the DRM is broken before either of those fail.

  27. deathguppie said it, but i wanted to reiterate the false assumption that 1 pirate == 1 lost sale. it's not true. never has been true, never will be true. it's unfortunate that the RIAA, SPA, MPAA, and all those other associations continue to put out press releases acting as though that is fact, but it's not. i don't know what the exact percentage is, but it is vastly smaller than 1/1. taking music as a well known example, there are people, many of them still kids, who have pirated hundreds or even thousands of albums. does ANY one believe they would have BOUGHT all those albums? laughable. they probably couldn't afford even a fraction of the albums they've pirated. i'd be willing to bet piracy is inversely correlated with ability to pay. anyhow, it's a pet peeve of mine, i wish people would be more realistic about what the damages of piracy are because then we might not have to deal with so many onerous DRM schemes that really aren't significant revenue for the right holder.

  28. I would like to point out that there IS XBLA piracy. Anyopne who hasn't seen it is simply not looking for it, because it's there.

    You simply cannot make anything that cannot be hacked. XBLA is no exception.

  29. Digital Restrictions are just that. They're a pain in the arse and they're consumer unfriendly. If you insist, go ahead, do DRM, do your worst. For you will wake up to the day that you realize you're implementing missfeatures and you'll be overtaken by rivals that treat their customers fairly. End of story.

  30. for all people want to know more about DRM -

  31. Hi, 10 bucks is nothing to average Joe in US, but in third world, it is real money (and there is no special price for 3rd world citizens, we are supposed to pay the same).
    Appart from that, some services like online Xbox suscription are not available for most countries. That is why ALL xbox, ps2/3 and wii are sold already modded in countries like Argentina.

  32. OK, so we'll tally one vote in favor of artificial scarcity.

  33. I find arguments like: "DRM is unfair" or "DRM makes innocent people feel like criminals" to be totally laughable. You don't see anyone spitting the dummy about walking through those shoplifting-detectors in retail stores.

    In a society where the individual can be personally identified, people recognise that stealing is unjustifiable. Its only once stealing can be done annonymously with very little chance of being caught that suddenly it becomes rampant.

    I can see how people get annoyed if the DRM doesn't work correctly, but surely problems like these are merely teething-problems and will be resolved as the techniques improve. I don't know if it will ever eventuate, but personally I'm looking forward to a future where piracy is the minority rather than the majority and the increased percentage of paying customers results in lower prices and a more viable career path for indie developers. I can always hope...

  34. Ohh and @theeyrie (1 pirate == 1 lost sale):
    True, but even if it is only 1000 pirated copies == 1 lost sale, that's still a lot of lost revenue for some developers (especially indie developers). Sure, if just my product was suddenly pirate-proof those pirates would just move on to an easily-pirated product, but if most products in the market were similarly protected? Given a lack of alternatives I think you'd find that sales would be going up.

  35. surely problems like these are merely teething-problems and will be resolved as the techniques improve

    Comments like this probably shouldn't be made if you don't fundamentally understand the technology involved. The techniques can't be made better. At some point, the "real" code has to be loaded into memory so it can be executed. Period.

    DRM for PC games has gotten pretty convoluted in the past few years, but as far as I know, every major game has been cracked within days of its release. There's demand for a good DRM system, to be sure. It's just fundamentally impossible to do. It's impossible to even make "good enough."

    Nobody is seriously chasing the mythical impenetrable DRM as a solution to music piracy, amirite? They know it can't be done. So instead we see shifting business models, incentives, new relationships with fans, etc. Raging about things that cannot be changed (like, I don't know, human morality) solves nothing.

  36. DRM isn't an end-all, be-all solution to piracy any more than locks are a complete solution to theft. The difference is that in the "real world", there are real laws and real consequences to theft. While theft still obviously occurs, it's very minor compared to what it could be. When someone downloads warez, there's no real world consequence for it. I mean, technically there is, but it's non-existant. Imagine if out here, locks were the only incentive to prevent everyone from stealing everything. Locks would be WAY above and beyond what they are now, and would be a complete pain in the arse and everyone would hate it, but what are you gonna do? THAT's what is happening with DRM. They have to be extreme to make for the lack of additional support against e-theft. The only way piracy will go down to a small minority is when people in our generations are in power and pass REAL laws against it and put the power behind it to actually enforce the laws. Then DRM can relax and we can all get on with our lives.

    The argument that "all locks can be picked, so we shouldn't put locks on anything anymore" is as rediculous as that statement is applied to the real world.

    And yeah, the 1 pirate = 1 lost sale is crazy, but like Lachlan said, a 1000-1 ratio would still be a good chunk of change. It also hurts indies more than it readily appears because if someone can use any hot ticket software for free, why on earth would they try out a cheaper, less known competitor? This is particularly true for applications, like Photoshop. Why would anyone ever use a different app if they can use Photoshop for free? They won't. Ever. Hardly ever... ;)

  37. I should point out that most books on the Amazon Kindle are sold at a discount from the price you pay for the printed version. I personally don't miss the paper-based versions of the books I get on the Kindle (DX) unless there is some overwhelming reason (color plates for example), and yes there needs to be a way to loan out or transfer rights to a book but I think these problems will be solved eventually.

  38. Steam has an offline mode, so you don't need to be online to play games -- just to purchase them. That's sounding remarkably identical to your XBLA-fueled wishlist.

  39. I don't mind the idea of DRM for a subscription style setup. Think of it like the netflix video on demand of software.

    Give me access to ALL of the DRM'ed Spiderweb Software games - requiring internet access - for $9 a month.

    Keep the flow of games regular enough that by the time I finish a couple of older games there is a new one out. Have some kind of minor updates to DRM enabled old games (a few extra quests, etc) - something to distinguish them from the existing pirated stuff out there.

    Over the course of a year Spiderweb could make more money off of me ($9x12) than I could justify with a couple of expensive individual games.

  40. I hate it when people compare music to computer games. On a basic level, small bands make most of their money on gigs, so getting their name out is more valuable than the CD sales. This simply isn't true for non-subscription games. Personally, I think something like Steam is the most sensible solution. After all, if Valve goes out of business, then there'll be a replacement service formed by the community PDQ.

  41. I'm intrigued by this idea of "I pirate because I can't AFFORD to buy". Exile costs about $30, and contains at least 10 hours of content. So if you earn only about $5 an hour, you could earn the money to buy it on a 6-hour shift. I could probably earn that money within a day by standing on a street playing the *kazoo*.

    If you have the time to play, you have the money to pay.

  42. I used to pirate because I was a selfish little scrub, but a while ago, I confronted myself about it, and asked myself what right I had to do it, when I myself will be going into the software programming business after I graduate. I basically came to the conclusion of a promise I made myself. I didn't stop, but if I really like a game, and play it enough that I'd have rented it more than once, I go out and buy a legitimate copy.

    I also have to apply the same ethics to myself: it means I have to start putting out some quality stuff when I start my own programming career, so that enough people will like it that they will buy it.

    Piracy is a beast that must be lived with, but it's not the beast you think it is. If I didn't like Mr. Vogel's games, I wouldn't have bought them, regardless of whether or not I had money. If they had DRM, though, I'd have pirated them on mere principle. When you start looking at piracy on an ethical level, you really have to ask yourself: Those pirates, would they have bought my software at all if my game were magically unpirateable? Instead, what these big corporations should do is work on making the DRM a little more friendly; I can point to scores of games that were pirated more BECAUSE of DRM than just because people didn't want to pay.

    I've downloaded about 30 games for my PSP, and bought 19 out of those. 22 games for my DS, and purchased 14 of them from Gamestop. Piracy shouldn't be killing the good games. Just the bad ones.

  43. When are you releasing your titles on Steam? It's just like XBL, but for the PC, right? So since you're not going to develop for the Xbox, just release them through steam as they currently stand. Even if you only make $500 a year from it, you're really doing no extra work, right? Once they're on Steam I'll probably even give Geneforge a try.

  44. I'm all for DRM so long as it's not a pain in the butt. Putting in the disc is annoying but doable. Unfortunately, people just download cracks to get around this. Security codes work well, or at least I think they do, and they aren't a big deal. I guess that with games like Jeff's, people can host the game on a torrent site or what have you after they register it.

    I played Diablo II for a long time. The CD keys were not a problem at all. With the new patch, the CD didn't have to be in the machine either. That was great for me. Itunes, on the other hand, is a pain in that people with many computers have trouble getting music on all of them. My family has this problem as people go off to college.

    As per Piracy, I detest it. I am guilty of going to those sites to watch movies online, but that's about it. And anyway, movies tend to make a whole lot more money. Games? I downloaded one once, didn't like the game, and didn't like the idea. If it's worth playing, it's worth paying for.

    It's true, 1 pirate =/= 1 lost sale, but there must be a decent number of piraters who would buy it if they couldn't pirate as easily/could afford the game better. Pirating something online is like stealing from a store. Actually, it's identical to stealing from a store. Watching a movie online is like renting it for free: it's not as bad, and I wouldn't do it if movie makers were paid like indie game writers.

    My brother torrents constantly, and it really disgusts me. If you want something enough to break the law for it, just buy it! I'm all for DRM so long as it doesn't mess with the quality and easy of play!

  45. I pirated our host games because:
    1. I had no means to buy it. Yeah there was (and most certainly still are) some countries/cities, where making a Visa card was almost impossible.
    2. I was young schoolboy with some skills in reverse engineering, so it was just naturally to me to fire up tools and write keygens. Just to ensure, that I can do it.

    Now, given that I will receive my Visa at the end of the week, I'll go and buy all the games, that I enjoyed (and still enjoying replaying).
    Self indulgence put aside, I would say following on the main topic:
    1. Add some bonus to the owners of the game. Simple 'Hall Of The Fame' with some scoring in the game code will do the trick. I think.

    2. Localize games in other languages, not many people found additional fun in playing game in foreign language as I do. (Actually, if I recall correctly, there was a topic at the forum with such idea few years back). It fairly straightforward - I partly did it using simple resource editor with A1. And I believe, that community will gladly lend you a hand.

    3. When it's too hard to reverse engineer a program (uber DRM) it will be simply stolen from a registered owner, if demand will be high enough.

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  48. (Above comments were merged and corrected into this comment)

    I actually absolutely agree with you. I've been thinking about making money from software a lot recently and have come to largely the same conclusions. I wish I could develop for an XBox like platform, which is amazing for how much I've always hated DRM. Still, piracy is a major problem for independant software developers, and some kind of DRM implemented in some way is perhaps the only way to stop it.

    People pay money for everything. Absolutely everything. They should pay money for software, too. Companies are not hurt by piracy in the same way that independant developers are. Although DRM comes at the cost of an amazing amount of freedom, perhaps it's worth it. At least for independant developers, which is who we really care about anyway, right?

    I do not think it's unreasonable to expect people to either pay money for my game, or not play it. A world without some kind of DRM is just too damaging to independant developers.

    Also, in response to the comments, Some DRM is perfect. World of Warcraft has Zero users that do not pay.

    And I agree with Mr. Vogel, anyone who pays for the Internet can pay for my game. A one time purchase of a $10 game is nothing compared to the cost of $10-60 every month for internet. I buy frozen pizza at the super market. Two costs $10. Yet, I see a lot of teenagers eating pizza. Delivery pizza, which costs even more. Pirates have the money to pay for games.

  49. "Pirating something online is like stealing from a store. Actually, it's identical to stealing from a store. Watching a movie online is like renting it for free: it's not as bad, and I wouldn't do it if movie makers were paid like indie game writers."
    You're so close to doing the right thing. So close! Watching a movie online without paying is like going inside a video rental store, taking a video, popping it through the return slot to the outside (what people use to return videos), going outside and grabbing it, taking it home to watch it, going back to the video store and putting it back in the return slot.
    Well okay, I know what you're thinking, it's not exactly the same. The way you're doing it, it is much much easier to NOT get caught. Does that make it right?

    "I had no means to buy it. Yeah there was (and most certainly still are) some countries/cities, where making a Visa card was almost impossible."
    Paypal can be hooked up to a bank account. Did they (or you) have a bank account? No? How did you get that fancy computer, pay cash in a back alley somewhere? Pay for the internet connection with cash?

    You people crack me up with your reasoning on why it is okay to do something wrong. Can anybody really argue that the single act of downloading a cracked game you didn't pay for is not somehow wrong? Really? I have yet to hear something concrete. Everything so far has been under the umbrella of "it don't hurt nobody" and "I need to protest and stick it to The Man" and "I never would have bought it anyway". Do you really believe what you're saying??

    It all boils down to people not thinking software is a real tangible product, and the ease of getting away with it. If we treated a computer program like a candy bar, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

    You all like to play challenging games, right? Well here's one... do the right freakin thing. It's called the Game Of An Honest Life, and a lot of you are horrible at playing it. Go practice.

  50. A few comments:

    "Make the price of the books low enough to make people not mind what they are costing and I promise you the eBook business will improve."

    Baen Books has been operating on this principle for about a decade, without DRM. See They claim it has worked quite well for them. Unfortunately their selection of novels is mostly limited to military science fiction. is committed to the same idea, with DRM. See Kindle (as someone else mentioned). Newer books at $10 or less, older ones in the $5-$8 range (same as Baen Books, not coincidentally, I think -- the price point is good).

    The feel of having a physical book is psychological, of course. It goes away rather quickly, I found. After about six months with an e-paper screen (very readable) device I never looked back. It's akin to how authors resisted the typewriter because creating prose didn't "feel" right without a quill in hand. The advantages of the new technology eventually overcame that and nobody writes with a quill anymore. The same will be true with eBooks which, other than legacy "feel" and lending, have every advantage over physical books. (Try to change the type size in a dead tree novel to make it easier to read, for one.)

    Last comment: seems pretty optimistic on the long-term viability of Kindle & eBooks even though every eBook they sell is also readily available via Bittorrents. Also, the Kindle DRM was cracked long ago. Hasn't stopped them and more books go up every day. Something to think about.

  51. With ebooks, the bulk of what dictates price is not the physical object. Producing the book is $1-2, warehouse, transportation and the like add a little more on. The bulk of the production cost goes to the editing, composition, proofreading, design, art, cover work, proofing, file prep, conversion, etc. Then marketing, sales and the various overhead structures must be accounted for. Not to mention the author/agent's take, independent of the publishing house. Ebooks don't magically sidestep these costs if you want to produce anything of even middling quality. Writing, especially nonfiction, is a time and labor intensive act. You don't type a few hours in Word, save to a pdf and then sell your ebook.
    It would be nice if books were $1 or $4.99. Just like it would be nice if all games were similarly low priced. When Amazon sells new titles for $9.99, they are usually taking a loss on that sale.

  52. calvobbes, regarding current costs and profit, that's why I used "long-term viability" when writing about's optimism. Modern publishing has far too much overhead when a paperback goes for $14 and the author only gets about $2 or less per copy.

    "Indie" authors cut out the middleman and publish direct to eBook. takes a hefty cut but they still make more than twice per copy compared to traditional publishing. Most is trash, as one would expect, but's review system works well to shift that stuff out of sight. The remainder that gets decent reviews, I've found, has been on par with any other novels. The indie I bought for my Kindle last week was the best novel I've read this year.

    The book publishing industry won't look the same in ten years. Adapt or die.

  53. Remember when it was a cover story in Newsweek and/or Time Magazine that a university (can't remember which) required all new students to have an Apple laptop? Deja vu, the Boston Globe reports on possibly the first university to do away with their physical books in favor of Kindles and Sony Readers:

    To add/clarify to what I wrote in my previous post, the "indie" author publishes an eBook for around $7, of which I believe takes about half. The author still receives roughly twice as much per copy sold than s/he would going the traditional way. Of course, the volume of potential sales is yet tiny compared to physical books. That'll change.

    One big downside for readers of self-published eBooks: lack of editing/proofing in many offerings, even when they're otherwise very good. This downside is an opportunity for people with editing experience to offer their services. The future of publishing may have authors submitting to an editor group, who take a cut similar to current agents and publish the polished book on or competitors.

    It'll be interesting to see how things work out. Sorry for the topic derail!

  54. Personally if I find a game with DRM on it then the chance of me pirating it goes up.

    (treat me as a criminal and I will do so)

    but if a company makes it well known their is no DRM on there games I am much more likely to buy it.

  55. To completely sidestep the issue of piracy for a moment, I believe there are some forms of DRM that are not excusable even if they provide benefits along the way like lowered prices.

    Having an internet tie for singleplayer games (install limit or no) is one of those. It's not because I'm worried about being able to play it without internet access - I'm virtually always online. It's because that shackles the game to a server, and if that server ever gets taken down, poof, that game is lost to history. That's just not okay.

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