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Ubisoft Suspicious of Your Money

February 19th, 2010 Comments Off

Every now and again, someone pronounces PC gaming dead, but it might really be happening this time. MTV Multiplayer is reporting that the PC distribution of Assassin’s Creed will ship with some bloodthirsty DRM. In addition to the usual requirement that you be online to start the game, Ubisoft also wants you to maintain a [...]

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Meet the New Sequel, Same as the Old Game

January 20th, 2010 Comments Off

2K Boston may have changed their name back to Irrational Games, but some things are immutable. Fire up your consoles, because the PC release of Bioshock 2 will feature everybody’s favorite DRM: SecuRom. Bioshock veterans will recall the stink about SecuROM in the original game, what with the unrequested rootkit installations, the accusations of spyware, [...]

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Scurvy Scalawags Steal Spore (Surprise)

December 10th, 2008 Comments Off

Torrentfreak, a filesharing blog with a focus on Bittorrent, has posted a quick stat dump for the most pirated video games of 2008. Although they don’t explicitly unpack how the stats were obtained, a quick trek through their ancestral links suggests that they directly query from the torrent trackers at popular websites like The Pirate Bay.

Will Wright, famed creator of pretty much any game with the prefix “Sim,” wins for most pirate-able developer. His sim-everything game Spore graces the top of the list, followed by his casual mega-hit The Sims 2. Between these two games, Will Wright holds a commanding 37% download lead over his closest follower, Assassin’s Creed.

Spore earlier stirred up a gamer outcry over its draconian SecuRom DRM scheme, which limited consumers to three installs per purchase. Although there’s no provable causal link between the the game’s arduous DRM and extensive piracy, SecuRom doesn’t seem to have spared Spore from seeing the top of this list.

Spore’s primacy is also surprising in light of the fact it was released just this year in September. Looking at the list, 6 of the top 10 games were released one or more years ago. This shouldn’t be surprising as the previous year’s holiday games are the banner titles that everyone wants to pirate. What is surprising, however, is that Spore overran them all in just two months.

Outside Spore, the list is pretty diverse. No single genre is represented by more than two games. Four of the games are more than 40 hours long or are open-ended, while none of them are shorter than 6 hours (though your mileage may vary). Most games are from the last two years, but The Sims 2 and GTA: San Andreas appear to have some staying power.

In short, even limited to the highest volumes, Piracy appears to be largely unfocused (unless you count AAA games as a focus), unless your name is Will Wright. Congratulations to Mr. Wright on his popularity, I guess.

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Why Won’t You Buy World of Goo?

November 19th, 2008 Comments Off

Pirates are heroes! Swashbucklers sailing on Nintendo’s Blue Ocean, they stand against unreasonable DRM, price gouging, distributor hegemony, and all that corporate bad stuff. That is, unless you happen to have released a DRM-free, cheap, independant game called World of Goo. In that case, they’re just thieves.

2D Boy (via Twenty-Sided), developers of the excellent tower construction game, have conducted an informal survey that compares the number of sales they’ve made to the number of IP addresses registering scores on their leaderboards. After doing some reasonable stats, they estimate the piracy rate for World of Goo is 82%. Put another way, only 18% of the players are actually paying for their game. The developers admit that it’s a rough estimate, but not an unreasonable one. So maybe most pirates aren’t so romantic as the vocal pirates would have you believe.

On the other hand, if you take from this that DRM is important to protect developers, that’s wrong too. 2D Boy also points out that a DRM-protected game, Ricochet Infinity, actually suffers a piracy rate of 92%. Adding insult to injury is the fact that pirates only rarely convert to paying paying customers. Although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons between different games with different audiences and market awareness, it’s difficult to ignore those numbers.

So if you happen to be a games distributor reading this news/review blog, ask yourself what you’re getting in exchange for the money and consumer goodwill you spend on DRM. On the other side of the fence, if you’ve pirated World of Goo and liked it, show 2D Boy $20 of your love.

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After-market DRM Sees Light of Day

November 14th, 2008 2 Comments

Persistent readers may recall that we reported on David Braben’s declaration of war against the used-games market. In case it’s just too hard to click the link, the short version was that he recommended tying purchases to particular consumers so they couldn’t be passed from person to person.

Although Baben hasn’t been heard from since then in gaming news, Nintendo seems to have listened. The upcoming Wii Speak peripheral will come with a “Wii download ticket number.” The peripheral amounts to a glorified speaker phone, but will at last bring voice chat to the Wii. The catch is that the peripheral won’t interact with most games except through the new Wii Speak Channel.

The more cynical among you will already have worked out that, without this number, Wii Speak owners won’t be able to download the Wii Speak channel for free. However you may not have guessed that the channel won’t be for sale at all, so that download number is your only access to the essential software.

Even if the download number doesn’t tie itself to a particular console once used, secondhand buyers will need to ensure that they’re getting the number with the peripheral. Otherwise it’ll be a useless hunk of plastic.

Just when you thought consoles were safe from intrusive DRM.

Edit: Gamesindustry.biz is reporting that the code is consumed by a single use.

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Moore Advocates Undermining Pirates, Not Suing

August 22nd, 2008 Comments Off

Peter Moore, EA Executive and former Microsoft veep has publicly warned against suing your consumers, even if they are pirates. Turning the other cheek, Moore points out that the tactic didn’t work so well for the RIAA, and it won’t work now. It’s like beating up a kid for his lunch money after he threw a spitball at you. You may hurt him in the short term, but overall you only increase his lust for slimy revenge.

Moore’s solution to the problem is, “build game experiences that make it more difficult for there to be any value in pirating games.” Of course, that’s easy for him to say. He currently heads up the EA Sports division, a gaming genre that is definitively multiplayer. Since online multiplayer is tracked by remote servers, the only pirates it doesn’t foil are the ones who can steal or spoof other user accounts. It’s like online activation DRM, but your consumer base wants to use it. Pity single-player gaming developers don’t have something like that.

Or do they? Games are moving online, even single-player games. From achievements to leaderboards to simple chat interfaces, developers can shoehorn an online component into just about anything. If they standardize that component, it’ll hardly take any development resources at all. Humans are social animals–we (usually) like others to know what we’re doing and to share our experiences. Maybe Moore is right, and gaming can leverage that fact to cut down on piracy.

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