Thoughts on Game Piracy Sparked by the CAS

Last year the United States finished ironing out their remaining issues in the newest tool to combat piracy: the Copyright Alert System (CAS). I have a lot to say about the CAS, but I’ll refrain for now. In the mean time I recommend articles by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and arstechnica for further information.

My Internet Service Provider, Comcast, rolls out their implementation of the Copyright Alert System today. As someone who has spent the last year and change developing a PC game to act as the flagship product for our game studio, I cannot help but think about the issues surrounding piracy, and the effect these laws have on me. So I wanted to share my thoughts.

The Reality of Piracy

I have no reason to believe piracy will ever disappear at this point. As a game developer it feels pointless for me to spend time thinking, “How am I going to stop people from pirating my game?” Because people will pirate it no matter what I do. Instead the question becomes, “How do I convince people my game is worth their money?”

However, do not misinterpret me as saying that I’m throwing in the towel. I do not believe that ‘I do not have the money’ is an acceptable justification for pirating games, because games are not essential to life. I believe our societies should try their best to make sure that financial problems do not prevent people from receiving essential items for life: food, shelter, health care, et cetera. Games do not fall into this category. I am not saying this to sound cold or indifferent to people who face tough financial problems—I struggle to afford medicine for myself actually—but I do not sympathize with the idea that anyone deserves a game because they really want it yet cannot afford it.

In my experience a lot of those people will pirate games. I say that because I did the very same thing when I was younger and could not afford all the games I wanted.

Our Approach to Piracy

DRM is a common approach that developers use to curb piracy. An increasingly prevalent approach is the idea of ‘always-on DRM’. That is, the game requires an Internet connection, e.g. Diablo 3, the new SimCity, recent UbiSoft games, and so on. DRM inevitably angers consumers, especially this newest variety. As someone who does not have a stable Internet connection I admit that I consider it absolutely ludicrous to be unable to play a single-player game just because my connection is not working.

Early in the work on our game we discussed the topic of DRM, and pretty quickly agreed that we wanted none of it. One reason, from my personal point-of-view, is that amount of piracy we might prevent with any form of DRM is not worth the number of consumers we would piss off. Furthermore, I believe that having no DRM could actually increase sales. Because I know I’d be more willing to purchase a game that was not going to annoy me with DRM.

So no DRM for us.

Instead we agree that a more positive way to prevent piracy and increase sales is to simply make a product that people want to buy. A large part of that involves creating a quality game. But there are some business aspects to consider as well, such as the price of our game. We have not decided on a definitive price but we said before that anything above $20 USD seems highly unlikely. Our game certainly will not be a sixty-dollar PC title or anything like that.

Will that stop piracy of our game? Absolutely not. There are people who will always pirate our games. But I believe measures such as DRM are not the most productive way to deal with the issue of piracy. Instead a quality game at a reasonable price will convince more people to give us their money instead of hitting up the Pirate Bay.

That’s the plan at least. We’ll see how it turns out.

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