Chapter 2: Piracy

If there is anything the games industry hates more than used games, it would have to be piracy, or more accurately called, copyright infringement.

You see this happening more often in the PC games industry but it is also very prevalent on consoles, handhelds and smart phones. No matter where you go, piracy is there.

The games industry looks at torrent sites and other places where games can be downloaded and see nothing but lost revenue. It sees people downloading its games and playing them without ever paying them a dime. They hate it and want it to stop.

Unfortunately, few people in the games industry see game piracy for what it is, a symptom of a greater problem.

Types of Pirates

There are two main classes of pirates in the world, digital and seafaring. Okay. Not really. What I am getting at, is there are two main reasons people infringe on the copyrights of others.

One is that some people just want free stuff. These types of people are actually a minority when it comes to those who consume media. The vast majority of people pay for the content they want and everyone is happy. Those who pirate just to get free stuff will never change no matter how much they are targeted. These are also the pirates that too many people in the games industry place their whole focus on.

They other group of pirates are those who pirate because they lack other options to get the games they want. Their reasons vary based on individual circumstances. Let’s take a look at a few.

Cost – We already talked about this earlier, but it also applies here. People are very cautious when it comes to their own money. They don’t want to waste it or feel they have been cheated out of the money they worked hard to earn. These types of people would not pay $60 for a brand new game, but would consider it for a far lower cost. This is also, as far as I am concerned, one of the weaker arguments in support of piracy.

Lack of Demo – People like to know what they are buying. For PC games, they want to know if the game will even run on their machines. Demos seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird in recent years and gamers do not like it. Whenever there are demos, the demo experience is but a shell of what to expect from the full game. They want to know what they are getting and videos and reviews can only go so far.

Limitations – Gamers also hate the idea of limitations on their games. For instance, many PC games have limits on the number of times you can install the game or the number of PCs you can install it on. These kinds of limitations lead gamers to seek out a way to bypass them so that they can get the most out of the game they paid money for.

Region Restrictions This is probably one of the biggest reason that people pirate. Not everyone in the world has access to the same library of games. This was more difficult to bypass in the days before the internet, but in today’s interconnected world, it just makes no sense to lock gamers from getting the games they want. If a game is not available to them, they will get it whether it is in a legal way or not.

Those are the main reasons I find people pirate. There may be subtle alterations or even some reasons not listed here that people pirate. The fact remains that piracy in general is a symptom and not the problem.

Games Industry Reaction

It is hard to quantify the reaction of the games industry to piracy. A majority of the people in the industry, mostly from big publishers and developers, hate it with a passion. They go to extreme measures to try to prevent piracy and none have ever succeeded. Most of their efforts have been targeted at the first type of pirate, those who just want free stuff. Want they don’t realize, or don’t want to accept, is that the measures they put in place are harming their legitimate customers and forcing them to become the second type of pirate.

Let’s look at a hypothetical discussion between game industry execs:

Exec1: Look at all these people downloading our game without paying for it. Something must be done about it.

Exec2: I hear this DRM stuff is great for stopping these filthy pirates.

Exec1: We could also make them stay online forever.

Exec2: Then we could install all kinds of useless crap on their computers so that they can’t do anything except play our games.

Onlooker: Umm, don’t you think it would be better to find out why these people are downloading your games instead of buying them and then fix the problems they express?

Execs1and2: Security! Get this idiot out of our office!

Sounds far fetched doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this is the impression that many gamers get when looking at the new anti-piracy measures introduced in some of the latest games.

A minority of developers and publishers, most of whom are from the indie sector, have realized that it is pointless to try and fight that first class of pirate. They have instead been trying to find ways to solve the actual problems that lead people to become the second class of pirates. They are trying to lower costs, remove limitations and make their games available to the whole world.

These are the developers that we as gamers should embrace. These are the ones who actually care about their games and the people who play them. They care about us.

The Gamers’ Responsibility

So, what is our responsibility as gamers when it comes to piracy? Not to sound like an apologist for the games industry, but I think it is our responsibility not to pirate games. Hear me out here. Every time someone pirates a game no matter if it is because they want free stuff or they have a legitimate reason as listed above, it adds fuel to the fire of those who rant and rave about piracy. It provides them with further indignation to create even more controversial and damaging measures meant to fight piracy.

We have a responsibility as gamers to fight those measures and the best way to do so is to stop fueling the fight. So rather than pirate games, we should instead embrace developers who have our best interests in mind. There are plenty of developers who have learned that fighting piracy is a lost cause and that they should instead embrace the paying customer. They are providing the benefits we desire from gaming.

If everyone stopped buying or pirating games from companies who have anti-consumer policies and instead spent their time and money with games whose developers trust and respect their customers, we can influence the landscape behind gaming.

Isn’t that what you want? I know I do. I would rather game developers and publishers learn and change through positive measures than because they were finally beaten down. That is what breeds trust and respect between all parties.

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