By John Walker on October 8th, 2008 at 11:50 am.
Sorry to get into this again, but as much as I want to ignore it, this one’s significant. Ubisoft have stated that they’re artificially delaying the launch of EndWar on PC because of, you guessed it, piracy.
Talking to VideoGaming247, Ubisoft Shanghai director and former Total War “Evangelist”, Michael de Plater said,
“To be honest, if PC wasn’t pirated to hell and back, there’d probably be a PC version coming out the same day as the other two.”
“But at the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you’re doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version. Piracy’s basically killing PC.”
This hardly seems worth saying, but of course we in no way endorse piracy. Illegally downloading games is, well, illegal. But what we want – what we want so much that our sides ache and our foreheads pulse – is for the truth to be at the centre of this discussion. We want people who make these decisions, who give comments like this, to present the facts and figures that back up their statements.
We want to see the demonstrable evidence for the harm piracy has on sales. Because if it’s true, then yes, action needs to be taken. But if it isn’t (and history suggests it very well might not be – the most successful formats in the last 30 years have always been the most pirated, with the DS currently proving this on a dramatic scale), then untold damage is being done to the PC platform by claims like this.
What’s fascinating here is to consider whether this is an isolated case, or whether this attitude is endemic amongst publishers. Is this why we’re not seeing Mirror’s Edge on PC until next year? Does this explain why GTA takes nine months to find its way onto our preferred platform? Are we missing out on Fable 2 because of a fear of the pirates? Halo 3? Has the reputation of the PC, so far entirely without corroborating evidence, hobbled it?
At the moment it feels like an out-of-control rumour is driving a steamroller over the PC. Increasing numbers of publishers, who frankly wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the PC, are jumping on board. And this is despite the continued huge sales on PC via the dramatic success of digital distribution. The perceived, received opinion is that, “If someone downloads a copy of a game, that’s a lost sale.” As much as this might immediately appear to make sense, a moment’s scrutiny reveals it to be, so far, entirely unfounded. (Stardock’s Brad Wardell wrote eloquently on this subject earlier this year). Surely the people publishing games should be desperately researching to find out why their PC games might not be selling in the volumes they might hope, rather than just assuming it’s piracy, and then declaring it as a fact. It might be piracy! It really might be. But without evidence, without facts and figures to back this claim up, it can only be considered hearsay, and deeply unproductive.
So come on publishers, put your mouth where your money is, and organise some research into this. Demonstrate that PC piracy damages console sales, and you’ll win our attention. From that point, we can start creating imaginative new methods of controlling the problem. Until then, actively hobbling the PC yourselves is quite the self-fulfilling tragedy. (Thanks to the GriddleOctopus for the tip).