EndWar Delayed Because “Piracy’s killing PC”

By John Walker on October 8th, 2008 at 11:50 am.

Ubisoft launch an airstrike on the PC : (

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.”

He continues,

“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.

Slipping from our fingers.

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).

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268 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    “Increasing numbers of publishers, who frankly would exist if it weren’t for the PC”

    Ooooo, Freudian.

  2. John Walker says:

    Yes, it’s because of my lust for my mother and hate for my father that I accidentally wrote a typo. Fixed.

  3. Grill / Griddleoctopus says:

    Oedipus wrecks everything!

  4. StalinsGhost says:

    Piracy isn’t killing the PC. It’s the idiots who think it is who are. They’re fast becoming gaming dinosaurs, basically releasing the same old crap over and over on consoles anyway to be frank.

  5. grumpy says:

    What’s ironic is that they could more or less solve the problem if they just put the game on Steam. But of course, that’s probably not prestigious enough for a big publisher. They need their game boxes…..

    Still, when a solution exists, these claims end up sounding a bit silly.

  6. Cigol says:

    If they released it on PC first, everybody would pirate it, true. Because it’s probably crap. Like the Force Unleashed – which was released on every single platform known to mankind EXCEPT the PC. All because it was pants.

    Would you rather pay for someone to take a shit in your face or do it yourself. Exactly; I did neither – but I know that some people actually paid for the privilege.

    Endwar is looking ace by the way. [/sarcasm]

  7. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Hang on – if piracy is in the process of killing the PC, then surely the longer you delay release, the worse it’s going to be?

  8. John Walker says:

    Ubisoft, especially, make the completely mad decision to release games on Steam in the US only. Not releasing your finished game for months, and then not making it easily available to willing customers. It’s hard not to think these might be factors when the game doesn’t sell!

  9. Cigol says:

    ~~~~ BUT IN ALL SERIOUSNESS ~~~~

    Put ‘em to task RPS! Get your investigatory goggles on and start asking round and do a bloody feature on this self-fulfilling rumour.

  10. Calabi says:

    Well if their so stupid that they they dont want the sales at all. Perhaps the indy scene and the real innovative games can rise up through the drudge.

    I think the playstation was hugely pirated as well and look at how popular that became.

    Surely their making it worse with these comments all the time. “FINE IF YOU WANT ME TO PIRATE I’LL PIRATE” I wont but I’m getting tempted.

  11. Whiskey Jack says:

    You know what? If they don’t want to risk it being pirated (fuck, how I hate Pirates! And no I’m not a Ninja.) well let them be. As far as I’m concerned it is within their right.

    I would be pretty pissed too to see thousands of people playing my game for free if 200 of my colleagues and I had spent two or three years of our lives and the company tens of millions of dollars to make it. And the fact that the game’s sales are profitable or not isn’t even part of the issue, and yes piracy IS theft, don’t start with that nonsensical attempt at an argument again.

    I’m gonna play this one on my console with the microphone and I will simply play other games on my PC, as simple as that.

  12. Ragnar says:

    The logic of big publishers looks a bit like this to me:
    If it hadn’t been for PC game piracy I would have been very rich.
    Evidence: I’m not very rich and there is a lot of piracy of PC games.

    Anyway. I still have a lot more games to play (that I like to play) on the PC than I have time to play.

  13. Plinglebob says:

    Considering Ubisoft were the biggest fans of Starforce when it was used, this latest action doesn’t surprise me. Sadly, it will likely mean the sales of the PC version will be lower than expected because people will buy it on a console instead. This will then lead Ubisoft (and possibly others) to say “LOW SALES CUZ OF DIRTY PIRATES!!!!!!!” and force more crap onto us.

  14. Tei says:

    Geezers. Another dumbed down game, that seems will not release on the PC.

  15. Bobsy says:

    @grumpy

    I think publisher pride is worryingly endemic at the moment. There’s no reason why Lucasarts games aren’t on GOG.com, for example, and you can bet your life that GOG asked LA if they’d like to take part. LA aren’t selling their old games, but they’re hanging on to them on the possibility that they might.

    Likewise Steam is one of the biggest, best and most accessible digital distribution platforms around, but many publishers aren’t keen because they think they can do it themselves and not have to give Valve a cut of the profit. Most publishers have proved they can’t get digital distribution right, but try telling them that.

  16. muscrat says:

    Id rather play World in Conflict than another game raping the Clancy title.

  17. subedii says:

    Oh what the heck? I thought we passed this kind of idiocy sometime ago but it keeps coming back.

    It’s almost like they’re trying to sabotage their PC releases these days.

  18. Dizet Sma says:

    “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.”

    Wha? Does that mean that ‘pirates’ who have a console and a PC will throw up their hand and say “Arr, I’ll buy this version now and get me free Pee Cee copy later. Shiver me timbers, those crafty developers have foxed me again!”

    I somehow doubt that the level of hacked copies is related to how many days / months later a PC version is released after the console version(s). There’ll probably be a pirated version out before the official release date anyway.

  19. John Walker says:

    Whiskey Jack, saying something boldly doesn’t make it true.

    Piracy is illegal. Piracy isn’t theft. Theft requires someone to have lost the stolen item when it is taken. Duplication is not theft – it’s duplication. This comes back to my central point above – there is no point in this debate if people aren’t willing to engage with the truth. Shouting “PIRACY IS THEFT!” doesn’t make it true. It is illegal. It is against the law to do it. But it isn’t theft, and so let’s not use that word to describe it.

    And I’ll put this one out there: If I’d spent three years working with my 200 colleagues, I’d have been paid for my time. Unless I was on residuals, and I’m not going to be am I?, then that people are sharing/copying/downloading my game is pretty irrelevant. I got paid the same either way. (Were this piracy then to cause the sales of the game to not support further development, and thus the loss of my job, we’d have a problem again – however, that’s what’s unproven, and what I’m calling for publishers to research).

  20. Bobsy says:

    @John Walker:

    I’ve struggled with Ubisoft’s desicion not to Steam-distribute in Europe, and I can’t think of a good reason why. It makes double nonsense when you remember that half of Ubisoft is still based in France, where they first formed.

    Have you tried asking them what their reasons are? Have they tried explaining it? If there is logique behind it, I’d love to hear it. I certainly can’t work it out myself.

  21. DarthS says:

    Piracy is becoming the excuse of the moment for lazy publishers. It seems a bit naive to think mass piracy won’t follow them to the consoles.

  22. cliffski says:

    You can never get accurate stats on this because you can’t do an A/B test with exactly the same game. it can’t be done. But when one of the biggest sites on the internet by bandwidth is rapidshare, and another is thepiratebay, it stands to reason that there is a hell of a lot of pc piracy going on, and a lot of it is games.

    I’m certain if there was no piracy I’d be playing Company Of Heroes 2 right now. Yes, there are still publishers making games for the PC, like Valve, Stardock and the total war guys, but they are the exception now.

    This guy is just stating what many in the industry think to be a fact, which is that if you make a multi-format game, there is a net loss from porting it to the PC, because so many potential console buyers pirate it for the PC instead.

  23. Morberis says:

    “the game’s sales are profitable or not isn’t even part of the issue”

    Oh come off it they’re in the business to make money and that’s it. Ohhh it hurts me emotionally, you know deep down when unauthorized people play my games. You don’t see that excuse in any other industry, even music, and there’s a reason for that.

    Until someone actually does a study on the ratio of pirated copies to lost sales is I’m not going to believe a word they say.

  24. cliffski says:

    “If I’d spent three years working with my 200 colleagues, I’d have been paid for my time.”

    errr…. that money is basically an investment based upon future sales. If piracy means no sales, then you wouldn’t invest. As someone who invests his own savings in making games, I can assure you that the attitude of “the coders get paid regardless” is irrelevant. The coders get fired the day a game isn’t profitable by a greater percentage than leaving the same money in a bank.
    Games publishers aren’t idiots, they invest money to make a return on that investment. Piracy eats into that return.

  25. Shadowmancer says:

    @ John Walker
    The reason why Ubisoft doesn’t sell games was debated a lot on the steam forums, the answer was that Ubisoft make more money retail in Europe and the rest of the world rather than America, its down to currency rates average game in us is $30-40 (£15-20) but here in the Uk the average game is £30-40 ($15-20) they pull the old switchero with the currency, if ubisoft started selling steam games they would louse about £10 ($20) per game.

  26. cliffski says:

    “Until someone actually does a study on the ratio of pirated copies to lost sales is I’m not going to believe a word they say.”

    how?
    And who do you believe then? The kids saying “I wouldn’t have bought it anyway” whilst furiously completing level 36?

  27. rei says:

    They do things like this, and when the game inevitably fails to sell well on the PC due to their own active discouragement of PC sales, they’re going to figure it’s because everyone pirated it and the PC is dying.

    It’s almost as if they’re more interested in playing the martyr than actually selling their crap.

  28. subedii says:

    Cliffski, I suspect the reason that you haven’t seen Company of Heroes 2 is because Relic are currently focussing on making Dawn of War 2. I know, I never heard of it either, but apparently it’s the sequel to their incredibly successful other RTS franchise? Just a possibility there.

    You can’t just make blank statements of “oh if there were no piracy all game devs would make sequels to the games that I love.” You already know it’s not that simple.

  29. Morberis says:

    “This guy is just stating what many in the industry think to be a fact, which is that if you make a multi-format game, there is a net loss from porting it to the PC, because so many potential console buyers pirate it for the PC instead.”

    That I buy, and I’m not opposed to that. I can’t help but think though that if digital download services like Steam and Impulse received as much products and attention as retail that we might not have this problem – or as much as a problem. It still needs to come with some tough, but reasonable DRM though (steam) if its intended for a market that does a large amount of pirating.

  30. rei says:

    Is the editing feature gone? In hindsight I was going to change the “crap” into a less aggressive term, since my mom brought me up right :\

  31. John Walker says:

    Bobsy – I’ve asked Ubisoft why, and have never received an answer.

    Cliffski – yes, I was speaking specifically about Whiskey’s example, of a multi-million dollar company with hundreds of employees. And indeed, I added that if piracy prevented profits, it would still be an issue. Hence wanting evidence for that. Obviously a small indie team relies on sales. An employee at Giant-o-Game Corp does not.

    Shadowmancer – Steam offers regional pricing. The only way that logic applies is if Ubi (along with everyone else) don’t want to make it quite so obvious how much they hike prices in Europe. Which isn’t a particularly great reason.

  32. cliffski says:

    or we could… you know… actually DO something about the torrent sites?

  33. Shadowmancer says:

    If piracy is killing the retail sales then why dont they go down the digital distribution way exclusively, pros game doesn’t get pirated (steam games are all encrypted as well as back ups), also you save money by not having to pay for boxes and discs, cons who to deal with?, exclusivity, how much does the digital distributer want (this has caused many steam games that were to come but didnt, e.g. Pnumbra: overture and black plague) what software does the developer need to configure the game properly with (steamworks) to play the game propery, theres more but i can’t think of them.

  34. Flappybat says:

    I really scratch my head at the idea of doing things like this. There’s some kind of crazed fever that it’s ok to lose a paying customer if you also lose ten pirates with them, which is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    Gears Of War got released six months late for PC, had a subscription requiring multiplayer and fairly beefy system requirements and then they blamed it on piracy.

    Also an interesting related story, 360/PS3 game Saints Row 2 which has a delayed PC release got leaked and is being heavily pirated for the 360.

  35. Sol Invictus says:

    PC gaming is d0med! So piracy’s basically killing the PC, but Ubisoft won’t sell their Steam games outside of the United States.

    Good one, Ubisoft.

  36. Cope says:

    Agree with rei. Their doomsaying is doing more damage to the PC platform than piracy and the more they take steps like this the more they alienate their customers.

    Here’s a thought. Maybe the PC version of new games doesn’t sell as well because not everyone has the hardware to play them. Every Xbox 360 can play every Xbox 360 game, but not every PC can play every PC game. But oh no, it can’t be anything but piracy.

  37. The Sombrero Kid says:

    “i was going to steal this game on PC but then they decided to make it a console exclusive for a month, god darn it now i have to pay for it cause i’m physically incapable of waiting a month to steal it! then again i could steal it on the 360.”

    not a statement you hear often.

  38. Grill / Griddleoctopus says:

    cliffski; that’s what I understood by the article as well. It does make a kind of sense, as there’s such a crossover of hardcore gamers; if they’ve got stats to back this up, then it would make sense. For PC-only releases, yes, delay of the announcement is stupid; but for the (surprisingly-piracy-proof) modern consoles, it does make sense to delay a cross-platform game’s PC announcement until the higher-profit consoles have had their bite.

  39. El_MUERkO says:

    A game that’s console exclusive for a period of time screams ‘dumbed down for the kids’ to me.

    When it eventually does make it’s way to the shops i have little interest in it, the only way i might consider purchasing it is after trying it so they best release a decent demo :)

    Gears of War is a perfect example of this, huge on the 360, ignored on the PC, two different markets and if people don’t cater to them equally they can expect to see their product ignored on the system they treat as second class.

  40. Shadowmancer says:

    @ cliffski
    There are plenty of legal torrents out there mate but what about non-game stuff in torrents, I occasionally use torrents to update my tv shows to watch the latest ones cos here in the UK you need to pay at least £50 to sky per month to watch tv eps that are a month old in the US while with torrents I can watch it the next day.

  41. Switchbreak says:

    I have no idea how they would even start to statistically prove something like that. BioShock launched simultaneously and sold 1.5 million copies. With greater critical acclaim and a similar marketing presence, should it have sold 4 million copies like Gears of War did, but for piracy? Or did Gears of War sell more because of its multiplayer and the more mass-market friendly big angry man with a chainsaw as a protaganist? There’s no possible way to control for all the variables when comparing games that launched multiplatform and games that didn’t.

  42. Nallen says:

    “Until someone actually does a study on the ratio of pirated copies to lost sales is I’m not going to believe a word they say.”

    Which is impossible as cliffski said. Ergo, they’ll just keep pumping the line out.

    The truth, I suspect, is that PC development offers a poor ROI vs consoles (I can’t believe what console games cost, fucking incredible) so they’d like to drop the platform. Piracy probably contributes to some lost revenue and is illegal so you just say that’s the reason.

    For instance, I own a PS3 and PC. If Mirrors Edge is out on PS3 6 months before PC then the chances are I’ll buy it for £49.99 rather than £34.99. If it was same day I’d buy the PC version. So you can set aside all this Piracy nonsence and there is a perfectly clear economic reason for the move to delay PC releases.

    They’d just rather call us a bunch of c*nts (pirates) than admit they are (greedy) themselves.

  43. Dizet Sma says:

    It’s an interesting take on business that a company would rather not sell a game on PC and make £0 back on their development rather than getting their cut of £40 x n copies, even if n is reduced by p.

    Make buying a game the better option – add extras for registered users, not just patches. Allow the mod community to release stuff via your own digital streams that require a non-hacked CD key, etc., etc. Then the kids completing level 36 might have an incentive to shell out for a copy to take them to level 236.

  44. cliffski says:

    fine. set up a site called legaltorrents which doesn’t allow anonymous uploading. If it’s all legal, why do you need to be anonymous exactly? Set up a lifetime account using a credit card and charge them $1.

    problem solved.

    I don’t see ‘legaltorrents.com’ as up there in the web traffic top 10 though.

  45. John Walker says:

    It’s not impossible to do *research*. It may be impossible to get absolute proof, but you can do something at all. You can do large-scale anonymous surveys, which are one of the most common, and most effective, methods of data sampling. You can do experiments. You can ask your customers. You won’t get definitive proof, but you will get close to an understanding of the reality. The point is, no one’s even trying. People are just assuming piracy, and then drilling holes in the bottom of the boat to try and let the water out.

  46. GLOWi says:

    Please, explain this:
    1) PC gaming is dying or not ? If it is not dying, why number of pc exclusives (or developed primarily for) in pc genres like RPG or FPS is going downhill ? Why most multiplatform titles has weakest sales on pc?
    2) If it’s dying and piracy is not a cause what is a cause then?
    3) If t’s not dying why developers and publishers are abandoning the biggest market? There must be reason behind that and please don’t feed me with theories about “lazy and stupid” developers. I would understand if for example IDsoft would go multiplatform because of the increasing development costs, but PC is not their primary platform anymore.

  47. Shadowmancer says:

    @ Grill / Griddleoctopus
    Yes consoles can be pirated too but it costs money and can get your console banned, I remember that some kid hacked xbox live and got into the halo 3 multplayer beta (before the crackdown one) and several of the employees who were playing were baffled at the kid, a week later microsoft banned his console and xbox live account forever this would mean that he would have to buy another one and register another account but microsoft contacted all the game shops in the state and told them not to sell to him or his family, the ps3 on the other hand is regional free meaning one can buya game in any country but its too early to be hacked yet same for the wii.

  48. cliffski says:

    Although it distresses me to argue with anyone called Dizet Sma (even if spelt wrong :D http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diziet_Sma), their business sense is sound. You are ignoring ‘Y’ the amount that console sales are reduced by when people with PC & console pirate the PC copy and thus do not buy the console one.

    THAT is their reasoning. You can argue that they have their numbers wrong, but I suspect most big publishers have a stack of data on what sells to who when how and why.

  49. Real Horrorshow says:

    All publishers need to do to sell PC games is make PC games for the PC. People own PC’s because they want to play PC games, not because they like spending $1000 extra on their unit to play console games on a monitor.

    When I buy a Wii I want to play games where I flail my arms around like an idiot.

    When I buy a 360 I want to play overdramatized FPS’ oozing adolescent macho fantasy.

    When I buy a PS3 I want…to watch Blu-Rays.

    When I buy a PC I want to play very pretty, complex, deep, long games made with 18+ gamers in mind (not just in vulgar content, but in maturity).

    You can’t tell me piracy is ruining PC games because Gears of War or some other generic console port sold like shit, not when there are other games like The Witcher, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., The Orange Box, Crysis and World in Conflict that are so successful commercially (in spite of what the developer of one of those games would have you believe).

  50. Shadowmancer says:

    @ cliffski
    Most uploaders arent anonymous! its the downloaders.