Wardell: “Piracy is not the primary issue”

I am seriously the greatest at photoshop.

I was planning on working this into the Sunday Papers, but because I got distracted by staring forlornly at Romanian girls and didn’t do it, I think it’s worth getting out there to stand alone. Brad Wardell, Stardock CEO, has posted a short essay about Piracy and the PC which comes at it from a completely different angle. I interviewed Stardock CEO Brad Wardell for a forthcoming issue of Gamer, where he talks about some of the issues he repeats here, but I’m glad to see him put it in a single document. To paraphrase brutally, Piracy doesn’t matter. Only sales matter.

Here’s a typical quote:

“PC game developers seem to focus more on the “cool” factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen. I’ve never considered myself a real game developer. I’m a gamer who happens to know how to code and also happens to be reasonably good at business.

So when I make a game, I focus on making games that I think will be the most profitable. As a gamer, I like most games. I love Bioshock. I think the Orange Box is one of the best gaming deals ever. I love Company of Heroes and Oblivion was captivating. My two favorite games of all time are Civilization (I, II, III, and IV) and Total Annihilation. And I won’t even get into the hours lost in WoW. Heck, I even like The Sims.

So when it comes time to make a game, I don’t have a hard time thinking of a game I’d like to play. The hard part is coming up with a game that we can actually make that will be profitable. And that means looking at the market as a business not about trying to be “cool”.”

By following this, he reaches Stardock’s position of trying to be as convenient to those who’ll buy their games by avoiding DRM and similar approaches rather than trying to stop the people who pirate the game. Because the Pirates don’t count. They have no direct financial impact. There’s a second side of this too, however.

It’s the “cool” factor he describes. That is, what gets hardcore gamers and journalists excited, and they give coverage to. With magazines and websites, I don’t think it’s actually anything to do with “cool” – it’s about what’s perceived as cool by the people who read them. As in, what will make them read. Regarding websites, there’s a nasty truth which no-one really has spoke aloud: Pirate’s clicks are as good as anyone else’s. Websites earn money from people who have no interest in paying for the game. If there’s several million pirate-only FPS fans, they’ll swell the page-impression count too. If there’s four million people who want to read about Call of Duty 4, even if only 400,000 want to pay for it, a website will earn more money by writing about it, rather than trying to do something for the 400,000 people who actually want to read about Sins of the Solar Empire, even if every single one of them buy the game. Until web advertising becomes less about pure number of page impressions, this is going to be an issue.

(That’s putting aside the equivalent of piracy for websites, of course: the sizeable proportion of people who run ad-blocking software. Which makes us a little sad on a place like RPS which doesn’t do the pop-up hell thing, but we’re all living in the shadow of the intrusiveness of some of the major sites so we can see why people feel driven to it. Still: Makes us a bit sad, especially when we see journalists do it. We’ll work out a way to encourage people to turn ’em off for us eventually, I’m sure.)

Anyway – Brad’s position is correct. You’re better off making games for people who actually buy games. You earn no money by making a game everyone plays but no-one buys. It’s a business. To be sustainable, it has to be a business. As Brad says about Stardock’s desktop software…

“One of the jokes I’ve seen in the desktop enhancement market is how “ugly” WindowBlinds skins are (though there are plenty of awesome ones too). But the thing is, the people who buy WindowBlinds tend to like a different style of skin than the people who would never buy it in the first place. Natural selection, so to speak, over many years has created a number of styles that seem to be unique to people who actually buy WindowBlinds. That’s the problem with piracy. What gets made targets people who buy it, not the people who would never buy it in the first place. When someone complains about “fat borders” on some popular WindowBlinds skin my question is always “Would you buy WindowBlinds even if there was a perfect skin for you?” and the answer is inevitably “Probably not”. That’s how it works in every market — the people who buy stuff call the shots. Only in the PC game market are the people who pirate stuff still getting the overwhelming percentage of development resources and editorial support.”

As much that’s sensible in Brad’s position, I also suspect it’s a future than many RPS readers would be a little nervous of. Do you just want the equivalent of “ugly” WindowBlinds, forever? Until someone gets some more alternative business models working – and I’m looking at you, Battlefield Heroes – it’s a future which seems all too credible.

Brad Wardell’s debating the issues of his post over on Qt3. Interesting to see him go head to head with Charles, who’s part of the Assassin’s Creed team.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    Seems like a sudden outbreak of common sense to me. Somebody should package it up into a ball and fire it at Epic games until they bleed.

    What he doesn’t adress, and here is where Valve are ahead of the curve, is the realisation that flawed distribution models are just as much to blame as high prices and mistargeted games for low game sales.

    (Speaking of the AdBlock thing: the default AdBlock Plus with Firefox doesn’t block AdWords text only ads, only irritating banner ads. If you switched to those, you might start getting some ad revenue from the likes of me if you don’t get carried away. However, still no tip jar I see, you silly scallywags…)

  2. Tim says:

    I love stardocks approach to things. I’m not scared at all by the people that pay for things calling the shots. Clearly it works, they make awesome and unusual games. If anything it encourages diversity and development for nieche interests.

    Personally I think PC gaming is entering something of a golden age as indie gaming hurtles towards innovation and accessibility.

  3. phuzz says:

    So their basic business model is target niche markets where they can guarantee sales, rather than making a game that everyone wants, but a lot of people aren’t going to buy?

    (re: Adblock, I hate having adverts on, but I recon I’d pay maybe £1 a month or so for RPS. As an alternative to a subscription to a gaming mag it’s good value for money for me, with the added bonus of being more up to date)

  4. teo says:

    He didn’t show that piracy isn’t the problem. He just said that piracy has made ceratain games unprofitable and devs are to blame if they make those games because they target the pirates. Then the piracy is obviously a huge problem since we won’t, according to him, see any games in that genre anymore.

    Great solution he had…

    Who knows why UT3 didn’t sell? I didn’t buy it and I didn’t download it. It seemed totally uninspired. Just because it says Epic on it doesn’t mean it’s good. This guy seems to assume that low sales are because of piracy.

  5. Matt says:

    I think that the Windows Blinds analogy is a bit misleading. A better analogy might be something like Fallout 3, where the fans, the people who are truly going to buy and support the game are getting shouted down by the general community, who may or may not end up being customers. Bethesda could have probably satisfied a lot of fans with a much lower budget, but more hardcore game.

    Of course, not everyone can be a Stardock, trying to target the niches in the market with a unique approach. Someone has to be out there making the mega-titles and trying to appeal to as broad of a base as possible, and for those people the lines between people who buy games and people who play them are pretty blurred.

    That said, I still agree with most of the article. The Movie, Music, and Game industries have been flogging the DRM dead horse for years now with little to no success. There are better ways to address the issue of piracy, and Stardock has definitely hit on one of them.

  6. Meat Circus says:

    How about this, open up a tip jar, and any person who gives you more than “specified threshhold amount” gets special touch from Kieron Gillen/a papier mache model of John Walker’s cat Dexter/an amusing wig that makes one look like Alec Meer/a sample bag of Jim Rossignol’s body hair/an invitation to the RPS 1st Birthday party which I’ve just decided you’re going to have.

    I’d pay.

  7. Stew says:

    Which makes us a little sad on a place like RPS which doesn’t do the pop-up hell thing


    By showing adverts, you alter the economics of the site. Your readership are no longer the customers and your articles are no longer the product. Advertisers are your customers and your readers’ eyeballs are your product.

    I for one refuse to have anything to do with that. I also don’t watch commercial television (helped by the fact that it’s all pretty rubbish).

    All ads have that effect, not just the pop-up-hell ones. Hence I run an adblocker. If there were a tipjar, I’d use that because then I’m paying for the content that I consume, but ads have nothing to do with that. So I don’t support them.

    At least you don’t have those despicable context-sensitive popups…

  8. Thomas says:

    Why is this even newsworthy? We already know they’re full of it.

    I mean just look at Chris Taylor, one day he claims that console games can’t be pirated, the other day he claims that prices would drop if it were possible to rule out piracy.

    Oh ok, so since pirating console games is “impossible”, then why are console games also the most expensive to buy?

  9. heartless_ says:

    As long as text ads are relevant to the topic, I never have a problem clicking on them if they interest me and I enjoyed the websites content. Which means if RPS had text ads that were relevant to my interests, I would click happily away -_o

    I’ve gotten into several arguments with “ad pros” that have tried to convince me that people are actively clicking on advertisements because of interest like I do. IMHO, people click on text ads mostly by a) accident or b) because they like a website and want to help it earn money. There is a very small percentage that actually click because of interest in the advertised item.

    I have no shame, visit my blog. I run in-content text advertising and I know many clicks come from accidental passer bys. But in my eyes, if a reader is interested enough to click on a linked word, then they may be interested in the related product after the jump.

    I am sort of the contradiction as I actively run AdBlock Plus and when I build a new image at work for a PC, I load Firefox with ABP for every single user. I am half tempted to run NoScript as well, but that may be overboard for our environment.

  10. Muzman says:

    Isn’t he just playing into the hands of all the “TripleA” developers who say the PC is doomed to make Peggles and WoWs forever?
    He’s got more to say than that, obviously but I think it’s going to be missed.
    We’re all grinders on some level, even game developers and publishers. Until we crack that percieved direct (Direct!) relationship between strong security and ‘days after zero uncracked’ and sales people seem to have developers and publishers are just going to view those torrent site stats as huge ore deposits to be chipped at, and they’ll pay through the nose for the latest +4 SecuROM pickaxe (and sundry staff and secretive guilds of researchers) to do it. You can’t tell a grinder their energy is better spent elsewhere if they believe their method is paying off (worse yet; it paying off a teensy tiny bit is enough to make them keep going and ignore the larger picture).

  11. Meat Circus says:


    Your rhetorical questionage makes no sense. Console games are more expensive *because* they’re much harder to pirate.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    We have reticence for the tip jar for a simple reason: We suspect it’ll make us feel like tramps, and with my beard, I feel a bit like a vagrant already. Dignity, dignity, dignity. Maybe eventually.

    Before this debate goes any further, that paragraph about website piracy wasn’t a call for anyone to explain why they use adblockers and suggest what other business models we should consider. It was just to explain the situation of the media, primarily related to Brad’s arguments. While I appreciate the thought, we do talk about this stuff internally and – as much as we love you – it’s not an area of the site your feedback is going to influence.

    Brad’s thoughts are the interesting thing here, not how poor we are.


  13. Janek says:

    <3 Stardock. Hooray for rationality!

  14. Thomas says:

    @Meat Circus:

    One would think that if he believed that lesser piracy would equal to lower prices then Console Games would also be lower priced than PC games, rather than the other way around.

  15. Myros says:

    Considering that MMO games can’t be pirated (for the most part) I imagine that someone will eventualy come up with a payment method in a similar vein that works for single player games.

    Hellgate tried to do something like that but IMO failed because they want it all … full price for the game and then full monthly fees comparible with ‘real’ MMOs without the actual content of an MMO.

    It may eventualy be the only way for tripple A titles to get made. Figure out the life of a game on an average users hard-drive (ie how long can interest be maintained) then divide the game price by that time frame. eg $60 game, 6 months average game life = $10/month to play it and give the game away free.

    Yes, people may only play for 2 months but if you have have removed the piracy factor from the equation your profit should be greater anyway, at least if the 90% piracy figures can be believed.

    Of course it does limit the market to those with internet connections but that will eventualy be close to the 99.9% of the gaming market anyway. And it is already 100% of the pirate gaming market ;p


  16. Nick says:

    How about a “supporting” membership then? Less beggy, not giving any perks other than knowing you are helping to keep a good site afloat?

    Oh and I thought console games were more expensive because they have to give a chunk to the console patron if they are a third party dev? I have a wii of the current “gen”, but hardly any games because they are far too pricey for my liking. I buy them when they are on sale or cheap online.

    As for them being harder to pirate.. not at all, just harder to get a box to play a pirated game on (and even then I know a crapload of people with chipped boxes). I’d wager part of the reason it’s not as prolific as PC piracy is because you have to use a PC to get the games, which you then play instantly on your PC if it’s a PC game, but have to go to a little extra effort to play on a console.

  17. martin says:

    hi, is it possible for you to include the ads into your own website scripts??? this way i could block general add software and allow rps to execute scripts, so that you benefit from my visit?

    it’s great to live in an ad free web (ad-block plus & no-script), especially with sites that do po- up-ad-spamming but i am willing to live with non intrusive adds to support certain sites. if someone starts to do the ad spamming then it’s time to say goodbye to the site and move on.

  18. Matt says:

    @ Thomas & Meat Circus

    Console titles are more expensive because the platform holders charge a royalty for developers to release a game on them, not because of anything to do with piracy.

    And Thomas, how do you lump Brad Wardell’s comments in with Chris Taylors? Did you even read the article? Wardell is speaking almost specifically about developers like Taylor who complain about piracy and why they need to stop.

  19. Aimless says:

    People that run ad blockers on RPS are missing out: they’re a constant source of intrigue.

    If I disabled the adverts on here I’d have no idea there was a website dedicated to gaming rugs. At the moment there’s a plain picture of a “Festool TS 55 EBQ-Plus-FS Plunge-cut Saw c/w 1.4M Guide Rail”; I have no idea what this has to do with PC gaming, which is what makes it interesting.

    So long as RPS doesn’t follow Eurogamer’s approach, where a third of screen real estate is taken up by hugely obtrusive Flash banners, I don’t really have an issue with adverts.

    I suppose you could go down the ‘Super Member’ route, giving those who contribute a certain amount some small perks such as their name being in a different colour in the comments section and other such niceties. But then you’d have to allow people to properly register and such, and I’m not sure how worthwhile such schemes are.

    Hmm? Oh, piracy. It’s bad, people shouldn’t do it. *Nods sagely*

    [Edit: Okay, seems we aren’t supposed to talk about RPS’s money making schemes, so you should just skip this post. You already read it? Well that’s hardly my fault, is it.]

  20. Ryan says:

    It seems that more than a few people are ignoring that the headline quote says, “Piracy is not the primary issue,” and taking Wardell to mean that piracy doesn’t matter at all.

    In any case, Wardell has a good point, niche-targets or not. You don’t make an app that looks good and does nothing, otherwise you’ll lose out in the long run because people will realize there’s no substance.

    What I’m curious about is why more developers that complain about piracy don’t move to console development, or at least cross platform development. There is a significant cost increase, to be sure, but it’s a better (though not foolproof) way to reduce the piracy equation. Is it that they’re too principled and will only develop for the PC? Is it that they’re afraid their games will suck? (Is it that they don’t have the money?)

  21. Dinger says:

    Fun discussion.

    There’s another side to it too, I suppose, and that’s in his “developers-as-rockstars” allusion. Most musicians don’t become musicians to become rich and famous. They do so out of a vocational compulsion born of a deep-seated love for making music. (Okay, some just want to be rockstars)
    So there’s a market inefficiency between the music that the various “hard cores” enjoy and the mass market with all the sales. In other words, you’re liable to make a lot more money taking a half dozen 20-year-olds and slapping them into a boy band than you will making them the next indie rock sensation. But there are a lot more 20-year-olds playing in indie-inspired party bands than there are practicing dance moves in front of semi-screaming pubescent girls.

    It ain’t always about the money. Do you really think Lester Bangs made the Stooges’ career?

    Turn to games: the people who make games do not necessarily have the same taste as those who buy them. The Sims is huge, in part because very few developers find artistic inspiration in the genre. So even when they try to exploit the inefficiency, their products don’t have the love, so they don’t resonate with their audience, and they fail to capture the imagination of their market.

    So, why do we have so many FPSs? Not simply because they’re popular with the hard core, but because the developers are part of that hard core. Honey, if you don’t like playing games (at least in theory), you’re in the wrong field.

    Ideas are cheap. The business trick is finding the ideas that will sell, and then executing on them. To execute on them, they need to be ideas that interest you. Props to Cliffski on his remark about demos being part of the development process. The subsequent discussion reveals Charles’ internalist perspective. Yes, it’s true that it comes at the wrong time, when all energy is focused on getting the damn thing out, u.s.w., but those are technical concerns that should be accounted for. You budget a demo, and you deliver on it. And the demo generates sales.

    Oh, and one last swipe: those who talk of the “Death of the PC Gaming Market” and cite CoD4’s piracy remind me of those who complain that the current war culture in the US lacks an angry young Bob Dylan. It’s not on daytime radio or magazine covers. It’s what people are listening to and buying.

  22. RichPowers says:

    “Pirate’s clicks are as good as anyone else’s. Websites earn money from people who have no interest in paying for the game.”

    Yep. The same goes for hardware: AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA all make money from game pirates. Hardware manufacturers would only care about piracy if it totally ruined the market for graphic-intensive games.

    Also: don’t call blocking internet ads “piracy.” That’s just lame. Am I also pirating television because I skip ads using Tivo? Am I pirating news stories because I toss the ads first thing when I get the paper?

    (But I view RPS in IE to support the site. I just resent the use of a loaded term like “piracy” to describe ad-blocking.)

  23. RotBot says:

    On console vs PC pricing:
    The idea that console games cost more than PC games is a bit deceptive. Console games have a huge resale market that is virtually nonexistent for PC games. Unless you’re someone who likes to keep and replay every single game you buy, you’ll often end up paying less for console games.

    After I finish a console game that I bought for $60, I can sell it for $30-$40 on craigslist or half.com. Or I can trade it–through gametz, goozex, swaptree, etc.–for another game or games of comparable value, and then trade those games when I’m through with them.

    After I finish a PC game that I bought for $50, it sits on a shelf somewhere forever.

  24. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    I never sell a game unless i’ve found it thoroughly shite. Never sold a pc game. My CD of Dark Forces is ever beside me! I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I also keep all my PCGs on the shelf in my bedroom. How people can sell back copies of mags is beyond me! Then they don’t get to read the Terra Nova review again and again.

  25. Thomas says:

    @ Matt and Ryan:

    I know what the topic is about, my point was that i believe people like Chris Taylor are so farfetched in their statements that it’s irrelevant to defend it.

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dinger: I take the point, but Lester Bangs wasn’t a magazine. There’s a difference between what drives a writer and what gets on the cover. And there’s a different from music magazine like Creem and most games press.

    (Actually, the music press is an interesting comparison. Take the late 80s when the Smiths were on the NME cover every second week or whatever. The smiths weren’t top 10 pop stars. But their fans wanted to read about them in a way which most pop bands didn’t, so the press complied.)

    Rich: I didn’t say it was Piracy. I said it was the *equivalent* to Piracy. It really is: it’s something that removes the money-source required to make the product in the first place by an actions of the consumer who continues to enjoy the product anyway. If everyone did it, the business would fail. It’s actually a worse effects than – say – you lobbing the adverts into the bin, because the newspaper has printed and delivered that number of adverts to consumers, and been paid for that service. When you block an advert on the site, they can’t sell that impression. Let’s say RPS had 1,000,000 impressions and 30% of people adblocked, we’d only be able to sell at a circulation of 700,000 (Because the actual adverts will have only been hit 700,000 times). That’s 30% less money because of the actions of the adblockers.

    I don’t really mind it. It’s perfectly natural (especially considering how intrusive some ads are), but I think it’s worth people knowing what they’re actually doing when they perform that action. It’s not as if it’s an ad break in a movie, breaking up the experience and making people sit through stuff. It’s graphic elements on the page that does nothing other than sit there.

    I just don’t visit sites with intrusive advertising.


  27. Matt says:

    @ Thomas

    You really don’t seem to know what the topic is about. Nobody is defending Taylor. Nobody is even talking about Taylor except for you. Read the actual article that’s it’s linking to. It’s not a defense of Taylor, it’s a criticism of people like him who make piracy a scapegoat for the commercial failure of their games.

  28. Shawny D says:

    While it’s not the only problem, piracy shows all the PC Gaming cheapfucks out there that just refuse to take part in the economy. It’s affecting PC versions big time, just look at the lack of work placed into PC versions. If it was lucrative to develop for the PC, we would be getting just as good versions of games, which just doesn’t happen. I expect Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (not only to suck) but to release on PC a complete friggin mess. Why? Why the F isn’t the PC getting the attention of the series anymore? Why is it just a casual mess on the PC now? Ubisoft, along with a plenty of others, just doesn’t see the importance of making proper PC Games. This trend needs to stop.

    While it’s a pain in the ass to see piracy being the blame for everything, it’s definitely a major problem. Executives are making decisions based off of people playing their products without paying. That image is never going to change either, no matter how many people justify it. It’s certainly not an excuse for commercial failure though. Poor game design is poor game design.

  29. phuzz says:

    About the “PC gaming is dead” topic.
    I’ve not seen a single article, post or story saying “PC Gaming is dead”, all I have seen is loads of articles (etc.) saying “Apparently PC Gaming is dead, this is why they are wrong:”{reasons why it is not dead}.

  30. Theory says:

    I’m surprised to see, after all of the crap I hear about Stardock from the gaming public, that their management actually agree with me.

    It’s a fine argument for them, but as has been pointed out – what if you want to make games, not money? Unless you happen to be interested in the kinds of cerebral productions that those block-headed pirate types don’t enjoy, the advice is of no benefit to you at all.

    It does help to explain just how popular the Sims is – not only is it massively popular, but it’s massively popular with people who actually buy it.

  31. Jim Rossignol says:

    Phuzz: It’s not so much articles that are saying PC gaming is dead, it’s developers who are moving to console development, and retailers who are stocking fewer and fewer PC games.

  32. El Burro del Toro says:

    Yeah, yeah, stop talking already and release Sins of a Solar Empire in Europe. Or I might have to take advantage of your clever no copy protection-scheme.

  33. dhex says:

    that was a fascinating piece. i think were i stuck in the ground floor of a discussion about drm within a company, i would probably steal a number of his talking points. it’s a neat way to take the traditional narrative and shove it on its side.

  34. Matt says:

    “what if you want to make games, not money?”

    Then you make games and not money, and piracy isn’t really an issue because you don’t want the money right? What we have in the industry today is a lot of people who want both, but don’t really acknowledge it. They want to play the artist role and just expect the money side to work itself out. Reality seldom lets you have your cake and eat it too.

  35. Nick says:

    Which ad company/ies do you use, RPS? I will remove them from my thingymabob.

  36. DigitalSignalX says:

    Fact: Great games from large franchises earn tons of money. Period. GTA4 will earn gazillions of dollars AND be pirated out the wazzou because everyone and the fleas on their dog knows it will be a great game and will want to play it.

    Great games from smaller less publicized franchises don’t make ENOUGH money. Don’t blame pirates, blame expectations. It’s bad math to presume every pirated copy or even a % is a lost sale to some imaginary projected earnings forecast.

  37. Thomas says:

    @Matt: My bad, i actually meant there was no reason to defend pc-gaming, not Chris Taylor :)

  38. UncleLou says:

    Not a great article. Lots of platitudes and assuming his business model would work for everyone, with comparatively cheap to make games and a supporting pillar in a different area.

  39. BrokenSymmetry says:

    RichPowers makes a very good point: Everyone makes money from pirates (hardware producers and vendors, magazines, web sites), except the game developers and publishers. That probably makes piracy doubly frustrating to the last group.

  40. malkav11 says:

    Since Adblock is on by default, and actually subtracts the ad elements from rendering, I frequently don’t even realize that websites are meant to have ads.

  41. RichPowers says:

    @KG: Users probably realize, in some nebulous way, the ramifications of ad blocking, but feel justified after years of subjection to annoying ads. Classy sites, like RPS, are unfairly lumped in with more egregious ad abusers. Blacklisting has always been easier than whitelisting…

    Though I find it fascinating that ad blockers have the potential to utterly destroy Google’s stock value.

    @RotBot: Totally agreed: PC games are riskier investments. This is especially apparent because, over the last few years, more and more games that were traditionally PC-only stepped onto the consoles.

    For example, would a casual RTS fan – one not tied to a PC’s keyboard, mouse, and hotkeys – purchase C&C3 for his mediocre Dell PC or his 360? The 360 version can be resold/traded and is all but guaranteed to work. The PC version is a one-time investment that may not work with his system.

    I would love for publishers to really utilize the low overhead of digital distribution by selling new games at comparatively cheap prices, a sort of Wal-Mart approach. Image CoD4 going for $30 on release day over Steam. Lower price points would also diffuse the risk factor associated with PC games: ya, you can’t resell this game and you might encounter some technical headaches, but it’s only $30 for a brand new AAA title!

    As it stands, though, I think many consumers view PC games as overpriced investments riddled with DRM and resale restrictions, to say nothing of technical issues.

  42. Matt says:

    “I would love for publishers to really utilize the low overhead of digital distribution by selling new games at comparatively cheap prices, a sort of Wal-Mart approach. Image CoD4 going for $30 on release day over Steam. Lower price points would also diffuse the risk factor associated with PC games: ya, you can’t resell this game and you might encounter some technical headaches, but it’s only $30 for a brand new AAA title!”

    The problem here is the retailers. Theoretically it should be a pretty simple case for online distributors to cut out that 20% take that Walmart/EB gets, but then Walmart/EB isn’t too happy that they have to sell the product for 75% more than their competition, so they pull it off their shelves to teach people a lesson and there goes a sizable portion of the publisher’s sales. It’s already happened at least once with EB and Warhawk on the PS3.

    Over time, digital distributors will gain more and more market share and then publishers won’t have to put up with so many shenanigans from brick and mortar retailers, but for the time being they’re still holding the reigns on game prices.

  43. Wickedashtray says:

    Brad fucking rules

  44. restricted3 says:

    Kudos to Wardell. That’s why I buy from Stardock.

  45. Nate says:

    I think folks are ignoring the fact that piracy actually sells games.

    When I bought my first computer, I’d just been laid off from a minimum wage job and got a severance. A friend, building the computer for me, put Quake on it, against my request. There’s no way in hell I could’ve justified buying Quake, but I loved the game. I shared the game with a friend, and when I discovered level design, I showed that to my friend too.

    When Quake 2 came out, I had a little more money. I pooled my money with my gamer friend and bought a CD. We shared it. I guess it was piracy since we burned a copy to deathmatch each other.

    When Quake 3 came out, my friend and I each bought a copy.

    Now I regularly buy games.

    Oh, and I almost forgot– piracy doesn’t just build market. It builds designers too. That friend that got started on Worldcraft and my pirated copy of Quake? He’s credited as lead design on one of the three best (sales, acclaim, popularity) FPSs of last winter. (I wonder if he’d get in trouble if everybody found out that he really doesn’t care about piracy.)

  46. Heliocentric says:

    El Burro del Toro says:

    Yeah, yeah, stop talking already and release Sins of a Solar Empire in Europe. Or I might have to take advantage of your clever no copy protection-scheme.


    Buy it over stardock, either a creditcard or paypal, sorted.

    costs £22.50 or a little less if you buy membership tokens.

    who needs a disc really?

  47. Steve says:

    I think folks are ignoring the fact that siphoning actually sells petrol.

    When I bought my first car, I’d just been laid off from a minimum wage job and got a severance. A friend, building the car for me, put Siphoned Petrol in it, against my request. There’s no way in hell I could’ve justified buying Petrol, but I loved to drive…

    Any way you cut it, theft is theft.

  48. Nick says:

    Only it’s not theft it’s copyright infringement. (sigh)

    Still illegal, mind.

  49. Rodafowa says:

    And that analogy doesn’t work at all on any level – for one, siphoning petrol deprives someone who’s already paid for it, in the exact same way that piracy doesn’t. Mainly though, the original poster’s point was that he later legitimately bought games that he otherwise wouldn’t have because he’d been exposed to the series via piracy. Your oh-so-clever comparison addresses that in what way, precisely?

  50. Duoae says:

    What he doesn’t adress, and here is where Valve are ahead of the curve, is the realisation that flawed distribution models are just as much to blame as high prices and mistargeted games for low game sales.”

    That’s funny… because Steam games are more expensive than in retail here in the UK. In some cases as much as twice as expensive. Not to mention that games released on Steam are able to be laden with the same copy protection on top of Steam’s copy protection.
    Unfortunately, digital distribution is currently a big rip-off and will probably continue to be…. this isn’t being ahead of the curve… it’s a way for developers/publishers to gouge the customer even more.

    Also i don’t call their crappy customer support to be ahead of the curve either…. I hate the fact that the gaming industry is worse than the music and movie industries with regards to trusting their customers. There are very few times i now feel good about purchasing a title because i know it’ll either be:

    a)Unfinished (i) to allow for content to be sold to me in DLC or expansion packs or (ii) because the developers weren’t given enough time or money to get the game to a properly suitable state before going gold.

    b)Laden to the gills with copy protection that could interfere with gameplay (TitanQuest) or limit my ability to play it on the ‘play anywhere’ service (Bioshock on steam) that i bought it on. Or stop me from playing if my internet connection goes down….

    c)An overly expensive rip-off for content/gameplay. (I’m looking at you DS games!)

    Every game i buy to enjoy gaming pushes this further down the road – it’s a positive reinforcement of bad habits. What do i do? Stop gaming? It’s sad that i should have to make that choice.