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World of Goo Vs. Piracy

A mature and helpful addition to the discussion.

2D BOY have posted about the piracy World of Goo has suffered since launch. After Ron Carmel mentioned the figure – 90% – in a comment on RPS this week, the story was picked up across the internet. And it’s shaken a lot of people.

Carmel explains how they reached the dramatic figure.

“first, and most importantly, how we came up with this number: the game allows players to have their high scores reported to our server (it’s an optional checkbox). we record each score and the IP from which it came. we divided the total number of sales we had from all sources by the total number of unique IPs in our database, and came up with about 0.1. that’s how we came up with 90%.”

He then goes on to point out the possible inaccuracies: people installing a legitimate copy on multiple computers (I know I have), dynamic IP addresses, multiple pirated copies behind the same firewall, and people not checking the high score box, all of which could push the figure in either direction. But of course, it’s unlikely it would be that far each way.

Edit: It’s pointed out below that dynamic IP addresses could have a dramatic effect on this figure. I’ve no idea at all, but it would make sense that this could skew the results.

You might assume that the response to this – by any developer, let alone two guys on their own – would be to conclude that some manner of DRM was necessary. 2D BOY used World of Goo as an experiment, deliberately releasing it without any form of DRM, and said they would publish the results. And here they are: a 90% piracy rate. It’s got to hurt. As hypocritical as it may be, I find myself feeling far more angry that people have chosen to acquire this game without paying, than I am when it’s from a large corporation. It shakes my (personal – not the opinion of RPS) belief that DRM is both pointless and damaging. But amazingly, not 2D BOY’s.

Carmel links to Russell Carroll’s article about the 92% piracy rate of Ricochet. This is where that famous, controversial figure appeared, arguing that 1000 pirated copies of a game only represents one lost sale. Carmel continues,

“in our case, we might have even converted more than 1 in a 1000 pirates into legit purchases. either way, ricochet shipped with DRM, world of goo shipped without it, and there seems to be no difference in the outcomes. we can’t draw any conclusions based on two data points, but i’m hoping that others will release information about piracy rates so that everyone could see if DRM is the waste of time and money that we think it is.”

A remarkable response. But also a rational one. It’s so very impressive to remain rational in the face of learning how many people are taking the game you worked so hard on without giving you any money. It deserves enormous kudos.

Meanwhile, Spike TV’s Video Game Awards show has added a Best Independent Game category, in which World of Goo is nominated. It’s open to a vote, and along with Goo you can vote for Audiosurf, Braid, and PixelJunk Eden.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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