Friday, 14 February 2014

Post of the day: Let's talk about piracy

I know that I'm tackling a very controversial topic, but bare with me and don't dismiss me yet. I don't want to encourage piracy. I want to talk about games that never got sold and about games that are not getting sold anymore. I want to talk about all those versions and language translations that were only seen by the world due to piracy. And more importantly ask the question of why products get abandoned like that.

The curious case of Princess Maker 2

Princess Maker is a famous game from Japan in a Japanese "Raising-Up Games" genre. You probably never heard of it. And there's a reason for it. It never released in Europe or USA. It got translated to English fully, however due to the companies involved in the translation and selling the translated game going bankrupt the English version never got released. To quote Softegg: "Princess Maker 2 is not, nor has it ever been, freeware, abandonware, or shareware. The rights to the game still belong to NineLives, Gainax, and their licensees. SoftEgg is no longer in a position to grant publication rights to anyone, but still retains the rights to its English language translation (without the source code and art). So please stop pirating the game! Thank you.", however if it wasn't for the piracy I wouldn't know about this game even existing. Why? Because the English translation is out there, on piracy sites, however if you want to buy a real copy, you'll only find Japanese versions. Is it fair to the developer that their game is being pirated? No. Is it fair to the company hired to translate it that the game is getting pirated? No. But what is a consumer supposed to do when the only available English version is on a pirate site?
This raises me a question of "why?". Why not to bother to publish it, if you already have the English version on hands? I am sure that there probably were reasons, but as the situation is right now both the developer and the consumer lose out. The situation is rotten and it is really hard to see piracy as the bad guy here when it managed to preserve a translation of one game in a genre that is absent in Europe and USA.

Abandonia. Piracy that preserves games? 

For the purpose of research I entered abandonia today to check how many games out of the site could I legally buy from the developers of said games.  Pretty much none. Let's take an example - let's say that I wanted to actually buy Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet. no new copies to be found anywhere. It begs the question of why we allow these kind of products to perish? When emulators and online stores exist, why can't we sell something that is data indefinitely? Especially when there are stores that obviously specialize just in that and are profiting off it.

How do you beat piracy?

I'll quote Gabe Newell here  "The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.". Before you ask your customers not to pirate make sure that they can buy your game at all. Then make sure that if you have a hand on a translation of the game, you actually release it. At worst release it as an official add on or a mod.

But what about traditional piracy?

According to studies done on musical records you will reduce the piracy by not including DRM. Sounds contradicting, right? But think from the user's point of view - for example the user does not have a constant Internet connection. He wants to buy your game, install it and play it. Nothing else. Imagine his surprise if for example you included DRM that asked him to stay online to play an offline game. Do you think that he'll buy from you again?
Provide your customer with at least some sort of a demo. While we don't have the numbers and a lot of companies don't believe that people pirate the games to try, if the game does not have a demo pirating is the only way to make sure that the game would even run on your computer.

I did all of that. My game is still being pirated!

Only now in my eyes do you have the right to wage war of piracy. Express your unhappiness, maybe send a few lawsuits. However the amount of piracy that you should get now should be far smaller than the piracy that you would get without completing this checklist.

Piracy is a dirty business. But there are reasons why it exists. 

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