Another post on Piracy? Madness

I hate Wolfire now. Yes, they have a brilliant system for giving something back to the people who preorder their games, but they’ve also spent the past few weeks writing absolutely brilliant blog posts. Seeing as I don’t have the time to talk about them all in-depth, I’m just going to talk about the two they did about piracy, which you can see here (Where they talk about the Humble Pack), and here (Where they talk about piracy in general).

The first follows on from various tip offs that they received about people pirating the Humble pack (You could get 6 indie games for whatever price you liked, and some of the proceeds went to charity as well). Once you’d bought the pack, you were taken to a page where the download links were active. Now, I’m a bit of an HTML geek, and I could easily see a problem straight away. The link was in the form of [humble pack]?key=[key]. The problem with that is that the key was in plaintext in the browser and anyone could put it on the internet.

So, a bit of an issue then. Anyone could download the games for free if they have a key, plus the games themselves are DRM free. If you read the post there’s all sorts of statistical analysis, which my mind automatically filtered out*, in which they state that the average IP address downloaded about 490 MBs of the pack (Which is 746.5 MB large), all in all 49.3 TB of data was downloaded, and 79,000 people had contributed to the pack at that time. Doing some maths shows that 105,497 people downloaded if we use the average as the sure amount for each downloader. As you can see, 79,000 is less than 105,497.

So, 26,497 people pirated the games from the site (All this data is just from the Wolfire servers and doesn’t include bittorrents) from a pack that costs $0.01. That there is more proof that pirates are idiots. We could talk about the reasons why people are stupid enough to not pay for a pack that sends money to charity and costs you almost nothing, but that isn’t the important part of the post. The important part is what Wolfire say they’re going to do about it:


That’s right, nothing. They could spend a long time using some revenue to send lawyers at people after using Visual Basic to create a GUI interface that tracks IP addresses (which is how the real life CSIs do it according to this clip) but that isn’t what Wolfire care about. Obviously, these people weren’t going to buy the games anyway since this pack costs you almost nothing so as far as they’re concerned, it isn’t lost revenue. They even say at the end:

If you are deadset on pirating the bundle, please consider downloading it from BitTorrent instead of using up our bandwidth! Also, even though you are pirating our games, please tell some of your friends about the Humble Indie Bundle. Posting to Facebook, telling your Twitter followers, (or simply talking to someone) sure doesn’t require a credit card.

It reminded me of something I saw on the Burnout Paradise site a few weeks ago, where they actively encouraged people to install Burnout on several PCs so friends could try it out. The other quote I want to pull out of the Wolfire post is this:

When considering any kind of DRM, we have to ask ourselves, “How many legitimate users is it ok to inconvenience in order to reduce piracy?” The answer should be none.


Which leads me nicely into the other post about piracy. It’s something that you can’t get away from. In my 8 months running this blog I’ve done 5/6 posts about piracy (Including this one), which considering I could talk about pretty much anything is a rather high proportion. What I’ve always tried to do is throw a different slant to the PIRACY IS KILLING THE GAMING INDUSTRY, mainly because I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

Over the years, I’ve seen 2 posts from developers that didn’t blame pirates and tried to understand why. The first was by the guy who runs Positech Games, and the second is the one today. Over the 10 years or so I’ve been gaming, only twice have developers looked at the thing that’s ‘killing the industry’ objectively. What the hell is wrong with them?

Of course, calling developers idiots is a completely different post all together, but I’ve come to respect Wolfire for doing what should have been done before: Ask how much revenue is being lost to piracy. Moving from PC Gaming for a few short minutes (Don’t worry, it’ll come back), the post talks about iPhones.

Now, iPhones are those touchscreen things that make people think they’re more awesome than they actually are**, with a load of apps and games available to download. One of the things you can do is jailbreak them, which involves using the mystical powers of something to allow someone to install a pirated game. It’s the R4/Chip of the iPhone world. iPhone developers claim that around 80% of their users are running pirated versions of their games. Interesting. Logically, that means that 80% of iPhones are jailbroken, thus piracy is rampant and we should lock up our children from the inevitable witch hunt.

Except the highest estimate of jailbroken phones that Wolfire found is about 10%, which is a big difference from 80%. There’s also the point that I would probably jailbreak my iPhone, just so I can use it for purposes that don’t involve piracy. My R4 for my DS is mostly all homebrew stuff, with the ROMs that are installed I’ve already bought. Though I still haven’t found a decent text editor, so if anyone can find one for me I’d be grateful.

So, 10% of jailbroken phones, yet 80% piracy. You do the maths behind it. If 80% of your users are only 10% of your target audience, is that a problem? For one thing, it shows that 20% of your users are made up of the other 90%. If such a high proportion of your users is made up from such a small amount, you can see that pirates are downloading a lot more than your regular user. If they weren’t pirating, they’d be broke for sure.

Let’s pretend that these figures are true for all systems. What does this show? Pirates have a larger game collection than average gamers who pay for their games. How do they find the time to play it all? In all honesty, they probably don’t. They have the shorter attention span. Whereas I am still playing Burnout, a game I’ve owned for over a year, they would’ve moved on as soon as they got bored or finished it because they had no financial repercussions doing so.

You can’t do that if you’re someone like me, with precious little income. If we imagined pirates are buying all the games they pirate, they would be spending a phenomenal amount of money on games. That there is the reason why the games industry is going after pirates. If each pirate paid for their games, the companies would be getting an enormous amount of revenue – Precisely why they exist.

Isn’t it more likely that the pirates would then behave more like conservative buyers? The times when people are more likely to perform piracy is when they have so little money. If they have less money to spend, would they really be buying all those games that they pirated? It’s unlikely that they would. I still believe that they’d stay on the cautious side of gaming, and buy games with demos, which are rarer than dodos at the moment.

All in all, I’m proud to be someone supporting Wolfire. The Overgrowth/Natural Selection 2 pack, along with the Humble pack are purchases I won’t regret. It takes balls to not add a DRM system even with those that are pirating a pack that costs almost nothing. Plus, they treat DRM like it should be: A method of preventing piracy, without inconveniencing your paying customer.

*I’m doing a Statistics exam in the next month or so. My brain is just protecting me from revision. Return to reading

**As you may have guessed, I don’t have one. There’s no bitterness here. No sir Return to reading

    • Nersh
    • May 30th, 2010

    Hnng, statistics. Apart from that, a pretty good read.

  1. May 30th, 2010

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