Does any portal do *Anything* about piracy

Discussion in 'Development & Distribution' started by cliffski, Feb 18, 2007.

  1. cliffski

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    having spent a while sending takedown notices for various portal keygens that work on my game, I am now thoroughly annoyed.
    Does ANYONE at any of the portals take even the vaguest half-hearted efforts to make wrappers that are tough to break? or make any effort at all to get keygens removed from websites?

    What is the point in spending a year on a video game to have a portal throw some half-assed 'wrapper' with 5 year old security around it, only to have your game appear all over the web with keygens and working serials?

    I'm pretty sure that the portals with outdated security systems know who they are, so why aren't you doing anything to stop this?
    Right now I have zero intention of distributing further games through at least 2 portals because of this.
    I know the usual "piracy doesn't affect you" argument and do not believe a word of it.
    How difficult is it to send some takedown requests and build even slightly better wrappers. And is it *really* that clever to use an identi-kit wrapper on every game so they all get cracked at once?
    Grrrrrrr.
     
  2. KNau

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    I understand your frustration but you knew before signing your contract (as we all do) that every portal game gets cracked on the day of release. You signed anyways because I'm sure you felt that the sales potential outranked the piracy risk, as it probably has. You even posted a victorious "I've sold out" message when it happened. Well, this is what goes with the territory of selling out.

    You're in portal town now and you're going to have to accept keycode sharing as part of the burn rate for selling your game. Yahoo games are cracked just as quickly as Reflexive so shutting a couple distributors out won't make a difference, it's just leaving money on the table. Like it or not, you've changed your business model - a "principled stand" isn't in the cards for you.
     
  3. cliffski

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    I see, so basically you think the portals attitude should be "never mind eh?" and that I should just put up with it in silence.
    No wonder the portals don't even put 10 minutes effort into policing the cracks, It seems indie developers are just happy to take what they are given. How silly of me to expect anything different.
     
  4. Bad Sector

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    cliffski you are *really* a talented game developer. I hope that at some point you decide to spend more time developing great games than hunting down pirates. The former will bring you more money and better games to the people while the latter will just cause you lose your temper and time (you may actually lose -or more precisely, not gain- the money you could have if you had developed a better game :)).

    If pirates and crackers are able to break DRM systems such as those developed by multimillion dollar companies (i'm talking about HD-DVD and Blu Ray), then what hope there is for the rest of us?

    You are a programmer, you should know that if something can be loaded in system memory, it can also be copied one way or another.

    Portals could develop a really hard method to crack, but once cracked, they would be prey to pirates again since they can't put a different method for each game. They can't develop a new different method each month. IMHO it's better for them (and you/us) to put their resources in making the games they publish as known as possible, than trying to stop the unstoppable.
     
  5. cliffski

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    I just got a reflexive keygen taken down from 6 different sites within an hour. it wasn't exactly rocket science. That means maybe 30-40 different forum posts are now useless, and worse than that, they are misleading and frustrating.
    You don't think we should even make it *difficult* to get cracks for our games? Why don't we just post links to the full version on our websites, so the pirates aren't inconvenienced?

    Anyone who thinks casual game piracy isn't rampant just has their eyes closed. I have URLS of entire sites dedicated entirely to cracking casual games, and I have *never* seen anyone make even the slightest effort to do anything about it.

    I don't spend most of my time chasing pirates, I spend it making games, I'm asking for 1 employee per portal to spend 10 minutes a week doing it. Is that not worth the 50%+ of our money they take?
     
  6. Sybixsus

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    Did RealArcade ever take the time to fix the gaping hole in their security? I mean there's making it easy for pirates and then there's RA. I could have taught a completely non-tech-literate casual gamer to get every game on RA with a quick 200 word explanation with their old ( hopefully fixed? ) problem.
     
  7. soniCron

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    While I whole-heartedly agree with your sentiment, Cliffski, I think a more dangerous and daunting problem among casual portals is that of fly-by-site downloading: play the trial demo, and get another trial from a different portal when it expires.

    I'm only speculating, but I'd be willing to bet there is a greater number of would-be customers getting their jollies that way, rather than downloading cracks from suspicous looking sites.

    And if the portals can't even fix that admitted problem... ;)
     
  8. Dan MacDonald

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    It seems to me that to really avoid piracy you have to find a game distribution model that embraces it. One that gives the game away for free an then charges consumers for upgrades and accouterments that are validated against a server for example.
     
  9. cliffski

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    avoiding hardcore piracy is very very difficult, but avoiding casual piracy is not. What bothers me is the total lack of interest shown by everyone in doing just a bit towards that.

    If I emailed a company saying "here is a forum post containing a link to a keygen for your stuff", the very *least* you should expect is for them to request that the file be removed, and email whoever hosts that site to officially complain. It's surprising how easily you can get most stuff like this removed.

    What bugs me is that it's clear that not even the most trivial effort is made to take any action at all. That speaks volumes about the extent to which those companies care about your intellectual property.
    Not all portals seem to be as bad as each other. I just don't understand the mentality of the bad ones.
     
  10. Nikster

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    Here's how I see it, you're a developer with few titles so you want a high return from your efforts, then there's the portals, who skim off hundreds of developers from thousands of titles, so based on scale and how many titles are on offer it probably has little impact on the portals, and bearing in mind the overheads they have in taking on a title, mostly zilch, then it doesn't really have any impact on them whether that title doesn't sell bazillions, I think the wrappers they use are just a token gesture and mainly pointless.

    Now, if they had the overheads normal mainstream publishers have before a title even makes it to shelf, then I'm sure it would be a totally different story.

    So the more sheep the portals have to fleece, the less they will give a shit.

    My theory is, if you're dealing with a portal, set it and forget it, and just wait for any $ to arrive at your door, or, get angry ;)
     
  11. princec

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    You forget that Cliff also sells the games direct through his site, and if full versions are easily available with the pathetic portal wrapped DRM all over the net then there's bugger all chance he'll make a direct sale.

    This is one of the reasons I've been so reluctant to let my games out into the wild in "full version" mode.

    Cas :)
     
  12. LilGames

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    Cliff, what proof do you have that the portals "do nothing"? That's my only problem with what you are saying here. Changing the security only delays cracks appearing by about 24 hrs usually (that's where the term "0-day warez" comes from) but costs alot in development time. Is it worth it if it takes pirates 24hrs?.

    What proof do you have that they aren't contacting sites and simply getting an "F U" reply back? There's not much a company can do when a server is located in some third world country that doesn't cooperate with "western" laws...

    (Just playing devil's advocate here, as it's easy to make assumptions)
     
  13. electronicStar

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    Due to my lack of experience I'm talking out of my arse here, but I think that in the portals' economic model, games are considered as a very short lived product and very focused toward a segment of the market.
    If a copy is circulating outside of the reach of their usual audience, then it won't be worth paying someone to monitor piracy and do something(especially if the pirates themselves are tenacious), especially with a catalog of hundreds or thousands of titles.
    Bottom line is : they don't have the same respect for the games they ar selling than the devellopers have.
    I know Cliffski must be enraged to see the portal doing nothing because it is competiting with his own sales. On the other hand, he has the numbers of sales hervested from the portal and the royalties earned from it, and he's left alone with his consciousness wondering if it was worth it or not.
     
  14. KNau

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    That's why I question the "have your cake and eat it, too" philosophy of "I'm going to have my own successful website and sell with all the portals".

    The portal business eating into your site in terms of sales and piracy is one thing, but they also blot out your mindshare. How much do you pay Google a month to maintain a ranking compared to the portals representing your game? I noticed the search for "Kudos game" Google ranks you 4th after Big Fish's paid ad and Arcadetown's listing. By the time you release your next game to the portals you might as well stop marketing your own site completely.

    Unfortunately, the distributor controls the business model and right now the money train is still rolling along unimpeded. When things slow down I'm sure they will find a way to blame it all on piracy.
     
  15. cliffski

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    read my posts, I've taken down about 20 sites in the last few days that were hosting key gens. It's trivial to do. And it's clear that nobody bothers.
    I've found its silly to expect anyone to criticise the portals on here. tragic to see some supposudly 'indie' develoeprs telling me i might as well abandon direct sales.
     
  16. Dan MacDonald

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    If the portals were suffering from a lack of real DRM, they would do a better job. I think the DRM is just a bullet point for developers. I don't think it factors into their business models at all. Compared to retail the cost to add a new game to the catalog and to distribute it is so low and the margins are so high, they really don't care if they lose 15% to pirating.

    As long as there is consistent supply of new games then it wont really matter. Say they release a game, and it has potential to sell 100k in revenue. Say they lose 15% of that to piracy. That knocks it down it 95k in revenue. There's the developer cut which is a fixed cost, 20% (which is now 20% of 95k) soo 19k.

    100k - 15k (piracy) - 19k(developer) = 66k;

    sure there's some fixed costs for the actual "producing" of the game some QA etc.

    Say they walk away with 66k of recognized revenue from the game. Is it a better use of their time to go get back that 15k lost to piracy? or just release another game with the potential to generate 100k of revenue (and recognize 66% of that)?

    Granted these numbers are kind of bogus, but you get the picture. It's more profitable to release new games, then it is to protect existing ones. After all, the only person really loosing out is the developer who only has one game to generate profit while the portal has 100's if not 1000's of submissions they could publish and generate profit from.

    When you consider that some of these games generate a lot more then 100k in revenue and the most cost effective way to find those games is to just release as many as possible and observe which ones resonate with users and promote those. You can see why portals don't give a crap about DRM.

    If there were a lot less games and they cost more to develop and distribute you'd see a lot more interest in capturing all of a games potential sales. But since downloadable distribution channels are like a merry-go-round of titles changing all the time, I wouldn't expect to see a serious interest in DRM any time soon.

    I think it sucks, but at the same time, I thought everyone understood that this was the price of doing business with the portals.
     
  17. Dan MacDonald

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    The sad thing is, if they did do a better job of DRM'ing the games they could afford to give developers higher royalty rates. From an cost standpoint I think they treat the piracy % no differently then the a developer %. It's all just costs that they have as a result of their distribution model, which really means the developers are the ones who are footing the bill for shoddy DRM.
     
  18. Chris Evans

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    Well Dan just saved me the trouble of writing a very long post. So it will only be a little long-winded. :)

    Piracy affects the developer more than the publisher for the reasons Dan stated. Portals don't need to maximize the revenue potential per title when there's just so many new titles at their disposal. They can afford the "slippage" (no one knows how much) caused by casual piracy, especially since they're just distributing the developer's IP, they don't own it. So of course they're not going to go to any great lengths to protect it.

    It's really up to the developers to hold the portals responsible for protecting the IP. Though it's obvious not enough developers really care about this otherwise this would have been taken care of long ago. Most are content with their royalty cut and are willing to look-past the portal's lackluster DRM efforts.

    Personally, I don't think it's worthwhile to fret over piracy on a daily basis, especially for a small developer. But I think large portals who carry hundreds of games in a centralized place have a responsibility to the developers to at least have satisfactory protection against casual piracy. Most don't even meet that standard. I agree with Cliff on one point that some of these portals have staff in the dozens (and even hundreds), you'd think they could at least have one person report/shutdown warez sites on an on-going basis. Fold it into the Developer Relations job description or toss it to a few people in QA. I remember one of the folks from PopCap said they have a lawyer on hand to pounce/pressure ISPs that carry warez sites. Considering the large staff of most portals, it would be nice to see them actively doing something similar to this as well.

    The other problem is that most people trolling warez sites are either core-players, teens, kids, or those with little disposable income. These people are generally outside the portal's demographic, so I imagine the portals don't see themselves losing a lot of potential revenue. But for developers who have games, which have "core" appeal, the warez sites are a bigger issue. There's a reason why retail publishers take the issue FAR more seriously than portals.

    KNau is being blunt, but he's kind of right. You should have known what you were getting in to. You by yourself will most likely not be able to change the portal's DRM systems or make them shutdown warez sites. It's only when a large of group of developers that they normally do business with make a big issue of this will anything actually get done. For those going to GDC, this is something you may want to bring up if it's really of concern...
     
  19. Tertsi

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    I was proposing that we should write a bill of some sort to get their attention. But the devs here seem to be so afraid that the portal will dislike it that they rather just sit down quietly or at best rant about it in a forum.

    The much worse than normal piracy RealArcade problem is still there and it seems there's an even worse MSN games problem...
     
  20. JoKa

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    Hm...are we afraid? I don't think so.
     

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