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Columns A Picture-Perfect Quandary

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Tim S, 13 May 2008.

  1. DXR_13KE

    DXR_13KE BananaModder

    14 Sep 2005
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    nice article, good read.
  2. Dreaming

    Dreaming What's a Dremel?

    31 Jan 2007
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    Have to say Brett, you're completely right. I'll be honest here and hope I don't get banned (on some forums they do ban for even admission of downloading :(), but I have downloaded games from wherever. I like you said saw them as free, and the money I've spent on games over the years that really shouldn't have been released or were only worth a quarter of what I paid only gave me some sort of sense of entitlement - that I have to download games to check they're actually worth the money, because otherwise I will get ripped off. I observe the same with Hollywood films - how many films coming out these days are new, original, and worth the £6 we pay to see them once? I am not completely devoid of morals, and will happily buy software or games or movies I feel are worth the money, I own a legitimate operating system, office tools, and everything I play day-to-day.

    If there was some kind of 'subscription' service (I'm thinking abstractly here, bear with me) where you pay per day to play games, for the quality of games I've paid for in the past, I am still probably in net deficit. Only a few weeks ago I excitedly installed Kane's Wrath after waiting an agonising 5 days to get it through the post, completed the single player by staying up until some godawful hour, then tried to get into multiplayer only to realise that it's still broken. Whilst I think the community managers are trying their best, it's been over a month and multiplayer play is still worse than Tiberium Wars that is supposedly supercedes.

    Having said that, for me owning a C&C product is similar to a music fan blindly buying the artists music, I love the franchise and will continue to do so.

    So what do I do? Some games I've been bitterly disappointed with and played only a handful of times - like ArmA, yet I still paid £30 or thereabouts for it, being an faithful Operation Flashpoint fanatic. They hadn't even removed the typos from the ludicrous campaign story, and whilst I'm sure it cost them a lot to develop, these games are mass marketed across the globe so the returns are seldom small. (At least for big releases, I read somewhere 80% of games don't actually break even...)

    I want to pay for really nice products, but with the move away from quality towards raping a franchise for all it's worth without the proper quality controls in place (I had a friend who worked for Rare on Perfect Dark 2 [an established franchise], when it got taken over they basically shelved all the nice plans and just said 'get it ready to ship' - this is the mindset of large developers, minimum investment maximum revenue) - am I only ripping myself off if I happily pay full whack for every game (that seldom come with demos these days) when a lot of them are just cash cows.

    It's a bizarre event though, because some games are truly wonderful, look at Team Fortress 2 - I paid £25 or thereabouts for 3 games including TF2 (so effectively what, £8?) and they're bringing out new content free of charge. No premium content, none of these ways of worming more money out of customers. They even had a free weekend so everyone could play the game as it is supposed to be played. Bugs are typically fixed as and when they come up as opposed to waiting over a month for a desync bug that means you can't play online :( (sorry, C&C again!). So when companies get it right, of course they deserve money. Valve, definitely popular, cater for their customers a lot (although I'm still scared one day that they have the right to stop me playing all my steam bought games ... it's in the T&C that they provide a service, you don't own the games!). Blizzard are a mixed bag, they do cater for their customers, but they expect the customers to pay. Many have speculated (perhaps correctly) that a sequel to starcraft was delayed because they wanted to extract more money out of WoW, and who can blame them really... but is it customer focussed or getting the best return on their investment? THQ I personally like because although sometimes the netcode isn't perfect, the games are a class act, often do something unique and try very hard to do it very well and beat the opposition with new and better ways of doing things (look at the cover system in CoH, unmatched in any modern RTS as far as I know). EA games... now from my gaming circle they're not very popular, because mainly they're seen as a profiteering company that looks for good established brands, buys them out then gets the devs to produce game after game after game with support as an afterthought and first and foremost it's all about the money.

    However, it's ironic that I should have a go at EA, because most of my games are by EA. Again though, most of their games have bugs that were just left or abandoned when the next game came out - don't worry about fixing this game because the sequel is out. I hope this doesn't sound like a complete dig at EA, it's far from it. You need big companies like EA in a big globalised world in order to provide the sheer scale of investment, marketing etc. to make a great game. But if you look at the different companies, the way they nurture or discard their games, and then look at what the people think of these companies... you see an interesting pattern - and maybe that is the clue for what the solution is to 'casual' piracy (there are some who will always pirate, regardless, shame on them).
  3. Bursar

    Bursar What's a Dremel?

    6 May 2001
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    I don't think anyone is saying that the developers and publishers don't deserve money for their efforts, but when companies are putting out the same old sports games with just a minor make over and team updates, when they put out games with protection systems so secure they prevent you running the game, when they bundle up a poor selection of mini games and call it the must have party game of the year, they only have themselves to blame for poor sales.

    The Mass Effect/Spore protection would have been equivalent to Brett sorting out a copyright deal for his article, and then forcing the licensee to phone him up every few days, otherwise he would forfeit the right to use the article he's paid for.
  4. impar

    impar Minimodder

    24 Nov 2006
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    A more balanced and mature opinion than your previous "The sky is falling" piece, Brett Thomas.
  5. Sark.inc

    Sark.inc What's a Dremel?

    9 Dec 2007
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    games are to big for me to download on my 10gb cap, all of my games that i play on a day to day basis are paid for, crysis on the other hand after playing that on a friends computer i could not bring my self to spend that 100$ on such a buggy game..

    Personally, i think the way to go is steam! no bs advertising money spent, retail markups etc etc.

    If i do pirate a game, it's normally off a friend and, had no real intention of buying.

    Bought around £200 worth of games off steam <3

    Personally, when i bought company of heros: opposing fronts i felt rather ripped off due to the copy right crap, having to update to play?!?!? what if i am capped ffs?? then i can't play, unless i spend the next hour downloading a 6 mb patch..
  6. cjmUK

    cjmUK Old git.

    9 Feb 2004
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    I'm sure it was only last week when I said this in another thread, but Steam in not the panacea that many claim. Steam would be great for both producers and consumers if only you can seel or transfer games between steam accounts. They don't allow it so as to drive up sales, but that kind of attitude is precisely got some of the pirates starting in the first place.

    I do believe that if producers produced cheaper and better quality games (largely bug-free) without any restrictive DRM kludges, then piracy would be substantially reduced. Most people are fundamentally honest and if treating with respect would respond accordingly.

    I'm not advocating piracy for one minute; I'm just saying that the situation is worse than it is due to the attitude of the producers.
  7. Fophillips

    Fophillips What's a Dremel?

    9 Oct 2006
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    I can’t remember the last time I bought a piece of software for my PC, all the software I use is available without cost. If I like a piece of software I donate to the developer, not some conglomerate which may let a few pennies trickle down to the person who actually made the software.

    However when it comes to things like CDs or games there’s always something special about having the physical object in your hand as opposed to just downloading PINK_FLOYD_DISCOGRAPHY_RLI_HI_QUALITE.ZIP
  8. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

    7 Aug 2005
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    I think Dreaming has some really good points.

    Distributors really really want you to buy their games on launch day, without knowing anything about it except their hype, without having played a demo, and then if you do and it sucks, you can't get your money back. The result of this is that a lot of us wait a few weeks (or months) to buy until we see what everyone else has to say. When you buy a game you're stuck with it, you can never take it back, even if it's completly broken.

    Many devs have said that the only customers that really matter, the ones they really care about attracting, are the ones who buy the game on launch week. They complain about piracy because it cuts into launch week sales. The problem with this is that the only people buying on launch week are, if you'll excuse me saying so, the fanbois who are willing to take the risk on a game based on hype, "exclusive previews" and maybe a demo. Those of us who are unwilling to plonk down $50 or more based on that little information need not apply.

    I make it a policy not to pirate, but it's becoming increasingly hard to justify that policy. There are lots of immediate benefits to piracy, and fewer and fewer benefits to buying my games all the time. What do I get for buying the game? I get a DRM infested product I can't return and that can be taken away from me at any time by the publisher, and a vague feeling that I may be helping a developer who I don't really believe cares about me or the games I want to play. If I were to start pirating games tomorrow, I would get the same game, minus DRM headaches, which couldn't be taken away, and a vague feeling that I'm doing someting bad.

    Given that those are the options, it's easy to feel like I'm being taken for a fool for being honest.
  9. cyrilthefish

    cyrilthefish What's a Dremel?

    15 Apr 2004
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    Interesting post, but i feel the analogy to the wallpaper image missed the point by orders of magnitude

    Yes you took the picture without compensating the author, but he freely gave it away... would you call the police to arrest someone on the street giving away free pictures they drew themselves? i think not.

    reading between the lines a bit, it seems you've got a little caught in the "nothing is free, somebody needs to be compensated for everything and anything" frame of mind, correct me if i'm wrong :)

    This point of view seems to miss the point of view that some things people like to give away.
    I'm no stranger to giving away free stuff, i pay hosting for some of the imageboards over at iichan.net using 7-8GB of traffic a day without any advertising to back it up, i do so because i like the community and the culture, not for need of monetary reward.

    Going back to the piracy point of the article, i may sound like a broken record, but i'll say it again:

    there is always a fair amount of techy-minded people out of work (hence lots of free time) and no money to spend, result = games get cracked.
    doesn't matter how many millions you spend on CP, it will still get cracked, and it only takes one cracked copy to completely negate the CP...

    Add to this the fact stardock has been doing very well with no CP at all and i fail to see any need at all for the OTT CP currently being chucked around...

    Pissing off your paying customers while pirates go scott free is not a viable strategy! :duh:
  10. koajoe

    koajoe PC Gaming master race!

    27 Mar 2008
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    The article brings up lots of good points. Having said that, it also leaves out some points that are being either glazed over or completely ignored by publishers.


    In my mind as a consumer my number one qualm is the very one you have brought up from the Developer's/Publisher's point of view. "Why am I getting ripped off?" The door swings both ways! I have paid for every single game / movie / song that I have ever played except radio/ tv. That being said, I feel as though I have been burned too many times to just blindly go in and buy a game based on just hype/ reviews. Games are not the only issue though, I hardly ever go and see movies anymore. Why? Because 85% of them are complete and utter crap. Or I spend too much money on movie/ popcorn/ drinks, or there are undesireables in the theartre. I rather just buy the dvd than risk a bad experience.

    If I buy a dvd can I return it? Have I opened it? Well, yes and the movie is ****!

    "Well sorry, we cannot take open murchandise susch as dvd / computer games back". I may respond: "Next time I will just pirate it then, how about that?".

    Do you see the problem? The retailer thinks that just because I have opened my DVD or my PC game that I have already pirated it. This may be true in some cases, but their refusal to take back shitty products is the core reason behind most piracy in the first place.

    Keep in mind I have never pirated anything......but I have come close... and probally will in the future, unless there is some major changes made in the quality / consumer rights.
  11. Tim S

    Tim S OG

    8 Nov 2001
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    You make a great point - it's something I used to hate having to deal with when I worked as a customer service rep during my days at university. Why would you buy something if when it doesn't work/doesn't run/is crap, it cannot be returned?
  12. bilbothebaggins

    bilbothebaggins What's a Dremel?

    1 Sep 2006
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    A few here say "CP" ... The problem with DRM as they are doing it now is that it's not only a copy protection, it's foremost a playback protection. And as such, the companies are telling you: Give us your money now and you will be able to play the licensed content for a time. This time will end when we go out of business or when there's a new technology for which we deem that you should pay for the content again. For games this would probably mean after a certain time you cannot play the game anymore ...
  13. kt3946

    kt3946 What's a Dremel?

    17 Feb 2004
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    The problem here is misrepresentation of the Elephant in the room...

    It's not the DRM, and not the Piracy.

    It's called 'situational ethics'. This is the Elephant. It's where one's ethics change depending on the situation. In the case of a picture, it may be different than in the case of a Program or a Game.

    Most given reasons that one chooses piracy relates around the basic tenets:

    1. Inability to return product - in most cases, physical items are allowed to be returned if they are defective, providing a means in which the owner is compensated for the loss of value, often fully, but occasionally minus some 'restocking' fee. In the case of software products, due to varying legitimate/illegitimate reasons, this is denied. Customers are often left holding the bag with defective or less-than-fully valued product.

    2. Lack of demonstration/preview of product - In most cases, the purchase of a product allows for some sort of demonstration or 'preview' of the product's perceived value (e.g. TV's are displayed with pictures to allow viewing, vacuum cleaners are allowed to be handled/trialled before purchase, cars are test-driven). In the case of most software, it's surprisingly uncommon to find a venue in which the product can be 'trialled' before purchase, thus leading into potential problem listed by #1.

    3. Limitation of resale - in the case of software, it has become increasingly apparent that most vendors would prevent at all costs the ability to 're-sell' a 'used' product. This is due to the associated lack of revenue brought by the second sale (as opposed to primary). DRM and other Copy protection mechanisms tend to either prevent or completely obliterate the ability to resell product. In the case of 'hard-goods' this resale is often times a essential component of the product's value equation (e.g. You purchase a certain manufacturer's car due to it's high resale value).

    4. Security concerns - in many cases, in an effort to attempt to control the behavior of particular OS and software combinations, vendor's producing DRM/Copy-Protection go so far as to produce product which can be seriously detrimental to the security of the overall OS, and as a result, any data related to said system.

    These 'justifications' result in a generalized 'devaluation' of the perceived value of the product. Something that would normally be perceived as a valuable entertainment commodity, suddenly has become a worthless scrap of plastic. When it is perceived as 'worthless' to the owner, then any aspects which rely on an individual owner's sense of Ethics or fair-play suddenly turns 'situational'. For example, one values an original Monet to an almost immeasurable amount, and is thusly protected via multiple securities within a exposition/gallery. Yet the reprinted poster of the same Monet is sold in a dollar store at the mall. The perceived value of the copy is small, yet the original holds great worth. As a result, the poster may be reprinted a billion times, but there will only be one 'original'.

    The same occurred in the Music industry. As the music industry continually commercialized and commoditized the music it itself valued, it ended up 'devaluing' it in the eyes of the essential consumer it was attempting to sell to. Once the consumer sees your product as 'valueless', it will then begin to treat it as such.

    The ability of endlessly reproduce digital media is a common constraint with regard to the associated argument given by media producers for the protection of rights. However, that is a 'veiled' argument, simply because it completely ignores the expectation of the consumer entirely.

    The argument previously given with regard to the picture, is too convoluted to really apply to the DRM/NO-DRM issue. The problem there lies in a small section of copyright called 'Right of Distribution'. It can be stated, legally and otherwise, that if the owner (the key here) placed the item in an area where the public has the ability to freely copy the item, it can be legally argued that the owner has relinquished the 'Right of Distribution' (aka. the right to control subsequent distribution). Since no license was ascribed to the image, this further attributes to that fact (e.g. the owner did not request or ascertain the viewers/readers of the forum in which the image was placed sign an agreement stating that those rights given to the original author are not relinquished by such action). It is then perfectly reasonable for the forum readers to then assume that the item was distributed under such intention to be considered 'freely distributable'.

    This is the key point in which such firms as the RIAA and MPAA use as the counterpoint for suing such customers who distribute copies of music/movies. By not acting in a manner as an 'agent' of the owner (i.e. the purchaser is not considered as a subsidary of the owner) who owns the copyright, and by duly noting that their 'Right to Distribute' is still maintained via applicable license/copyright law, no authorization is granted.

    The same can apply to games and other media, however, it is often duplicated as part of the 'shrink-wrap' agreement associated with the software license. As a result, the owner is protected under both copyright/license and contract laws.

    Neither was implemented with forum image. As a result, the viewer/user of the copyright can sometimes assume that such rights were forgiven, and that any subsequent distribution would fall under 'fair' or 'granted' use. Although the image may still by copyrighted by the owner, the right of distribution could be lost, either purposely or otherwise.

    Some form of DRM is potentially necessary, simply because there has been in fact court precedent that if a firm does *not* demonstrate their intention of distribution, either by notification or by 'contract', than it can be arguably construed that an owner can 'accidentally' relinquish their 'Right of Distribution'. Thus providing a somewhat catch-22 for a content producer.

    However, given these avenues, is it defensibly astute to establish such draconian DRM methods to ensure that the owners rights are maintained? No. However, given the feasibility of attempting to 'sort out the bad apples from the good' vendors are often left with little choice but to restrict the rights of arguably good citizens. Is it 'right'? No. But it is far more 'profitable' than doing what would be considered 'right', and until it becomes unprofitable (such as in this case), it will continue.

    The real solution is to address the problems the consumers are identifying, so that the 'perceived value' of the product is beyond that of the 'associated cost'.

    1. Provide a means to trial/test a product in a venue which will maximize the purchaser's ability to assign value.
    2. Establish a mechanism in which the return-or-resale of a product can arguably work to both the original content owner's value, and/or value to the consumer. For example, by providing a means for the consumer to either 'trade-in' or 'resell' the product through a vendor based system which would allow the vendor to potentially take a 'cut' of the resale, and or allow the purchaser to trade value of product against a differing product so as not to lose the customer or the sale.
    3. Hold the 'copy-protection' firms to a standard which maintains a conditional level in which both the consumer and the rights holder are not 'devalued' by the perception or realities of such things as security problems or issues. For example, forcing copy-protection vendors to obtain certification by Malware and Anti-Virus firms to ensure that the product does not facilitate further security concerns, and/or update the DRM to ensure that if such things would occur that it can be easily rectified.
    4. Work closer with the OS/System vendors to provide a medium in which copy-restriction would be provided as part of the 'copy' process itself, rather than attempting to utilize after-the-fact validation.
    5. Devalue the copy. For instance, by utilizing some sort of 'online' key generation system which would give the purchaser of the product a particular advantage as compared to a non-purchaser (pirate). Such as expanded content, further facilities, etc. For instance, many Online games have no protection on the client simply because the client is valueless without the associated server account (i.e. the game is on the server, not the client). In other cases, such as 'Rock Band', more value is generated by the purchase of additional micro-transaction content as opposed to the original product. Thus providing further value to the consumer, and devaluing the base original, which would seem 'limited' by comparison.

    Unfortunately however, media/content industry executives are slow to pick up on these items. They are in it for the profit, not the consumer. Until the consumer's force the owners, to concede to their demands through the 'non-purchase' of content AND the non-pirating of any copies, they will change little. (Note: non-pirating of content used as a means of protest is required, otherwise it undermines the whole argument that such content is valued, but devalued by the draconian measures offered by the owner - thus limiting the consumer's ability to object to a media producer's demand of rights).

    Things are slowly turning around, and progressive firms such as Valve with their 'Steam' product are slowly showing the industry the way.
  14. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

    7 Aug 2005
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    Impressive and well thought out post!

    It's frustrating that all "non-purchases" are attributed to piracy. If none of us go out and buy a game, the producers will inevitably say "No one bought it because they all pirated it". By always saying this, they avoid being accountable to their customers and can go on indefinatly believing they made the greatest game ever, even when everyone who plays it knows it's a steaming pile of poo.
  15. Saivert

    Saivert Minimodder

    26 Mar 2005
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    I have to bow to your greats posts in the comments here. So much good reading.
    I would love to donate some money for giving me a good time here alone with my computer and web browser reading interesting articles and associated comments.

    I would love to talk a bit more about those who would never ever pay if they can get it for free. Of course they exists. I myself have been in a situation where I definitely could have paid for it, but chose not to because I could use the money for something else. But think a little ? What else would that be? Another burger? Another TV? Usually that is physical objects that are hard to steal without getting caught. Let's say someone finds a way to steal TVs or burgers and nobody would convict you of the crime. I'm sure a lot of people would be happy to do it.

    This is really a debate about morale and attitude. Everything else is just a smokescreen we hide behind. Yes games can be better and DRM can be removed. But the producers want more money. Even developers such as VALVe who is highly regarded because they do make a lot of great games and is leading the way with Steam has been criticized for being greedy because they don't let people trade games on Steam.
    If you are still following me you will see that people will never be satisfied. Neither the producer nor the consumer.


    Welcome to utopia!
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