Editorial: Software Piracy Sucks. Stop it.

Appy-polly-loggies for the lateness of the hour, constant readers, but I have forsaken my Island Fastness for the untracked wilds of the Big City.

But enough about me! No one comes here to hear that drivel; they want crackpot theories and humorous scribblings about video games.

But we are not going to be laughing today, readers, because today we are going to talk about pirates. And piracy.

Yarr!
Yarr!

Back in the days when Lusipurr was young (1600 and onward) piracy was kind of a big deal in the world. Back before we had the Internet, people had to share stuff by loading it on to big wooden ships and send them across the globe. Pirates were smelly guys that lived in dirty hovels and made a living off of hijacking those ships and taking their cargo.

This kind of piracy still happens today, unfortunately, but as cool as it would be to go into an in-depth discussion of economics of piracy, that is not the kind of piracy I am concerned with.

Rather, it is “game piracy.”

Anyone who has owned a computer since, oh, the days when we had to punch data in by cards, knows about software piracy. Hell, they even made a video about it.

The advent of the personal computer was at once the ultimate boon and greatest curse for the video game industry. With a computer, the technical limits of game developers, proprietary hardware, and even buggy releases were mere inconveniences. A PC game has some graphical glitches? Release a patch! Need a little bit more hardware to play a PC game? Throw in a new video card! It freed people from the arcades and consoles; it allowed, for the first time, gaming to be a truly social experience.

But, because games had to be stored locally on computers, they possibility of duplicating game data became very, very real. After all, reasoned the pirate, why should I have to pay for the game that my buddy just bought? I will have him make me a copy!

This was an unsurprising move; the same thing was true of magnetic audio tapes, compact disks, VHS tapes, and virtually any electronic medium that could be easily duplicated at home.

Long story short, software piracy became common, mostly because electronic data required far less than other forms of piracy. No physical medium was actually necessary after digital downloading became possible. Even today, getting a new piece of software, completely without limits, is as easy as firing up a web browser and finding a BitTorrent download.

The most recent (and shocking) example is of Crysis 2, a flagship PC FPS title published by EA. This is a triple-A, top-flight development game, done by a studio with considerable know-how and published by the biggest publisher in gaming… so how did this happen? Rogue hackers? Evil mastermind?

Nah; inside job. Someone who worked on its development likely leaked it. This is like the captain of the aforementioned sailing ship throwing a line over to the pirate ship and saying, “Hey, lotsa rum over here! Come and get it!”

Software Piracy
Arr, mateys!

And it is why companies continue to layer on pointless security software to prevent piracy, which penalizes legitimate users, because let us face facts, pirates will always find a way to be pirates.

And no matter how many well-intentioned pleas go out from people that piracy is literally killing the PC game industry, pirates continue to rationalize their behavior with increasingly bizarre logic.

Eventually, this escalation has to stop: game companies and gamers (including pirates) have to come to an understanding. No more piracy, no more restrictive DRM, or prepare for all major-studio, non-MMO titles to be console-only.

And I like console gaming; do not get me wrong. Consoles are fine machines, but some games just work better on a PC control scheme, and it is always nice to have complete control of just how much power is going through the components of my system, or to have access to the ease of updating that the PC provides.

PC gaming will end if the piracy does not stop; and since we all agree that no security system will ever be sufficient, we, the gamers, need to do something about piracy. We need to not pirate software; we need to not support pirates, and we need to send a message that piracy is wrong. If we ever expect companies to stop treating us like criminals, we need to stop tolerating criminals in our midst. If we want good game studios to stay in business, we need to support them and the people that put in the hard work to make games. And yes, that means support them by paying a fair price for their work. If we feel that large game companies do not care about their customers or their employees and are only out to bilk us out of money, then piracy is the wrong way to go about activism. If you want to make a statement, make a statement by refusing to buy their games, and refusing to play them. Playing the game after pirating it only says, “yes, you are making a desirable product, Evil Game Company, but I will not financially support what you do and will turn to breaking the law in order to get what I want.”

The problem is that they stopped listening after someone said that they made a desirable product.

So stop giving Evil Game Companies reasons to be evil; if they are driven by profit as a motive, then they will do what is profitable. Good game companies are all around, and they manage to be profitable because they put out a good product and treat their employees and consumers well. Support them, and stop supporting pirates as some sort of anti-heroic crusaders.

0 comments

  1. I think PC gaming will transition to FTP or subscription based formats …

  2. I disagree. Piracy has been a fact of life for developers on both PC and consoles and doesn’t really hurt developers financially.

    The previous gen of consoles have easy to do exploits that can allow people to play copied games. I don’t know of any good Dreamcast games, but it’ll play burned CD-Rs. The PSX was similarly easy with boot swapping. The Gamecube and PS2 have easy exploits as well. The GC plays specially burned games (iirc), and the PS2 has the “independence exploit” which has its own article on Wikipedia. There’s minor hackery involved. If you can find a fancy screwdriver or CD-RW drive you can pirate GC/PS2 games.

    Current gen isn’t any different. I won’t go into details, but flash some firmware or plug in a USB thingy and your 360 or PS3 is playing games off the intarwebz. There were all those bans for people playing Halo: Reach before it was released. Which I support personally, because Halo is a shitty fucking game that people should be punished for playing on purpose.

  3. I think the difference between this generation and the previous ones is that more studios are finding it increasingly difficult to make even good games become profitable. Even selling a million copies is considered par these days, and the industry as a whole looks set to crash. Piracy has probably only increased in line with the expansion of the industry though, the real story is that the industry is on an unsustainable trajectory.