Poor PC ports, not piracy, hurt business

Tagged: Epic Fail, PC port, Software, Gaming, Technology
Source: Ars Technica - Read the full article
Posted: 4 years 15 weeks ago

It's simple to say that piracy is a problem in the game industry, and particularly so in PC gaming. No extra hardware (like a mod chip) is required to pirate a PC game—just a fast Internet connection or a burnt disc. What isn't simple is finding out how many real-world sales are lost due to piracy (a problem that has bedeviled the content industries for some time). The question: if a pirate couldn't get his or her game for free, would he or she pay for it?

The head programmer at Wolfire Games goes by the name of David, and he has some thoughts on the matter. What follows is some heavy conjecture mixed with common sense, but it leads to a single conclusion: pirates may grab a large number of games, but lost sales due to piracy are much lower than everyone assumes.
How much money is lost?

The industry may believe that every pirated game is a lost sale, but that stance makes little to no sense. "From personal experience, I know this is not possible—most pirates that I've met have downloaded enough software to exceed their entire lifetime income, were they to have paid for it all," David wrote. "A more plausible (but still overly optimistic) guess is that if piracy was stopped the average pirate would behave like an average consumer." The truth lies somewhere in between, where piracy does cause developers to lose some money and sales, but not on a 1:1 basis with games pirated.

To illustrate how this works, David turned to iPhone games. iPhone developers claim that 80 percent of the copies of their games on phones are pirated, but only around 10 percent of iPhones are jailbroken, allowing illegally downloaded games and non-Apple-approved applications to run on the hardware. "This means that even though [developers] see that 80 percent of their copies are pirated, only 10 percent of their potential customers are pirates, which means they are losing at most 10 percent of their sales," David concludes.

The reason for the disparity is that pirates download a huge number of games, but apparently play very few of them. On the other hand, gamers buy fewer games when they pay for them, and generally spend more time playing them. If jailbroken iPhone users couldn't get these games for free, they would either not buy them, or simply buy one or two.

Imagine yourself at a restaurant where you could dine for free and eat as much as you want. You may order the highest-priced dishes on the menu, but you're still only going to eat as much as your stomach can hold. The software industry is, in effect, looking at your hypothetical plate saying "If that guy had to pay, he would have bought the pork chops, two steaks, and the lamb!"
So what's the problem with PC games?

David gives a simple reason for the problems in PC gaming: developers do it poorly. "It's easier for these developers to point their fingers at pirates than to face the real problem: that their games are not fun on [the] PC... they are not fun to play with a mouse and keyboard, and don't work well on PC hardware. Their field of view is designed to be viewed from a distant couch instead of a nearby monitor, and their gameplay is simplified to compensate for this tunnel vision."

He points to Blizzard as a success story, a company that focuses exclusively on PC and Mac gaming, and has been wildly successful as a result. "If developers spent more time improving their PC gaming experience, and less time complaining about piracy, we might see more successful PC games."

He knows what he's talking about. Wolfire is hosting the Humble Bundle, a sale of five independent games that work on the PC, Mac OS X, and Linux. No DRM, so you can install each game on all your systems. You pay what you like, and you can split the payment between the developers and two charities. This may not be a strategy that would work for new releases, but it does make a point by putting all the power in the hands of the gamers: if they want to spend one cent for everything, they can. If they want to pirate, they can.

As of this writing the bundle has earned $363,000, from around 46,000 customers—in just a few days. "Would we have seen this much support if the games were console ports that only worked when connected to a secure online DRM server?" David wrote. "We'll never know for sure, but somehow I doubt it."

If pirates truly are gluttons that would never buy most of what they download, and if treating non-console gamers like adults instead of thieves leads to more sales, it may be time for companies to begin reevaluating their stances on PC gaming. Less DRM, combined with more polish, may do a lot to improve their bottom line.

 

Comments

dglenn247
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Joined: 04/07/2010
Posts: 68

Most good games for pc have issues when they are pirated. Hacked, cracked, or just crash! I have tried a few that way. Its easier and better to just purchase the game. That way if you have issues, at least you can possibly get help.

 

"Excuse me, I downloaded a game from TPB. Yeah, uh, its not working....Whats that? Could i hold, sure...Where do i live? Are you sending out some tech support for me? Oh, wow, thats great news! "

(Sirens roar, banging on door)  Uh, you guys tech support?

 

Not my idea of fun, dont know that it would ever really happen. Ill just stick with my purchased copy. No threat of being helped by uniformed "tech support"

Anonymous

bingo, exactly what i've been saying in defense of the pc since we've been getting those lame console ports.

developers, we want unique pc games like you made in years prior.

if i wanted to play boring console games, i would've bought one of those boring xboxes or playstations in the first place.
since the early 80's, i owned many different versions of the pc up to my current three core2duo's.

TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THAT I HAD MORE FUN WITH THOSE OLD INFOCOM TEXT ADVENTURES THAN I EVER DID WITH ANY CONSOLE GAME.

Tiv
Tiv's picture
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Joined: 08/12/2009
Posts: 3584

Delusion77 wrote:

Ahmen. Its a sad sometimes when games have such great potential but are executed so badly. PC often seems like an after thought which is not fair. We are a thriving valid marked - with a very large potential. 

What might helps is if Nvidia or AMD have someone make their own video games that are exclusive to the PC. To say a console based game company like Activision should not make ports to the PC is not logical. Activision was making Atari console games from the start back in 1979. They are selling Millions of more games on the consoles than the PC, so it's a no brainer for their games to have sorry PC ports. What we need are game makers that put the PC in line first and then if popular enough port to the consoles, but I'm afraid those days might have come to an end with todays markets.

I sleep fine at night knowing we are banning people who deserve it.  Tivon
Don't test my skills, I was trained by myself! Check out my Gaming Videos!

Anonymous

machiavelli7 wrote:

I recently bought Modern Warfare 2 CD Key for 17 euro from a vendor who is selling only cd keys. I can't afford to buy this game in a store, cause it will cost me 50 to 60 euro. They talk so much about piracy,  but why they are saying nothing about the fact that they are forcing us to upgrade our pc's more and more with every game. I bough an HD 5850 just to play the new Splinter Cell, cause i wanted to play it with good fps. They lose money on piracy on one side, but on the other they are making money, so stop complaining about piracy. I will download games instead of buying, with very few exceptions, saving cash and maybe upgrade my pc, so in the end they will get my money anyway.

Piracy hurt software companies to a certain extent but the hardware companies benefit from it... As well as all the other companies that competes for your $$$.

Anonymous

This was the most accurate "pc piracy" article I have read.

Anonymous

im stewox , forgot to log in :P

Anonymous

I download the game to see if they are good , if they really are , I buy them or the next sequel or expansion , if they aren't good , oh well , better luck next time.

I would not buy a game if I wouldn't be able to see it.

I downloaded crysis , because it was great , i bought Crysis Warhead , and i will buy Crysis 2

Piracy is the largest and costless marketing for new developers and publishers. Huge piracy in new IP , great game > great sequel sales.

But the capitalist publishing industry is that who is stupid.

Salute 3DRealms, ID software, Respawn (IW) , Blizzard , Relic , Bethesda, Eugen Systems.

Delusion77
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Joined: 05/24/2008
Posts: 99

Ahmen. Its a sad sometimes when games have such great potential but are executed so badly. PC often seems like an after thought which is not fair. We are a thriving valid marked - with a very large potential. 

machiavelli7
machiavelli7's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2010
Posts: 52

I recently bought Modern Warfare 2 CD Key for 17 euro from a vendor who is selling only cd keys. I can't afford to buy this game in a store, cause it will cost me 50 to 60 euro. They talk so much about piracy,  but why they are saying nothing about the fact that they are forcing us to upgrade our pc's more and more with every game. I bough an HD 5850 just to play the new Splinter Cell, cause i wanted to play it with good fps. They lose money on piracy on one side, but on the other they are making money, so stop complaining about piracy. I will download games instead of buying, with very few exceptions, saving cash and maybe upgrade my pc, so in the end they will get my money anyway.

"All men are evil and will act upon their vicious nature, if given the chance."
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

icebreaker
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Joined: 04/08/2010
Posts: 14

I buy only the good games, and that are only a few. The rest i sometimes download or buy. So if you could only buy games in stores then only the really good games would be bought because you can only spend your money ones. If you are not familiar with a game you most of the time download it before you buy the game just to be sure it is not a crap game.