Copy protection follow-up

Sales, copy protection, and commentary

By on March 13, 2006 10:21:32 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums External Link

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
+1120

The auto-track back system our IT guys developed certainly got a work out over the weekend with the copy protection news item. 

We received email from StarForce today apologizing for the incident. We appreciated them taking down the link.  It also gave us the opportunity to request the various meta-torrent sites to remove links to illegal torrents.

In every case, the torrent list site in question responded quickly to our request.  One might make the argument that a simple polite email to a meta-torrent search site is as effective as copy protection.

There is probably some irony that this whole thing occurred just before last week's EBGames.com top selling games list got posted on their site. They list Galactic Civilizations II as the top telling PC title and the #2 overall (all platforms).  And that was before this incident.

I don't want us to come out like we're on some sort of anti-copy protection crusade. We just don't think CD copy protection is an effective means to increase sales.

Here's the basic question that every publisher/gamer/developer could ask:  By requiring the CD to be in the drive to play a game, even assuming that protection unbreakable, do you increase your sales?

I ask that because many gamers who are on the fence on a given title won't purchase a game if it requires them to treat their CD like a dongle key. Why? Because let's face it, we lose our CDs eventually. Or we damage them. And so what happens is that people who are on the fence on a given title simply choose not to buy the game.

By not having any CD copy protection, people who are on the fence about our game can see that it's only $40 and once it's installed on their machines (plural) they don't have to fuss with the CD anymore. And we do have a type of copy protection -- free updates for customers. Tomorrow we'll be posting the v1.1 feature list based on your suggestions.

So which method gains the most sales? There's no definitive answer for that.  I think a given game's demographics have a lot to do with piracy rates in the first place. 

Meanwhile, Gamespot followed-up the issue. I spoke to them briefly today on the issue. You can see that in the link below.

I think the most effective way of increasing sales is probably to make games people want to buy. But I'm an engineer, not a marketer so what do I know?

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March 13, 2006 10:32:12 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Intel in the last few years is a great example of what happens when marketing, rather than engineering, decides a company's direction. They're finally switching back to engineering-based policy, after missing their forecasts by billions of dollars. You're on the right track.
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March 13, 2006 10:35:03 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Well, I think we all gave Stardock ample enough pats on the pack about how they rock and stuff

Don't get me wrong, I love hearing about the development of this little indie publisher's story (I update the main page every 30 minutes when I'm on a computer - which is pretty much all day - just to see if there's something new )

I guess, Frogboy, stardock, that what I mean is: keep on truckin'!
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March 13, 2006 10:50:16 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
The International Fair Use Day team applauds your position on this issue. Your position on DRM supports the publics fair use rights in a big way, Thanks!

Feel free to celebrate Fair Use Day with us at www.fairuseday.com

Jay
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March 13, 2006 10:52:14 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I'll admit, I bought this game just to pass time until another game that I really wanted was released. Never heard of the company or the GC franchise. But damn if you got me hooked on a space sim. Between trying out the metaverse, the great customer support, and trying to improve my craptastic strategy skills, I've forgotten which other game I was waiting on. Congrats on all the success!
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March 13, 2006 10:57:32 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Hmmm... Actually I bought GalCiv2 because it seemed like a really good game. I was really anxious to play it so much that I kept on reading all the articles and gameplay examples. I like the sense of community that this game has, I love the developer interaction with that community and I believe that the succes of GC2 is a combination of great game, great community, superb developer interactivity, and non-intrusive anti-piracy policies (instead making it rewarding for the customer to purchase the game by giving more content and listening to the feedback).

I think that money spent in implementing / subscribing / supporting any anti-piracy software could be better used in making the content better, more money for future updates and better support for actual bug/content fixes.

Great game, great developer, Kudos to you all @ StarDock cant wait for the next iteration of GC!!!
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March 13, 2006 11:33:58 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Thanks.  But hey, we get to make computer games for a living! I mean, we're the luckiest guys out there!

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March 13, 2006 11:38:24 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I ask that because many gamers who are on the fence on a given title won't purchase a game if it requires them to treat their CD like a dongle key. Why? Because let's face it, we lose our CDs eventually. Or we damage them. And so what happens is that people who are on the fence on a given title simply choose not to buy the game.


I wouldn't have agreed with that comment until the other day. When I lent my father my (legitimate!) copy of Rome Total War the other day he asked if it required the cd in the drive to play because he didn't want to have to travel with the play disk in his laptop.

Personally I think the question has to become, what is more cost-effective for the developer and distributor?

Is having no copy protection on the original game, and fiercely guarding your updates (i.e. requiring online authentication as the update is installed or downloaded etc) more effective than media based protection schemes?

I suggest that piracy occurs for one of several reasons:
1) People who want to play the game but don't want to pay for it (i.e. thieves).
2) People who can't afford the game and can't pay for it (i.e. thieves).
3) People who want to try the game (fence sitters) but because there is no demo decide to download the full game to give it a try.
4) People who can't wait for the game to be released and want to play it right now (because it hasn't been released in their home territory).
5) People who need to pirate the game they've legitimately bought in order to get around copy protection, or to give themselves the conveniance of not needing the CD in the drive when they play.

In group 1 or 2, you would never have gotten a sale because they never would have bought the game. You can kill off most piracy anyway by going to the torrent sites and asking them to have the torrents removed - this is because bittorrent technology was never about piracy, it was about digital distribution!

The only group you want to cater to is group 3, 4 and 5 in my opinion.

For group 3 you could alleviate the issue by releasing a demo on release day. For group 4, online distribution and ensuring the boxed copies are in every possible market on day 1 is critical.

For group 5, you haven't actually lost a sale at all, so there really is no issue. If you have used CD-Keys and online or phone registration then requiring the CD in the drive is really overkill anyway.

I think Stardock haven't catered for group 3 all that well (although it is understandable given the small team) because there is no demo, for group 4 very well (only problem no Australian boxed release for those who don't like online distribution! :hint :hint). For group 5 there is no issue at all!

IBM have an interesting article on the future of copy protection here. Link

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March 13, 2006 11:39:09 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I love the developer interaction with that community...


That, more than anything else, motivated this "fence-sitter" to buy the game.

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March 13, 2006 11:42:58 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
another quick thing to note is that by not catering to groups 3 and 4 you could actually lose sales because people may not bother to buy the game after all when they otherwise would!
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March 13, 2006 11:45:04 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I couldn't agree more. It doesn't take a Superman of computers to figure out how to use utilities like DaemonTools to bypass the CDs. I think the lack of true copy protection on GalCiv2 is making an impact but most importantly the game itself is exceptional, thanks.
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March 14, 2006 1:16:05 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Brad, I was wondering if you guys could come up with some kind of automated system to report torrent files of galciv2. I love you guys enough that i'd be willing to check the torrent sites every week or so.
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March 14, 2006 1:31:24 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
We'll see how time plays out, for now It may get noticed but other companies do nothing and continue on their merry way, but eventually they are going to key in that more sales = more $$$ for them, and CD protection didn't deter possibly help create some would be pirates.

There's also this concept of "Life of a Game". How fun is it ? Replayability ? How immersive ? Can you mod it to add stuff you want to see in the game ? Customer Service ? GC2 has all those plus the galaxy's best customer service. It's loads of fun. It's replayable and game options are many to choose from size maps, who your empire is, who and how many enemies, scenarios, difficulty settings, etc.. Plus the Metaverse! It's very immersive, you can really get into the game. Mods, well I know guide is coming (can't wait ) Already have added some images/logos myself Customer Service, like Stardock itself, I can never say enough good things. There's also these "updates" whoa now ! That's really above and beyond what you get with any other game. Then there's expansions..

GC2 has a huge life of a game. It appeals to gamers and looks like the sales # are good.
Now if Stardock can influence flip some other companies and convert them ...
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March 14, 2006 2:07:25 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Personaly, I feel no discomfort for the types (me included) who want to play the game without the CD in the drive, but can't because the game won't run. Now, I'm against strict measures that cause the computer user significant problems in addition to having to play with the CD in the drive. The problems with StarForce aren't that it's difficult to circumvent (or, at least, my problems with StarForce); the problems are that in order for them to make it so, they had to install drivers into your system that can cause problems.

Look at it this way. I'm a console gamer at heart. Sure, I'll play the occasional PC game, but that's only to get my fix of genres unavailable on consoles (if GC2 were a console game, I'd never touch it on PC). So I don't really have a problem with getting up and switching discs when the need arises to play games.

Is it such an onerous task to get up, go to your computer and swap out a disc? I mean really, we're not talking about running a marathon here. And if you can't find the disc... what do you do when you can't find that steak knife? Or some other physical object you lost.

I have no problem with the concept of DRM like this for games. It's when the DRM can actually break your machine, or cause your machine to not play the game you legitimately bought that it is going too far.

If someone could promise me that their disc DRM was utterly infalible, worked on all computers everywhere, and didn't inhibit what software you could install on the system (some DRMs check for Daemon disc-mounting tools), I would have no moral problems with developers using it. Just like I have no moral problems with Steam-style DRM.
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March 14, 2006 3:04:01 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Thank you for not having the CD in the drive. I never liked it that much and to be able to just start up the game is fantastic.

Of course not having a publisher come a long and say "you must put this copy projection on the disK" or even worse having them put it in behind your back is a definite plus! Having been in the game industry (a long time ago) I can say that you don't often have that choice.

Plus you got Dugg twice! That alone is worth a tone of sales. Now if you can just get Slashdotted then you have all your bases covered. Any press is good press.
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March 14, 2006 3:29:35 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
"Because let's face it, we lose our CDs eventually. Or we damage them."

Well, to be fair, there's no guarantee that we'll be able to download patches from Stardock forever either. And then we'll be stuck with a game that's got a fair amount of bugs (including some quite severe crash bugs).

I see some games that simply use a serial code and that's it. War World and Loco Mania (www.lighthouse-interactive.com) have no other means of copy protection than the serial code. War World is a very good game too, well worth buying. As a consumer, I'm much more happy with their method than I am with either Starforce's method or Stardock's method, though to be fair it's probably easier to pirate their games.

Anyway, I don't share the hatred of Starforce that most people here seems to have, and I think it's good that you cleared the matter up in the gamespot-interview.
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March 14, 2006 3:34:57 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
While I'm not a marketer, I did have to take a marketing paper as part of my bachelors degree, and the funny thing is that they empasised that the marketer's job was to work out what people wanted and then convince them that the product was in fact what they wanted.

Of course, its just easier to give people what they've always been given. Check out movie sales over the past few years to see how well that works in practice.
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March 14, 2006 3:57:32 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I just wanted to let you know I had been debating whether to buy this game or not until I heard the game had no copy protection and what StarForce did in the news. This caused me to decide I must financially support a developer who puts creativity and customer satisfaction ahead of greed and fear. I even bought it direct to ensure you guys get the maximum benefit (even though EB is cheaper).

Additionally, after researching StarForce I will no longer buy any game with StarForce. This is especially painful since I was definitely looking forward to HoMM5 and heard it's got StarForce. Hopefully StarForce doesn't make the cut.

I hope you start an industry shift in the way video games are developed and marketed.
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March 14, 2006 4:15:41 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Hehe, you guys in STARDOCK are smart. You have just created so much GOODWILL by your politics.

Oh yes, GREAT game too.
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March 14, 2006 4:22:28 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I think you guys are being held up as an example right now, due to a undercurrent of angry backlach against copy protection in general- that is a combination of legitimate users and thieves (though the thieves know how to get around the protection- and strat gamers rarely pirate, as compared to other genres) .

I think you guys are basically being swept up in a crusade right now, which is helping your sales a bit. May as well ride it out.
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March 14, 2006 4:42:47 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Remember the teacher in Invader Zim who kept saying "Planet earth is Dooomed! Doomed! Dooomed, dooomed... doomed *twitch* doomed dooomed dooomed..."
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March 14, 2006 5:27:22 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Lol...invader Zim...funniest thing I've seen in a long time.

Hey while we are all on the Destroy StarForce bandwagon, lets not forget about Sony's wicked little Drm known as SecuROM 7. It's just as bad or Worse than StarForce (well starforce intergrates into your drivers and system a bit more). That buggy mess seems to do an awsome job of simply keeping legit users from authenticating their discs or simply hardlock an XP system when trying to read a disc. The only fix is either a crack or buying a select number of compatible optical drives...what a joke.
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March 14, 2006 6:14:33 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I bought GalCiv1 and the TotalGaming.net package because I supported your stance on "no cd in drive to play" and no DRM lockdown. The fact that I also got GalCiv2 and every game I've gotten through TotalGaming have been great is a huge bonus.

Regarding the CD-IN-DRIVE as Dongle issue: I decided back in 2004 that I would never again buy a game that required cd-in-drive or had a DRM lockdown (e.g. Steam) and I'm sticking to that. Luckily there are still developers out there that respect their customers enough to not treat them like would be criminals (Stardock.. I dont know of any else unfortunately.. ) so I dont have to ONLY read books (and play WOW).

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March 14, 2006 6:18:47 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Is it such an onerous task to get up, go to your computer and swap out a disc? I mean really, we're not talking about running a marathon here. And if you can't find the disc... what do you do when you can't find that steak knife? Or some other physical object you lost.


Well, the problem I have with CD check in general is:
The game installs fully on my HDD, yet I need the cd in the drive for protection check, this
a) downgrades performance of the game (stutter problems in video etc.)
as the DVD drive is the noisiest part in my silent PC it's pretty damn annoying

I hunt for NO-CD fixes for all the games I buy, as I just want to power up my gaming rig and get into the game without anymore hassle. Box, Manual and CD stay in the shelf.

It's just more convenient for me and it increases overall performance of the game.


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March 14, 2006 6:35:26 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Sales comparisons are always a bit apples to oranges I think. A good game is a good game.
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March 14, 2006 7:08:42 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
a simple polite email to a meta-torrent search site is as effective as copy protection.


unless the torrent site and ownership is shacked up in... say... Sweden, hmph. Different culture, different views I guess. (I'm deliberately sitting the fence out on this particular controversial, heavily politicized issue.)

But hey, we get to make computer games for a living! I mean, we're the luckiest guys out there!


But hey, you never worked for Acclaim, 3DO, Rare before it got bought M$ games, Midway, John Romero, developer hell portals et al., obviously. I think it has more to do with Stardock being a closely knit, intradependent unit than the fact it produces games. That's just looking from the outside, though.

Well making games just isn't honey and roses from what i've heard.

You have just created so much GOODWILL by your politics.


Stardock is wonderful because it is everything that Electronic Arts is not. Primarily, they make the actual effort to /compete/. (Madden 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.... yimmmph... getting sleepy)

And competition is always a good thing.


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