I recently sent this letter to everyone I know that is a gamer. I told the story to a bunch of coworkers and they all asked me to send them the letter too. I just bought the game tonight and I love the insert about hassel-free software. Great Job! By the way, I have people buying your software that don't even play your games. Anyway, here is the letter I sent:
There are a number of very important issues that face the PC game industry today. The most pressing is lagging sales. The PC games that you and I all love are going the way of the "Dodo bird". This is evident with the policies of such companies like EB Games and Gamestop. They have been scaling back their PC game stock for years. Gamestop doesn't carry PC Games and recently, EB Games is has taken this policy as well. When you ask they say that PC game sales are WAY behind console sales. I hardly blame them.
The industry will blame piracy as the reason sales are so flat. I don't buy those statistics. The research that I have done and the things I have seen leads me to believe that it has less to do with piracy and more to do with the increasing difficulty we are facing with the copy protection systems on PC games. It is becoming harder and harder to use a legitimate purchased copy of a game. How many of you have run into errors during an install only later to find out it was because of a compatibility issue with SecureRom? How many of you have lost a CD key and cannot play your game now? How many of you have to actually insert the physical media to play your game? All of these are fairly benign copy protection schemes but that is changing. Publishers are starting to use more and more invasive copy protection that, at best makes your system unstable and at worst can actually do physical damage to your hardware (www.glop.org/starforce).
Don't believe me? Right click on "My Computer". Select "Manage". Right click on "Device Manager" and select "View -> Show Hidden Devices". On the right hand side, expand the "Non-plug and play drivers" and look for something called "Starforce" or "Starforce Protection". There are a few publishers that live and die by this software, UBISoft being one of them. You can check for the games in the link above. If you have ever installed one of these games in the list, you will have the Starforce drivers installed. They sit between your OS and your CD/DVD Rom drivers and intercept all messages sent back and forth. Pretty nasty stuff to have on your system to JUST play a game.
Why is any of this important? Well, it may or may not be to you. For me, I LOVE PC games. Always have and always will...as long as there are PC games. With data that suggests the console market is far more profitable and the normal distribution methods closing to PC game developers and publishers, they are going to be forced out of the market and into the console market. Either that or we are going to have little dev houses create mediocre software. Gone will be the days of the Quake, Unreal, Half Life, Warcraft, etc. Basically all bigger budget single player or online PC games will be gone (not talking about the online MMOs. They will exist for a long time to come).
So what is my point? In these days where everyone is terrified of one another and software companies not being able to make a cent because of piracy, why is a small company like Stardock (www.stardock.com) releasing a game that has no DRM? No copy protection at all? How can this be with piracy costing the industry 100 TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR!!!! Oh my! Well, they are directly challenging the notion that piracy is the cause of lost sales. Quite the contrary. They are saying that not only is that NOT true but they suggest that copy protection only makes it harder for the paying customers to use their legally purchased software. On top of that, their philosophy is if you give people a good product that is easy to use, give them compelling reasons to legally purchase the software, they actually will. They are single-handedly challenging the "piracy is out of control" mentality. As it turns out, GalCiv II is doing very well even though a download is available on torrent already.
You’re saying to yourself "Yeah...so?" The people who have bought the game love it. It is in line with games like Masters of Orion. Birth of a Federation. Civilization (on a galactic level), etc. Well, I am planning on purchasing the game from Best Buy tonight. First and foremost, I'm doing this to support this company. I whole-heartedly support their ideas on the subject and I am going to buy the game on that fact alone. I'm sure I'll like the game but for me it is irrelevant. This is the first time a software company in an industry that is "plagued" with piracy is calling into question the status quo. I believe our digital future is in danger. If you enjoy the freedom of being able to use software when, how, and where you like, support this company.