Piracy: The Perfect Patsy

Bloody pirates, always stealing the latest version of Photoshop!

No doubt by now you’ve heard about Crysis 2 being leaked recently. The sequel to the popular series by Crytek, Crysis 2 is slated to release on March 22 for North American audiences. A full working copy was out on February 11 on torrent sites, however, a full 39 days before its actual release. This was amidst Crytek’s recent announcement that they were canning early beta releases to GameStop employees on suspicion of piracy becoming a culprit for the PC version of the game and wanting all gamers to have a “fair shot” to play the game at the same time.

Crytek hasn’t held back on the development, going full-retard, releasing the following statement to Kotaku:

“Crytek has been alerted that an early incomplete, unfinished build of Crysis 2 has appeared on Torrent sites…Crytek and EA are deeply disappointed by the news. We encourage fans to support the game and the development team by waiting and purchasing the final, polished game on March 22.”

Crysis 2 is still in development and promises to be the ultimate action blockbuster as the series’ signature Nanosuit lets you be the weapon as you defend NYC from an alien invasion. Piracy continues to damage the PC packaged goods market and the PC development community.” [Link]

This is also amidst Crytek’s previous claims that the reason the Crysis series was no longer a PC exclusive was also because of piracy. In fact, to display their new-found behavior to alienate customers that payed for their bills to survive early on in their first development cycle, Crytek went ahead and made the online beta to Crysis 2 exclusive to the Xbox 360. They’re apparently flabbergasted that PC gamers have been less than pleased with their decisions. Gee, I wonder why.

Fig. 1A: Piracy for Dummies

If you know anything about me, you’ll know my general stance on piracy. I suppose I should also clarify that despite my numerous arguments against the lack of demos and return policies PC games have, I do agree and accept that piracy is illegal. Make no mistake about that. Also, I should also clarify that I’d like to deck every person that calls piracy theft, however. Theft is a removal of goods and a loss of production costs. Piracy is a copy transfer of data; nothing is lost (except a mandatory sale). If that’s still too complex to understand, see Fig. 1A.

With that in mind, I bring attention, once more, to the numerous people that have been bemoaning at this event unfolding, proclaiming that “piracy is a problem” or “this is why developers don’t make PC games any more.” Crytek is even heading off this witch hunt and I doubt it won’t be long before their higher-ups decide that Crysis 3 should be a console-exclusive title “because of piracy.”

I’m sorry folks, but this is a load of crock. Piracy is a scapegoat and anyone with an IQ score over 80 knows it. Time and time again it is proved since the beginning of the “Piracy War” that piracy is not negating PC sales, nor is it “causing trouble” for developers as well. Spore and The Sims are perfect examples of this. Both series are the biggest torrented games around, and yet both games are also the best-selling PC games, topping the charts for months at a time. EA eventually even agreed that a pirated copy does not equal a lost sale and went on with forward thinking by proclaiming that piracy may even extend the exposure of a game to boost sales in the long run.

In fact the concept of early exposure and hype is not new to the entertainment industry. There have been documented events of company-constructed leaks in TV show pilots and new season episodes to create a buzz. The same has also been replicated for DVD releases of movies. Media sales continue to rise as years go by and this certainly rings true for the PC gaming market. So even with confirmed large numbers of pirated copies of media, the market is still managing to make buku money as usual.

The real point here, however, is that when something doesn’t make a great profit return then there is always a fall guy that developers can fall back to (pun so intended). If a game doesn’t sell particularly well (specifically a PC game) developers are prone to say, “Well, that figures. We blame piracy, of course.” It’s just one other way for someone to shift the blame on their shortcomings and mistakes on potential customers. Because, as we all know, alienating potential customers is always a bright idea. Business 101 even!

Piracy even becomes a great excuse for developers to insist ceasing development for ports to the PC, again citing that they don’t want to “take the risk” of not seeing a great profit return if piracy is just going to muck up the possibility of potential sales. Ubisoft was notorious for this notion regarding Prince of Persia DLC. To save face, however, they simply called it a “business reason” for their ultimate decision.

I often wonder, however, if I have to make the repeated points that a pirated copy of a game does not always equal a successful free playthrough, nor does it also mean that a sale is lost forever. In fact popular crackers to games encourage gamers to purchase a copy of the game if they enjoyed it well enough. This logic, however, is enough for developers to shake their heads at. There’s a giant market for renting console games, but a translatable success for PC gaming is nonexistent. This rings true with PC gaming return policies. With the numerous complications of PC gaming, even if you buy a PC game it’s not a guarantee that that person will actually be able to play that game. The guarantee will remain in the sale, however, and that’s all developers actually care about. That’s why customer support for PC gaming usually entails two canned responses: “It’s your fault, reinstall your game,” or, “It’s your fault, reinstall your operating system.”

Again, I make no excuse to the illegality of piracy, but people really need to get off their high horse on this. It is not a clear black-and-white issue. There are numerous factors to piracy. Even when

This is what most Internet pirates look like. I know because I've seen a few in my day.

choosing a loyal path PC gamers are often forsaken for it and are even eventually abandoned. Take, for instance, numerous developers who started off in PC gaming. Companies like Bungie, Bethesda, Rockstar, and even Lionhead Studios survived only because of PC gamers. These titans of industry owe their very first paychecks to the people whose faces they now spit in with console-exclusive titles. PC gamers have only earned spite for their loyalty and folks wonder why we’re unruly? Even Crytek is close to singing the same tune as the previously mentioned and all they can do is wag their fingers at the people who kept their company alive in the first place.

I’m sick and tired of getting blamed for developer mistakes. It’s not my fault you suck at producing a game of quality that would sell well regardless of the myth of piracy. It’s not my fault that you suck at in-house security. It’s not my fault that some people embrace piracy with the full intention of never paying for what they’ve taken. I’d really appreciate it if you would stop blaming me and other PC gamers for your obvious faults. You fucked up, not us. Perhaps the instrumentation of my point is blunt, but it would seem that bluntness is the only thing developers can understand if they are making wildly inaccurate accusations.

You know what console exclusivity does for me? No, it doesn’t make me want to pirate games. Instead it just confides in my decision to never purchase a console. Why should I reward your bad behavior when I’ve been nothing but loyal? Why should I buy into your sham when I’ve only been rewarded with punishment for remaining true? Just be honest with everyone. When you don’t create a PC port, it’s not because of piracy; instead it is because you would rather just spend less effort and time to produce for a market that is easier to appease and has a greater profit return. Some day, however, someone will have to explain why an expanding $11 billion dollar market is not worth a developer’s time though. And when that day arrives and PC gaming is on the rise once more, I will remember those that remained loyal to their fans and those that pointed the blame at their customers.

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About Agamemnon
Started blogging back in 2007 amidst that whole Hellgate: London fiasco on a blog known as flagshipped.com. Eventually moved on to do my own thing in December 2008 at gameriot.com and started Caveat Emptor there. Wrote there for six months, gained some notoriety, and then left. Now I'm back.

2 Responses to Piracy: The Perfect Patsy

  1. Fares Sukkar says:

    Hey man, great notes. Your mass effect decision page is really interesting. The options you chose, to me, seem really spot on and how they will affect the gameplay. Keep up the Good Work!!

  2. Pingback: Apparently one title wasn’t bad enough: Crytek to pick up Homefront sequel « Agamemnon's Domain

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