It's become increasingly hard to sit back and say that videogame piracy isn't as bad as people say when stuff like this happens. This past week, I suggested that software pirates are fine so long as they admit they're thieves and recognize the potential harm they're doing to the industry. The pirates in question got utterly offended, acting more outrageous than an innocent man would do if accused of a crime he didn't commit. Apparently, guilt makes you more indignant than innocence.
All I can think in response to that is ... how dare you act offended when you do stuff like this?
Anybody who says they've not downloaded something illegally is usually a liar. Most of you reading this have downloaded some songs, or a movie, before. Personally, I legally purchase Blu-rays in store and music via iTunes, but I cannot honestly say I have always done this. We've all helped ourselves to things we shouldn't, and we should have the integrity to admit it.
There is, however, one major difference between movies/music, and videogames. In the case of movies, most of a film's success rides on its box office performance. That's where you initially make your profit. In the case of music, the artists obtain very little money off their officially released tracks, instead making it back with live performances. In the case of videogames, their only source of monetary recuperation is that initial sale. Unlike movies and music, which have multiple avenues for profit, there is only one option for the game industry.
This is not to make the ripping off of movies and music morally superior. I'm not talking about the morality here. I'm talking about damage. Videogame piracy is potentially far more damaging than movie or music piracy, because it cuts into the only vein through which a game's cash flows. There are no concerts or theatrical releases for Crysis 2. Any potential merchandise has a niche audience at best, and most of that cash will go to the manufacturer.
The game industry is also a cutthroat, harsh business. If a game doesn't sell, it won't get a sequel, and the studio itself might be torn apart. Just looking at EA, we all saw what happened to Pandemic. They didn't perform in the sales department and were wiped out without question.
Your noble justifications are not fucking cutting it anymore. In my last rant about piracy, one person said they pirated "out of necessity" and seemed to get some people agreeing with him. Really? Necessity? It is necessary that you play a videogame? Since when was a luxury item like a videogame a necessity, to the point where you get to steal it? A fucking bit of bread for a dirt-poor family is a necessity, son. Not your stupid videogame.
It is not necessary. It is not noble, either. You're not fighting the good fight against DRM, because games will get ripped off regardless of the DRM put in. I hardly blame EA for its reliance on SecuROM in the past. I used to think very ill of EA for doing it, but how can I now? You people will clamor and claw at an early developer build of Crysis 2, just to get out of paying for it. I barely blame publishers using any kind of "Draconian" DRM they want anymore. The only thing pirates do is justify it.
2D Boy's World of Goo was released without DRM, and the creators said they trusted their audience. One of the two-man development team, Ron Carmel, noted afterwards that he was seeing multiple torrents with 500 seeders and 300 leechers, and added that the piracy rate was at about 90%. This was 2D Boy's reward for trusting gamers. This is what they got for making a game easy to obtain, but easy to steal. Really guys, fuck you for that.
Some believe they win the argument by changing the terminology. It's not theft, they'll argue, but copyright infringement. So? That's not better. Some countries consider it worse. The legal terminology for piracy differs from country to country anyway, and simply calling theft by another name doesn't stop it from being a shitty thing to do. Some believe that it's only stealing -- therefore only wrong -- if what has been stolen ceases to be used by the owner. Pirated games are copies and the owners still have the original, therefore it's not theft.
Bullshit. You can steal a person's ideas, you can plagiarize their writing or music. The originator still has access to the idea, but you still stole it.
I've seen some pirates attempt to justify their bullshit by likening it to the used game market. I'm a very vocal supporter of that market, and I find this retort so stupid that it barely warrants a response. However, since it invariably comes up, I'll explain that used games have already been sold, so the money has been made on the product. That's an early, major difference to piracy, which has no initial sale. Furthermore, GameStop notes that the trade-in credit of used games often goes directly back to the industry, as people trade old games in for brand new ones. I have done that for years, so really, used game trading is a recycling process. Piracy, obviously, is not.
Another popular response is, "I wasn't going to buy it anyway." Amazing, and a lie. If you weren't going to buy it, why the fuck are you playing it? If there was no illegal way to get it, and you wanted it bad enough, you'd have paid. You're just being a cheap bastard, and you're too spineless to admit it.
I know people who pirate the occasional game, as I'm sure most of us do. They're not inherently bad people. They're not evil master criminals. They are, however, the reason why the PC market is so easily disregarded by the majority of publishers. PC gamers sit back and complain about how Bulletstorm is only getting a console demo, or how a roleplaying game has been "dumbed down" to make it simple enough for a controller. Who can honestly blame the publisher, though? If I were EA, I would actually pull the PC version of Crysis 2 right now.
There's that old story about three people on a camping trip. They get lost, their food supply is dwindling. One camper decided it'll hurt nobody if he helps himself to a little extra. The second camper thinks the same. Likewise for the third. They end up with no food left because their individual acts of petty theft combined to create one large dent in the supply. The story has many variations, but the message is the same, and it is the perfect way of describing piracy. An individual pirate is not a bad thing. In fact, some groups argue that a little piracy is helpful to the market, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations and simple free advertising. However, when those little grasping hands combine to form great big talons that are ripping huge chunks out of a videogame's potential for success, we have a problem.
I don't want to act morally superior to videogame pirates because I am not morally superior to them. However, they have nobody to blame but themselves for developers favoring consoles over PC. It's become increasingly hard for me to rail against DRM or even Sony's stupid Firmware updates, because shit like this keeps happening. Not only are pirates thieving games, they're helping themselves to leaked, incomplete builds that might not reflect the finished product, and thus they're distributing something that might make the game look worse than it is.
Sorry, but that's kind of pathetic. Sure, it's easy for a developer to blame piracy for poor sales, but do you know who made that an easy thing to do? The people who are out there pirating the games in the first place.
You might think that what you're doing is harmless. On an individual level, it is. But it's not just you doing it. There are heaps of you. You're doing harm to an industry you should be supporting if you want more good games, and there is literally no excuse for you. If you can't afford it, suck it up. There are lots of things most of us can't afford, and we don't go out stealing them. If you think DRM is bad, don't buy the game. Don't just fucking help yourself to it illegally, because all that does is qualify the DRM in the first place. Anything you can use to justify piracy is easily refuted because, guess what, piracy ain't bloody justifiable.
I've tried to argue in the corner of pirates before, but screw it. It's not a corner that deserves to be fought in. I would, in fact, encourage developers to ignore the PC market altogether now. Sorry, but why should anybody support the platform? Sure, there are paying customers, and it would suck for them, but what kind of businessman would open a store in a city where stores are robbed multiple times a day? An idiotic businessman.
Just have some Goddamn foresight for once. Look at what state the PC market is in, and look at where it could go, and recognize your part in it. The fact that some of you want this to happen to consoles as well is simply unbelievable. The PS3 now looks like it'll be going in the same direction as the PC, and it's somewhat disgusting.
Grow up and recognize what you're doing. If you're not going to stop, at least have the balls to admit that you're helping to make the games industry a shittier place.
[Addendum: Some people are attempting to justify PC piracy by saying it happens on consoles too. Yes, of course it does. But "Look over here, they're doing it too" isn't a fucking justification. Besides which, the level of piracy on the PC is famously more prevalent than on consoles. Even on the Wii, it's not quite the same, as the Wii's primary demographic is different, and it's a demographic that doesn't pirate anywhere near as much. It still takes a lot more effort to fuck with a console to make it play pirated games. Going back to the World of Goo example, 2D Boy recuperated many of its losses thanks to the WiiWare version, which was obviously a lot harder to steal. PC piracy is easier than console piracy, hence it is more prevalent. Of course, you know that, and you're hoping we don't.
You could argue a case for the PSP and DS and I wouldn't disagree with you. I am not saying, however, that piracy doesn't happen everywhere. This was a PC issue, however, and so I focused on PC piracy. If you want, I can dedicate another article to the DS, but I've addressed that in the past and don't feel I need to do it again just to make PC pirates feel better about themselves.
Furthermore, the fact that the build may have been leaked by an employee at EA or Crytek has nothing to do with anything. Doesn't mean you have to download it. I'd also simply lump that employee in with the pirates. That's obviously where his or her loyalties lie, so they're not really different. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who leaked it -- asshats are still downloading it, and will continue to do so, no matter where the files come from. If there wasn't an audience for it, nobody would have taken the risk in leaking it.
The twists and turns pirates are making to get out of a very simple request -- accept a little bit of responsibility -- is truly awe-inspiring.]
[Second Addendum: I think I was perhaps a bit harsh toward the general PC gaming population when I talked about developers ignoring the PC market. That made it sound like I was tarring all PC gamers with the same brush. I am very much into PC gaming myself, and would obviously love to see more PC games. It's slowly become my choice for several shooters and roleplaying games over the past year and a half. What I failed to communicate was that by ignoring the PC market, developers could potentially shame pirates in a "spoiled it for the rest of us" way, but even so, it was likely an unfair suggestion.
I stick by everything else -- that the PC market has earned its stigma, that piracy is theft, and that pirates should admit what they are and think about the potential long-term damage that widespread theft could do. As far as supporting the PC market goes, I do hope that games remain profitable on computers. That is, after all, why I am so concerned about PC piracy.]
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