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Games as a Service: A Refutation

Once again, I am posting a blog examining video game piracy for a class I am taking at my University. This blog represents a much larger part of my overall project involving piracy and this is mostly what I consider the discovery stage. As always, if you want to read, awesome! If you don't, that's okay too. But if you have anything to say on the topic, leave a comment!

My issue is (still) piracy in the video game industry. To give myself a real challenge for this refutation assignment, I decided to find an article that would agree with my current perspective on the argument and force myself to refute it. I feel this could be a great exercise in perspective taking. For this post, I've found an article from the online site, Wired , to examine.

The argument made by Schreier in his Op-Ed is mainly this: If you want to stop piracy, stop thinking about stopping piracy and start thinking about making better games (2011). Schreier supports this claim by bringing in Gabe Newell of Valve Software(Who I have found to be a very common face in this debate) to talk about his experience with stopping piracy. Schreier outlines how Newell views gaming as a service rather than an end product. Newell goes on to say that most gamers pirate for convenience, not finance. It was no coincidence that Schreier chose to quote Gabe Newell for his article, as in the next paragraph Schreier praises Newell's digital distribution platform, Steam, as a great example of making gaming a service. I feel Schreier would agree with the idea that this essentially means that to slow piracy, you simply have to provide a good service or, at least, a better service than what piracy has to offer.

My counter-claim here is that a good service alone cannot and will not stop piracy. Sure, a better service can encourage paying customers, but it does not stop those who do simply pirate for finance. Those pirates who simply want to save money by not spending on their preferred hobby will still go out of their way to pirate games, even if the service provided by not pirating is excellent. I would also argue that the number of people who fit into the category of "pirating for finance" is not so inconsiderable that we should abandon all attempts at stopping them. For a bit of support to this claim, I look to the top pirated games on Bittorrent in 2011. The top game was Crysis 2 which racked up a total of 3,920,000 total estimated downloads on Bittorrent (Ernesto, 2011). That is a large number of pirates, but it could be said that maybe the developer behind Crysis 2 simply isn't providing a good enough service. How about we look at a game from a company that we know actively tries to provide the best experience possible. Valve, Gabe Newell's own company, released the video game Portal 2 in 2011. For estimated PC downloads Portal 2 ranked 5th with a total of 3,240,000 downloads. This leaves us with two options: Either we can say that Newell isn't providing a good enough service or providing a good service simply isn't enough to stop piracy. Considering Newell's digital distribution platform is commonly considered one of the better services gaming has to offer, and considering that Schreier himself championed Steam in his article, I'd say that Newell is doing a pretty good job of providing excellent service.

This would mean that the only conclusion left to consider is that good service alone is not enough to stop piracy. This means that things like Digital Rights Management software should not just stop existing and we shouldn't stop focusing on how to handle piracy. If we do, piracy will still be a major force and without any sort of methods of stopping it, piracy will likely grow.

To close, I will say that this refutation was difficult to write, as it feels like arguing with myself. I thought Piracy was an issue that could be managed simply by providing good service. However, I believe my analysis shows that I now have to change my perspective. Given the new evidence I've found, I have no choice but to acknowledge that I was wrong, we do have to continue efforts to curb piracy in other ways. Now I just have to examine what those other methods should be.

Schreier, J.(2011, October 25) Op-ed: If you want to fight piracy, make better games. Retrieved from:

Ernesto (2011, December 30) The most pirated games of 2011. Retrieved from:
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About jbokingone of us since 4:20 PM on 10.19.2009

I am a law student in my final year. I've spent my time studying Intellectual Property Law (Copyright, Trademark, etc.). I like writing on those subjects.

Note: I'm not your, nor anyone's lawyer. Don't take anything I write as the word of law.
PSN ID:jboking
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