Nocturnal

1 02 2012

Well, it’s gone 6am, so naturally, I’m wide awake, when I should be sleeping. :/ In these late hours of the night, I have been searching the internet for my usual gaming fix, naturally, I came across more articles about the recent piracy issues, however I came across two that sparked my intrigue more than usual (http://digitalbattle.com/2012/01/21/the-hypocrisy-of-pc-gamers/ and http://digitalbattle.com/2012/01/31/letter-from-an-indie-pc-developer-regarding-piracy/) and quite frankly, I am disgusted with what these articles are claiming.

Personally, I am against the whole SOPA and PIPA nonsense, however these kind of articles do make me think sometimes that we could very well do with an act like SOPA or PIPA, but just a toned down version, which wont shut down the internet as we know it. So with all that in mind, I have decided to write about what we could do to stop this stupidity.

How to save the modern world.

Firstly, I am going to level with you all, and tell you that I did at one point actually support piracy. This was several years ago, when I was young and never really thought of the consequences it actually has, to me, it was just free stuff. However, I now write to you as a much more mature man, with an (albeit slight) understanding of the workings of the world. I have gone from never buying a thing (that includes music, films, TV and games), to occasionally pirating difficult to acquire items, to being against piracy in full. Just as a side note, I am also, for the same reason against buying used, however, I consider this a necessary evil, as otherwise, trying to buy anything more than a couple of years old would become near impossible/insanely priced.

Now although I realise that all this piracy malarkey has an effect on many industries, I am, as usual, going to take this down the route of gaming, as this is what I know best, and what is most relevant to me. Originally, (as I’ve been planning to write on this for a while) this was going to be an article about how piracy should still be allowed, and that publishers and developers should be finding better ways of distributing and marketing their games, however, after reviewing many articles lately, my mind has become much more opposed to piracy than it used to be. However, that said, they could still try.

The future is steamy

Now really, this is what started my switch from pirate to …ninja? well, I’m not really sure what I am now, apart from not being a pirate. Steam is a superb way for us to buy games, and for developers to sell them. With cloud based saves, a profile linked to all our game purchases (so no hassles when changing to a new PC) and insanely good sales, it’s more than fair to say that Steam is a great example of how to distribute games.

The logo of the future

You may also want to read this http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/114391-Valves-Gabe-Newell-Says-Piracy-Is-a-Service-Problem. So, me saying that distribution is a way to solve the issue means nothing, but it certainly holds a bit more weight when we have massive gaming icons like Gabe telling us. Yes, I would be stupid to think that just putting every game ever on steam would solve piracy, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I mean, Steam is by no means perfect, but it is still a work in-progress and continues to receive constant updates from valve, keeping it the best way we have to get out games.

Whilst I do not believe that games should ever go fully digital, I do think that the next-gen of consoles could also do with taking a page out of valve’s book and greatly improve their digital distribution services. Whilst Xbox Live and PSN to an acceptable job at bringing us add-ons and ‘arcade’ games, there is a huge lack of retail games for sale on them, they continue to be overpriced, with very few sales. They are also very cumbersome, proving only useful at getting us to places we know we want to be, discovery clearly isn’t a word in their vocabulary. In short, they need to get more developers behind the services they are offering, so that we can get a much greater mix of indie and blockbuster games, at better prices, from the comfort of our couches. I’d love to see what the three next consoles have to offer us in the future, and it is clear they at least need to match up to steam’s mighty standards if they want to lay the foundation for the next 5-10 years worth of their online services.

Basically, my theory is that, if we get given the tools to easily find, buy and play our games, no matter the platform, for a good price, then there will be much less piracy in gaming. Sure, the developers will be getting less money per game, but some money is better than none, right? One big thing on my wish list would be a cross-platform service, where we could buy games for play across several consoles, like portal 2 (buying the ps3 version got you a steam key, and saves were shared across the cloud). However, this will likely never happen, as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will probably never reach a point in which they could work together to make this happen, as they all want their product to be better on an individual basis.

Show some respect

As a potential future games developer, it strikes fear into my heart that the PC has a 90% games piracy rate. I mean, it is difficult enough for a developer to make profit on their console games, let alone on a platform which shows a 9x higher piracy rate. Games will need to be selling millions more copies on PC for the studio to see a blockbuster worthy return on their games compared to console games, no wonder the developers more commonly choose consoles as their main platform.

What could have been 😥

Really, us gamers need to buckle up, we need to start showing some support for these guys, I mean, if we truly love their work, and want it to continue, we need to ensure they have a job. We can do this very easily, start buying our games (they also have to be new, not used). I mean, really, I can honestly say that I have paid more on going shopping for sweets than some of my games have cost me (especially when looking at my steam library). If we start being more open to spending a few more pounds here and there on games (and DLC etc.), then the industry will start looking much better for it. It might just mean fewer trips to the sweet shop for some of us. Of course, this is under the assumption that we get met half way, and getting access to these become easier, because most of the time, the reason I buy a game used is because I can’t find anywhere to buy it new (at an anywhere near reasonable price anyway). We scratch their backs, they scratch ours…simple

We don’t want a treasure hunt

Simply put, marketing needs to become bigger, better and smarter. I mean, I realise this doesn’t have too much to do with piracy, but it will help. In the past few years, countless people have lost their jobs due to games just not selling, and yes, although sometimes this is due to realising a poor product, but probably just as many times, it is just due to nobody knowing about the game. Many people claim that if a game is good enough, then it will sell no matter how bad the marketing is and whilst this can be true (look at minecraft for example, a game sold almost entirely from word of mouth), you also have to get lucky, there are clearly more games that this theory didn’t prove true with than those that did, making this tactic a little bit more than foolish to rely upon.

Yes, I appreciate that indie developers may not have the resources to pull out a call of duty style marketing campaign, but why not think outside the box, and design an innovative way to catch the interest of the gaming community. For example, Dead Rising 2 marketed itself with an odd cross-over between game and demo. Dead Rising 2: Case Zero provided a few short hours of Dead rising 2 gameplay, but with a unique prologue story, set in a location outside the main game. This was all offered a couple of weeks in advance to the full game, and for a fraction of the price, meaning any gamers wanting to get their hands on the game, and anybody unsure about whether to purchase the full game or not, could pick up this and get their hands dirty. This went down great with the community, and quickly became one of the fastest selling arcade games on Xbox Live, and (probably) boosted the awareness, and therefore sales, of the final product.

Admit it, you loved the dress.

Whilst this is only one example, it is probably one of the best, with the developers giving us a much better idea of how the game plays than our typical, stupidly short demos, and gaining some money for their efforts in the process, everybody won. Other, smaller ideas are things like a new promotion for Soul Calibur V (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_TLUJlhxrs) in which they painted a promotion for their new game right across a London wall. Whilst it is not quite as big a step as with DR2, it still raises awareness of the title, in a way that isn’t just a banner lurking in the corner of our monitor screens, it still does more than nothing though, and (at the time of writing) over 30,000 people have watched it on youtube, which is still a possible 30,000 extra customers for the game, every little helps, right?  

Shut down the pirates

Yes, I said it, we need to sink all those pirate ships before all this stops. Whilst the developers and publishers need to improve, I would have to think that, for us gamers to really show a big improvement, we need to stop the pirates. Sure, we can tempt them away with sales and easy access, but many people will still always go for the free option, so long as it is still an option. Whilst I still clearly disagree with the acts of SOPA and PIPA, it is not the fact they are killing piracy for me, more the fact that they would destroy the internet entirely, shutting down anything they want, whilst backhandedly claiming some sort of stupid (and possibly made up) breach of copyright, and we would be able to do nothing about it.

The good type of piracy.

So, we need to find a way to shut down the pirate sites, or at very least, all of the big ones, as searching the entire internet for every pirate copy would become a bit more difficult. If we make it almost impossible for people to pirate, they will have no other option but to start playing the honest game. Sure, many people will just not play the games, but I know that I’d much rather have a game with 2 million players, that all bought the game honestly, than a game with 4 million players, but only 20% actually buying the game. Makes pretty simple sense doesn’t it? 😛

Rounding it up

I believe that to solve this crisis, and ‘save the modern world’ we will need an effort from all parties. I think publishers and developers should make an effort to find a simpler and cheaper way of getting the games to us gamers, as well as stretching their imaginations as far as the marketing process. At the same time I expect the option of piracy to be shut down, or at least reduced to a point of becoming obsolete. Finally, us gamers need to step up and take responsibility, buying our games (new), and embracing the digital services and what they offer us.