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Sony: Piracy Has Taken 'Big Chunk Of Game Sales' From PSP
Sony: Piracy Has Taken 'Big Chunk Of Game Sales' From PSP Exclusive
April 21, 2009 | By Staff

April 21, 2009 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

18 months ago, third-party PSP developers were "just about ready to jump off the cliff and pull support for the platform," says Sony's Peter Dille.

As part of an in-depth Gamasutra feature interview, Dille explained how the company's "evangelizing" since then to developers about going beyond the PlayStation 2 port to what kinds of games "make sense" on PSP has helped increase successful software on the platform.

The first fruits of these efforts are just beginning to hit the market in 2009, including Dissidia Final Fantasy, Assassin's Creed and Rock Band on PSP, and there are more to come, says Dille.

But as the PSP rebounds, piracy on the platform is still a major concern. "I'm convinced and we're convinced that piracy has taken out a big chunk of our software sales on PSP," Dille explains. "It's been a problem that the industry has to address together; it's one that I think the industry takes very seriously, but we need to do something to address this because it's criminal what's going on, quite frankly."

"It's not good for us, but it's not good for the development community. We can look at data from BitTorrent sites from the day Resistance: Retribution goes on sale and see how many copies are being downloaded illegally, and it's frankly sickening. We are spending a lot of time talking about how we can deal with that problem."

Hardware upgrades to the PSP have been speculated to be aimed in part at closing piracy 'loopholes,' although Sony has never disclosed the extent of the modifications. Even still, the fact that older versions of the hardware are fundamentally on the market complicates the situation -- even if there's a solution, there are 50 million potentially compromised units out there already.

"Those numbers are correct," says Dille. "There's a lot of hardware out there; toothpaste is out of the tube. We're not going to get that hardware back into the toothpaste container."

Dille says Sony's aiming for a "multi-pronged approach" factoring in both legal and education -- he believes that consumers could be convinced to pay for content "if they understood [that piracy] meant that a platform would go away."

"I'm not naive, but I do think that most people are inherently honest," he says. "We learned a lot from the music business, and it became so easy and so common to download illegal music -- everyone was doing it. It's almost like people lost sight with the fact that, well, "If everyone's doing it, then it can't be that bad."

"But, it actually is bad; it's bad for the platform. Again, I'm not saying that that's a magic wand; I think that we have to make sure from a technological perspective that it's not as easy as it is to do that."

The full interview with Dille on the state of Sony in 2009 is now available at Gamasutra (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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Victor Bunn
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Here's an idea Sony...forgive me in advance if this idea is totally illegal in itself but if I were a software or hardware developer, I'd totally do this if permitted...

put some kind of security/code into the game or handheld that can detect mods or illegal downloads. Once the handheld confirms the illegal wares or modifications, it not only corrupts the handheld effectively bricking it, it corrupts the memstick duo as well rendering that useless. If the PSP is opened without first performing a specified power down sequence first (that all Sony repair techs would know of course), once the PSP is put back together and powered up, it will immediately cease functioning.

I'm a designer and one thing that pisses me off to no end is the thought that some jerk off will make my work available for download on the web. If I owned my own company and it suffered because of piracy I'd be furious and want retribution. I'd rig my games to brick PCs or even hamstring entire networks that tried to pirate or host illegal copies of my software. I'd effectively put a virus in the software that would lie dormant and only activate if the software was illegally copied or downloaded.

It's a shame. I actually prefer the PSP to the DS (taking a break from Patapon while I type this) and it'd be shame to see such potential end prematurely because of rabid piracy.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Fábio Bernardon
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@Victor: sure they could do it. But do you really believe that the sequence code would not leak? Or worse, that some legal operation could possibly be wrongly detected as an illegal one and you brick the console of a legitimate user? They do not do it for a reason, and the reason is that if something like this happens to a legitimate costumer, you will surely loose him, and you will also damage the reputation of your company.

Not so radical methods of preventing piracy are in place, but they will be broken. That is how it has been done for several years - it has always been a matter of time to happen, and it does not take too long, unfortunately.

Allen Seitz
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Victor: what if your virus triggers by accident? You might brick an innocent customer's PSP. And after word gets out I'm sure the pirates will patch out the virus, then distribute the newly modified copy of your game.

I like the way a lot of SNES and NDS games creatively sabotage the game if it is pirated. Of course, the pirates just patch around those, too.

Allen Seitz
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beat me to it :)

M. Smith
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Sony needs to start addressing real issues, like their inability to price their products competitively or differentiate their products from other, better alternatives already available.

Piracy is a problem for everyone, but it isn't the reason Sony's game busy is looking meek these days.

Jon Boon
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I agree with Faceless on this one. Pricing is a big issue, and until the developers stop milking their consumers and those purchasers gain a bit of protection from flakey product, piracy will continue to be an issue.

The issue is not make products harder and harder to copy, to the detriment of those who do not pirate. The issue is too make you product actually appealing enough to warrant purchase instead.

Roberto Alfonso
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Geez, does your ID really reads "Faceless Clock"? ;-)

Victor, first of all, you cannot brick something on purpose if you detect illegal content. Have you ever seen a PC exploding because someone installed a pirated version of Windows, or a mobile phone bricking because someone sent you a MP3 file through bluetooth? It is not only illegal but it can land you a class action.

Piracy is already too easy, and cannot be solved. They launched Patapon for $20 and the game saw more downloads than sales. Price... I am not sure it is the real problem. Sure, it could cost $20 less, but that won't change the landscape. I think it has to do with the conception of the PSP. The Nintendo DS was thought to be a handheld first and foremost, and excelled at that. The PSP was thought to be a multimedia machine (music, video, web), a handheld, a PS3 controller, but is mediocre at most of that. And Sony didn't help, they first tried to sell UMD at the same price of DVDs, then focused on firmware updates to add more multimedia capabilities, then the piracy battle. But the games? Where are the main reason of the console?

Joshua McDonald
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"Pricing is a big issue, and until the developers stop milking their consumers and those purchasers gain a bit of protection from flakey product, piracy will continue to be an issue."

Are you implying that if Sony cuts their prices, the pirates will go away. Or if they improve their product, piracy will go away?

Here's a little secret. People pirate things because they WANT them. Improving your product certainly won't change that. Cutting your prices will cut piracy, but it's debatable and situational how it will affect your total profit.

Yes, there's a certain crowd with the messed up 'ethic' of "I deserve to have the game no matter what, and I'll pay if it's good," but even people with that belief often don't buy games that they would have bought if it was the only way to get them.

Adam Sims
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I'll have to agree with Faceless and Jon.

In my experience within the sales industry, the consumer will avoid purchasing a product or service if its percieved value is to low. Put simply, the industry has not addressed the issue of percieved value, and instead perfers to bludgeon their consumers with allegations of piracy and other wrong doing.

The industry, and those in the industry, percieve themselves as being the victum. This mentality must change if the people in this industry want to remain in business, and they must also address the issue of percieved value for their product.

Jon Boon
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If I get a crappy game, am I protected as the consumer, can I return it? I am warned upon purchasing a PC game that it is my fault if it doesn't work on my system and it is is that fair? If it is bug ridden, unplayable or just a downright terrible game, I, as the consumer, am screwed.

Pricing is a large issue however. If games were cheaper, people may feel less ripped off when they buy an otherwise terrible game, and won't immediately look for an alternative to purchasing another game. Or are you telling me that Stormrise is just as good as Fallout 3? Or that Big Rigs is a purchase I should be stuck with?

Here's a secret for you: People pirate things because they can. They don't necessarily want said product, and nor would they necessarily have purchased the product if there were no piracy option. In a way, piracy "protects" the consumer from a shitty game they would otherwise have purchased and would be stuck with. Developers in this case count on consumer ignorance and no return polocies in order to sell their Big Movie Game Number 3 (see Transformers for a recent example). If someone pirated that, they would know this and probably would not have purchased it. Sure the developer loses out on some money, but when they are stealing from the customer in the first place, is that really wrong?

M. Smith
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"Here's a little secret. People pirate things because they WANT them. Improving your product certainly won't change that. Cutting your prices will cut piracy, but it's debatable and situational how it will affect your total profit."

Actually, this is not true. A pirated copy of software is as near to a free lunch as anyone could possibly imagine. Not only does it cost nothing, but the opportunity cost is insanely low. Downloading a pirated copy of a game from The Pirate Bay takes all of a minute of attention.

The result of this low cost is that people will download things they have even the slightest interest in. It isn't just incorrect to assume that every pirated copy of a game is a lost sale. It is incorrect to assume that everyone who downloads a pirated copy of a game even installs and plays it.

Of course, part of what Sony is concerned about is probably "physical" black-market piracy, where people will set up shade shops full of pirate copies of software and sell the software for far less than the street price. This is obviously an area where Sony could compete on price, but it probably does not want to, and I don't blame them. That said, the fact that such a market exist still provides little evidence that Sony would be losing sales. People who can afford to buy black-market copies cannot always afford to buy the real thing, and I doubt Sony is losing any large number of sales because of these operations.

And really, what it all comes down to is this: Sony can be angry about piracy all it wants, but it should really be more concerned about the gamers who actually have money and want to part with it, because those people keep Sony in business, and right now they're just not real keen on what Sony has to offer.

Adam Sims
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In responce to Joshuas comment

"Yes, there's a certain crowd with the messed up 'ethic' of "I deserve to have the game no matter what, and I'll pay if it's good," but even people with that belief often don't buy games that they would have bought if it was the only way to get them." - Joshua McDonald

Like it or not, the behaviour of consume then pay is a responce to being inundated by advertisment.

After a life time of experiencing repeated buyers remorse about products that did not live up to their expectations, consumers have become jaded and skeptical of anything they see marketed and advertised towards them.

As a result, the consumer now seek to "try then buy" which negates the chance of experencing buyers remorse.

The industry has failed to provide an adaquate means of addressing this need, and as such, is losing sales.

Instead of addressing this issue, members within the industry are bashing the consumers with allegations and trying to bully them into buying. This has not, and will not ever work.

The first step is for the industry to understand the real issues at hand (some progressive members in the industry are doing this) and the second step is to adjust how the product is delivered and sold to the consumer.

Adam Sims
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I should also add that "buyers remorse" is related to fear, and bullying is the intentional attempt to invoke fear.

Naturally, compounding fear with fear will only make the issue at hand worse.

Market leaders should focus on building real relationships with their consumers. In the day of 'the internets' and blog and social networking services, there is no excuse for failing to engage and build a genuine relationship with the consumer.

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Joshua McDonald
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Wow, that got quite a few responses.

I'm not arguing against there being ways in which companies could reduce piracy from some people. However, there is still a large crowd that won't buy what they can get for free (or much cheaper in the case of physical piracy), and that crowd will never go away.

I never claimed that every pirated copy is a lost sale or even close. I am disgusted, however, when I see people who come out and imply that pirates are the good guys and game publishers are the bad guys. Have the publishers done many things wrong? Certainly. Does that justify piracy? No.

I will admit to some sympathy for the "try before you buy" pirates, but I also believe that it puts you into shady ethical territory when a game is borderline or when you hit unexpected expenses after downloading your game.

Yannick Boucher
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I agree with Joshua on that latest one. Very sensible post.

Now, I'm currently living in China, so I could tell you a whole lot about piracy... :P But I won't talk about it here, because the circumstances for piracy in China, as opposed to say, in the US' are completely different. I just want to clarify however that there is no such thing as physical pirated copies of PSP games.

On the other hand, we can all rejoice on the fact that the PS3 has not been cracked (yet, but after 2 years, it might be safe to say it won't), so that is a BIG thing, honestly. It means PS3 piracy is non-existent, and therefore, PS3 software sales should be analyzed as a basis to determine that elusive line where a downloaded pirated becomes a lost sale or not. (and again, I live in China, where most pirated products origininate, and I can attest that there is no such thing as pirated PS3 games, whether downloaded or physical discs).

Jamie Mann
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Piracy is a major problem - but it's also a convenient shield for companies to hide behind when things appear to be going badly. There's a lot of complexity behind piracy - as noted several times above, there is not a one-to-one mapping between a pirated copy and a lost sale.

Piracy can also have positive effects, as a recent arstechnica article indicates:

There may well be a simpler and more prosaic reason for sales failing to meet expectations. A quick rummage around Google turned up the following nugget:


When Sony first launched the PSP it had targeted mostly professionals, 28 to 40 years old, who would take it to work every day on subways, trains and taxis. Since then, the purchase demographics have slowly evolved, getting younger and younger, said John Koller, Sony Computer Entertainment PSP senior marketing manager.

The audience has also become more multi-ethnic, with heavy use among urban teens, 15 to 16 years old, from Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities.


I have to admit, I wouldn't expect the "urban teen" demographic to have anywhere near the spending power of the "28+ professional" - though they are much more likely to have access to piracy-enabling tools.

Ian Fisch
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If you ask any economist, he would tell you people are stupid if they DON'T pirate games. This is because piracy is so easy and you're virtually guaranteed not to be punished. Thus there is no cost to pirating games while buying a game costs you $30-60.

The ONLY way to solve this problem is to put a cost on piracy. That cost could come in the form of a punishment (lawsuit, criminal charges) or could come in the form of the pirate's time. If your game's very difficult to pirate - for example a game like Battlefield 2 requires the user to download the iso and then find reliable pirated matchmaking servers. That cost in terms of time might be more than the cost of the game at retail.

Jon Boon
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@ Ian: Or you could fix the reason why piracy exists in the first place: Developers, marketers and publishers taking advantage of consumer ignorance to expoit sales. Bashing people over the head with how "wrong" piracy is will only make them want to do it more, considering they feel it is "more wrong" to be ripped off by a company.

Certainly piracy is too easy...compared to what the reverse entails. I get to spend money on the chance that the game that I am purchasing is a good gaming experience. And if it doesn't, I as a consumer, am hooped. Demos only work to some degree, if the demo is an accurate representation to the game, and if the demo is convenient.

Truthfully, I think buying individual games is the wrong way to go. I think businesses should be looking at an alternate form of distribution that won't make consumers upset with them. Here's a quick thought: I buy a Playstation system, and I pay $50 a month to have access to ALL games on the system, with no additional costs required. The only downside I see to this is the overabundance of ads that will be bombarding my face, which is what stopped me from subscribing to T.V. anymore, but if done sensibly, it won't matter. Doing this gives the power to the consumer and eliminates Gamestop as a force to compete with.

Games are too much money right now, so people turn to alternate sources to get their games. Games should not cost more than the $20-30 range. When Christmas comes again, and all of the "good" games are released all at once, it becomes a choice of "which game will I purchase and which will I obtain through alternate means" as a person can't afford to get all of the games that the manufacturers want us to buy. Sony wants us to buy all their great games. However when each one is $60+ dollars...people pick and choose a bit more carefully. If they were lower, there would be more impulse buys. People can justify picking up two or three or even more at a $20-30 price point than they can at $60, and that's why games are being pirated now.

Convenience is what drives the consumer to do illegal things (see jailbreaking the iPod). Right now with no protection, I am better off as a consumer pirating than I am purchasing...and that's what's wrong.

Adam Sims
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Ian, I'm a bit concerned about that post.

It starts by making a sweeping generalisation, then appealing to authority in the first 4 words. It then proceeds to insult everyone who may disagree with the proposed assertion, and finishes with what seems to be an arbitary solution without solid evidence to suggest it would be an effective one.

Jozsef Trencsenyi
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"I'm convinced and we're convinced that piracy has taken out a big chunk of our software sales on PSP,"

Like on DS, Xbox360, Wii, etc.

But look the sales numbers!

PSP: 46.64M shipped

DS: 101.15M shipped

What do you talk about, mr. Dille?!

Logan Margulies
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I think you're taking Ian's post a little too personally. He's basically just making a point about the inherent economic motivations for piracy. That said, I'm pretty sure there are economists out there who would not sign off on the "you're stupid if you don't pirate" proposition. Maybe I'm wrong, but I seem to recall an entire school of economists who think economic decisions are made less on a cost analysis and more of a social norms kind of construction. There's also the long term cost issue to consider, i.e. the realization that your pirating might in fact be knocking the platform out of existence.

I also don't think imposition of monetary penalties is the only solution. It may not even be a solution. Consider: The government demonstrated early on to the RIAA that it was not interested in going after copyright infringers on Napster or any other P2P network over the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or any other similar copyright statute. So the RIAA had to pursue private causes of action, or in plain English, suing people. This was their attempt to impose a cost penalty on infringers. Did it work? I'd argue not, largely because enforcement is sporadic and costly. Litigation costs a lot of money. If the RIAA couldn't get a federal enforcement structure ten years ago, what are the chances games would get one in this climate? So you're left with private suits, which, at least up to this point, have not worked. And keep in mind, this is just considering the US. Legally reaching the many pirates in Europe, not to mention areas more hostile to foreign litigation such as Russia or China, is a whole different ball of wax.

But that said, Ian's got a good point. If you focus on taking it personally and not on the substance, you're really missing the bigger issue.

Jonathan Rush
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It seems pretty easy to blame poor sales on piracy... I mean, how could anyone really disprove that?

Andrew Bruno
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Hello, I registered up just to give these two cents:

First of all, I'd like to discuss my main reason for my ire and reason for reading the article.

Sony is losing sales to piracy.

This is simply not true.


One of the mayor reason that people pirate games is that they don't have or don't want to give the money for a luxury product.

If you deny them illegal access, do you think that the populace that cannot afford a 60$ game will suddenly buy a 60$ game? Or do you think that they won't bother and just look at another medium or platform?

There are genuine pirates out there that don't buy because they hate capitalism, because they hate corporations, because they can't be bothered, etc.

But the majority? They buy because they want to play video games, they can somehow afford the hardware but can't afford to regularly buy the games.

Add the fact that how corporate culture hampers creativity and articles about how hard publishers push development studios, and most of these people won't feel guilty.

And yes, I'm talking about the suppression of creativity. Not "lets make an artsy game about paedophiles" type of creativity, but the great fear of trying out ANY new concept or idea. Go to any publisher with a game idea, prototype and they'll only see how comparable is it to "already-successful" games. They don't want new games, they just want to keep on selling the old ones.

Then its also very apparent in stories: the reason why many video games have stale, even offensively stupid stories is because publishers don't want to have any risk. For a marketing man, the best heroine has D cups, anorexia and an grudge against pants (or long skirts), because they can put her on the box art, which convinces them that it will sell well. The issue isn't just sexualization, but the fact that THEY FEEL SAFE IN (over-) SEXUALIZATION.

They prefer stock-plots over twists that a few people might not get, they prefer clichés because they sincerely believe they're more relatable than other, more original characters. They prefer well-known features and elements over new ones or experimental ones.

The price for cranking out a top-of-the-def game is colossal and publishers want to take away ANY risk that they perceive that might or possibly or even remotely effect sales. They don't want anything offensive things in it.

It's not just adolescent material that gets thrown out. It's anything that anyone could remotely, possibly find offensive, completely regardless of context or meaning. It doesn't matter if it's just a minor detail or the plot-revolving, huge twist that the game centres around on. It doesn't even have to be offensive: it just has to be "off" or it just doesn't have to appeal to one of the higher end guys.

The same problem applies to game ideas or game design ideas: new ideas are killed with prejuidice while still in the womb, games are designed to resemble other successful games. The developers can't really say anything in return, because they are powerless: they can't say no to the people who give them their livehood, so women with D cups, anorexia and no pants it is.

Most publishers know business and marketing, but not things like pacing, atmosphere or fun, the heart of good games. Most executives or higher level employees in a video game publishing company will laugh in your face if you ask them whether you play video games. They don't care. They want a

successful product and they will do everything they can to get a successful product.

Because that's what games are to them: products. Not art, but a product that has to resemble a competitive, successful product, so they can market it. If its completely new, they have no idea how to market it and that's a risk.

What do you think happens when everyone does this?

What happens is the that consumer, the players, the gamers have just spent 300$ on five, mostly identical games. They ask themselves: why should I spend another 50$ when the game is the same?

Then they read articles about how XY companxy has developers practically live their lives in their cubicles, working overtime to get the next big title on the block for scraps.

They see the bad, boring and most importantly, expensive games that has trouble playing because of a badly-tested DRM, that they can install only three times and looks suspiciously like another game they have played a few years before.

They ask themselves: why should I buy it when I can pirate it?

You can go on about paying the developers who delivered the experience, but costumers don't see the developers: they only see big, rich corporate entities that treat consumers like adolescent idiots. They see how that company turns their favourite game series into a stupid, incomprehensible mess. There is a lot of ire against Eidos and EA for this.

Even in the indie market, most consumers just see the game, not the people behind it.

Lawfulness isn't it either. They don't see themselves directly hurting anyone and they see hundreds, thousands of people do it. They're just one of many.

Piracy cannot be stopped.

Piracy cannot be killed, for the same reason crime can't be killed.

Until there are people that like getting high on cocaine, you can't stop drug dealers appearing, no matter how many you lock up.

People pirating games aren't selfish gits: they're gamers that love video games but can't afford to pay for an expensive product.


They don't want to throw out 50$ for something they have no idea is worth their money: VG review sites and magazines are obviously biased, there is likely no demo, trailers are carefully edited to hide even the most glaring faults. A more experienced gamer will likely expect a semi-ripoff of another game he's (or she's but I can't write the seperate pronoun down every time for the sake of efficiency) has already played.

Pirating is free: they can get whatever they want, almost whenever they want. It is a very liberating thing. They can get more games than they could ever possibly could if they brought them. They can spend their money on other things, more useful or more physical things. Their only limit is the HDD space and bandwidth. If they got a bad game, they only have to delete it and the only thing they lost is a little time.

The risk is almost completely non-existent: the police have much more serious crimes and criminals to pursue they'll only pursue charges if they either want to be dicks with you or if they desperately want something to stick on you. They only way you could really get into trouble if you do something completely stupid.

Who pirates? Anyone can pirate with a good internet connection. Students, people on minimum wage, retired people, people who have kids, people who have been cynical and disappointed way too many times but still have their love for video games. People who would rather spend their money on more important things. Video games are not a very physical property to them: its not like cars or TVs.

I'm not full of solutions. But I know what's going on.

And what I'm sure of is that this "we will stop piracy, WE WILL STOP IT HARD" bullshit does not work. No matter how sophisticated, no matter how complex, no matter how scrumptious, any protection scheme can be tricked to work and be sent the net. The more popular, the more likely. The "scene" grows with every bitter programmer disgusted by corporate culture and its effects on their "baby", the global recession will only assure that even more people than ever can't afford to buy video games and costumers will be increasingly be more disgusted with how publishers treat them as criminals while the actual criminals are having a great time despite all measures against them.

I'm not saying that piracy isn't stealing. I'm not saying that companies don't have the right to defend their products. I don't have all the answers.

But this dualistic, black-and-white, tribalistic, bullshit "war against piracy" has to end.

The more aggressively you fight against piracy, the more likely you'll make more pirates. DRM has repeatedly proven to be completely and utterly worthless in its goal, while alienating many people who are inconvenienced by it. Even the very best DRMs only delay the inevitable, while frustrated legal users learn how to crack their game so they can play what they pay for. The MPAA's efforts can be best described as legal terrorism and has only made pirates feel justified with what they do.

What is needed is a new, more thoughtful strategy for making money for games and making money with games, not hardlining the broken ones.

Now, a few personal addresses:

Victor Bunn

Do you know much your measures would stop piracy?

Not at all.

The only thing you'll get is a couple of hefty lawsuits after your little programs turned on with legitimate users, assuming you can get over something like this trough a publisher at all.

What you'll get most likely is that even legitimate users won't buy your games because they're afraid that their pricey high-tech toy will fry because of what they perceive as an ridiculously insane counter-theft measure.

You should look at this study, where a developer tells about his experiences when he asked pirates why they pirate their games:

It would be silly to say that the site has the absolute solution for piracy, but it has stuff that's going towards more of the right way.

Dave Smith

Jesus Christ, we're not talking about bloody serial killers here. Most "pirates" are students or poor people who can't afford an $50+ on a single, likely-crappy product that is essentially a luxury product. With many people losing their jobs or who's income is substantially cut, the number of people is likely to only grow.

Andrew Bruno
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Two minor things:

First, I meant the RIAA, not the MPAA. While they're both associations that target piracy, the RIAA has a far more dubious and dickish track record.

The other thing is that Jonathan Rush has a very good point: companies like to say that its piracy that's the problem, rather then their own lack of competence or their ignorance of handling business. It's not a failed market strategy that was poorly-thought out, it's not their own over-safe policies, its not their own lack of work. It's not their faults. Its those damn pirates that are taking away sales and preventing us from getting rich.

Note: I registered up solely to give my two cents and I'm leaving. Do not expect me to react to any comments addressed to me.

Stephen Horn
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I think there's something to be said for forming a relationship with the consumer, or at the very least a positive reputation. For instance, Atlus can sell me a game just by saying it's a dungeon-crawler RPG made by Atlus. There are very few Atlus games I've been displeased with, The Dark Spire notwithstanding, so I consider the odds of regretting any purchase from them to be very low. Same with Square|Enix RPGs, though I'll confess I'm uncomfortable with the new direction the company seems to be moving in, with more non-RPGs (my personal opinion is that Squeenix hasn't historically done well outside of the RPG genre).

Heck, I wouldn't even own a PSP except for Atlus and Square titles that I couldn't find on DS. I'm still not sufficiently convinced that I'll enjoy PSP ports of many titles enough to justify purchasing them. If I weren't determined to avoid piracy like the plague, I'd probably be one of those same people who pirate PSP games, just to find out which ones are good and which aren't. Downloadable demos would go a long ways towards helping me purchase more software.

Finally, I agree with Roberto Alfonso - the PSP overall does feel like butter scraped over too much bread, trying to cover too much territory and doing a poor job at most of it. It's a gaming platform to me, first and foremost, and sometimes an MP3 player. Everything else is too watered-down to be of use to me.

Mike Smith
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It looks really nice on paper to say sales would have been such and such had there not been piracy. The truth of the matter is that most people who play pirated versions of games would never play the game in the first place. Don't get me wrong, piracy is illegal and wrong, however it's also not a legitimate scapegoat on which you can blame poor sales.

Maurício Gomes
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I pirate games.

Games that are not sold here (so how I am supposed to get them? Teleport to where they are sold and buy a copy? Ask for someone to bring a copy by plane??? Oh sure, I can use steam... In fact I DO use steam and spent lots of money on it, but I am talking about games NOT on steam.)

Games that has DRM that wreck my PC (seriously, I do not cared about this until my PC actually got wrecked, since I found out that the pirated versions do not have DRM, I get them... If the game is totally awesome, then I pay for it, but I still use the pirated copy)

Games that suck (I can not even say that I pirate them, I download, get mad at how I wasted time on suck bad game, and delete it, unfortunally the MAJORITY of the AAA games are landing in this category, including Assassins Creed and its 30 minute worth of gameplay, that is, after the 30 minute annoying tutorial)

Games that are obnoxiously expensive (altough those, when the price is lowered I buy them, Age of Empires II I used a pirated copy for 6 years until Ubisoft here launched a bundle with AoE 1 and 2 and its expansions for 8 USD...)

Now people say: But you are a professional game developer, how can you do not care about people not getting their moeny? As I said, I do not buy bad games, thus they do not deserve anyway, and I do not buy games not sold here, so they are the ones that do not want the money, and the greedy ones are greedy, and do not deserve my money too, unless their game is awesome, I altough bought some games for 100 USD without remorse, Jedi Academy comes to my mind...)

Btw: I asked once some people (that NEVER buy legal copies) why they pirate games if they know that the developers would cease to exist...

The awnser at first was shocking, but when I understood, I noticed that they were right:

There are thousands of developers out there, most of them doing bad games, with they ceasing to exist, nothing changes, another one will rise in its place, and so on... And the good ones... Well, those are a rarity, but those are the ones that get paid.

Clay Cowgill
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I feel like I stepped onto the set of the latest Battlestar Galactica series: "all this has happened before, and all this will happen again".

The same arguments have been around since the 8-bit personal computer days... and probably earlier than that! "Hard to copy" ROM based cartridges were copied, improved protection methods resulted in hacks to work around them, and the entire cracker vs. developer arms race has gone on for as long as I can remember.

Pretty much all "protection" methods are ultimately circumvented-- some in embarassingly short time. (HDDVD, Bluray, Wii, '360, ever satellite TV net out there...)

The hardware manufacturers *could* probably stop hardware mods now if they so choose. A single package, system on chip design could likely be implemented that simply exposes no interesting/useful signals to the outside world to monkey with-- but that type of thing is expensive, so the manufacturers are really in essence saying "we could close the floodgate, but it would cost us money and we believe the amount of monitary burden per hardware unit sold would exceed what we *actually* lose on piracy". (None of this "every copy made is a lost sale" fantasy-land stuff they claim in public.)

One thing that might largely "cure" the (bulk of the) problem-- a cellphone like model. Secure hardware, software delivery *only* by network, encrypted communications link, payload keyed to *only* the target machine (every copy unique and only decrypted on the exact target device), etc. Very hard to spoof. But then you need the "digital library" that says what you bought for when you have to "reinstall" when your device breaks and you get a new one... Nothing's ever easy...

Similarly, make it economically unattractive for people to bother pirating purely based on price. $9.99/mo, play any game that comes out. Pay extra for little add-ons in small denominations...

There will always be people that try to collect copies of every release for any system. They're probably costing no one any actual sales. It's just over-active old DNA executing the "save stuff for winter" routine in the brain. ;-)


(P.S. One thing that does amuse me-- in many cases the only reason we still have remaining digital copies of some software is because crackers and pirates back in the day removed protection and spread copies that were archived until present time. Many years after what few originals were ever sold are long since degaussed or in the land-fill...)

Joseph Ho
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Don't punish the consumer.

I've played way too many bad games and delt with way too much garbage that was meant to punish pirates.... only to punish me.

2 experiences come to mind.

I was considering purchasing Spore. I noticed that dozens upon dozens of sites bashing it for it's DRM constraints and the 'stealth' software it installs. Then I noticed a torrent that has already cracked the game.

... it was on the same day of release... so I opted not to buy Spore. Then I played it... and was bored out of my mind with everything BUT the character creation screen. So I got screwed either way.

I purchased "NecroVisioN". It was under advertised, and I was wondering, "Hey, maybe it's another under appreciated game that MIGHT be awesome. Now I want to die. Clipping issues in the first 30 seconds, bad gameplay, no flow, no logic, horrible story, horrible graphics (because of all the damn fog), terrible level design, and I didn't have any fun at all. It hurts me to know I paid so much for so little. Now, if I had just downloaded the game and saw what a horrible game it turned out to be, then I wouldn't be in this situation.

Both experiences has taught me one thing: If developers try to punish the pirates, who can easily bypass their methods, then all they are doing is punishing those who actually purchase the game. Make the bypass method more difficult to bypass, and no one will bother playing your game because payers felt the horrors before and pirates don't give a crap about another generic space-marine vs the alien space soldier world war infinite or the World War II that will never end, EVER.

I've purchased games throughout my entire life. Piracy will not stop me from buying games... but I'm a whole hell of a lot more careful on how I spend nearly $100 per purchase. If PSP is losing money, I STILL don't care because nothing on the PSP screams for me to purchase it and it's overpriced games and movies.... yet I still shell out nearly $300 for a DSi and Rhythm Heaven and GTA: Chinatown.

This is equivalent to the movie industry blaming piracy for poor sales of the Dragonball Evolution movie... yeah guys... it MUST be piracy....

steve roger
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Disclaimer: I don't strongly all of my points here, I don't ever pirate anytning myself, my arguments do have some holes in it, but I think is worth considering what came out of my head after reading all these interesting posts:

Does piracy have a big impact on the PSP game sales? Surely it does. But comparing platforms, DS to the PSP, it is difficult to figure out the extent of impact. Does the PSP get pirated more thand DS because the largest segment of it's user are men 18 to 40? I mean, 7 to 11 year olds are not really on the net downloading like fiends. But is this a reasonable assumption that PSP users are pirates? I doubt it, because the DS has more and better games for their target user base than the PSP and there lies Sony's problem. Also, if PSP users are more likely to be pirates, what does that have to say about mid to high end pc gamers--that's me--are we really rampant pirates that are single handledly destroying the PSP's bottom line?

Simple answer, maybe so. But not because of piracy, but because of our sophistication. I mean these PSP games have to get up on the P2P networks somehow. Plus it is the more sophisticated pc user that is pirating PSP games.

Which leads me to respectfully criticize a lot of the impassioned posts here about priracy. Sure on the whole piracy is wrong and is a rampant problem. For music, movies and games. But we are supposed be talking about the PSP.

The PSP pirate occupies a niche in the world of piracy. First, you have to own a PSP to bother to pirate a PSP game. Second, it is not as easy to get a pirated version of a PSP game to run on your PSP as it is to run prirated version of PC game on your PC. It takes some effort, time that is, snooping around, reading up, and making sure you don't brick your PSP.

So let's look at those Resistance pirates. Those are some pretty dedicated people. However, the raw piracy numbers for PSP is small. Go ahead, look for the number of PSP games on P2P sites and the numbers of leechers and seeders and you will see this problem is small. It is a matter of scale. Resistance is just one of the few games on the PSP worth the effort to steal.

So that brings me back to the truth about the PSP. It is a device that has failed to ignite a significant user base. Not just because there aren't a lot of great (I don't mean highly reviewed--just fun I mean) games available on the PSP. It is a lot of ports, poor original IPs, and some crappy prequels and sequels. Further, it is a device that suffers from it's schzoid marketing:

"Sony is sticking with its original game plan of marketing the device as a multiplatform portable entertainment system that can compete with Apple's iPod as much as the Nintendo DS."

But when you get one. You find out that it does not have the content available to drive says like iPod and the DS. Further, has you tried to surf the net with one of these footballs, just the typing is like totally annoying?

Which leads me back to my point. If you can and are inclined to surf the net on your PSP, you probably can figure out how to pirate for it. Why would you? Because it is the only way to get any decent use out of it. Because the content for it is limited, poor in quality and downright over priced.

Also, it never delivered on what it originally appeared to be: a portable PS2. I thought it was going to have access to all those PS2 games and look and play like a PS2 in my hand. But noooooooooooo. It doesn't. Sure it has some connectivity to the PS3 for this purpose. But it is a pain. Plus large numbers of PS2 games don't function on it. Add to that that Sony has hog tied the backward functionality fo the PS3's current SKU iterationsyou have a recipe for disastaer.

And now I come to the movie playing capability. Who in the world is going to pay arond $20 per cartridge for movies on the PSP that can't be copied, transferred or played anywhere else but on the PSP. Nobody. Plus the number of PSP movies sucks in the first place.

It is a cool device, nice screen. But it has a lousy propreitary movie player system. The games are somewhat better graphically than the DS, but not nearly as good as the PS2 (whiich is what most people expected), wonky controls, lacks decent internet capability, and is a device that is just begging to be hacked--which just happens to be it's core user base, 18 to 40 year males.

Adam Sims
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In responce to Edgar's post.

I agree with the issues with the PSP and whats commercialy avaliable for it. I'm very dissapointed with my purchase of the PSP and over the 2 years that I've had it, I've probbably spend 3 hours trying to 'get into' its games.

On the other hand, I've had a completly different responce from the homebrew crowd. They love developing for their PSPs, pushing it to new limits and playing around with its capabilities.

So in conclusion, i'd have to say that the PSP isnt failing to make sales due to its hardware or potential, but because Sony has failed to provide attractive games and services for its target market, in a timely fashion.

Panagiotis Ntafopoulos
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Make the games worth Buying. If a company charges 50 euro for a joke then it WILL be pirated. Players need to see what they buy before they do buy it. Final Fantasy for the psp was a joke. I can't believe people actually bought the game. In the contrary, a hacked psp owner myself, after playing the best game i have ever played (Monster Hunter Freedom 2) i ran and bought it. Waiting for MH2G now. I will buy it too. Games worth buying, not because the are good but because the customer doesn't feel like he is given a sandwich filled with sh*t, are gonna be bought. Same applies to PCs/Consoles. If companies stop producing crap like fifa, pro evolution, ff, (generally series) and sell them as new instead of selling them as expansions in lower prices piracy will continue. It's always the same. Same crap, with better gfx and a shallow story. No retail pluses and high price. Piracy is a message from the gaming community. Not a crime. As we say in Greece, piracy doesn't kill music/games/developers. It saves your wallet/money.

steve roger
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Adam, thanks for clarifying what the "homebrew crowd" thinks of the PSP. I don't know their habits very well, I am just generally aware of what can be done with the PSP. I wonder about the extent of piracy for homebrew users. Can, you or anyone else, tell me more about whether or not piracy is a habit of the PSP crowd?

Adam Sims
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In reply to Edgar;

The homebrew crowd that I'm connected with, are mostly professional software developers who usualy own 2 PSPs; one for homebrew software and one for retail software.

I'm sure theres overlap between the homebrew and pirate crowd, but the people I know usualy write their own dev tools and such for their PSPs for prototypes and proposals.

The later generation PSP's are harder to unlock. So you have to be, or know someone who's pretty tech savy to get custom firmware onto it and pirate games. So a lot of the regular PSP users I know wish they could pirate games, but dont have the technical knowledge to unlock their PSPs.

Joseph Ho
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To Panagiotis Ntafopoulos:

"Piracy is a message from the gaming community. Not a crime. As we say in Greece, piracy doesn't kill music/games/developers. It saves your wallet/money."

...No, it's still a crime. We are giving and receiving merchandise without consent with no payment to the developers... it's exactly like going to a store, opening a box, and taking the CD.... which is why they only put empty boxes on the shelves in stores or encase them in security boxes and why they are trying to do that in the digital form.

I understand the insanity that is the unfair sucking from our wallets, but you can't justify the piracy because of it.

Adam Sims
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Joseph, your comment "it's exactly like going to a store, opening a box and taking the CD" in referance to piracy isn't accurate. I think I know what you're trying to say, but in your example, you're removing a tangiable, material object from anothers posession. In your example person A loses object, and person B gains the object, where as, in the case of piracy, person A does not lose an object.

Best best anology (not great, but better than anything ive seen so far) is saying piracy is similar to taking a photo of an iconic landscape, drawing or painting, and then being accused of theft.

steve roger
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Sorry, but no way Adam. Piracy is much more than taking an image. Piracy is stealing computer code that performs a valuable function. That function can be entertainment or even a business application. Your type of piracy, would be like taking a picture of a painting in a museum. Sometimes that is prohibited. But for the most part, you can't use the image you lifted in exactly the same way the original artist or the museum intended. Yes, there is counterfeiting, but that is different than piracy, though both are criminal.

And, I would think that piracy is theft. Just like shoplifting that cd. Theft is taking something of value with the intent to permanently deprive someone of that value. That's it.

Adam Sims
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Edgar, it can take someone days, months and years of labour produce a painting. How can you justify that copying software is any different from copying a painting?

I'm sorry Edgar, but there doesnt seem to be consistant reasoning behind your position.

Joseph Ho
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From what I read, he didn't even relate to the point you just brought up. He said that Copying software was more than photographing a painting.

In my opinion, those two don't relate. Taking a painting and passing it off as your own/as an original for high profit is a type of theft, but it isn't the same as getting a copy of a game and passing it online for free to anyone and everyone.

The original artist still loses, but in different ways with massively different outcomes. For the painting, only few get hurt, the artist, the guy who bought the fake. For piracy, it hurts the artist, the industry, and the consumer. Maybe if the example was relating to digital formats, it would make more sense.

Person A does in fact lose an object. Digital data has replaced 'tangiable' objects in today's day and age. Paper, ink, materials, ect... all replaced with a digital representation. A download is now just as tangiable as a CD.

Person A, say, the developer, loses a 'CD', which others download, which causes them to not purchase more of the 'CD', which causes the developers to lose even more.

I guess a physical example wasn't a credible comparisons...

Douglas Kinloch
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Very interesting conversation here. At Metaforic we mostly agree with the comments regarding how much piracy is impacting the video game industry, but I take exception to the idea that there is nothing that can prevent or even slow down hackers. While I don’t want to give away too much just yet, I will say that no one should be surprised to see a major video game distributor announce the deployment of an anti-tamper solution that will greatly reduce the problem. Clearly, the first company to successfully deploy a solution will gain a significant financial advantage going into the next holiday shopping season. Stay tuned.

Joseph Ho
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... or they could just accept it, stop fighting it (which promotes it in masses), and cause a massive backlash from the gaming community (which includes hackers, downloaders, and all the other pockets). If you try to fight it, all it will mean is more people won't care.

The 'problem' isn't the problem anymore from what I can see... the problem is that multiple industries keep trying to out-wit the hack/pirate community and all it does is piss off the people who actually pay.

Unless this game is the next massive hit, like Gears of War, Metal Gear, Resident Evil, or Halo, then all they will do is prove themselves wrong. So all my hope is that the anti-tamper solution works, but my expectations are as low for it as it was for DRMs.