Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yarrrrggg, The state of pirates and digital media.

With the current state of DRM in the video game industry it becomes increasing the apparent why pirates are increasing. If you are not sure what i am talking about read this. Essentially the is the equivalent of the legitimate owner of an On Star equipped car driving out of range of a mobile tower, and having their engine turned off. Yeah it's a great tool if someone steals your car, but if you are driving it would just really piss you off.

Now I will be honest, I am no angel, and I have pirated games/music/movies in the past. However anything I liked, I bought, anything I didn't I tossed. There are all kinds of justifications we use but the basic truth of the matter is a lot of piracy could be combated by simply lowering the price of these types of media. Something else that would help is instituting legitimate return policies.

Example 1.

Option 1 (Real Life) $20-30 for a movie I will watch once or twice, there will be 30 minutes of previews and ads I don't want to see, then I shelve it and probably never watch again.

Option 2 (Real Life) $1 Rental of the same movie. Watch it once or twice return it. Decide 2 months later I want to watch it again pay another buck. I am still a minimum of $18 better off.

Option 3 (Real Life) Pirate said movie, it takes a few hours and I can watch it as much as I want. I take a small risk of being caught.

Magic Option 4 (No way it will happen) Take said movie which most likely already made back all it's money, make it available online, charge $5-10 (without ads).

Now in real life I am personally most likely to choose option 2 or 3 if I am on a budget. Which these days a lot of us are. But if option 4 were actually available I would do it $5 is cheap enough I can make it back by packing a lunch one day, and it allows me to avoid the risk with piracy.

Example 2

Option 1 (Real Life) I download a demo of a game that looks interesting. I like it, I buy the game. I start playing the game and realize the demo is not an accurate representation of the over all game. I try to return the game, and am of course denied.

Option 2 (Real Life) I buy a game, It has restrictive DRM. My ISP has a major outage or a peering router goes down somewhere or for some other reason I am unable to contact the companies servers. I am now unable to play said game.

Option 3 (Real Life) 5 Years goes by since I bought said game the publisher is gone now (Sierra, Micro Prose, Interplay, etc.) The DRM servers are gone and I am now the proud owner of a very shiny coaster.

Option 4 (Real Life) I pirate the game, take a minor risk, but face none of the issues above.

Magic Option 5 (Never gonna happen either) The game costs me $20. It can be $20 because they don't have to maintain servers for me to run it. I am more likely to pay $20 than $60. And if any of the above does happen I am less likely to be jaded and switch to piracy as my preferred method.

The problem here is not pirates, it's publishers. People are going to steal things, it happens. The reaction the media industries are having is out of proportion to the problem. People steal money from banks, yet I have never had my bank, call me a thief, frisk me upon entering, and then club me if I fail to provide a pass phrase within a specified time window. Treating the legitimate consumers like the enemy only fosters the bad behavior they seek to avoid. It does this in multiple ways. 1. It draws attention to the problem, those who may not have considered piracy in the past are very aware of it now. 2. It makes piracy seem more attractive and the risk associated with it seem worth it. 3. It forces legitimate customers to turn to piracy in order to protect their investment.

DRM in and of itself is not the issue. Heavy handed publishers are. It is hard for me to feel bad that piracy has "hurt" these industries when the executives crying poor, are driving a Porche, to get their Armani suit fitted, before going to buy this weeks Rolex. Everyone deserves to protect their investment. A limited form of DRM can do this.

These industries have continued to grow fatter and fatter, while gouging consumers. While initial production in all of these industries still remains a relatively high cost. Reproduction (especially in digital formats) has become incredibly cheap. However we as consumer have only seen increases in price, and increases in DRM.

What these folks need to realize is that the old days are over. They need to come up with new inventive ways to entice consumers, and make money. This is a digital age and they cannot continue to run buisness as usual. Thier consumers are changing and they must change too. This has been a losing battle for over a decade. They have gained no ground in this battle and have lost much. Essentially this boils down to something George Santayana once said.....

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it"

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