Piracy killed the PC game star?

Written by Brett Thomas

August 8, 2006 | 15:21

Tags: #id #kevin-cloud #piracy #quake-wars

Piracy is bad, mm'kay? This message brought to you by the RIA...No. MPA...? Nope... Actually, it is brought to you by a couple of the guys from id Software, particularly Kevin Cloud - Executive Producer of ET:QW. Before everyone gets their pitchforks, this was actually a legitimate answer to a question posed at the latest QuakeWorld, and it's not a pretty response.

During the 'Fire Away!' Q&A session at the event, one gamer noted that less and less shelf space was being devoted to PC games in general, and wondered what effect piracy had on that, product lifecycles, and feature sets devoted to PC gaming. Kevin stepped in to answer the question, saying "Piracy is hard. It’s really, from my opinion, destroying the PC market."

His rationale always stayed a little on the vague side, but that could be because nobody really knows what effects piracy truly has on the market with the scale it exists at now.

"There is about 70 percent of the landmass of the world where you can't sell games in a legitimate market, because pirates will beat you to the shelves with your own game. Even in the other percentage of the world: the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, and some of the other Pacific Rim countries…we still have serious piracy rates among PC titles."

He then went on to talk about how PC gaming is far from dying out (thus negating his previous statements), but that the model of sales in general has to change. Look to the Steam service and WoW for ideas on what he thought were saving the industry.

A brief paraphrase to save you from reading the lecture if you don't want to: Because PC games can be pirated, stores can't bet on how many they'll sell, so they don't buy them from publishers. Since publishers aren't making money on the PC end, they push developers to move towards consoles, which sell like crazy comparatively due to their innate copy protection. Developers take this on happily because they're not anxious to make games that nobody plays. And so the cycle continues, thanks to those horrible, vicious pirates. Arrrgggh, matey!

Of course, in this writer's humble opinion, such simplistic views on piracy don't help to evolve a solution. The 70% of land mass Mr. Cloud casually throws out there were never part of the sales demographic or marketing campaigns (I somehow doubt that many Rwandans care much about the latest games, nor is piracy tops on Russia's list of problems), so I fail to see how them playing the game destroys anything more than further phantom profits. If we need to hear about that, we have the RIAA to listen to.

Piracy is clearly a legitimate problem, and one that needs to be addressed; but pushing the entirety of blame onto your audience has been shown to be a poor move historically. Hopefully, the next person to step up to bat and discuss piracy will also discuss the legitimate concerns of why gamers don't pay for the games, without just polarizing it to cops and robbers.

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