Ubisoft Director Backtracks On Piracy Complaints After Public Lashing

from the this-is-getting-old dept

Thanksgiving week was not a good week for Ubisoft Shanghai creative director Stanislas Mettra. When asked if a PC version of the game I Am Alive would be coming, he responded that it wouldn’t because of piracy.

It’s hard because there’s so much piracy and so few people are paying for PC games that we have to precisely weigh it up against the cost of making it. Perhaps it will only take 12 guys three months to port the game to PC, it’s not a massive cost but it’s still a cost. If only 50,000 people buy the game then it’s not worth it.

This statement and one about PC gamers “bitching” got the gaming press and PC gamers all riled up. Very soon the news was everywhere that Ubisoft, the company pushing always on DRM and complaining about piracy on the PC at every turn, was at it again. This bad publicity led to Mettra backtracking on his comments.

What I meant is that the pc version did not happen yet [sic]. But we are still working to see the feasibility of it, which is not necessarily simple. I gave some examples to illustrate the problematic [sic], but obviously it is not in my hands and not my part to talk about this.

Although he attempts to avoid the topic of piracy specifically in his retraction, he still leaves the reader with the same message, PC gaming is a losing venture. Is this in the Ubisoft training material or something? Are they trained to believe that the PC is rife with piracy and that it should be treated with the utmost contempt and caution? It wasn’t that long ago that other Ubisoft developers were complaining about the same thing.

I would be happy to leave this discussion at that if it weren’t for the comments from a few other developers that same week on the very same topic. While Mettra believes the problem lies with piracy and the lack of paying customers on the PC, these other developers came to a very different conclusion. First we have Devolver CFO Fork Parker speaking about the PC version of Serious Sam 3:

Piracy is a problem and there is no denying that but the success of games like Skyrim and our own Serious Sam 3 on PC illustrates that there is clearly a market willing to pay for PC games, It’s on the developers and publishers to put something out on the market that’s worth paying for in the first place. Those that place the blame on the consumer need to rethink the quality of their products and the frequency in which they shovel out derivative titles each year.

The other side of the equation is the distribution model. In games, we have amazing PC digital download services like Steam, Get Games and Direct2Drive doing the same thing for games that iTunes did for music. Offer the consumer a variety of great digital content at a reasonable price and the majority will happily pay for the games that suit their tastes.

Here is a developer who recognizes that the market for PC games is ripe for the taking. Gamers are willing to buy quality product. If the game fails to turn a profit it is not the fault of the gamer or the pirates, it is the fault of the developer and publisher. If they take advantage of the services that PC gamers use to distribute their games, they will see a return on that investment.

Next we have Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell, speaking on the subject once again.

We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24/7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country three months after the U.S. release and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable.

Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customer’s use or by creating uncertainty.

I know we quote Newell a lot when the topic of game piracy comes up, but his comments are always relevant. He is a man who gets it. He has learned that the battle with piracy cannot be won through the use of DRM, region restrictions or any other restriction that you can throw at the customer. This is something that Ubisoft has continually failed to learn. If you want to succeed in PC gaming, you need to bring the games to where the customers are, make them available and restrict them as little as possible. When you do that, honest customers will support you.

Really Ubisoft, this is getting old. I feel like a parent scolding his child for the 20th time about hitting his sister. You think the child gets it after the first time and that the second time is an honest mistake. But, when the child continues to hit his sister, you need to take drastic disciplinary action. What will it take to get the message through to those in charge at Ubisoft? Gamers want your games and will buy them, but you have to provide the service they want. That is the only way you will succeed.

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Companies: ubisoft, valve

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Comments on “Ubisoft Director Backtracks On Piracy Complaints After Public Lashing”

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PaulT (profile) says:

“Perhaps it will only take 12 guys three months to port the game to PC… If only 50,000 people buy the game then it’s not worth it.”

Wow, really? How much to game developers get paid? Assuming those 50k sales take place at $50 each, that’s $2.5 million. Even taking into account retailer cuts and costs, surely Ubisoft would still clear half a million to a million for those sales? Am I missing something?

Unless there’s an industry insider who can maybe explain this to me, what he’s basically saying is that a possible million dollars of revenue isn’t worth bothering with because people might also pirate the product. I honestly don’t understand that logic.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Please explain where in the article or in PaulT’s comments that he is pro-piracy. Plus, you yourself are guilty of the exact thing you’re trying to pin on him “address any of my real opinions”. When he commented on the bad math that Ubisoft released, you ignored all of that and called him a pirate. THAT is not addressing any opinions. THAT is being a moron.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No, I call morons morons.

“Please explain why they should port their game for pirates?”

I’m not saying they should. I’m saying that I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to port it for the 50,000 or more paying customers he thinks the product will have. I’m genuinely interested in how the figures would work, yet all I get is personal insults for things I never do.

That’s why I label you a moron.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment on this one. There may be a line of thinking that says the pirated version on PC will result in fewer sales on other platforms. If 30,000 people did not buy the XBox/PS3 version after stealing it on the PC, then they may not cover their port costs. I don’t have any numbers to support this thinking on any level, just trying to explain their possible logic.

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No one said they should port the game for pirates. In fact I am almost willing to bet that the pirates have already ported the game for themselves. What we are saying is port it and sell it to those who want it. I can tell you from the perspective of a “pirate”, I prefer to support a developer and buy things legally. Given the option of downloading from a pirate site or buying the game I will tend to buy the game. The sad thing is the number of times I buy a game and then go get a pirated copy of it because the pirates have a more stable version due to the lack of DRM and they offer better support.

That being said though. I can easily get copies of pretty much any game I want for free, PC or console. Yet I still go out and pay $50 or more for a good game. I often have even spent close to $100 for collectors editions. If you have a good product people will pay for it. There is no need for the stupid DRMs. It does not stop anyone, it does not even slow anyone down. It does upset paying customers that find their game will not run if their internet is out or some other stupid restriction. Like having to have the disk even though the game is running from the hard drive. It is time these companies learn to treat customers with some respect. When they do they might be surprised to learn most customers will treat them with respect as well.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh look, another AC who completely misses the point. Did PaulT say he was going to infringe copyright? No! He was questioning the clearly bad math that Ubisoft are throwing out here. Just what is it with people like yourself? We point out clearly logical fallacies with things copyright maximists do and say, and you just turn around and say “OMG YOU IZ CRIMINAL!”
And no, Ubisoft doesn’t have principals. They kinda lost them when they wanted to stand over my shoulder every time I wanted to play one of their games, and if my internet dipped for even a second (something clearly not my fault) they would accuse me of theft and stop me from playing the game I paid for.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh look, another AC who completely misses the point.

I think what we really need to do with these guys is just respond, “No, I am Sparticus!” and let them stew. They have no intention of speaking their own mind and just want to derail the thoughtful conversation of others.

They kinda lost them when they wanted to stand over my shoulder every time I wanted to play one of their games, and if my internet dipped for even a second (something clearly not my fault) they would accuse me of theft and stop me from playing the game I paid for.

The fact that they assume that I will have internet when I want to play their game is what bothers me most about the new fangled always-on DRM. What if I want to play their game on an international flight (which I do play games on…stick me in a metal sausage for 14 hours and I usually am looking for stress relief by 7-8 hours in)? Either I cannot get internet or its prohibitively expensive, and now that brand spanking new game I want to play is useless to me (but all my GOG.com games work so I am happy.)

I hate all DRM, but the newer DRM systems are so broken from a usability standpoint that it isn’t even worth me trying to purchase them and getting them to work, especially when I use Windows through VirtualBox (so that I can purge it if something goes wrong as it always does.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I was going to be without a connection for a long time while traveling, and was having trouble getting Civ 5 to work without a connection in Steam.

I asked on their official support forums if there was a way to get it working offline or without Steam, and within literally *seconds* was skewered by multiple people deriding me as a horrible thief and the scum of the Earth. My pleas that I owned the game and was just trying to figure out how to get it working were ignored in favor of a virtual lynching.

This is representative of my interaction with most people who are anti-pirate crusaders. Their brain hard locks at the notion of “You’re a thief!” and you cannot rationally move the conversation off that point in any direction.

All it taught me was that I shouldn’t buy anything from Firaxis anymore and that I should pirate future titles if I want to play them (I ended up pirating the game I legally owned too, just so I could play it).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I also had problems running anything on Steam after installing Civ 5 on my Macbook, and had numerous issues getting it to work, which then refused to let me run any game offline. The fix was literally to reinstall and redownload all my games.

I didn’t feel 100% cheated as the purchase was far less than I’d have paid for the game in a store, but it was enough to put me off Steam for anything that wasn’t priced extremely low (below ?5 for most games). Ditto with iTunes DRM on movies – I had a bad experience with a free rental so haven’t bothered buying anything since.

I wish these people would learn that DRM is one thing that’s killing their sales – and these platforms are supposedly the least odious out there. Oh and for the “you’re a pirate” morons out there, I still buy my content. I just make sure that the content will work. DRM? No thanks, I’ll buy another title. I’ve missed a few games that way but hey, nobody actually *needs* your product.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I didn’t feel 100% cheated as the purchase was far less than I’d have paid for the game in a store, but it was enough to put me off Steam for anything that wasn’t priced extremely low (below ?5 for most games). Ditto with iTunes DRM on movies – I had a bad experience with a free rental so haven’t bothered buying anything since.

Luckily someone is compiling a list of games on Steam with 3rd party DRM (http://steamdrm.flibitijibibo.com/.) I wish Steam would be as forthcoming with this list themselves (seems it would be easy to do.) Anything on that list doesn’t get my money (though I did buy GTA IV off of Steam, which was on this list, but that is why I found the list and don’t purchase anything on that list any more.)

I wish these people would learn that DRM is one thing that’s killing their sales – and these platforms are supposedly the least odious out there. Oh and for the “you’re a pirate” morons out there, I still buy my content. I just make sure that the content will work. DRM? No thanks, I’ll buy another title. I’ve missed a few games that way but hey, nobody actually *needs* your product.

I think AC hit it on the head, the “you’re a pirate” folks will say this even when the rest of us know that it ain’t true. To them, anyone that doesn’t see their fallacious argument as being correct is a pirate, no matter whether or not the person buys everything at full price multiple times or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not everyone who dislikes anti-piracy measures, like not getting the game at all on PC, pirate themselves you know. They just dislike the obsicles they have to put up with, when many of these obsticles are not there if you do pirate, making them more or less pointless, so they want these obsticles gone so they can actually play the game. They don’t pirate them, they just don’t play them. Unless you are saying that anyone who doesn’t buy the game is a pirate of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

One game developer says that he cannot make money due to privacy and other that says they make money despite privacy by providing the games and service the customer wants.
I paid for all of the Serious Sam games and bought my daughter, Skyrim for her PC.

Seems like one guy gets it and makes money. The other doesn’t and will become obsolete as a result. Negative cash flow due to your own stupidity is a bitch of a life lesson.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The DRM in Steam is ACCEPTABLE. While we “techdirtbags” don’t like DRM in general, what Steam offers is an acceptable compromise. Let me lay it out for you.
PROS of Steam DRM
1) Games are listed under your account
2) Cheap games and frequent sales
3) Re-download your games as often as you want, on as many computers as you want (as an aside, one recent release, Anno 2070, for some strange reason, has a separate 3 machine DRM on top of Steam)
4) Auto-updates, no more having to look around websites for patches.
5) Backup your games to separate hard-drives, saving you precious internet bandwidth if you want to uninstall the game but know you’ll be playing it sometime in the future.

1) You have to log in to your account to play the games.
2) Sometimes, (although I rarely get it myself nowadays) it will say “Servers Are Busy” and refuse to launch the game.
3) Not all the games it sells actually work. For example, I got Broken Sword 2 from both Steam and GoG, and only the GoG version works (that’s because GoG actually optimise their library to run on modern OS’s).
4) You can’t re-sell your games. Try and do that, and you risk losing your account and thus all of the games you paid for.

As you can see, the benefits of Steam DRM outweigh the cons. Yes, the cons do annoy me, but I’m willing to put up with them.

What we techdirtbags attack is DRM that is stupid, wasteful, inefficient and just downright wrong. Case in point, Ubisoft’s Always-On DRM, where if your internet connection dips for even a moment, you’re thrown back to the main menu of your game. This was included in SINGLE-PLAYER games, so a constant network connection isn’t something you associate with single-player.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Steam isn’t a bitch to use or work with. i.e. Hey, I can live with this! Other DRM tactics that do things like, write a root kit to my hard drive are unacceptable and I will not buy their products.

And in the final analysis, one game company is making and selling PC games, while the other isn’t and is losing sales.

Putting yourself out of business though stupidity is fascinating to watch.

So, I’m sorry, what was your point again? Oh yeah, providing a game and a service customers are willing to pay for!! Thank you so much for making this point clearer for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Obviously you know nothing of DRM. Let me put it simply.

Steam is GOOD DRM. Non-intrusive, has an “offline mode”, etc. Why is Steam good? Because it provides a great service. You can chat with other gaming friends, easily gift games, redownload games AS OFTEN as you need (in case of hard drive failures, OS upgrades, etc.), purchase games easily (and routinely get games either cheaply or even for free, they have amazing sales pretty much all the time), easily allows for game updates/DLC purchase and downloading, etc.

Ubisoft uses the WORST DRM in the history of any gaming company. Always on internet connections have become a requirement. What’s that mean? Your internet goes out (you obviously have no control over that), there goes your ability to game. They’re also a company who routinely releases buggy games, games with SYSTEM CRIPPLING DRM, etc. Ubisoft has become synonymous with “bad”. I mean literally, most “gamers” (and we’re not even talking about “pirates” here, just gamers who have a clue) AVOID Ubisoft games like the plague.

The real class act (and I say that sarcastically as possible) is you AC. You constantly attack others on here, do not contribute anything worthwhile to the conversations, etc.

People are “attacking” Ubisoft, because Ubisoft is full of sh*t. They got called out on it and now they’re backtracking. Others can compete in the PC gaming world and do so successfully. Valve/Steam are perfect examples who are usually trotted out for others to see that “yes, you can beat “free”, just offer a better product/service”.

Now you’re reasonable and logical rebuttal to what I said? And remember, avoid ad homs or else your just another techdirtbag class act like the rest of us apparently.

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This also brings up the point I made before. I have downloaded “pirated” copies of games even after I bought them legally. These Ubisoft games people hate because they can’t play, well I don’t have problems playing them. You download them and the pirates have ripped out the DRM and make them work. So sadly the pirates offer a better product. I still will buy the game to support the guys responsible for the actual game part but the companies really need to wake up and realize punishing paying customers is not the proper course of action. DRM does not stop pirates. All DRM does is give some guy a fun puzzle to crack. That is how a lot of the pirates ripping the games look at DRM. These guys race to see who can crack it first. So you are not really hurting them, to them DRM is good sport. Kind of like punishing a hunter by breeding smarter and larger bucks. Sure a bit harder for the hunter but gives him more bragging rights. Definitely does not discourage him from hunting.

IronM@sk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I clicked the “funny” button so many times. I think it’s a shame it only registers once. Are you seriously that deluded that you would actually refuse $1M physical dollars just for the apparent satisfaction of doing nothing and stamping your foot on the ground and complaining about losing potential dollars? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA.

BraindeadBZH (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t try to understand those people they are all morons. They are the reason why EU is dying. They all try to keep the old business running by making thousand of laws. It only accelerate the fall. At least they still continue to make billions. But for how long? With no innovation, delocalization, short term strategy, …
Gabe Newell’s statement is all right. Even if Steam is not perfect it is the only real alternative to piracy.

IronM@sk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Gabe Newell’s statement is all right. Even if Steam is not perfect it is the only real alternative to piracy.

Here’s the fundamental disconnect between game developers and gamers. File sharing sites provide a service. Steam provides a service. Good Old Games provides a service. Direct2Drive, OnLive and many, many others, provide a service. It’s not the only alternative to anything. They are all just competing services.

Most of these stupid game developers still view what they do as creating a product when what they should be doing is providing a service. One that people are willing to use.

Provide a good enough service at an acceptable price and people will be willing to support it. The “digital goods” boat has sailed guys. Stop crying and move on.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Most of these stupid game developers still view what they do as creating a product when what they should be doing is providing a service. One that people are willing to use.”

Well, to be fair, game developers don’t have to provide a service, if they’re willing to use one of the services you mentioned, so they can get away with just creating a product.

However, those who do make their own DRM should focus on that instead of just “ways to make the game suck more for honest customers”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Costs..

“Given the choice between spending $150k to return $500k to $1m, or spending $150k to return $2m+ which would you choose?”

That depends. What are the risk factors? What are the other costs? Why do you think that one project is so much more lucrative?

“Remember, these companies are trying to shift millions of games: a few tens of thousands is nothing.”

Fine. Then, if their bigger project fails, don’t come whining to me about piracy because you ignored steadier income at lower levels to gamble it away on bigger payday.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Costs..

Then… do so. Just don’t give the excuse of “OMG piracy”.

I’d have no problem with “we don’t think this product will sell enough copies so we’ll divert the resources to make sure that Far Cry 3 is awesome”. It’s the lies and scapegoating while the company’s own DRM is chasing away customers that I have a problem with.

This is one of the “connect with fans” ideas that Ubisoft seem to miss. This could be an opportunity to gain ground support from fans, encourage mass pre-orders and ensure a profit before the game is even ported. It could be a way to gauge demand for the product for free, combined with free marketing and decent PR for being a fair minded company. Instead, we have name-calling and a refusal to service a market because someone *might* be getting the product for free.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Costs..

It’s just more cost effective to spend the development money on something that will have much larger returns.

In the short term that might make sense – but in the long term they will destroy their customer base.

Incidentally what DRM actually does is to destroy the future supply of games programmers.

At present they rely on a lot of thirty and forty-somethings who learned their trade on the machines of the 70’s and early 80’s. At our University we now see a serious shortage of students who ca program. 20 years ago 90% of the intake had some useful programming experience – now it’s down to about 5%. It’s really difficult to teach coding to older (post 18) students.

I put the blame for this on the prevalence of platforms that either prevent the user from doing their own thing or make you buy extra , expensive stuff to do it. XNA is a small step in the right direction – but is still too hamstrung with restrictions to encourage enough people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Costs..

That’s an interesting perspective. I think it’s more that tightly-closed and restrictive platforms might have an effect on the supply of programmers by making the barrier to entry larger for tinkerers and hobbyists, and DRM is just one instance of that. There are still other games with more open platforms, like the Elder Scrolls construction kits. I remember having fun making NWN modules too, and the modding scene is quite lively for a lot of games and seems to encourage new programmers regularly.

Arguably, the sweatshop culture of companies like EA do more to harm the supply of industry talent than anything. Talented programmers have no end of horror stories to warn them away and into different career paths.

Donnicton says:

Re: Re: Costs..

You’re making the mistake of thinking with the mindset of 1998, where games only have a limited print run before disappearing from shelves.

This is no longer the case with digital distribution methods. The title will now always exist in an online format and remain available for purchase well after initial release, and will thus continue to be a steady revenue stream – especially when discounts can be used to create artificial surges in sales, as is the case with Steam/Origin sale days/weekends.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Costs..

“You’re making the mistake of thinking with the mindset of 1998, where games only have a limited print run before disappearing from shelves.”

One of their constant failings, but sadly something common to the entertainment industry as a whole. Remember all the talk about “the long tail” a few years ago? This is the sort of thing it referred to – a gog.com can still make a profit on games that would never be deemed viable in a physical store, and does so because they take advantage of technology to the full.

“especially when discounts can be used to create artificial surges in sales, as is the case with Steam/Origin sale days/weekends”

Yep. I can honestly say that the only times I’ve bothered to buy anything for PC/Mac (I mostly use Mac nowadays) in recent years is when Steam has a sale or the Humble Bundle offers some good titles. The rest of the time, I only use consoles, and even then tend to avoid companies that try to DRM my machines or give me a second-rate product for fear of “piracy”.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is probably not quite that simple. I Am Alive is an Xbox Live Arcade game. So it is probably selling for around $20 there. If they sold the game exclusively on Steam, they would get 70% of every sale.

So with 50,000 copies they would make $1 million. After Steam’s cut they would have $700k. Now the average developer earns $100k a year (that is a bit generous) so development costs for the 3 month port time is $300k. So with all that in mind, Ubisoft would have $400k in revenue. Take out any marketing costs and this is probably more of the break even point rather than a revenue generating point.

I am fairly certain that there are more than 50k paying customers on the PC. So I don’t think it would be that hard to turn a profit.

jsl4980 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Allocating 12 people for 3 months for a small amount of profit has to be weighed against other projects those 12 developers can work on. If they can work on a project that will sell many more units then it doesn’t make sense to create this PC port. I’ve been to quite a few software companies and there are never engineers sitting around doing nothing. They get assigned to projects based on potential profit or company needs.

Also the product development process includes much more than developers. They require quality assurance (testers), marketing, designers for all the crap that goes in the box, project managers, and many more people. All of those people could be assigned to more productive projects.

anonymous says:

DRM is the biggest problem, mainly because instead of ‘securing’ the game, it invariably breaks it! as for Ubisoft condemning ‘piracy’. it isn’t long ago that they were using a ‘pirate-made crk’ to get their game to work! what does that tell you? it seems to me that ‘piracy’ is the scourge of the various game makers, an excuse they can use to try to cover up a shit, broken product, until it gets the product working correctly and makes them money, then it is the dogs bollocks! yet another example of double standards!

LyleD says:

Butbut.. It's Ubisoft!

Ubisoft only have themselves to blame with the current state of their PC sales.. They’ve pissed of so many PC gamers over the years we just refuse to buy their games anymore..

Crap games, Bugs galore, DRM, DRM and more DRM.. Screw them.. Hope they go bust!

(And before you AC’s pipe up.. They’re not worth pirating either, did I mention they’re crap buggy games?)

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

Enough with the piracy lies

The lies about piracy are just getting old. Ubisoft just doesn’t know how to do it right. They are using fear and excuses, the big, bad piracy monster is going to get you if you develop games for the PC. Simply put, it’s not true. There are many games on the PC who do great for sales, some who outsell their console counterparts, such as Skyrim, and many who profit while offering their games for free.

Simply put, Ubisoft keeps spewing lies to try to keep up the false notion that PC gamers are all pirates and any one who likes PC gaming must be a pirate who just steals it. This is far from the truth, and many companies, such as Valve, Blizzard, and BioWare, know this.

Piracy is the same boogie man as terrorist, it’s simply used as a method to justify their bad behaviour.

Mortimer says:

Re: Enough with the piracy lies

I agree with you that Skyrim is a great game and sold tons of copies, but on the other hand as of last week more than a million copies have been downloaded via bittorrent by way of Pirate Bay. If those million+ people would not have had access to a pirated version, Im quite sure at least 70% of them would have paid for it because it IS such a good game which is a lot of LOST sales due to piracy. Maybe you cant use that argument about crap games like Sim Skatepark or something but blockbusters DO lose a lot of money due to piracy.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Re: Re: Enough with the piracy lies

Of the millions of downloads of Skyrim what percentage of people:

a) went out and purchased the game after playing it?
b) wouldn’t have purchased it if it wasn’t available?
c) wanted a file based backup of the media?
d) realised they didn’t like it after 10 minutes play?
e) downloaded and deleted it without installing?

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: Re: Enough with the piracy lies

this really isnt true mort, alot of people i know have downloaded skyrim to test it because they bought oblivion when it first came out and had major issues with it running.

now skyrim dosnt run well on some systems it should run great on, even reinstalling the os and such dosnt seem to fix it for some people, this and wanting to see if there are any major bugs is a large part of why people i know have “pirated” it.

note: most of them either already have bought the game or are just waiting for the christmas steam sale to save a few bucks.

also note that alot of those downloads never finish, each “download” isnt a completed download on TPB (or any other download site be it torrents or direct downloads)

also note there are companies that download the torrent over and over to pump those numbers, its part of the way they “prove” that copyright infringement is ruining the game/music/movie markets.(google a bit, there are articles about this stuff out there that are easy to find)

in short, yeah they lost some sales, but the fact is, they also gain by the word of mouth of those who cant afford to buy the game but love it OR who cant buy it where they live, OR who are just to cheap to buy it till its on sale.

Speaking from personal experience Word Of Mouth(WoM) can make or break a business/product, Its like some movies that have hit torrent sites going from flops to winning awards and making alot of money(the hurt locker anybody?)

in short, dont ASSume that “pirates” are all bad and dont ASSume that every “download”=lost sale, infact as studies have shown with music, downloads can = more sales.

Vic B (profile) says:

basic logic

Actually the math is more of this order:

12 guys for 3 months = $70K (salary) + $70K (business cost of employee) x 12 employees / 4 (3 months) = $420K Any slippage (very common) adds $140K/month.

50,000 copies x $15 (30% margin on $50 product)= $750K

Based on above, it’s not worth porting to pc.

If the company’s pc sales tripled or more (very possible based on sales of competing products) then it’s a poor business decision not to port to pc.

At the end of the day, the issue is less about piracy than faith in one’s product.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: basic logic

“12 guys for 3 months = $70K (salary) + $70K (business cost of employee) x 12 employees / 4 (3 months) = $420K Any slippage (very common) adds $140K/month.

50,000 copies x $15 (30% margin on $50 product)= $750K”

Unless I missed something there (and if I did, feel free to correct me) 750K – (140K + 420K) = 190K in profits. Okay, not a great profit, but a profit nonetheless.
Basically, this seems to be the mindset of the entertainment industry dinosaurs. If they’re not going to make millions/tens of millions on a product, they don’t want to bother, even if there’s a clear opportunity to at least make a few hundred thousand.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: basic logic

“Any slippage (very common) adds $140K/month.”

I’m not 100% convinced by all the figures (is the business cost of an employee really the same as his salary?), but this is probably the issue. A month’s delay could wipe out profits using those figures. I’d still say it’s short-sighted and ignorant of long-term profits as well as a great argument for revamping the industry in key ways, but I get some of the reluctance to some degree.

But, still, the argument seems to be “we don’t think we can make enough money so we won’t bother”, which does seem strange for a product with an existing fanbase.

Penultimate Umbra (profile) says:

Re: Re: basic logic

If this person’s numbers are close to the mark (which seems at least possible) than it’s a valid risk equation. Software estimates are regularly 30% or more shy, and sales estimates are ballpark figures at best. One standard deviation on that 50,000 copies is probably 20,000.

A risk-averse assessment might look for the 95% confidence line. The analyst might be able to say ‘I am 95% confident that I will sell at least 15,000 copies’, and ‘I am 95% confident that the product will ship within four months’. This shows quite a substantial loss and is therefore not a risk-averse decision.

Having said that, I agree with most everything else you’ve posted, and Ubisoft are lying in a sloppy bed built from bad press and poor quality control.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: basic logic

Well, the game is an XBox Live Arcade game, so it probably costs about $20 on the 360. So if they sold the game through Steam they would probably do it at $20. Steam takes 30% of every sale so that leaves them with $14 on every sale.

But still, 50k purchases is probably the break even or just getting into the profit zone.

The real question then is, can they sell more than 50k copies? If they sold 100k would it be worth it? What if they just sell more than they do on the 360/PS3?

Machin Shin says:

Re: basic logic

I think something else people are not taking into account is the value of peoples good will. They are telling PC gamers “screw you, you are not worth our time”. Well that does not win over any fans. On the other hand, they could port the game and accept that they will possibly just break even but they will end up with some fans who will be looking for future games. Often I think it is worth it for a company to possibly even take a loss from time to time just to gain some customer loyalty. This is something that many entertainment companies do not understand. A loyal fan will not steel your product. On the other hand if you constantly attack your customers then they are going to find it a lot more tempting to not offer their support.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ubisoft’s DRM is the reason I don’t but their newer games, like Heroes of Might and Magic 6, that forces you to be connected to the Internet at all times to get all the game’s features. The game is primarily met to be a single player game, so requiring an internet connection makes no sense. Plus, from what I read Ubisoft’s servers tend to crash a lot, which kicks you out of your own single player game because the connection is lost!

On top of all the stupidity of the DRM in heroes 6 all the pirated versions of the games have all the online features unlocked, with no need to connect to Ubisoft’s servers. So their DRM just pisses off paying customers without doing a thing to stop pirating of their game.

Natai (profile) says:

Good article. It’s also worth noting a couple of other issues with the current pricing/distribution model for PC games.

First, developers might see more success in selling PC games if they actually developed games for the PC. These days too many games are simply console ports, with absolutely no UI optimization for the PC and poor graphics. Want me to pay full price for your new game on the PC, then update the UI, include hi-res textures, and at least marginally current graphics features.

Second, while the electronic distribution models do provide a service and convenience, PC gamers are not stupid. They know it does not cost anywhere near the same to release an all-digital game as it does to release and distribute a retail box, particularly when extras are included. It doesn’t cost the same to but electronic downloads of a new album as it does to by the CD, and games should operate the same way.

Developers should also consider leveraging the very thing they keep complaining about – the PC gaming community. When you include them in testing and development, you will find they can actually be extremely helpful. Due to many technical issues, it’s just not the same with console gamers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just last week I read that Nintendo and Sony are seeing a decline in sales of their DS and PSP platforms that are being killed by smartphone games and to some degree it is happening to other other platforms like PS3 and the XBox.

So Ubisoft should thread carefully now, their revenues could be coming from the piracy haven of the PC platform.

Nate says:

From Ubi’s standpoint you also have to consider the userbase overlap. Let’s say you release the game and it sells 50k copies on the PC. You then do a poll of those 50k folks and the vast majority of them also have PS3s or 360s (or both). Those 50k sales are then really not that impressive when you consider that you might have gotten 35k of them anyways over on the console side had you not ported to PC.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…but that’s an assumption based on a pessimistic assessment of the facts. Just because someone owns a console, that doesn’t mean that’s their primary gaming platform. For example, you might have a console for Halo or Gran Turismo, but do the majority of your gaming on the PC. I own all 3 current gen consoles, a PC and 2 Macs. That won’t tell you which platform I buy most games for.

There’s also the possibility that those 50,000 people don’t own any console, or that some console owners bought the game after looking at the pirated one (actually more likely in some ways – see a “demo” on the PC, then buy the 360 version because achievements, etc. make it more valuable on that platform).

As ever, we’re dealing with assumptions – not a good thing to based your business on, especially when you have a demonstrable fanbase demanding the game on the platform you refuse to service out of naked, unfounded fear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Imagine the number of developers that would return to the PC market if piracy wasn’t so rampant on that platform. If you think Ubisoft stands alone on this issue you are sorely mistaken.

Mike, you always take the stance that pirates are customers too but why would someone who pirated a game turn around and pay for the game later? If they have already downloaded the full game, what insentive would they have to pay for that same game?

Developers have left the PC market because of piracy, that is a fact. Games are not being ported to the PC because of piracy, that is a fact. Your hypotethical scenarios wherein pirates later become paying customers are just that hypothetical scenarios.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Imagine the number of developers that would return to the PC market”

Yeah, fantasy is fun, isn’t it! But won’t those developers have already fled to other platforms or even industries? Why would they return to the PC?

“but why would someone who pirated a game turn around and pay for the game later”

Because they want to reward the developer for making a good game? Because they want access to DLC or online play on official servers? Because half the studios don’t even make demos any more and nobody can afford to pay $50+ on a game they haven’t played?



“that is a fact. “

Citation needed. I know customers have fled the PC platform due in part to DRM and other attempts to block legal customers (anecdotal example: me). Why would devs be any different?

“Your hypotethical scenarios wherein pirates later become paying customers are just that hypothetical scenarios.”

As are your hypothetical scenarios that people who pirate never pay and that everyone who disagrees with you is a pirate. At least Mike cites the sources for his ideas and claims. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an AC here back up anything they claim on this issue. Probably because it’s made up bullshit.

Fickelbra (profile) says:

I think the gaming industry will flourish even more when fixed pricing is done away with, or at the very least modified. We are seeing it more and more with some titles on Xbox 360 debuting at $40.00 (but those titles are generally re-releases of a year prior, which isn’t a great step forward).

Here is my example: I won’t buy MW3. I don’t want to play it online, so that leaves Spec Ops and Single Player, and that’s not worth $60. But the price will never drop below that, unless the game is used and cheap, which Activision gets zero dollars for. Price reduction in the future? Fat chance. So basically, the current pricing plan will not serve me, and Activision gets no money from me. At a lower price point, say $20 or $30, I would consider it, but the price will NEVER drop that low until the game is severely outdated. The point, is that there is a market of people who are willing to STILL PAY, but not your original premium. We are ignored, which creates a lucrative used games market. It would be so easy to beat the used games market, because Gamestop offers almost no benefit to a used game other than a couple bucks off the price in most cases (and the 7 day money back guarantee). Challenge the used game market with lower prices and I’d buy the fresh shiny copy every time.

Anonymous Coward says:

I own over 180 games on Steam. I play with a bunch of other guys and we usually buy the same games. I’ve bought many games which I wouldn’t have otherwise just because my buddies have it. We generally want to play the same games and frequently recommend games to one another. Sadly, none of us buy Ubisoft games anymore. They make great games but they are more concerned with the pirates than they are with appeasing paying customers.

I don’t mind DRM when implemented well. Steam is a good example. Steam is DRM. It’s also a well established community and a game store where you frequently get 50-75% of A list games. This view won’t be popular here but I think it articulates some of Mikes points on the issue quite well. Give an incentive for people not to pirate your game. One other huge reason I use Steam is because all my games are in one place, ready to download to any computer. That is a huge incentive for me.

I find the only time I get upset with DRM on Steam is when a company then adds their own DRM as well. There are many ways to implement DRM and protect your investment without alienating your entire user base.

Andrew (profile) says:

Its definitely interesting to see different view points on piracy. On one hand we have people like Ubisoft who believe lets crack down and increase our protection but then others who believe lets see how we can compete with piracy and bring a better platform so users actually want to play.

I don’t live in the United States, I live outside and one of my major issues I always have is getting my hands on games at a reasonable price and time. I remember a few years back when a few friends of mine from the United States were trying to get me to get Left 4 Dead and it was really late so stores where I am won’t be open that late so I would have to wait till the next day. Then one of them commented why don’t I just use Steam and get it. Low and behold I downloaded Steam and in seconds I had purchased Steam (at a discount too if I remember correctly) and I was downloading it. About 2 hours after that I was playing Left 4 dead with my friends.

A lot of people are always concerned about the United States this and that but what you have to realize is that they have others out there who buy games too. I am an avid gamer and Steam for me was like a Godsend with its ease and it worked for me.

Ubisoft has had good games over the years but their lack of respect for me as a gamer was disconcerting and I haven’t played anything from them since Assassin’s Creed. I have other companies that I would rather give my money to and even to pirate the game isn’t even worth my time.

I know it was never brought up in the article but whenever people talk of piracy they say its a lost sale but isn’t me not buying your game or even purchasing your game a lost sale as well?

I think Ubisoft has to be careful what they say and even how they say it. Having good games is one thing but if you continue to piss off your gaming community it won’t end well at all.

Anonymous Coward says:


Although his comments about piracy are undeniably stupid, the comment about people “bitching” was supposedly an honest-to-god translation error. Stanislaw’s grasp of English is a little shaky, and apparently he didn’t understand how inflammatory his choice of words was.

The whole thing is interesting, because I don’t know how much attention this would have gotten if he hadn’t said people were “bitching” about the lack of a PC version.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m very happy to hear that Ubisoft won’t be releasing a game because of piracy. The game making companies by the name of Ubisoft and EA are both huge antipiracy companies requiring their buyers of the software they make to jump through all sorts of hoops in an attempt to prevent piracy.

I won’t buy from either of them or any game they make. They’ve tried everything from having to have a constant internet connection to play to not allowing games to be saved on the computer.

Both of these companies are after the golden goose. The games they make are short and most have no replay value, something I set as a high must in purchasing a game. They prefer to run serials of franchises because they have a fan base built up and usually that means very little extra new throwed in.

I would hope because of past efforts to control piracy they will reach a point they do as this one and just not publish the game. It creates less bs for the gamer to deal with. Sort of like the RIAA and the MPAA, these two game making houses are another group I would like to see go under from a lack of funds.

It makes my day to read this article, thank you for putting it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have to come in once again to make a comment. I don’t really care if you believe it or not.

I’ve been ripped off too many times by gaming houses releasing software that isn’t ready for market. It has bugs from not being tested enough, it has glitches that cause games to freeze, hang up, or just leave you in a place that you can’t get out of.

I’ve learned over time, that gaming magazines that do reviews are not being truthful because the gaming houses put pressure on them to give excellent reviews or they don’t get a shot at the next new game.

The only way to find out the truth is to test it. I am not willing to lay my money down on an untested game, that may or may not run on my computer, that may or may not ever see a fix or patch for.

I don’t game on consoles. A fully rigged gaming computer outdoes the consoles. The choices provided in a computer game ported to the computer are far more intricate and better to tailor the game to your playing style. You don’t have the choices in consoles you have with the computer. The computer with a good vid card, does better frame rates, making for smoother actions. With good sound, it’s like your in the game. For escapism, it can’t be beat.

Don’t sell computer platformed games and you certainly cut my money out of it. I’m not going to support it, no matter have good it is.

One of the examples of bad gaming programming, is that Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, all suffer from a glitch that allows you to get hung in the rocks with no way out. It’s never been fixed in any of those games. I’ve tried them all, I’ve bought everyone of them afterwards with the exception of Skyrim, which I am still test driving.

In addition, I’ve tried the Fallout series first, which I also bought every one of. Get used to the idea I will not spend money as a customer on a subpar game. Since I have no other method of determining the quality, I’ll try them first before spending the money. If I can’t try them, I won’t spend the money. Been burnt too many times before.

Let me add another series I’ve tried first and bought all of, right up to the latest. That’s the Civilization series. Yah, all of them.

I will not spend one single dollar on any game untried. Live with it, I do.

cennis (profile) says:

What will it take to get the message through to those in charge at Ubisoft?

“What will it take to get the message through to those in charge at Ubisoft?”

It will take consumers who are willing to be conscientious about the products that they buy. You could ask the same of the issues we are seeing around the world today with folks protesting the current state of their government. What needs to happen to make a change? Easy, apathy needs to change. Either you are a product of the system that has been created for you or you are a knowledgeable consumer who decides what producers produce…you decide.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: What will it take to get the message through to those in charge at Ubisoft?

That’s the ideal.

Sadly, Ubisoft are the poster child for the opposite being true. No matter why people boycott their products (and DRM does appear to be a major reason), they refuse to listen to dissenting opinions and assume that piracy is the reason for their losses. As we’ve seen on this site, everyone from an AC troll to the former leader of the RIAA is unwilling to consider the fact that their own decisions and actions are the things causing their losses. They just assume that anyone who disagrees is a pirate, and continue to dig themselves deeper into that hole.

Anonymous Coward says:

How about actually developing the game for the PC rather than just porting it across? PCs have substantially better video & sound than consoles.

When developers make no effort to take advantage of PC hardware or refuses to release a game on the PC, I download the X-Box 360 version of the game.

If the developer makes the effort to take advantage of the PCs hardware for most games I’ll buy the PC version, but for some types of games might but the X Box 360 version. I won’t pirate the game.

Guest says:

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