Stardock Apparently Didn't Get The Memo About Piracy Killing The PC Gaming Market

from the conventional-wisdom-is-wrong-again dept

For the past year or so, we've been hearing all this hand-wringing about how piracy was killing the PC gaming market. The only problem with that claim was that the data actually said the exact opposite. In fact, companies that bothered to embrace fans and treat them right, rather than whining about piracy and making life difficult for users, found that they could do quite well. For example, we talked about Stardock, a company that did everything "wrong" if you went by the conventional wisdom of the video gaming industry. It didn't use DRM. It sold PC games. It kept prices low. It focused on connecting with consumers and understanding what they wanted, rather than coming down off the mountaintop with the "perfect game." And it worked. Despite being easily "pirated" the company got its games into top retailers and became a top seller.

That was a few years ago, even before the more urgent warnings from the "big" video game companies about piracy killing the PC gaming industry. So what's Stardock doing? Thanks to reader Lucretious for sending in the news that Stardock is rapidly expanding and planning new PC games. Yes, some of this is due to a local stimulus package that it's taking advantage of, but if piracy were really killing off the PC gaming industry, the company wouldn't be investing so heavily in new PC games, would it? Once again, we're seeing that companies that treat consumers, fans and users as people, and not thieves, discover that there are plenty of business models that work great.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Ignorant Corporate Schmuck, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    "We'll sue"

    Hey! That's a corporate secret!!

    You can't go around telling people there's no piracy problem, that memo was for internal EA use only!

    We'll sue!

     

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    Paul Brinker, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    As a stardock customer with more then one preeorder (demigod and Elemental) and some excitment over things like Supreem Commander 2 (1 is on stardock right now) I totly love both the no DRM and the service Impulse which you can install on any computer and down load unlimited copys of your games.

    So ya you get:

    NO DRM
    Unlimited Downloads
    No CD checks
    Unlimited backups
    No phone home

    I just wish thay had more games, puting all of several companys back catalogs would be great.

     

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    Patent Whore, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Trademarked...

    You have used my trademark/copyrighted/patented phrase without proper reimbusement. Please cease and desist.

    For future reference:

    "I'll Sue!" tm (c) Patent Pending
    "We'll Sue!" tm (c) Patent Pending
    "He'll Sue!" tm (c) Patent Pending
    "She'll Sue!" tm (c) Patent Pending
    "They'll Sue!" tm (c) Patent Pending

    If you desire to use a simliar comment, you must use it with period instead of an exclaimation point... for instance...

    "We'll sue."

    We consider that fair use and would not seek licensing for said use.

    Thank you understanding.

     

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    SteveD, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    Only half of PC Games sales are from retail stores

    The percentage shrink in PC Games sales published last year was a 17% shrink between 2007 and 2008 (compiled by the NPD Group), and this put PC Gaming in stark contrast to healthy console sales with lots of blame thrown on piracy and a whole bunch of traditional PC developers jumping ship. A few publishers even refused to ship PC releases of games simultaneously with consoles versions in case it might 'canabalize' sales.

    But a big problem with these figures is they only consider traditional retail stores. That excludes Digital Download services, Micro-payments and online subscriptions (ie, the 11.5+ million people worldwide who pay a monthly subscription to play WoW).

    The gaming UK blog 'Rock Paper Shotgun' recently carried out a survey of their readers, the results of which suggested that 47% of games sales were from digital downloads. If that's true it means the PC Gaming industry is in a lot better shape then a lot of publishers would like to admit.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/01/29/pc-game-sales-47-of-pc-purchases-are-digital/

     

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    Matt, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:06pm

    basic fallacies

    The issue with piracy arguments on a simple note is like this:

    publishers: "more piracy = less sales"

    problem is "less piracy" doesn't equal more sales.

    When will this be understood by them?

     

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      Travis, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

      Re: basic fallacies

      This is 100% false. Everybody knows that each illegal download is a lost sale. Stop spreading these lies.

       

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        Sarojin, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

        Re: Re: basic fallacies

        Do you have any evidence to support your argument?

        I have played many games that I got without buying that I would never, ever pay money for.

        They were good enough to try for free, but not good enough to waste money on.

        What ignorant nonsense.

         

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          ToySouljah, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: basic fallacies

          Yeah, I still download a lot of games, but I tend to get bored with them after a few days. To me that is not worth the $50 (average?) that they cost. Stardock does have cheap games and so I might give some a try.

          But you are right though...the games usually are not worth the price they charge. I think if they dropped the price or gave you a free week (or 2) to fully try the game (not a demo) before buying then there might be a rise in sales. Also, I think digital downloads are the way to go since they could save a lot on packaging and not charge nearly as much since it is an infinite good.

           

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    Crimson, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:33pm

    Wait. You can't just blow off the tax breaks they're getting as if they don't matter and then declare victory for your side of the argument. I'm guessing without those tax breaks, Stardock would either be treading water or LOSING jobs.

    In the future, everyone will follow the World of Warcraft and Valve models of DRM, meaning without the internet, your software DVD is nothing but a glorified coffee coaster. Since this style of DRM doesn't involve rootkits or other invasive means (yet), this is a fairly acceptable medium IMO. Also, I bet future Stardock games involve this type of DRM.

     

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      Mike (profile), Feb 6th, 2009 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      Wait. You can't just blow off the tax breaks they're getting as if they don't matter and then declare victory for your side of the argument. I'm guessing without those tax breaks, Stardock would either be treading water or LOSING jobs.

      Um. You think the tax breaks are enough for them to hire 50 new people? I doubt it.

      In the future, everyone will follow the World of Warcraft and Valve models of DRM, meaning without the internet, your software DVD is nothing but a glorified coffee coaster.

      Would you like to make a bet on that prediction?

       

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    Phil Goldinger, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:39pm

    And they shall be rewarded

    Well, since they do business in such a nice manner, unlike EA from whom I've purchased most of my games, I'll have to check them out. Just downloaded a demo to try out.

    Treat us right and you shall be rewarded!

    I'll also let them know how I heard about them and why I decided to try their software.

     

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    Paul Brinker, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    Stardock Gamer Bill of Rights:

    Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.

    Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.

    Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.

    Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.

    Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.

    Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.

    Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.

    Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.

    Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

    Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

     

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    Lisa Westveld, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:46pm

    I think it's the DRM that is killing the PC games market. Especially badly written DRM application that installs as rootkits and slows down the PC by continuously scanning the system for illegal software or whatever.
    Anyways, I don't buy any games from companies that are known to add DRM to their games. The reason? I don't trust their code!
    I can still remember what Sony did with by adding DRM to their music CD's. It made me painfully aware of the bad decisions that are made by those companies. They forget that the PC is mine, not theirs! I decide what I allow on my PC and when they secretly install some additional rootkits/spyware/whatever, they are violating my rights!

     

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      Cheong, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

      Re:

      Yes. Let alone that DRMs preventing gamers to run it on PCs with softwares like "Process Explorer" from Microsoft or certain brands of antivirus. (No, I won't name it. But you should be able to figure it out.)

      I decided not to buy the game because it won't run on my PCs. Now that's killing the PC games market.

       

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    ToySouljah, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 5:41pm

    Good company

    I first heard of Stardock when I downloaded Windowsblinds (illegally), but after using it for a while I decided to buy the full version when I built my PC last year (I actually bought Object Desktop that includes WB). I like Impulse since it keeps all the software up-to-date and also has a lot of free stuff you can download. I haven't tried the games, but I see a lot of them for like $10 and so I might pick up a couple over the weekend and try out. So actually if it wasn't for pirated software they more than likely would not have gotten a sale from me...lol. I've downloaded a lot of software over the past 10+ years and a lot fo the stuff I eventually buy if I use it often enough or until I find a free alternative (I also contribute to tip jars for the programmers). So to me pirated software is more of a try before you buy (if you like). Most groups even mention that in their NFO files usually along the lines of "If you like this software then support the programmers and buy it.", but there will always be those that will never buy the real thing no matter how much they like the program. At first look Stardock looked a little cheesy, but then I guess it fits them since they do have some pretty zany offerings...lol. Hopefully, they keep up the good work and I look forward to future business with them :)

     

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    TDR, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 6:54am

    Sounds like a picket line needs to be formed around some of these game companies' HQ's until they adopt Stardock's Gamer Bill of Rights that was posted above.

     

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    Ima Fish, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    I was a huge PC gamer in the 90s. I stopped in the 2000s and here are the main reasons why:

    1. DRM. I liked back in the old days when you could back up your installed game, with all of its settings, by merely copying the folder. So if your computer crashed you could simply recopy the folder back and start playing without reinstalling. I'd install all my games on the D drive, and then if I had to reinstall my OS on C, I could still use the games because all the backed up shortcuts would still work.

    Now when you have to reinstall, you have to dig around trying to find exactly which files keep your settings and saved games. It's amazing how many bizarre places they put this stuff. E.g., in your "My Documents" folder?! Yeah, that's were I want my game info stored... not! Hidden in your Application Data subfolder? How many people would even know that it exists, let alone be able to find it there?!

    2. Multiple Install Discs: When you suddenly needed to sit there and feed 5 install discs to install the game, it suddenly because very annoying. And the real annoying thing is that the multiple discs are used because it is thought (erroneously) that having a single DVD disc makes copy and infringement easier. So in other words, I'm being punished for doing the right thing and buying game. (Someone will think that they don't use DVDs because not everyone had a DVD drive. That's BS. If gaming companies can require you to buy a $200 video card to make the game work, they can certainly require a $40 DVD drive to install it.

    3. Controllers. I agree that each came manufacturer cannot possibly foresee every oddball controller you might use, however, if you use a brand name controller, such as the Logitech Cordless RumblePad 2, your game should simply work without any additional input from you. I'm shocked at how many games you have to use Logitech's software to force the game to work with the controller. It's frustrating and is complete BS.

    And this is partially Microsoft's fault. Controller and gaming manufactures should build their products to a standard, e.g., DirectX, which then coordinates between the game and the controller to ensure that they work. In other words, controller manufacturers build to the standard and game authors write to the standard, and then everything just works.

    4. Making it difficult to get game updates. In the old days if you bought a game from id software, you'd go to id's FTP site and get the update. Then game manufacturers decided to save on bandwidth costs and they had their updates available through scammy sites such as File Planet. Sure you could download the updates there, but only after jumping through numerous hoops attempting to get you to sign up and pay for their service. It got to the point where I'd just look on P2P sites and services to find the updates I needed.

    5. Unecessary background programs. I'm really talking about Steam. I know plenty of gamers love Steam. But I don't want to be forced to run BS programs in order to play a game. System resources are precious and should not be wasted. And it makes no sense to me to spend hundreds on an upgrade to run/play $40 worth of software. When given the choice, I'll choose not to run the software.

    6. Forcing the use of the game disc for play. Once again, I'm being punished for doing the right thing and buying the game. And of course someone will think, "Well, you need the disc to play it on the console, so why should the PC be any different?" Because the PC is different. Historically consoles did not have hard drives so it was impossible to save all game data on the console. PCs have hard drives so it only makes sense to put all necessary data on the hard drive.

    7. No backups of game discs. I loved how id's license specifically allowed you to make a backup of the disc under § 117. I used to make the initial copy of the disc, put the original away for safe keeping, and then use the copy in order to protect the original.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Before placing this company too high on a pedestal, some may wish to consider the contrast between its approach in the gaming world versus its utility applications division. The former does seem beneficial in treating game users as basically honest customers (freeloaders notwithstanding), but the procedures of its utility applications are not so lucky. Activation is required. Number of activations is limited, and if exceeded requires a call for additional activations, license transfer requires prior approval, etc.

    I mention this, not to throw water on the tenor of the article, but merely to note the possibility that there may be some business dynamics at work differentiating gaming software from utility applications. What they are is hard to tell, but I can see some differences that companies may view as important. Even so, as a user of exclusively utility applications, it does get a bit old to have to jump these hurdles should my drive backup fail to recover everything properly and force my into making a bare metal reinstall.

    One app readily comes to mind. I have a data recovery app that I have used for years. A few months ago I decided to upgrade it to the most recent version. A few weeks ago I lost some data and needed to use the app for the first time. Since I perform all such recoveries in Windows' Safe Mode, I was none too pleased to learn that I needed an internet connection before I could perform a data recovery. When I am performing a recovery the last thing I want is more resources running than are absolutely necessary for Safe Mode to properly boot. Besides, an internet connection is not always available, and in its absence I am basically out of luck. This was bad enough, but a few days ago after several tries at a bare metal install I came to learn for the very first time that the utility was time limited...it would run for only one year from the date of purchase, at which time it would cease to function unless I renewed a subscription. Obviously, this came as a very rude shock.

    Chalk that company up as having lost a longstanding customer, which saddens me because it does make good products.

     

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    Jon, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Re:

    Ima Fish:

    ... It's amazing how many bizarre places they put this stuff. E.g., in your "My Documents" folder?! Yeah, that's were I want my game info stored... not! Hidden in your Application Data subfolder? How many people would even know that it exists, let alone be able to find it there?!...

    Curiously, according to Microsoft's own Programming Guides, that's what you're supposed to do - any customizations you do outside of the standard software get saved into your "My Documents" or more specifically "Application Data" directory.

    That lets you sanely have multiple users share one computer. Curiously, that's the UNIX way to do things, too. That's really the only option for application installations for multi-user OS's (like Windows claims it is). I understand that you're probably the only person that ever uses the computer, but imagine your sister/brother also uses the computer, and likes/wants a different setup. The only way to manage that is to have separate logins, with separate "profiles".

     

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