Demigod, Piracy And Good Business Models...

from the let's-walk-this-through... dept

Lots of folks have been submitting variations on the story about how Stardock's new game, Demigod, has been widely pirated, and that's resulted in server troubles for the company, as many of these unauthorized users try to connect to Stardock servers. Many are claiming that this shows that Stardock's customer friendly approach to video games fails. But, that's not true or accurate at all. It's just an issue of properly lining up the incentives and the infinite goods vs. the scarcities. In this case, one of the key scarcities was server access -- but Stardock set things up such that unauthorized copies could drag that down. The good thing, though, is that the company quickly got on top of the problem and has been implementing a technological fix rather than screaming and complaining about pirates. Meanwhile, some others have sent in links to the Demigod forums, where people recognize that many of the unauthorized users got the game to test it out, and are encouraging people to buy it to support Stardock and its fan-friendly attitude.

In the end, though, it does seem like Stardock has set this up a bit as a "give it away and pray" setup, which we tend not to agree with as a good business model. Since a big part of the game is the mutliplayer aspect, where you have to connect to a server and play against other players, why not give away the software itself (many people are getting it this way already) and charge a nominal fee for access to the server. That access is a scarcity -- and then you can scale based on users, since more users means more money. It seems like that's a reasonable business model that aligns everything much more nicely.
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Filed Under: business models, demigod, piracy, video games
Companies: stardock


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2009 @ 1:39am

    spoRk, consider the fact that no DRM works for very long, usually a matter of days at most. Thieves "are" going to get the game and play the game, this is a fact no matter how it may be wished away, the point of what I was saying is that they stopped the pirating side from blasting their servers. The game is a fun single player experience and the logical extension is to want to play it online. So long as the servers kick duplicate serials and no one cracks the serial generation (a much more difficult proposition given lack of data/code on the client side), they prevent at least half the fun of the game from being duplicated through a pirated version.

    As such, I was not saying they have to follow some business model to make it work. I believe that the model they have will work out and turn a profit despite the problems they encountered by not having any DRM on the game itself initially. They fixed the server scaling problem such that they won't get DDos'd by their own game now or in the future, but if the servers are kicking duplicate serials and such then pirates are going to have a rough time enjoying the rest of the game.

    There are surely those who will pirate and never buy a game, I don't question that. The problem is they will never buy it one way or another as they know someone will eventually crack whatever DRM is on the game so they can play it without paying anyway. The folks I'm talking about as potential sales are the ones that think pirating is just a way to demo the game. Now they see they can't enjoy the full game, they may buy the game if they see the potential fun in the multiplayer aspect.

    And yes, in 15 years I've been involved with most of the various business models and after fighting hackers etc, I came to the simple conclusion which my bosses all hate: DRM doesn't work. Serial numbers, kicking duplicates off of servers etc, that works because there is not enough data in the wild to get a good sampling in order to hack the generation scheme quickly. You get at least 6 months on the serial number system and of course building a replacement server takes a while also.

    SO..... What I was suggesting is not to ignore piracy, just to assume it will happen because no matter what your efforts, even 10 very intelligent programmers are going to be out-hacked by the thousands of hackers out looking to see how your code works and/or break it because they are just curious and/or bored.

    Ignoring the single player piracy, the portion which can be controlled is the online component where very little is in hacker hands. Eventually they can work around things but that's after the initial desire to play the first version of the game has worn out. If you use your resources in expansions and slight modifications (fairly cheap compared to initial dev time) which can't be immediately duplicated on gray shards/servers, getting a legal following is much more viable than fighting hackers.

    This is very obviously my opinion, but using that 15 years you dissed, I kinda say that I've watched this over time and all DRM has been a joke. 20 years ago I used to crack drm (lite at the time), I had no money but my folks bought me a computer, I had lots of time and not much else to do. Today I'd be in jail for some of the things I did, young, intelligent, and curious. If you think 15 year olds no longer exist with those abilities and no concept of law, you are a fool.

    There is "no" business model which works in software on PC's without assuming piracy happens on the non-internet side of things. Go to pirate bay and look for whatever game you want, you will find a set of torrents for it. Don't download them, probably infected but they are working games usually. (I use VMWare to test various things such as this, those torrents work to play the game though. A good portion are virus/trojan infected though.)

    I'm writing an epic post here but facts are facts. DRM doesn't work, pisses folks off and the only thing that can be sold is the added content. Even for pirates, they want online game play, they want patches because it fixes xyz bug, or they want new content/ballance changes, those things only come from the original content provider and only a couple days/weeks later from hackers. Those things only come from the original provider and hacked versions come in much later. So, I stand by the comment that with 100k illegal copies they will likely get a fair amount of legal purchases to enjoy the online side of things out of those 100k illegal copies.

    KB

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