Stardock CEO: Focus On Your Customers; Don't Worry About Pirates

from the exactly dept

Given our earlier posts about Stardock's new game, Demigod, and how the company was dealing with the fact that there were plenty of unauthorized copies, this shouldn't be a surprise at all: The company's CEO has taken to his forums to make it clear that, while no one likes unauthorized copies, his job is not to worry about "pirates," but to focus on pleasing his customers. And on that front, the game has been a huge success. In his post, he points out that even if the game had been a failure, he wouldn't be blaming it on pirates, but on the company's own mistakes -- but, of course, the game hasn't been a failure. It's been selling like crazy.

This isn't new or surprising. It's what Stardock has always said. And it's the same sort of attitude that others who have found success with content these days have had, as well. It's never pleasant to find someone is copying content/software/whatever you've made, but you can't worry about them. It's a waste of time and effort. People will always make unauthorized copies, and any effort to stop them will only hurt those who actually want to give you money. So focus on providing real value for those who want to buy, and stop worrying so much about everyone else.
The reality that most PC game publishers ignore is that there are people who buy games and people who don't buy games. The focus of a business is to increase its sales. My job, as CEO of Stardock, is not to fight worldwide piracy no matter how much it aggravates me personally. My job is to maximize the sales of my product and service and I do that by focusing on the people who pay my salary -- our customers.
You can waste an awful lot of energy and resources "fighting pirates" and losing, or you can focus on actually serving your customers and making money. Which seems more intelligent?


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Chargone, May 1st, 2009 @ 9:19pm

    why, fighting piracy of course!
    why else would all these so called experts and big companies and so on support it and put so much money into the project?

    ....

    ok, yeah, that right there? total sarcasm.

     

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    ToySouljah, May 1st, 2009 @ 9:21pm

    Forgot who said it but...

    Take care of the customers, and the business will take care of itself.

    I think it was Sam Walton, but I couldn't find out who actually said it.

    Stardock is one company I have only had good experiences with. I'm the type of person that will download a lot of stuff and buy what I like. I illegally downloaded their Object Desktop and after about a month or 2 of playing around with it I liked it enough to spend the $70 and then after downloading Impulse I started buying other things since they make it really easy and I can transfer it from computer to computer. I build systems and change them like people change underwear so that is a huge plus for me.

     

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      Cixelsid, May 2nd, 2009 @ 4:39am

      Re: Forgot who said it but...

      I still like to believe that most people aren't evil bastards. For the most part people will give way to oncoming traffic and pay their taxes. Casual pirates too, I believe, will buy an item they pirated if they find it useful. Most cracker NFO's encourage people to "Support software companies and buy the software you use", or something along those lines.

      In this case though I think some sort of online identification code would have been prudent, especially if legal owners of the game are suffering because freeloaders are overloading the servers.

       

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    Matt, May 1st, 2009 @ 10:52pm

    This case is interesting, however. Demigod hasn't met with wide acclaim *because* of piracy. Specifically, connections have been spotty to non-existence because Stardock based their server capacity on sales, not accounting for the huge number of pirates logging on.

    For Demigod, serving the customers may actually include combating piracy.

     

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      Dan, May 2nd, 2009 @ 9:13am

      Re: "Servng customers may include combating piracy"

      Not necessarily. You could serve the customers simply by improving the servers, which would improve the game's quality for customers and non-customers. You don't actually have to kick any of the pirates off - just keep the servers trucking on and running, and people will keep buying the game. That way the game reaches for its highest potential (the devs are working 100% on game quality, not DRM or fighting pirates) and I believe that game quality is directly proportional to sales. Imagine your friend pirates the game, says how awesome it is to all his friends - then three of his friends buy it on the "pirate's" recommendation. You can barely call it piracy then when it acts as free advertising and leads to MORE revenue.

       

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        Matt, May 2nd, 2009 @ 1:44pm

        Re: Re: "Servng customers may include combating piracy"

        I suppose that is true, but it is still kind of fucked up. I'm pretty supportive of the rights of so-called "pirates," and that things like BitTorrent help way more than they harm, but when unpaid users actually harm the ability of paid users to play a game, that's when I draw the line. If this was a P2P game along the lines of Diablo II, sure, no problem. But the fact that legitimate users can't use the product they bought because of pirates is troubling. (Incidentlly, isn't that why we *hate* DRM in the first place -- because it places undue burden on legitimate users?)

         

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          Jason, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:15am

          Re: Re: Re: "Servng customers may include combating piracy"

          I agree. I'm generally pro-pirate, but that's specifically in the case of copying where supply is virtually unlimited and the only scarcity to speak of applies to intangibles.

          But unauthorized access to limited resources that harms the enjoyment of paying customers is just plain stealing. Harm is actually done, and it's wrong.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, May 2nd, 2009 @ 2:44pm

        Re: Re: "Servng customers may include combating piracy"

        Dan, I enjoy watching the unethical try to rationalize their wrong doing.

         

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          Dan, May 2nd, 2009 @ 4:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Servng customers may include combating piracy"

          I wasn't trying to rationalize piracy at all - you misunderstood me. I legitimately buy my games. I was trying to make the point that customer service is not synonymous with anti-piracy measures. A company can succeed simply by taking care of their customers. That has always been true, no matter the technological climate.

           

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      minijedimaster, May 3rd, 2009 @ 4:11pm

      Re:

      This case is interesting, however. Demigod hasn't met with wide acclaim *because* of piracy. Specifically, connections have been spotty to non-existence because Stardock based their server capacity on sales, not accounting for the huge number of pirates logging on.

      You obviously haven't a clue about this issue. The connection issues lasted for all of a few days. And those connection issues were not because of pirate users logging on, but because of a design flaw in the way the game looked for an update when you started it up, whether it was a legitimate copy or not.

      Ars Article on the Issue

      On Day 0 there were around 140,000 concurrent users, with 18,000 validated users. The pirates couldn't update their game or play online, but they could still "touch the servers."

      "So over the first 24 hours, we had to essentially scrap together a doppleganger of the infrastructure dedicated to Demigod's multiplayer network needs, release an update to legitimate users to point them to it..." he wrote. "Now today, day 3, it's pretty much taken care of. Users are connecting in multiplayer, the servers are pretty responsive and we're adding more in preparation for the weekend."

      Part of the issue was also due to the game being released before its street date by Gamestop (idiots) and so there were a ton of people attempting to log in before the servers were even up, which in turn also attributed to the fact that there were 140,000 "unauthorized" copies of the game attempting to connect on release day as it was available early.

      Personally, I think your claim of this game "not being met with wide acclaim" is complete rubbish just by looking at the numbers of both sales and pirated downloads. I'd say it's looking to be a pretty popular game with this kind of attention. One might go as far as to say because of all the attention the piracy issue has brought this game it's a much larger success than it would have been.

       

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    Mr Big Content, May 2nd, 2009 @ 12:26am

    But ...

    ... that's what the pirates want you to do!

     

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    Overcast, May 2nd, 2009 @ 6:10am

    The reality that most PC game publishers ignore is that there are people who buy games and people who don't buy games. The focus of a business is to increase its sales. My job, as CEO of Stardock, is not to fight worldwide piracy no matter how much it aggravates me personally. My job is to maximize the sales of my product and service and I do that by focusing on the people who pay my salary -- our customers.

    100% Correct. I would be one of the people who buy games. Years ago; when I wasn't so well off, I would download games and play them from Bulletin Board Systems and even the Web. Of course; I always swore to myself that if I had the money to buy them, I would.

    Fast forward to now, and I do buy them. I've went back and bought some games I had played before that I didn't have copies of, so that I had hard copies. I'm just sentimental/packrat-ish like that. All the games I have installed now, I've bought. And have many other game CD's that aren't installed - but I'm glad I have the hard copies, I can install whenever I want.

    I tried Galactic Civ - it was ok, but I didn't play it a ton, and to be honest, I didn't buy it. But I've only played it maybe three times. Haven't even tried Demigod; but just because I'm busy playing other games right now that - I paid for.

    All that being said, I will be sure to check out their future titles. To me, buying a game is half buying a 'fun game' - but the other half is buying software that works without it being a hassle. But in the decision to buy, the company's reputation and my former experiences with their stability and ease of use are always a major factor.

     

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    Overcast, May 2nd, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Here's another good example of my 'view' on a device with content control, I just now got an email from Amazon..

    "Amazon.com: Kindle 2 Is Here"

    Umm, not interested. :) It's too restrictive.

    However; I will be going to the bookstore today - actually, I'm going right now, after I swing by starbucks and the bank.

    I don't have to worry about restrictions on a paper book.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2009 @ 12:13pm

      Re:

      can you (photo) copy ur paper book?

       

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      Jason, May 4th, 2009 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      Nothing in the article relating to content control devices whatsoever. You just wanted to jump on a forum and slam Amazon.

      Hey that's fine, I can understand that. Why don't you go find one where they're actually talking about Amazon or where you can start your own thread. It really doesn't take much effort to not be a troll.

       

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    udarrell, May 2nd, 2009 @ 8:06am

    The New Business Industries

    Energy conservation & renewable energy - business opportunities of the future.

    The New Trillion dollars Global economy.

    Darrell Udelhoven

     

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    togmkn, May 2nd, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    I don't even like strategy games, but I'm thinking about buying a few of Stardock's simply because of how awesome they are when it comes to the piracy issue.

    We really need more people in the game/software/music/movie industry to think like this.

     

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      a canadian, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:37am

      Re: togmkn's comment

      you should definitely try Sins of A Solar Empire, not only did Iron Clad games make their own graphics engine but they also made a mod kit for the game which you can download, I will admit that I downloaded the game because I didn't have any money @ the time (I'm in high school w/o a job) but I bought it for access to the mod kit, and because it was an awesome game, and because it was Canadian and I'm Canadian and Canadian devs are AWESOME!!

       

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    Leafy, May 2nd, 2009 @ 11:07pm

    I pirated Demigod, and it was so fantastic that I'm going to buy it the second it's released. Stardock is awesome!

     

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    Jason, May 3rd, 2009 @ 12:22am

    Piracy? Or a better demo

    For me, I buy lots of games yearly... well maybe for me it's alot. About 10 to 15 or so. Many of those, with the exception of Steam based distributed games, I sometimes will download a pirated version. Later I will buy it if I'm going to play through it. Before I get flamed, allow me to defend this. The most recent installment of Total War (Empire: Total War), had a laughable demo. One combat scene on ground and one pathetic naval battle. During the naval battle there was this horrid graphical error making the game unplayable. The game itself is completely different however. So for me, aquiring a pirated version is much like a better form of the demo.

    Besides all of this there is one thing that most people don't consider. Those that download the game would probably not buy it anyway. It's not lost sales. For single player games, who gives a rat's arse. For the online games there are generally validation measures in place. So Stardock didn't do it. I'm sure however that for those that were online and got a taste of it online before they fixed it, they actually increased sales.

    Back to other distribution platforms like Steam. They often allow full use of the full game for a weekend or so. It's enough to let you decide to buy it or get you hooked. Now days though, as I already stated, the demos are laughable and don't reflect the real gameplay.

    Moral of the story... build a better game... make a decent demo... and give people a break. Honest people will make you money. Unlike real copies, digital copies aren't really lost, or lost revenue. More, it's just not captured. It's not like somebody went to Wal-Mart and stole a physical copy.

     

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    Piarate of the cybersea, May 3rd, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    He he

    Why pay for something which I can get for free. I usually download huge number of games. Some games are very good, but are DRM protected and I have to buy them. Demigod is also a very good game but I don't have to buy it :)

     

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      minijedimaster, May 3rd, 2009 @ 3:49pm

      Re: He he

      Some games are very good, but are DRM protected and I have to buy them.

      I Thought you were someone just being honest about pirating stuff until you said this. Now I know you're just some idiot being a troll.

      DRM does not stop piracy, does not stop games from being cracked or downloaded. If anything it just means they'll be downloaded more ala Spore syndrome. Go troll somewhere else, you won't find the dim witted or clueless here.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    I must admit to downloading games - but only once they've gone open-source or are so old they're not available or supported any more (ala Baldur's Gate or Sierra Online's "Outpost") or if the demo is unusable/unstable. As for "Outpost" I own the v1.0 disk, but so much was ommitted from the original release, you had to buy a v1.5 disk to have a playable version (it was release WAY before online patches were possible to get to). Does it make me evil for downloading a copy to replace unusable/unreliable disks?

     

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    Weirdness Herald, May 4th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    Crazy idea...

    They need to use a code that comes with the retail game. All unique codes go to a certain farm of servers and once any dupes of a code are detected, the remainder go to another pool.

    So you could share your code, but you would know that whoever got to the servers first would get the "Good servers" and whoever got to the servers 2nd, 3rd, etc. would get the overloaded generic servers.

    You'd have a full featured game and if you had connectivity issues, you always have the option of upgrading to better servers by purchasing a legit copy.

     

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