Say That Again

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
business models, john riccitiello, piracy, video games


EA CEO Continues To Appeal To Pirates, Rather Than Attack Them

from the smart-move dept

After last year's Spore DRM fiasco, EA and its CEO John Riccitiello seem to have learned that the stick approach to dealing with pirates backfired badly, and it was time to try out the carrot. It started, earlier this year with Riccitiello talking about how they were trying to view pirated software as a really good demo product, with the impetus then being on them to convert those users into paying customers. Later, they started actively embracing the claim that their pirated software could lead to additional sales of in-game content and offerings. The latest, as sent in by william, again has Riccitiello in an interview saying that he now sees "pirates" as a new marketplace, again with the emphasis being on how it's EA's responsibility to give those users something to buy. He still says that he wants people to buy the legit versions of the game, and he thinks it's very wrong to make an unauthorized copy, but he says that reality dictates that they should embrace those users, rather than attack them, and look for ways to make money off of them:
"There's a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace."
Furthermore, he notes that this approach seems a lot more reasonable than the music industry's approach of just trying to punish people:
He said the music industry erred in "demonizing" its consumers rather than reacting to them. He believes that EA has an obligation to make it enticing for people to play games legitimately. And he hopes that services such as EA Sports' community hub or the BioWare social site that hooks into Dragon Age will make it so alluring that it will be "increasingly less likely that people will pirate because there is so much value on the other side of the door."
None of this necessarily addresses some of EA's past sins relating to aggressive use of DRM, but it does suggest that Riccitiello (or at least his savvy PR staff) have recognized that giving people a reason to buy is a better way forward than trying to attack those who use unauthorized copies of the games.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Chill, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 6:35am

    "He believes that EA has an obligation to make it enticing for people to play games legitimately."

    This. A thousand times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Brian (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 6:46am

    They are trying to move forward and take a positive step towards embracing the new technology. It might have taken some time but a step forward and a step forward. Now to hope they continue to move forward and others soon follow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Joe, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    That's great and all

    But are they still including DRM on their retail games? Do I still have to put a disc in my machine to play the game I legitimately purchased? I mean, I'm happy that they are taking this stance (or at least claiming to), but until they do away with all protection, it doesn't mean much. None of it stops pirates anyway. Activation keys, fine, it happens at activation, no biggie. SecuRom and all that other trash lives through the life of the gameplay and it super annoying!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:01am

    It would be cool

    If one could put their faces on the little dolls that run around a battlefield.

    It would be cool if there was some kind of store where people could by cheap clothes, new characters and accessories for in game playing. Artists could make a buck too.

    But I think this is out of the question for now.

    I was dreaming about people going to theaters and having to choose an ending for a digital film. In my dream some dude call all of his friends so he could see the ending he wanted LoL

    I know, I know is crazy but what if...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Tony (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:29am

    Let's hope he means it...

    DRM hasn't been about stopping pirates for quite some time. I would even wonder if a lot of it has to do with contracts and good old boy deals between the publishers and the companies that produce the DRM. And, to an extent, 'The Party Line' with the rest of the content industry. But it is -interesting-, this new tack taken by EA. We can only watch, wait and hope it continues.

    Lastly, this part REALLY caught my eye:
    "and a sizable second sale market"
    This is one of the things that DRM has really been used to curtail so I want to hear more on this aspect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    hegemon13, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:42am

    Forgive, forget, and move forward

    "None of this necessarily addresses some of EA's past sins relating to aggressive use of DRM..."

    And why should it? It has little to do with the subject at hand, which is what EA plans to do going forward. If they are sincere, and they really plan to embrace "pirates" as a market and embrace second sale markets as an opportunity, then I absolutely willing to look beyond their past mistakes to a brighter, customer-friendly EA.

    Will it really happen? I'm not sure. But they are more likely to get there by talking about the future than by lamenting the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Lucretious, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:59am

    EA still has a long way to go. For example, buy a copy of a game off their digital download service and you'll find out that not only can you NOT burn a backup for yourself, they actually CHARGE you an extra $10 for the privilege of downloading the game more than once within a 2 year time limit. STEAM and D2D doesn't do this, only EA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Shawn (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 8:04am

    I am surprised the Somalia video game market is large enough for EA to change their business model

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 8:32am

    There is a couple of things here that sort of make me laugh.

    First off, EA has just created a demo, and are allowing it to be shared around for free. Effectively, you can pay for the demo at the store, or download it online for free. It doesn't matter, it's still a demo, because the important parts of the games (the interactive features, amongst other things) are disabled until you pay.

    Further, and this is where I have to laugh, EA has effectively created a paywall. Now, I though for the life of me that Techdirt was against paywalls. It's just that, nothing more. You can taste things outside, or pay to get inside their walled garden.

    So, Mike, are you for or against paywalls and walled gardens?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    DS78, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 8:52am


    You download a free demo, which is a stripped down version of the full game. If you like then you buy it. This has been how demos have worked for years.

    Sure you could describe it as a "paywall", but I think in the case of a good game, its something you want to pay for. As opposed to a paywall put up on a news site that nobody is going to pay for because the exact same content is available elsewhere for free.

    Valve did the same thing with their L4D2 demo. You got a taste of the game for free, but if you want it all you gotta buy it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Chapstick for Lip Service, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    As a nearly decade-long fan of a specific EA game franchise, I could go on all day about what Riccetello says in the linked article and what he's said in the past, but I am glad to hear the basic 'reason to buy' concept coming from his quarter. Just wish it were real.

    As someone who's always paid for the games, I'm still incensed that I and my fellows are the only ones that still have to put up with the prevailing attitude that pirates matter more than we do.

    I stopped buying from EA after the Securom debacle in 2007. Just yesterday I was shopping and turned over a game case and there's problem child Securom v7 still on the games I might've bought back then. EA might alter the restrictions over time, but they won't strip it out or patch it into non-borkinating submission, they never do. It's on the reissues of the base game that came out 5 years ago.

    The latest issue of the franchise pimps the EA Store system all over the place - DLC. Plonk down full price for a game from which content has been withheld (the coding for which is there on the game disk, only now you have to pay more to get what you thought you'd already bought). As a paying customer, I'm supposed to be happy with this?

    In the article he naively states that DLC cannot be pirated. He is extremely wrong. So the paying customer is still picking up the tab for EA's pointless attempts to gain a few cents from people who won't ever buy from them at any price.

    Perhaps if he and his cronies would stop pounding on about piracy and their attempts to quell it, paying customers wouldn't be so aware of the restrictions and hoop-jumping put in place to prevent it that only detrimentally affect those that lay their money down...issues that they can avoid by pirating.

    Hi, I'm Actual Lost Sales, Unlikely to be Regained as a Customer division.

    Also - not a pirate. Just not buying anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    william (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    What I think is important to this story is that after years of standoff, one of the biggest publishers for games seems to be showing signs of acceptance. Of course as some comments points out, whether EA means it or not is another question, but at LEAST they are willing to ADMIT that there has to be a better way. That's a step forward, and hopefully in the right direction.

    Just throwing in K├╝bler-Ross model as a bonus material, What stage you think we are at now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 10:17am


    I think it is more a careful marketing ploy to play the game of piracy while in fact moving to a system of demos and paywalls. Basically, they are going what has always happened in the gaming world, just that they have found a way to shut pirates out from the "best stuff" and they can then charge them all they want to entire EA's walled garden of games.

    Seems like pretty much business as usual, just with nicer words to appease people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Re: That's great and all

    My understanding is the 'drm' for dragon age is as follows:

    -Disc check for the game
    -Online Authentication for DLC

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re: It would be cool

    That doesn't sound crazy. It sounds like the future. Do you know what doesn't sound like the future?

    "Them stealers and thieves will be kicked off of the internet based on an accusation!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    SomeGuy (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:28am


    DLC isn't the same as a paywall, mostly because of who the intended "end-consumer" is. In video games, the end-consumer is the player; games are made for the benefit of the player and sold directly to him.

    In news, which is where we discuss paywalls, the end-consumer is actually the advertisers; they pay the newspaper for spots on the page, and those spots are made valuable because of the readers. More readers meand more value. When you start charging readers for the "priviledge" of looking at adds, they're going to go elsewhere -- particularly when there are so many free sourses of news (who make money on ads).

    If game publishers find a way of selling players' attention the way newspapers sell readers' attention then maybe comparing DLC to a paywall will make sense, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    SomeGuy (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re:

    they have found a way to shut pirates out from the "best stuff"

    If and when that happens, I'll join your lament. No DLC I've seen so far has been terribly compelling, in any game, so I still think they're selling a full game and trying to recoup some kind of money out of pirates.

    The trick is making a compelling game so people play it in the first place, and then make compelling DLC, so that people feel OK coughing up more money. In the end, "accepting" pirates just makes business sense (adding to the market for DLC, regardless of if you "lost" a game sale).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re:

    If by "found a way to shut pirates out from the best stuff" you actually mean "I have no idea what I'm talking about because the DLC is easily pirated" then sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:24am

    All the gear, no idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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