OMGN: Online Movies & Games Network

Piracy Kills

Feature; Oct. 12, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Subtypes: Opinion
Don't be the jerk who doesn't reward working developers for their efforts!

I have a day job like everybody else here at OMGN. While I was at said day job a couple of weeks ago, a coworker of mine started proclaiming his love for software piracy. He had some logic to his arguments, at least as far as the larger companies go (such as Microsoft, which was his example). He claimed these companies already make tons of money from government institutions and large corporations, so what is it to a company that size if a single person pirates its software?

Arrgh, mateys!
Arrgh, mateys!

We got into a pretty heated debate about it. I surprised the hell out of myself by leaping to Microsoft's defense. When I was younger, I had a very different view of piracy: Why pay Microsoft $100 for an operating system? They make enough money, right?

Actually, my coworker even went further, stating that all software should be open and free. This rankled me even further. As we are both software developers, I was surprised at his stance. He writes software for a living; why shouldn't he get paid for his efforts? In his defense, he's really big in the open-source community.

So why all this backdrop for a piracy opinion? What does this have to do with video games? Well, go back up and read the part where I said "shouldn't he get paid for his efforts." That's the key, right there.

For quite some time now the video game industry has been battling piracy. Piracy exists in the whole world of software, regardless if we're talking about operating systems, office software or video games. So the entire software industry is in this battle. But video game piracy has been getting more and more press lately. So what's the big deal here?

The big deal is that developers and publishers alike lose money for their efforts when piracy happens. Piracy is akin to stealing a manufactured product. It's like going up to a car company and saying "Hey, this car you just built? I'm taking it. You're not getting paid for putting forth the effort on this particular item." Wouldn't you be upset if you spent all of this time working on something to sell, and someone gets it without paying you for it?

Granted, video games are a different beast than manufactured products. Making an additional copy of a video game is a marginal affair and doesn't cost a company like EA any additional bucks out of its pocket. Maybe about $0.20 for the disc and the power to run the machines that create the disc. No, all of EA's money gets spent in the development process itself.

This is where piracy hurts. Developers and publishers spend enormous amounts of time and money before a product is ever shipped. You know about StarCraft II, right? That game had a colossal development cycle. Activision didn't get paid at all until pre-orders for the game were opened up. That company wouldn't get a cent at all until the game was actually finished and shipped.

So why do people find it acceptable to pirate games? Do you really want to stick it to the man, to deny EA their profits on a $60 game sale? Why? Do you realize what message you're sending? "Hey, I like your product, but not well enough to actually pay for it. I want you to do all of this work for free."

As a software developer myself, this really gets my goat. You're going to sit there and tell me that my work product is worthy of getting, but only illegally? You won't pay me for all the time and effort, all of the skills and knowledge, and all of the stress and successes involved in putting together a piece of software for you? Thankfully, I don't actually build video games. I build websites such as OMGN, which makes it much more difficult for anybody to cheat me out of anything after all the work I've put in. (On a side note, ad blockers irritate me too because OMGN makes money from ads. I guess that's my equivalent of piracy.)

My message to you is this: don't pirate games. Reward the developers and publishers for their efforts. Perhaps you should rent the game first or play a demo of it before buying, if you're concerned about the game's worth. But don't let the little guys at EA get shafted because you just didn't want to fork out the money for the game. There are plenty of working-class people that may have their jobs affected if you're not willing to pay for the game, which includes their wages.

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