Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How to solve a problem like piracy?

An article I wrote in August 2010 looking at Video Game piracy. I hope to review this topic soon and thought it would be interesting to see my views back then.

Video game piracy is a beast that the industry just cannot tame. Many different techniques have been implemented to try and tackle this problem yet none seem to work. With pirated video games becoming more easily accessible by the day, it poses a massive hurdle for the industry and one that the industry is determined to crack. This article aims to examine the ways in which the video game industry tries to combat piracy and if those methods are effective.

Don't Punish Us!
The main thing that Video game publishers and developers must realise is that in their attempts to combat piracy they must punish the pirate without punishing the consumer. Many companies incorporated anti-piracy software onto the install disks. Consumers were getting the sense that they were being punished for what the pirates do. EA games tried to do this with the game 'Spore', they added DRM software onto the disk. It backfired and the game went on to be one of the most pirated games ever. It turned out that pirates could bypass this software protection while consumers were forced to live with it. Publishers therefore must reward the consumer for purchasing the game this can be done in many ways. They could offer money off the sequel of that game when it comes out, offer free downloadable content or offer free merchandise with every order. One of the main reasons for piracy is that people demand more for their money. More and more games are being released per year and the consumer only has a certain amount of money available to spend on video games. By offering a better value proposition the consumer is more likely to purchase the game rather than pirate the software. Punishing the pirates can be done through numerous ways but the traditional way of fining the odd pirate just does not work. Video games must play to their strengths; just recently EA games unveiled 'Online pass' which allows the consumer to enter a code to access the online play, a code is given to anybody who buys a new copy of the game. The importance of this is that people who pirate games will not be able to use one of the most important features in today's games, online play. Of course people could still pirate these games and use the online feature by only paying $10 to acquire a code; this will allow publishers to get extra income from pirates who would not consider paying for any part of the game. As another bonus Ea games will receive extra income from the used games market. Other publishers such as Activision must take note, Call of duty is famous for its online experience. If they can utilise this same method you will see people purchasing the game rather than pirating it so that they can play online.

Quality is key!
Another way to combat piracy is to simply make a good quality game with increased longevity. As stated earlier consumers will not see the value of paying full price for a game that might be great but only lasts 10-12 hours. By making a game of good quality and longevity the consumer is going to see better value and will be more likely to buy the game. If the individual were to evaluate a video game and realise it was not worth their money they are more likely to pirate the game instead of before when they would not buy it and consequently never play it, this is due to the convenience and easiness of pirating in modern times.

Another point to consider for developers is which bit of hardware they should develop for. The Sony Playsation 3 is notoriously hard to crack and therefore pirated games can't be used on that system. On the other hand, the Xbox 360 and the Wii can be cracked by any individual who has access to the internet and a decent guide on how to crack the system. The PC needs no cracking at all and has become the pirate's choice when choosing to pirate a game. Developers should work with these hardware companies to make sure that they are hard to crack or they could look at just developing solely on the playstation 3 as long as this trade off is a viable one.

Use brand communities.
The final point that could help combat piracy is to become a publisher or developer that listens to the community. By having a community that respects the organisation the chances are they are more likely to buy the game and discourage piracy. Ways companies can do this is by regularly communicating with people on forums, listen to their key consumers and by offering incentives. These incentives can be access to Beta's or money off codes for being a member of the organisations forums or websites. More people will pirate a game if they feel the developer or publisher disregard the consumer's desires or neglect them altogether. The ability to keep connected with their key audience is a very powerful tool and should be considered by publishers who have a poor relationship with their consumers. The knock on effect could lead to greater sales and thus profit margins. If all else fails and piracy is still too high you could ask consumers what they want to pay for that game. 'World of goo' developer's 2D boy allowed consumers to name their price when purchasing 'World of goo. Although a lot of people chose to pay one penny for the game it was still a huge success. It could be said that would be pirates who had a chance to pay what they liked for the game would do so instead of pirating it.
In conclusion, there really is no sure fire way of stopping piracy. The old method of fining people randomly for downloading Illegal software is outdated and does not work. Publishers have to be creative and think outside the box, with people having less disposable income more and more will turn to piracy as a way of fulfilling their gaming desires. By using some of the methods stated in this article developers and publishers could start to see piracy for their game falling and their profits rising.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Bridging the gap between Video Games and Movies Part 2

This article aims to revisit how the gap is narrowing between video games and movies. A lot has happened since the last article on this subject. Recent releases and announcements further confirms the fact that video games can create the same emotional attachment and storytelling that movies have.


Storytelling in video games has a long way to go. As I said in the previous article, Video Games often don’t have a story that compels as say a Scorcese film does. There still is a focus on graphics and gameplay over storytelling. However, in recent months you can start to see how smaller games are starting to take the baton and run with it. To the moon is more an interactive story than a video game. In fact, I believe that the best stories in video games have occurred when gameplay is stripped down to the bare minimum. To the moon depicts two scientists who re-visit  an old mans memories in order to fulfil his dream, going to the moon. It has been critically praised for its emotional storytelling and how it  engages the user in the story. For a personal point of view, it was by far the most immersive story in a video game I have ever witnessed.

Think video games couldn't make your cry? To the moon might just change that.

The Walking Dead

Telltale have recently released the first two episodes of the walking dead video game. The game is a point and click adventure but with quick time events. Again, most traditional gamers would not classify this a typical video game and more of an interactive story. Telltale's execution of this series has so far been superb. As a fan of the TV series and also the games, the game tells a superior story simply because the gameplay supplements the story. For example, you may be in dialogue with a fellow survivor and a zombie might quickly disturb your dialogue and start attacking your friend. By acting quickly and using quicktime events, you can kill the zombie and save your friend. This is where I feel that video game storytelling can find its niche. I don’t think you will ever see a first person shooter that can have a fully immersive story in the same way a more slow paced adventure can. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional puzzle game and shooter might have a good story, but the adventure genre really takes storytelling to another level.

The walking dead combines storytelling and quicktime events to great effect.

Further celebrity involvement.

As a said in the previous article, expect to see more celebrities star in video games, especially as graphics and motion recording improves. At this years E3, Ellen Page was announced as the lead character in the video game ‘Beyond: Two Souls’. Having high calibre celebrities will again, help story telling and immersion as their likeness is put in the game. Furthermore, it will help bring video games in to a more mass market. Expect to see more A-list actors take part in video games when the next generation of consoles are released.

A-list actor Ellen Page will star in the new video game 'Beyond: two souls' 

So there you have it. Since my last article we have seen storytelling in video games improving to a significant extent. There still needs to be one breakthrough game to appeal for the general public to see that video games has the potential to tell stories to the same extent that movies do. That future in my opinion is not that far off.