People have differing ideas on the subject of piracy, but most would never step over the line and support it. Someone who advocates piracy is labelled devil spawn, promptly whipped and then lemon juice squeezed into the sores. In short, it's the internet's most heathen of crimes. If you were to tune into the chatter in the indie game scene right now though, what you may hear is a radically different viewpoint. Pirate radio, if you will.
It's more than hot air, too; actions are being made in an attempt to tap into the benefits of piracy. You will more than likely know the two highest profile contributors to the argument: Edmund McMillen and Markus 'Notch' Persson, both of whom have stood against the grain for years now but more recently told followers on Twitter to pirate their games when they could not or would not pay the asking price for them.
Predictably, there has been a backlash to this carefree outlook on piracy, with a few heated debates erupting between developers. The question is whether there is actually any worth in encouraging piracy for a small profit-driven developer. Instinct tells us not, but there is evidence that suggests otherwise.
tinyBuild's No Time To Explain saw a rise in sales after the developer had purposefully leaked it on to Pirate Bay. The developer actually embraced piracy by making a pirate-themed version of the game intended for users of the targeted website. "You can't really stop piracy," tinyBuild explained to Torrent Freak, "all you can do is make it work for you and/or provide something that people actually want to pay for."
According to the developer, the pirates saw the joke and were appreciative of the effort enough to then buy the full game in some cases. It's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that worked - and another developer followed a similar path with similarly positive results.
Jorge Rodriguez of Lunar Workshop posted a very clear message in the midst of the anti-SOPA protests on January 18th 2012: "I encourage everybody to pirate Digitanks for free".
It was a simple protest - Rodriguez says that it was never his intention to garner attention from the press as became the case, nor was he attempting to boost sales. Though that's exactly what happened.
"[After offering people to pirate DigiTanks] there was a bump in sales. I attribute it to more people hearing about it, the more people have heard about a game, the more people will buy it. If a certain number of people buy it and twice as many people hear about it then twice as many people will buy it. It's just plain numbers really."
It's another gimmick, although it's another successful one; it earned Digitanks a lot of attention from press and many players seemed to admire the developer's stance. While there's no solid evidence to suggest that piracy leads to more direct sales of a game though, it does suggest that exposure can lead to more sales - that, at least, is logical.
It is this idea - that piracy can lead to exposure - that Markus 'Notch' Persson sees as an opportunity. "One could see [piracy] as a big equation," he told us. "How much money do you lose on each pirate (bandwidth cost for the game, for example)? How many friends does each player (pirate or legitimate) talk to about the game? How many pirates can you convert to paying customers by doing a game update? How much is brand awareness worth in the long run, for future games and future projects?"
One person who has clashed with Persson's views is Cliff Harris of Positech. Harris acknowledges that in an ideal world Persson's belief would be a valid way of thinking, although he's not so trusting of pirates.
"The positive effects of [piracy] are surely outweighed by those people who live in the relatively affluent west," he told us. "They have broadband internet and a decent gaming PC (all paid for) but will make the argument that they are as poor as the kid in a third world country. People do an amazing amount of dodgy rationalising when it comes to justifying getting free stuff."
Persson's more optimistic, believing that piracy can, in the long run, be beneficial to smaller game developers. "For a small studio, things like brand awareness are very valuable," he says, "and the costs of piracy are very low. People will talk about the game, you keep working on it, and you keep getting opportunities to convert pirates. And even if you don't, you will probably have a much larger player base by the time you move on to your next project."
Harris responds by bringing up the costs that profit-driven developers have to face. "What really helps indie developers is people buying the games," he counters, "and not just for ten cents. I can't pay my rent with goodwill from pirates, however well-meaning, and ultimately indie developers only get to make a second game if the first made money."
What indie developers really need are two things: sales and exposure. The problem is that one does not necessarily lead to the other. If you want to gain exposure, one way is to release your game for free, but this goes against the idea of earning sales unless people want to donate voluntarily. But as Harris points out, there are many costs that a company has to cover in order to operate, presuming that they are not a hobbyist.
This is why there does seem to be some worth in promoting or otherwise engaging piracy if it can lead to sales. For smaller developers attempting to make a profit from their games, piracy is something they usually have to face every day - but what do they think of the idea that piracy can be of benefit to small developers?
Ido Yehieli has not long released his debut game Cardinal Quest for $10 with no DRM.
"My relationship with pirates is more apathy than anything; I don't think they do grave damage because with a game like Cardinal Quest I would like to think the real fans would support a one man shop, and I don't have enough publicity for just any mainstream gamer to have even heard of me or my game."
Sophie Houlden has released many of her games for both free and at a price. She conducted an experiment with her most recent game, Swift*Stitch, in which the asking price went up and down over the course of a week, and the results were intriguing.
"If there is something that really is on nobody's radar, then it's not being pirated (they don't have magical knowledge of games nobody has heard of). But a single person spreading the word about your game is a benefit if you ask me, so any amount of piracy could help.
"I probably make it sound like you should just tell pirates about your game, but that's not quite it - just have a demo of your game. It's about having more people enjoying your game and telling friends. Some of those people will pay, some won't. You just have to get more people playing, and the people paying should rise with that if you have a game non-pirates are happy to buy."
Jorge Rodriguez recently invited 'everybody' to pirate his game Digitanks as an anti-SOPA protest.
"I can't stop [piracy] and I probably wouldn't want to - I care more about people playing and enjoying my game than making every last buck. But that said I do hope people remain honest and pay for the game."
The general consensus in the indie game scene is that piracy can help with driving exposure and potentially, in the long run, sales as well. It's about neither supporting nor fighting against it, but perhaps engaging with piracy in creative ways such as tinyBuild did.
With the abundance of bundles, alphafunding models and dedicated digital store fronts, the most essential thing is to get people playing your game. If this means telling people to pirate your game when they won't fork out the cash, then advocating piracy may well be an option.
Being able to point those interested in your game towards a demo, or perhaps a discounted alpha version would seem more beneficial though. But what are the limits that a developer should go to in order to get people playing their game? Well, that's entirely up to them, and to their faith in their players.
Feb 29, 2012
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, formerly Project Hell Yeah!, is a new platformer heading to PC, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, publisher Sega has announced.
According to IGN's scoop, it's a "jubilantly violent" adventure that sees titular bunny Ash, who just so happens to be the Prince of Hell, embark on a mission to take down his nemesis Fat Rabbit, after he posts "incriminating" pictures of Ash and his rubber ducky on the "Hellternet".
See below for an ear-gouging teaser trailer.
Big Bang Mini studio Arkedo is developing, with a launch expected some time this year.
"The divine union between Arkedo and Sega results in the devilishly good product we can all sinfully be excited about. Hell Yeah!" commented Sega of America Digital VP Haruki Satomi.
Apple's stock market value topped half a trillion dollars for the first time earlier today.
As reported by CNN, the world's most valuable company is now worth as much as the gross domestic product of Poland, Sweden, Saudi Arabia or Belgium.
Only four other companies in history have passed the landmark figure - Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Cisco and General Electric.
Microsoft is the only outfit to ever hit $600 billion, though its current value sits at around $267 billion. That target must surely now be in Apple's sights - its total sales were up 73 per cent to $127.8 billion last year, suggesting it's still in the ascendancy.
If measured purely by revenue, Samsung is the world's biggest tech company, though Apple is on track to seize that crown too.
The tech behemoth is widely expected to unveil the next iteration of its mega-selling iPad tablet at a press event in San Francisco next Wednesday.
Feb 29, 2012
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 gets a sprinkling of new content next month, publisher Konami has announced.
From 6th March, PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 gamers can download a pack that brings all team rosters up to date following the annual January transfer brouhaha.
The free expansion also includes revamped Spanish, German and Japanese national strips, adds eight new boot styles from Adidas and Nike, and the Adidas Finale Munich ball which will be used in this year's Champions League final.
The latest iteration of Konami's once-dominant soccer sim launched in September last year, scoring an 8/10 from Eurogamer. See our PES 2012 review for full post match analysis.
Feb 29, 2012
Following yesterday's apparent Doom 4 art leak, another batch of character renders and environment concepts have popped up.
A huge cache of images said to be from the work-in-progress id Software shooter was posted on All Games Beta earlier today.
There are well over 150 in all, but take a look below for a highlight reel.
Publisher Bethesda had not responded to Eurogamer's request for comment at the time of writing.
Precious little official information on the follow-up to 2004 FPS Doom 3 has emerged from Bethesda HQ since the game was formally announced back in 2008. Late last year reports circulated that the game had been cancelled, which Bethesda flat-out denied.
Feb 29, 2012
A browser-based Game of Thrones MMO is currently development, publisher Bigpoint has announced.
It's sharing development duties with Artplant - the same studio it teamed with on Battlestar Galactica Online.
All we know about the game so far is that it will be built using the Unity engine, though more details are expected out of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week.
See below for an early screenshot.
George R R Martin's acclaimed fantasy saga is set to besiege the public consciousness over the next few months - the second series of the HBO adaptation kicks off in the US in April, while an Atlus-published RPG is due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in May.
Xbox Live riff-raff who haven't stumped up for a premium Call of Duty Elite subscription can download the first batch of Modern Warfare 3 DLC from 20th March, Activision has announced.
Content Collection #1, the first of four such packs due out this year, includes four multiplayer maps (Liberation, Piazza, Overwatch and Black Box) and two new Spec Ops mission (Black Ice and Negotiator). A price hasn't yet been confirmed.
Premium Elite members can grab Black Box, Black Ice and Negotiator from 13th March. See below for a screenshot from each.
Black Box plays out in a luxurious neighbourhood in Southern California around the wreckage of a downed Air Force One.
Black Ice task players with infiltrating a diamond mine on snowmobiles and planting high-grade explosives to shut it down.
Finally, Negotiator is a hostage extraction mission set in India.
As usual, PC and PlayStation 3 gamers will have to wait a while longer - all Modern Warfare 3 DLC is a timed Microsoft exclusive.
Feb 29, 2012
New Capcom action IP Asura's Wrath has got off to a sluggish start in its native Japan, entering the weekly software chart at five.
The eccentric CyberConnect2-developed title sold 30,308 copies in its debut week. It arrives in the UK on 9th March.
Namco's PSP RPG Tales of the Heroes: Twin Brave took the top spot, selling 85,309, followed by 3DS farming sim Harvest Moon: The Land of Origin with 81,131.
A new PS3 Naruto tie-in followed at three, with Namco's only-in-Japan curio I Don't Have Many Friends Portable at four.
Last week's number one, Konami's 3DS dating sim New Love Plus, plummeted to 17th in its second week.
Here's the full countdown, as seen on Andriasang:
- Tales of the Heroes Twin Brave (Namco Bandai, PSP): 85,309 - NEW
- Harvest Moon: The Land of Origin (Marvelous AQL, 3DS): 81,131 - NEW
- Naruto Ultimate Storm Generation (Namco Bandai, PS3): 65,758 - NEW
- I Don't Have Many Friends Portable (Namco Bandai, PSP): 56,969 - NEW
- Asura's Wrath (Capcom, PS3): 30,308 - NEW
- Nendoroid Generation (Namco Bandai, PSP): 21,991 - NEW
- Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo, 3DS): 21,400 (Life to date: 1,370,176)
- Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo, 3DS): 20,744 (1,527,266)
- Monster Hunter 3G (Capcom, 3DS): 17,841 (1,267,675)
- Idolmaster G4U Pack Vol.5 (Namco Bandai, PS3): 17,038 - NEW
- Binary Domain (Sega, PS3): 14,905 (88,589)
- Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 5 Kazahanaki (Tecmo Koei, PSP): 12,630 - NEW
- Resident Evil Revelations (Capcom, 3DS): 12,210 (244,116)
- Touch Shot! Love Application (Compile Heart, 12.02.23): 11,077 - NEW
- Theatrhytym Final Fantasy (Square Enix, 3DS): 10,786 (77,993)
- Gal Gun (Alchemist, PS3): 9002 - NEW
- New Love Plus (Konami, 3DS): 8644 (113,613)
- Samurai Warriors 3 Z Special (Tecmo Koei, PSP): 8178 (25,303)
- Moujuuzukai to Oujisama Snow Bride Portable (Idea Factory, PSP): 8044 - NEW
- Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (Konami, PSP): 7607 (83,086)
It was business as usual over on the hardware chart: 3DS dominates, home console sales are largely flat and Vita continues to flounder.
It looks like Sony's new portable will have to wait a while for its next obvious software-led sales bump - the release of Persona 4 in mid June.
- 3DS: 76,322 (Last week: 94,667)
- PlayStation 3: 27,111 (21,993)
- PSP: 15,928 (14,824)
- Vita: 11,186 (12,309)
- Wii: 7,878 (7,874)
- Xbox 360: 1,508 (983)
- PlayStation 2: 1,269 (1,433)
- DSi XL: 977 (901)
- DSi: 662 (656)
Feb 29, 2012
World of Warcraft developer Blizzard has announced a major round of lay-offs, with around 600 employees now out of a job.
It added that 90 per cent of those affected are "not related to game development" and that the World of Warcraft development team is not affected at all.
CEO Mike Morhaime attributed the cuts to wider changes in the way the games industry operates.
"Constant evaluation of teams and processes is necessary for the long-term health of any business," he said.
"Over the last several years, we've grown our organisation tremendously and made large investments in our infrastructure in order to better serve our global community. However, as Blizzard and the industry have evolved we've also had to make some difficult decisions in order to address the changing needs of our company.
"Knowing that, it still does not make letting go of some of our team members any easier. We're grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the people impacted by today's announcement, we're proud of the contributions they made here at Blizzard, and we wish them well as they move forward."
Blizzard recently revealed that World of Warcraft shed 1.7 million subscribers between October 2010 and September 2011, with total numbers at 10.3 million as of last November.
Its current project slate includes Diablo 3, the next entry in the StarCraft 2 saga, World of Warcraft's Mists of Pandaria expansion and its unannounced new MMO.
Feb 29, 2012
The first major story expansion for action RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning arrives on 20th March, publisher EA has announced.
Titled The Legend of Dead Kel, it weaves "a mysterious tale of intrigue, danger and dark magic on the island of Gallows End", according to the the announcement.
Expect new sidequests, enemies and a new dungeon type called Dverga Fastings. The DLC also offers three new Twists of Fate, eight additional armour sets, eight extra shields and 18 new weapons.
You'll also gain access to Gravehal Keep - a huge estate "with multiple buildings and a full retinue of retainers, each with their own back stories, side quests, perks and quirks."
EA claims that the DLC increases the total amount of traversable land in the game by 15 per cent.
A price tag has not yet been announced.
The debut offering from developer 38 Studios launched on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 earlier this month to measured acclaim.
"It's an unglamorous kind of success story, admittedly. And perhaps it's worrying for 38 Studios that the bland fantasy world it's hanging its future on is the least enticing aspect of its debut game," read Eurogamer's 8/10 Kingdoms of Amalur review.
"But it's not all elbow grease - Kingdoms of Amalur adds a splash of colour and a lick of polish to the open-world RPG, and they couldn't be more welcome."