18 January 2009

Finally, someone else sees some sense...

I've always liked Stardock's view on copy protection and customer support. I don't agree with everything that's coming through their new initiative that's trying to push towards copyright standards within the industry but at least they've always had a positive attitude towards piracy.

Now another company - again, one whose stance and methods i don't necessarily always agree with - has a spokesperson actually speaking with sense! Jason Holtman spoke recently at the Game Business Law Summit. He mentioned some interesting things about online versus retail sales but i was more interested in this little nugget at the end of the reporting article at gamedaily:

The final sacred cow that Holtman took a stab at was the issue of piracy. "There's a big business feeling that there's piracy," he says. But the truth is: "Pirates are underserved customers."

"When you think about it that way, you think, 'Oh my gosh, I can do some interesting things and make some interesting money off of it.'"

"We take all of our games day-and-date to Russia," Holtman says of Valve. "The reason people pirated things in Russia," he explains, "is because Russians are reading magazines and watching television -- they say 'Man, I want to play that game so bad,' but the publishers respond 'you can play that game in six months...maybe.' "

"We found that our piracy rates dropped off significantly," Holtman says, explaining that Valve makes sure their games are on the shelves in Moscow and St. Petersberg, in Russian, when they release it to North America and Western Europe.

There are, concludes Holtman, "tons of undiscovered customers," because publishers look very narrowly at the Western market.

This is basically something that i've said for a long time and something that people in the EU, Russia, Asia and Australia know to be true. In an age were you can get up to date information at the touch of a button it is truly frustrating to see that you won't get a product until 6 months to a year - or maybe never - after everyone else, or even just the primary market.

Publishers and developers are too focused on releasing as soon as possible to one audience and of course this will mean that piracy will increase. The PC has always been easiest to pirate on because it's an open platform but as consoles become more pervasive and more people are exposed to the discrepancies in releases and release dates in each territory console game piracy will become more of an issue - especially because each console is region-locked (i know PS3 isn't technically region locked but a few of its games are) so people can't or won't import a whole console which means that they then have to import every game purchase they want.

It's saddening to see that apparently so few people within the games industry realise that the industry hurts itself the most by being narrow-minded in these aspects and that they think piracy can be decreased and sales can be increased through hurting consumer rights and their relationship with the consumer.

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