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Developers face up to the pirates

Some time during the dreary, wet days of the summer, Cliff Harris Clifford Allen Harris (born November 12, 1948 in Fayetteville, Arkansas) is a former professional American football safety who played for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League for ten seasons.  decided he couldn't do it any more. After several years of grafting away at making small-scale independent computer games - largely on his own - the developer from Surrey had reached the limit with pirates. "I was really frustrated frus·trate  
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
1.
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart:
," he says. "Pirates underestimate the demoralising Adj. 1. demoralising - destructive of morale and self-reliance
demoralizing, disheartening, dispiriting

discouraging - depriving of confidence or hope or enthusiasm and hence often deterring action; "where never is heard a discouraging word"
 effect it has on people who make games."

However, he took a novel approach: he asked the pirates why they did it. All it took was a simple question on his website, asking for opinions from people who copy games. Why did they do it? Were his games too expensive? Not good enough? Or was it something he could do nothing to change?Driven to piracy"I'd gone through a year of two of frustration fighting it," he says. "You're never going to stop some people from trying to steal your games, but over time it built up - until finally I thought I couldn't be any worse off for asking people's opinions."

The answers came in thick and fast (bit.ly/pirates2). Few claimed the moral high ground, but instead focused on the price (too high, even at £10) and the quality of the games themselves. Some argued that buying them over the internet was much harder than stealing them: how might those without a credit card purchase them (since that's needed for PayPal)? And copy protection drove some to distraction - or more precisely, to filesharing networks.

Looking over the responses, Harris decided that some of their criticism was fair - and agreed to change his approach. "I get the impression that if I make [the games] hugely, overwhelmingly, massively better, well-polished, designed and balanced, that a lot of would-be pirates will actually buy it," he wrote on his blog. "I've gone from being demoralised by pirates to [being] inspired by them."

His first fixes were straightforward: cutting the prices of his games and dropping copy protection to make them easier to use. He also says he's now going to try harder to make his new games more enticing - ensuring that they are sufficiently bigger and better than the last to make them worthwhile (bit.ly/pirates3). Until Harris actually has typical sales figures sales figures nplcifras fpl de ventas , the level of success achieved by his approach remains unproven unproven Dubious, nonscientific, not proven, quack, questionable, unscientific adjective Relating to that which has not been validated by reproducible experiments or other scientific methods for determining effect or efficacy . But it is in marked contrast to the big stick and small carrot approach taken by the music, movie and computer games industries.

The litigious litigious adj. referring to a person who constantly brings or prolongs legal actions, particularly when the legal maneuvers are unnecessary or unfounded. Such persons often enjoy legal battles, controversy, the courtroom, the spotlight, use the courts to punish  route often pursued by media companies has brought its own sorts of success. After all, just a few weeks ago, 32-year-old Isabella Barwinska from London was ordered to pay more than £16,000 in damages and costs after being found guilty of illegally sharing a pinball computer game that would have cost around £10 in the shops (bit.ly/pirates4).

It could be just the first of many: the lawyers acting in the case say they have thousands more writs in the pipeline on behalf of a consortium of big industry names such as Codemasters and Atari.

However, while it might provide a financial fix and some headlines, not everybody agrees with prosecutorial pros·e·cu·to·ri·al  
adj.
Of, relating to, or concerned with prosecution: "a huge investigative and prosecutorial effort" Lucian K. Truscott IV. 
 tactics. Peter Moore Peter Moore may refer to:
  • Peter Moore (chemist) (born 1939), professor at Yale University
  • Peter Moore (business) (born 1955), former SOA President, former Microsoft executive, head of EA Sports
, the head of EA Sports and one of the most influential figures in the games industry, said recently that he was concerned about the image these high-profile prosecutions were sending out.

"I'm not a huge fan of trying to punish your consumer," he told the Gamesindustry.biz website at the Leipzig Games Convention The Games Convention (sometimes called the Leipzig Games Convention, and abbreviated as GC) is an annual video game event in Leipzig, Germany, first held in 2002. Besides videogames, the event also covers Infotainment, Hardware and Edutainment.  (bit.ly/pirates5). "Yes, we've got to find solutions, we absolutely should crack down on piracy, but at the same time I think there are better solutions than chasing people for money."

Problem taped

The greatest fear among industry insiders is that they could repeat the mistakes of record labels, which have tried to sue those who illegally download music but ended up damaging their own reputations. Despite a number of large settlements made by music filesharers in courts in the UK and elsewhere, statistics indicate that levels of illicit copying have not reduced significantly.

The fact remains, however, that copying is a serious issue for the £15bn games industry - and one that has been a concern for decades. In the 1980s, youngsters would duplicate the latest game simply by copying the audio tapes they came on. However, as games have grown more complex - especially with the internet allowing people to pass on files around the world in seconds - the high cost of making a new release has made producers keen to find an answer to illicit copying and outright piracy (where people sell games they have copied). After all, there is a huge amount on the line for the people behind best-selling best·sell·er also best seller  
n.
A product, such as a book, that is among those sold in the largest numbers.



best
 games. Highly realistic, cinematic titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock and Crysis take years of development, millions of pounds and hundreds of staff.

With such high stakes High Stakes is a British sitcom starring Richard Wilson that aired in 2001. It was written by Tony Sarchet. The second series remains unaired after the first received a poor reception. , few developers might be following the same extreme path taken by Harris - but others are experimenting with new ways such as in-game advertising In-game advertising (IGA) refers to the use of computer and video games as a medium in which to deliver advertising. 2005 spending on in-game advertising was USD$56 million, and this figure is estimated to grow to $1. , sponsorships, marketing deals and other ways to lower prices and so entice people into buying legitimate titles rather than just copying them.

Indeed, a best-selling package like last year's Orange Box release - a bundle that included three episodes of Half-Life 2, the puzzle game Portal and Team Fortress Team Fortress is a team and class based online multiplayer computer game modification based on id Software's Quake. Team Fortress was designed and written by Australians Robin Walker, John Cook, and Ian Caughley in 1996.  2 - has proved that better marketing is one way to try and fight piracy.

"I think we're going to see moreof this kind of stuff," says Jim Rossignol, an editor of games website Rock, Paper, Shotgun (rockpapershotgun.com)."Older games made free via advertising networks, or bundled with newer games to balance out the $60 price tags; games as free, but pirate-proofed by being server-tied."

Don't follow the music

Faced with such problems, he adds, the creators of games must find innovative answers. "The advertising model is an interesting one, because it makes premium games free to play on a session-by-session basis," he said. "Now we've got big names trying out the free-gaming angle in front of the kind of audience that might otherwise resort to piracy. If it's going to work, these guys will find out."

Advertising might be one way out of the maze for game publishers, especially since there are lots of big names entering the field - including Google and Microsoft, which dropped as much as £200m on game ad pioneer Massive in 2006. But with the advertising market likely to contract sharply in a credit crunch Credit Crunch

An economic condition whereby investment capital is difficult to obtain. Banks and investors become weary of lending funds to corporations thereby driving up the price of debt products for borrowers.
, adverts alone are unlikely to be enough.

Despite the gloomy financial outlook, Harris says he feels positive about his experiment. "If somebody got up in front of their company and said there were 50,000 people downloading your game illegally, that might sound catastrophic. To me it's 50,000 potential customers."

"Don't get me wrong - I'm still opposed to piracy. I just hope we're not going to nosedive nose·dive  
n.
1. A very steep dive of an aircraft.

2. A sudden, swift drop or plunge: Stock prices took a nosedive.

Noun 1.
 into oblivion o·bliv·i·on  
n.
1. The condition or quality of being completely forgotten: "He knows that everything he writes is consigned to posterity (oblivion's other, seemingly more benign, face)" 
 like the music industry did."

Games in numbers in numbered parts; as, a book published in numbers.

See also: Number
 

200m Amount in sterling thought to have been paid by Microsoft for Massive16,000 Amount in sterling that Isabella Barwinksa paid in costs and damages

15bn Estimated value in sterling of the computer gamers Computer Gamer was a video game magazine published in the United Kingdom by Argus Specialist Publications, covering home gaming during the late 1980s. It was a colourful relaunch of the failing "Games Computing", a more conservative magazine published throughout in  industry
Copyright 2008 guardian.co.uk
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Sep 11, 2008
Words:1187
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