Ways To Fight/prevent Pandora Games Piracy


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OrR

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I want commercial games on the Pandora and I want them to be a success. I assume most people here want the same. For this to happen, we have to ensure that people pay for playing these games. With downloadable PC games, 90% piracy rates seem to be common. Developers I spoke to are often afraid that the situation on the Pandora will be similar. How do we combat that?


Let's first recognize that the piracy rate is not really what matters. What matters is the total amount of money made by the developers of a game. Of course, a high piracy rate does lead to low sales. However, if you give your game away for free and can convince 10% of the people who play it to donate money to you, that brings in as much money as a game that is pirated by 90% of the players. Can you convince 10% to donate? Not likely.


Classic DRM as a means of protecting a game is expensive, ineffective and annoying for paying customers. It can be some help against piracy but it seldom leads to significantly higher sales. We need to find other ways to encourage people to spend money on games, in addition to or instead of DRM. Here are some of the ideas I picked up or came up with over the years:

Create a positive atmosphere towards spending money in the community.
See also my sig. There could be badges you can wear on forums if you have bought a game or donated certain amounts to the dev fund. Sort of similar to the Xbox gamertag stuff. Since the community is tightly knit and forum staff, software and hardware developers and sellers are often the same people, organizing this should be possible.
Possible problem: Homebrew games, GPL software and pirated roms for old gaming systems are for free. Some people might expect to get everything for free. They have to learn that the money they save on those things should be spent on donations and commercial games (and maybe even Pandora merch) to support the continued existence of the system.

Create benefits for paying customers while giving the basic game away for free or ignoring piracy.
In addition to a game license, or as a thanks for a donation, a player would get an account. This account could include bonus content such as additional levels, exchange for user made levels, behind the scenes stuff, access to early betas, online play on official servers, whatever you can think of really. The basic game would work offline but using it online with the account would have benefits. An account would be rather difficult to fake. Every game could of course use it's own account system but a unified central system would make a lot of sense because you could then be rewarded for buying a few games by getting in on an early beta of an upcoming game etc.

Make it extremely easy and convenient to spend money.
A clean store interface is important, as is a variety of payment methods. The Pandora will have a web browser and often be connected to the internet so a "buy" button directly in the game demo or a "donate" button directly in the emulator makes sense. Somewhat prominent buy/donate buttons in news posts also don't hurt (as long as they do not become annoying).

Advertise commercial games and donating as much as possible.
Many people who buy a Pandora will not take an active part in the community. Make sure these people still know about commercial game releases and about the possibility to donate money to free software authors! For starters, ship the Pandora with a DVD or SD card containing all available demos for commercial games (and lots of other software) and put a little flyer into the box with an explanation about why donating to developers is great and how it is done. Pandora buyers should also receive an email newsletter which sums up recent software releases and community developments (if they want to). Another interesting option is a feed that pushes news directly to internet connected Pandoras. (Browser start page? Feature of the home screen? Optionally turned off, of course.)

Fair prices.
What is a fair price for a game? That is difficult to say. Lower prices enable people to buy more games and thus lead to more sales. Microtransactions are still a problem, though. Approaching 3$ and less, Paypal fees etc. become a significant money loss. With other means of payment that sometimes happens even earlier. The possibility to put money into a store account and then buy a lot of small games without losing fees on each transaction would finally make the 1$, 2$ and 3$ price points available and I think the Pandora has lots of potential for games in this category.


A key to many of these points is central organization. It has to be supported by the Pandora makers as well as the core community. A central, robust software selling site that is not greedy when it comes to profit margins would be worth a lot, for example. The second important thing would be a community driven system to put news out fast and with secured quality through a variety of different channels. In the early GP2X days I tried to do some work towards this with GP2X.letter but I quickly gave up. Maybe we can make it happen this time?


Additional ideas? Comments? Let's hear them!
 

fischju2000

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I have to add that I'm pretty sure the OMAP3530 has hardware level software protection/DRM.
 

MDave

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Steam is setting an example on how to do it without spore like DRM, and a lot of companies and indie developers are using it as a platform. A service similar to that, would work very well I think.

EDIT: Fixed what I meant to say.
 

VRAndy

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Personally, I'm not going to use DRM-locked software on a platform with so much free software available. I don't mind paying money for good product. But I personally avoid DRM stuff when I have a choice, and with Pandora I do.
I'm not making some sort of moral boycott here. I just feel that DRM locked software is too delicate for my tastes. Last week I spent five hours on the phone with Microsoft support because of a glitch in their verification system. Needless to say my boss wasn't thrilled about this either.

P.S. Since no discussion on the internet is complete without some jerk smugly linking to KXCD : http://xkcd.com/488/
 

kin

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How about they make platform/hardware independant games in the first place. I don't like the idea of online shops (need internet).

But I'm not against advertisement/sponsors in the game itself which hopefully makes it to sell for a lower price.
 

VRAndy

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QUOTE
Steam is setting an example on how to do it without DRM,

Steam is digital rights management, though!

Unless you know a way to legally run 'Portal' without connecting to a central server.
 

OrR

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Personally, I hate in game advertising even more than bad DRM so I'd like to have the option to pay more for a version with no ads...

Please remember that there are many different kinds of DRM. DRM can invade your privacy, mess with your software, limit your rights but it does not necessarily have to. Well, in pretty much every case there is some downside for paying customers so avoiding it would be great, if it can be done without losing too much money.
 

Clean3d

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As much as I dislike DRM, I would like to see a copy-protection system designed for the Pandora. This may ease the concerns of some potential developers.

In general I agree with what you're saying, though. It would be nice if the Linux community was a little more forgiving of non-OSS software.
 

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The thing about Steam is that it does DRM well. Sure you can't play Portal or some other SP games without being connected, but for the most part Steam's really useful. Automatic updates, unlimited installations on multiple computers, network-stored settings sounds good to me...
Maybe a system like Apple's app store mixed with Steam would convince more developers to get in on the Pandora? Since then they don't have to worry about content distribution and copy prevention?

Tobs
 

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VRAndy said:
QUOTE
Steam is setting an example on how to do it without DRM,

Steam is digital rights management, though!

Unless you know a way to legally run 'Portal' without connecting to a central server.
Ok, I guess what I meant to say is, not Spore-like-DRM :p

QUOTE
As with SecuRom, Steam's validation system has a number of options that are left up to the game developer to decide. Like how often a game need to be authenticated.

"They can make it the first time on purchase and never again or they can do it every hour," Lombardi said.

For instance the authentication and rights for Spore and The Orange Box through Steam are fairly similar:

Number of concurrent installations
Spore: While EA says a change is coming to allow deauthentication of computers, currently Spore can only be installed on three computers total in it's lifetime.
The Orange Box: There is no limit to the number of computers it can be installed on. You just install the Steam client, but can only play on one computer at a time.

Spyware
Neither Spore nor The Orange Box have anything akin to spyware built into their copy protection and DRM systems. Lombardi calls spyware, or even the perception of spyware, the kiss of death in the gaming business.

Authentication
Spore: An EA spokesperson told me that Spore only checks authentication when you first install the game.
The Orange Box: Every time you play the game online Steam checks your authentication.

Number of accounts per a copy
Spore: Despite what the manually erroneously states, only one account can be created per a copy of the game.
The Orange Box: One account per a copy of the game.

It seems as we move forward, toward disc-less gaming, DRM and online copy protection are inevitable. The only question is how they will be implemented. What do you think the DRM sweet spot is?


Taken from http://kotaku.com/5051514/steam-drm-vs-spore-drm

It's a good read that highlights the issues raised in this topic.
 
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Daedueleus

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Or you could do what Stardock does and do nothing. The more you treat customers as criminals the less customers you will have.

Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire has no DRM, and look at how well it has sold.

If you need an example..


Joystiq: Sins of a Solar Empire sells 500,000 Copies

Kinda speaks for itself doesn't it?

If someone is going to pirate what you develop no matter what then they aren't even potential customers to begin with.

QUOTE
With downloadable PC games, 90% piracy rates seem to be common. Developers I spoke to are often afraid that the situation on the Pandora will be similar. How do we combat that?


"The company's CEO Brad Wardell tells Gamasutra that 400,000 units were sold at retail, while 100,000 in sales came from digital downloads."

Doesn't seem to be that bad to me..
 

OrR

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World of Goo, which I linked to in the first post, also sold pretty well as far as I can tell despite the estimated 90% piracy rate. Using no DRM can lead to lots of piracy, it can lead to few sales, it can lead to a game becoming famous quickly and thus selling well. It depends on other factors and we have to move those in our favor, whether DRM is used or not.
Tobs said:
The thing about Steam is that it does DRM well. Sure you can't play Portal or some other SP games without being connected, but for the most part Steam's really useful. Automatic updates, unlimited installations on multiple computers, network-stored settings sounds good to me...
Maybe a system like Apple's app store mixed with Steam would convince more developers to get in on the Pandora? Since then they don't have to worry about content distribution and copy prevention?

Tobs
That is pretty much what I had in mind with the account system. Maybe you can easily use a pirated copy offline or the developer might even allow to play the game for free. However, if you want to play online, exchange levels, get updates, take a look at behind the scenes stuff and other bonus content, get in on early betas and so on, you need a valid account. Could work well but would benefit from central organization. Also, requiring the game to go online at every startup to check the license does not work with a handheld. The Pandora might be connected to the net often but certainly not always.
 
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MDave

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Daedueleus said:
Or you could do what Stardock does and do nothing. The more you treat customers as criminals the less customers you will have.

Stardock's Sins of a Solar Empire has no DRM, and look at how well it has sold.

If you need an example..
Joystiq: Sins of a Solar Empire sells 500,000 Copies

Kinda speaks for itself doesn't it?

If someone is going to pirate what you develop no matter what then they aren't even potential customers to begin with.



If thats that case, why did companies start developing DRM and placing it into its games in the first place? ;)
 
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OrR

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MDave said:
Daedueleus said:
If someone is going to pirate what you develop no matter what then they aren't even potential customers to begin with.
If thats that case, why did companies start developing DRM and placing it into its games in the first place? ;)

Just because decisions are made does not mean they are well-founded. ;)

http://tigsource.com/articles/2008/12/23/w...-90-piracy-rate mentions that there doesn't seem to be a difference in piracy between World of Goo, which has no DRM, and Ricochet, wich has DRM. Of course, comparing two games does not necessarily present the whole big picture but it is still interesting.
 
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Clean3d

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I don't think it matters as much whether DRM actually stops people - There will be certain developers who may not give a platform a second glance without a method to "ensure" that their hard work isn't stolen. To this end I think we need DRM.

In reality, DRM may not work so good, and this is why I agree with OrR's original post. (confusing, eh?) I think that DRM may not be around forever, but at the moment it might be a good addition for the Pandora simply so it's taken seriously by a few extra game devs. Can't hurt to have more games, right? ;)

Some food for thought: Retail copies of Prince of Persia will have no DRM, and Stardock - same company that includes no DRM in their games - is adding DRM to their digital distribution platform, Impulse.
 

OrR

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I agree that it might be a good idea to have an accepted unified DRM system to ensure that people know what the license they get includes and what it prevents. The stuff in my first post was not meant only as an alternative to DRM but also as an addition to DRM. It would be great if developers could simply not use any DRM at all and still get payed but I am not sure if we can create that kind of climate. If we can't, I'd like to make sure that the DRM system used is as fair and unproblematic as possible. An official DRM system could encourage this.
 

fischju2000

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focus.tij.co.jp/jp/lit/ug/swcu056/swcu056.pdf
focus.ti.com.cn/cn/lit/ug/spruff1b/spruff1b.pdf

Look up "M-Shield"

"This OMAP device also features the M-Shield™ mobile security technology to enable more secure
e-commerce applications and the replay of copyright-protected digital media content.
Security features integrated on the devices support applications designed for:
• Protection against malicious attacks
• M-commerce
• Content protection for recordable media (CPRM)
• Digital rights management (DRM)"

(and this thread :eek: http://www.gp32x.de/board/lofiversion/index.php/t44979.html )
 
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