U.K. Games Industry Starts Playing Hardball

U.K. Games Industry Starts Playing Hardball

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Videogame companies in the U.K. appear to be taking a hint from their American counterparts following an announcement that 25,000 people in the country could be slapped with lawsuits for downloading games.

Atari, Topware Interactive, Reality Pump, Techland and Codemasters have launched an application to the High Court to force internet providers to turn over the names and addresses of 25,000 people suspected of illegally downloading games, according to a Times Online report, to go along with the 5000 names and addresses they've already gained access to by proving their participation in unlawful file sharing. Once the information has been received, lawyers for the group plan to contact each individual with a demand for an out-of-court settlement of around $550; those who refuse to pay risk far more devastating legal action instead.

"Our clients were incensed by the level of illegal downloading," said Roger Billens of Davenport Lyons, the law firm contracted by the group. "In the first 14 days since Topware Interactive released Dream Pinball 3D it sold 800 legitimate copies but was illegally downloaded 12,000 times. Hopefully people will think twice if they risk being taken to court."

Up to six million people are estimated to be involved in illegal game downloading in the U.K., but the aggressiveness of this effort is unprecedented. It began with Isabela Barwinska, an unemployed mother of two unlucky enough to find herself made an example for others. She was ordered yesterday to pay Topware nearly $30,000 for downloading Dream Pinball 3D from a file-sharing site, and following that decision a lawyer for Topware said, "This is the first of many. It was always intended that there would be a lot more."

But not everyone in the industry is thrilled with the new approach. A source close to the U.K. industry group Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association said most of its members would rather not pursue legal against against their "core market" and would prefer to find other, presumably less punitive ways to combat piracy.

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$30,000 for a shitty pinball game? Okay I don't download games, and I don't condone it, but seriously? You're going to fuck up three LIVES over a GAME? There's a point where it's not JUST a GAME anymore and these people just crossed a big god damn line. You seriously think bankrupting an unemployed mother of two is going to stop some skid hiding in his parents basement with the curtains drawn from downloading Oblivion from a torrent?

Topware.com:
TopWare Interactive is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company publishes interactive consumer software products in North America and is establishing a vast portfolio from budget to console. TopWare is set to launch over 13 titles for the 2005 holiday season and has plans to launch over 50 titles in 2006.

Really? Okay so some out of date gaming company is crying because a title they released in 2006 got downloaded 15x more than it was sold? And the person they pick to make an example of is the one who they OBVIOUSLY WONT GET ANY MONEY OUT OF? Does anyone else see something terribly wrong with this? Or am I just crazy?

The draconian approach never solved anything when looking at piracy. It sure didn't help the RIAA here in the US.

There are better ways of doing this, like additional content available by registering and additional on-line play with a unique serial key read off the CD. They should really look at Stardock as an example.

At least this way they will make some money.

Yeah because of course those 12,000 people would have paid for the game if they couldn't download it... the industry leaders are becoming cretins. Who don't realize that the money wouldn't end up in their pockets with or without piracy. You just end up in 2 situations:

1. Person pirates game, they play it, companies get no money.
2. Person can't pirate game, don't want to pay, companies get no money.

It's not rocket science, I don't condone piracy but anyone can see that people pirate things because they do not want to pay! removing the ability to pirate things will still leave you with the problem of people not thinking your product is worth the money, and therefore not buying it.

Skrapt:
It's not rocket science, I don't condone piracy but anyone can see that people pirate things because they do not want to pay!

Yeah, well, if they don't want to pay then they shouldn't be playing. What gives them the right to use something they have no intention of buying? How is this in any way fair?

I don't think suing is the right way to deal with this, but I have trouble feeling much sympathy for those receiving the lawsuits.

-- Steve

Anton P. Nym:

Skrapt:
It's not rocket science, I don't condone piracy but anyone can see that people pirate things because they do not want to pay!

Yeah, well, if they don't want to pay then they shouldn't be playing. What gives them the right to use something they have no intention of buying? How is this in any way fair?

I don't think suing is the right way to deal with this, but I have trouble feeling much sympathy for those receiving the lawsuits.

-- Steve

I said I don't agree with piracy, I'm simply stating that however much they legislate/sue even if they stamped out piracy completely none of the 'lost revenue' would find it's way into their pockets.

All this for their crappy pinball game. Ya, how dare the pirates steal their hard earned coding efforts, formed as a PINBALL GAME. I mean, c'mon, that's a fresh, innovative idea, and everyone is STEALING IT!

* Adds these companies to "sunami88's big bad list of corporations not to buy from/pirate/support in any way shape or form" *

Cocks.

Anton P. Nym:

Skrapt:
It's not rocket science, I don't condone piracy but anyone can see that people pirate things because they do not want to pay!

Yeah, well, if they don't want to pay then they shouldn't be playing. What gives them the right to use something they have no intention of buying? How is this in any way fair?

I don't think suing is the right way to deal with this, but I have trouble feeling much sympathy for those receiving the lawsuits.

-- Steve

I see some flawed logic with this stance of "if you can't pay you shouldn't play" for one thing if you download a PC game to try before you go out and drop 50 bucks on a title you can't rent first ( And no demos don't count because they are not available for every single pc game, and they also do not let you experience the game on the same level a rental or the like would offer.) and can't return either if it won't run on said PC. When it comes to console games it's different as you CAN go out and rent the entire game with no limitations for a nominal fee and make up your mind before going out and dropping some hard cash on a game.

I do not condone Piracy for the sake of Piracy which coming from me is somewhat hypocritical because I do on occasion download a PC game before making a purchase because of the above reasons I mentioned. I also have a very very tight income and when it comes to an indulgence like a PC game I make damn sure that the game I'm going to go out and buy is worth the cash. I used to not have any cares when it came to buying any sort of console or PC game but now that I'm out of school and on my own things aren't the same and I can't just spend at will since I already walk a balance between bills, tuition, more bills, groceries, etc.

So unless someone is just downloading a game because they don't give a damn and could just as easily go out and buy it, I think other cases like the mother of two are just an example of greed and misused anger.

OMG! Our pinball (and I'd like to point out that you used to, and probably still can, get pinball free with some versions of Windows) game didn't sell well! Maybe it's because we reinvented PINBALL, for your computer. So you don't need to go to the pizza parlor and actually cheat, you can instead, play from the comfort of your desk chair! But no, it must be this illegal pirating thing that's killing us. Say, does anyone know why they pirated out game? No, who cares?

Game companies don't give a shit about this sort of thing. I agree they ought to look at Stardock and just go: well, those 800 people are the ones who would actually buy our game, and the 12,000 weren't going to anyways (those were probably just pity torrents by people who compulsively pirate), but by and large, the number of people who go: "Why? Why do people pirate?" aren't located in the game companies. They're located on the escapist.

Seriously what I would love to see from a gaming company is a free trial of the full game, for say, a day, or a weekend (see Valve). That way you can try the game and see if you enjoy it and then go out and purchase it. If it's a single player game let people have the full game but only for a set amount of time so that it's impossible to do all the things in the game in that set amount of time. Or it is possible but only if the person playing already knew where it all was to begin with.

Nice ideas Snuffler, but I personally think a Battlefield heroes style of games may the way forward. People get the major game for free, but have to put with adverts in menu's or billboards in game etc. and may pay for little extras. Which I think would pretty much stamp out piracy for that particular game, because why pirate when you get the game for free? And the developers make the money back through the advertising, and small extras people can pay for.

suing a unemployed mother for a pinball game? i simpli dont know what to say

What's sad here is that it was probably one of the lady's kids that did the downloading, that's why I live in a state that gave me the right to counter-sue if the law suit drives me to bankruptcy (it's illegal in several states to drive someone to bankruptcy with a law suit.)

http://www.newuniversity.org/main/article?slug=riaa_extorting_students_with29 RIAA related, but still fairly relevant.

Skrapt:
People get the major game for free, but have to put with adverts in menu's or billboards in game etc. and may pay for little extras.

These are great ideas for a good many of games. Some that I would love to see this in would be MMOs, to completely negate the monthly fee required by players they could have billboards in game that advertise products (Coke, iPod, whatever) and have those companies pay for their in game advertisements. Not only do these adds get seen by a MASSIVE amount of people, but also this could (possibly) cover the costs of running the servers. Since the likelihood that the majority of players would be in cities (From WoW, for example; Shattrath City, Orgrimmar, Stormwind etc) is far greater, and more so in PvP queue areas, posting these adds there would ensure they would be seen. I'm not saying they should have "This Illidan Kill was brought to you by Coca-Cola" but if WoW was free to play for seeing a few adds in major cities then I'd be completely down with that.

Alternately, ads could be incorporated into a game such as half-life by having them designed with in-game art. It wouldn't be so out of place to see an advertisement when you're running through a city in your every day routine so why not throw a coke add in City 17? Valve has actually added a feature to their games that shows where players are having the most difficulty/dying the most/spending the most time so I'm sure they could track how many times the ad is seen. This way they could offer the game for free or at a significantly reduced cost, and still offer the game (for those that wish to pay) completely ad free.

No offense to any companies mentioned in this post, I was simply using them as a "what if?" example.

Yeah, I agree. It's potentially very useful, and the art blending in is a good idea too. I wouldn't like to see a modern coke ad in Half Life city ruins, but if it was designed to fit in and designed as a more half life-ish coke ad that would be even better. I think it's simply a good idea because if done correctly even pirated versions of the game couldn't remove the ads, which would basically mean there was no point in pirating the game whatsoever, and the developers might even encourage it (if the ads aren't removable) if it leads to them getting more players and potentially more revenue through ads, mini sales etc.

£~15,000 for downloading a crappy pinball game which could've probably been picked up for £10? I hope its not just me who thinks that is a bit much...

For downloading it, don't be so ridiculous, she should only have been made to cough up the amount it would cost to buy (and laywers fees, possibly). The people who upload the games in torrent form or similar should be the ones paying large amounts in compensation.

Pfft. If you don't want people to download your games, don't make it possible. I'm sure there must be ways to stop it happening, access codes, online databases etc. Until then, it will keep going on.

DarkHyth:
Pfft. If you don't want people to download your games, don't make it possible. I'm sure there must be ways to stop it happening, access codes, online databases etc. Until then, it will keep going on.

That's kinda like saying that if people don't want their cars stolen they shouldn't make it possible for others to do so; and that there must be ways to stop it happening like locks, alarms, boots, etc. Of course there's DRM out there... and it's hated by many users, to the point that some otherwise willing to buy actually prefer to download cracked copies.

There's only so much that developers can do before the DRM does more to punish legitimate players than it does to restrict the illegitimate ones. I just wish that people wouldn't view the Internet as some sort of free-fire zone for looting and pillaging; then the issue of DRM wouldn't even crop up.

-- Steve

There's a simple reason Dream Pinball only sold 800 copies, namely that it wasn't worth anywhere near as much as TopWare was charging for it.

The fact that 12,000 people thought "that's worth playing, but not at their price" says more about TopWare than about its userbase.

And now one of those people who thought "that's worth playing, but not at their price" gets to play it at somebody else's price.

$30 thou is awfully heavy for downloading a single game. On the other hand, if you don't want to risk punitive action, don't steal shit. On that point, at least, it seems pretty straightforward. I don't like it, I don't like the idea of zero-value downloaders being sued into oblivion because they're too cheap or stupid to buy a game; but like Anton, I'm also having a hard time working up much sympathy for the people getting hit with these suits. Regardless of how you look at it, punishing your customers into submission isn't a great way to do business.

Disclaimer: I will not be drawn into conversations that follow topics including the right to try before you buy, the high price and/or low quality of most games, "downloading isn't stealing" or any other rationalizing bullshit that will inevitably flow in a discussion like this. Know a better way to fight piracy? Let's hear it. But if you're just going to make endless justifications for your cheap, greasy behaviour, save us both some time and don't bother.

Malygris:
But if you're just going to make endless justifications for your cheap, greasy behaviour, save us both some time and don't bother.

snuffler:
Okay I don't download games, and I don't condone it

That wasn't directed at little ol' me now, was it? Skrapt and I both presented the idea of Ads in games to make them free to play to begin with which seems like a valid way to fight piracy, at least in my eyes. :P

Malygris:
And now one of those people who thought "that's worth playing, but not at their price" gets to play it at somebody else's price.

$30 thou is awfully heavy for downloading a single game. On the other hand, if you don't want to risk punitive action, don't steal shit. On that point, at least, it seems pretty straightforward. I don't like it, I don't like the idea of zero-value downloaders being sued into oblivion because they're too cheap or stupid to buy a game; but like Anton, I'm also having a hard time working up much sympathy for the people getting hit with these suits. Regardless of how you look at it, punishing your customers into submission isn't a great way to do business.

But she wasn't a customer.

A few ways to help quell the amount of game piracy going on would be to follow a model that Snuffler and Skrapt mentioned.

I would like to see changes to the anti piracy laws that make it nearly impossible to return a game; so long as you have a LEGITIMATE reason that can be proven, I don't think the consumer should be treated like shit because a PC or Console game doesn't work as intended.

At this point in time there should be no reason why someone can not rent a PC game. (Something along the lines of today's console games; it's entirely possible to start working towards a system were someone could just plop a disk into there optical drive and start a game up.)

There are plenty of other ways to go about implementing tactics to reduce piracy but I still think the most powerful weapon to curb this so called epidemic is for developers to put out quality and not quantity. If the statement "consumers speak with their money" holds any water to begin with then, consumers paying for cheap trash they never would have taken a second glance at had they known what the game was really like, then I think that shoots the whole point in that statement full of holes.

What makes you think it was directed at you? It was a blanket statement.

Just makin sure ;P

Malygris:
And now one of those people who thought "that's worth playing, but not at their price" gets to play it at somebody else's price.

$30 thou is awfully heavy for downloading a single game. On the other hand, if you don't want to risk punitive action, don't steal shit. On that point, at least, it seems pretty straightforward. I don't like it, I don't like the idea of zero-value downloaders being sued into oblivion because they're too cheap or stupid to buy a game; but like Anton, I'm also having a hard time working up much sympathy for the people getting hit with these suits. Regardless of how you look at it, punishing your customers into submission isn't a great way to do business.

Disclaimer: I will not be drawn into conversations that follow topics including the right to try before you buy, the high price and/or low quality of most games, "downloading isn't stealing" or any other rationalizing bullshit that will inevitably flow in a discussion like this. Know a better way to fight piracy? Let's hear it. But if you're just going to make endless justifications for your cheap, greasy behaviour, save us both some time and don't bother.

I think the best way to fight piracy is the way Valve's doing it with Steam. Make the game phone home and authenticate, since it works overwhelmingly well and doesn't seem to irritate Valve's customer base any more than it absolutely has to. I'd say "make the player log in the way Blizzard does with battle.net every time they want to play", but that has the dual-edged problem of 1, what to do about people who aren't always connected to the Internet or whose connections go down and really, what's there to do when the Net's out but play games, and 2, what happens if the developer goes out of business and people are left with game media that is rendered worthless. I might even add a 3 in there---since I wouldn't put it past EA to stop supporting the customer login for a game like Sims 2 once Sims 3 comes out and write some weasel language into the EULA that "this game will self-destruct when we feel like forcing you to upgrade."

At the same time, I don't condone game theft and every game I own was purchased through some sort of legitimate distribution channel, even if that channel was "hey, I've got this game, you want it?" and taking possession of all game media that had been uninstalled from the seller's computer per the EULA.

I quite liked the idea pitched by Skrapt and Snuffler: it makes the game cheaper while not detracting from the overall experience. Nice work guys.

As for the actual article, we all know piracy is bad, but I don't think they're going about it that right way. Instead of suing the pants off of a single parent (who probably can't pay off the amount anyway), they should be targeting those such as uploaders.

DarkHyth:
£~15,000 for downloading a crappy pinball game which could've probably been picked up for £10? I hope its not just me who thinks that is a bit much...

For downloading it, don't be so ridiculous, she should only have been made to cough up the amount it would cost to buy (and laywers fees, possibly). The people who upload the games in torrent form or similar should be the ones paying large amounts in compensation.

You mean in complete torrent form, right?

Arbre:

DarkHyth:
£~15,000 for downloading a crappy pinball game which could've probably been picked up for £10? I hope its not just me who thinks that is a bit much...

For downloading it, don't be so ridiculous, she should only have been made to cough up the amount it would cost to buy (and laywers fees, possibly). The people who upload the games in torrent form or similar should be the ones paying large amounts in compensation.

You mean in complete torrent form, right?

Yes, I suppose so. Seeding a complete torrent should result in a heavier payment than just downloading and not seeding (which is sort of frowned upon but meh, big deal), as that way you are not furthering the distribution of the product for free.

I guess you could argue that while the game is being downloaded, you are partially hosting the parts you've already got... well just turn off the uploading =P I'm not sure what to do about that, it's the difference between "deliberately helping evil" and "unaware you were helping evil" which can't be proved either way.

Hehe, you got it right, I was precisely thinking about the uploading part. You usually get lower transfers with minimal or no upload, but at least you're certainly not guilty of illegally sharing the illegal file.
...

i love reading how all these ppl believe sharing is stealing. big business keeps telling you its stealing and you believe them. sharing is caring full stop. Im not saying i download games myself but im not going to start calling sharing - stealing either just because we have figured out how to share these types of things freeing up our monies for more important things in life like food, clothing and housing why let them take away our right to share so they can make more money on top of the piles of money these company's have most of the time already.

as long as no money changes hands i dont care what ppl share.

Andy Chalk:

Disclaimer: I will not be drawn into conversations that follow topics including the right to try before you buy, the high price and/or low quality of most games, "downloading isn't stealing" or any other rationalizing bullshit that will inevitably flow in a discussion like this. Know a better way to fight piracy? Let's hear it. But if you're just going to make endless justifications for your cheap, greasy behaviour, save us both some time and don't bother.

Price your games right, if that pinball game was around $5 where it should be then more people would have bought it. That wouldn't ELIMINATE piracy but it would curve it.

Vavle's summer sales ruined me, I got about 25 great games for $80 USD. If I can buy the full Ghostbusters game for $4, I'm not spending $30 on a pinball game (actually I'm never going to play a pinball game because I think they're boring).

 

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