THQ Creative Director Michael Fitch has shed some light on the recent closure of Titan Quest developer Iron Lore Entertainment, laying the blame squarely at the feet of piracy, hardware vendors and "stupid people."
In a post on the Quarter To Three forums, Fitch said that rampant game piracy was primarily responsible not only for the downfall of Iron Lore, but for the increasing difficulty faced by independent development studios in the PC market. Describing how a cracked copy of Iron Lore's debut game, Titan Quest, hit the net prior to its release, he explained that a quest-keyed security check would dump players out of the game if they had a pirated copy. "So, it's a couple days before release, and I start seeing people on the forums complaining about how buggy the game is, how it crashes all the time," he said. "A lot of people are talking about how it crashes right when you come out of the first cave. Yeah, that's right. There was a security check there."
"So, before the game even comes out, we've got people bad-mouthing it because their pirated copies crash, even though a legitimate copy won't," he continued. "For a game that doesn't have a Madden-sized advertising budget, word of mouth is your biggest hope, and here we are, before the game even releases, getting bashed to hell and gone by people who can't even be bothered to actually pay for the game. What was the ultimate impact of that? Hard to measure, but it did get mentioned in several reviews. Think about that the next time you read 'we didn't have any problems running the game, but there are reports on the internet that people are having crashes'."
Hardware manufacturers also suffered Fitch's wrath, who he blamed for putting out hardware "with little or no driver support, marginal adherence to standards, and sometimes bizarre conflicts with other hardware." "Put together consumers who want the cheapest equipment possible with the best performance, manufacturers who don't give a shit what happens to their equipment once they ship it, and assemblers who need to work their margins everywhere possible, and you get a lot of shitty hardware out there, in innumerable configurations that you can't possibly test against," he said. "But, it's always the game's fault when something doesn't work."
Continuing that theme, Fitch moved on to the PC gaming audience, including reviewers. "There's a lot of stupid people out there," he said. "Now, don't get wrong, there's a lot of very savvy people out there, too, and there were some great folks in the TQ community who helped us out a lot. But, there's a lot of stupid people. Basic, basic stuff, like updating your drivers, or de-fragging your hard drive, or having antivirus so your machine isn't a teetering pile of rogue programs. PC folks want to have the freedom to do whatever the hell they want with their machines, and god help them they will do it; more power to them, really. But god forbid something that they've done - or failed to do - creates a problem with your game. There are few better examples of the "it can't possibly be my fault" culture in the west than gaming forums."
"Titan Quest did okay. We didn't lose money on it," he said. "But if even a tiny fraction of the people who pirated the game had actually spent some god-damn money for their 40+ hours of entertainment, things could have been very different today. You can bitch all you want about how piracy is your god-given right, and none of it matters anyway because you can't change how people behave... whatever. Some really good people made a seriously good game, and they might still be in business if piracy weren't so rampant on the PC. That's a fact."
Fitch's refreshingly honest commentary about the demise of Iron Lore and the challenges facing the PC gaming industry can be read in its entirety here.