How to Beat Pirates

Friday, April 08, 2011

Transcript

While computer games are theoretically as easy to pirate as any other kind of digital media, the video and computer game industry as a whole seems a little less caught up in anti-piracy zeal than say, the music or film industries. Bob talks to Robin Walker, a game developer for Valve Software, one of the more successful computer game publishers. Walker explains how, rather than trying to catch software pirates, his company tries to make software that's too good to steal.

Comments [18]

Jasmine Holton

The title of the report we decided to write a review on was “How to Beat Pirates”, posted on April 8th, 2011. This report was based on companies trying to add effects to different products so that people will by them instead of them downloading them for free. The reporters main points was trying to figure out how the interviewee was able to better stop piracy. He explained how he would have all the features that can only be gained by paying for it. For example, buying power ups instead of gaining them. This way serious fans are more app to giving money in support of the game and getting something in return.
I feel like this is a good way to prevent piracy when you are thinking about serious fans and people who have enough respect to just buy the products instead of illegally downloading it. But there are probably more people that will not care for all the specials that come along with it. Mainly because they will have to pay for it.

Apr. 20 2011 09:57 AM
Terrell Poole

The title of the report we decided to write a review on was “How to Beat Pirates”, posted on April 8th, 2011. This report was based on companies trying to add effects to different products so that people will by them instead of them downloading them for free. The reporters main points was trying to figure out how the interviewee was able to better stop piracy. He explained how he would have all the features that can only be gained by paying for it. For example, buying power ups instead of gaining them. This way serious fans are more app to giving money in support of the game and getting something in return.
I feel like this is a good way to prevent piracy when you are thinking about serious fans and people who have enough respect to just buy the products instead of illegally downloading it. But there are probably more people that will not care for all the specials that come along with it. Mainly because they will have to pay for it.

Apr. 20 2011 09:56 AM
Calill from Raleigh

I believe Valve's approach to the video game industry introducing free benefits and consistent updates to their games do in fact add much satisfaction to already excellent games. I see many games that force you to pay up $50-60 for the product, then a month or two later release 'new' downloadable content that is an ADDITIONAL $5-10 on top of it.
Also, Valve seems to take a lighthearted approach to stopping the pirating of their games, solving it easily by letting you download however many copies of it to multiple computers, with those copies only being accessible under your account registration. It seems backwards, but it works. You could search now online for any Valve game pirated and the amount of results would be close to none.

Apr. 14 2011 04:57 PM
emmanuel 2cdperiod from school

Valve Software
How to Beat Pirates- April 08, 2011
How to try and stop piracy and or if they can stop it how can they still make it benefit for them. Rather then catching the pirates he try's to make it harder and to good for them steal.

I think since technology has come up so much and far that they should be able just to block the video game and etc from being downloaded or copied for free. If they have enough technology and enough smarts to make a video game look real then i would think it probably shouldn't be that hard to block somebody else from take the product that was made.

I have heard alternate opinions about the situation. person has said that you still have to give them some slack because once something is on the internet its there for good.so anybody could access it. 2cd person said basically my opinion that if you real didn't want your stuff to be stolen then you would try your best to keep people from taking it.

My overall feeling about it is that people shouldn't be stealing in the first place. My team came to an agreement that it wrong to pirate media. But since people are you should do what you can to prevent it.

Apr. 13 2011 09:40 PM
vldsoft

Pirated copies of tf2 can simulate items that are worth hundreds of dolars irl.
Robin is sure mad (and drunk again).

Apr. 13 2011 06:16 AM
Ezra Farber from North Carolina

I think valve is totally spot on, and it was nice to hear it from Robin. Steam, too, is a wonderful thing. It feels like they're rewarding the people who don't pirate, rather than making life harder for EVERYONE just to get at the pirates. I remember being treated like a criminal when I lost my cd or cd keys.

I used to exclusively torrent video games, but steam is such a pleasant experience for me that I am severely disinclined to ever go the torrent route. I haven't opened up Vuze in 6 months.

Apr. 12 2011 03:23 PM
John from London, England

I'm one of those fans that Robin was talking about. I'm a co-host of the Team Fortress 2 podcast.

The value-add prospect is nothing new, certainly not to the games industry, but it's a sociological solution not well adopted by other industries. As a whole data (be-it mp3, mpeg, or exe) based companies have had to face up to the prospect of losing their content from the moment it is released. Selling something that is infinitely reproducible without incurring degradation in quality requires a completely different sales strategy from physical products, cars and wooden chairs etc.

Valve's solution has already profoundly changed video games. We now expect free updates each month but that content is largely coming from the community. People will make items and videos, songs and maps to share them with other fans of the game. It is apparent that Valve need only touch the ball once in a while to keep it rolling.

Jonathon Coulton is a musician who has proved that with some lateral thinking it is possible to be successful and give his songs away for free. In a series of podcasts he wrote and performed a new song each week. The tunes are still available on his website along with links to iTunes where they can be bought. The quality is exactly the same in both instances. He makes his money not from his music files but from live merchandise, performances and other gigs. He has written the song most associated with Valve’s game “Portal” and has created another for “Portal Two”, due out later this month.

To paraphrase Robin; if you make the assumption that everyone is inherently honest then give them ways to thank you with money for continuing to work hard on something, they will thank you harder than you ever thought possible.

TF2 Podcast | KritzKast.com

Apr. 12 2011 03:07 PM
Ryan from Oakland

1st rule of being a good business: Give the customer what they want.

The RIAA and the MPAA, sadly, had a golden opportunity in the late 90's and early 2000's to get a jump on piracy the same way that Valve software and others have done in the video gaming industry.

I think it should be noted that this is not a company that condones piracy. Valve, as some may recall, was a victim of theft in ~2004 when a hacker stole a digital copy of Half-Life 2 (riding on the Source engine, which currently runs the game Team Fortress 2 - of which Robin Walker is the lead developer). Valve worked with the FBI to catch the hacker.

Instead of mounting a campaign to end game piracy, Valve saw this problem as a solution: digital distribution. If people want ease of access to a game, allow them to take it from you if they pay you for it. Digital distribution was laughed at. Now it is a very common form of transaction (with no plastic waste). I'm afraid there's no more room. Great interview Robin!

Apr. 12 2011 09:27 AM
Necro

I think Valve has one of the better philosophies on piracy. The idea that they use of making a product better so people want to buy it is one that I would like to see in more markets. If the pirates have a better product at a better price then it makes perfect economical sense to pirate media. The solution is to make the sold media better than what the pirates can offer. Valve has done a great job updating TF2 for the past 3 years at no additional cost and this has brought in more customers with every update. I myself have enjoyed the free updates and recommend this game to anyone that like teamwork based shooters.

Apr. 12 2011 01:19 AM
Dave Menconi from Silicon Valley

I think that the record industry has really shot themselves in the foot. The comparison with the games industry is instructive.

When CDs came out -- a huge innovation -- the record industry used it primarily to raise the price of an album. The redbook audio format hasn't changed much since then and the features of CDs -- with some notable exceptions -- haven't increased much.

Wouldn't it be nice if the track information were included on the CD (it's not) and maybe images associated with the track? You could have more complete information about who did what on that track or even have the mix information digitally recorded so that listener could remix it for her equipment or even just for her amusement.

Game developers have a whole culture build around innovation.

The record industry wants to just crank out music and get paid for it. They don't want to have to work for their business. That's why they have an adversarial relationship with their customers.

Apr. 11 2011 12:56 AM
Dave Menconi from Silicon Valley

I thought the segment was interesting and informative until Bob's comment (starting with "have you been drinking!?") that suggested that "98% of music has been pirated".

I think we can agree that a LOT is pirated but NOT 98%. I doubt any one actually KNOWS but my guess would be that most music that's listened to is paid for. It would not surprise me to find out that 98% is PAID FOR (although that's probably high -- probably more like 70%).

Please try to be objective and not present the beliefs of the record industry as objective fact.

Apr. 11 2011 12:44 AM
stlsaxman

In the gaming/software market being able to "update" and improve your "product" after the sale, unfortunately, would NOT work for the craft of songwriting... can you imagine- "thank you for your purchase- try our new and improved re-mix!"

Doesn't work.

Apr. 10 2011 06:59 PM
16 666

Not for nothing, but OTM's cultural (political) bent is starting to make itself known. Hearing Garfield talk about what meant 'cool' during his lifetime in the next segment was kind of illuminating. All in all I guess I have this segment to thank for helping me to figure out he was over fifty-six.

Apr. 10 2011 04:54 PM
AdamFuller

I disagree Steve. I believe most people would not see anything at all wrong with copying a piece of media. Sure, taking something from a store would be considered theft by most people. Most people would feel completely justified in making a copy of a piece of media they bought and own and then giving that copy to a friend, or using a song as backdrop to, say, a youtube video they are making. Widespread copying and distribution falls somewhere between making a mix tape and taking from a store, and people's opinions on it vary, reflecting this.

Apr. 10 2011 09:58 AM
Steve Roy from Cambridge, Ma

Continued from earlier comment

The idea that  copying and redistributing movies, video games, and books is piracy and therefore wrong has a head start.  We've long understood taking a book or a video game from a store to be theft.  We all grew up with the FBI warning at the beginning of videos.  For now, the law and societal understanding are in line with respect to other forms of media.  

To assume that runaway music piracy was caused by an antiquated distribution model that didn't evolve quickly enough would be a mistake.  

Best, Steve & Jessa

Apr. 09 2011 02:59 PM
Steve Roy from Cambridge, Ma

... Continued from earlier comment.

The piracy (sharing) of music as we now understand it started before Shawn Parker was born. Did you have a Walkman? I did.
 
The idea that  copying and redistributing movies, video games, and books is piracy and therefore wrong has a head start.  We've long understood taking a book or a video game from a store to be theft.  We all grew up with the FBI warning at the beginning of videos.  For now, the law and societal understanding are in line with respect to other forms of media.  

To assume that runaway music piracy was caused by an antiquated distribution model that didn't evolve quickly enough would be a mistake.

Best,

Steve & Jessa
FLASHFLOOD Studios | http://www.flashfloodphoto.com 

Apr. 09 2011 02:56 PM
Steve Roy from Cambridge, Ma

Using music and the issues around music piracy as a model by which to understand and predict the future of other forms of media is fundamentally problematic. The reason is that there is a key difference in our cultural understanding of what is acceptable with music that goes back to the invention of the Walkman and the mix tape.

For over thirty years is has been commonplace to share music. Many of us grew up with an understanding that sharing music openly and irrespective of copyright law was a not an immoral act. Therefore,  it is not surprising that the public at large is resistant to the idea that sharing music is actually piracy and wrong.  

The internet did not create a generation of music pirates, it facilitated an already common act. It's ironic that Sony put music in the pockets of millions of people and is now suffering from the phenomena they helped to create.

... Continued in next comment.

Apr. 09 2011 02:52 PM
Phil Henshaw from New York, NY

You know, Bob, "what's wrong with you" is that you scoff at the idea of trying to understand what would generate the most value in the end... Nature is not about short-cuts to quick profits that prejudice everyone else... Nature is about patiently trying interesting things until finding what works best for everything in the long run.

Because there's no hurry nature is quite happy to discard big investments that actually turn out to be mistakes, like economies modeled on using up everything affordable as fast as humanly affordable, too dumb to think of anything else to try when that becomes a problem. In search of the money solution for the web why not have subscribers to the web pay for every page they view, to the page author, at $.10/hr or the amount of the viewer's appetite for viewing. It's suspiciously similar to the public radio model, made universal. It would actually send the money to where the content is, and *have the content be the product*. Different, no?

Apr. 09 2011 08:01 AM

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