Game Design Reducing PC Piracy, Inflating Identity Theft

Tom Goldman

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Aug 17, 2009
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Game Design Reducing PC Piracy, Inflating Identity Theft



The PC Gaming Alliance president says that game design is reducing piracy, while also increasing the instances of online identity theft.

New PC Gaming Alliance [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/107858-PC-Gaming-Alliance-Will-Bring-the-Noise-in-2011] president Matt Ployhar recently spoke to Gamasutra about the current state of the PC gaming industry. He says that while the levels of pirated PC games are actually on the decline thanks to new developments in design, that same design is responsible for new forms of online crime.

Ployhar points out that MMOs and free-to-play games are much harder to pirate than single-player titles. Many games also offer bonuses that only legitimate owners can acquire. The increase in these kinds of titles and bonuses is actually decreasing PC piracy, Ployhar believes.

"So what's happening is game design is shifting and as a result of shifting game design, piracy, at least on the PC side, is actually declining as a result," he says. "There are stats that do corroborate that ... Now what you're seeing to combat that or reduce the chances of piracy are developers implementing achievements, in-game pets, all of these things that are tracked and stored in the cloud. So even if you pirate the game you're still not getting the bragging rights."

He admits that piracy will never go away, but indicates that publishers can use more than strict DRM schemes to reduce instances of it. However, now that videogames are making it big in the digital space with Steam and download-only titles, this "anti-piracy" movement has a new disadvantage.

"The game design is now shifting to combat piracy, but because the value propositions are altering and changing, now you're getting more of an increase in the identity theft space," Ployhar added. While developers can design out reasons to pirate a game, consumers are put at a bigger risk of having their Steam or MMO accounts hacked now that more of them available. I'm not sure if it costs more to deal with piracy or account hacking, but they both seem like a pain in the butt.

Source: Gamasutra [http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6290/a_renewed_focus_pcgas_new_.php?page=2]

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Awexsome

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Mar 25, 2009
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No matter what the levels of Piracy and Identity theft there will be... The amount of douchebags online will always be a level constant.
 

Stammer

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Apr 16, 2008
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I'm still behind the idea that buying a game legally will give you some kind of in-game bonus or real life discount or something.

It sucks just how much time and effort developers are putting towards anti-piracy when it ends up being almost entirely futile in the long run. Even the best DRM's will end up just harming the legal buyers. Maxim's new Darkspore is a lot of fun (I'm in the beta test), but I'm reluctant to buy it because it has that STUPID anti-piracy thing where you have to log into an online account to start the game up, even when just playing single-player. C&C4 had it, and I couldn't stand it there either. One little hiccup in your internet connection and BAM all your experience points and mission objectives lost.
 

Jamous

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Apr 14, 2009
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Ouch, that sounds pretty bad, to be quite honest. Also, RARRRR DRM. Why increase it? >_< It irritates me, as it's stopped me playing my games that I bought legitimately. They need to figure some way to compromise, difficult as that may be. :/
 

AceAngel

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May 12, 2010
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Ace: How can anyone pirate MMO's in the first place and/or other social games? Aren't they by nature structured in such a way that playing it legally is the reward? And online distribution has been around for a while. Nothing is new here, but it's nice to read an article about it and hopefully, sheds some light for the average indie/consumer out there.

Angel: This is a good initiative and evolution of the medium, but it's perplexing that half of the article is...umm...not to sound rude, but utter rubbish. Maybe if they explained this 'progress' and how it works would have been much better then saying 'Game structure changed = Lower Piracy Rate = Higher Identity Theft".

Luigi: Blizzard solved this with an old technical system I like to call "Dongles". Cookie to who gets the reference (and I'm not that old).
 
Apr 28, 2008
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Of course there are better ways to reduce piracy. Stop treating your legitimate customers as pirates is one way. That way they'll be more likely to buy the game then, you know, pirate it.

Publishers think some kind of technology will stop pirates. It will not. Piracy is more of social problem, not a technological problem. And of course "social" is where pretty much all Publishers fail at.

Stammer said:
I'm still behind the idea that buying a game legally will give you some kind of in-game bonus or real life discount or something.

It sucks just how much time and effort developers are putting towards anti-piracy when it ends up being almost entirely futile in the long run. Even the best DRM's will end up just harming the legal buyers. Maxim's new Darkspore is a lot of fun (I'm in the beta test), but I'm reluctant to buy it because it has that STUPID anti-piracy thing where you have to log into an online account to start the game up, even when just playing single-player. C&C4 had it, and I couldn't stand it there either. One little hiccup in your internet connection and BAM all your experience points and mission objectives lost.
I never understood that DRM system. Do they expect my legitimate copy to somehow become a pirated version?
 

Stammer

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Irridium said:
I never understood that DRM system. Do they expect my legitimate copy to somehow become a pirated version?
Well, on the beta feedback forums there have been a lot of complaints about the system. The people communicating with us on the forums told us that it wasn't in place specifically for anti-piracy, but that it was primarily there as a method of anti-hacking. See, they decided to keep everything server-side so that it wouldn't end up like Diablo II where everyone hacks their game and creates a Lv.99 super-human character with 1billion in each stat. The only downside is that server-side data requires you to have a constant connection.
 

Nurb

Cynical bastard
Dec 9, 2008
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It seems like no matter what customers do we get screwed...

The industry complains about piracy and how it's killing them, but then say "Don't buy it then if you don't like it and piss off!" when it comes to legitimate complaints, after that they wonder why people are buying less. When it comes to demos they complain about how much work it takes to make one despite games with demos sell better.

And when people DO play ball and go with this online stuff that requires internet connections and personal information on GAME servers, people have their lives ruined with identity theft.

All of the above is still why pirates will continue to pirate; it's just less hassle and there's less risk of identity theft
 

Korey Von Doom

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May 18, 2008
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I find it kinda funny that companies even bother with DRM anymore, you aren't gonna stop pirates, all you're doing is pissing off paying customers.
 
Apr 28, 2008
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Stammer said:
Irridium said:
I never understood that DRM system. Do they expect my legitimate copy to somehow become a pirated version?
Well, on the beta feedback forums there have been a lot of complaints about the system. The people communicating with us on the forums told us that it wasn't in place specifically for anti-piracy, but that it was primarily there as a method of anti-hacking. See, they decided to keep everything server-side so that it wouldn't end up like Diablo II where everyone hacks their game and creates a Lv.99 super-human character with 1billion in each stat. The only downside is that server-side data requires you to have a constant connection.
Ah, I see now.

I still don't see why you would do that to people that just want to play single player though.
 

Actual

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Stiffkittin said:
Mmm. I knew that account theft is an issue with WoW, but on other platforms, really? I wasn't aware that there were frequent cases of Steam account theft, perhaps someone could fill me in?
Honestly, I don't know if it happens frequently but I have heard of it happening.

A steam account can be worth a lot of money if there are a lot of games on it.

Imagine greedy brat says to naive brat, "Would you like all the achievements in Left 4Dead? I can do it with my hacking program, just give me your password and I'll load them on now."

Naive brat goes for it, and next thing he knows he's getting an email from greedy brat: "Lol thanks for all the free games newb."

You or I would correct this by calling Valve support and having the account returned to us, but there are many people who aren't so sensible.
 

manythings

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Nov 7, 2009
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Identity theft is only going to get easier now that they have cards that can be passed in front of a scanner and Verichip (if anyone is retarded enough to try it) is a disaster waiting to happen.

Korey Von Doom said:
I find it kinda funny that companies even bother with DRM anymore, you aren't gonna stop pirates, all you're doing is pissing off paying customers.
But how many pirates can actually breach DRM versus just ass clowns who like to think of themselves as pirates? How many guys who are decent at that side of it but also impatient and give up? If you can't build a wall big enough to keep them out make the task arduous so many will get sick of it. I think of it like the hidden parcels and such in a GTA.
 

Low Key

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May 7, 2009
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I don't even know why I read these stories. One day, piracy is sky rocketing, the next, it's declining. I don't mean to be critical of Matt Ployhar, but I believe it's safe to say none of these guys really know what they are talking about, because the piracy data is not accurate.
 

Staskala

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Sep 28, 2010
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manythings said:
Identity theft is only going to get easier now that they have cards that can be passed in front of a scanner and Verichip (if anyone is retarded enough to try it) is a disaster waiting to happen.

Korey Von Doom said:
I find it kinda funny that companies even bother with DRM anymore, you aren't gonna stop pirates, all you're doing is pissing off paying customers.
But how many pirates can actually breach DRM versus just ass clowns who like to think of themselves as pirates? How many guys who are decent at that side of it but also impatient and give up? If you can't build a wall big enough to keep them out make the task arduous so many will get sick of it. I think of it like the hidden parcels and such in a GTA.
The thing is, the pirate himself has to do jack shit to circumvent DRM.
"Breaching" DRM amounts to little more than downloading a crack and copying 1-3 files.
That is, if he really is inept enough to download a release that doesn't include the crack to begin with.

The argument that it is more troublesome for the release groups is equally moot, as they just live for the challenge or reputation.
So to them the harder a game is to crack, the better.
 

mjc0961

YOU'RE a pie chart.
Nov 30, 2009
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Tom Goldman said:
"The game design is now shifting to combat piracy, but because the value propositions are altering and changing, now you're getting more of an increase in the identity theft space," Ployhar added. While developers can design out reasons to pirate a game, consumers are put at a bigger risk of having their Steam or MMO accounts hacked now that more of them available.
Okay, are we talking about actually hacking, or are we just talking about phishing? There is a difference. For example:

Actual said:
Imagine greedy brat says to naive brat, "Would you like all the achievements in Left 4Dead? I can do it with my hacking program, just give me your password and I'll load them on now."

Naive brat goes for it, and next thing he knows he's getting an email from greedy brat: "Lol thanks for all the free games newb."
That is not hacking. Maybe it's not exactly phishing either, but definitely not hacking. And you have no reason to worry about stuff like that if you're smart enough not to give your log-in details to strangers.

Phishing is generally easy to avoid as well; if you get any e-mails claiming to be from some service and they want you to click here to log in and do something, you don't click there. You open your browser and manually type the URL of the site, and log in that way so you know it's safe. If the e-mail was real, you should easily find what they needed you to do, and if it was fake, you won't find anything (although checking with support never hurts).

The thought of being actually hacked does scare me a bit, and if that's what's actually happening to others more and more frequently, that sucks. But if it's just people trying to trick you, that I'm not so worried about. Would be nice if Matt Ployhar would be more clear or site some sources on this.

Xzi said:
free-to-play games are much harder to pirate than single-player titles.
*Facepalm.*

Surprised I'm the first one to notice this. "Oh dude, you hear about that new free to play game? I'm going to pirate it."

"Lolwut?"
Aren't there some retail MMOs that make you buy the game but after that are free to play (no monthly fees)? If there are, that's obviously what they were talking about.
 

Jodah

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Aug 2, 2008
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Pretty soon they will be stealing our souls. Thankfully I sold mine for a stick of gum a few weeks ago. But hey, at least they aren't stealing as many games!
 

JediMB

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Oct 25, 2008
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mjc0961 said:
Xzi said:
free-to-play games are much harder to pirate than single-player titles.
*Facepalm.*

Surprised I'm the first one to notice this. "Oh dude, you hear about that new free to play game? I'm going to pirate it."

"Lolwut?"
Aren't there some retail MMOs that make you buy the game but after that are free to play (no monthly fees)? If there are, that's obviously what they were talking about.
You are correct. Playing the game is free, but you still have to own (buy) it to begin with.

It's a misleading term, though.