I purchased Assassin’s Creed from Steam last week. It’s available for purchase from the Steam Store Here. While I am a huge advocate of Steam due to its ease of content management for both sides of the cash register, there is a 400lb. gorilla in the room. Assassin’s Creed was released by two separate cracker groups this morning. I won’t link to it. With the use of a bit torrent client and a few hours of time, someone could be playing the full retail version of Assassin’s Creed before I can and save fifty bucks in the process. I’ve noticed the standard policy of the majority of entertainment software publishers is to censor any discussion of piracy on their forums. I can fully understand this policy and it makes sense fiscally. The larger issue isn’t whether isn’t about whether a few hundred customers decide to download the pirated version of a game because they read about it in a forum. It’s fully about the 400lb. gorilla in the room, distribution. We all know that nine times out of ten, someone working in the supply chain for these products is responsible for stealing a copy and releasing it on the Internet. That becomes ridiculously easy when you no longer have to deal with a physical medium like CD or DVD. Assassin’s Creed is due to be officially released on April 9th. Despite this, people can download the game for free from bit torrent. That really begs the question, why buy it? Well, that depends on what’s important to you. For me, I am a gamer; I want more games in the future. If games aren’t a profitable venture, why make them?
The failure of publishers to offer immediate supply when demand is skyrocketing hurts the entire industry. I am looking forward to a lot of games this year. I am willing to pay for them. Making paying customers wait an extra couple of weeks (or even hours in the case of a pre-loaded game) is bad business. It motivates people to download the pirated copy. While I realize steam is not responsible for the release schedules of other publishers, steam loses money as well. The purchase/download distribution model is the future of pc gaming. The publishers save money on actual physical product. The customers no longer have to deal with damaged physical media. As I mentioned above, I love Steam. I have a large collection of Steam powered games. If I’m being honest, Steam, while at the forefront of game publishers, is just lagging behind the pirates. How many will just download Assassin’s Creed from bit torrent, because the game isn’t officially released yet vs. those who will buy it only because they didn’t hear about piracy or torrents on the game’s official forum?
There will always be piracy. It’s partly an economic indicator of high demand. It’s also an indicator that the Robbin’ Hood hasn’t hung up his bow. Whether you had no intention of buying it in the first place or you couldn’t afford it, or it’s just another trophy for your collection, a pirate will provide it for you. The industry can minimize the risks of this by increasing availability of their content. My “making available theory” states that If I can buy a game from the publisher and play it faster than I could get it from bit torrent, I probably will.
Hate mail and mail from Jack Thompson should be directed to my secretary