Tommy Refenes, one half of the duo behind indie success story Super Meat Boy, has published an extended tumblr post about the way the games industry currently deals with piracy and DRM. His ultimate conclusion? That whether people pirate a game or not, developers and publishers should be focusing their attention on those that pay for the game and not waste time on those that don’t.
Citing Super Meat Boy Piracy numbers in the region of 10 per cent – though many twitter users have suggested to him that it could be higher – Refenes suggested that these just don’t matter, because there’s no way he can quantify what those people would have done had piracy not been an option. He speculates that they might have been paying customers instead, they may have never heard of Super Meat Boy – because they are untracked pirates, there is simply no way to tell.
He does point however, to the costs associated with DRM. Those he says, can be measured. The financial costs of implementing the DRM in the first place, whether developmental or purchasing. On top of that, when it goes wrong, a la Sim City, there are also lost customers to think about, including refunds. Sim City has garnered a lot of refunds, as well as negative feelings towards EA. This Refenes says, is way worse than a few illegally downloaded games.
“EA and Maxis are currently facing a bigger problem than piracy: A growing number of their customers no longer trust them and this has and will cost them money,” the post reads. Sounding a bit Yoda-like, he continued: “Disappointment leads to apathy which is the swan song for any developer. If people don’t care about your game, why would people ever buy it?”
As he goes on to point out, DRM and other methods of combating piracy usually do one thing: annoy the paying customers. This is because in most instances, the DRM or other system isn’t seen by the pirates, since someone has already cracked and removed it. The only ones that suffer are the ones that actually paid – like sitting through an anti-piracy message in a movie.
“The reality is the fight against piracy equates to spending time and money combating a loss that cannot be quantified,” Refenes continued. “Everyone needs to accept that piracy cannot be stopped and loss prevention is not a concept that can be applied to the digital world.”
“Respect your customers and they may in turn respect your efforts enough to purchase your game instead of pirating it,” he concluded.