I can’t believe I’m typing this… maybe Hell is a snowy paradise, but: Microsoft gets it.
Hackers, as insignificant and unimportant as most corporations make them out to be, do drive interest in things. That interest starts down low, with the individual hackers and it bubbles up in the form of words and actions. “Console X is gay!” or “Device Y is epic, I can run my own ABC on it!”.
That bubbling-up of interest effects friend and family closest to them, results in blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter posts and eventually starts to effect more and more people via a “Oh cool, check this LINK out” effect.
How many of you have seen some of the cool Kinect Hack videos and either don’t own a Kinect or ever plan on hacking one yourself?
I have, and I don’t own OR plan on hacking one when I get one, but now I have this subliminal respect for the hardware, it’s capabilities and some intangible mental picture of the value I am getting when I put down my $150 for one.
Social scientists recently proved that preferences and behaviors spread within a social network. That means if your best buddy loves something more than something else, there is something like a 60% chance YOU will love/buy/be-interesting-in that something as well.
Microsoft’s response so far to people hacking the Kinect has been:
Awesome, we’ll give you an official SDK soon!
Sony’s response has been:
Apparently this response from Sony is nothing new.
I get it though; the hacks between the Kinect and PS3 are apples and oranges. 1 hacks hardware to make it more versatile, the other hacks the platform security basically compromising the ability for Sony to provide a secure publishing environment to it’s developers.
An example of how this could effect things?
Maybe BioWare doesn’t want to do Mass Effect 3 on the PS3 because piracy is rampant and once it’s posted to Usenet, they won’t sell enough copies for the PS3. Maybe Bungie doesn’t want to publish their next horrible shooter on PS3 (now that they are out from MS’s wing). Maybe Guerrilla wants to make Killzone 4 cross-platform because 3 doesn’t sell half as many copies as they needed to sell because of pirated versions of it on Usenet.
There are million “what ifs” here.
Potentially, yes, this could be devastating for Sony. Realistically, the world isn’t ending; this is what has been happening on the PC for the last 3 decades and wow, look at that, PC shit is still profitable.
I would make the argument that less than 5%-10% of your customers pirate your games and 50% of those pirates only do it because of accessibility; getting the game minus the bullshit DRM that makes it impossible to play.
There is this feeling among the marketing folks in the industry that if 1 million people pirate your game, that is 1 million x The Game Cost = lost revenue, and that isn’t true. Those aren’t all your customers, who gives a shit what they do with the game. If your game was hypothetically un-pirate-able, maybe your game only sells 300,000 copies to the people that genuinely wanted to play it. Those other 700,000 people that pirated it just did it because they were bored or curious about a particular aspect of the game and I am sure a small majority of them just because they are too goddamn cheap.
If I had a choice between 300k people playing my game and 1 million people playing my game, I would opt for the 1 million; that is a ton of people that are now more familiar with my company’s IP, making sequels more popular and adding popularity (within social circles) to the title as a whole.
Piracy is like free marketing. I would be curious how-well an easily-pirated game with NO marketing budget would sell as opposed to taking all that money you would invest in DRM and putting it into an ad campaign.
Do you older guys remember the Windows 95 and original XP days? Windows was on every PC because it was so easy to copy. I had it on all my siblings computers, parent’s computer, etc. not because it was such an awesome OS, but because I could just dump it on the HD, boot from a floppy and install it in 20mins. Windows started to lose market share when they started getting draconian with activations towards the end of XP’s life with the “Genuine Advantage” addon.
As soon as the licensing for Windows because a pain in the ass to get around, everyone that was never going to be Microsoft’s customers started looking around for alternatives; most jumped to Mac “because it was so awesome” and some to Linux. Those are all customers that were never going to pay Microsoft in the first place, but all at least would have been on the platform and potential customers of other Microsoft products (Office, IIS, Vis Studio, etc.) and now they are not only not paying Microsoft, but they are getting invested in alternative platforms that lead to non-Microsoft investments in training and software for the future. From what we learned about social circles above, they are likely influencing friends and family in the same way (MacBooks, Mac Minis, etc.).
Sony screwed up the PS3 DRM, it was hacked through some lazy design on their part (I guess 1 key aspect of it was lazy, the rest of it was pretty clever) and now the cat’s out of the bag. The solution to this isn’t to destroy your company’s image by looking like a goddamn monster, it is to move forward with Digital Downloads and providing ancillary/online authentication services for your publishers to use along with their games. Fix this shit, don’t start punching everyone in the face because you are scared.
Forget about this, move forward. Don’t fight your way back up-stream, you aren’t going to win.
Yes it sucks, Yes it potentially has damaging effects, but Jesus Christ, you already know what the future looks like; piracy on the PC has existed for 100 years, piracy on consoles is nothing new either; The Playstation 1, PS2, Xbox and Sega Dreamcast all had it and none of those were killed by it.
You have PLENTY of historic data to look at to see how this will pan out. Innovate and move forward.
And by “innovate” I don’t mean suing, arresting and prosecuting the very people that had the knowledge to help you design a secure system or at least provide invaluable feedback to your team that would do it. None of these hackers that you are going after had motivations for piracy, they just like solving problems. You aren’t accomplishing what you think you are accomplishing by going after them.
P.S.> I also acknowledge the very realistic possibility that Sony has to respond this way to protect it’s stock price and look like it is doing “the right thing” in the wake of this. I imagine there are plenty of people at Sony that agree with me and don’t want to do this, but don’t have a choice. To them I say: “Well, sanity will eventually prevail”.
P.P.S.> I also acknowledge that had the Xbox 360′s DRM been cracked to this degree (has it? I don’t know, I don’t keep up) I would expect them to respond in very much the same way… in which case I will change the title of the story to “Microsoft and Sony F-ing Hate you“. This is an open-letter to every corporation obsessed with DRM-masterbation.