News Article

DreamRift: Publishers Are Scared Of Piracy

Posted by Damien McFerran

Even if there's no reason to be

When Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham stated that his company would be forced to pull support for the 3DS if piracy became a big enough problem, it triggered quite a debate. Watsham was branded as "anti-Nintendo" by some quarters, and Goodbye Galaxy Games founder Hugo Smits entered the argument with his own counterpoint. Watsham has since clarified his position, but the saga has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many loyal 3DS fans.

However, Watsham's stance has been given additional support by Peter Ong, co-founder of Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Illusion studio DreamRift. Ong offered up his own experience of how piracy can stymie the ambitions of a developer:

We definitely found that piracy was a significant factor in our Nintendo DS development efforts. When we approached publishers to propose potential game projects with them, most of them brought up their concerns about piracy at some point.

Many publishers even cited the issue of piracy as a specific reason why they decided to back away from our game project, especially with it being an original intellectual property concept.

The publishers' fear was that, in a climate where piracy is commonplace, original games and new mechanics are far less likely to be successful than games based on previously successful mechanics, established licenses, sequels, and sports.

The message is clear - even if piracy isn't as big a problem as they think, publishers will use it as a reason to not support unique and innovative projects - and that's a real headache for developers who want to create original experiences for us to enjoy.

We can only hope that piracy on the 3DS never reaches the levels it did on the DS.


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User Comments (40)



Einherjar said:

"One dev is concerned about piracy, everyone hops onto the bandwagon"
Piracy exists since the beginning of gaming.
If you dont think that your game isnt worth a üurchase in the first place, then just let it be.
I said it before and i say it again: Its not that piracy is more present than before, its the developers and their counter productive schemes that give pirates more and more good arguments for their "dirty work"
Lets face it: Gaming is a really pricy hobby and game prices rise more and more. Then you have stuff like "one time only pre order DLC" so "buy your game asap or youll never have the full game". Which means, considering the pricetag on games, that on average, only one, maybe two games will be bought the moment they are released. Everything else will be left on the shelf untill it loses its "day one DLC coupon" and becomes even less attractive to buy for price it goes for.
So, most money will be spent on games you really really want or need to buy asap for reason mentioned above, leaving no money for "more obscure experimental buy" games, hurting the industry even more. Its no wonder why so many people get into piracy if getting, playing and maybe collecting games is so pricy and such a hassle.



MysticX said:

Publishers are just using piracy as an excuse to back away from anything that isn't a sequel to some AAA-title (Since those will sell in huge numbers without much effort), when any game doesn't sell as well as they thought it would they just scream "Piracy!!!", since there aren't any other factors in a game's success or failure of course...

And if some publisher actually dares try something original and it flounders because it's an unknown game for a stupid-high price (Lower prices are never an option, silly!), they yell "Piracy!!!" once again and have another reason to just vomit a new FPS or annual sports game onto the market instead, gaming is a lot less fun than it used to be because of this mindset.



Flowerlark said:

Piracy is a problem, it's everywhere and almost everyone does it. Music, movies, games... And it's usually the fact that most of these are expensive to collect. Anime, for instance. $30 a season at least, and many anime's have dozens of DVDs to collect. Games cost even more, and people feel they have the right to steal it because they couldn't afford it otherwise.

But does this stop most industries from charging ahead? Last I checked, anime, manga, and music were still selling like hotcakes despite the rampant and easily accessible pirated copies. So I must agree that I think publishers shy away from devs more because they think the games are unmarketable than because they think they will be pirated. Sorry, but almost everything good has been pirated, obscure or mainstream. I once bought what I thought was a legit DS Layton game off e-bay and when I got it, discovered it was a pirated fake. And Layton games still make lots of money regardless, yes? Just be honest and tell the devs straight out that their game isn't vapid and cliche enough for you to publish.



gekslupis said:

I agree definatly that game producers shy away because of worry of marketing and that if so they should be clear about it. I would assume most fans would understand and if they wanted the game could show that it is marketable.
Nice zoroark by the way. Did you make it?



JebbyDeringer said:

Technically we should all be doing what we love. The problem is it doesn't put food on the table and a roof over our heads.



SirQuincealot said:

how is it not anti nintendo? when you say you will pull games from one specific system? especially when you release the games on pc

if you release a game for pc you have no right to complain about piracy on nintendo



OptometristLime said:

Hilarious, you would think all these development heads were born yesterday. Piracy is old hat.

There are pros and cons to piracy, just like with anything and not just for the individual. Maybe if publishers considered their stolen games to be proliferating "free demos" they could see the glass as half full. Personally I understand piracy to be not sales lost but in fact not even a potential market. If you can't make a profit without turning pirates into noblemen you've already lost.



SkywardLink98 said:

If I were a publisher and piracy was a big issue I definitely wouldn't want to publish games on the eShop, if most of my fanbase was pirating my games.



SkywardLink98 said:

@SirQuincealot Ever heard of Steam? It's fairly hard to pirate games from Steam due to the the DRM. I'm not complaining, just saying it's much harder to pirate a steam game than just any PC game and that's why most PC dev use it or some always-online DRM (Starcraft II, Diablo III, etc.)



Tony_342 said:

I find it hilarious and ridiculous to think that anybody could consider Jools Watsham or Renegade Kid as a whole to be "anti-Nintendo." There's a reason that piracy is more of a concern on dedicated handhelds than on smartphones or PCs, for example. If there are 10 million 3DS owners out there, and 10% of them are pirates, that's 1 million pirates and 9 million potential customers. If, on the other hand, there are 100 million smartphone / PC users and 10% of them are pirates, you're left with 90 million potential customers. Even if piracy is worse on smartphones or PC - 25% would still leave you 75 million potential customers. Some markets just have less inherent risk than others based on the install base. Obviously there are fewer people in the world who carry around 3DS systems than there are people who carry around smartphones. When the number of users is already smaller than other markets, developers and publishers need as many of those users as possible to be (or stay) potential customers. Jools was simply saying that he enjoys making games for Nintendo's systems so much that he hopes that market stays profitable.



Drobotic said:

LOL,Pirates:The Band of Misfits.People just need to be more secure with their games if they don't want people to steal their games.



MagicEmperor said:

Piracy can't be stopped, but it's a serious problem. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. =/ Sigh. Humans are jerks.



JLFM said:

I literally clicked on this just because I saw Pirates! Band of Misfits as the screenshot. XD



Zombie_Barioth said:

Not saying its right or wrong cause I ain't touching that subject but in some cases you can't exactly blame the pirates. Nobody deserves to have their game pirated but when people pirated your games because of the DRM you put in place to stop it in the first place, you have a problem. Protecting your product is ok but when people are actively going out of their way to pirate it and get their device set up to run it instead of just buying it because the former is easier and less restrictive then your doing it wrong.

Outside of being unable to afford it or being too cheap working around DRM is a huge reason for pirating, take Spore for example that game was pirated out the wazoo because the DRM was so bad. Even when a company restricts activity for hacked devices people still do it if they feel its worth more than the withheld service. Thats where steam gets it right, they have their share of DRM but they have enough good deals and nice services to make it worth putting up with, they provide incentive to play by their rules rather than treat their customers like they're guilty until proven innocent.

A lot of the industry's problems are simply due to becoming a viable, lucrative business. Back in the day developers either had a lot of passion about their field but couldn't make it (broken dreams) or loved making games. Now its like a hot stock tip that everybody who's anybody is trying to cash in on.



GC-161 said:

"Hilarious, you would think all these development heads were born yesterday. Piracy is old hat"

^^^ Spoken like a someone that is blissfully unaware about how this affects modern game systems and developers. Get with the times.

Fact is that the markets have changed. Gaming handhelds have a lot of factors going against their survival at present. No longer do they have a monopoly on gaming on the go. Smartphones and tablets have replaced them with the great majority of mainstream gamers. So the handheld gaming user base has been reduced significantly as a result.

Which means that an old foe like piracy (which certainly was something to worry about back in the days), is now a formidable enemy that can damage the handheld market like never before. Because the market has been weakened.

All of you that try to brush away piracy as something irrelevant, are simply out of touch of the current situation. And these are the same that nag about there not being enough new games to play. If piracy does in fact become a huge problem, then they will really have no new games to play.



OptometristLime said:

Looks like I ruffled your umbrella.

And thanks for the backhanded attempt to insult my age... since that isn't a straw man at all.



kkslider5552000 said:

It's not about if piracy is relevant. Piracy will never be stopped EVER and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it and no attempts to stop it have been all that successful.



Gridatttack said:

"Im ready with my popcorn!"

Anyway, it seems piracy is all to blame.
Sure, piracy is bad because people get things for free that aren't supposed to be.
In the end, its the people who decide what to do...
Like, if I "suffered" from piracy, I would just be happy that people are playing the game I made, and there will always be people who will buy the game.
But apparently, its all about the money in this case.
And some people here just make me LOL with their silly arguments and responses



astrotriforce said:

To this day I've resisted the VERY REAL pull of piracy (EarthBound, Mother and Mother III being the exception. Goddammit! I HATE YOU NINTENDO! HATE YOU!). But it becomes ever harder, especially when you actually stop to think that you could be playing games you cannot afford, if only you'd cross that "moral line" that so many other folks have no problem crossing.

I'm a Christian, so holding strong to that moral line comes naturally in the face of bitter dissent and mockery. Regardless, piracy can be overcome if the product itself is strong enough. Minecraft is the perfect example, as are most Nintendo games. Which still, generally, sell extremely well and are commercial and critical successes. I think developers are too quick to point a finger at piracy. At the same time, people are too quick to dismiss piracy as having an effect, when everyone knows that "every vote" does indeed matter once they are all added up (and Obama wins the popular vote by only 5 million votes).

Having said that, piracy is still no guarantee whatsoever that the pirate would have actually bought the product. And no one can claim that, since the pirate could just as easily got his hands on the game second hand, through rental, through keeping a rental (bad credit be damned!), outright physical theft, borrowed it from a friend, bought it used (wherein the developer sees no profit, so its the same difference) or a ton of other options.

Plus companies like Nintendo bite their own ass when they keep games like EarthBound from the consumers who want them. Square is being smart by releasing all their old classic RPGs that matter into every market, from Android to Kindle to iTunes, etc. If a person can pirate something much easier than they can buy it legitimately, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.



ecco6t9 said:

I'm sickened by the greediness of publishers with all the DLC, and half finished games that come out that are patched day 1. Since when did WE become unpaid testers? And the restrictiveness of the internet being used with gaming.

Secondly I am sickened by the entitlement of a loud minority that feels EVERYTHING is owed to them. They bought Mario Kart 7 once and now they feel they have the right to download Zelda or something.

I truly believe that the 3DS and the Wii U are my last gaming devices since it seems like both business and consumers are going to kill the industry.



Kirk said:

Now THIS is a better explanation for some of the problems facing developers than simply saying it's the pirates that are directly responsible for lack of sales and profits of their games.

We all know that 99.9% of pirates wouldn't buy 99.9% of the games they pirate anyway.

So, no direct sale is lost, for the most part, but I can see how publishers might make this an excuse not to publish a game.

The solution is to say F-OFF to the publishers and go do it yourself via digital distribution etc.



Bankai said:

Lots of people here who have not worked in game development, let alone been senior management at a developer, telling game developers about the impact piracy is having on their businesses.

Hang on a second I'll go get a couple more armchairs. Too many experts sitting in them, it's getting cramped in here.



Slapshot said:

Thanks Damo for writing this article in a professional manner. This ordeal needed to be put into a light where people can see what Jools (and others) meant by their statements - piracy is real and it doesn't hurt developers, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.



C-Olimar said:

Once I caved in and used an R4 card to play games that were not released in Europe. Does that make me a bad person?



Arcamenel said:

I really don't get how not having money for a game is a viable reason for you to pirate it? I mean...really?! There are no pros to piracy no matter how you spin it in your head. Nothing that isn't self-serving at least. Especially those who claim they only pirate to see if a game is worth making a purchase. That's why games get reviewed by multiple places and you make nice with people who already own the game.



McHaggis said:

@UmbrellaHQ "Fact is that the markets have changed. Gaming handhelds have a lot of factors going against their survival at present. No longer do they have a monopoly on gaming on the go. Smartphones and tablets have replaced them with the great majority of mainstream gamers. So the handheld gaming user base has been reduced significantly as a result."

I don't agree with that statement. The GameBoy and GameBoy Color variety of handhelds sold 120 million units combined over 14 years. The Nintendo DS and DSi variety of handhelds has sold 150 million in just 8 years. That's 25% more owners in just over half the time. The 3DS' sales figures are roughly on par with that of the DS over the same period of time, so I don't see how you can have the view that smartphones are replacing handheld consoles. It's just clearly not the case.

@Tony_342, I think you have a somewhat valid point, but your argument is flawed. There's a certain exclusivity when it comes to developing for a proprietary handheld console such as the 3DS. There can't be more than a couple of hundred licensed developers. On smartphones, it's easy to get a license, just pony up $100 (for iOS, Android doesn't really have that). So let me put it this way: if there are 25 million fish in a sea and there are 250 fishing boats, each boat is going to be able to catch a lot of fish. If there are 100 million fish and 160,000 fishing boats, some fishing boats will have a much harder time catching fish. So, earning a living on smartphones isn't necessarily going to be easier than earning a living on the 3DS.

Not everything is as black and white as comparing numbers. Just sayin'.



LittleKing said:

@Bankai This. Every time this comes up I start typing up the equivalent of a multiple page article but, at the end of the day, that's about all there is to say. All I ever see is a ton of people saying things like "99.9% of people who pirate wouldn't have bought" without anything to back them up. All I'll say it that for developers, especially smaller ones such as indies, the difference in income between being in the black and in the red can be small. On some platforms where the amount of pirated copies is high, I'd say it's definitely enough to have an impact.



AugustusOxy said:

Cough. Bull Cough.

AKA, we don't want to support something that isn't instantly lightning in a bottle so we are going to keep falling on old ideas until they prove to be far to stale to chew, then we'll blame the gamers once again for all of this.

Key to fixing this problem. Tell the console makers to stop releasing new consoles every four-five years and to stick with one for a decade and a half.



Bankai said:

@AugustusOxy I wondered how long it would be before Iwata himself came on here to comment.

Because for you to be able to support that... Opinion... You would have to be the head of one of the major game companies, and have a whole-of-market view and understanding of the industry. I don't think Hirai would visit a Nintendo fan site, so you must be Iwata.

I mean... You can support that opinion with more than "it's my opinion," right? You have got access to all the statistical data to be able to analyse and come to that conclusion.

I mean, you're not just some random dude on the Internet that thinks he knows more than career game developers, right?

I have so many questions I have for you Iwata!



heraymo said:

I'm afraid of getting hit bye a car or enclosed areas but i still get into cars everyday and go in the closet to get my coat.if you afraid of piracy so much then dont make games. or take a chance you will make millions of dollars piracy is never going away its always been here and always will be here.



GC-161 said:


"I don't agree with that statement. The GameBoy and GameBoy Color variety of handhelds sold 120 million units combined over 14 years. The Nintendo DS and DSi variety of handhelds has sold 150 million in just 8 years. That's 25% more owners in just over half the time. The 3DS' sales figures are roughly on par with that of the DS over the same period of time, so I don't see how you can have the view that smartphones are replacing handheld consoles. It's just clearly not the case"

That was then and this is now.

Then, the GB and DS enjoyed popularity and a near monopoly on portable gaming in the entire planet. Now? The 3DS is big in Japan and barely making a dent in the rest of the world. Thanks to the emergence of a new threat that didn't exist in the good old days of GameBoys and DS' : smartphones and tablets.

The effect of piracy during the GB/DS era was somewhat tolerable due to the very fact that said devices enjoyed a near monopoly on the portable gaming market. Mainstream users had no other options.

Its like on PC where devs have millions and millions of users to work with. Because nearly everyone owns a PC. So game devs still have a chance to make a profit on that platform. Which is NOT the case with dedicated gaming handhelds.

But these days, things have drastically changed for handhelds. Mainstream gamers have abandoned dedicated gaming handhelds by the millions. This is something that is almost unique in the Western world, though. Most of the 3DS' sales you mention on your post come from Japan, where the handheld market is still able to live alongside smartphones and tablets.

And its in the Western world were piracy is more rampant. And its there where the handheld market is having a hard time dealing with the challenges that smartphones and tablets have put forward. Fact is, most mainstream gamers get their gaming fix on those devices than on a 3DS or Vita. You see people playing on iPhones, android devices all over the place, RARELY do you see anyone using a 3DS or Vita in the wild.

So you got that things have changed. The portable handheld market has been weakened. And an old enemy like piracy could potentially become an even bigger threat to it in this day and age. Its no wonder that devs (who make a living at making games), are starting to worry about the risks.

And that's something that a lot of entitled gamers simply do not relate to (read many of the responses here). And thus why they laugh at the whole situation. Because as long as they get their free games, they win either way... up until the point when the handheld gaming dies off and then they have to start using smarphones and tablets for ALL their gaming needs.



AlbertoC said:

I have voiced my opinions on piracy several times now. My stance is pretty neutral, even if it may appear to be bad not siding with the "good guys, making stronger DRMs and more walled gardens" and not being against pirates, who "obliterate billions and billions of dollars in sales".

I believe it will help if developers are aware that Nintendo has really built self-destructing security measures into 3DS/WiiU, and that ways of running "not authorized" software on these systems ("pirated games" or otherwise) simply don't exist to date. It will help sales and will stop rants about "how easily the DS was pirated, and (I THINK) the same numbers apply to the 3DS". We're in the internet era, use your favorite search engine. I assure you it's not that hard.

I love NintendoLife for not siding with anyone, voicing both arguments from both sides. Taking a neutral stance, too.

P. S. As we all are aware, NL also has some rules to follow. Thank you.



Tony_342 said:

I only just now read McHaggis' reply to my comment, so let me just say this:

I completely agree that things aren't always as black and white as simply comparing numbers. You're absolutely right about that. And you make a good point with your fishing analogy. But my point was just simply that piracy is going to have more of an effect on a system with a smaller install base than a system with a larger install base. I think we should be able to agree on that. If my argument seems "flawed," that's because those numbers were admittedly pulled out of thin air (more or less), without taking into consideration such things as number of respective developers (as you pointed out). That was just simply a very basic (perhaps overly simplistic) way to help me make my point. But even considering the ratio of developers to customers, I believe it's still true that some markets have less inherent risk (as it pertains to piracy) than others based on their install base.

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