Game Development

Piracy and four currencies

The problem of most disputes about the problem of piracy is that in them "value" is estimated only in "monetary" dollars. Therefore, the problem is formulated like this: "When buying a game from us, the user spends money dollars. A pirated copy costs zero money dollars. So most people will pirate the game if they have a choice, so you need to stop them at any cost. "

The dollar is famous for everyone.

This is the error, therefore, at least four currencies, and not one (monetary dollars) should be taken into account here.

I propose the following notation:

($ D) Monetary dollars
($ B) Temporary dollars
($ D) Headache paints [in the original Pain-in-the-butt-dollars]
($ Ч) Honesty Dollars

The player makes the choice to buy or spiratit game based on how much "each" service (and not product! ) costs in these four currencies, and also depending on the value for the player each of them.

Dollars of a headache. I hate spending it.

In this article, money dollars will be considered in US dollars, temporary dollars - in hours, dollars of headache - in standard SI units "the amount of aspirin that I have to take after an hour of beating my head against the wall." Honesty dollars can be measured in "Ave Mariah" or in time spent on remorse.

Okay, I'm just kidding. Obviously, $ D and $ H are the most subjective "currencies", and they are difficult to estimate numerically, even in each individual case. But this does not make them any less real : I will show that the cost of services in $ D and $ H is sometimes the most important.

You have a limited supply of this currency, and you will not get any more.

So, let's start with my favorite example - Dragon Age II . After the release of the game was worth:

$ D 60
$ B 5
$ D 100
$ Ч 0

This is an expensive game, setting up and fussing with interfering DRM took a lot of time and resembled interrogation with addiction. The only cheap aspect of the game is that its purchase is a "right act", absolutely legal, so it does not cause the player to feel guilty. The only parameter of this service, competing with a pirated copy - is the value in dollars of honesty. For comparison, pirate sites "sold" the game at a much lower price:

$ D 0
$ 0.5
$ D 5
$ H 10

It does not cost a penny of money, and time is spent only for downloading the game file. There is a small headache, for example, a player can accidentally download a virus, he needs to know how to use bittorent (it's just for us, geeks, but not for the average person), and it's constantly being overpowered by ads and pop-ups. Finally, there is a cost in honesty: piracy is illegal, and it's "bad" from a moral point of view.

One dollar of honesty. We spend it in exchange for a part of our soul.

And what if the Dragon Age II had such a price?

$ D 60
$ 0.5
$ D 0.5
$ Ч 0

For example, if the purchase of Dragon Age II was to enter payment information, download the game and start? Now the game looks rather competitive - less than headache than when downloading a pirated version, zero cost from the point of view of "morality", besides the player does not violate the law!

The $ 60 price will continue to scare away and pushed those who most value $ D to piracy, but now the game can attract those who value $ Ч, $ Г and $ В more than $ D, and this is not so much small group.

Again, I want to emphasize that the relative value of each currency for all players is different. People living in low-income countries will spend more time ($ B) and get more headaches ($ D) if they know they will get the game for $ 0D. Of all four, the value of $ H is the most subjective, and depends on how important it is for the player ("to act correctly"), and whether he sees a choice of honesty in this choice.

Those who completely reject the value of the right to copy most likely consider the value of $ = = 0. However, even in this case the risk of probable problems with the law still raises $ до to a non-zero value.

The cost of $ C also depends on the developer's behavior. The more friendly and "more worthy" you look in the eyes of the player, the higher the cost of $ P when piracy of the game. The reverse is also true - a hostile attitude can easily lower the cost of piracy in $ Ч and no one will suffer from remorse, spirativ game from an imaginary "greedy and rich businessman."

In addition, between different currencies there is a strong relationship - the high cost in $ D reduces the player's cost in $ D. If I pay exorbitantly, then I expect first-class service. If, instead, they treat me like a criminal, then the cost of $ p of piracy is instantly falling. Thank you very much, but I will give my time dollars and spend a little headache on your competitors.

We used this theory to create our sales strategy </> Defender's Quest </ i>. Here is the current price of the game:

$ D 5-7
$ B 0.08
$ D 0.5
$ Ч 0

But what do you offer on your favorite torrent site:

$ D 0
$ B 0.08
$ D 5
$ H 10-20

$ H depends on whether you feel a lot of guilt in piracy games indie developers than piracy games so-called "fat cats" type EA.

Developer never can not compete with pirated sites only in price ($ D). Moreover, at best, you can only match with them for time costs ($ B), which goes only to finding and downloading the game.

Two areas in which you can compete and which are very different - this is the amount of headache and honesty. If you added DRM to the game, even if it only has 1% false positives, then you're bullying the cost in $ G for these customers, and it becomes much higher than on pirated sites.

Throw away the DRM and provide a friendly and simple process of buying, reducing the cost of $ G at times, winning in this at an intricate torrent site.

In addition, as the author of the game, you offer the lowest price $ C. At best, you will even have a negative value in $ Ч, that is, buying the game inspires the player respect to himself. The player feels that "he did the right thing," he does not worry about breaking the law, and gets a pleasant feeling of support for the creators of the game, which he liked.

I'll add - not underestimate $ B and look for ways to reduce the player's time costs. I received a lot of letters from the players: they said that the main reason for buying the game was a long demo from which you could export the save file. Many wrote that did not buy a game, if you had to start it from scratch. For such players, it's not a problem to spend 7 dollars a day, but it's unbearable to lose 2 temporary dollars, which they already spent on the demo.

"You can export the save file from the demo, import it into the full game and continue playing." This tiny button reduces the time costs from playing in the demo.

This is my theory. It is not perfect, but it seems to me that it is much better than what most congressmen, presidents of companies and so-called economists can offer you.
It seems that the article caused a little excitement, so I will supplement it.

I want to extend my original theory, and then check it out with a few new examples to determine how comprehensive it is.

"Four currencies"


The main task of this article is to look at the discussion from a different angle. The old model (in which many senators and company presidents believe,) naively connects "value" exclusively with monetary dollars. However, this model poorly explains human behavior, because apart from people's money, other things worry - time, headache, honesty, and a million other aspects. Moreover, the value of each of these aspects for each of its own - including money! A model that takes into account these other, non-monetary "costs", better explains how and why people make their choice. This is the whole theory of "four currencies."

I chose these specific "four currencies" not because the list ends on them, but for the following reasons:

These are the main aspects that I take into account when shopping
"Four currencies" is a memorable expression
They allow you to quickly understand the essence of

Thanks pretty strong reaction on the article, I realized that the theory has reason. I'm an ordinary game developer and blogger, so I'll leave complex analyzes and scientific tests of the theory to graduate students who need a topic for a dissertation.

The idea is still "new," but I did not put it first. This article for 2010 offers almost the same idea, spelled out in slightly different words.

What I did not consider

In the first analysis, I missed some of the points that I will mention here.

VALUE of the product. In all my comparisons, it is assumed that the products have the same value. This is not always the case - for example, a pirated version of the game may contain viruses, buying on Steam has additional value due to the possibilities of integration with Steam, etc. Although low quality can be considered an additional cost of $ G, this is somewhat confusing.
WHY costs? When discussing the "cost" of DRM, I did not explain, WHO pays "headache" and "time." For example, $ B and $ D are very high for a cracker cracking DRM. Without this, DRM is compelling for non-technical users, so the cost of piracy in $ G is very high for them initially. Once a hacked version appears on pirated sites, the cost of $ G / $ B for all is reduced. On this subject, I can write an entire article, so for simplicity, most of my examples in this article will only refer to the "cost" for the user.
Values ​​are DYNAMIC. Many wrote that I think the cost is "static", that is, unchanged. Obviously, I was misunderstood, therefore I will clarify that the value of each of the "four currencies" is dynamic and varies with time, differs for different people, and even for one person.
The value is RELATIVE. The actual amount of costs is less important than the subjective value for a particular person. For example, 60 monetary dollars have different value for rich and poor. At a rate of $ 5 per hour, this is more than the daily wage, and at $ 240 per hour - only 15 minutes of work. And when you convert money into temporary dollars, we still get relative values, because everyone values ​​time in different ways. That is, even the most "objective" and "measurable" values, for example, $ D and $ B still have a subjective value. Naturally, $ T and $ H are still more difficult to measure.
Your experience may be different. I give values ​​in four currencies as I measure them , or else I would have to describe the values ​​of a fictional person. Most likely, for you the importance of different currencies will be different.

What I did NOT say

Specifically, I will say what I did not mean. I do not think that we can (and should) use the formula $ D + $ B + $ D + $ H to measure or justify the "price tag" for such aspects as our time, inconvenience and honesty, or calculate some "conversion rates Between them, for example, between $ D and $ C. Even if there are any acceptable calculations, they are difficult to use, because the values ​​are constantly changing, and it is difficult to compare the values ​​of different people. And even if we take them into account, the original problem will remain - if we consider only these values, which we can simplify to numerical values, then we will miss all the other vague aspects that govern human behavior.


So, when we assign numeric values ​​to these four currencies, they are inaccurate. The decision-making process is more like "shifting the scales" than converting "dollars of headache" into "honesty dollars".

What I want to say

This comics (source: ) about a guy trying to watch the HBO Game of Thrones - a good example of what I'm talking about. I will comment on some fragments showing the relative cost in the four currencies of piracy and legal purchase, as perceived by the character.

"You know, but you're right. I'm already taking a credit card and I'm ready to buy it! iTunes, I'm coming! "

As you can see, the cost of piracy in $ H is very high initially. Even though he can spiral and watch the show for free, he is determined to "do the right thing." He even realizes that it takes a little time and effort to download a pirated version, but prefers to spend money for a quick and convenient buying process. It's not very clear how much he is willing to spend, but it seems that for him the value in dollar money is lower than the satisfaction of a legitimate purchase.

- So, iTunes in the span.
 - Try it on Amazon.
 - Also empty.
 - What about Hulu Plus? You pay for this service, it means the show will be there.

Unsuccessful attempts to buy content are annoying. The value of $ B and $ G is added to the scales of the legal purchase. The perceived value of the pirated version remains unchanged. He tries to buy in iTunes, Amazon and Hulu Plus, and then goes to the site itself HBO:

"The site does not allow me to buy one TV series. It requires me to sign up for their cable TV services, but that's why I'm wandering around the websites that I do not have a cable and I DO NOT WANT to connect it. What should I do? "

It turned out that the only way to legally gain access to the "Game of Thrones" - to conclude a contract for cable services and subscribe to HBO. This is a huge headache, it's very expensive, and if you have to wait for a cableman, it will take a long time. $ D, $ D and $ B take off to the skies. The cost of legal purchase became too high.

If he is fundamentally opposed to cable television, then the cost of $ C has also risen.

At this point, he still rejects piracy and this proves how much he values ​​the value of $ Ч, that is, "illegal" or "dishonest" actions. He's still not sure what to do, but the scales are already ready to move the other way.

- Are you sure? Now instead of the author's money will go to some slippery advertisers. Besides, it's illegal and I do not uve ... Wow, wow, how fast it loads. And so easy!

While hesitating, he decided to still spiral the series, and was surprised how quick and simple the procedure was. The cost of piracy in $ B and $ G is sharply reduced, reflecting the character's new attitude. Moreover, by this time he is so irritated by the hellish level of HBO service that the cost of piracy in $ H also decreased (he no longer believes that this is very bad). The scales fell, and his choice is obvious: piracy.

It is worth noting that the consumer decided to spirate content only in the very end of the process. If HBO had made any attempts to make access to this content user-friendly, then this person would have bought it and others similar to it. Instead, the terrible service pushed him to piracy.

I do not justify piracy


I think at this point the DRM advocates will accuse me of trying to "justify" piracy. I did not aspire to anything like that. I make a living by creating games, so I think that piracy is absolutely unfair, that is, the cost of $ CH is almost infinite for me.

However, this does not mean that I'm happy to spend my $ D, $ B and $ G, requested by film studios and developers of AAA games - if I have a choice: buy or spirat, I prefer not to choose nothing.

But most people do not look like me: sometimes it's time for them, when $ D, $ B and $ D become more important than $ Ч, and they choose piracy. The comic is just an example of this.

Some of these people can become our customers. Of course, not all - but some will prefer to buy our games, if we create a service that "costs" less. We can complain about pirates who "steal" our content and turn to ashes all our efforts to create cumbersome hardware, software and legal protections in almost hopeless attempts to prevent them, or we can try to understand the motivation of their behavior and respond to it appropriately.

<p> Piracy. It. Not. Theft. </ B>

By the way, for the protocol - piracy is not "theft".

Piracy is unauthorized access and copying of copyrighted material, such as a movie or video game.

Theft is the unauthorized receipt of objects, such as money, horses or sandwiches, which deprives the rightful owner of the above object.

When you attack Defender's Quest , you violate my legal right to monopolize the distribution of the game for a limited period * of time. However, you do not "steal" the game, I still have copies of it, like all consumers who bought it. Piracy and theft are two different things.

* Once the right to copy was temporary, but nowadays it is almost forever.

More subtle nuances

I used a four-currency model to show that DRM is bad, but savvy readers have prompted me that in some cases my model actually justifies DRM. Let's look at a couple of examples.


Case # 1: Steam

First, let's look at Steam. Steam uses DRM, but instead of annoying people and pushing them to piracy, he created a huge loyal base of players.

First purchase on Steam

The second purchase on Steam

The four-currency model very well explains this - to set up the Steam service you need to spend quite a bit of $ G and $ B, the price is comparable to the first purchase on any other website. After this, each transaction costs less than in $ G and $ T. In the account, the credit card data is saved, that is, your wallet is always open. The only difficulty is the first purchase.

Steam - this is one of the rare cases where the "cost" for most players is determined only in $ D. Service Steam is amazingly good competing with free alternatives, and this demonstrates its success in Russia, considered a "pirate haven".

A simple task - to persuade a buyer to "open" a purse and "pull out" a credit card from there - in itself has a high cost in $ G. Steam removed it from the purchase process. This is the effect of "binding to Steam" - breaking the first obstacle, it's logical to continue to buy games on Steam.

Competing service EA Origin, whose DRM system suppresses and restricts much more, does not create the effect of "binding to Steam". He already has information about the buyer's credit card, but he does not do anything to make the buying process more convenient, so the second purchase of fuss is as much.

Case # 2: Console

Another example is the game consoles. Let's go back to 2001, in the era of PS2. The average user thinks about playing in Final Fantasy X and has nothing against piracy. Suppose he is limited in means, and gladly would not pay $ 60. This is enough to push it to piracy, if it only consisted of downloading a torrent file. If Final Fantasy X were released on a PC, it would spiral it in a second (or in a few hours, considering the speeds in 2001).

However, this is not the case at all. FFX is only on the PS2 and to run it on the console, the user needs more than just download the game. He will have to burn a DVD from the downloaded ISO file (if he knows how). Then you will need to reflash PS2 so that it can execute unsigned code.


For an average user unfamiliar with the technique, all this is quite frightening, so he puts out 60 bucks and decides not to buy games this year. Although he does not feel guilty for piracy, it was easier to shell out.

* Of course, if there was a shop nearby selling the re-patched PS2 and pirated discs, it would be difficult to persuade him to act according to the law.

It is to this strategy of protection against piracy that the RIAA, MPAA, EA, Activision and Congress aspire: they suspect that none of us have moral principles and remorse and believe that if they make piracy difficult , then make people act according to the law. In some cases, this model works. It works when consumers:

Little value for $ H
Can not easily bypass DRM
Do not stop playing games, even when they are not treated well

Firstly, it's foolish to think that nobody cares about $ C. She does not really bother many, but in any case, always prefer piracy, so there is no reason to frighten off honest users either.

Secondly, the technology is gradually being improved, the download speed is growing, and more and more $ G and $ B are transferred to the crackers, which then allow you to pirate content. The "good old time" of console games is going away, which is difficult to spiral.

Third, the more consoles move to digital distribution, the more their problems with piracy resemble problems on the PC, where pirating becomes easier.

Fourth, important quality of service. If I had a choice between selling our game in XBLA or on Steam, I would not hesitate to choose Steam, only for sales reasons. Why does Steam sell so much if the PC market had to die? Because his service is better, and buyers love him for it.

And, finally, even if the defenders of DRM ever win and invent something that will make piracy impossible , then the buyer can always leave. Who needs video games, if they have so much headache?
MeLavi 27 september 2017, 13:23
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