Hey Demigod Game Pirates, Stop Killing Fun

Note to game pirates: Stop pirating, please. You're mucking things up for the rest of us, and badly. I realize you think you're each an army of one in a world full of corporate jerks out to bilk you, but what you're doing seems to be progressing from fashionably solipsistic to airborne-viral-and-deadly. How's the Carly Simon tune go? You're so vain, I'll bet you think this post is about you. Well it is, so I hope you're paying close attention.

As I type this, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell and crew are working frantically, round the clock, to save the botched launch of their new online-angled real-time strategy game, Demigod. At the same time, four of the whiz-kids running The Pirate Bay have been sentenced to a year in prison and fined a bunch of Swedish mazuma ($3.6 million USD) for copyright infringement. Now whether you think they're culpable or just a bunch of naive patsies, there's something frighteningly ironic about that.

Here's the clincher: Stardock didn't botch Demigod's launch, a bunch of illegal copies of the game did. According to Wardell, out of approximately 120,000 customers connected to their Demigod server farm, only about 18,000 are legitimate purchasers. The other 102,000? Thieves, aka black hats, aka bad guys, aka selfish entitlement-frenzied killjoys, aka pirates. Or "warez users," to quote Brad, who's old enough to remember when that term was more in vogue.

From Wardell's blog:

The system works pretty well if you have a few thousand people online at once. The system works…less well if there are tens of thousands of people online at once. And if there are over 100,000 people, well, you get horrific results such as the game being incredibly unresponsive due to simple web service calls that were considered pretty benign during the beta that suddenly start to bring down firewalls and such due to the sheer massive number of calls that are being made.

Sadly, most of the ~120,000 connections are not customers but via warez. About 18,000 are legitimate. So anyway, we spent a lot of time today trying to isolate out the warez users from the legitimate users (it would require a lot of surgery to actually break them and even if we did, there’d be no friendly “ha ha pirate” message which would result in people just saying the game is buggy). Mind you, the game makes relatively few server calls, it’s just the sheer number of people.

So look. Information doesn't want to be free. Creativity has a price. You can't just sit on your hands and expect the rest of the world to pick up the tab and subsidize your kleptocratic proclivities. The technical term for that is "delusional," and with the advent of online gaming, that delusional entitlement complex coupled to a culture of me-me-me and now-now-now has progressed from harming the economic tenability of both indie and mainstream game development to problematizing the relationship between legitimate buyers and publishers...all the way up, in Stardock's case, to flat out mangling it.

So to quote John Stewart, who said it best when he said it to Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on CNN's Crossfire in October 2004:

"Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America."

And not to be all up on my high horse here, but, you know, PC gaming too.

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