PC Game Piracy: The PC Gaming Alliance Interview, Part Five

Looking into BitTorrent and other downloads is not an effective measure either, because how many of those downloads are start-stop vs. completed downloads? There's really no way to tell. So we're trying to dig in and understand the effective amount of piracy that's occurring, and then trying to extrapolate that, and figuring out somehow what the overall impact is. You can't say that every time someone downloads a game, you know...for example StarCraft, one of the most popular games ever, right? You go to China, and every single PC has StarCraft on it. There's no way Blizzard sold a copy to all those gamers. Does Blizzard care? Of course they care. They want to be able to monetize. But at the same time their franchise is being promoted and if they took the approach of just going and shutting it all down and cutting them all off, those gamers would go to another game and they'd care about another brand, and then when World of StarCraft, if there is such a thing, and I don't know if there is, I'm not speaking from any knowledge, I don't call on Blizzard, I don't have a dialogue with them, but let's assume there's a World of StarCraft or a World of Diablo or something like that coming at some point in the future. They wouldn't have as much success monetizing that audience if they went and tried to get the government to pull every copy off. So I don't think that's the right approach. I don't think it's the right approach to say that every single person who pirates a game is a potential sale that's lost.

That said, it's a huge problem. It's being chaired by Microsoft within our team. Microsoft understands better than anybody else the issue of piracy and its impact on their business as the world's leading software company. They definitely want to be a part of the solution. They're working together with other members of the subcommittee. We recently added Sony as a member and the SecuROM folks want to be a part of the solution, at the same time not being draconian in the effort. They want to be able to provide a solution that starts to ingest the feedback from the consumers, the gamers, and maybe one key thing that we can do as an industry group is come up with a best practices way to approach anti-piracy measures while not alienating those who are legitimate customers. That's probably what we'll have as an outcome from our group, hopefully, that has the biggest impact for your audience. Then for the industry, it'll be having some sense of how big the issue is and what approaches work and what don't and having some way to measure that on a month-in, month-out basis. That's sort of what we're looking at.

GO: With the economic downturn, is there danger of a crash? With all the PC MMOs popping up and the huge growth of casual online games, is there a risk of eventual alienation and collapse here?

RS: In what sense? Crash in the $50 game business, $60 game business, that the retail world relies on? If that's your question, then I'd say, I'm not in that business, but I'd say what the publishers are doing to cut back expenses might be a good sign or prediction that they see a considerable impact to their bottom line. If not already, then soon. In that sense, I'm going to defer to the actions of the publishers themselves, who are adjusting their bottom line. You know, can they sustain their projected growth with the head count that they've had, while they've obviously had to cut back their growth estimates. Because they're pulling staff.

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