“We are all charity cases now”, says Jeff Vogel in this IGN post.
The only disagreement I have with him is the word “now”. We’ve been charity cases pretty much since the industry started.
Everyone’s oohing and aahing over Demigod‘s phenomenal piracy rate. Long story short: Gamestop broke Demigod’s street date, releasing the game around April 11 when the game wasn’t supposed to be out until April 14. Since Stardock is famous for not using any DRM on their games, torrents for the game were immediately available.
Demigod is a lot like Left4Dead, in that there is a single-player component, but it’s really just there to get you ready to play multiplayer. Thus, a whole lot of pirates were logging into Stardock’s servers…three days before Stardock was ready for the game to go live. The official tally that Brad Wardell gave was that on day one, out of 120,000 concurrent connections to the servers, only 18,000 were from legitimate users. Now, this doesn’t mean that those who pirated the game got to play it; Stardock’s servers were capable of detecting and booting pirated copies. But legitimate users simply could not play the multiplayer game because the servers were so busy dealing with pirated copies.
Brad and his IT guys finally had to set up another server and tell any legitimate user who logged in, “Um…log in to this server instead.” That finally got the legitimate users up and running, but a lot of damage had been done.
Most notably, Gamespot’s review. Gamespot reviewed the game on day one during the pirate crush and finally ended up giving the game a 6.5, with the two most noted problems being connections and a dearth of single-player content. It’s entirely possible that without the pirate crush that score could have been much higher – and now that the pirate crush is over players are scoring the game much higher.
So in the end, this was a very different way that piracy harmed a game. Piracy in this case wasn’t about sales. It wasn’t about pirates getting to play a game they didn’t pay for – they didn’t. It was about pirates ruining the online experience for everyone else and hurting Demigod’s review scores. It’s possible Brad would have been better served putting up an message after Gamestop’s betrayal telling users who logged in, “The street date on this game is April 14. You’ll be able to play it then.”