Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sims 3 Piracy

Yesterday in my PC Game Sales vs Steals column I discussed the fact that The Sims 3 had completely disappeared from a popular torrent website, despite having almost 15,000 combined seeders and leechers in the previous week. Unfortunately I was unable to discover any conclusive reason as to why this occurred.

On the same day, IndustryGamers posted an interview with EA CEO John Riccitiello, in which he discusses EA’s current philosophy for combating piracy.

“In the game that was pirated there’s [only] one city [out of two]… and Sims 3 has a massive amount of content, and a lot of it is downloaded once you register with EA… and join the online community. So you get that content in addition to the second city, and that’s a major component,” states Riccitiello. “So for the pirate consumer, they don’t get the second town, they don’t get all the extra content, and they don’t get the community.”

Riccitiello believes the best way to combat piracy is to provide services and not simply packaged goods. “Dragon Age is probably a 100-hour game by itself, but what comes post-release [for these games] is bigger still. So the point I’m making is, yes I think that’s the answer [to piracy]. And here’s the trick: it’s not the answer because this foils a pirate, but it’s the answer because it makes the service so valuable that in comparison the packaged good is not… So I think the truth is we’ve out-serviced the pirate.”

EA has seemingly taken a very commendable stance on combating piracy. Instead of advocating DRM that hurts honest consumers, such as limiting game installations, EA is now attempting to reward those honest consumers with extra content and services. In order to get the same rewarding experience, pirates are forced to legally purchase the game.

This seems sound in theory, but I’m confused as to why PC game pirates can’t simply pirate downloadable content in the same manner as packaged goods. EA’s new approach, in my mind, can only work for persistent online games. The Sims 3 may fit into this category given its strong online community and social networking components, but I’m curious to see how effective EA’s strategy is for a strong single-player experience, such as Dragon Age: Origins.

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