It Takes A Download Of Trillions To Hold Sales Back (Well, Not Even That)

Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson says a lot of things. Some of them interesting, others regrettable. As with most humans! This, about piracy, is one of the former.

I've always found it interesting that it's usually independent developers, those whose livelihoods are most closely associated with the success of their games, that are always the most pragmatic when it comes to piracy. And it's the executives at big corporations, many steps removed from development and forced to appease ignorant shareholders, that are the ones championing measures like DRM.

Notch: "If someone copies your game a trillion times, you won't have a single lost sale" [PC Gamer]


    That's interesting alright. And wrong, of course.

    It's just the opposite flawed argument to "every pirated game is a lost sale".

    Both are wrong.

      I approve of this comment.

      I'm a really small indie dev and have had my first game pirated tens of thousands of times. And in my experience, Zap is 100% right. Not everyone that pirates a game would have bought it in the first place...but at the same time, a number of them would. I find any statements, like Notch's above, that generalise both pirates and the issue of piracy to be quite frustrating...

        After reading the first few words of your comment I imagined you as an Oompa Loompa.

        It's easy for someone to say piracy isn't lost sales when they've had five million odd sales

          and how many more people do you think pirated the game?

            My thoughts, exactly, he has made 10's of millions of dollars, he doesn't care anymore.

              Not caring and understanding that the more this is fought, the worse it's going to get for the paying consumer. From a delivery of service perspective things are already better for pirates with the exception of steam perhaps. Once you start having to give DNA samples when you purchase a game and every time you want to play it, well I'd be at least tempted to stop legitimately buying them.

                i don't get why people like steam so much. MW3 is still $99 and steam often won't let you play games offline... I just don't get all the love for it :-/

                  You can play games offline by going into offline mode and Activision set the price of MW, not Valve.

                  Generally it's normally put down to the convenience of having your games in one place, able to be downloaded onto multiple PC's, great sales, along with the community aspects. Of course many Aussies don't pay Steam prices where they are artificially inflated, they get OS friends to gift it to them or import copies and register them on Steam.

                  you can play practically all of your games offline simply by "verifying cache" then switching to offline mode. The only reason why some games can't be played offline is because the developers/publishers made it so that that specific game cannot be played offline. It has nothing to do with Valve or Steam

                  you can play practically all of your games offline simply by “verifying cache” then switching to offline mode. The only reason why some games can’t be played offline is because the developers/publishers made it so that that specific game cannot be played offline. It has nothing to do with Valve or Steam

            Not so much that it wasn't exorbitantly profitable despite receiving minimal developmental efforts, ya daft cunt you.

              Daft Cunt? I love that band!

                you my good sir, win not only a cookie but a bag of cookies.

        Yeah that is true. But at the same time could you guarantee that if it wasn't for those 10,000 pirates you would have the sales you currently do.

        I pirate music, I listen to it. If it's shit it gets shredded, if it's good i buy a legit version(and depending on the music, Pirate a lossless version since no one will sell it to me). Then i recommend those artists to friends because i'd like to hear more music from them. Which they then either pirate/buy and recommend to someone else(or they don't listen to it).

        Hell i know with minecraft, i was sent a mediafire link with the cracked copy. A day later i wanted to poke around online so i forked over the 10bux. Then i set up a server. Which caused the guy who gave me said link and about 10 others to stop playing that hacked version and pony up the 10 dollars.

        Your thing may have been pirated 10,000 times. But somewhere in there are the people who bought your game because they pirated it. People who pirated it because someone else who pirated it recommended it. People who are scum bags and will never ever give you a cent. People who downloaded it decided it wasn't their cup of tea and deleted it. etc etc.

        Yeah there's no definition of what occurs when it comes to piracy. But treating every downloader as a hostile force that is taking money away from you is only going to foster more piracy especially if you have some arbitrary DRM.

    it's funny how people bitch about piracy given the medium they elect to distribute their product. Digitalisation is the very mechanism which allows these people to generate any sort of profit at all, you can't go complaining about one of its fundamental aspects.

    "Digital files cannot be made uncopyable, any more than water can be made not wet." - Bruce Schneier

      The market demands digital distribution. The market also demands high quality, high investment games (there are exceptions, but even on the Indy scene we tend to ask for games that look cheap/simple rather than actually being cheap/simple, unless the game is really charming like Minecraft). Just because it's what people want doesn't make it viable and automatically the correct choice (people want free everything, but that's rarely possible). Saying you can't fight piracy doesn't make it any easier to operate in a business where piracy is possible.

      Your statement really only serves to warn developers to stay away from PCs. You can't control distribution of your game properly there so you're always going to be running the risk of releasing a game that it's socially acceptable to pirate. Be it an indy game that isn't as charming as Minecraft, or a large scale production that's only a B+ instead of AAA (nobody would really care if I pirated Project Sylpheed even though it's a game worth the asking price).

      Back on the original subject I think everything Notch says needs to have 'remember, he's the exception not the rule' added to the end. I respect him and the work he's done, I look forward to seeing what he does in the future, I'm even happy for the guy on a personal level, but you've always got to keep in mind his views on piracy (and a lot of other subjects) are skewed by the fact that he could have turned away half his sales and still made out like a bandit.
      Even the correct 'haven't lost a cent' statement is sort of misguided. You have lost a cent if you spent a cent making the game and of the trillion people playing 100% of them pirated your game. You can argue that you haven't lost a cent to the pirates but you're still out precisely one cent.

      As for the second half of the statement you can argue that people who see the lack of enforcable laws as permission go against the creators wishes are the ones ruining the internet. We're working on the honour system here, and that only works until people start abusing it, then you'll always start getting strong support for a system where we give up a little freedom and get a little stability (and when millions of people abuse the system you get insane DRM).

    Its hard to feel sorry for publishers anymore though. I recently watched an episode of Jimquisition on the escapist that goes into detail about what exactly happens to all this IP publishers have and it is just disgusting.

      I can agree with 99% of what he's saying, especially the part about potentially great IPs just sitting there rotting, but I just can't get past that 1% that's saying it's ok since nobody you like gets hurt. That's the sort of slippery slope turns you into an asshole.

      Like it or not Activision own Metal Arms. They own it fair and square. There's no wriggle room. No one was tricked. Nobody sold anythign they didn't own. You can call them bastards for not setting it free or selling it back to Swinging Ape but it's their property and it's their call.
      Jim saying publishers are stealing games reminds me of my sometimes casually racist grandma complaining that 'the asians' are 'taking over' the local small businesses. Liking the new owners has nothing to do with ownership status. Deals where made and money changed hands between two willing parties. The old owners weren't held at gun point and knew what they were doing (or at least they should have, this isn't the sort of deal you make with a handshake). Nobody 'took over' and nobody stole anything.

      It doesn't always seem fair and it often ends badly, but it's a hell of a lot better than Jim's system where I no longer have the option to sell my IP outright because someone who thinks they know what's best for me thinks I could potentially regret it later. He's proposing the same sort of mothering gamers traditionally hate.

    It's a nice thought but I think the Witcher guys probably disagree.

      actually, I'm pretty sure CD Projekt released some stats that said basically 90% of the pirated copies of the witcher 2 were pirated from the DRM version, not from the DRM-free version that you buy from GoG. So basically putting DRM on it, encourages people to pirate.

    Just pay for the game, you cheap arses out there! Online of course. On that note, I think most people think theyve got it hard at retail in their country. Try living in oz with games usually at $100rrp standard and only getting $30 back on trade-in less than 7 days later! Also the fact that you see your recently traded game, second-hand, selling for $85!

      ThEyre not cheap asses they just want everything for nothing. Ive found I enjoy games more when I purchase

      Hey don't complain about $100 games until you've seen what most South American countries pay for them. Also you say pay online so clearly you don't care about profit staying in Australia nor the jobs of those guys in shops.

      Not that I'm much better I do exactly what you said, it's just funny that it sounds like you're saying, "Don't be a dick! be a different kind of dick!"

        It doesn't really matter (though I was being light-hearted in my comment), as EB and GAME are foreign companies anyway. The only big Aussie company is GameTraders, which is forced to pay higher costs from the distributers as the US/Euro companies can afford to buy massively higher amounts of stock. One thing though, places like BigW usually buy in bulk, and can get games for $78 retail sometimes. The fact is, we get severe markups when compared to most other countries - usually from the Publishers just exploiting us because of ancient federal laws that dont stop them from doing so. Online game shops allow people in countries like ours, to get games at fair prices, ie $US60. Alot of us pay the retail just to get the game quicker. (by the way, if your an aussie, you already know...hahaha)

          Yeah I know I was not really disagreeing with you, I was merely pointing out that there is no "nobody loses" choice.

          When I meant "Australian profits and jobs" I suppose I meant it in a real baseline way, like the guys whose job it is to be the salesman at EB. They usually may be pretty bad but I still feel bad for them when I buy a game online.

    Some of you guys have heard about my game Lunar Flight, it has been featured here on Kotaku. You might be interested to know that I have only sold 500 copies yet there are 4600 registered players. I am of to minds about it, in some ways its good that my game is being played by allot more people but the reality is if I don't start making some money I am going to have to call it quits and go get a job flipping burgers.

      Congratz on those sales, and +gratz for the fact that close to 5000 people WANT to play your game. Now get out there and market the frack out of it!

        Your game is a bit niche. Does it have a demo for people to try or are we forced to pirate it to try it out?

        Still not something I would buy, but maybe play for free.

        Maybe give those people a hook to buy..

        4600 is a big exploitable market you can cash in on

      That sucks, but I don't think anyone here is actually pro piracy, the problem is what can you do about it that doesn't just make life harder for paying customers, while at most costing people pirating a couple of extra days before the game is cracked.

      Sean, assuming there is a market for your game (and I'd say there is given how many people you have playing it) I would think that your issue is really one of distribution, not piracy.

      To be perfectly blunt, the merchant you are using is sort of bad. They have a difficult to use website, poor payment interface and not much of a distribution footprint to get eyes across your game at all.

      It's a toss as to if you could do it better yourself, but certainly you could do better if you are lucky enough to get your creation on Steam or even Good old Games.

      I wish you luck!

        Thanks Jake, I'm currently in talks with GoG, Valve have unfortunately not responded to mine and several emails from others regarding Lunar Flight on Steam.

    Hey guys, let's argue about piracy! I think there is some ground we haven't covered yet...

    Just letting you know, it was slightly misquoted. Which changes the context a bit:

    "Gah, I got misquoted on the interwebs!! I said "you haven't lost a single CENT"!"!/notch

    Is it ok if I pirate a game on release, but then purchase the game when its two years old and 75% off?

      For indie's yes, they have already closed their doors and gave up game development. Meanwhile the publisher will still take your money.

    The movie, music industries and developers under big publishers can afford to get pirated as they make up in their "losses" with their huge profits, indie developers and developers under smaller publishers can't.

    It's a problem, but so far the entertainment industry's answer to this problem was just way the mark, it was a retarded idea.

    It should be said, Notch said it was a misquote. I believe he said it was actually 'won't have lost a single cent', which has some different implications really.

      Exactly. He is implying the extra (highly effective) word of mouth marketing you are getting attracts additional sales. I.e. you lose some sales to pirates, but they recruit paying customers.

        Also worth looking at the F2P model, ala League of Legends ... to misrepresent it ever so slightly:

        "You are allowed to pirate our game. We'll treat you like royalty for doing so. And some percentage of you will like it, and be enticed to spend money on extras."

        Hardly. A guy with a pirated copy will attract people who will also use a pirated copy. No one is going to show their mate a game, then say "like it? Well, go buy YOUR copy" - they'll just share the pirated version. That doesn't mean either will buy a copy at all.

          I'm inclined to agree with this statement. You hear people around universities asking for copies for this and for that, and people just bring in whatever media it is on hard drives for quick transfer. It doesn't make any additional sales at all; once it becomes mainstream, it's second nature for everyone to ask for it for free, and even more normal for people to be perfectly happy to give it away.

    I pirated minecraft, then I thought it was so awesome I bought it. This is a game I would have never bought if I didn't pirate it. My friend also purchased it because I did, then a few of his friends did the same. These are sales mojang would have never had if it wasnt for piracy.

    I'm an indie dev that has been creating games for about 2 decades now.

    I've done commercial, shareware, freeware, pay-what-you-like. You name it, I've sold it.

    And I'm here to disagree vehemently with Notch.

    In my long experience, not only does piracy hurt the bottom-line of small developers, it hurts our customers. Piracy destroys small businesses. It's as simple as that.

    Notch's views are those of someone who is (happily) immune to piracy at this point. He can actually PROMOTE his game by discussing the lack of impact of piracy. (i.e. any news is good news, for promotions).

    He is one of those literal 1 in a million developers that will make money regardless of what he does with the game. It's the snowball effect.

    For 99% of developers, however, piracy is an intimately painful problem: it takes food from their table. Most developers are not making a million dollars a week.

    Unfortunately, pirates believe what they want to believe. And it's unfortunate that Notch's views will be used by pirates to further justify their thieving.

    Cue all the justifications, whining, etc.


      Can't say I 100% agree with everything you've ever said but I'd much rather hear from you or Sean (Lunar Flight) up there on these sorts of issues than Notch. The guys who feel it when they have to compete with PirateBay selling the same product at 100% off. The guys who aren't folk heroes (no offense =P).

      LIke I said in that huge post I made earlier, I respect the guy and all that, he deserves his money, but you've always got to keep in mind his experience is radically different from almost every other modern developer.
      Most people don't go from a no budget world building game to possibly being involved in the reviving Psychonauts. A fantastic year for the average small business is going from making enough to pay the bills to making enough to take on even bigger bills the next year.

    Game developers are pirates, too. Most copies of Photoshop in the wild are 100% unauthorised, but that doesn't stop them from being used by professionals.

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