It seems like everyone is voicing an opinion about the recent SimCity fiasco. And now Tommy Refenes, creator of Super Meat Boy, has decided to weigh in. Refenes made a blog post discussing the launch and weighing the dangers of piracy and oppressive DRM. His opinion? That DRM will harm a game far more than piracy ever will.
“I think I can safely say that Super Meat Boy has been pirated at least 200,000 times,” Refenes said. “I realize and accept that a pirated copy of a digital game does not equate to money being taken out of my pocket. Team Meat shows no loss in our year end totals due to piracy and neither should any other developer.”
He went on to say that financial losses due to piracy are essentially incalculable. If you work at a K-Mart, you can calculate your loss by comparing sales with your inventory. In the digital world, however, you have infinite stock. Even if someone were to steal a trillion copies, you would still have infinite stock.
“You cannot, with any accuracy, state that because your game was pirated 300 times you lost 300 sales. You cannot prove even one lost sale because there is no evidence to state that any one person who pirated your game would have bought your game if piracy did not exist. From an accounting perspective, it’s speculative and a company cannot accurately determine loss or gain based on speculative accounting. You can’t rely on revenue due to speculation; you can’t build a company off of what will ‘probably’ happen. Watch The Smartest Guys in the Room and see how that worked out for Enron.”
However, while loss due to piracy and gain due to DRM is incalculable, loss due to oppressive DRM actually is calculable. “EA and Maxis are currently facing a bigger problem than piracy: A growing number of their customers no longer trust them and this has, and will, cost them money. After the frustrations with SimCity, I asked Origin for a refund and received one. This was money they had and then lost a few days later. Applying our earlier conversation about calculable loss, there is a loss that is quantifiable, that will show up in accounting spreadsheets and does take away from profit. That loss is the return, and it is much more dangerous than someone stealing your game.”