Noted Developer: Don’t Blame Piracy for Poor PC Game Sales

Brad Wardell of Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) goes off the game industry reservation a bit in a refreshing rant on piracy and PC gaming.

Writing for his Opinionated techie blog, Wardell says that bad games and excessive hardware requirements – not piracy – are the primary villains in poor sales of PC titles:

Recently there has been a lot of talk about how piracy affects PC gaming. And if you listen to game developers, it apparently is a foregone conclusion – if a high quality PC game doesn’t sell as many copies as it should, it must be because of piracy.

Now, I don’t like piracy at all. It really bugs me when I see my game up on some torrent site.. And piracy certainly does cost sales.  But arguing that piracy is the primary factor in lower sales of well made games? I don’t think so.

According to Wardell, most PC developers tend to create games not for the largest base of potential users, but for the hardcore crowd, the folks with $600 GPU’s sitting inside their PC cases. Okay, I’ll cop to being one of those… But Wardell makes sense when he writes:

PC game developers seem to focus more on the “cool” factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen… 

Anyone who keeps track of how many PCs the “Gamer PC” vendors sell each year could tell you that it’s insane to develop a game explicitly for hard core gamers.  Insane.  I think people would be shocked to find out how few hard core gamers there really are out there…

So why are companies making games that require them to sell to 15% of a given market to be profitable? In what other market do companies do that?

While Wardell’s games don’t include CD-based copy protection, he’s certainly not advocating piracy:

The reason why we don’t put copy protection on our games isn’t because we’re nice guys. We do it because the people who actually buy games don’t like to mess with it… We know our customers could pirate our games if they want but choose to support our efforts. So we return the favor – we make the games they want and deliver them how they want it. This is also known as operating like every other industry outside the PC game industry.

When Sins [of a Solar Empire] popped up as the #1 best selling game at retail a couple weeks ago, a game that has no copy protect whatsoever, that should tell you that piracy is not the primary issue.

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