Thursday, November 27, 2008

Disintegration Nation 8tracks

I finally had some time to think about a new mix for 8tracks, and I decided on a post-apocalyptic theme this time around. Enjoy Disintegration Nation:

  1. Resistance 77 - Nuclear Attack (Nuclear Attack EP 7")
  2. The Flesh Eaters - Disintegration Nation (Self-Titled 7")
  3. Crass - They've Got a Bomb (The Feeding of the 5000 LP)
  4. Conflict - Mighty and Superior (The Battle Continues 7")
  5. Crucifix - Annihilation (Dehumanization LP)
  6. Chaos UK - Four Minute Warning (Burning Britain 7")
  7. Legion of Parasites - Sea of Desecration (We Don't Want Your Fucking War LP)
  8. The Weirdos - We Got the Neutron Bomb (We Got the Neutron Bomb 7")

Monday, November 24, 2008

Georgia's Criminalization of Consensual Sex Continues

I first saw this story on Scienceblogs, and now on BoingBoing, about Wendy Whitaker of Georgia who is required to be a registered sex offender because she gave a nearly 16-year-old boy a blow job when she was 17 years old. Both students were high school sophomores. Previously, the law in Georgia made any sex act between an individual 16 years or older with another individual under the age of 16 a criminal act of child molestation.

Now, she's being evicted from her home because of an unadvertised childcare center located in a local Catholic church. Her and her family have until thanksgiving to move out.

I'm reminded of the Genarlow Wilson case, which I wrote about before. Nearly identical circumstances -- Wilson was the 17-year-old who received a blow job from a 15-year-old classmate. The publicity and controversy that generated from the case when Wilson refused to take the plea bargain forced the Georgian legislature to rethink its sex offender laws. Eventually, the legislature repealed the law; however, the decision was not retroactive and did not apply to the Wilson case. When the state Supreme Court heard Wilson's case, though, they decided that his 10 year prison sentence was cruel and unusual punishment for the "crime" committed. Wilson was released after serving 2 years, and he was not required to be a registered sex offender.

But this now repealed law, this injustice, is still affecting Georgian residents. I think that Whitaker's case should be enough to convince the legislature that their decision to repeal the law should be applied retroactively to all similar cases.

Friday, November 14, 2008

DRM-Free v. DRM-Stricken

World of Goo, a puzzle game, has a 90% piracy rate -- a rough estimate by the developer 2D Boy. What's interesting to note is that the developers reference the Russell Carroll study that I've written about before to show that the piracy rates between DRM-free and DRM-stricken games aren't any different:

this is in line with a previous estimate by russell carroll (director of marketing at reflexive) for the game ricochet infinity. russell estimated a 92% piracy rate and i found his analysis quite interesting (check it out here if you’re curious). one thing that really jumped out at me was his estimate that preventing 1000 piracy attempts results in only a single additional sale. this supports our intuitive assessment that people who pirate our game aren’t people who would have purchased it had they not been able to get it without paying.

in our case, we might have even converted more than 1 in a 1000 pirates into legit purchases. either way, ricochet shipped with DRM, world of goo shipped without it, and there seems to be no difference in the outcomes. we can’t draw any conclusions based on two data points, but i’m hoping that others will release information about piracy rates so that everyone could see if DRM is the waste of time and money that we think it is. [emphasis/grammar in original]
I think the more important sentence in the quoted text is this: "people who pirate our game aren’t people who would have purchased it had they not been able to get it without paying."

Game developers and publishers should keep this in mind because it means that file-sharing isn't the same thing as lost sales, which is the opposite of what most developers and publishers assume to be the truth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Epic Games Would Charge Extra to Fight Final Boss

Epic Games is at it again, this time it's in an interview with company president Michael Capps:

Q: How do you see downloadable content evolving over the next few years?

Michael Capps: I'm not sure how big it is here [in Europe], but the secondary market is a huge issue in the United States. Our primary retailer makes the majority of its money off of secondary sales, and so you're starting to see games taking proactive steps toward that by... if you buy the retail version you get the unlock code.

I've talked to some developers who are saying "If you want to fight the final boss you go online and pay USD 20, but if you bought the retail version you got it for free". We don't make any money when someone rents it, and we don't make any money when someone buys it used -- way more than twice as many people played Gears than bought it...
As I've said before, Epic doesn't make money on a used sale because they've already made money on that sale, the first sale. Ownership has transferred.

But you don't see libraries (where you can get content for free! Imagine that!) tanking the book publishing industry. The film industry is making money hand over fist despite the existence of Blockbuster and Netflix. Why does the gaming industry believe that it's in a unique situation?

Ah, here's why:
Q: Do you see an enemy in this equation? Is it the retailer, or the purchaser of second-hand games?

Michael Capps: I'd hate to say my players are my enemies - that doesn't make any sense! But we certainly have a rule at Epic that we don't buy any used games - sure as hell you're not going to be recognised as an Epic artist going in and buying used videogames - because this is how we make our money and how all our friends in the industry make money.

I think a little bit of it is education so people realise that the reason there's no PC market right now is piracy. I mean, Crytek just put out some numbers saying the ratio was 20:1 on Crysis, for pirated to non-pirated use. So guess what? That's why there's no Gears of War 2 on PC, because there's no market, because copying killed it - and that's gruesome to a company like ours that's been in the PC market for so long.

We're trying to fix it, there's a new alliance of companies trying to make PC gaming work again. But if people are playing games without buying them, then the games aren't going to keep coming.
Piracy, the ultimate scapegoat. Yeah, people who would never have bought your product in the first place are costing you sales. All those lost sales from people who wouldn't ever buy games.

The PC gaming market isn't in decline because of piracy, in fact, I'm unaware of any hard evidence that shows that the PC gaming market is in decline at all. Games still sell millions of copies, copy-protection or not. What will kill the PC gaming industry is shit like the president of Epic Games floating around the idea that developers should charge used game buyers extra money just to be able to finish their games. This kind of behavior is blatantly anti-consumer, and people will react negatively to that kind of treatment by not purchasing any of your games.

What we're seeing from Epic is a content publisher's dream-- to have ultimate control over how copies of their distributed content are used. Before digital content, these publishers had little they could do regarding the secondhand market. But the gaming industry is inherently digital. It's software; code. They have the ability to easily include schemes like this because of the nature of their medium. I'm not surprised that Epic Games (and lets not forget EA) is attacking the secondhand market for games; however, that doesn't make their intentions any less of an assault on people's expectations about what they can do with their purchased content.

[UPDATE]: Soren Johnson, game designer and programmer, offers several insightful observations on this topic.

Tom Chick, games journalist, mused on this topic as well:
Without any segue or distinction, Capps conflates renting games with pirating them. He goes straight from "buying used games" to "PC games are dead because of piracy." Amazing. [emphasis in original]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fallout 3 Sales and Piracy

Wired reported yesterday that Fallout 3 earned Bethesda $300 million, with 4.7 million units shipped between the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 versions. The game was released on October 28, 2008.

But with just about 3 weeks before launch, the game had already been leaked and pirated on the Xbox 360. If we are to believe PC developers who claim that piracy of PC games makes them unprofitable, how are we to interpret this information? PC games are usually pirated the day of release, maybe a few days prior. Fallout 3 was pirated on a console almost 3 weeks before release!

I don't know the breakdown of sales between platforms, as that information doesn't seem to be available. So it's hard to say exactly, but I'll hedge my bets and say that piracy of Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360 did not negatively impact sales in the way that PC developers claim that such piracy impacts PC sales. I'd even go so far as to say that this is the kind of evidence that really puts that entire line of reasoning into question.

[UPDATE]: I just found this article in PC World, which states that the Xbox version of the game accounts for 55% of sales. This only further supports my conclusion.

An Obama Administration and Copyright

Before the election, a former college professor of mine mentioned that Joe Biden was a big RIAA supporter. I did a little digging, and Biden's record on copyright is pretty distressing.

Today, though, I read this post over at Scienceblogs, which states that Barack Obama has placed coverage of election night under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license. Good news, indeed!

If this is any indication of how Obama views copyright, I hope that Obama will follow his own leanings on copyright law and not those of Biden.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Electoral map prediction as of today, 10:33 AM:

Get out and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Teenage Lobotomy

Meghan McCain defines Punk RockTM:

STEVE DOOCY: I'm looking -- I'm looking at your website, I had no idea that the Ramones were your, uh, favorite group of all time --


CINDY MCCAIN: [laughs]

DOOCY: -- because right now, you've got this thing with, uh, with Linda Ramone [Cummings], if people are interested, check it out --

M. MCCAIN: Yeah.

DOOCY: -- because you two travel around.

M. MCCAIN: She's incredible.

DOOCY: Yeah. Go --

M. MCCAIN: She's so cool, and we're going out on this whole new thing that the only way to be be Punk RockTM anymore is to be conservative.


M. MCCAIN: So only Punk RockTM [indeciferable]

CARLSON: In your book, Meghan...

[edits mine]
Hmm... not quite.