Red Alert 3 producer has this crazy scheme to combat piracy: make compelling games

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Say you’re the developer of a hit PC game franchise, like, maybe, Command and Conquer? How do you go about combating piracy, which, let’s be honest for a moment, isn’t likely to go away any time soon? (There will always teenagers with no money but a fast Internet connection, waiting to download the latest game at the drop of a hat.) Rather than wrap your game in layer after layer of ultimately pointless DRM, Red Alert 3 producer David Silverman has a radical idea: make your game so good, make it so compelling that people feel obligated to buy it because it’s so awesome. Something to that effect.

That’s what Mr. Silverman told VideoGamer.com in a to-be-released interview. Let’s look at what he said, shall we?

Quoth the raven:

Things like digital distribution, things like doing micro-transactions, things like that really find a way to get people involved and then also keep them interested. It’s also a challenging thing on our end to make the game more engaging to people. If you give people a reason to buy the game they’ll buy it. It’s what happens. I use the music analogy again. If I’m an artist and I have an album with 14 songs and only two of them are good, then my album is probably getting stolen, but if every one of the 14 songs is awesome and you keep releasing maybe a new song or what not for people who bought it, I guarantee people will be buying my album. So it’s just a different approach and a different way in how we have to look at it in the future.

It’s rare that I agree with someone so completely.

You’re not going to “beat” piracy by forcing gamers to jump through DRM-laced hoops just to install the game. EA now knows this, hopefully. You need to make the whole experience something special, something that merely downloading a torrent cannot replicate.

The music analogy is great: you can’t expect someone to buy an entire album when 90 percent of the songs are nonsense filler material, so why should you expect gamers to fork over money for paint-by-numbers drivel? Really, how many times can you ask gamers to assume the role of Big Tough Guy, armed with a rifle and a “bad” attitude. Deus Ex Machina‘s Mel Croucher said it best in this month’s issue of Edge:

…it costs large amounts of money to pay large teams of people for several years to produce the same old shit.

And yet developers freak out when a kid grabs their game off the Pirate Bay and quickly realizes he’s played the game hundreds of times before.

I don’t know, I’m rambling now, but you know what I mean.

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