EA is All About the Pirates

By  |  Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello is no hard-liner when it comes to software piracy, and in an interview with Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, he’s back on the stump for pirate-as-potential-sale.

“They can steal the disc, but they can’t steal the DLC,” he said, referring to downloadable content that’s often sold after a game’s release.

Riccitiello’s tone is less extreme than it was in June, when he told IndustryGamers that “if there are any pirates you’re writing for, please encourage them to pirate FIFA Online, NBA Street Online, Battleforge, Battlefield Heroes…” but the idea is the same: If you don’t demonize the bootleggers and illegal downloaders, there’s a chance they’ll purchase some extra content, and that’s better than nothing. They may even go legit as a way of showing support for developers.

Minus that last part, it’s essentially the same view Riccitiello — and much of the games industry — takes towards buyers of used games, from GameStop or other second-hand sources. Even if EA didn’t make any money off you for the base purchase, they can still get you on the optional extras.

I like Riccitiello’s dovish stance, but there’s a dark side in just how much DLC has become available, to the point where it seems like legitimate buyers are eating some of the costs of piracy and used games. Where extra content was once an afterthought that came months down the road from release, it’s not uncommon now to see additional content available on the day of purchase. Dragon Age: Origins, published by EA, is a recent example, where some of content was free, but some cost money. At least the publisher rewarded buyers with some free content as well, which pirates or second-hand purchasers would have to pay for.

Still, it’s hard to argue that you’re not getting your money’s worth from a game like Dragon Age, which boasts over 100 hours of play. And Riccitiello says that when customers are offered more DLC, they lap it up. He may be on to something.


Read more: , , ,

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    “They may even go legit as a way of showing support for developers.”

    as someone who downloads his fair share, I can say this is true for most pirates.

    Because pirating usually isn’t about not paying for your product: late;y, the gaming industry has gotten sloppy on PC-games, and prices have gone up (new games used to be 40-50€ here, now it’s 60-70€!).
    So yeah, I admit I won’t pay that amount of money for a game I haven’t played! I downloaded Crysis, Left4Dead, Assassin’s Creed and Unreal Tournament 3… and bhought all those games after I played them a bit and liked them.
    I also downloaded GTA4, Overlord, Mirror’s Edge, Mass Effect and Modern Warfare, and afterwards I didn’t buy them because I didn’t like them! (except for Mirror’s Edge: I really like the game but imo it’s WAY too short to even pay the now lower 40€ for)

    Downlaoding has been demonised long enough, people should start realising it’s not something that really hurts the industry… I won’t go as far as saying it’s helping game developers (because after all, downloading caused me NOT to buy some games :p), but imo, it makes the market a better place for the consumer.

    btw: downloading is LEGAL where I live, only unauthorized sharing is an offence. That’s why I’m not to shy on sharing my actions along with my name 😉

  2. tengeta Says:

    Thats what killed gaming to begin with, DLC is the worst idea ever. I actually got an email from Xbox Live today saying there was an expansion for a game, and it was a freakin tshirt for your avatar.

    I’m not renewing that crap again, thats 50 bucks I could spend on beer. Much funner to piss that away than my time.

  3. Seumas Says:

    First of all, let’s address the proper terminology here. Pirates are organized groups of people who take someone’s content and cheaply repackage it so that it looks presentable and then sells the content to people at a discount from the real item and pocket all the money themselves. Sometimes people know they’re buying a “knock-off” and sometimes they don’t. The guy on a street in New York or China or on eBay selling physical CDs and DVDs and game (often in color printed cases and everything) are pirates. The teenager in his bedroom at home trading copies of games with his friends isn’t pirating. He may still be infringing copyright, but he’s absolutely not pirating.

    Along those lines, let’s recognize that is where the real money is lost. How many people do they really think are out there modding their consoles so that they can go through the process of “pirating” copies of videogames? Most people would concede the effort too much hassle and just pay or go without. It’s the people out there making copies and selling them to the average Joe on the street. The big “forgery” operations. Just like Prada isn’t worried about the girl at home who sews her own Prada knock-off for herself to own and use because she can’t afford $1,200 for a real bag — they’re worried about the organization out there making hundreds or thousands of knock offs and selling them in back rooms for 10% of the price.

    As for the remaining people who don’t fit into the above? I would imagine a lot of them are people for whom the price of a game is impossible. People who would have to hand over an entire day’s take-home pay just for one game — a game which can more often than not these days be three to twelve hours long. Not to mention the countless DLC packs afterward.

    I make a great salary and still wince every time I hand over $65. Imagine how much more a kid who has no source of income must wince. Or a kid putting himself through college. Or a young adult making $8 or $10 an hour. One can see how “free” can be an enticing proposal for them.

    Of course, one great middle ground for them has always been buying used games. Depending on the game and how long they wait to buy it, they could get it for as little as half or even a quarter of the price of new. Not a bad deal and they can legitimately pay for an item to legitimately own.

    But of course, developers and publishers are working hard to eradicate that, too. And when they do? There will either be far MORE piracy or far FEWER gamers.

    I won’t even waste your time getting into the details of how DLC while sometimes adding a lot to a game is still shaky when you consider that you’re paying $15 or $20 for content that you’ll probably never have access to once XBOX 360 goes away and the Live service only allows the generation after that to connect. Want to play Fable II or Fallout 3 with the $40 or $60 of DLC you bought for it? Gosh, I’m sorry, the DRM servers and download service are gone. Screw you, consumer/gamer! But thanks for all that swell cash! And fairly often? DLC is actually just a damn scam. Why put off the game another two weeks while you develop some more content you wanted to squeeze in when you could just pack it ON the disc and sell it for $20? (And yes, that happens — there are at least a couple occasions where games had DLC content that was a whopping 100kb and was clearly just a KEY to unlock content you already owned on your disc).

    DRM and “future-proofing/accessing” aside, DLC could be potentially great or horrible. It’s all in how developers and publishers choose to use it. GTA IV and Fallout 3 are examples of how to offer a lot of reasonable new content for a decent price. They’re the rare example, unfortunately.

  4. how to sell on ebay Says:

    Thank you very much for the information.

    I’m going to tell everyone about your site.

  5. weluvlucy Says:

    Wow, what a really great quality post. In theory I would love to write as well as this also – it takes me time and lots of effort to formulate a good post… but what can I say… I put it off for ages and then never seem to get anything written.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Sony Attacks PSP Pirates, Hurts Used Game Owners Says:

    […] is doing isn’t novel. Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello is fond of saying he views illegal downloads as potential sales, in that people may decide they like the game enough to purchase some downloadable content. […]