Game publishers and developers try to solve the problem of piracy by implementing complex DRM technologies in order to make it more difficult for the software pirates. This approach could be useful if it represented a solution to a problem but maybe the whole piracy subject has been overlooked. Maybe the problem are not some people trying to get a game for free just because they want to save some money (after all who doesn’t want to save money?), but perhaps is about the conditions given to the people who wish to purchase a game. Software piracy is a very serious problem in South America, maybe some notes about what is happening here could reveal an insight of what piracy is all about.
A long time ago when I was 12 years old I lived in a small city in Colombia. At that time it was completely impossible to find almost any game you wanted and you had two options: Ask someone in the US to bring the game to you or travel to Bogotá (The capital city of Colombia) and try to find it there. The first choice was not always available and the second had a number of inconveniences. The first inconvenience was that traveling to Bogotá alone is not something any 12 year old aged child can do and however if you were older you had to be really dying for a particular game in order to travel just for that. The other inconvenience was that you simply couldn’t find the game there either.
So the internet thing grew up and suddenly every game could be found pirated on the web. I saw almost all of my friends take the opportunity of downloading pirated versions of their favourite games in order to be able to play them. So the problem wasn’t about some people trying to get games for free but mostly about people trying to play a game which wasn’t offered to them in the first place.
Purchasing the game directly from the US was the other alternative. But this added additional costs and made the games much more expensive in a place where the financial situation was worrying and declining.
Through time, the financial situation got better and distribution got cheaper and this made it easier for South American buyers to get their games. However the availability of games is still a limited and the costs are still higher so piracy still exists in part for these same reasons. In Colombia for instance, the Wii costs US$400 and that's even more than what the XBox Arcade edition is costing (US$350). Also, games such as Super Paper Mario or Super Mario Galaxy which cost US$50 in the US, in Colombia they normally cost about US$100.
There’s a temporal solution for the problem. For me it is called Steam, for others it may have a lot of different names. In general it is called a Digital Distribution Platform. People will still be able to pirate games, but the opportunities given for people wishing to buy a game a increased a lot. They will be able to find a big collection of games with their real prices, and even better they will be able to have access to all the promotions available. Promotions are something really big when dealing with piracy because these are created in order to motivate buyers to purchase. Unfortunately these promotions are often focused on certain regions putting on a side the rest of the world… but well, this doesn’t happen in a digital distribution platform because it is the same for everybody no matter where they are.
The Digital Distribution Platform is a partial solution because there’s no 100% availability of games, but it is still the most successful approach against the illegal distribution platform. Another advantage of digital distributions is that it comes with almost all the benefits of playing a game in an on line community such as XBox Live or PSN.