THQ Exec Rails on PC Pirates, Hardware Makers, You

By Aaron Linde, Mar 03, 2008 3:37pm PST Prompted by the closure of Titan Quest developer Iron Lore last week, THQ creative director Michael Fitch ranted on the state of PC gaming and rampant piracy in a post on the Quarter to Three forums

"The research I've seen pegs the piracy rate at between 70-85% on PC in the US, 90%+ in Europe, off the charts in Asia," Fitch wrote. "I didn't believe it at first. It seemed way too high. Then I saw that Bioshock was selling 5 to 1 on console vs. PC. And Call of Duty 4 was selling 10 to 1."

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward recently expressed similar dismay at the high levels of piracy for the PC version of its popular first-person shooter.

Fitch explained that piracy doesn't just harm sales—Titan Quest took a big hit in word of mouth when pirated copies of the game crashed after various failed security checks, prompting a negative response by those who had illegally acquired the game. "A lot of people are talking about how it crashes right when you come out of the first cave," Fitch wrote. "Yeah, that's right. There was a security check there."

But piracy wasn't the only thorn in Fitch's side; the developer claims that hardware vendors make PC game developers' jobs a great deal harder, too. Everything from hardware and software conflicts to simple issues like fragmented drives or spyware, Fitch said, are inevitably blamed on the software developers by consumers.

"Put together consumers who want the cheapest equipment possible with the best performance, manufacturers who don't give a shit what happens to their equipment once they ship it... But, it's always the game's fault when something doesn't work."

There are few better examples of the 'it can't possibly be my fault' culture in the west than gaming forums," he added.

Though some development studios have claimed that making a leap to multiplatform development is the only way to offset loss brought on by piracy, not all developers have had such sour luck. Stardock and Ironclad Games recently announced that their PC strategy title Sins of a Solar Empire—which features no copy protection whatsoever—sold over 100,000 copies in less than a month after release.

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  • Give me a break.

    If PC gaming died tomorrow, and no games were EVER made for PC again, we would see a rise in piracy for the consoles. Homebrew, softmods, modchips, all of that would skyrocket, and then we would hear about how console game sales are falling because of piracy. It still wont change the fact that WELL over 50% of the games made these days are absolute shit.

    Sure they may have great graphics, or 1080p capability, but the fact is that playing on a PC introduces a freedom that consoles will never match. We can create mods, maps, and conversions and all for FREE instead of charging for them (yes, im looking at you MS)....we can play with others, and use either a controller or a mouse/keyboard if we so choose, but it is OUR choice. Sure it means that there can be issues with cheating, or piracy, but trying to stop it completely is like playing whack-a-mole.

    As for hardware, when a game is created, it needs to be tested on many machines. I work for a software company, and when we test our builds, we have a lab with around 200 machines ranging from a P4 1.4GHz with RDRAM through a Quad Core, and we test the product on each and every system. We have everything from Windows 98 - Vista. Some are specifically setup with issues, to "see what we can break". Some are setup to perform worse, and some just do, and by testing on all sorts of machines, we can make a product our users can rely on, and something that will run on a wide array of machines. We know its not our job to mandate a certain setup, or require a top of the line system to run well, because not everyone can afford that.

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