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The Final Answer to Prevent Piracy
Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Sat 14 May 2011, 19:34:52Tags: CD Projekt; Jeff Vogel
Jeff Vogel shares his insight into the everlasting problem of piracy.
The Worst Registration System Ever Devised By the Hand of Man
In 1994, electronic distribution of demos was very much in its infancy. My plan was to release a demo with a small fraction of the game. Then, when the correct key was entered into the game, it would unlock and everything would be playable. A sound plan. The problem was the implementation.
At first, I thought I'd just generate a key when someone ordered and send it to them. But then I thought, hey, I don't want people to pirate my game. If I just send them a key, they can make it public or send it to all their friends. So here is my brilliant idea. I will ... will ...
God. It hurts to even think about it.
Here's what I did. When you ran the game, it generated a random code, a 4 or 5 digit number. When you ordered, you had to provide that number. I would use it to generate a key specific to your copy of the game. I'd send you that key, you'd enter it, and the whole game would be unlocked.
So what does this mean? First, when you tried to order a game, you had to have this number with you. Did you realize you needed it? Probably not. So you'd be at our online store trying to give us money, only to have to leave to dig up some stupid number. Want a tip for running an online business? When a customer is at your web page, credit card out and in hand, do not give them a reason to leave!
The system was confusing, and this wasn't helped by the fact that we were the only ones ever to use it. Oh, if only we could have back the countless hours spent explaining the system to confused parents. Countless more hours making new registration keys for people who switched computers or had to reinstall their OS. The weird system made us look unprofessional at best, deranged at worst. And, as a special bonus, it did exactly zero to stop people from pirating our game. Name a way to crack our registration system, and people did it a hundred times.
We stuck by this system for fifteen years. Might as well have just made a big pile of money and set it on fire. At least we would have gotten the warmth.
A year ago, I finally got fed up. New system. When you order our newest game, Avadon: The Black Fortress, we send you a serial code. Enter it, and you're up and running. Buy the game for the Mac and want to play it on Windows too? Enter the same key. Want to register your copy again ten years from now? Use the same key.
And the result of switching to a slightly less secure, infinitely easier to use system? Sales of Avadon are the highest of any game we've put out in years.
What he says makes a lot of sense, although it has nothing to do with preventing piracy.
Spotted at: Gamebanshee