Skip to main content

Ex-Lionhead man does PC piracy poll

Finds out why people steal his games.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Former Lionhead programmer Cliff "Cliffski" Harris has found out why people pirate his casual PC games, and says that talking to the scurvy dogs has stoked his creative engine.

"Ironically, one of the things that reduces your enthusiasm to really go the extra mile in making games is the thought that thousands of ungrateful gits will swipe the whole thing on day one for nothing," said Harris on his blog. "It's very demoralising. But actually talking to the pirates has revealed a huge group of people who really appreciate genuinely good games.

"Some of the criticisms of my games hit home. I get the impression that if I make Kudos 2 not just lots better than the original, but hugely, overwhelmingly, massively better, well polished, designed and balanced, that a lot of would-be pirates will actually buy it.

"I've gone from being demoralised by pirates to actually [being] inspired by them, and I'm working harder than ever before on making my games fun and polished," he added.

Harris had the idea of running polls on his blog, other sites, and forums (subsequently picked up by Digg) for an honest response from the torrent crowd. The results flooded back in their hundreds.

Harris said cost, for full price PC titles and USD 20 (GBP 10) casual puzzlers, was a major feature - both for people with jobs and kids with bogeys. Impulse buys would be much higher if the price came down, he was told.

Game quality was another large complaint: moans of poor tech support, content getting boring too quickly, and gameplay issues. Demos were said to be too short and not represent the full game, which apparently lead to plenty of tales of people buying games and then being disappointed.

However, digital rights management (DRM), which often requires online re-validation periodically, popped up all over the place.

"If you wanted to change one thing to get more pirates to buy games, scrapping DRM is it," said Harris.

Steam got universal praise for ease of purchase, but Harris revealed that getting on the Valve service was harder than it looks.

"For the record, I'd love to get my games on Steam," he said. "I wish it was that easy."

Only around 5 per cent of the answers came from hardened pirates who would steal your clothes if they could get away with it.

Read this next