How to fix what's wrong with PC gaming

Home taping wasn’t killing music. It turned out music was fine. Music just got scared for a while because it couldn’t force everyone to pay for it. What music should have learned from this is that data isn’t like other kinds of property. You don’t have to keep it under lock and key to make money selling it. So long as paying for it is at least as easy as pirating it, plenty of people will pay for it, and you’ll make money. It’s never been easier to pirate music, but it’s also never been easier to buy it. Accordingly, singles sales are up.

Above: Not these pirates

It’s never been easier to pirate games, but it’s been easier to buy them. There was a time when buying a game didn’t come with some extra punishment attached. The cost used to be the price. These days, the cost is the price, account creation, registration, figuring out why registration failed, then being told when and where you’re allowed to play the game it turns out you don’t really own. Piracy is no longer just a way to save money. In many cases it’s the only way to avoid all the anti-piracy hoop jumping. The games industry is not good with irony.

So while Ubisoft sets about trying to make piracy as much of a pain in the ass as buying games has become, too few companies are looking at it the other way around. Pirating a game is a search and a click. Buying a game needs to be a search, a click, and some credit card details. And not at Steam’s sometimes bizarrely inflated prices: publishers have to get serious about this, just as the music industry had to, and charge less for the digital downloads that so obviously cost less to produce.

Above: Assassin's Creed II came out months later on PC, was $60, and has horrible DRM. And the pirates still found a hack

It works, and games are in a better position than any other medium to further reward buyers with extra perks. Valve have been showing how well it works for years, and EA are starting to catch on. It’s time for everyone else to stop screwing around and wake up.