With comments that are likely to irritate brick and mortar stores around the globe, Microsoft has said that the only way to beat PC piracy is to skip the retail market entirely.
Dave Luehmann, general manager at Microsoft Game Studios, used the upcoming free-to-play Age of Empires Online
as an example of how the PC gaming industry should be moving forward. It's accessibility online will mean the persistent strategy game will suffer from less piracy than it would have at retail, he claims.
"Of course we’re concerned about hackers and their ability to thwart our transaction model, but producing a downloadable game – and a free-to-play one in particular – really helps to prevent that," Luehmann told MCV
"In the console world, piracy is a little better understood and managed. Whereas on an open platform, you need to have a different kind of business model that’s more resilient to piracy," he added. "In Eastern countries, transaction-based online games have demonstrably been more secure against piracy, and I think it makes sense for us in the West to catch up to this."
For the short-term however - and probably not to piss off GAME and HMV too much - Luehmann stressed that retail is important, although its role will be limited to short-term hits. "Retail is still an important part of the business and I don’t think it will ever really go away. Real estate at retail is valuable and has a high turnover – as it should – but it’s not always good for individual products."
What do you reckon? Will online-only titles rescue the PC world? Or should developers simply act a bit more like Stardock and look to respect their customers a bit more with demos and zero DRM? Let us know in the forum, as always.