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Distribution and copy protection of Unity games

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by darshie1976, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    At one point, everyone end up calling the day and defining their project as "ready for primetime".

    What many ignore, is that the hard part starts now. If you think that make a game is hard, now you will find out that it was actually not as hard as market and promote your game; and be sure that you actually get paid.

    You heard horror stories about "fake publishers"; so if you want to go for that route, at least pick one that sell decent games and has a decent exposure on the market.

    If you want to try your luck alone; then you have to think about where to sell your game and how to protect it from copies. For mobile games, you can rely on Google or Apple stores; but if you sell for linux, OSX and Windows, the situation is a bit more complex.

    Steam so far seems to be the safest place. The game has to be cracked (the Steam DLL is included in the executable), so that give you confidence that the average joe can't just grab your unity folder with your executable and run the game. Of course any game can be cracked; so it is not 100% safe, but this method cut off most of the Sunday pirates out there. API integration is straightforward, but you pay a cut of your sales to Steam, and a 1 time fee of 100 USD for the submission of the game. Not much in the long run; except if you sell 10 copies.

    I never tried GOG, so not sure if they allow submissions, but by definition, GOG games have no protection, so anyone can copy it.

    Then you have the free services like itch.io and gamejolt; although I am not aware of any protection they implement, so you are on your own there, but you can post as many games for free there. Unity web player has been deprecated, so your only way to protect your work is to publish it as OGL runtime; so it can run in the browser and again, the average joe can't just rip your game without put a lot of efforts (and let's face it, if you post on a free host, your game is not even worth to spend time cracking it :) )

    Last option I explored is to post it on your web site, take paypal payments and manage everything on your own, including implementing a copy protection method. Didn't find much on the topic; at least related to Unity. Costs for the copy protection system may bite your poor wallet, and if you do something wrong, you fundamentally waste money and allow people to rip your game easily; so it is not a one click solution for free.

    What is your experience with publishing and protecting your work? I am curious to see what others do, and learn the easy way (so without try things and subsequently loose money). I see many indie games on Steam, so I take it as being the safest way so far, at least for games you want to sell.
     
  2. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Copy protection is a racket designed to sell copy protection software.
     
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  3. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Short statement without much to document it, account as personal opinion. Noted but it didn't really inform anyone about the process of distributing and protecting your work.

    Heard similar statements about insurance policies; antivirus, vaccine, drugs; so forgive me if I dismiss statements that sound more like opinions and less as a way to educate people on a topic. I appreciated the answer though, thanks for your time.
     
  4. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Have you taken the time to look into sources of pirated software? One major problem with the "anyone can copy it" theory is that the people who are making copies available are not just "anyone". They're almost always armed with at least a program that can bypass software and hardware protections if not the people who are creating the programs in the first place.

    Steam isn't providing you with protection against actual pirates. It's providing you with protection against that one guy who cracks his software not to distribute it but to be able to play it offline, without having to use the CD, without having to check the color/symbol wheel, etc.

    Basically it provides you protection against your paying customers who merely want to not be inconvenienced by you.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
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  5. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    https://www.forbes.com/sites/daniel...t-doesnt-work-cd-projekt-on-drm/#1d6781eb40bc

    https://www.windowscentral.com/how-aggressive-drm-games-only-hurts-consumer

    https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-drm-wont-ever-work/

    https://www.defectivebydesign.org/so_youve_got_some_questions_do_you

    This is not a "new" discussion by any means. DRM does nothing. People who are pirating games do not have an meaningful conversion rate into sales when DRM is a factor. DRM does not work and even Denuvo, the current "unbreakable" DRM can be circumvented. It is not a "personal opinion" but something that has been fairly common knowledge going on a decade now.
     
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  6. Ryiah

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    This. Plus it's not like there is a lengthy period of time between when the game is released and when the copy protection system is broken. Devil May Cry 5 was released back on March 5th (less than a week ago depending on your time zone) and it's protection system (Denuvo) was defeated within a day (according to a cracked game tracker).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denuvo
     
  7. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Yep, have been a gamer since when I was 9; and been making software for the past 20 years, so piracy is something that I am aware and accustomed to.
    Any protection can be bypassed; the difference is that a pirate crew is more likely to spend time to crack a AAA software; and not necessarily an indie title, unless it has wide visibility. That is a given.

    The difference is that if you put no protections at all, even the 12 year old kid can copy your product on a usb stick and pass it on; so when you plan to sell software, you put into account piracy, but you don't leave everything under the sun for anyone to pick, so you can cut out a large amount of low skilled people that does not even know what a disassembler is.

    Not sure about your analogy about protections, but we don't use colored wheels and CD since monkey island maybe? Nowadays everything is digital, and as such, the statement that protections are in the way of the legit user that wants to play offline are ancient history.

    A protection system is not a mean to bother your customer. I never got bothered by protections, andI have no game that require me to be online to play, except MMO or online multiplayer games; so I am not affected directly. Also I am not deploying any game that require a 24/7 connection, nor employing a protection system that require constant connection to internet, so I don't see the problem with Steam protection model.

    Then if a AAA software company decide to add a protection like Denuvo on top of the Steam DLL; that is their problem. I don't sell 1M copies for my game, so such extreme measures are not really giving me any benefit.
     
  8. Ryiah

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    See here is the problem. If the copy protection system for one game is the same as every game then it's irrelevant which game is the one that they started with. Visibility means nothing when you can simply download the program to break the copy protection system.
     
  9. darshie1976

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    First link: DRM does not work; well, I think I did say that already in my first post, if you would read it.
    Second link: same as above
    Third link: same as above
    4th: lots of info on DRM and generic description.

    Now, where does any of those links say that DRM are "a racket designed to sell DRM licenses"? That is what you want to see in these articles? We go back to personal opinion.
    Also who said that it is a new thing?

    I guess there is a problem here in something called "text comprehension". Do they still teach it in schools nowadays? Because I suspect that what others read is bla bla bla bla DRM bla bla bla it works bla bla bla

    Selective comprehension is a very serious problem these days; and I really can't account for what others read in a sentence or paragraph; so I can only say "thanks for your reply".

    I could care less if DRM are X or Y; I did point out what can be used to protect your software from occasional people that may just copy it, and asked for what other people that did SHIP products and PUBLISHED them successfully, use, as mean to protect and publish their product.

    If you want to make it a SJW topic about DRM, please count me out; I have work to do, and I do not come on the Unity forum to have philosophical discussions about freedom or conspiracy or other things like this. I am purely interested in the technical and business part of making entertainment software.
     
  10. Ryiah

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    Everything is digital but not everyone has a solid connection to the Internet. According to the United States Department of Commerce approximately one-third of rural Americans are on dial-up.

    https://www.inc.com/dustin-mckissen...america-why-thats-a-problem-for-everyone.html
     
  11. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Ok let me ask you this: how many software did you ship in your career, in how many were you involved in a substantial measure, in how many of these software you did gain public visibility and the product was promoted on prominent sites or other media?

    And this is not to minimize the statement you made, but just to understand where do you sit on the ladder of the software world, because your opinion and ideas may be based on what you experienced.

    If you sell indie software, people won't crack your games, you won't buy Denuvo, unless you got cash to burn, and maybe the protection companies do not even want to sign up a contract with your company because it is not useful to them nor profitable... if this is the realm that we are talking about, then nobody cares about pirating a game in such realm. You will find the occasional guy that wants to save 9.99 and get the game for free, and as such; if you have even a limited amount of protection, you get those 9.99 in your pocket, or if you don't, at least the guy dind't get anything for free.

    If you are Ubisoft or whatever other AAA game company; things are different, and we don't even go there, because for them, like in the case of CDP:R, even if people pirate your game, you could care less, because your sales cover for it.

    That was the original point about using some form of protection: avoid that at least the average guy get the software for free; and it is clear that when people can get something without efforts, they do get it.
    Then if someone wants to spend time for a game that sold 200 copies and crack it to put it out there; whatever...that is beyond your control, but at least you did what you can to protect your work and the one from the people you paid for working on your product.
     
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  12. darshie1976

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    Yes, then they can't even use Steam or other portals to get games then, because they are on dialup. I would not expect to find fortnite or destiny 2 players in rural areas, if their issue is with internet connections. They may buy a console and play games on physical support that does not require an internet connection.
     
  13. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Once again; the pro/against DRM is irrelevant; the point of the post is to share experience of shipped products, and what was used for such products, to limit spreading of unauthorized copies.
     
  14. AcidArrow

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    We did nothing for protection. I bet most people on here also did nothing.

    Also General Discussion is not the place for "the technical and business part of making entertainment software".
     
  15. Ryiah

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    On the contrary obtaining the games is relatively trivial if you have a laptop. I'm in a rural section of Virginia (and one of the very few that has a good connection but only because I'm literally on the highway where the fibre optics pass by). We have a McDonalds with free WiFi. Getting food and a game at the same time seems like a great deal.

    I'll pass. I've provided references and that's more than enough in my eyes considering you've provided nothing yourself.
     
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  16. Antypodish

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    Best protection is solid fan base. They will also promote for free.

    I haven't tried all games I have, but I know I got one game at least on steam, which was unable to play without internet connection. Even there was single player option. You won't know, until you have no connection.
     
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  17. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Well, from your signature I see that you shipped mobile software; as such you inherit the layer of protection from the google store and apple store. Did you ship also products for Windows, OSX or Linux, without any protection? If that is the case, where did you publish your product?

    I disagree on the statement that this is not the right place for such topics; on the contrary; people that may be starting with game development, should see threads like this to get an idea about the fact that making games involve also what is behind the promotion and distribution (unless they pay someone to do that of course).
     
  18. Murgilod

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    The only time I have ever bothered to deal with any form of DRM was when a platform holder specifically requested it or, in the case of a recent project, removing it because some stores outright do not allow DRM. Getting software for free is not something you can prevent because DRM doesn't work and you can just type the name of the game into a torrent search. The average person who pirates a game is not a master criminal, they're just somebody with a computer who heard about The Pirate Bay.

    Because you're going to inevitably ask: I have been part of production of games that have released on Steam, itch,io, GoG, the Wii U, DLSite (adult content), Fakku (adult content), and the Vita in a capacity that had me engaging with DRM or the lack thereof.
     
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  19. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    No worries, it seems that I can't satisfy the interest you have, in discussing about topics that are not related to my original post. Thanks for your time
     
  20. Antypodish

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    And in fact not even torrent is required. There are websites, which provide mirror links to playable copies, of all sorts games and software.
     
  21. AcidArrow

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    Not really. Especially for Google Play, it has one form of protection which isn't very effective anyway and we have it disabled.

    About the rest, NDAs etc, but we don't plan to add DRM.
     
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  22. Murgilod

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    I find torrents are the easiest to engage with thanks to magnet links becoming well supported years back. Click, run the installer, done. Also it's easier to find reputable sites than "safe" mirror link sites.
     
  23. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    That is a good point; did you noticed in your sales, that the fanbase would shield you from potential illegal distribution of your software?

    The lack of internet connection is an issue in some areas; even a single activation with a code may be able to work in such conditions. I buy regularly software for music production and all that they use is a serial to authorize online. After that, I need no connection
     
  24. darshie1976

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    Thanks for this insight, it seems that you did have bad experiences with DRM.

    Pirating software is an illegal act; I didn't write the law and I do not condone nor justify other people's actions. When someone get a movie or a game from pirate bay, is responsible of his/her action, and it is not up to me to even care if that is something fair or not. If the law say that something can't be done, you don't do it, or fight the law to change it. This is my stance on the subject. I don't replace myself with a lawyer, unless I have a title and knowledge to do it.

    As someone that make software for living (paid by others mostly), I put value in what I do, and feel right to find ways to protect yourself; that's all.

    And thanks for backing up your statement with your background; that add weights to statements.
     
  25. Murgilod

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    Pirating software is an illegal act (some places) but so is jaywalking.
     
  26. darshie1976

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    Torrent is a transmission protocol, it is neither good or bad; exactly like a boat that carry people or packs of drugs or weapons or what else. Of course there is a negative connotation when talking about torrents, but that is not because of the media itself, but because of the content that goes on it. Most companies offer torrents to get legit data, like OS distributions or images of old documents
     
  27. darshie1976

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    Correct; but pirating is a copyright violation, and considered either civil or criminal, depending from the case. As such it is a felony.

    Jaywalking is considered a misdemeanor, not a felony. There is a world of difference.
     
  28. Murgilod

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    It doesn't matter what the classification of the crime is when nobody punishes you for it, what matters is how easy it is.
     
  29. darshie1976

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    I fail to understand the connection of this sentence with the original post. The "whataboutism" is not something that I am inclined to follow.
     
  30. AndersMalmgren

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    At best copy protection will just be a annoyance to the paying customer, at worst it will degrade performance.
     
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  31. GameDevCouple_I

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    Honestly implementing copy protection in your game is a great way to decrease uptake.

    The developer of terraria did the best combat of piracy:

    He went on all the torrent entries for his game early as much as possible and copy and pasted a comment saying he would not punish people for pirating and understood that not everyone can afford to pay, but went on to ask that if someone enjoyed the game that they purchase it down the line as he is an indie and cannot afford to lose much sales. Many many users commented back in that thread to say they would purchase.

    Whether they did or not noone knows, but I can tell you that no copy protection works in the end, people will get around it. Your better off trying to convert those pirates than block them out.

    EDIT: also, to my everlasting shame the reason I know this is I was one of those pirates that was converted. I was a young teenager at the time and was pirating games back then (have not for a long long time but I did when I was young), and his comments made me go out and buy the game (which again, to my everlasting shame at the time, was only like £5 anyway!)
     
  32. Joe-Censored

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    People who pirate games are extremely unlikely to buy your game if it were somehow impossible to pirate. The most, and really only, effective copy protection is games designed to be online services, such as MMO's.
     
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  33. darshie1976

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    This is an interesting take; they did play on the psychology of people, making them believe that it was OK to get the pirated version, counting on the fact that this will reduce their interest in getting the game illegally.
    It is an alternative approach, not sure if that did increase their sales or not, although Terraria while indie, is not a 200 copies game. In that case you go in the realm of top tier indie. I don't believe any of the games I made are even close to be considered as such (the rest is either commercial software or AAA games, so that does not count).

    We all were teenager; people old enough may remember Xcopy, and the copies of the codes included in the manuals, which was used as copy protection in many cases. The difference is that there are people that even at 20, 30 or 40, continue to get stuff for free just because it is easily available. As long as they have to put efforts in it, they usually move on; which is why I am a supporter of protections on software.
     
  34. darshie1976

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    And that's fine; nobody want to push them to buy anything. The only expectation is to not give them anything they didn't pay for. At least not easily.

    I get your point on being online, although that works for certain games. For example for games like the new sim city; that didn't end up very well, since you were forced to be online even if you were playing your offline game on your machine.
     
  35. darshie1976

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    I am just curious to know if anyone on this forum make any money with Unity games. Considering that most of the replies focus on the bad of copy protection; I assume everyone here, release their games and applications for free or is not concerned about loosing sales due to illegal copies.

    It is quite striking, since the mood on the Unreal forum is much different; so I was expecting some sort of feedback based on actual practices that were able to make the software safer.
    Or maybe who does protect their software, is very keen on not revealing how; to not give away the solution to circumvent their protection. I would say that it would make sense to not say anything.
     
  36. ChazBass

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    Then why your post in the first place? Passive aggressive much? Searching here, or via Google will present you with more discussions on this topic then you can read. Take a look.

    There is no such thing as piracy protection. Piracy impediments, sure.
     
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  37. darshie1976

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    The answer would be clear if you would read the original post.

    While some users were helpful staying on topic, I got sucked into liberal SJW against copy protection hell; instead of talking with adults entrepreneurs that actually ship products and can share their experiences. I enjoy reading personal experiences, but I am more interested in hearing real life scenarios and what kind of means were taken in account, to distribute a software product and protect it from occasional piracy.

    But for some reasons, people just think that we are talking of how safe or unbreakable a copy protection system is. I swear I could write a psychology essay a month, just by collecting all the ideas that people get on a forum, because they don't understand the original question.
     
  38. N1warhead

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    Honestly man, the more you dwell into the entire piracy thing, the more it makes you not even want to dwell on ever trying to combat it.
    AAA Companies spend millions every year just to try and stop people, and always end up failing.

    So that begs the question, is it really even worth trying to prevent it?
    Most people are honest and buy the game(s)/software(s). Some aren't, but most are.

    This is probably why everything is going towards streaming games now, it's the only real way I can see to stop people from pirating things, as you never actually have the game on your own device or other forms of media.
     
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  39. AcidArrow

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    Why would you assume that?
     
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  40. Ryiah

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    I know a number of people on these forums that make money off of Unity games. Some percentage of them have taken part in threads just like this one (we usually have at least one of these threads per year) and their responses weren't too far away from the responses I gave.

    Just about all of the ones I can think of frequent this section of the forums and they've been online at least once since the thread was created which leads me to conclude most of them are just passing over this thread for now if not outright ignoring it.

    I don't want to poke too many people but I know @Meltdown has at least one game and has given some sound advice on how to discourage piracy (discourage sounds like the right word since it's a constant battle). You can find his game at the link below as well as one of his posts listing a few ways (in very brief format) to combat piracy.

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/743830/SuperTrucks_Offroad/
    https://forum.unity.com/threads/has-anyone-had-their-game-illegally-downloaded.278764/#post-1913870

    Since @Ony appears to be logging in lately I'll go ahead and poke her too. I won't link to her games since they're definitely not safe for work but I will link to an interview with her.

    http://www.vpdaily.com/jenna-fearon-interview/

    Beyond that just do a basic search of the forums (through Google and not that joke we call the forum search) with phrases like "anti-piracy", "copy protection", "drm", etc and you'll come across numerous results. Adding the names of the forum regulars helps to narrow it down a lot. Like I said there is at least one thread a year now.
     
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  41. Captain-Cutwood

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    To: anyone reading this thread. Background, I am working on my first game, so do find the discussion interesting. My question: Beside streaming, what experience does anyone have to offer about publishing a game where the revenue comes from advertising (similar I imagine to YouTube). I notice that Unity has a plug-in through the Package Manager that states - "Unity Ads is a video ad network for iOS and Android that allows you to quickly and effectively monetize your game." Anyone making a return on this?
     
  42. Ryiah

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    A return implies there is an investment. You don't pay anything to show ads in your game. I have seen a few threads saying it wasn't a terribly great source of income but most of the threads are a couple years old now. Below is an example.

    https://forum.unity.com/threads/rea...l-rewarded-videos-0-6-ecpm-really-low.394996/

    One poster made a comparison between Unity Ads and Admob. I'll directly link to that one.

    https://forum.unity.com/threads/rea...deos-0-6-ecpm-really-low.394996/#post-3259992

    Incidentally the downside with asking if "anyone" made money is that there is always that obscene outlier that isn't going to tell you anything useful. Crossy Roads is the one for Unity Ads at $3 million.

    https://venturebeat.com/2015/03/03/crossy-road-earns-3m-in-revenue-from-unitys-video-ads/
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  43. darshie1976

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    I agree with some of your points. It is a problem, it has always been there, but you have 2 ways to deal with it: either you cover with sales, the loss; or you find a way to limit it (not remove the issue, we both know that it is not possible, otherwise we would not be here talking).

    The former works only if you have a AAA company behind; that can guarantee sales to cover for losses.

    The latter is what every "common" developer or small studio do: they try to limit the loss. Following your approach, since we have mass shooting , why bother trying to stop them? Since we have violence and criminality, why bother to have jail or police, since that does not solve the issue?

    The fact that a problem exist, and it is not easy to resolve, does not translate automatically in avoiding to think about it and move on. Or maybe that's why the problem is still there: because people moved on instead of fix it. Can't say.

    Streaming is an option, but then you shoot on your foot, because you force people to be online all the time. Which is what many, rightfully so, point out when they say that protections only upset customers and make their life harder
     
  44. darshie1976

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    ADS returns are usually through 3rd party transactions. You sell their ads, they give you a cut of the money if there is traffic coming from your app. I did work on a "match 3" type of game, but it was on mobile. It was free, and ads would bring revenue, through forcefully subject the user to watch videos while playing, now and then. The alternative was to buy the game gold pass that would remove ads.

    Monetization is a whole different topic that would take weeks of discussions on its own. as such I would suggest to open a specific thread on it, to explore the various options.
     
  45. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    Because from various answers, I heard that either no protections were used, since they do not work; or that piracy is something cute, because the poor kid can't afford something so it is just fine to let them have it.

    If I see a person that sell food in a store, saying that it is ok for people to steal from him, and he does not even have a lock on the door because "whatever they get in anyway"; I would wonder if he has a charity or if he even make any money at all.
     
  46. AcidArrow

    AcidArrow

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    Yeah, okay, I can see now you’re not really interested to actually learn what other devs do with DRM.
     
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  47. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    These are not even remotely equivalent. We're still selling our games, we're just not worried about a nebulous threat that has no actual evidence supporting the idea that these people would somehow start buying games if piracy wasn't possible.
     
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  48. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    I suspect the reason for the many threads is a growing concern.

    I would like to point out though that I didn't ask for a way to get no piracy. I did list what I did use in the past, what I did work on, and simply left the mic open for anyone with experience on the field, to point out what did the do, as you rightfully said, to discourage piracy.

    If my post was perceived as me asking how to stop piracy, either I need to improve my English (which is not my main language BTW), or I was not able to explain myself in a way that was easy to be digested. I assumed that on the Unity forum, there were many users with shipped games that would, like me, experience the problems of dealing with piracy. It was in no way, shape or form, a call to start yet another chat about how to resolve the problem. Just how to live with it.

    What I have seen is not everything, so I think it is fair to ask for other's opinions based on their experiences.
     
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  49. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Isn't this backwards?

    Which of the following do you think is most beneficial to your business's income?
    A: Stopping people who won't give you money from playing your game.
    B: Increasing the number of people paying for your game.

    The ROI of copy protection comes if the protection itself results in enough gained sales to cover the cost of implementing the protection. Which brings me to...

    I think this is backwards, too.

    "AAA" businesses have the money and resources to invest into copy protection without impacting the rest of the game's development. Also, since most big budget games have a huge sales spike at the start of their lifetime, the copy protection has a genuine shot at a positive return on investment since it will be most effective when most of the sales are happening.

    Indies generally have fewer resources, so want to focus them on making the best product, and less marketing reach resulting in sales more spread out over a product's lifetime. Rather than stopping non-paying people it just gets them more benefit to focus on making more sales instead.

    Is it harder to stop one pirate, or find one new customer?

    Locks on doors have clear and highly positive ROIs. In this context that's a far more relevant consideration than the morality tales you already said you want to avoid. ;)

    I've done this before. For what it's worth, I wouldn't willfully do it on one of my own projects unless maybe I got into the same kind of AAA position I described above.

    The catch is that no matter what you do, even if you put the authentication part on a remote server, the client has to have enough information or code locally to resolve things down to a run/abort decision. I'm far from an expert but, as far as I can tell, all of the complex stuff people do on top of that is really just obfuscating it - where the decision is made, what a run/abort decision looks like, how to contact the server and interpret it's responses if one is involved. With that in mind, I'd suggest learning about cryptography if you're considering taking this route.
     
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  50. darshie1976

    darshie1976

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    I never asked to learn what other devs do with DRM; I asked what they do. If you can find where I did ask about DRM in particular; please point it out to me.