Iron Lore Entertainment, maker of Titan Quest, is closing up shop due in part to low sales. Michael Fitch, a fellow from THQ, had some interesting things to say about it:
It's a rough, rough world out there for independent studios who want to
make big games, even worse if you're single-team and don't have a
successful franchise to ride or a wealthy benefactor. Trying to make it
on PC product is even tougher, and here's why.
Piracy. Yeah, that's right, I said it. No, I don't want to re-hash the
endless "piracy spreads awareness", "I only pirate because there's no
demo", "people who pirate wouldn't buy the game anyway" round-robin.
Been there, done that. I do want to point to a couple of things, though.
One, there are other costs to piracy than just lost sales. For example,
with TQ, the game was pirated and released on the nets before it hit
stores. It was a fairly quick-and-dirty crack job, and in fact, it
missed a lot of the copy-protection that was in the game. One of the
copy-protection routines was keyed off the quest system, for example.
You could start the game just fine, but when the quest triggered, it
would do a security check, and dump you out if you had a pirated copy.
There was another one in the streaming routine. So, it's a couple of
days before release, and I start seeing people on the forums
complaining about how buggy the game is, how it crashes all the time. A
lot of people are talking about how it crashes right when you come out
of the first cave. Yeah, that's right. There was a security check there.
So, before the game even comes out, we've got people bad-mouthing it
because their pirated copies crash, even though a legitimate copy
won't. We took a lot of sh** on this, completely undeserved mind you.
How many people decided to pick up the pirated version because
it had this reputation and they didn't want to risk buying something
that didn't work? Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy.
. . .
What was the ultimate impact of that? Hard to measure, but it did get
mentioned in several reviews. Think about that the next time you read
"we didn't have any problems running the game, but there are reports on
the internet that people are having crashes."
You have to wonder if Titan Quest would have sold better if they used no copy protection like Stardock's games.