Posted on March 18, 2008,

Sins of a Solar Empire Sales Prove “Piracy is Not the Primary Issue”


Piracy is almost always the one definitive, go-to thing to blame when game companies try to make sense of why their game hasn’t sold well. And it’s a compelling argument – go to any torrent site and you’ll be able to find copies of any and every game you want, available to download for free. Certainly that must be the reason some games fall short of sales expectations.

Stardock would disagree. Their recent release of Sins of a Solar Empire shipped with no sort of CD copy protection and has managed to sell incredibly well. In a post over on the Sins of a Solar Empire forums, Stardock explained their approach – while alien to the games business – ends up with people paying money for their products.

When you develop for a market, you don’t go by the user base. You go by the potential customer base.  That’s what most software companies do. They base what they want to create on the size of the market they’re developing for. But not PC game developers.

PC game developers seem to focus more on the “cool” factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen.  I’ve never considered myself a real game developer. I’m a gamer who happens to know how to code and also happens to be reasonably good at business.

It’s also touched upon how you don’t need a super high-end PC to run Stardock games, yet they still look great. Sure, they could look even better “[b]ut only if we degraded the gaming experience for the largest chunk of people who buy games.”

The reason why we don’t put copy protection on our games isn’t because we’re nice guys. We do it because the people who actually buy games don’t like to mess with it. Our customers make the rules, not the pirates. Pirates don’t count. We know our customers could pirate our games if they want but choose to support our efforts. So we return the favor – we make the games they want and deliver them how they want it. This is also known as operating like every other industry outside the PC game industry.

… In the meantime, if you want to make profitable PC games, I’d recommend focusing more effort on satisfying the people willing to spend money on your product and less effort on making what others perceive as hot.  But then again, I don’t romanticize PC game development. I just want to play cool games and make a profit on games that I work on.

How can you argue with that? Is Sins simply an exception to the rule, or is Stardock right that developers and publishers focus more on trying to keep the pirates out than the customers happy?

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12 Comments on Sins of a Solar Empire Sales Prove “Piracy is Not the Primary Issue”

used cisco

On March 18, 2008 at 4:24 pm

A company focused more on pleasing the customers rather than fighting the pirates and trying to force them to be paying customers? Amazing. I’m glad they’re having success, unfortunately, the lesson will probably be lost on most developers/publishers.

Sure, piracy is bad and I’m not one to make up excuses for it (try before you buy, etc) but still, when we start to see that fighting piracy is hurting paying customers, we need to take another look at things. I’m glad this company has done just that.


On March 18, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Couldn’t agree with you more, used cisco.


On March 18, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Good for Stardock, glad to see they are doing so well, and it is a really great game.


On March 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm

I’m glad Stardock has once again pulled through for its customers. If other publishers could follow in their footsteps it would be the golden age of gaming. ;D

I’m sure we all remember the copy protection firm that decided to post torrents of galciv 2, what more proof do we need that these people are evil and greedy?


On March 18, 2008 at 6:24 pm

The funniest thing is that whatever they do to fight against piracy they’ll never win. Do they really think securom or whatever stops any pirate from playing their game? I highly doubt that.


On March 18, 2008 at 9:35 pm

I am going to buy this game today, just because they are honest and not greedy leeches like most companies.

Captain Angry

On March 18, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Call me devil’s advocate but these just sounds like y 20/20 hindsight.

Plenty of games come out with no protection and still sell no copies because they suck. I think a good game will sell regardless of whether it has protection or not.

Lets not ignore the fact theres only been like 8 or 9 space themed 4x strategy games put out this decade, this is the only one since summer 2007. Its a niche market and good titles are years apart, of course its gonna sell.


On March 18, 2008 at 11:42 pm

hahaha its like saying we won’t put copyright protection or any protection because pirates love challenges. If we leave it without protection, pirates don’t feel challenged because there is nothing to crack. This is actually a good way of approaching things. Now if only other companies followed…


On March 19, 2008 at 6:06 am

Oh god I’m so sick of this piracy talk.

Josh Gamestop manager

On March 19, 2008 at 8:04 am

Why is nobody talking about the fact the game is basicaly ONLINE only? WIth no single player campaigne to speak of except playing the computer which is rediculously lame? Once you leave your planet for any length of time the computer sends 50 bombers to blow it up then leaves before you even get there.

The game was built to be played online. You need a keycode to play online. Duh. Games going to sell..

IMO its not even that great of a game.


On March 19, 2008 at 8:29 am

Stardock could put ISOs of all their titles online somewhere and people would still buy them. People will pay for hardcopies of media if it’s quality material. I think this is why most media publishers are afraid of piracy – their business is all about quantity instead of giving people what they want.


On March 19, 2008 at 2:17 pm

How can Sins be an exception to the rule when the exact same thing happened with the release of Galactic Civilisations 2?

Its not the game thats the exception to the rule, its the company. They don’t treat their customers as thieves, nor do they treat them as imbeciles who buy flashy stuff because its cool.

They treat customers like any other successful company would were it any other industry – with a degree of respect and trust. Not only that but they actually produce a product that is WORTH buying.