It's always fascinating when developers and publishers have an open discourse with gamers about the industry, and in a recent thread where a fan wondered if Capcom was happy about Devil May Cry 4 sales on the PC, a conversation about digital distribution, piracy, and DRM began that has proven incredibly interesting. Yes, the game got pirated "to hell and back," but Capcom is bullish about the possibilities for future PC games, even if sales of Devil May Cry 4 weren't as strong as some had hoped.
Christian Svensson, the Corporate Officer/VP of Strategic Planning & Business Development of Capcom, spoke at length about the issue on the official forums, adding his annoyance that the team behind the game "didn't use any of the DRM mechanisms requested," and that the game was torrented the day of release. Svensson sees a big help coming from digital distribution channels for future games. "I certainly have pushed for digital distribution on the title (globally, I'm responsible for all DD deals), but Capcom Japan so far has not allowed it," he wrote. "For the record ALL CEI developed titles will be distributed extremely widely via digital channels (not just Steam or Direct2Drive, but more than a dozen partners across more than 100 sites/portals for everything we do)."
Svensson also describes how certain DRM mechanisms, without communication, might give certain games the reputation of being buggy. For instance, both Mass Effect and Bioshock have certain "tripwires" in the game that cause pirated versions to exhibit bug-like characteristics. This might be a problem for pirates who claim to try before they buy. "[The tripwires] are more effective than people think… part of the problem though is that EA and T2 didn't actually communicate what's supposed to happen," he wrote. "[Pirates] get enough of a taste of the game to see if they like the content, but if they want to experience it in non-buggy fashion, they need to buy it legitimately… those issues weren't communicated clearly, and as such, the subset of pirates who use such means to sample content before purchase, were clearly turned off."
It's an interesting point: how many people complain of bugginess of these games online because of their pirated versions not working due to developer tripwires? The fact that these measures weren't discussed is somewhat amazing; this is the first many people will have heard of them, meaning that the "buy the game to get a bug-free experience" argument doesn't hold much water. That only works when there is an open discussion about where those bugs come from.
Is that what PC gamers want? Capcom hopes so
The other problem may have been a lack of support from the gaming press, who didn't seem impressed by such a console-centric game on the PC. "I'm sort of surprised at how few reviews have come out, but then again, there are fewer and fewer outlets reviewing PC games these days," Svensson wrote. "Even so, most reviewers write it off as 'console dreck' because it's not an RTS, an FPS or an MMO… We think there is an audience for action games on PC (that aren't FPses), even if they are sometimesbest played with a gamepad rather than a KB and mouse."
That seems like quite the leap of logic: consoles are selling in great numbers, whereas many people with PCs certainly don't have the hardware to run something like Devil May Cry. The series is so well-known and console-specific, it could just be content that PC gamers aren't interested in—especially if they have to buy a game pad to play well.
There may have been many reasons for Devil May Cry's low performance on the PC: Capcom's less than stellar reputation on PC ports, action-centric non-FPS games have trouble finding an audience on the PC, and piracy are just the three most obvious ones. DRM continues to plague the industry, as even "effective" measures seem to backfire. Still, Capcom is hopeful. "I have a kickass PC connected to my 65" 1080p TV in my living room. It'll destroy all of my consoles and ask for seconds in terms of performance. I know there are others out there like me that similarly enjoy that experience," Svensson wrote. "We are members of the PCGA. As a company, we strongly believe that the future of the PC is bright."
We have heard these talking points before, but it's very possible this was just the wrong product on the wrong platform.
Further reading:Sven's Blog: Digital Distribution—What they didn't tell youKotaku: Devil May Cry 4 "Getting Pirated To Hell And Back"