I was planning on responding to this thread yesterday afternoon, but whilst on the way to the studio I was involved in a car crash (no one hurt, which is good) and was a bit shaken up, so not the time for me to be replying in the calm manner that I wanted to to this thread.
This was always going to be an emotive subject. Any form of copy protection is. There's no conspiracy theory about SEGA posting about it though - they normally do so, as it's a publishing thing, not a development thing. It is their job to come up with recommendations in this area, but we were consulted about the various options available. This is by far and away the best one that was presented to us, from a user perspective, a business perspective and a protection perspective.
No one from SEGA or SI would say that using the system that we are means that the game will not be cracked at some point. It's bound to be. But with the exception of FM2009, every version of FM has been available to pirate before the retail release. During that few days, every year, retail see pre-orders being cancelled. Every year retail see pre-orders not being collected, even those with "free gifts" and where deposits have been paid. If it can be made that those people who legitimately buy our games this year get to play it before those that are pirating, that will be a good thing. If it can be that way for a few months, weeks, or even days, after that release, we do believe it will make a big difference.
We are also not saying that we believe that if the game isn't cracked, all of those previous pirates will buy it. I do not believe that 1 pirated copy = 1 lost sale. The vast majority of people who pirate it won't pay the money for it, certainly not at launch. But I do believe that a proportion of them will do. And those extra sales, for however long the game can be protected, will lead to an increase in dev budgets, and therefore better, or more, games for all.
Dave gave some stats out earlier which were slightly inaccurate. It's not the case that there are 3 people playing pirated copies of FM for every 1 legitimate customer - there are more than 4 people playing pirated copies of FM for every legitimate customer. And to the question on whether that takes into account people who have bought who play with CD cracks, it doesn't matter, as even if every single person who bought FM played with a CD crack, there would still be 3 people playing pirated versions for each 1 legitimate customer who has decided to install a 3rd party, illegal in the majority of countries, CD crack.
There are people claiming on here that the reason for doing this is just to kill the second hand market. That's simply not true - it didn't even come into the conversation when discussing protection for this year. According to the licensing agreement for the game, whether you've read it or not, it's against the license to re-sell the game. As it is for the vast majority of PC games. The vast majority of retailers who deal in second hand games do not trade in PC games, whatever the protection is. And the replayability factor of FM is huge, so second hand isn't something that has affected us in a major way at all.
One big thing that was taken into account when looking at the various systems available was how many people, given the choice with FM11 of whether to install the game via Steam or without Steam, chose to install via Steam. The results surprised me, with the majority of people deciding to install through Steam.
There've been questions about what I think of the reaction, given that it's 17 pages so far. Well, obviously I'm disappointed when anyone says they aren't going to buy our next release, and I doubt there's anything that I'll be saying here that will appease those people. But the reality is that those being negative in the 17 pages are mainly the same people - about 50 in total. The negative reaction from a few people is very similar to that when Total War announced that they were going down this route. And when Civ went down this route. I'm sure both Creative Assembly and Firaxis were just as disappointed to be losing some long term customers as I am - but that doesn't change the decision that has been made, nor change my belief that from the options we had, it's the best one for all.
We will, continuously, look for other ways to provide our games to people as long as it doesn't compromise the security that is needed. I've been vocal about how I really like the OnLive system, for example, and this is something we'll continue to investigate. That does require you to register, though, and does require an internet connection permanently to play, so certainly won't suit all if we do go down that route.
There've been many posts about the problem being the installation of third party software on your machine, but that's just a part of life when it comes to PC games. Whether that be Direct X, graphics drivers, Windows/MacOS, font rendering technology, web browsing tech or other middleware, anytime you install a game, or application on your computer, you require third party software.
People have also asked "what about those who don't have an internet connection". When we had activation for FM2009 which was done both online and via telephone, less than 4% of people, globally, chose to use the telephone route. Some of these people had a net connection, but didn't want to authenticate that way (as per the huge threads at that time). So, again whilst it's disappointing that some people genuinely don't have a net connection and might miss out, this was taken into account with the overall decision, and there wasn't an option presented to me by SEGA this year that didn't involve purely online activation.
There has also been talk about other PC titles on here that will get your money instead. I've seen the following being mentioned so far (apologies if I've missed any) - Call of Duty, Battlefield, Fifa Manager, FIFA, Batman & Rage. Battlefield, FIFA Manager & FIFA on PC will all require EA's online system, called Origin, and for you to register with them. Rage is Steamworks, as we are. Call of Duty uses Activision's new online system. I do not know about Batman's authentication method, or whether it has one.
You've asked how we're letting people know about this. Well, apart from the forum thread, there was a mailshot on Friday to hundreds of thousands of our registered customers to let them know about it, as well as telling them about the blogs and the release date. Since then, pre-orders have gone up massively with our pre-order position at Amazon in the UK (for example) going up from the mid 20's into the top 10, peaking at 5 and currently at 7, which is way higher than we normally are at this time of year. There will also be, front of pack in between the SI logo and the age rating, in big letters, the words "requires internet connection to activate", which was insisted upon by me for us to be able to go ahead with this. I will be chasing SEGA first thing on Monday to ensure that all retailers who have packshots online switch to the final packshot, rather than the one they are currently using.
I, like many of the people who aren't happy with the decision, am also a very principled person. There are certain chains that I don't eat at. There's even a local sandwich shop that I won't go to anymore as they wouldn't change the bun on a sandwich I wanted (the original had sesame seeds on them, and I have a nut allergy) when they'd done so dozens of times in the past. I am well aware that some people will not buy the game purely on principle because we have gone Steam only this year and, as I said above, I'm very disappointed by that. Despite my own principles though, I fully understand and support the decision that has been made, given the options presented.
I also think that Steam itself is fantastic. I have more than 80 games on my account. They are massively helpful at every turn to help us get the game integrated with their features, like achievements, and allowing people with PC's & Mac's to be able to play games on both systems. SEGA's customer support team will be on hand if anyone does have an issue, as always, on top of Steam's support.
So, that's my opinion on the 17 pages that I've read so far. As I said, it's not going to appease all those who are anti, as some of those who are anti will only be happy if the decision is reversed, and it isn't going to be. Hopefully, though, some of the points I've made will appease some of you.
There are 2 questions that I haven't been able to answer that I do think need answering, which are how do people in countries where the game isn't sold play, and what about people in the forces who don't have net connections. Those are things for SEGA to look into, and I would hope that they would get back to you on those.