Piracy is on the bummin' elevator and going down! Even though games may not be developed with piracy in mind, the multiplayer modes that are increasingly implemented in games just so happen to be an effective anti-piracy bonus.
Imagine a single player World of Warcraft. Now imagine a campaign only Call of Duty, Halo or Battlefield. Think of Dark Souls, without the phantoms, invaders and messages guiding you away from peril or towards treasure. How about Trials: Evolution without competitive leaderboards?
None of this sounds like much fun. A pirate’s life, if anything, is lonely. People don’t like pirates and pirates (on the majority) can’t hijack their way into online game features. Yes, exceptions exist. But on the whole, an extremely compelling online game mode is a consumer friendly anti-piracy measure that publishers and consumers alike can get behind.
MMOs have been doing it for decades. As eerie and fascinating wandering a world like Azeroth on your own may seem, the masses are buying World of Warcraft for what it's billed as: a massively multiplayer online role playing game. If you want to be a part of it all, you have to pony up and buy a legit copy (in addition to paying a monthly fee).
Your FPS flavor of the week, or more notably, Titanfall, requires the same; you have to shell out the cheddar to really participate.
As for other genres, it's well documented that the increase in online game modes in franchises traditionally known for single player (Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 4, etc.) is primarily a result of developers' and publishers' drive to extend the shelf life of their games long enough for you to buy their DLC, keep playing, and curtail the used games market. The argument could be made, however, that if these online modes are compelling enough, the shelf-life strategy is also an effective anti-piracy measure.
While most developers agree new and creative business models are the best way to combat piracy rather than stricter enforcement, we're only just now seeing actual implementations of "new and creative." Hearthstone is a good example, a free game with competitive online and non restrictive microtransactions. Who would pirate a free game? Even a blockbuster like Dark Souls includes some nifty online features. Yes, Dark Souls is pirated, but I can guarantee its online functionalities swayed more than a handful away from the dark side.
Ideally, with the increase in power and advances in technology afforded by a new "generation," developers will take advantage and include more new and creative gameplay modes in their games, particularly modes that create the same want for connectedness the aformentioned games do.
Gaming platforms are doing particularly well in this regard, too. With Steam, an online digital games storefront, Valve has doubled down on convenience and built an empire out of it. Humble Bundle, Inc. has taken a page out of classical Hollywood’s book by bundling several less desirable games with one or two hits, including a flexible pay structure, slapping some good feelings on it and selling it like gangbusters.
Eventually games and their platforms will exist in a universe where piracy is a non-issue, where pirates are marooned to their own little corner of the gaming web to launch epic raids, completely and utterly alone.
What do you think? Do you want to see more games include multiplayer functionality? Will piracy ever be a non-issue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!