2K's BioShock has been one of this year's most well-received games by both critics and fans, but many PC gamers were angered by the game's lengthy install process, which required users to download files from 2K's servers for the game to initially run. At launch, 2K's patch servers seemed to have a tough time, in that they went down for several hours when eager gamers tried to install their copies.
At the recent Games Connect Asia Pacific conference held in Melbourne, Australia, 2K Australia senior programmer PC team Martin Slater acknowledged that the company received plenty of flak at launch. In a keynote speech that covered 2K Australia's work on BioShock, Slater said that though the company won't be implementing the same launch install-patch strategy for future games, it would do something "similar" because piracy remains one of the biggest problems for PC games.
"When you're releasing simultaneously on the 360 and the PC, one of the things in the back of the publishers' minds and the people who want to make all the money is that we don't want to lose console sales to people ripping off the PC and the piracy issue. If they can get a cheap pirated version on PC, they may not buy the 360 SKU, which is probably your main SKU," he said.
"We went to great lengths to avoid the piracy issue. We had downloadable .EXE, we didn't ship with the actual executable on DVD. We were trying to avoid production DVDs going walkies between the manufacturing process and actually turning up on shelves. You find with a lot of games, what happens is that anywhere between manufacturing and the stores, one of these DVDS will go walkies and end up in the hands of crackers. These crackers are trying to make the day-one crack--the kudos comes in cracking the game before its release. So we went to huge lengths to avoid this.
"We achieved our goals. We were uncracked for 13 whole days. We were happy with it. But we just got slammed. Everybody hated us for it. It was unbelievable.
"It's a complex issue in the PC world, and it's something we need to actively address. It's a really hard question. As a company we need to maximise our sales so we can keep making games. I don't think we'll do what we've done before. There are other issues with downloading an executable. There is a lot of strain on our content-delivery servers and things like that, where everyone has to download a 10MB executable. I don't think we'll do exactly the same thing again, but we'll do something close. You can't afford to be cracked. As soon as you're gone, you're gone, and your sales drop astronomically if you've got a day-one crack."