It was recently revealed on Twitter that famous game developer CD Projekt Red own original documents related to the development of their upcoming project Cyberpunk 2077 that are currently being held for ransom. The person or group threaten to release them online if their demands are not met.
CD Projket Red released this statement on Twitter:
This is not the first high-profile hacking on a property. Earlier this year, the first 10 episodes of #OrangeIsTheNewBlack were held for ransom, and only a few weeks ago another hacker (or hackers) held Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales for ransom, too. None of these ransom demands were met by the studios or game developers.
There has been a history of high-profile hacks and leaks in the past (such as the infamous leaking of an uncompleted X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the source code for Half-Life 2). This is a frontier in the digital age that hasn’t been dealt with yet. Is it avoidable? Probably not. Still, this practice of taking IP hostage doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, let's look at the two sides to this contentious issue, from the perspective of studios and consumers.
From the studio's point of view, giving into the demands is inconceivable. To the studios' (and game developers') credit, they haven’t given into the demands of the hackers. Perhaps Disney is less concerned with spoilers in Pirates 5, but having the first 10 episodes of Orange is the New Black leaked online has the potential of giving away major storylines.
From an artistic angle, this could be the most frustrating aspect of the story. When you write a story meant to be delivered with surprise and certain progression, the last thing you want is to have it spoiled all over the internet.
Regardless, the studios can’t give into demands because if you do it once, you send a message to people that it can work. Once you do, you open the floodgates for more to try. If you’re a studio, game developer or a small indie artist, you have to trust that people and news outlets won’t spread the information. If you give into demands, it’ll only happen more as time goes on.
We live in an age of instant gratification. I’m not saying that is a good or bad thing, but it is simply a thing. We don’t have to wait for your mail man to bring you the latest video game, you can download the game straight onto your console. You don’t have to go out and buy a whole new CD or Vinyl for new music, you can pick and choose which songs you want and either download or stream. #Netflix, #Hulu, #Amazon, or even smaller services like #Filmstruck give you nearly endless possibilities of different movies and TV shows you can watch at the click of a button (all for low prices). This is even true for your books! Download books straight onto your Kindle. It has become so easy and simple to consume media; so easy that perhaps we’ve become a little self-entitled.
We’re all guilty of this, especially when you’re frustrated that your favorite movie isn’t on Netflix. Naturally, with access and cost versus quantity being heavily in favor of the consumer, it’s understandable that the cost of a movie ticket or a new game doesn’t look desirable. You can easily access a free HD version of a movie online.
However, I think we as consumers have a duty to just say no to these versions that have been forcibly taken away from the creator’s hands. Simply put: It is stealing. Putting that PSA aside, you might not think it matters, but I encourage you to think of it from a different angle. Sure, maybe Johnny Depp has made a ton of money and doesn’t need more, maybe the small-time film crew worker trying to make some money in the film industry does.
So, while you were thinking about sticking it to Depp and Disney, you forgot that a movie employs hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people. These are people that aren’t making the millions of dollars these big stars are making. These are people like you and me, people trying to work in the industry they love, trying to make it. When you give into one of these ransom demands, you’re taking away from the little man in the industry, especially at a time when less and less people are going to the theaters.
Now think of it from an artistic side. Imagine you’re an artist (or artists) — the last thing you want is for things to leak from something that isn’t done yet (much like the situation CD Projekt Red is in). I know for my own personal creative projects I don’t want anyone to see it until it arrives to a place that I’m happy with (the same is true just from writing a simple article like this). Imagine something like that for a project that will actually see the light of day. It can hurt the perception of the project and hurt the developer in the long run. Early perception and bad press can bury a project in the video game industry. That’s why CD Projekt Red made sure to say this doesn’t reflect what the game is now.
Plus, CD Projekt is an extremely gamer friendly developer, which is rare these days. Why would you want to screw them over?
It’s tough to ignore cases like this from all perspectives, but studios can’t give into ransom, and consumers have to say no to cases like this. Piracy is always going to be around in the digital age, but perhaps we can all think a little more about it. We can say no so stories like this continue to fade to the background.
What are your thoughts on the current state of piracy in the entertainment industry?