Cracks in figures

Anything about MUSIC but doesn't fit into the forums above.
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Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:42 am

Hi all,

About a year ago we started to use Google Analytics on our website. One nice thing it can do is, it gives us quite nice charts of all sorts of things. This includes a statistical evaluation of people who click links in our "expired demo versions". Latter is our term for an incomplete crack of our software.

Here's a chart of one year of traffic to our website, generated from cracks that didn't quite work out:

Image

What does it mean?

1. ACE Day

First of all, we still have the good old 17th of each month. That's our "ACE day". On the 17th of each month ACE checks its serial number twice. If the second check fails then it displays the message "this demo has expired", with an invitation to visit our website. For 4 years now, we have record sales for ACE on the 17th and 18th of each month. I think that maybe a third of the users of ACE have first "tried" a "crack" and then felt compelled to buy. So far so good.

Those ACEs make out about 50% of the overall warez generated traffic. 40% come from Mac while 10% come from PC. That's because there's a crack on PC that works differently, it came out in December and kind of axed this method on PC, while ACE traffic on Mac continues to pour in.

Why only ACE? - Easy, because back then I thought that a simple date check would be cracked first. I put that protection in for two things: A) to test if crackers are any good and B) to have an easy way to identify the trap. Later on I switched to the different URL to identify the source/trap. Obviously, if crackers can't find a simple date check then timebombs are way to go in copy protection.

It means that ACE has a less sophisticated timebomb that happens to a lot of people, while everything else has more elaborate copy protection that targets power users.

Disclaimer: So yes, ACE day is public knowledge now. Does it matter? - Not really. The proof that crackers are easily fooled is worth more than keeping ACE day a secret. It also means that any crackers who read this will need to invest way more time and build a way more sophisticated and time consuming infrastructure to really crack things. In other words: We're contemplating to put our copy protection principles in teh public domain, not just to help others protect their software, but also to show crackers what little chance they have to succeed. I'm sure they'd cringe if they could see what we yet have up our sleeves.

2. Noise Level

The next observation that's really interesting is the extended noise floor since April. What happened there? - Quite simple, we released a new version of everything, and that's pretty much the foundation of the current cracks out there. A similar thing happened in January, but it wasn't quite as high - mostly because serial numbers were leaked, which - naturally - got blacklisted later.

Does that mean that people use more cracks after April? - No, it doesn't. It just means that previous cracks were more sucessful while current cracks have been done less thoroughly. If we wanted to deduct the whole mass of warez users, we could take ACE' other timebombs and correlate the other plug-ins with ACE day. The figure would easily exceed the total of our paying user base.

It also shows that we have a lot of headroom for timebombs. Some of them are really, really cautious. They may fire once in 3 years of production work. Maybe that's too cautious. Maybe we should lower the threshold and increase the "catch rate".

An important thing to note is, not all our timebombs display a kind invitation to visit our website. We also have the good old "melting user interface" in unlimited supply (old pic: http://www.u-he.com/img/ZMelt.png). That one doesn't pose a link, but we believe to have other evidence that it still fires quite often.

Also, I'm quite sure that a large amount of users doesn't follow our invitation. They don't click the link. Those users don't enter our statistics.

3. The Figures

If we take "ACE day" out of the picture, we can see that more than 1300 remaining people have run into our timebombs in one year and clicked the link. It would be about three times as many if the copy protection was as good last year as it is now, and the "dark figure" of people who ran into timebombs but haven't clicked may be a depressing magnifold - if only because crackers and warez forums lately recommend to cut the internet connection even though our stuff does not call home. Ever. All we do is display a link that opens in a browser. Harmless, but good for statistics.

Anyhow. 1300 people have used our stuff warezed in production. These timebombs - unlike ACE Day - don't trigger lightly. They trigger when people actually produce music and invest considerable time on their projects. These 1300 guys are power users. They are not those "wouldn't buy anyway" people.

With ACE out of the picture, we can conservatively say that we've lost 100$ on each person. That amounts to the equivalent of two full time employees that could improve our stuff, make it look nicer, work better, be better. Or, it could mean a considerable cut in price. Or both.

Nevertheless, a few of these people end up buying our stuff. That's good. We're happy to have them, but I also love to phantasize what we'd be able to do if they were more.

Just some food for thought.

robogone
KVRAF
21375 posts since 26 Jul, 2005 from Gone

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:58 am

None of this surprises me really, and I'm sure it doesn't surprise you. It's a shame that there is still the pervasive attitude that software is something that it's OK to steal - you just need to look here occasionally to see how often people are very open about their use of cracks, and I suspect there are many more here who hide their use of cracks.

xNiMiNx
KVRian
906 posts since 24 Mar, 2010

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:01 am

Interesting read. So both sides of the coin show up? People who use the cracks do buy, but not enough, and it still hurts the dev's?

I wonder what percentage visit your site and purchase without using the link that pops up. Pretty sad / disappointing that theyre 'power users' using them.

Also, lol @ Zmelt. I would Love to see statistics of monitor sales when that happens :D

Anyways, thanks for the read. I find this a lot more informational coming from a dev than say from some unknown consumer or pirate posting / ranting online.

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GaryG
KVRAF
7386 posts since 13 Jan, 2003 from Darkest Kent, UK

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:08 am

robojam wrote:I suspect there are many more here who hide their use of crack.
FTFY

:hihi:


Seriously, thanks, an interesting read that puts things in perspective.

User avatar
Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:10 am

Well, thing is, I don't judge. Everything has to be taken with a grain of salt, naturally.

I believe though that piracy has an impact on sales, even if it can't be qualified.

I also believe that it's *me* who is to decide how people test my software. If I lose sales, then it's my fault. If I gain sales, then it's my achievement. But it's not a cracker's say about how I do my marketing.

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osiris
KVRAF
7154 posts since 20 Nov, 2003 from Lost and Spaced

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:10 am

Fascinating stuff Urs, I can barely read the chart, but it looks like Mac users are the #1 cracked user?

robogone
KVRAF
21375 posts since 26 Jul, 2005 from Gone

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:10 am

GaryG wrote:
robojam wrote:I suspect there are many more here who hide their use of crack.
FTFY

:hihi:
:hihi:

...and don't do a particularly good job at hiding it in some cases...

User avatar
Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:13 am

osiris wrote:Fascinating stuff Urs, I can barely read the chart, but it looks like Mac users are the #1 cracked user?
Nope, it just means that "ACE Day" happens more often on Macs - i.e. the PC crack is better than the Mac crack.

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Tricky-Loops
Banned
10200 posts since 12 Mar, 2012 from the Bavarian Alps to my feet and the globe around my head

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:20 am

What do those 1,300 power users do when the time bomb goes up and they're still working on a project? :?:

Would be too much hassle for me. If I cannot afford a U-He synth, I simple use an other synth! There are so many synths there that even the poorest guy on the earth can make some music... :wink:

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Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:32 am

Tricky-Loops wrote:What do those 1,300 power users do when the time bomb goes up and they're still working on a project? :?:
If we're lucky, they buy.

However, some of our timebombs are really friendly. They just display a black hole on the UI or so. This means, the users can still bounce their tracks.

We have to yet decide if we also want to impose more "demo restrictions" that work on the audio. While I think this is less friendly, it may increase our revenue from cracks dramatically.

We've been discussing the use of "honeypots" for crackers to turn piracy into a marketing instrument. There's a great potential there, but it requires a way of thinking that's "not me". I'd much rather see piracy go away completely.

The levels of arguments are quite extraordinary. While we condemn piracy, "perfect copy protection" is only good if every company uses it. Some say, if our stuff wasn't cracked, people would use other stuff. They argue, one can't afford "not to be cracked" as long as others are cracked easily. Of course, this is taken with a large grain of salt.

It's controversial. By nature.

Chapelle
KVRian
1279 posts since 28 Dec, 2007

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:33 am

Urs, can you post, in percent, how many more copies you sell on ACE Day?

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Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:36 am

Chapelle wrote:Urs, can you post, in percent, how many more copies you sell on ACE Day?
I've scheduled a sales report at ShareIt. I don't think it plays much of a role nowadays, but in the early days it was something like 20% or so. We'll know more in a few hours.

(I was actually surprised that ACE Day was still on... I thought it was cracked out years ago)

robogone
KVRAF
21375 posts since 26 Jul, 2005 from Gone

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:37 am

Urs wrote:While we condemn piracy, "perfect copy protection" is only good if every company uses it.
Do you think that perfect copy protection exists though? Over the years I have heard many companies tout their 'uncrackable' protections systems, only to see that it just took longer than usual.

It's controversial as you say, and it even goes to the point where users won't buy software because of the protection system used, which seems kind of counter productive to me.

Personally I would like to see protection systems that are non-intrusive to me as a paying customer, but at the same time I understand the need to protect from lost sales. Thankfully many companies get the balance right, but there are certainly those who don't.

User avatar
Urs
u-he
Topic Starter
27107 posts since 8 Aug, 2002 from Berlin

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:40 am

robojam wrote:
Urs wrote:While we condemn piracy, "perfect copy protection" is only good if every company uses it.
Do you think that perfect copy protection exists though? Over the years I have heard many companies tout their 'uncrackable' protections systems, only to see that it just took longer than usual.

It's controversial as you say, and it even goes to the point where users won't buy software because of the protection system used, which seems kind of counter productive to me.

Personally I would like to see protection systems that are non-intrusive to me as a paying customer, but at the same time I understand the need to protect from lost sales. Thankfully many companies get the balance right, but there are certainly those who don't.
I agree on every point. I used "perfect protection" as a hypothetical term. It doesn't exist IMHO.

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lnikj
KVRAF
2203 posts since 23 May, 2005 from North Cornwall

Post Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:45 am

Urs wrote:We have to yet decide if we also want to impose more "demo restrictions" that work on the audio. While I think this is less friendly, it may increase our revenue from cracks dramatically.
I'm not sure why you're not doing this already. Seems the obvious way to go to me?

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