It has come to my attention that a statement, allegedly from Raphael Stange, CEO at Marbis GmbH, has been posted on reddit from user /u/Brilliant_Acadia_632. I have no verification is this is a real post as I did not see the original Slack message nor do I know the original poster, but if true, is very concerning to me.
My general TL;DR thought can be summed up by "Other companies are assholes, so we can be too, now give us your money."
The original image posted as well as a textual transcript of the post is listed below in their entirety. I'll attempt to keep this post from diverging off to a long-winded rant, but no guarantees. (Apologies if I misspelled something, I opted to transcribe it by hand, so I could ensure to read everything.)
WARNING strong language will be present. As with always, I encourage being critical of thoughts and ideas, but do not attack the individual who holds them. We all have stupid ideas from time to time (I've certainly had my fair share), and being reminded that there may be a better way to do something helps us grow.
We were not the first to establish exclusives, but the competitor who now postulates that they were against exclusives.
This sounds an awful lot like "Other companies try to set up monopolies, so it's OK if we do too."
Just because one person (or company), is an asshole or does something unethical, does not mean it's OK for you to do it too. Just because a driver cuts you off, doesn't mean it's now cool for EVERYONE to cut everyone off. FUCKING BE BETTER.
As always, when it comes to money, not everyone is precise with the truth anymore.
"Hello, this is your local tax collection agency, we'd like to speak with..."
"Not everyone is precise with the truth" AKA "Some people fucking lie"? Yes, if so, it's common knowledge that con people will lie in order to con people.
The issue with this, (and talking from personal experience), is if you are in a relationship with someone who lies to you... where does it end? If they lie to you about one thing, what else are they comfortable lying about?
You say "we lied about other things, but trust us, we're the best hosting provider"
If you lie about one thing, what else will you lie about? How can we, as a community, take anything you say as truthful?
Instead, "when it comes to money, not everyone is comfortable talking about that in public", would have made much more sense. Is this what the post meant?
We simply have better cards in the game because of our size and reach (quantity of customers) - and we are playing them now
Sounds an awful lot like "We have the upper hand, and now we're going to fuck you".
Not cool. Some could even consider that extortion.
We have not prevented anyone from starting their private server and playing with their friends.
Are we playing "take a shot everytime the post contains a lie"? If so we're going to get really drunk real quick.
Although I guess technically that's not a lie. I, as a systems admin, could have created a second Steam account and bought the game again just to play with my friends... As long as I logged into the machine every time I wanted to start the server because I would have needed to have entered my Steam credentials in order to run the game server.
So yeah, that was a truthful statement. Marbis/Nitrado technically did not prevent anyone from spinning up a private server, you just made it really fucking difficult to do so.
We have created a process specifically for that.
Yup, that was truthful. You created a process specifically to "allow" communities to host our own servers. You just made it virtually fucking impossible to do so. But technically you created a process to "help" the community. (How strongly can I emphasize the quotes to express my seeping sarcasm?)
Did the way the game was supposed to protect our interest create problems?
YUP! Glad we both agree on that point.
The initial Steam login implementation in the public server was not ideal
NO SHIT!, but I'm glad you realized that now.
It wasn't intentional - and now it's fixed.
Yes, it's now fixed, and we're all extremely appreciative of that. Though "It wasn't intentional", smells a lot like bullshit to me. I would be interested to see a little more information about this, but for now I shall reserve judgement of that point as there could be a valid reason.
The risk of the production costs I am talking about was - and still is - carried only be us and by no other hoster.
Yup, that's how investing in a project work. You risk losing the money you put into the project. However there's more to it than just trying to protect your investment, isn't there?
And have deferred several monthly bills totaling hundreds of thousands of euros to Snailgames
Well that was nice of you to make that decision. I've made similar decisions for past clients because I wanted to help them out too, by providing services they otherwise could not afford.
Being nice to someone doesn't entitle you to sex though. That expectation just makes you a fucking creep.
Please do not be a fucking creep.
Without this loan, ASA would never have existed
I do not know the internal specifics of their organization or financial state, so I cannot hold an opinion on this topic. You've lied about other things though, so just that alone makes me skeptical about everything.
And we were the last chance that this would happen in a reasonable time.
We're ARK players. We expect Wildcard to take forever in their work and provide unreasonable time estimates. It's just part of the enjoyment that is the ARK experience.
the exclusivity - is supposedly "unethical"
I'm certainly no fucking lawyer, but this situation feels like one big pile of "conflict of interest".
If I were to have a product and receive funding from someone with strings attached like "You AND your customers must only use our platform that we own". Yeah, I'd call that pretty fucking unethical.
At the very least, sounds like the investment firm strong-armed the product into making a shitty decision, which again, sounds pretty fucking unethical.
The language implies that a computer game is a common good and access should not be subject to market rules
So just because something is not a common good, means that ethics are out the window?
Ok, I'll remember that next time I'm driving, (which is not a right nor a common good either). When I get pulled over for driving like a complete fucking jackass, I'll just inform the officer "Oh, this company does unethical shit and they said just because one person does it, everyone can do it."
Yes, many companies do unethical-but-technically-legal things all the fucking time. Doesn't mean it's OK.
Let's look at a comparable "industry": the movie industry.
Oh yes, let's look at a comparable industry. (Also why is industry in quotes? Entertainment is literally a classification of industry.)
Originally, when a movie studio or television studio produced something, we, the consumers, had our option of where to consume the media.
If it was in theatre, we could select which theatre to view the picture.
For television, generally speaking there were multiple providers in which the media could be viewed.
Yes, this wasn't always perfect as often there were only one or two providers, but at least there was some semblance of selection. Then Netflix hit the scene and we suddenly had a third option for where we consumed media.
Fast forward a few years and we find ourselves in the situation today.
Disney has their media only on Disney.
Netflix has their media only on Netflix.
Paramount has their media only on Paramount.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but personally I find this completely unacceptable. Publishers are artificially making it difficult to consume their media solely in an attempt to increase their corporate profits. If some show is only on Disney, I'm not going to purchase a subscription to Disney just to watch some show, I'm just not going to fucking watch that show!
This sort of anti-consumer behaviour only tends to lead to an influx of .... less than legal channels for obtaining media. (Completely hypothetically speaking of course.)
Take Spotify v iTunes v Google Music for example. If I want to listen to music, I can pick any of the providers to listen to music. Generally speaking a given band/song will be present across all platforms, allowing the consumer to select which we would like to use.
Care to take a guess as to what I would do, as a technologically-savvy consumer, if a band which I enjoyed signed an exclusive agreement with a streaming platform which I did not use and did not like?
But in gaming, this is supposed to be "unethical"? That's gross nonsense.
Thank you for illustrating my previous point, by attempting to point to arguably one of the most corrupt industries we've seen in a while and literally stating "See, they do it!".
(Note, I say one of.... I certainly did not forget about the gas and oil industries, but that's outside the topic of this rant.)
That is their right to want that, just as it is their right to be angry that they can't.
Thank you for acknowledging our right to be angry, and I acknowledge your right to make silly decisions.
Content creators ... They make a lot of money doing what they do.
Eh.... that's pretty fucking debatable. Yes, a very small handful make exceptionally good money, but the vast majority create content because we enjoy doing it! Even popular content creators could easily make more by working corporate jobs.
I personally do not create content for ARK specifically, so I can only make assumptions on this matter. If I had to put money on it, I would have to wager that it was more that streamers have preferred hosting providers for their needs, or otherwise had prior arrangements.
When asked by the community "what host do you use?", of course they are going to refer viewers to whichever platform they like, which yes, frequently included a small referral fee back to the referrer.
If some streamer does not use nor recommend Nitrado, maybe look at how you can improve your platform so they would recommend Nitrado.
Instead of improving your product though, you attempt to force adoption via legal coercion.
Operators of large ASE communities who have not previously rented their servers from us.
Ohh, as a sysadmin and developer, this is my part! Goodie!
We haven't stood in the way of this group.
(Even before the DRM removal)
BULLSHIT Let's say I wanted to host a game server. What would be the steps?
Well it DRM'd and required a login, so I'd need to link my Steam account to my server and enter my password anytime I would want to run an update. Since the proper way to handle updates for a game server is to check before it starts, every time it starts, I would need to log into the machine and manually do that.
If the game server crashes, (we love you Wildcard, but your software can be a "little" buggy), I couldn't enable automatic restart because... I would need to fucking enter my Steam password to start the server.
Oh, and to that point, I would need to enter my Steam password, which would prevent me from actually playing the game at the same time because one Steam account can only run one game/application at a time!
So I would have needed another Steam account, they're free, so no biggie there. But alas, you can't run the server unless you also have purchased the client!
Ok, so I would need to buy the game once and then again for each. and. every. server. instance.
"We haven't stood in the way". Yeah, bullshit.
Alright, well Wildcard gets that money since it's their intellectual property and..... oh wait, another company gets a portion of those sales too.
So Marbis would have gotten money if I hosted on Nitrado, and Marbis would have gotten money if I didn't host on Nitrado.
They could continue to host their servers themselves - they just needed to register with us.
Yup, I "could" host it myself, just via a process so painfully inconvenient that it would be easier just to say "fuck it" and pay Nitrado to host it instead. But TECHNICALLY, that's true, communities COULD host it ourselves.
The reason we installed this process that Wildcard is to prevent our economic risk of lending and co-financing production
Processes to help ensure your investments succeed and minimizing the risk of funding makes sense.
Tailoring those processes so that their customers are virtually required to give money to other companies under your investment portfolio is shady as fuck.
and, as I said, doesn't prevent large communities from hosting their own servers.
A lot of "TECHNICALLY" is assumed in this post.
"Technically I didn't steal from this person who happened to be in front of my knife, they gave me their wallet out of the kindness of their heart"
Unfortunately, much disinformation has been spread here
I dunno, I wouldn't call your post "disinformation" as much as I would call it just "bullshit PR spin".
Unfortunately, much disinformation has been spread here - especially by a few content creators.
Because that's not passive aggressive as fuck. Com'on. Specifically what content creators are you referring to and what was the disinformation spread?
More appropriately, let's fucking be adults and if you feel that someone has incorrect information about something, please reach out to them to address your concerns.
The "10,000 or more followers" rule we have established as a prerequesite for registering large communities was too high.
Wow. YA'FUCKING'THINK? There is absolutely no hesitation in my head to make me think this was not intentional and calculated. For a game where the max player count is generally 70, making a statement where the minimum members is 142 times the maximum game size is the same as "lulz, GET FUCKED MATE, pay us".
Also we've seen that it's too easy to disinform
Fox News already illustrated this.
We should consider having ASA marketed by Apex Hosting as well.
Awesome! Partnering with other hosting providers to allow the community to choose were we would like to host our communities sounds like a great idea. (Legitimately, that's... actually what we want).
But Apex Hosting....... Apex.... Apex.... that name sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before?
and we are playing them now for the sake of the over 4 million people who have an account with us, as well as all the employees at Nitrado and Apex Hosting
Oh yeah, it's the same fucking shit as what you just fucking did!
By the words in the post, it's stating "Consumers are afraid they don't have a choice, so let's offer them one where we still get the money".
Don't get me wrong..... it's a start. Yeah, sure Apex should be able to host, as should G-Portal, as should... ok, honestly I only know of 2 off the top of my head. I host all my own servers, what can I say?
And speaking of hosting all my own servers... Self-hosting should be promoted too. I had already purchased Xeon-based enterprise-grade servers running Proxmox virtualization for a private cloud, so it wouldn't make any sense for me to even consider paying a company monthly when I've already paid for hardware up front.
Yes, I also run other services and applications on that cluster, but that's part of the advantage of running your own hardware!
The criticism that can still be read ... relates almost without exception to the price we charge.
I've heard a number of other issues with the service, but seeing as I have never personally used Nitrado for hosting, I cannot speak to those issues.
Besides the criticism regarding the so-called "monopoly", I've already gone over that above.
Yes, many people would call the actions of setting up exclusivity contracts with products with the blatantly obvious goals of maximizing corporate profits and eliminating competition....
Though I am just a tech and not a lawyer, so what the fuck do I know? I just know if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, I would be a dumbass if I called it a fish.
The price we charge is based on our costs.
Living in public and private clouds for a number of years now, I can't agree or disagree with this statement. Unfortunately I don't see any vRAM, vCPU, or even disk storage specifications on Nitrado pages, so I have nothing to base the price against.
Nitrado also doesn't publish any specifications on what hardware the hypervisors are running, or even the hypervisor tech. It may be a justifiable price, or it may be completely inflated.
I can host a web application on an old P4 box running in my basement, just as I could host it on a pair of high-availability dual-CPU Xeon hypervisors running in a completely redundant 2N+1 site. Both are the same "hosting product", but one is significantly more expensive to run than the other.
So, the accusation by some that we are exploiting a "monopoly" and charging far too high prices is pure nonsense.
It might be. It might not be. I have not seen real information about the network infrastructure.
You can only make this accusation if you know nothing about hosting.
Good job at insulting your customers. Maybe next time, don't.
If those who make this criticism would ask for a price for a server from a general hoster, they would learn that they would pay the same price or even more for the game's requirements.
Can confirm, real hosting providers operating client boxes on real hardware in a real datacenter are more expensive. For my mission-critical applications, I run on hosting providers which I trust are actively monitoring guests running on the hypervisors and will automatically transfer the VM to another hypervisor in the event of a failure.
These highly available and highly scalable application clusters come with a price tag, but are also overkill for hosting a game server for a small gaming community.
For my game servers, having high availability and mission-critical uptime is less of a concern, so they are running on Proxmox hypervisors in my Tier 1 datacenter.
Fun fact, stating you are running a "Tier 1 datacenter" means absolutely nothing. :) A handful of computers running on a table with an internet connection could be considered a "Tier 1 datacenter". (Though in my case they're at least hypervisor/enterprise-grade hardware with remote IP-based KVM set up and mounted in a rack.)
And unlike our (customer) service, with a general hoster, there is no one to help the tenants if they have problems running a game server.
Never used a Nitrado product, (give me root-level access or bugger off), so I do not have an opinion on your customer support. I don't know if I would go as far as say "no one" to help for other providers though. I'm pretty sure Discord and Reddit are a thing. Since these are actual people and not corporations who are leasing server space, the usual B2B SLA contracts aren't generally as beneficial in sales pitches.
I don't see this point as much of an issue. Folks in gaming communities are usually eager to help others play the games we love.
Even a console like ours would not be available to them there.
Yup, that would be the intention for self-hosting. That's kind of the point.
We, of course, adhere to our high ethical principles and the competition law.
I feel we would "agree to disagree" on the definition of "ethical".
That is the essence of entrepreneurial action. That's what built the market economies we all benefit from as citizens today.
This could really go off topic real quick and is outside the scope of a fucking video game, but change that to "market economies that benefit investors and corporations", and we'd agree there.
Our contract with Snail on ASA is as watertight as possible. We did our job.
I have no doubt there! I'm sure you had your legal team draft the contract to screw Wildcard for as much cash as you possibly could, completely unsubstantiated thought on my part of course.
Dozens of people, with only a few hours of sleep, are on fire day and night to solve for our customers
Yup, kudos to your employees for busting their asses to try to support a new application coming online. I don't play official due to a number of reasons, but I'm sure the folks who do appreciate your efforts.
High profile launches often come with the expectation that technical staff work until the problem is resolved. It just comes with the territory of working in IT; there have been many-a-nights when I pull an all-nighter to get a server back online or resolve a mission critical bug. It's just part of the job.
But know what would help alleviate and distribute some of that workload of maintaining servers?
Hint, it's what the majority of this rant has been about.
That's what I'm seeing from the interest from other studios and publishers that we're talking to confidentially right now. Stay tuned: 2024 will be great.
Hehe. Sure, best of luck with that. I'm sure there are many games where trying to maintain a legal strangle-hold on self-hosted servers is perfectly acceptable. ARK is just not one of them.
And to those counting, yes, I used the word "fuck" 26 times in this article, including this one.
Dear colleagues. You may have thoughts about the criticism that some are currently voicing on X.com (formerly Twitter) and Reddit about us exclusively renting servers for ASA.
As you have already quoted here on Slack, @SurvivalServers sums it up nicely; We were not the first to establish exclusives, but the competitor who now postulates that they were against exclusives. As always, when it comes to money, not everyone is precise with the truth anymore. We simply have better cards in the game because of our size and reach (quantity of customers) - and we are playing them now for the sake of the over 4 million people who have an account with us, as well as all the employees at Nitrado and Apex Hosting.
Before I elaborate further on this, let's look at the facts: We have not prevented anyone from starting their private server and playing with their friends. We have not prevented large communities from doing the same. We have created a process specifically for that. Our contract and technical implementations only prevented other commercial hosters from hosting the game without sharing in the risk - the production costs. Did the way the game was supposed to protect our interest create problems? Yes. The initial Steam login implementation in the public server was not ideal, we know that now. It wasn't intentional - and now it's fixed.
The risk of the production costs I am talking about was - and still is - carried only be us and by no other hoster. We made a $4 million loan to Snail and Wildcard. And have deferred several monthly bills totaling hundreds of thousands of euros to Snailgames so ASE's Official Servers do not go offline - and ASA can be finished. Without this loan, ASA would never have existed. We made sure that the developers of ASA would get their wages. And we were the last chance that this would happen in a reasonable time.
We can all now read on X.com the arguments of those who are angry that ASA servers can only be rented from us. You can read that this privilege - the exclusivity - is supposedly "unethical". The language implies that a computer game is a common good and access should not be subject to market rules. Let's not get carried away. We are not regulating access to food or water. We are part of a regulation that honors the fact that we have taken an economic risk in co-financing a computer game so that it can see the light of day.
Let's look at a comparable "industry": the movie industry. If Netflix, Disney, or HBO co-finances a movie production, who as the sole right to market that movie? Right. Netflix, Disney or HBO. That's perfectly normal, and no one would think of criticizing that. But in gaming, this is supposed to be "unethical"? That's gross nonsense.
I understand that some customers would instead rent from other hosters. That is their right to want that, just as it is their right to be angry that they can't. As of now, we have almost 20,000 servers rented. The number of those who are angry now is disproportionate to the number of our (satisfied) customers.
I took the trouble to look closely at many of the loudest critics. I see two main groups:
(A) Content creators who have not worked with us before or no longer work with us. They make a lot of money doing what they do. Through their reach on YouTube & co. And especially through the affiliate commisions they get from our competitors. The anger of this group is fed much less by any ethical concerns than their financial interest. Because without a contract with us, they can no longer earn affiliate commissions.
(B) Operators of large ASE communities who have not previously rented their servers from us. Because they have hosted them themselves - or rented them from competitors. We haven't stood in the way of this group. (Even before the DRM removal) They could continue to host their servers themselves - they just needed to register with us. The reason we installed this process that Wildcard is to prevent our economic risk of lending and co-financing production from ending in a fiasco for us because hosting large communities could inadvertently become a loophole for competitors. That was perfectly legitimate - and, as I said, doesn't prevent large communities from hosting their own servers. Unfortunately, much disinformation has been spread here - especially by a few content creators. I have already discussed their motives.
Which brings us to our learnings. The "10,000 or more followers" rule we have established as a prerequesite for registering large communities was too high. Also we've seen that it's too easy to disinform. We should consider having ASA marketed by Apex Hosting as well. This would take into account the fact that there are people who have had a bad experience with Nitrado over the years and prefer another hoster. Fair enough.
The criticism that can still be read now that the DRM has been removed relates almost without exception to the price we charge. (Besides the criticism regarding the so-called "monopoly", I've already gone over that above.) The price we charge is based on our costs. And those are significantly higher than comparable games due to ASA's RAM consumption. Changing that is Studio Wildcard's job; we can't help. So, the accusation by some that we are exploiting a "monopoly" and charging far too high prices is pure nonsense. You can only make this accusation if you know nothing about hosting. If those who make this criticism would ask for a price for a server from a general hoster, they would learn that they would pay the same price or even more for the game's requirements. And unlike our (customer) service, with a general hoster, there is no one to help the tenants if they have problems running a game server. Even a console like ours would not be available to them there. In this respect, our price-performance ratio is significantly better than that of a general hoster. The fact that few understand this is something we have to live with.
Don't be unsettled:
(1) We, of course, adhere to our high ethical principles and the competition law. Statements to the contrary are nonsense.
(2) Neither we nor our lawyers see it as a violation of competition law that we took a risk and are now reaping the rewards. That is the essence of entrepreneurial action. That's what built the market economies we all benefit from as citizens today.
(3) Our contract with Snail on ASA is as watertight as possible. We did our job. The $4 million risk dictated that. The fact that the DRM has been removed does not affect our commercial exclusivity.
Let me end this posting with a look at what I perceived in our company over the past few days. I have worked in many companies. Never before have I seen what I saw on these two days; An entire company taking responsibility for the company's service or product in that way. Dozens of people, with only a few hours of sleep, are on fire day and night to solve for our customers - players and studio alike - any problem that comes up at blatant speed. Slack channels have been on fire. Individuals repeatedly took responsibility for challenges within minutes. Coordinated, put themselves in the driver's seat without being asked, and involved others in solving newly emerged problems. never before have I seen so many so willing to go the extra mile. If any proof were needed to believe that Nitrado could go very far with these teams, the last two days have been 100 percent proof. You should all be very proud of yourselves, of your colleagues - and of what you have accomplished. I promise you; With this strength, we will go far. I am convinced of that. That's what I'm seeing from the interest from other studios and publishers that we're talking to confidentially right now. Stay tuned: 2024 will be great.