Originally Posted by Mark Wright
You're far better placed than I to comment on such things, and I continue to applaud the amazing work that you (and your colleagues) have done in the realm of archiving/precision preservation of magnetic media. In fact, you're well-placed to answer the question, "what was the first mass-produced commercial Amiga game to employ deliberate measures against casual copying, therefore requiring a crack." If you'll pardon my re-definition of the original query... ;-) What's your best guess?
Typically, in my original post, I failed to explain myself clearly. I never meant to suggest that the early, pioneering publishers of Amiga software had nowhere to turn for professional replication of 3.5" disks. I was merely speculating that those with contractual obligations (typically established concerns in the USA) to supply the Amiga market, then in its absolute 85/86 infancy, likely scrimped on the production process. Maybe not. But kudos to anyone who was able to implement an effective Amiga copy-protection system back then, while even the authors of the actual software were all at sea with this new-fangled Amiga.
Of course, the likes of Epyx/EA/Activision were already old-hands at high-volume, mass production/distribution of hundreds of thousands of well-protected C64/Apple/Atari 5 1/4 floppies by then - in fact, years before the Amiga came along. (By the way, I'm purposely using US companies to illustrate my point as they were first to market with Amiga releases.) But there's a big difference between Epyx hoping to shift (say) 0.5m units of Winter Games upon a mature/buoyant global market of (say) 5m potential buyers (while taking steps to combat expected piracy) and EA releasing its Amiga version of Archon, presumably hoping it'll be 100% snapped-up by the Worldwide handful of Amiga 1000 owners.
It would fascinate me to know - though I'm sure no-one will be able to supply any answers - what would have constituted a "production run" in those days (85/86). Presumably some kind of business equation would dictate whether a release could be justified, with projected loss/break-even and profit points. From a UK perspective, if in 1986, Ocean Software hoped to sell (say) 100,000 cassettes of its Knight Rider game, to a domestic 8-bit multi-platform market of (say) 1m - with protection against piracy - you can see the logic. But I wonder how many copies of Amiga "Brataccas" Psygnosis was hoping to sell in the same year? And to whom? Would the 10,000th copy have rolled off the production line just like the first, or would a "cottage industry" ethic have been in place, with each copy "manufactured" to order...
The SPS article on the Amiga version of LCP is a fantastic read. I'd love to hear more about the embryonic age of copy-protection on the Amiga, before it was worth mass-duplicating disks and thus taking advantage of all that Trace offered, etc. Is there even an example of a commercially released title being evidently "hand-made" rather than professionally duplicated? ;-)
I have no idea how many copies they were hoping to sell of Bandersnatch (later renamed to Brataccas), but you have to consider the benefits of very high tie ratio on a new hardware vs. the benefits of having a higher customer rate later.
So companies willing to risk can win big by being first on a specific market, by practically selling their software to say at least 50% of the customers - software that likely wouldn't make an 1% attach rate later.
You don't have to go very far to see this: think of the first generation games released for any new hardware platform.
The risk is losing your investment (knowledge, learning, tooling etc) if the platform remains commercially unsuccessful, e.g. Ubisoft exclusive launch games for Wii U, compared to later abandoning the platform as a recent example of taking a risk that did not pay off.
One of the first blockbusters in Europe was Eureka!:
Domark was quoted to have sold over 50K copies in the first few months, later sales figures were not disclosed though.
Only a handful of games were not professionally duplicated ever for the commercial lifetime of Amiga - I mean the period from launch until the slow decline towards the bankruptcy of Commodore.
In other words, whatever game appeared first on the platform, that was the first commercially duplicated Amiga title.