i've been building and selling PC games since 1988.
unfortunately, i'm not in the business of selling games, i'm in the business of selling key cd's.
if you make something cool, people WILL steal it. sad but true.
a lot has to do with the price, scope, and target audience of the game, as to how likely it is to be pirated.
i've done games with no DRM, software registration keys, and key disks / cds. anything half way popular with less than key disk/cd protection gets pirated.
CAVEMAN v1.3 fell victim to this. it had software key registration. earlier versions had key CDs. it was cracked by a guy in Europe, and posted on a warez site out of Zaire, which was hosted on servers in Russia. Couldn't figure out why sales had dropped in later versions. Turned out, I'd been cracked. Losses were so bad, i eventually had to close down Rockland and go get a regular job. I spent 2 years building CAVEMAN v1.0, and released 3 updated versions over 2 years. then i got cracked.
all it takes is one copy on the web, and all your work is for nothing. big companies like MS can eat the losses associated with piracy. indies can't always afford to do that.
it all boils down to this question in the potential buyer's mind:
"how much more game do i get, and for how many dollars, than i already have now, downloaded for free?"
if the answer is "they get nothing more for the cost of a legit copy", they have no incentive to buy.
as for other things,
there's much less stigma attached to indie games than there used to be.
users will judge the product on its own merits. being a big company gives you the advantage (or disadvantage) of already having a reputation with the user. so they might attract the user's attention more easily.
but a good game that appeals to its core audience and is WELL MARKETED will tend to succeed on its own.
when in doubt, treat your players as you would want to be treated if someone else had made the game, and you were the one playing it. don't be mean, don't make them wait, don't make them do dull or stupid stuff, don't frustrate them, etc.
"DirectX is like a belt fed machine gun, where every texture change is like hand loading in a new belt of ammo. worse, every mesh (vb) is a new belt of ammo, and a texture is like breaking the gun down, and setting it up again elsewhere, then loading it, then spraying triangles again. so you want to setup the gun once, string all your belts together, load it once, then just spray."
Rockland Software Productions
"Building PC games since 1988"