Archive for category Game Philosophy
There is a battle raging in the land of consumer freedom. This battle is most recently fueled by the revelation that Microsoft’s next console, the XBox One, will be regulating the sale of used games. Now, two new challengers have entered the fray to be the last word in this epic battle. We have Shigeru Miyamoto, game designer extraordinaire for Nintendo, and Cliff “Cliffy B” Bleszinski formerly of Epic Games, knocking out their opposing views of how used games effect the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
Vlambeer is no stranger to cloning controversies. A while back, its game Radical Fishing was “cloned” by another company and turned into a game called Ninja Fishing. I responded with a blog post about why the idea of game cloning should be an accepted part of the industry. The idea that copying game mechanics is neither unethical or theft as many people like to claim was central to my point. Game cloning has been around since electronic table tennis. It will be with us long after. Other industries are not immune to the effect either. Yet for some reason it gets a lot of negative attention in the games industry.
This past week, it turns out that the gaming community spotted what they claimed to be another Vlambeer cloning case. In this case, Vlambeer is working on a stylized aerial dogfight game, Luftrausers, and out came yet another game, SkyFar, that follows a similar path. You can view footage of Vlambeer’s game here and the supposed clone here. To me, this seems to be yet another case covered clearly by my previous response. But with all the press the controversy was getting, I had to vent. So I went to Twitter and said the following:
I am so getting tired of Vlambeer’s overreactions to game cloning. Why are they making a big deal over a game on a platform they aren’t on?
It is one thing to complain when a supposed clone is directly competing such as with Triple Town, but this latest complaint is ridiculous.
There are ways to deal with it that don’t involve crying to Apple and Google. For one, you can ignore it, two you can do better than it.
I was halfway hoping to get a response, but didn’t really care either way. But I did get one. Rami Ismail, business and development guy at Vlambeer, responded with the following:
I’m getting equally tired of brushing cloning off as if it’s a good thing. It is not and should not be ‘OK’. Inspiration, fine.
From here, he and I had a long debate on Twitter. While the debate mostly confirmed their stated positions on game cloning, I did want to elaborate on a few things found in there. First up was Rami’s second tweet to me.
In the end, though, we do not control what the press writes about. We just reply honestly when there’s a request for comment.
This seems odd to me. While I understand that Vlambeer cannot control what the press says, they can control what they say to the press. One would think that it would be obvious for the press to seek out someone who is known to have controversial opinions on a fact of game design such as cloning. Once alerted to something that deals with that company and that controversial topic, the press would seek them out for comment.
If that is how the press functions, then responding to the press in exactly the fashion they were seeking is basically falling where they want you to be. So in reality, this whole ordeal could have easily been avoided had Vlambeer not responded or responded in a non-controversial manner.
The next tweet deals with their response to this game “clone”. They stated to the media that they are contacting Apple and Google to get them to do something about it. When confronted with this Rami responded:
We do intend to challenge a game that takes our style, theme and gameplay & admits to faking their screenshots & trailer.
This was a running theme through his comments. Rami seemed to be under the impression that their only option was to complain about the game. When I brought up the idea that they could instead compete with what is apparently an inferior game on a platform they don’t target, he brushed the idea off with this:
We’re not competing, we do not intend to compete. We don’t care about competing. We care that that’s our work being ripped off.
And that is the problem with their view point. Competition is somehow a bad thing to them. They do not believe they should have to compete against similar ideas. That is a dangerous line of thought. A line of thought that has them admitting that rather than compete, they would have the competition banned. Referring to my comment confirming that their hope is to have the “clone” banned from iTunes and Google Play:
Like you said, that’s not our decision, but it is what we hope the judges will decide.
I seriously hope that Vlambeer is in the minority in their opinion. The idea that we should not have to compete in a marketplace of ideas and concepts in gaming is absurd on many levels. Game developers compete in such a way on a daily basis. Call of Duty competes with Battlefield. The Sims Social competes with the Ville. Diablo 3 competes with Torchlight 2. And so on and so forth. Each of those games could be said to be a clone of the other. Yet, barring rare occasions, the companies choose to compete with each other in the market rather than complain and try to have the competition banned.
In conclusion, I want to respond to one last tweet from Rami:
No, we just feel victimized by people intentionally ripping off our games. If someone is inspired by our works, we’re proud.
I asked him where the line was because to me it seemed that they are placing it so far askew that there could be no “inspiration” they would accept. In response to that query, he simply stated that he felt my placement was too far askew in the other direction. Based on my conversation and other media responses by Vlambeer, it would seem that the only way they would consider something to be an “inspiration” rather than a “clone” would be for the competing game to be released after their game and not for sale or monetized in any way.
While that placement of the line is not confirmed by Rami or Vlambeer, I think it is pretty safe to assume that it is in the ballpark. I would hope that other indie and even AAA developers would move away from such a mindset. By treating as a clone anything that even remotely cross-eyed looks like it might compete with your game, you are showing that you cannot compete in a real market. Without some kind of artificial controls on the market, you would fail at the first sign of competition. Why would any developer want to believe that?
Last year, Electronic Arts came out of nowhere and won The Consumerist’s annual Worst Company in America competition. This competition was designed to highlight the worst of the worst companies when it came to its consumer presence. When EA graciously accepted the award, it kindly reminded voters just who its real competition is by listing previous award winners.
We’re sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren’t nominated this year. We’re going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide.
What does it mean for the games industry, and EA specifically, to be likened to some of the largest insurance, oil, tobacco and weapons companies in the world? Companies that have a more direct connection to the quality of life of billions of people. What does it mean to be crowned worst of the worst in America?
Regardless of the over impact or seriousness of its faults, we know much of what EA did to win that award. Online passes, NFL monopolies, Spore, and Mass Effect 3, just to name a few. But really after all the brewhaha last year during and following the contest, what does it mean to be nominated a second time? Even after declaring that you were cleaning up your ways?
“I think we will see a dramatic shift in the company,” Lawder told CNET. “We’re not there yet. There’s still a ways to go before we’re considered a world-class customer experience.”
For the second year in a row, EA has been nominated for the Golden Poo award. It seems that despite Lawder’s claims, EA has yet to improve on its image. The whole SimCity thing hasn’t helped things out either. Things are so bad at EA, from a consumer perspective, that it handed Anheuser Busch a sound thrashing in the first round. Seriously, EA is worse than a beer monopoly wannabe. Add that to the list above of who EA is worse than.
So what can the games industry learn from this? Here are some lessons I think we should be paying attention to:
- If you have bad policies or terrible relations with your customers, they will complain and complain loudly. If they aren’t declaring you the worst company in America, they are certainly going to complain in private and in some cases publicly.
- Despite all the minor flaws that grate on our customers’ nerves, it is the big fiascoes that will send them over the edge. People understand that companies are run by other people. They understand that sometimes things just won’t go right or that mistakes happen. They can brush off a good number of flaws and frustrations. However, when you make such boneheaded disasters as SimCity, Spore or Mass Effect 3, you will send your customers into a frenzy.
- Making promises of change and then doing nothing positive quickly will not make people happy. EA won the award last year due to years of neglect and abuse of its customers. All that culminated in the award. People expected some kind of change for the better. Instead, they received empty promises and even bigger blunders. People expect and deserve to be treated well if they are expected to buy your products.
- Bad policies are bad and deserve to die. Whether it is high prices, DRM, too much bad DLC or whatever, if people are complaining about it, something needs to be done. EA had many years of people complaining about always online requirements in thier games and other companies’ games, yet it learned nothing and implemented it in one of its most high profile games, with disastrous results. Failure to learn from your own and others’ past mistakes will doom you to repeat them and reap the rewards.
Those are just four big lessons to be learned. But the biggest is that your customers are king. If they are not happy, they will make you miserable. So let us all take a lesson from EA, even if it refuses to learn these lessons itself, and go out and serve your fans and customers well.
Cross Posted from Divine Knight Gaming.
I will never understand why companies continue to insist on using DRM. It makes absolutely no sense to punch your paying customers in the gut, call them pirates and tell them to stop stealing your stuff. These are your paying customers. They paid you. Why would you insist on treating them like thieves?
DRM is absolutely one of the most evil inventions in software. If you read anything I write here or elsewhere, you will know how I feel about DRM and companies that use it. I will never use it in any game I develop nor would I be willing to deal with DRM as a consumer. As a Linux user, I have to deal with the fallout from DRM on a most everyday basis. I am not legally allowed to watch DVDs on my computer. I couldn’t until recently watch Netflix on my computer. (I only can because some very clever developers not affiliated with Netflix made it possible.) And many games will not run properly even through Wine because the DRM is incompatible. All these things have soured me to any company that uses it.
That is why the recent news of Game Maker’s absolutely disgusting DRM implementation has me gagging. YoYo games go so far beyond what most companies do with DRM that they are beyond redemption. This company has designed their software that if it so much as gets a hint of you being a pirate, they will permanently vandalize your game. Seriously. They will force images of the Jolly Roger onto all your sprites in a bid to shame you into… what… paying? Paying for software you already paid for? That is the kicker. The people getting hit by this “retribution” paid for the software. They are not pirates.
The problems with this DRM seem to be so bad that the only way to recover from it is to completely uninstall Game Maker, delete every last trace of the program from your computer and reinstall. That is absolutely unacceptable. So not only is the developer out the time it take to clean up their computer and reinstall the software, they also have to spend days possibly weeks restoring their artwork. For what? They privilege of paying? I am sorry. That is evil.
To make matters worse, according to one former paying customer, they have absolutely horrid customer service that will at the earliest possible moment, accuse you of piracy. Then they will treat you like crap and silence you if you try to complain. No. That is wrong on every level.
I had long ago made the decision to not use Game Maker in my game development work. Primarily because it lacks support for Linux. But this seals the deal for me. I will never recommend this tool for any game developer, ever. I will never willingly submit anyone to such destructive and abusive developers. No one deserves to have their hard work destroyed in that way.
It doesn’t even matter that YoYo has promised to strip out that particular action from the DRM. Why? Because they will continue to rely on other just as bad if passive attacks on you the paying customers. It is time that this company felt the pains that come with such tactics. They need to lose business. Those using the tool, need to stop. There are plenty of other great tools available that you could use. I have talked about several. There are many more that I have not talked about.
We just need to stop supporting DRM using companies altogether. If they insist on treating paying customers like trash and thieves, they do not deserve our business. They deserve to fail. That is all there is to it.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
Recently, we highlighted the success of the first Humble Ebook Bundle by noting that with over 84,000 bundles sold, all those authors should be on best seller lists. That is fine and dandy on its own, but what does that mean in terms of money for the authors? With the bundle bringing in over $1 million in sales, what do the authors get out of that?
In response to that very question, one Humble author, John Scalzi, wrote up his back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much his book, Old Man’s War, could earn him.
Let’s say for the sake of easy math that when all is said an done my default amount of the bundle was something like 6.5%. That would mean that my default gross cut of the Bundle would be something on the order of $78,000.
Keep in mind that this is a gross earnings. He then factors in a number of other variables, including his publisher Tor’s cut, and comes to a much smaller net amount.
When all is said and done, if I end up with $20,000 (before taxes) then I figure I will have done well.
He goes on to explain what he would likely make selling the number of copies he estimates he sold during the bundle, if those copies were sold at full price.
…let’s say OMW was in 42,110 of those bundles. For electronic books, I make 25% of the net to the publisher, and Old Man’s War currently sells as an eBook at $7.99. Unless I’m doing my math incorrectly, my cut is about $1.40 per eBook for OMW (no, $1.40 is not 25% of $7.99; remember, I’m working off of net). If those 42,110 copies were sold straight up, I would gross $58,000.
So, basically, if I gross what I expect to gross from the Humble Bundle, I’ll be taking a roughly two thirds cut in my income per unit than what I usually do.
That’s quite the difference. However, he is very happy with what he will make from this bundle for four reasons.
- The volume sold may compensate for the reduced price.
- Old Man’s War is the first book in a series and will likely bring in new readers who will buy the sequels at full price.
- He went in to the bundle knowing full well that he could make as little as $0.
- Whatever bundles were sold because of his book were benefiting some important non-profits.
He then closes out his comments with some advice for authors considering getting involved in a bundle. All of it is great advice and I will let you delve into it yourself.
Looking at this whole thing, John makes some very important points that we have highlighted many times in the past. For instance, we have argued many times, with Paulo Coelho as a recent example, that selling in volume at a lower price has the potential to make far more money in a shorter span of time. Additionally, selling at a discount, or even giving it away, is a great way to provide publicity in order to sell other products or scarcities tangential to the product.
What is most impressive is John’s understanding and attitude about this whole promotion. He knew full well that this promotion was not an end in and of itself, but a way to expand his audience and reach. By taking this risk, he will potentially see a lot more success in the future. This is an attitude that we praise on a seemingly daily basis–an attitude that too many people in the legacy industries deride and belittle. Hopefully, more creators will learn from this and embrace, as John did, the power of tools and promotions such as the Humble Bundle.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
One thing we know for sure is that the internet has become a growing part of everyone’s lives. People are connecting to the internet for a variety of everyday activities including watching tv and movies, listening to music, reading news and gaming. With the internet becoming so ubiquitous in people’s lives, would it be a surprise to see that the number of people who identify such activities as “being online” is dropping?
That is exactly what Forrester Research has shown in its latest study on people’s media habits. In a blog post, Forrester Analyst Gina Sverdlov points out that especially among younger internet using adults, being online is a fluid concept.
One of the biggest revelations in this year’s data was the change in attitude of consumers — particularly younger ones — toward the Internet. Since we started tracking this information in 1997, we have only seen the amount of time spent online increasing. But Forrester’s 2012 data shows that US online adults are now reporting a decline in the amount of time they spend using the Internet compared with 2011 and 2010.
What’s going on? Our analysis revealed that “being online” is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to “using the Internet.” In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online.
You can see this trend in this graphic, along with falling trends in offline activities such as watching TV and reading newspapers among adults.
What this means for those media companies that are showing a steady decline in the above graphic, and others not listed, is that if your services do not take advantage of the connected devices the current and rising generation own and use, then you might find yourself out of business. We see this happening now. Despite what some legacy industries might believe or want, that decline in offline activity is not going to reverse itself. The more the legacy industries fight that shift in consumer behavior, the faster they will find themselves irrelevant. The best thing for these industries to do is to embrace that fluid online concept and capture the attention of the rising generation.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
Paywalls are one of those things that have had us scratching our heads for a while. We had questioned the New York Times for its paywall and have shown that it might not be quite as successful as it claims. The main problem with such paywalls is that people don’t like to have their use of a product interrupted and further use blocked unless they pay. Such reactions are not limited to online news either. Other forms of media have much the same issue.
Over at Games Brief, a number of game developers were asked about paywalls in games and whether they should be used at all.
Harry Holmwood writes: “A colleague and I downloaded New Star Soccer at the airport and were playing it on a flight back from Germany last week, got hooked, but then hit the ‘hard payment’ point where we had to pay to continue the career. As we were on a plane at that point we couldn’t do the IAP and had to stop playing. Over the weekend I was tempted to pay and play but didn’t bother – the moment was lost, and I suspect now I won’t do it at all.”
Are hard paywalls a good idea, or should you always make it possible for players to keep playing?
While most developers were pretty varied in their opinions on this question, the general theme is that putting up walls in front of the consumer and preventing them from playing more is something that should be avoided. Take this comment from Philip Reisberger from Bigpoint.
In general, we’ve seen that it’s most important to have the users playing. Monetization is always to be regarded as consequence of gameplay.There are some really core-style titles where a hard paywall is possible, but I’d regard this rather as an exception than the norm.
While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game. The question then goes to how do you get those people to pay if they can play for free? This is where opinions vary widely.
By allowing a consumer to continuously play, you can provide multiple opportunities for the consumer to evaluate how much they actually value the game they are playing. This is where proper selling of freemium options comes into play. If you have already sold the person on the game itself as something fun to play, then the next step is to sell them on the extras. This can be done by showing them how the core experience can be enhanced by such extras. As Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are explains.
In some cases (Temple Run, Bejewelled Blitz) it’s the same. They basically sell boosters and cheats to make better score runs, and since the core action of the game is so compelling it’s more likely over time that you will buy. Bringing a money-now question into that dynamic is inappropriate for the same reasons as the grind game.
The core issue to remember with paywalls is that it is very difficult to convince someone that paying for the ability to keep playing something they have been playing for free is a very tough sell if all they are getting is just more of the same experience. You need to sell them on an expanded experience, one that they wouldn’t otherwise get if they were playing for free. Of course, there is no one way to do it. There are a variety of market factors that can determine how and when you go about charging your customer.
Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, sums up this overall market reality.
I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ‘the correct one’ or that you should ‘never’ do something. Every game is different and every platform is different. In PlayStation Home, where we publish most of our games, it’s beginning to appear that ‘paymium’ may be the most commercial route given the size of the audience, their propensity to pay and the ease of generating awareness. But on iOS, being new to the platform, freemium is the only model that makes sense to us currently.
FYI, I don’t believe the gaming world will end up existing purely of games that you can play forever with continuous loops, return mechanics and daily bonuses. I believe there will always be games that have a beginning and an end and a strong linear storyline. For these kind of games, I’m not convinced that freemium is necessarily the correct approach.
This variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy. Look back at the original question. Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played. Why would you want to limit your potential to make money in such a way?
Originally Posted on Techdirt.
For all the rhetoric we hear that pirates are evil, thieving scum, they sure do have a massive positive impact on creators who choose to work with them. Take for instance the recent success held by Sosowski, the creator of recent indie hit McPixel. When Sosowski found his game on the Pirate Bay, he didn’t flip out, he didn’t curse, he embraced the pirates there and turned them into an opportunity for success.
If you dare risk a visit to the Pirate Bay and specifically the page for McPixel, you can see exactly what Sosowski did. He first thanked pirates for uploading the game and then gave away free gift codes.
Yay! My game is here! As weird as it sounds I am actually excited about this.
Anyways, I am not any average video game company, I am just one man making games for a living, so feel free to give me all your money if you like the game!
I get it that in some countries PayPal doesn’t work, or the price might seem really high for some of you, so here are some gift codes for you:
[gift codes snipped]
Most of all, enjoy the game, tell your friends about it, and throw some coins in my general direction if you like it!
All the best,
This little heart felt message not only led to a lot of people on the Pirate Bay to think more highly of the developer, but it also led the Pirate Bay to seek out Sosowski in order to promote his game on its Promo Bay service.
As a result of the developer’s unusual reaction, The Pirate Bay tracked down Sosowski and the two teamed up to promote the title through the torrent site’s Promo Bay initiative which it launched earlier this year.
The site has been offering a link over the weekend directing visitors to McPixel’s site whilst Sosowski has been running a pay-what-you-want offer on the game. Visitors have also been allowed to torrent the game for free over the weekend to try before they buy.
These two events working in conjunction with each other led to two great benefits for this one man development shop. The first is that the pay-what-you-want sale ended with a total of 3,043 copies sold at an average price of $2.56, with the top price paid being $140. The second benefit is that McPixel is one of the first ten games to be selected by Valve through its new Greenlight service. It is no secret that being accepted by Steam is often a major milestone in an indie developer’s career.
This is yet another story in how piracy can often act as free advertising for artists. This story follows a very similar trend to that of Dan Bull when he used the Pirate Bay to help his single make the charts. There have been a lot of other great stories about artists taking piracy in strides and still managing to be successful. The trick is to accept that pirates are not your enemies, but potential customers who need the right reasons to buy.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
Piracy has been a part of the entertainment industry for as long as content has been released on copyable media. Whenever piracy is around, content creators have attempted to fight the actions of fans sharing their favorite movies, music, games and other works with their friends. While some creators have learned to cope with piracy and have succeeded in spite of it, there are still many more that feel the need to do something. However, many of those creatives have that “something” wrong.
In an article over at Euro Gamer, Robert Florance shares his thoughts on piracy and what goes through the mind of a consumer when making a buying decision, and where content creators should target in order to maximize sales. Robert introduces us to what he considers to be the thought process of a consumer as he makes a choice to buy something.
1. HERE IS A THING I LIKE
2. DO I WANT IT? (YES)
3. DO I HAVE TO PAY FOR IT? (NO)
4. DO I WANT TO PAY FOR IT? (YES/NO)
5. YES: PAY FOR IT
6. NO: JUST TAKE IT FOR FREE
That’s it in a nutshell. And here’s the fundamental problem with the whole piracy issue. Publishers are focusing on dismantling Stage 6 of that process when they should be analysing decisions made at Stage 4.
We have written many times about how content creators can affect the result of the decision made at step four. We have written in the past about how consumers don’t just look at price when making a purchasing decision, but weigh a number of currencies. By adding value through these and other currencies, a content creator can make it far easier for a consumer to choose to purchase over getting the content for free. However, if these content creators fail to add the value the consumers want, those customers will have a far more difficult time making the choice to purchase. As a result, the company making the content could fail.
“But these giant companies would have to close down. People will lose their jobs!” And yes, that’s horrible. No one ever wants to see people lose their jobs. But if these companies can only stay in existence by charging their customers extortionate prices for bland, safe product, should they even be there in the first place? Are they not living on a lie? And the creative people at these companies, people who currently spend every day texturing guns and other guns and extra downloadable guns, might they not do greater work on their own? In small groups? Forming daring little companies? Working to progress gaming and earning goodwill from people who will pay and pay again to see their work?
Over the years we have seen companies lose creatives who then go on to create the content they want to make without the interference of gatekeepers. These creatives have moved on to work with enablers that help them add the right kind of value to their content, which in turn sells more to the end consumer. Will larger companies die off? If they don’t adapt to changing trends in the market, yes they will. Is that a bad thing? Of course not.
Finally, Robert explains just what a pirate actually is. He lead up to this in his intro, but it deserves its own little plug down here.
Let me tell you what a pirate actually is. It’s just a word. And that word is a weapon. Corporations and governments will use that word to try to destroy our freedom and halt progress. They’ll use it to try to turn us against each other. When big business talks about a pirate, it’s creating a bogeyman that will be used to justify the continuation of its worst practices. We have to reject it, every time. There are no pirates. There’s only me and you.
We can see these actions by corporations and governments all over the place. Whether it is SOPA, or excessive DRM, or the DMCA with its anti-circumvention clause and heavily abused takedown process, they have been used and promoted as a way to fight pirates even though there is little evidence that such measures are effective in any way. Even a company like Ubisoft, with its strong history of DRM use, has backed away from its previous position. Music rarely if ever comes bogged down by DRM anymore. However, DRM has been replaced by other excesses in copyright enforcement.
Yet, all those actions target the wrong part of the consumer decision making process. They all focus on step six when they should be focusing on adding value that leads the consumer to move to step five. Those pirates that will take content for free no matter what, if they do exist, are just not worth the hassle and burden of actions that negatively affect those who are willing to pay.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
Piracy has become a force of nature in the entertainment world. No matter what you make or how you release it, there are pirates waiting around the corner to try to get it for free. No matter what you try to stop this from happening, you just can’t — much like a storm, you have no control over its movements and power. All that is left is to embrace it and hope to harness the storm’s power for your own benefit.
This is what Daniel Cook from Spry Fox has decided is best. In a reprint of his comments at Gamasutra, Daniel explains that piracy is a fun activity that can be harnessed for good.
Being a ‘pirate’ was being part of a community. You and your friends shared games like social gaming gifts on Facebook. It didn’t cost you anything to copy a game and give it to someone. A game was a social token to chat about, a gesture of kindness to reciprocate. A key takeaway from that time is that copying and sharing vast quantities of digital goods is a deeply fun, social and highly useful activity. This is a new thing, a new behavior in a post-scarcity world.
This is perhaps the most commonly ignored or overlooked aspect of piracy by those who want to end it. For many people, sharing games, movies and music is a fun activity that allows them to share what they love with their friends. Despite what those who seek to stop piracy think, there is very little animosity involved in the activity. It is this love of sharing that can be, as Daniel puts it, hacked for the benefit of the creator.
With shareware, we hacked the copying behavior. People would play the random floppies and some of clever programs would say “Hey! Did you know that you can pay for this?” And a small portion of users did. ‘Pirate’ and ‘consumer’ are not mutually exclusive properties. In our capitalist society, almost everyone (with a few notable exceptions) is trained to buy stuff. People who like checking out new software for free are really just another audience of potential consumers.
It was just recently that Ubisoft learned a similar lesson. That the percentage of people who pay for single purchase games is about the same as those that pay in free to play games. If you want people to pay for games, one of the best ways to get them to do so is to let them experience the game first and for free. By giving fans the ability to share the games with others who may not have heard about it on their own, you can expand the pool of potential paying customers.
Unfortunately, there are many creators and gatekeepers out there that want to vilify such behavior. They can’t fathom that someone is playing, listening, reading, watching their work without paying for it. They see no benefit in it. This mindset has dangerous outcomes for their paying customers.
It has been a really confusing time for businesses. Some lashed out by labeling consumers as evil, some tried to protect the old ways with DRM. Relationships with customers…who see themselves as just having fun sharing cool stuff…became antagonistic. 30 years. When you raise kids in a warzone, they grow up parroting propaganda. No wonder the conversation is polarized.
It is actions like adding DRM, anti-piracy ads and threatening fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars that will end up costing the entertainment industry more in the long run. As those in the industry seek to threaten and lash out at paying customers, many of those customers will begin to lash out as well. They will end up doing exactly what the industry wants to stop, pirate. For many purchasers of games, it often starts by downloading cracks for games in order to remove restrictive DRM. But there is a lot that can be done to turn the tide.
Detach yourself from the emotions of history. Give up the past forms of what games were. Adapt to the current environment with one eye firmly fixed upon the future.
People copying digital goods as an inherently joyful social activity is an opportunity. It is an artistic opportunity. It is a business opportunity. It is a cultural opportunity.
There are opportunities out there that many creators have found and are enjoying. It can be things like adding a “Cockroach Edition” to your payment options. It can be adding pirate hats to all your characters and putting the game on the Pirate Bay. It could be giving players the ability to set their own price. It could be anything really. By embracing the sharing culture of your fans, you can expand you fan base and increase the potential to make a living.