Indie Developer Talks To Pirates

18 08 2008

Indie developer Cliff Harris posted a request for comments on his blog last week: “I want to know why people pirate my games. I honestly do.”, and the response is both fascinating and important. He’s collated the responses and his conclusions here. The whole thing is worth reading, but one of the most important things he found is that only a minority of those who pirate games (and bothered to respond to him) do it for dyed in the wool ideological reasons. The rest seem to be acting under various constraints, many of which are actually under the control of the developer.

So it was all very worthwhile, for me. I don’t think the whole exercise will have much effect on the wider industry. Doubtless there will be more FPS games requiring mainframes to run them, more games with securom, games with no demos, or games with all glitz and no gameplay. I wish this wasn’t the case, and that the devs could listen more to their potential customers, and that the pirates could listen more to the devs rather than abusing them. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
But I gave it a go, and I know my games will be better as a result. I’ll never make millions from them, but I think now I know more about why pirates do what they do, I’ll be in a better position to keep doing what I wanted, which is making games for the PC.

Cost is one dimension of this, and this developer is as a result of the feedback he got experimenting with lower game prices.

The first transatlantic telegraph cable operated at a very high cost per word, and every time they dropped it, their business expanded dramatically. The same could surely happen with games now they’re being driven into wider cultural foundations. Setting the right price point for something is difficult of course, because you don’t really get to experiment with different ones around the same marketing campaign.

As tinkering and open source technology become more commonplace, people will increasingly redefine what they do with things. Approach them on terms they like, and they won’t be incentivised to pirate your stuff. Approach them on terms they don’t like, and they’ll redefine the way they acquire things they want, i.e. by using modchips, flashcarts, cracks, P2P, etc.

The space between those extremes, in which a business can be profitable and popular, or in respect of a product, where a low enough price generates a high enough sales volume to create maximum revenue, is still difficult to find, but it will happen, especially with dialogues like this driving things forward.

(via Wonderland, and CC image of piracy rosette by Sarodeo)




One response

21 08 2008
Troubled Waters « Pixel-love

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