Indie Game Developer Points Out That It's Better To Give People Reasons To Buy Than Worry About 'Piracy'

from the figuring-things-out dept

Jay was the first of a whole bunch of you to submit the blog post by indie game developer Markus Persson that’s been making the rounds, where he talks about why it’s better to give people a reason to buy than to worry about “piracy”:

Instead of just relying on guilt tripping pirates into buying, or wasting time and money trying to stop them, I can offer online-only services that actually add to the game experience. Online level saving, centralized skins, friends lists and secure name verification for multiplayer. None of these features can be accessed by people with pirated versions of the game, and hopefully they can be features that turn pirates from thieves into potential customers.

He also notes that the impact of unauthorized copies is somewhat ambiguous:

If someone pirates Minecraft instead of buying it, it means I’ve lost some “potential” revenue. Not actual revenue, as I can never go into debt by people pirating the game too much, but I might’ve made even more if that person had bought the game instead. But what if that person likes that game, talks about it to his or her friends, and then I manage to convince three of them to buy the game? I’d make three actual sales instead of blocking out the potentially missed sale of the original person which never cost me any money in the first case.

In the end, he makes the same point we’ve tried to make here for years: worrying about and fighting unauthorized copies just doesn’t seem to be nearly as productive an approach as focusing on ways to actually give people reasons to buy. He doesn’t support “piracy,” but suggests that it’s happening, and there are much better ways of dealing with it than fighting it. Nice to see more people recognizing this key point.

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Comments on “Indie Game Developer Points Out That It's Better To Give People Reasons To Buy Than Worry About 'Piracy'”

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Dolphin says:

I downloaded it, played with it for 5 minutes and was done. I am not going to spend any money on this game, but I was interested in the tech and the creativity behind it. When I hear of him releasing something new in the future, I will be sure to check it out. If I had paid money up front for it, I might (depending on how much) feel cheated and have a bad opinion of the developer. Or more likely I would have just looked at the screenshots and not even bothered giving it a try. Offering it for free hasn’t make him any money from me today, but it ensures that I will be looking favorably on his next venture.

Ragaboo (profile) says:

Pirates as Free Trial Users

I went through a phase when I was in college when I wanted to make a bunch of music using music samples (royalty free bits of 2-10 second long instrumentation that I combined to make songs). The software was expensive, and I wasn’t sure I’d really get any use out of it or stick with the hobby. So, I pirated the software.

Well, I did stick with the hobby, and after about a year of making lame music I went out and bought the software. I already had the pirated software, but I went and bought the real software anyway. The real software was less buggy, had access to updates and free music samples, and had access to support/documentation. Plus I wanted to support the makers of the software I thought was so great.

You know what else? I worked at Best Buy at the time, and whenever someone asked me about that sort of software, I recommended the software I’d used pirated.

So, the software maker’s profit if I hadn’t pirated? $0. There’s no way I would have spent the money on a whim, and their free trial software was too limited for me ever to make the plunge and actually buy. Piracy made them money. Seems like horribly bad accounting to count my pirated copy as a net loss when it actually made them at least three purchases worth of money.

Greg G says:

Re: Pirates as Free Trial Users

Agreed. I pirate stuff all the time. Mainly because I refuse to spend my money on something I may not care for.

Most of what I’ve gotten turned out to be crap or just not what I was looking for, so I uninstalled. I’ve had a few official trial versions, but they either only lasted 3-7 days or were extremely limited. Pirated copies were not. I ended up buying, over time, thousands of dollars worth of software I never would have gotten if I hadn’t pirated it in the first place.

Of the stuff I didn’t keep, if I had paid for it in the first place, I would have demanded refunds. Not only has piracy saved me money, but it’s saved me time, and it’s also saved time for the developers that would have had to process said refunds. So hell, I’m saving THEM money by saving them time that they won’t spend having to give me a refund.

SmackDown says:

Re: Pirates as Free Trial Users

I have to agree, early on I pirated all kind of software to try it out. Didn’t make any money and determined if I would use it. Today I have purchased every copy of the pirated software I have. I hear FOSS and their hippie mantra (which gets old) but most of that software…well you get what you pay for is all I can say. But you find some real Gems every now and then – FileZilla Great tool and free – I liked it and donated. GIMP – garbage compared to Photoshop. Thank God I didn’t have to pay for that. So there is a purpose and a place.

Greevar (profile) says:

"online-only services"

Which is double-talk for saying that he wants to tie the game to the internet to force you to pay. Please, putting some pretty bells and whistles that require internet connectivity is not the way to win the hearts and minds of your fans. I know better. Internet services that essentially discourage unauthorized use rather than encouraging monetary contribution to the game is dishonest and a bit insulting. Secure servers and redundantly backed up account data is one thing, but friends lists, user name reservations, and extra content is not part of CWF+RTB. That’s just covert DRM.

If you want to connect with your fans and give them a reason to fund your creative projects, get them involved. Give them tiered funding options. People that contribute more than the minimum suggested contribution, you can give them things like advance copies, alpha/beta access, or special name tag status, like the insiders at Techdirt here. If they give more, give them a limited edition copy of the game with a signed concept art book or figurines etc. Larger contributions means larger rewards for being a fan. Then, after the game is completed and everybody involved is paid for their work, the game is released to the public for free so that anyone can play it, share it, or modify it without restriction. Everybody gets paid, the fans get their game, and people who share it are giving the developers free publicity to attract potentially more fans to fund even more ambitious projects.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Which is double-talk for saying that he wants to tie the game to the internet to force you to pay. Please, putting some pretty bells and whistles that require internet connectivity is not the way to win the hearts and minds of your fans.”

you’ve obviously never played the game. minecraft is great as both a single and multiplayer experience. the single player is great in and of itself, so much so that those online features wouldnt be wanted or missed but if added would add to the experience.

in the future ill probably buy the game, but only after he gets a different payment method. he recently had his paypal account suspended with 600,000 euros in it.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: "online-only services"

It has nothing to do with the quality of the game or the services. It has everything to do with forcing payment vs. encouraging payment. If you feel the need to add things that can’t be pirated to prevent piracy in order to get people to pay, then you’re not “getting it”. Also, thank you for cherry-picking one statement out of context and ignoring the rest of my point.

Eo Nomine says:

“If you feel the need to add things that can’t be pirated to prevent piracy in order to get people to pay, then you’re not “getting it”.”

But isn’t that selling an “adjacent scarcity”? Basically, the video game equivalent to selling concert tickets and t-shirts?

Frankly, I’ve found this blog to be all over the place when it comes to it’s attitude towards emerging business models in the video game industry. It celebrates this developer for doing this, but evicerated THQ for doing effectively the same thing in terms of multiplayer features, primarily because THQ couched it as a response to the used game market rather than piracy. Similarly, TechDirt applauded the Humble Indie Bundle, despire the fact that the Bundle was basically “give it away and pray” (admittedly with a chartible component).

Modplan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But isn’t that selling an “adjacent scarcity”?

Moving features that can be done locally into online or even putting a wall around services it makes perfect sense in many instances to be free (like basic online play) is hardly selling a scarcity. By all means charge for access to official servers or what ever else, but erecting a complete wall as a means to scrape money out of people purely because they bought second hand is hardly CwF + RtB.

Similarly, TechDirt applauded the Humble Indie Bundle, despire the fact that the Bundle was basically “give it away and pray” (admittedly with a chartible component).

Except this was in fact brought up at the time by Mike, but the bundling of the games, charity and being able to specify who your money goes to seem like fairly good reasons to buy to me at least.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

He’s not moving things out of pirated copies. (eg. It’s trivial for a pirate to make a “LAN edition” of Minecraft that’ll accept any username)

He’s selling things the pirates can’t offer like “Unless someone stole their password, this person IS who their nick says they are”.

Besides, the bigs reason I paid are that he really gets the “Connect with Fans” side of things (“Secret Friday Updates”, letting the collective will of the fanbase modify his future plans, etc.) and, when Minecraft reaches the point in its lifecycle where other games go in the bargain bin, he plans to open-source it.

I think that’s well worth the 10€ early-buyer price.

Bobert Bobsonite says:

The unacknowledged buisness model

When a game company offers online content that is exclusively available to those that have purchased a game the company is embracing a freemium model. The basic functionality of the game is free to pirates but the premium content is payed for. Clearly this comparison has limitations but I think it is defensible in its core assertions.

SLK8ne says:

Ah, enlightenment at last..

I agree with Ragaboo because this extends beyond software. Someone showed me a pirated copy of The 300. I bought the DVD. Likewise with Rambo. Here’s the kicker, I had no intention of seeing either movie. The only reason I got the DVDs was because I saw the pirated version first.

In other words the movie industry made two sales off of 2 pirated editions. More, actually, because several friends who saw the pirated bought the DVD’s as well.

So, explain again to me exactly how that hurt the movie industry?

Exactly what Markus Persson was trying to express happened in this case. So he’s absolutely correct. Give people a reason to buy the legit content (such as higher quality, updates, etc.) and more people will buy it than pirate it.

People who don’t believe that are trying to push inferior goods or are paranoid and greedy.

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