Chinese Gaming Company Recognizes That 'Pirates' Are Underserved Customers

from the grasping-the-basics dept

Jeffrey Nonken points us to the news of how Chinese online gaming firm Shanda seems to have grasped some of the idea that so-called “pirates” are really just underserved customers. While the company still seeks to shut down private servers for its games, it will sometimes try to attract the users of the unauthorized server, sometimes by getting whoever ran it to help:

Shanda will set up its own server in the same geographical area in hopes of luring the private server?s users over to a legitimate Shanda game. Shanda may even rope the operator of the former private server into helping promote the licensed game.

Separately, in recognizing that sometimes the reasons why such unauthorized servers are put up is because users don’t like particular restrictions on a game, Shanda is apparently looking to develop more flexible games that will allow players to have more choices within the official version:

The other prong of Shanda?s strategy against private servers acknowledges user demand for the sort of games they offer?where the rules can be changed and players can level up without weeks of effort.

For example, Shanda is developing a game platform called World Zero that will allow users to create their own game world and modify its rules, Tan said. A partner is also developing a game called ?Jue Zhan Shuang Cheng? (roughly: ?Decisive Battle of the Two Cities?) that imitates private server rules?allowing users to level up very quickly and engage in battles against other powered-up characters.

It’s certainly not a full embrace of what users are doing, but it’s a recognition that the folks involved are not just “dirty stinking pirates who want everything for free,” but rather underserved customers who are really performing a type of free market research.

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Companies: shanda

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Comments on “Chinese Gaming Company Recognizes That 'Pirates' Are Underserved Customers”

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13 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

It's an approach to fluorishing piracy, a reaction...

That I don’t see panning out: FREE is still cheaper and unhampered by pesky rules. But gaming (and all entertainment) is by definition a luxury sector of “the economy”, so even if does work, totally, for this company with an obvious luring product, means only that some schnorrers have schmoozed some schnooks into paying up for fantasy.

Meanwhile, the far larger movie industry still wants to control the net, Mike.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: It's an approach to fluorishing piracy, a reaction...

Honest question: if the legitimate company is helping meet users in a middle ground and providing them with some of what they want, and that results in the users being willing to pay for their service, why is that a problem for you? You call them schmoozers, I call them businessmen….

David Liu (profile) says:

Re: It's an approach to fluorishing piracy, a reaction...

In the case of game servers, pirated game servers are usually running server software not developed by the game company. Instead, it’s a reverse engineered version that attempts to mimic the original server. What you end up with is a version that’s mostly there, but in many cases, lacks many of the features (like scripted dungeon encounters, or character class abilities, etc.) and will probably be a lot more buggy than the original.

So free may still be cheaper, but it’s also nothing like the original.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I doubt that any major game company could emulate this system. They are too over-managed and over-organized to respond to the market.

I imagine most western game companies would respond something like this:

Set up a new server just because demand had developed in an area? Ridiculous! We have a five year plan for rolling out game servers. It was developed before the game was even released and represents the best thinking of the graduates of top MBA schools. Changing the plan would require hiring the very best consulting agencies and months of review. Market demand is too fickle. It would take at least a year of planning and negotiation with IP rights holders in order to set up a single new server, and by that time the gamers would have moved on to other games.

Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I doubt that any major game company could emulate this system. They are too over-managed and over-organized to respond to the market.

Actually, the first thing I thought of when I read this story may surprise you: Microsoft. Hackers had broken the Xbox security system to install homebrew software. While Microsoft did take steps to ban modified consoles from the network, when Bill Gates was shown a demo of a modded Xbox, his response was, “How can we engage this community?” The Indie Games Marketplace may owe its existence to this.

Microsoft’s reaction to Windows Phone 7 hackers is similar, inviting them to Redmond and treating them to donuts.

Granted, it may take them years to truly incorporate any of the ideas, and they might not be as “open” as the results a dedicated hacker comes up with, but it’s a far cry from the “shut down and litigate” reaction we see a lot.

krusty-g (profile) says:

Franchise

That’s all I kept thinking reading this. The games company as the franchisee provide the core software (and probably run their own servers with their preferred setting/rules), but allow individuals such as those running personal servers to become official franchisees. The franchisees get permission to run the core software on their servers, with customised setting/mods etc, and Shanda get a cut.

Anonymous Coward says:

I play on a private MMO server myself. It lets you level up 90 times faster than the official version. That sounds like a lot, but the official version’s levelling is so slow that 90x ends up being pretty reasonable.
“Underserved” is an appropriate term. It’s good to hear that game developers are paying attention to their (potential) customers and trying to improve things.

Ninja (profile) says:

I’d go further. Aside from offering high ratio servers (just for fun) they could offer multiple payment options. i.e.: instead of charging for a full month regardless of play time they could charge for days or hours and if ppl bought bigger packages they’d get a discount in the per hour or per day cost. There were some attempts in this way a while back but the hourly price was too damn high.

A monthly subscription for a variety of online games could be nice too. For instance blizzard has Starcraft, World of Warcraft and (in the near future) Diablo III. Instead of offering access per game they could charge a fee to ‘unlock’ the game(s) and then include that game in the monthly bill (or daily/hourly if you will).

There are a few games I would try but if I have to pay $15 per month for every single one there’s a problem. Money is finite 😉

John Doe says:

Mike Masnik Can't Read or Think

The article I read said that the Dirty Scumbag pirates not only want everything for free, but they engaged in such destructive hacking of their enemy gangs that they cut off Internet access to a city.

Or is this just another case of Mike talking about an article he did not bother to read like those foreign language articles he commented on. But this is in English

“The Chongqing case also reflected how dirty competition can become in the private server business, where cyberattacks are common and victims are unlikely to seek police aid because their operations are illegal. The ?Knights? group monopolized the market for Legend private-server ads because it disrupted rivals with cyberattacks, police alleged.”

And woman-sharers (gang rapists) are just providing sex education.

If you listen to Mike Masnik or invite him to speak, you are an idiot.

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