If People Like You And Your Work They'll Pay; If They Like Your Work, But Don't Like You, They'll Infringe

from the cthulhu-saves-your-games dept

With the massive success of Double Fine’s Kickstarter campaign (which has passed quadruple what it asked), a lot of people are commenting about just what it means to be successful in today’s digital climate. Among those talking are indie game developers who are taking the time to reflect on this phenomena and how they might be able to duplicate it for themselves. One of these indie developers is Robert Boyd, the creative mind behind retro JRPGs Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World. After a series of tweets on the topic of Double Fine’s success, Robert closed with this profound statement:

If people like you and like your work, they’ll buy your games. If they like your work but don’t like you, they’ll pirate them.

The first half of this statement is at the heart of the idea of connecting with your fans. Part of this ability to connect with your fans is to be more open and human with them. We have seen repeatedly how artists sell more of their work and scarcities associated with their work as they become more human to their fan base. As fans come to trust you and feel that they can approach you directly, even if that is through email, Twitter or Facebook, they will be far more likely to trust you enough to part with their money. This trust is one of the keys to Double Fine’s success and a key to the success of any game developer. Similarly, it was seen in the way Louis CK treated his fans.

The second half of this statement is a lesson that many larger publishers, developers and others in the entertainment industry have forgotten. Because of that, they are suffering the fallout. DRM and other methods that show how little the developer or publisher trusts its fans breeds contempt within the fan community. While those consumers may still like the product, they don’t like the way they are treated. This is one of the driving factors behind piracy. To top off the problem, these creators and gatekeepers set up walls between themselves and their fans. They do everything to avoid contact with fans outside carefully orchestrated scenarios. This turns fans off and decreases the amount of trust they have for these individuals and companies.

It’s often said that people will just get stuff for free if they can. But, clearly, that’s not true. We’ve seen so many cases of content creators being supported by their fans at tremendous levels (such as the two cases mentioned above) that there’s clearly more to it. And it seems that a key element is whether or not fans actually like you. Some people suggest that the disconnect with piracy is that people value the work, but won’t pay for it. But a more accurate realization may be that people value the work… but don’t value the creator if the creator doesn’t value them. When the two sides value each other, it seems people are more than willing to pay.

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Comments on “If People Like You And Your Work They'll Pay; If They Like Your Work, But Don't Like You, They'll Infringe”

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bob (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

So not liking someone is all it takes to excuse infringement. What does that say about the people who hang around this site? They don’t care whether someone does good work. They don’t care whether something is a fair deal. It’s all about whether they’re “liked”.

As we’ve seen before, Mike is more than happy to celebrate the paywalls of people he likes (Louis CK, Kevin Smith) and denigrate the paywalls of people he doesn’t. Wow. Talk about a man of principle!

So the most popular kids get rich and everyone else blames the victim when they infringe. It’s the victim’s fault for not being liked. So it’s all okay to kick that unpopular kid and take the unpopular kid’s lunch money because– and this is all it takes — that kid was unpopular.

What a wonderful world you’re building in cyberspace Mike!

Anonymous Coward says:

This is so true. I’ve now and then seen a cool-looking game, then see “oh, published by Ubisoft”, guess I’ll pirate it. One of them “From Dust” required an Ubisoft login on start or something ridiculous. So not only do I feel good about not paying Ubisoft, I feel better about not having to get an online account to play a single player offline game!

Yet, I’ve spent plenty of money on Amazon MP3, eBooks (easily $200 a month on that alone), direct games, and even games on Steam. If I really like a game and company, I’ll even buy copies for friends and families. Yet, I could have just as easily pirated those songs, books, and games.

But it’s not even just the ease of piracy. It’s finding good content. I paid for a Netflix subscription _purely_ for the rating system. I’d use Netflix to figure out what was worth getting, then just download the movie instead of waiting for the DVD. (Streaming has helped a bit, but quality and subtitle issues are still a pain.)

There’s SO MUCH stuff out there, games, etc. that there’s very rarely a “omg I must have this” item. Take GTA 4 for instance. I loved the GTA series. Find out the GTA 4 PC version has heavy screwy DRM. I didn’t pirate it. I just when “meh” and forgot about it because there’s a million other things destroying my attention.

Call me wicked, immoral, the downfall of culture — whatever. It’s a simple market reality. I don’t feel it’s “wrong”*, and nor does anyone in my social group.

And most of all, it’s SO, SO, easy to stop me from acting like this. If you’re a company: Don’t act like a bunch of idiotic asshats. It’s really that simple. Kill this stupid geo-specific selling, dumbass launch windows, etc. Take my cc info, and send me a damn download link for an executable that runs the game and nothing more.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

Figures that you would completely miss the point of the article.

So not liking someone is all it takes to excuse infringement.

Nope. However, not being liked is a sure fire way to fail in business. If people don’t like you they won’t do business with you. Some people will pirate, that is unfortunate, but that is easy to stop if you would just stop treating your customers/fans as trash.

Mike is more than happy to celebrate the paywalls of people he likes (Louis CK, Kevin Smith) and denigrate the paywalls of people he doesn’t.

Sure, if you have no idea what a paywall is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow....It's just like high school

“What does that say about the people who hang around this site? They don’t care whether someone does good work.”

We do care.
We want to buy good material.
But when a content owner (not content creator, Big Media aren’t creators.) makes it difficult to buy or use product, people will go elsewhere to get it.

We don’t like you.
But that doesn’t mean we’d download from you.
It’s more likely we wouldn’t bother, believing you (and your work) are not worth the effort.

And from the way you’re talking, I think you were one of the “unpopular kids” in school, boy.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

I find it interesting how often you trolls confuse stating facts with endorsing the actions. Mike is not saying that it is ok to pirate peoples work or justifying the action. He is simply stating the fact that if people do not like you they will not support you. This is simple fact of life.

If you ran a store and you treated all your customers like dirt then few people would shop there and you would have problems with stealing. The more security you put up the more trouble you will have.

On the other hand if you run a nice store and make a connection with your customers. You treat them like friends and are kind to them then you will not have as much stolen and more people will shop there. As a result you save tons on security.

The Buzz Saw (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

Disliking does not *excuse* infringement. A more appropriate analogy would be that every time you go to pay for your nachos at the concession stand, the cashier slaps you after handing you your receipt. People want the nachos and want to support the people selling them, but if every purchase is accompanied by pain, people will start saying, “What’s that over there?” *runs*

Loki says:

Wow....It's just like high school

1) Nowhere in the article did it say infringement was acceptable, just that is an inevitable byproduct of bad customer service. I’d take it a step further and say if your customer service is bad enough, people won’t even infringe your product and you can’t even give it away.

2) Apparently, once again you don’t even pay enough attention to note that Mike didn’t write this article. But then if you are going to chastise people for things they didn’t say, then I suppose it doesn’t matter if you’re actually criticizing the right person, now does it?

3) You don’t understand what a paywall actually is do you? Which isn’t surprising given you don’t seem to understand a lot of things.

4) As usual, you’ve gotten the analogy backwards. People tend to share what they have (their money) with people they find likable and consider popular. The less popular kids have to resort to threat and bullying to get people to “like” them and share with them. People tend to ignore the rights of bullies because bully ignore everyone else’s rights.

Personally if you are an actual content creator I hope I’ve never had the misfortune of actually spending any of my money for anything you’ve done.

Zos (profile) says:

you have to accept one basic tenet of reality for any of this to make sense.

Copying is easy. Sharing is easy. Piracy is never going away.

Your only hope for the future is to move past that, and figure out how to monetize peoples attention.

Cory Doctorow put it very well recently with his story about “now you have two problems”:
http://joshuawise.com/28c3-transcript (transcript CES speech, good stuff)

none of this would be possible unless we could control how people use their computers and the files we transfer to them. After all, it was well and good to talk about selling someone the 24 hour right to a video, or the right to move music onto an iPod, but not the right to move music from the iPod onto another device, but how the Hell could you do that once you’d given them the file? In order to do that, to make this work, you needed to figure out how to stop computers from running certain programs and inspecting certain files and processes. For example, you could encrypt the file, and then require the user to run a program that only unlocked the file under certain circumstances.

395.8 But as they say on the Internet, ?now you have two problems?. You also, now, have to stop the user from saving the file while it’s in the clear, and you have to stop the user from figuring out where the unlocking program stores its keys, because if the user finds the keys, she’ll just decrypt the file and throw away that stupid player app.

416.6 And now you have three problems [audience laughs], because now you have to stop the users who figure out how to render the file in the clear from sharing it with other users, and now you’ve got *four!* problems, because now you have to stop the users who figure out how to extract secrets from unlocking programs from telling other users how to do it too, and now you’ve got *five!* problems, because now you have to stop users who figure out how to extract secrets from unlocking programs from telling other users what the secrets were!

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

True, but...

Two responses:

1) So what? We have a huge abundance of content of every type imaginable. There’s more music/video/books/video games/etc being created than any person could hope to consume in a lifetime. Likability of the creator is just one factor among many that help us filter through all the content. So just add “artist/distributor likability” to quality, relevance, taste, ease of use, price, etc. Unsurprisingly, many of those mostly line up with not being an asshole already.

2) Is it so bad that society/the public/consumers wish to support those who work with the community and ostracize those who are only in it for themselves? In other words, choosing benevolence over selfishness if there is any alternative? It’s simple competition.

gojomo (profile) says:

True, but...

I think it could be so bad.

Asshole geniuses may bruise a few people’s feelings, but leave enduring work that stands alone, without regard to their personality. The asshole damage they can do is capped by their lifetime and personal interactions; the genius good they can do is unbounded by infinite reproduction.

But, given the observation leading this article, the incentives for creation and the personality are now more linked than before. We’ve actually *lost* one of the benefits of mass-reproduction — detaching the work from the personality-outside-the-work — when we go to voluntary payments. Some asshole geniuses will, at the margin, go into other fields (like banking or law) rather than creating great works. Not a win for the culture.

Not that I think this jusitifes (or that it would even be possible) trying to go back to the old system of copy-tolls. It’s just an observation about the texture of the new deal. Maybe culturally we’ll adapt, when we get bored with all the nice-guys, by adopting an ethic of even paying those we don’t ‘like’ when they make us think.

Anonymous Coward says:


I bet this Tim Schafer is just twisting your gizzard isn’t it?

I mean, you put in all the hard work to produce an album, and people pirate the shit out of it, and you don’t see a dime.

Then along comes this Tim Schafer cat, tells people “Hey. Ima make something but I don’t have it right now, give me money anyway bitchez”, and people THROW (literally – I was tossing dollar bills at my monitor just last night) A MILLION DOLLARS at him.

Bet that pisses you off doesn’t it?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

I somehow doubt that. I can’t even recall reacting that way in high school. It’s be more like a quiet or loud “fuck you” depending on how I was feeling and they could keep their damned nachos. Reaching over and grabbing a handful just isn’t worth the effort.

While real world analogies don’t work well in cyberspace the response may be that “you’re an asshole” but I like this song so I’ll grab it anyway. Or the software or whatever.

Please note, carefully, however that if I run off with a fist full of nachos there are fewer nachos in the concession stand and, probably, a mess so something physical has actually gone. In cyberspace a copy is made and the original is still there so nothing is missing except for “expected” or “hoped for” income/profit. And something expected or hoped for isn’t real until someone has it in their hands, it’s vapour.

The analogy being made in the post is still valid though. In cyberspace or “the real world” I’m far more likely to buy from someone who treats me well, greets me as a friend and helps me when I need it than someone who stays behind the counter with a sour look on their face and looks at me as if I so much as breathe I’ll ruin their day. Even if the place is chock full of security cameras my response to how I’m treated is exactly the same.

In cyberspace I’m far more likely to pay you for something if, as a seller, artist, creator or even a gatekeeper, you and your site treat me well and not as if I’m a potential criminal waiting to steal from you.

Hope I didn’t use too many big words.

Anonymous Coward says:


RIAA campaign to educate people ended abruptly in 2008, half the gross of that industry was gone no other industry suffered that much, not movies, not books not indies only the big labels that sued everyone.

I say that if you piss off one guy one time, they let it go most of the time, piss off one guy repeatedly and he will find a way to screw you in some way, piss off millions of people and you get hammer time on your head for a very long time.

Dionaea (profile) says:


Thank you for making this point, I was about to put it down myself. The ‘like’ which is mentioned in the text refers not to a personality, but to the way you are treated. ALL industries are held responsible for the way they treat their customers.

You don’t tend to buy from an internet store a second time if you get a broken product and no proper apology and refund. It’s all about customer service. I’d never buy anything from Apple with their freakish ITunes program. I also only buy CD’s, so if my computer/mp3-player dies I can just rip it again. The quality of an actual CD just so happens to be much better too. Sure, I’ll buy music files, as soon as they sell files which are the same quality as a cd and which I can copy to as many of my own devices as I want.

That’s what this is about, they’re spitting in the faces of their customers and expecting to get paid for it.

Kevin Clark (profile) says:

more stuff is social, which is good and bad

The discussion on forcing rude geniuses to be less rude is a small piece of a bigger thing. More interactions that used to be structured by big non-social institutions (companies of all kinds, governments, restrictive communication media), are now social. Now the big artist’s interaction with the fan is more like being friends, so you have to not be a dick.

This means you can do more stuff in a more comfortable, social way, which is kind of great. But it also means that being friends with people is way more important than it was in the last generation.

As someone who was nowhere near popular as a kid, I look at that trend and think of the downsides. I used to count on my brain to get me past the part of my life where popularity was a thing and into a place where I could just go around being clever and that would be enough. Now you’re telling me everything’s about social connections, and popularity is MORE important, not LESS thanks to all this cool tech?

It may be unfair, but it’s totally happening, so the question is how to get ready for it.

bob (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

No. The article says it’s merely a function of being liked. It has nothing to do with ease of use. So if people don’t like you because you’re black, tough. It’s your fault. You’ve got the failing business model and everyone around here is going to laugh at you and say that you’re not innovating.

It’s all about being popular.

Anonymous Coward says:

Support the artists

Last night I acquired a song by the band “PPK” -twice. The song was one they released for free a couple years ago, but I acquired it in an unauthorized manner so I guess you could say I pirated it. But I appreciate the band’s work (and they’re making it available for free) so I went to iTunes and purchased a remix version of the same tune (which I wouldn’t have purchased otherwise). I win and the band wins, and no RIAA required.

MahaliaShere says:

Whitelist and Blacklist

+1 million

Note: I haven’t read all the comments yet.
I often find myself blacklisting authors who present themselves in such a terrible light, I lose all interest in their work. This is assuming I was ever interested to begin with. If all you seem to do is rant about “piracy” and spend more time and energy regarding your fanbase as beneath your feet, complaining loudly about lost royalties, etc… don’t expect me to spare half a glance at your work, legally or otherwise. I don’t give a damn if anyone thinks I’m “missing out” on something (and who are you to be coaching me on my tastes, anyway? False worry grates my nerves).

It’s true that some people are able to seperate the artist from the content. That’s great for them. I refuse to do it though, life is too short and there’s already so much legally free content out there that I don’t have to waste my time on assholes. Of course, there may be a few exceptions, but only a few. 😉

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

No. The article says it’s merely a function of being liked. It has nothing to do with ease of use. So if people don’t like you because you’re black, tough. It’s your fault. You’ve got the failing business model and everyone around here is going to laugh at you and say that you’re not innovating.

Let’s face it folks – are we really surprised bob has a problem with a world where likability matters?

kramer says:

People seem to have no problems paying or using stuff created by assholes (eg: Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg) but when it comes to content they are more finicky. Metallica is a classic example. They went from gods to demons in one fell swoop, in a single assholish move. People are just happy to pirate Metallica because that move is always at the back of their mind.

PaulT (profile) says:

Wow....It's just like high school

You’re saying that Louis CK isn’t doing well because he only made over $1 million in less than 2 weeks (according to his Dec 21 blog post)? Where even before the DVD release he was so overwhelmed that he gave over half the net profit from that to charity and still pocketed over $200k for himself?

I’d like to live in your fantasy world, where this is considered a poor performance, where are you located?

PaulT (profile) says:


One of my favourite movie podcasts (The Gentlemen’s Guide To Midnite Cinema) recently put up a Kickstarter project for funds to cover their costs. They asked for $500. It was funded within a few hours. They currently have $1,330 pledged, with 58 days to go.

Remember, this is a free podcast that nobody’s ever been asked to pay for. People care enough about them to give them significant payment, even though everything they do is offered free of charge. Even if there’s thousands of people out there who listen for free but haven’t pledged, connecting with fans has more than paid off.

I bet our usual ACs are jealous. Not only have they failed, but others are proving their anti-free stances to be totally wrong as well.

Nathanael says:

True, but...

Don’t worry about the loss of “great works made by assholes”. Some people LIKE asshole creators. Those people will continue to give the asshole creators money if the creators’ work is good enough.

Only mediocre assholes will find themselves unable to get enough money to live on. Really great assholes will find people who pay to be kicked and spat on. They won’t get rich but they’ll get some money.

Nathanael says:

more stuff is social, which is good and bad

I’m a very abrasive person, but as my friends know, I’m incredibly trustworthy.

That’s all you really need for business success. You don’t need to be *liked* — you need to be *trusted*. So let’s amend that comment.

If people like your work and *trust* you they’ll give you money. If they like your work and *don’t* trust you they’ll copy it without permission.

So it’s not *exactly* about popularity. People can see you as standoffish and a bit unfriendly “but with a heart of gold”, and you’re good. People can see you as friendly-on-the-surface, but a dick behind their backs, and you’re ruined.

marcmail (profile) says:

not always true

its not always true that you must be liked, for sure, if you do good stuff its better to be liked, but when you do something so insanely new or amazingly cool you become famous and if you’re an a–hole then people are going to buy your stuff anyway. and if you’re a repeat offender I mean dealing out the quality stuff time and time again, people can’t help but come back. of course there is truth in all the points here.

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