Yet Another Developer Sees That Free Can Work For Video Games As Both An Anti-Piracy Strategy And As Promotion
from the getting-it dept
We’ve made the argument for some time that there are ways to use giving away free content in order to both stave off the threat of video game piracy and to garner greater attention for the product. For all of the congratulations we heap on game developers for simply not completely freaking out over the fact that piracy exists, far too few of those developers go on to actually take advantage of what freely given away products can do for them. But there are those out there who get it, including Indie Gala, a studio that is essentially giving away its product as it stands for free, both because it wants gamers to get clean copies of the game from clean sites and in order to drive those gamers to the Early Access Steam version of the game.
One of their two flagship titles on Steam – Early Access survival horror game Die Young – has been received well enough, but the developers believe piracy is enough of a problem to necessitate an unusual solution: Players unable or unwilling to buy the game are able to just download it, directly and DRM free, from the Indie Gala site.
Speaking candidly, Indie Gala state that piracy is a double-edged sword. For a smaller independent title such as Die Young with little marketing budget, it helps to get eyes on the product, even if they are piratical ones. Less good is that pirated copies tend to be older, less stable builds, and potentially located on malware-strewn sites. The move to just allow access to the game direct seems to be done with the intent of at least converting some would-be pirates to customers as development continues.
Now, the key to this is that Die Young is still in active development in Early Access. The free version the studio is giving away is nearly the entire product as it currently stands, but those freely given versions won’t receive the updated content that gets developed. For that, downloaders will have to transition to the Steam version of the game. In that way, this is a strange sort of hybrid between a game demo, playtesting an early build, and the try-before-I-buy scenario so many of those that admit to pirating games have claimed they engage in. For all this to be embraced by the game studio itself is the difference here, along with its claim of concern that gamers could get malware from untrustworthy sites.
It’s easy to see how this could work. Gamers who like the content will want the updates and some of them will go to Steam to get them legitimately. Some gamers will be willing to try the game out since it’s free when they might otherwise not have and, if they like it enough, will go to Steam to get the updated game legitimately. And some gamers will simply want to support a studio that has treated the larger gaming community so well and will go to Steam to get the game legitimately.
There’s no downside to this. Piracy does exist, but by utilizing free content and treating people in a way that’s human, its effects can be greatly mitigated.