Game Developer Chooses To Connect With Pirates, Reaps Rewards As A Result

from the good-guys dept

While the industries that dominate digital products generally aren't great at recognizing the true nature of the threat of piracy to their businesses, it seems to me the video game industry is better at this game than most. Whereas the movie and music industries are dominated by a great deal of fists pounding tables, some game developers have for some time recognized that piracy might actually be an opportunity in wolf's clothing, if they would only try connecting with these potential customers and ingratitate themselves to this wider potential audience. Still, because this idea that should be easily portable to other industries is so rarely entertained by those other industries, it's worth pointing out the ongoing examples of how gaming companies combat piracy by being awesome and human.

One such recent example is the story of how PM Studios, makers of Playstation Vita game SUPERBEAT: XONiC, reacted to a discussion on Reddit's r/VitaPiracy/ thread detailing how to pirate the game. The game developer decided to jump into the comments themselves with the following:

Hello everybody!

We feel honoured that you enjoy our game SUPERBEAT XONiC so much, we would like to invite you to take this opportunity to purchase it on sale at the Playstation Store.

You can enjoy the original game and show support to the team for just $15.99 (60% off), no Playstation Plus required!

https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/games/superbeat-xonic/cid=UP2011-PCSE00717_00-SUPERBEATXONIC02

Have a nice day!

This, quite simply, is how it's done. Rather than flying into a rage, which would be somewhat understandable on a thread designed specifically to show how to play the game without paying for it, PM Studios decided to treat those on the thread with respect, even thanking them for trying out the game. This acknowledgement that some percentage of piracy is comprised of those wanting to see if they'll like a game before buying it, combined with simply ignoring those that pirate without any intention of ever buying the game, and wrapped up at the end with a link to where the game can be bought while on sale, was met with enthusiastic responses in the comments.

And not only that. PM Studios stayed in the thread and had a relatively lively but respectful debate about how it views piracy, the harm of piracy, and describing its status as a small team just looking to make great games. In other words, rather than simply screaming about piracy, it connected with its potential customers in a respectful way. In the end, several comments came to the defense of PM Studios.

[–]DidntEvenReddit 5 points 3 days ago*

For a small team making Xonic it really is a way to keep the developers on the payroll post-release and keep in mind this is a third party exclusive game on the fucking vita to begin with so the margins are already against them. I have no idea why you would equate the practices of AAA publishers to PMStudios or why you wouldn't want to support them. You're not sticking it to the big corporate man by fucking over a small studio like this

One imagines that this kind of thing builds up goodwill amongst potential buyers of PM Studio games. Some of the comments on the thread state as much. It won't do anything with the pure-pirate folks out there, but, then again, nothing will. Worrying about those that were never going to buy the game would have been wasted time and energy. Instead, the developer chose to try to win over those that might indeed want to support its efforts.

Here's hoping PM Games gets the positive reinforcement needed to confirm that this kind of thing is the right way to deal with piracy. And that other studios are paying attention, as well.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2016 @ 11:49pm

    One would be curious to see how much of a sales boost this generated for them.
    The only way to get more studios to follow this lead would be to clearly show them the bottom line benefits.

    I'm of an age when there were these things called playable demos. You could see how well it would run on your system, and experience some limited game play. It made it easier to engage with consumers who would know if they could even play it without buying upgrades.

    Demos are pretty much unheard of these days, replaced with renders of gameplay or video filmed on a machine 15x's the listed specs. Its really annoying for someone to see something, see they are above the specs and the game looks like Minecraft when they buy it.

    So much of the video game industry has moved to what should be called bait n switch. Incomplete games, the DLC already on the disc, plays nothing like the videos, ship now/patch later, the latest in root kits, Always online demands for a SP game, central servers that crash leaving players screwed, lopsided support for 1 video card brand over another. (there is so much more)

    But for some reason they can't quite figure out why so many people 'pirate' titles.
    Pirates don't put up with the DRM or many of the other headaches meant to stop them that only punish paying customers.
    Pirates might just not be willing to drop $80 on a title with nothing more that perfect renders of a game that plays like crap on their machine in reality - but they would be willing to try it to see if thats something they want to pay for.
    Pirates might play the game for 25 min and decide its crap & delete it.

    Given that they have tried to destroy the used games market, or capture it for themselves with even worse terms for consumers they pretty much are hastening the next generation of 'pirates' who after being burned a few times will be far more picky in what they purchase after they try it.
    If you keep slapping them around, they might reach a point where they shift to just full time pirates. Nintendo frequently abuses their fans, want to guess how pirated their titles end up being as payback?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 12:02am

      Re:

      Balderdash, you don't need demos, if a game dev says the game is awesome and provides totally accurate screenshots or absolutely not staged footage that should be good enough for you or anyone else. I mean it's not like they'd ever lie or exaggerate or anything, why would they?

      And as for the idea that your machine might not actually be able to run the game, whether from hardware or driver issues, or because the game itself is filled to the brim with bugs(something that of course never happens, I mention it purely as a hypothetical), where's your sense of adventure? I mean people gamble away tons of money all the time on various things, who wouldn't want to gamble $60+ on a game that might not actually be playable? 'Worst' case scenario you end up with an awesome new drink coaster(assuming physical disc), and really, who doesn't want more of those?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TexasAndroid (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 6:07am

      Re: Demos

      There's plenty to dislike about how Nintendo handles their walled-garden called the E-Store, but on this aspect they are actually pretty good. There are quite a lot of playable demos on the 3DS E-Store. They get their own section off of the main page, making them fairly easy to find. The demos themselves vary in quality, but still most give a decent taste of the gameplay of the game in question.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 6:46am

      Re:

      That. Release the full game, DRM free. It will be pirated. Go after piracy circles and offer promotions for those who want to support the studio. Note: SUPPORT the studio.

      I've bought Minecraft just to support the guy simply because he is awesome. Never played the game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Machin Shin (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 8:14am

        Re: Re:

        It is kind of funny, I did the same thing. I bought a copy of minecraft just because I liked the developer.

        I am also one of the crazy guys who gave over $100 to Double Fine to make their adventure game. I did not hesitate one bit just tossing money at them when they said who they were and what they wanted to make.

        On the other hand, I have gone to buy a game before only to see that it came with some especially annoying DRM. I promptly canceled the order and pirated it instead. I'm not going to pay for a game and then be required to install spyware to play it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jajo (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 1:14am

    A little while ago a friend was really excited about a game called This War of mine. One day he noticed, that the lead designer of the game put up a torrent of the game on TPB with a similar message along the lines of "we know, that this is inevitable. We might as well make this as easy as possible for any potential buyers. You'll try our game and if you'll like it, you just might buy it, or at least recommend it".
    This friend of mine shared the news with us and after 10 minutes 11 Bit Studios had sold 6 more copies.

    MuHa Games is the studio behind Thea: The Awakening. When the game was in early access on steam, there were several requests for linux support. Lead developer engaged the petitioners on Steam forums with regretable news, that they are just too small of a studio to afford supporting a linux port. But! Since they do not want people to be barred form enjoying their game, they are releasing the linux build as-is for free and hopefully tech savvy people will be able to get it running and provide unofficial support to other enhusiasts (link to the build was included).
    I'm using linux myself, but I've bought a copy on the spot and so have several others, judging by the thread replies. People who otherwise really had no reason to do so.

    What can I say. I'm a compulsive buyer. I just can't not show patronage to companies that treat audience with respect.
    Because to me game piracy is not about getting stuff for free, but about not getting scammed out of money one might be short on. When I was in high school, this was the case; now that I have a job, it's not anymore. Companies could think of me as scum, but as long as I'm buying games every month, that really is not the best financial perspective to have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:13am

    "Reaps Rewards"?

    Uh, from what I read they got some "you're nice guys" shoulder slapping on a forum for illicit downloads.

    Calling that "reaping rewards" is a wee bit overselling it. I agree that they behaved in a manner that one would like to see a whole lot more of.

    I don't think it will hurt their bottom line, but I also don't consider it all that likely that it will boost it measurably either.

    I mean, look how little several dozens of pages of "Screw you" EULA have impacted the sales (and/or adoption rate) of Windows. Respect for customers or users is not appreciated a lot in the computer industry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2016 @ 5:39am

      Re:

      I'm guessing that has more to do with microsoft deals to put it's OS as the pre-installed system on laptops, clients really dont gey a say in that

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 29 Sep 2016 @ 9:08am

      Re: "Reaps Rewards"?

      I mean, look how little several dozens of pages of "Screw you" EULA have impacted the sales (and/or adoption rate) of Windows.


      Apple might be a better comparison at this point, given MS's slow-but-steady decline on the desktop and failure to gain a foothold in the mobile market.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2016 @ 8:43am

    Wut?

    You're not sticking it to the big corporate man by fucking over a small studio like this

    Actually you are sticking it to the big corporate man, the small studio is just collateral damage. If you do deals with the devil then you risk losing with the devil. The middle men in the content industry are clearly evil and opportunistic, it's not even close to a secret yet everyone lets those $$$ signs cloud their judgement and just go the easy sell your soul route.

    Additionally, any studio that agrees to exclusives of any kind deserve to fall. Also the "just to small" arguments is just a deflection for either "they don't want to" or "lack the expertise" or "just do not think it will be profitable enough for the effort". Either way, saying we are too small is a bullshit excuse, there is another reason not being given.

    The entire idea behind business is to first expend effort in hopes of gaining a reward. The ONLY questions are...

    Is this for profit?
    If not, then try it and see if you succeed.
    If YES, then will it earn enough?
    If not, then (cheezeball excuse, like we too small)
    If YES, then try to success and earn some cash!


    I do certainly appreciate what they did here, but never say that you are not sticking it to the big man. It has always been the case that "when you squeeze nobility, the peasants are the ones that feel the pinch." a quote I have always liked from the movie Dragonheart.

    So remember, it is never possible to take down evil without causing suffering to those under them, but they still must fall to make way for "hopefully" something better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Sep 2016 @ 8:40pm

      Re: Wut?

      "So remember, it is never possible to take down evil without causing suffering to those under them, but they still must fall to make way for "hopefully" something better."

      Please to explain which hapless peasants I caused suffering to in my windmill charging against Prenda & other trolls.

      Remember to show your work in a separate post.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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