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.

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Filed Under: copyright, die young, free, piracy, video games
Companies: indie gala

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 27 Sep 2017 @ 7:37am

    Do You Prize Money, Or Do You Prize Honor?

    I am mostly interested in useful software, not games. Useful software is, of course, overwhelmingly dominated by open-source. It takes an organization on the scale of Microsoft to even keep pace with open-source, and occasionally, Microsoft gets in trouble because it has filched some open-source software, in violation of the terms. Open source useful software tends to be about honor, not about greed. There is a little bit of Richard Stallman in all of us, and a little bit of Linus Torvalds likewise. "A touch of Harry in the night," as Shakespeare put it in Henry V...

    The limit of useful open-source is, I think, represented by the PL/I programming language. PL/I is the first and most important dead programming language. It was always very closely tied to the IBM mainframe, and was involved in the decline of the mainframe. Very little system software made the transition from mainframes to personal computers. Everyone started over again in assembly language, and then in C, after a brief experiment with Pascal. People wrote compilers for FORTRAN, the scientific programming language, for personal computers, and these eventually turned up in open-source. And the same for COBOL, which was popularly reputed to be a dead language. There was a project for PL/I, within the Gnu C system, but it was last modified in 2007. It was presumably a private enthusiasm, and PL/I is a big language, and this kind of project would require a group commitment. What is left of PL/I seems to be a commercial program, or rather, a commercial service, which translates PL/I into Java. The idea is to move business logic from one's mainframe to one's website, and it seems the translation process is not fully automatic. It involves a certain amount of edit-and-rewrite work.

    People do produce open-source game development tools, and good development tools tend to lower the threshold for game developers. In the open-source framework, people produce sufficiently good chess programs, mah-jong programs, solitaire programs, etc., games which have a good solid intellectual tradition, but which are of no interest to modern gamers. But there is no will to produce an open-source equivalent of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.

    My mother is one of those really old programmers. She was programming on military projects, with a government security clearance, back in the 1950's, trained by the people who had built the first computers, five or ten years earlier. She has asked me about what is happening in programming now, and I had to explain all about video games, ab initio, as if to a person from another planet. From there, we went on to the kinds of hardware and software which support video-games. Her summation was that this kind of programming was really a form of prostitution.

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