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
    Tobias Cook, 26 Sep 2017 @ 10:47pm

    I am, admittedly, known to pirate media. Games, particularily games from consoles I owned as a child over twenty years ago but also the occasional modern title. Why you may ask? To see if my POS computer can run it! Why do I not just get a new computer? Well, I am one of those drains of the economy supported by government assistance.

    That being said, I do also sometimes buy games. Used games are my bread and butter, and I often stay years behind the tech curve so I can keep things affordable. Arguably most games I buy, the money is either going to a resaler or is so far past the release date that I won't be so much as a blip on profit considerations for a title.

    Still, why do I spend money on media from time to time when I can get it all for free, and arguably that money would be better spent buying myself a new shirt or picking up a huge bag of rice and potatoes? Because I find media that is worth the money. Worth the investment. Worth the support.

    I have purchased games that I will never play, especially horror titles (I wholeheartedly admit to being a cowardly pussy when it comes to horrot), that I instead watched a full lets-play of the title, and found something in the title WORTH supporting. Atmosphere, good gameplay, something unique. Something actually worth putting my exceedingly limited luxury budget towards if it means showing support for trends in the market I find admirable.

    Other times, I keep a list of games I want to purchase as soon as they hit an affordable point, often through steam sales, because the game proved to be more than a flash in the pan that I played for 2 or 3 hours and never looked at again. I am a shameless pirate. I assure you no companies are 'losing sales' on me if I don't purchase their title. If I didn't have the oppertunity to try the game out to make sure it runs on my hardware and is worthwhile, they would not be getting my money. If not for my ability to wait for a good sale period on the games I do decide to support, they also would not be getting my money. If not for a chance to see if the game actually held my attention and proved engaging long enough to be worthwhile, they would not be getting my money. It would be far too much of a risk. Instead of throwing money at the wind and supporting things not worth the investment because I had to pay just to try it, I support things that are actually WORTH my money.

    Frankly, this is a wonderful idea. I will not speak for every pirate, nor will I try to foolishly lump every pirate into the same mold like so many who throw about blanket statements about 'pirates just wanting everything for free, taking more and more'. This lets me try the game. This lets me see if the game will run on my hardware. This lets me see if the game is something I would be invested enough in to spend money on. This lets me have an actual experience as I wait for a decent time to buy the game when it is at a price I can afford.

    So I at least am glad to see this. I miss genuine demo's. Frankly, I have an old 3ds, and the thing that pisses me off most about the shop's demos is that they both limit how much of the game you get, AND limit how many times you can boot up the game.

    I am not saying either in isolation is horrible. Well, I frankly always prefered the former to the latter. If the game is engaging enough that I keep playing the demo, clearly it is engaging enough to stay on my radar to look for oppertunities to buy, whereas if a demo decides 'Naw, you've tried the first level enough times', I'm likely to forget about it and move on before I am in a position to buy. Still, leastwise, either one in isolation is understandable. I remember demos giving me the full experience for an hour. I remember demos that would only let me play the first two or three levels of a game.

    In both cases, I got some assurance that I was getting what I wanted.

    Particularily in the atrocious state of video game advertising these days, where advertisements are more cutscene and pre-rendered showing off than gameplay, of pre-order culture trying to convince you to buy something before ANYBODY really knows what you are getting... this market needs more demo's.

    Trailers and cutscenes work wonders for movies and television shows because they are entirely audiovisual media. WYSIWYG. Games by nature are interactive. If your advertising can't be... well then you are only ever giving a hollow husk of what the person is buying.

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