Making Sure Players Get The Best Experience Is More Important Than Worrying About How They Got The Game

from the word-of-mouth-is-king dept

Recently, Extra Credits did a great episode on game demos and why no one makes them any more. The reason came down to the fact that it was really tough to make a game demo that really allowed a game to shine -- you were more likely to make a great game look terrible. In this episode, they talked about the need some people have to try out a game before they buy it and that free to play games were one way to accommodate that need. I would also add to this that piracy is another way some gamers try a game before they buy.

Just as it is important that people who play a demo get a good experience that leaves them wanting more, the same should be said of the full game itself. If your game sucks, people will stop playing it, word will spread and fewer people will buy it. This word of mouth also comes from those who pirate the game. Although they never paid the developer money, these players are still willing to speak their mind when it comes to the games that really make an impression on them. So it is still important to make a great game.

It was this last scenario, of people pirating a game and then talking about its bugs, that led one developer to take to the Pirate Bay to let those players know that a patch was coming. Jonatan Soderstrom is one of the developers behind a recently released game, Hotline Miami. After the game showed up on the Pirate Bay, people started complaining about bugs they ran into.
However, a few people had a couple of problems getting the game to run.

“Whenever I try starting the game I get [an] error,” user randir12 explained. “Error defining an external function.”

“Sometimes the game works if I click ignore, but there’s no sound.”
Instead of letting these players get help from other Pirate Bay users, Jonatan, as user cactus69, showed up himself with advice and news of a coming patch.
Hey there! I’m Jonatan Soderstrom, me and my friend Dennis Wedin made this game.

We’re working on an update that hopefully will take care of any/all bugs, and we’ll try to do some extra polish in the next few days. Would be great if you could update the torrent when the patch is out! It’d be great if people get to play it without any bugs popping up. Hope everyone will enjoy the game!

For the ‘Error defining an external function’ problem, try restarting your system and play again, it can pop up when your computer has been running for a while. We’ll try to figure out if there’s more to it than that.
While such direct contact between pirates and a game's developer is not entirely new (we have seen something like this before) it is still not the norm, and a great way to make an impression on the fans of the game. Soderstrom was able to put out a potential fire that could have led to some people to never picking the game up. In fact, this was his thought process on taking that effort. In a pair of tweets, Jonatan explained that he both understood why people might pirate, but also that it was important that they have a good experience.
I don't really want people to pirate Hotline Miami, but I understand if they do. I've been broke the last couple of months. It sucks.

And I definitely want people to experience the game the way it's meant to be experienced. No matter how they got a hold of it.
That great experience is one of the most important things any creator should work toward. It doesn't matter how much time and money you put into a game, movie, album or book. If the output does not meet the expectation of those who experience it, they will tell others. That will lead to even more people avoiding it. However, as you work toward making the best possible experience and you are completely open about faults, then people will respect you more, and often look past any flaws to support you.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Shadow Dragon (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 3:47am

    Insert Typical Copyright Madimalist Troll Subject

    [Insert Typical Copyright Maximalist Troll Response]

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

  2. icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 3:58am

    [Insert Typical Troll Feeding]

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

  3. icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 4:10am

    Ah common sense. So simple and yet in such short supply in the creative industries.

    Make a product that people want to pay for and they will do so.

    Release a product that is unfinished, full of bugs and generally not very good, and they will not pay for it.

    Any student doing business 101 can tell you this.

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

  4. icon
    PaulT (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 4:11am

    I'll also jump in before the troll fest, but I would note a few points:

    1. Whatever the word of mouth is among "pirates", the word will spread outside of pirate sites. If people pirating the game think it sucks, they'll let paying customer know as well as fellow pirates. A pirate giving a bad review on Amazon can sway sales as easily as someone who bought a copy from there.

    2. Anyone who splits potential customers into "people who pay" and "people who pirate" and deny any crossover between the two groups needs to live in reality for a while.

    3. It's great to get word directly to people playing your game, whatever the forum. Word of an upcoming patch might ease people who have paid $60 for the game as easily as those complaining about their illicit copy.

    4. Games are expensive. If you're going to pay full price for a game, you need to try before you buy. If demos aren't available, you have to preview the full version. That's as true if you pirate it as it is if you borrow it from a friend, play it in store or rent a copy. If you're not willing to reduce the price or make a free legal demo, then piracy will happen - but that doesn't always mean lost sales.

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

  5. icon
    vegetaman (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 4:47am


    I usually wait a few weeks after the game came out and check youtube for some let's play type videos and see what I think of the game and go from there. I bought Wolfenstein (2009) thanks to doing this, and I absolutely loved it.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 4:54am

    Re: Also...

    > let's play type videos

    All of which, if copyright were enforced to its maximum, would not exist...

    Copyright maximalism is like shooting yourself in the foot, while preaching to others how wonderful it is to have a bullet in your foot.

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

  7. icon
    Ninja (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:22am


    That. I'm one that download and then buy when worth it. I even bought a few PS3 games I found for good prices BEFORE buying the console (after this final hack it'll be very soon!).

    In any case, this guy is going for an epic win. I don't intend to check on the game, really. But if I did and found the bugs I'd just not bother buying (and possibly playing). However, with that kind attitude I'd AT LEAST check the patched game, which could result in a sale. On the other possible scenario he'd have literally lost a sale (100% certain loss). If I download then there's a chance I'll buy if I liked. And I'm totally not alone.

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

  8. icon
    Chargone (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:26am

    oddly, back when demos were to be had, i came across more than one that was Great fun... and then the game itself was just... kind of flat. (some version or another of Worms was a prime example.) or sometimes outright terrible. so they weren't really representative anyway...

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

  9. icon
    The eejit (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:36am

    Contrast this with UK users' experiences of FIFA 13 with horrible bugs such as disappearing footballs, invisible players and actual loss of monies.

    Source: Watchdog 31/10/12, BBC.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:45am


    Heard that it's FIFA 12 (haven't played either personally) with just a couple of texture reskins too.

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

  11. icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 5:50am


    PES is much improved this year. Go for that one.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 6:13am

    Re: Re:

    PES has always been better because they dont waste money licensing player/team names and actually spend it on development!

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

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re: Re:


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

  14. identicon
    Lord Binky, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 6:43am

    "However, as you work toward making the best possible experience and you are completely open about faults, then people will respect you more, and often look past any flaws to support you."

    This fails as a general business model because people resent you when you try to take advantage of them for liking your product, which leads back to unhappy customers.

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

  15. icon
    Greevar (profile), Nov 1st, 2012 @ 8:49am


    Here's an idea: Why not implement a service like OnLive that allows people to try out games before they buy? Offer a time limited play session for each game where people get to see the game in its full glory without risking their money on a game they won't like. The service could be supported with ads from, get this, the game industry promoting other games they want you to try out and, hopefully, buy. It would make sense being that demos are a marketing tool and getting people to play the games that they might later on buy would be a good investment. In this case, they get to demo the retail version of the game and not some hack-meat demo they slapped together because the consumers demanded it.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 9:55am

    There's been a lot of schemes on how to make a game buggy for pirates. Like the music industry going after file sharers, it's shooting themselves in the foot.

    After being ripped off for years by bad games and bad reviews, I won't buy a game without trying it first. That's the full game, not a piece of it. If it's buggy, or it's no good, that's a guaranteed no sale.

    But if it's good, that's a sale.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2012 @ 8:41pm


    And talk about people who use torrents as a tool to judge whether they really want to buy a game (or music)... make the game carried in torrent bad is not good (as so does music).

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

  18. identicon
    Rekrul, Nov 3rd, 2012 @ 2:49am

    There have been several cases where I bought a full copy of a game after playing the demo. Dark Forces II, Half-Life, SiN, Thief, the Tomb Raider games, etc. Of course, I bought used copies of all of them, except DF2, but still...

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

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