The blog seems to be down, so I suppose I’ll write my reply here. It took me the better part of the day to ponder the matter, and ultimately what I’ve written here is quite blunt and brutally honest. I’ve done my best to write this in a way that applies to you specifically, yet the reasons are really quite universal. Frankly though, I highly doubt you’ll derive much help for them, let alone appreciate them.
The one thing I won’t give you in this message is any justification or garbage about economic systems, how piracy promotes sales or any such jargon. It’s just my reasons, and mine alone. As for myself personally, I’m well past a decade beyond my teens, and my financial situation is quite stable and comfortable, as is my employment. I use Winblows out of necessity, but I comfortably know my way around OSX and multiple flavors of Linux.
I’ll start with the “why”. There’s multiple elements to it, but the most basic element is “Because I can” and “Because there’s better things to spend my money on.” I understand you’re a small developer and every sale probably means quite a bit to you, but on the other hand I certainly don’t want to spend money if I don’t have to. If I have the choice not to, then the choice to actually pay for your software is basically charity. At least you’ve got that going for you, whereas purchasing a big developer’s software feels much like lighting dollar bills on fire.
The cheapskate part is only just one small facet. There’s also a bit of perverse fun behind it, and to explain that, let me give an analogy. Have you ever repaired a broken device so that you didn’t have to go buy a new one? Was it satisfying in figuring out how it worked and eventually managing to successfully fix it? Well, software is the same thing. Demo software is “broken”. Cracking it is “fixing” it.
The mere act of cracking a program – or hunting one down if I don’t want to spend the time to make it myself – is a game in itself, and a very satisfying one at that . That joy is doubled when the information on how to do it is shared, plus there’s that noble, warm-fuzzy feeling of having helped out others. When a game is cracked, I’ve won the game. My reward is the privilege of playing the program freely. Heck, there have even been games I cracked but never bothered playing. The appreciation I received from those who used the crack gives a more satisfying feeling than anything a game is capable of giving.
Sometimes it’s not even worth the time, but will spend the time to do it anyway. For example, games for Palm PDAs are generally in the $5 or $7 range. It took 4 hours to crack the most recent one. If time is money, that’s not even close to minimum wage, yet it still felt worth the time. Why? Again, for the challenge, and because paying for a program is like admitting I lost, which is very pride damaging. It’d be more preferable to delete the program and live without it than to pay for it.
Now for price. Quite simply, I hardly even notice the price of most games. Most times I just go straight to bittorrent after hearing about it. If I can’t crack it or find the crack to it, then it’s dead to me, at least for the time being. If I really need it and it’s beyond my skill to crack, there’s someone who WILL do so eventually. I can wait.
I know yours aren’t console games, but I’ll discuss those a bit. Console games are obviously a bit of a different matter because now there’s hardware mechanisms involved which hinder game copying, and they’re pretty effective. Believe it or not, there’s actually a small positive for gamers in that. How, you ask? Because those used games hold a resale value, whereas PC games hold zilch. That makes me feel a little less bitter about paying for a game because I can now recoup some of that back when I’m done with it.
I’ve got a nice stack of legit console games, almost all of them used. $17 is the drop-dead maximum I’ll pay on ebay after tax and shipping. The only games I bought new (yet on sale for under $25) were ones I deemed collectible. They’re still shrink-wrapped and will never be opened, and for playing purposes I obtained cheap ex-rental copies. The fact that the big developers want to curtail used game sales pisses me off to red visioned, acid spitting proportions, and their insistence that I should be paying an astonishing $40 to $50 (and on most new PS3 games, $60!) for something I’ll get barely a month’s usage is enraging. I’m even more pissed at gamers who have allowed those price points to be sustainable.
As for your game, Democracy 2, I suppose if I wanted to give a copy to my tech-illiterate cousin as a gift and didn’t want to put him through the trouble of cracking it, $15 feels like the sweet spot to me. At $22.95 I’d be expecting it to arrive in the mail with a leather bound manual and a collectible tin, shipping included.
As you’ve obviously gathered, I have less than zero respect for the concept of paying for software, and my attitude is rather lacking in sympathy for pay-to-play developers and programmers, indie or otherwise. To be quite blunt, I equate developers griping over piracy to be on par with street performers who panhandle. If the art of writing programs is your joy, I commend you, but like other arts, best of luck in profiting from it, especially now. My opinion is that it’d be more worthwhile and morally satisfying to code under GPL, but ultimately it’s your call. If for-profit programming is the way you want to go, people like me come with the territory.