Piracy vs flawed economic systems - a treatise


#1

I saw a news thing about your post and why people pirate. So I’m here to explain the complexity of the problem in all its glory, and touch on many of the valid reasons why. (Make it to the end of it, I promise it’s really good, stay with me here)… FYI: I wanted to make games for a living when I was younger.

People pirate because:

  1. Games are not scarce resources (the product once produced can ALWAYS meet demand at near zero cost)

  2. Information does not obey the same laws as real hard matter products (cars, milk, food) where someone is actually deprived of said matter. If we invented startrek replicators you can just imagine what havoc that would play on the economy. People would no longer be forced to work for others because they control and make their own goods for themselves, rich people would no longer have slaves to command and would be redundant, being rich would be meaningless since we made being rich “obsolete”.

  3. According to neoclassical economics (i.e. supply and demand) all intellectual property businesses should be unprofitable from the outset since supply exceeds demand in every case, in the labour market wages would go down but in the intellectual property market the exact opposite happens – people still make money even though supply is infinite – this is a key point that proves capitalist economics is a political system, not based on pure rationality, but a hybrid which is biosociological in nature based on our primitive animalistic psychology “My game” (territoriality). Go read some comments of great physicists like Albert Einstein, and realize the universe is holistic, the idea of individualism, and many aspects of reality as “Seperate” is an illusion of our senses (spaceandmotion.com/): “A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. … We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)”

BTW Einstein was a socialist.

  1. Your product is not necessary, it is a luxury item. People have better things to spend their money on. Like, you know survival. Considering the massive economic problems this world faces (war, poverty, etc), people pirating your game is absolutely nothing. If anything you guys should thank your lucky stars you were born in a rich country.

  2. Games are not priced or geared to income, especially considering its marginal value. (not directly related to you games but to many others). You may think X dollars is not much but if you sold millions of copies you guys would be rolling in the dough and not entirely because of merit, but simply by population size. Try making games when the population of the world is less then 100, see how that works out for you. There are severe abuses that happen simply because money is a flawed store of value when considering balancing it against population size and the centralization of monetary power via the price mechanism.

  3. Games are not the same as real world products, don’t pretend that they are. Copyright and patents are mostly an artificial monopoly on things that aren’t scarce (information) I can’t take the number 1 from you, or the concept of colors.

  4. Our universe has allowed many products to be converted to information, so anyone who was in the business of selling information becomes effected since information now has highly variable value, but according to neoclassical economics it should have practically none in many instances considering supply is infinite and supply can always meet demand.

Lastly capitalism is a extremely flawed economic system, it’s a political system based on the force of a gun and by controlling and encapsulating the earth’s energy systems into privately owned enterprises. (competitive private dictatorships). It is not a fair or just system. In such a system you should EXPECT piracy as one of the only forms people can get back at people (whom they perceive to be rightly or wrongly) much richer then themselves and who ultimately control the political system, they are “lashing out” at groups of people that are distant and quite abstract and you end up taking some of that damage (whether they are right or not).

And I know many of you are not rich, but try to realize that the economic system is extremely flawed. I know you guys work hard and work your butts off on games, but a job being difficult does not mean anything in terms of what pay you think you deserve. Tonnes of people work very hard in the world and earn next to nothing. Think of all the jobs outsourced to china and in manufacturing sector, no one cried for “those” dirty lower status people. It’s coming for the white collar people too, hopefully in the future we as human beings can put this kind of pettyness behind us at some point and realize that nature has handed us impossible task, and given our limited minds and bodies we have to make due with a flawed economic system in a flawed universe. In which most of us our powerless and not smart enough to make use of the vast matter and energy effectively for the benefit of everyone given our short lives. Most people are fairly base, and animalistic, and in a culture of greed and individualism, you can’t expect people to simply buy it because you think “your game is great”, if you want to make a lot of money you have to stop making games you want to make and find markets and make games that THEY WANT MADE and who will pay for them. Sometimes what you want to make and think is awesome coincides with what a paying population thinks is good and awesome, this is what you want to shoot for. You have to be good businessmen not just guys who want to make cool games in the hopes that you think your cherished idea’s or cherished work of art deserves it. People have to be interested in your ideas and your work for you to make money, so you have to pick the right ones or else suffer the consequences of your own lack of understanding of the problem.

I know I thought about becoming a game developer because I was a real fan of 2D space-shoot em ups back in the day and no one really has improved the genre in a dogs age, I have so many ideas that would reinvigorate the genre while keeping the classic 2D gameplay… but I realized that you need enough people that have the same interests AND who are willing or have enough disposable income to pay for it.

When you feel down, go read about great games that didn’t sell all that well, especially the space-simulation genre, and 2D space shoot em ups, and some classics like Planescape torment, or Descent 3 (it didn’t recapture the magic of the first 2 games, I wanted to like it so badly but Descent 2 was superior in terms of the “feel” of the multiplayer gameplay)

There are PLENTY of great games that don’t sell well, and blaming it on piracy is just moronic considering the sales of Grand theft Auto 4, Civilization 4, and smaller games like Stardocks Galactic Civilization 2, or Sins of a solar empire.

I’ll leave you guys with a comment written from slashdot (excellent IMHO)


#2

Also here because of the news article. Interesting thing is I didn’t know about you guys prior to this and now I’ll get a chance to look at your games. If this was all a viral marketing campaign, you guys did a great job. And in a lot of ways, TheCaptain had some very great points that I could sympathize with.

My wife and I have been playing games for quite some time (some people watch movies, some people drink, we play games), and we both own a pretty significant collection. The number of games I buy far outnumbers the games that I download, mostly not out of care for the developers, but rather simply because I see them both sources for me to acquire a product. Games purchased tend to have a few bonuses that games downloaded don’t: a nice physical product (the box, book, etc), a smaller chance that it’ll break my computer (though no downloaded games ever did), and… well that’s pretty much it really.

Oh, one more thing, the excitement and anticipation right after I buy it. Unfortunately, it lasts roughly until I’m halfway through the game, that’s when the buyer’s remorse kicks in. It’s not that I don’t feel like it’s good, it’s that I don’t feel like it’s really worth the money. New games are around 59.99 here. That’s a significant chunk of change for an average person. But I convince myself that it was a good purchase despite the fact that unlike other products, this game has very small replay value. Then a few weeks later I go back to the store and see the price has dropped to 49.99, then 39.99, then 29.99, and finally it sits in a bargain bin for 15.99. That makes me feel like I’ve been cheated. I feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth, and these days advertising has convinced me that I deserve a lot more with my money.

Quietly, in the back of my head, I make a mental note to find the game in a way that I feel is worth it.

So here’s the main problem: I really don’t feel like game producers really respect us as consumers. They rage on about the horrors of thieving pirates, but never shows much appreciation for those of us who actually pay for their work.

I write music as recreation and at times I get paid for my work from people who seem to appreciate it. I’m genuinely thankful to these people, because I recognize that I’m not doing them some amazing service here, quite the opposite. They’re giving me a source of income, but they’re also making me feel quite great when they show me that they like what I do. As such, I show my appreciation in any way I can-- when I receive an email from someone who tell me that they liked a piece of music but can’t afford it, I send it to them gratis. My audience and I develop a relationship in that way. I don’t get that feeling from game designers. I feel like I’m being used, I feel like they see me as a necessary evil, and as such I respond equally.

The only game I have EVER purchased (and again I own quite a bit) that I actually feel good about, is the orange box. They could have simply released Half life 2 and sold it as full, but instead chose to add in several other types of games that I haven’t tried but might appreciate. I enjoyed some more than others, but I truly felt like I got what I deserved, and more. I’ve purchased several other games from that company since, and refuse to download it even if I have the chance.

Simply put, appreciate your audience, and they’ll appreciate you back. It’s an easy statement to make, but extremely difficult to do. In fact, I’d be surprised if someone would even take the time to read the post that TheCaptain and I took the time to write. After all, we’re just the consumers, what do we matter?


#3

thanks for the comments, I have a TON of reading to do now.


#4

I’ll throw in my two cents. I took somewhat of an interest in this after I read about it because I actually was thinking to myself a few days ago why I do not buy games. This does not mean I pirate them, I don’t, but I just buy certain games and not others. I don’t believe it is fair to take for free what took time and effort to create just because the copy is easily made, and I stopped believing the socialist concept taughted by pirates would work when I stopped believing in the tooth fairy. I really won’t offer insights into the economic systems or the grander social implications of copywrite law… but I’ll tell you why I thought about and decided not to buy your game, so thats something, right?

I had read one of those articles that have been rewritten and republished ad nauseum for the last 5 years or so, the ones that talk about how the mega million dollar blockbusters are ruining the game industry, making companies take fewer risks, ending in fewer games and only ‘sure things’ at that. And the admonishing conclusion given by the writer in charge is always a finger wagging at the consumer for only buying mainstream titles and not taking risks. And this always makes me feel just a little bitter at the writer; it is easy to tell people to increase their horizons of gaming when companies send you their titles before launch and for free, but for us normal folk, we can’t spend that much, so each purchase is made wisely (or else accompanied by severe buyer’s remorse). Out of my very limited gaming budget, which will allow a few titles a year (on the PC, to give you an idea) I will always have the choice between indie or semi-indie games and the mainstream Blockbuster, and here is the key point: the price does not reflect the difference. Would people buy a game made for a budget of $1 million instead of the one with a budget of $30 million? Probably not, and not because the unwashed masses only like Halo… it is because when they get launched on console, they all cost $60 regardless of budget. A lower budget production should lead to a more affordable game, and the game needs to be damn good to command the same price as a game with a budget much higher than its own as they normally try to.

I played the Democracy 2 demo (actually Oval Office, but point holds) and enjoyed it. It seemed interesting, there may have been a deep game of strategic thinking in there. It’s hard to tell in a short time… maybe something deep and complex, maybe something thats a wee bit more shallow then it seems. But the cost KILLS it. $22.95? To pose you my dillema, Team Fortress 2 costs $19.99, and with that I know I will have Valve supporting and expanding the game for the next several years. They are doing this now, releasing additional content, for free, again and again. It reforms the game, gives new goals, and just adds dimensions of replayability, and I keep looking at the amount of work that went into those updates and think “Why did I not have to pay for this?”. I have something over 150 hours of gameplay in this game since launch, and am not losing interest any time soon. So to make my way to a roundabout point, value is what has and what will for the forseeable future (I’m a student now, this may all change when I land a cushy job) drive me to or from a game. For well under the price of the 2 Democracy games, I can get the Orange Box (I know, riding those Valve examples here). Half Life 2, two expansions, TF2, Portal… just gobs of content, tens of hours of original gameplay each. Am I comparing apples to oranges? In terms of gameplay, yes, but these (Democracy and TF2) are two computer games both vying for my time to entertain in only slightly different ways, so I think its a valid comparison.

I don’t know who set the precedent for so called Casual Games to be $20, but I don’t feel that this price is at all competitive with the rest of the gaming market. It might be acceptable to the non gamer, casual market, but then again casual computer users (the kind more likely to play Peggle or Diner Dash than Call of Duty) aren’t pirating your games, the original point. To stay competitive with the big budget titles, you really need to offer value. If Democracy 2 was $4.95, I probably would have bought it as soon as the demo ended. Perhaps even higher, depending on mood and ease of sale. And yeah, I know about costs of production, economies of scale, lack of a built base… like I said, I wasn’t offering an economic analysis of the situation. But that is why I specifically have not bought any games from this site, despite trying them and wanting to have done so.


#5

Its difficult, because my games aren’t casual in any sense, but indie gaming has got lumped in with casual gaming, which is primarily VERY simple games without any depth. Democracy 2 took a huge amount of work, and there is a lot of game in there, but because other indie and all casual games are much cheaper, it may seem it’s priced a bit too high.
I really don’t know what the right price for the game is, I think it’s worth more than all these Diner Dash clones, and I know it’s not the same as a full price retail strategy game like Civ IV.
Lowering the price means more sales, but less revenue per sale. It’s no easy decision to know what the right price is. Especially because it’s difficult to do anything but have one universal price for everyone.
I just halved the price of Kudos to 9.95, to see if what people are saying is true, I’ll see what the end result of that is.


#6

I too have pirated games in the past. Once upon a time I was young, broke and rebellious. I pirated games because of lack of money not because I didn’t think they should be paid for. Now that I have a good paying job and can afford the games I do pay for them to help support the industry to keep making PC games. I’m not a young teenager so I don’t have a console and don’t want PC games to head down that road even though it looks like it will.
However there are things I still do - I will “pirate” a game to try it out and if I keep playing it I will go buy it but I’m not going to waste my money on something that sucks so I see that more as a demo but usually demos are crippled in some way. Also I will download the no cd crack as I don’t want to have to keep the cd / dvd in the drive to play. It will get scratched and I don’t feel I should have to buy the same thing twice. 1’s and 0’s don’t wear out so I don’t except to have to repay for said item. That is why I love stardocks system. I can buy the game and register and I’m good for life. Although I don’t want digital downloading unless I can burn the game to cd. I will not pay for a game that I won’t be able to play if your company goes belly up and now there are no servers to contact.
Lastly, games are way over priced. What was it 60 bucks for WoW when it came out and 15 bucks a month to play, they have 10 million subscribers that is 1 billion dollars a year they take in - Granted other games don’t have nearly that many players but that is outrageous. I try to wait now til the game has been around for a bit and the price drops as when they first come out they just cost to much money. So you get the sale from me no matter what - I’m going to buy it regardless if I want it but you are going to sell it much later than you normally would and that doesn’t look as good on a quarter as your sales are more spread out. Remember people my age 34+ are the biggest buyers for games not little teenage punks with no money - we have kids, car payments, mortgages, etc that all have to be paid for first they I’ll buy a game.

Sincerely


#7

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on two points:

  1. Your success - you’ve made a bunch of great games on your own and you should be damn proud of that.
  2. Listening to the pirates - That’s the only way things will ever get better for everyone involved.

For those of you that like short things to read I’m sorry but I have a lot to say.

Ok, here is my ‘piracy and me’ story. Before about 6 years ago I bought very few games. It was before I went to Uni and I had very little in the way of disposable income, basically pocket money from parents and money from various holidays. Money was tight, I genuinely could not afford to buy each game I wanted to play, and if piracy meant I could get a game for free, brilliant. I did not feel guilty because I wouldn’t have bought the game anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t have the internet back then either, so I normally got games from friends (who in turn got it from their friends…). Occasionally I did buy games, and to return the favour, I made my friends a copy also. Back then I had two choices, I could buy games, or I could save up over 3-4 years and upgrade my PC, buy books and go out places. Given I could get the games for free, I did.

When Uni came along I got actively involved in the computing society there, which regularly held LAN parties. Now the great thing about LAN parties is that they are always different. Different people, different games. And as such its impossible to plan ahead. Student loan in hand I had some spare money which I was willing to spend on games. Unfortunately, retail stocked games are expensive and the only places that stock games locally anyway are places like Tesco which have practically no range at all. So, come a LAN party you arrive and everybody is playing the one game you don’t have. It will take you 2 bus rides, with a 2-3 hour round trip if the shop is still open, or, more likely, a long wait until it does, by which point everyone is playing something else. Instead you borrow the disks, instant play. Convenient. A week later, you swear you’ll buy the game because you enjoyed it, but you know you’ll never play it on your own, and next time they will be playing something else, so you don’t bother.

In some instances there were times when there was a game which looked great, so I pre-ordered it. When it arrived on my doormat, I would however be thoroughly disappointed to find it was a buggy pile of steamy turd, that it was 20 minutes long, it wouldn’t run on my machine (for whatever reason) or that the ‘copy protection’ mechanism wouldn’t let me run the game even with the disk in the drive etc etc. I started to get really pissed off at the whole industry in general. I even began boycotting publishers (cough EA), because they were churning out games year after year which just got worse and worse.

Rolling on to the present, I now have a stable job working at a games company. I count on my shelf 104 retail boxed games. Note that does not include Steam, XBLA, PSN or WiiWare. After spending far far too much money on a kick ass PC (and keeping it kick ass) and every console going, I don’t mind spending the money for a game if its good. I’m not rich by any means, I just prioritise gaming. I don’t have a car (which saves 2-3 grand a year) as I walk to work and I don’t drink or smoke. Gaming is my addiction I guess! I haven’t pirated a game (although I have cracked countless for a variety of reasons) since I left Uni. I would feel rather hypocritical pirating a game now but the whole industry reeks and I understand why people are driven to piracy.

Here are the factors which personally have driven me to (or very close to) piracy in the past.

  1. Money. Money IS tight for a lot of people, that’s unavoidable, you have two choices here. Either lower your prices and hope it comes into these peoples’ price ranges, or write these people off. They can’t buy your product anyway.

  2. Convenience. Retail games are not convenient. If you read about a game at 10pm (or are unable to get to a shop at that time) and you think it looks interesting, you have to make a mental note to get the game later. In many cases I will make an impulse buy late at night if I read about something if I can get hold of it right there and then. If I wait until the next morning I normally don’t care any more.

  3. Try before you buy. You can test drive a car, view a house, try on a pair of shoes and hear a song on the radio. People are used to being able to test things before they put money down. You might argue that games are cheap enough to mean this isn’t necessary, but games are NOT cheap. Let me put it in perspective, a console game costs more in the UK than a weeks worth of shopping for me and my girlfriend.

  4. Demos. All demos suck. Really, they do. They are either too short - which gives the impression of a lack of depth to your game, too long - so there is no need to play the full game, or give you a really bad ‘snapshot’ of the game. Developers hate demos. I personally mastered 5 demos for 2 games and it was not pleasant. The publisher gives you a set of levels they think shows off the game and you hack together the code base in some horrible way to make it all fit while realising they only gave you 3 days to do it. They are nearly always an afterthought and it shows. Knowing this, I am often willing to give games which had poor demos a second chance, see 3.

  5. Copy protection. I’ve had games refuse to play on my PC. STALKER would not play on either my work PC or my PC at home. They are completely different setups. I complained on the forums (along with half the internet) and got called a pirate. I even bought the f**king deluxe steel tin edition. What I got was not deluxe in any sense of the word. I needed a crack to play it, it crashed all the time and I got insulted for trying to make my purchase work. And for the love of god please stop using CD keys. C&C The First Decade had SIX CD keys that you had to type in to play the game. It also required the CD in the drive. So I need to lug the manual AND CD around with me now. Oh, and I’ve since lost the manual, so I have to rely on CD keys on the internet to play my legitimately purchased copy of the game.

  6. Value. I have a short attention span. If a game costs £40 and it will keep me entertained for a week, that’s a good investment in my opinion. If I will play if for an evening, its not.

  7. Staggered release dates. Releasing a game in the US a month early than Europe is NOT fair. It’s unfair to those of us left waiting while all the Americans go on about how great the game is and it just invites piracy. Half of Europe downloaded Doom 3 on release day, not because they wanted to pirate it, but so they could play it early. I did, I then went out and bought the game on release day in the UK.

  8. Sticking it to the publisher (aka EA syndrome). EA has made and published some brilliant games, but they have also destroyed countless studios and franchises. Nothing fears a gamer more than the fear that EA might buy their favorite franchise out. Maybe if they don’t have any money they will stop buying out studios and concentrate on new games instead of publishing Madden 2099. On this note, we also wish companies would stop lying through their back teeth about how much piracy hurts their sales. The RIAA is particularly notorious for this, and gamers have come to accept that games publishers do it too.

  9. Clones. Sorry, I saw this mentioned in another post. All games are the same! I will never buy another FPS game. They are all just Doom 3 with some different monsters.

So, what can be done:

  1. Money
    a. Reduce your prices - more units at lower value
    b. Provide after sales support - downloadable content, patches, support
    c. Microtransactions - make the cost of the game lower and recoup the cost through DLC
    d. Ad supported - obtrusive ads suck, unobtrusive ads that lower the cost of the game don’t.

  2. Convenience
    a. Steam - make your game downloadable instantly for LESS than the retail box cost. Age of Conan is a completely online subscription game, yet it require a retail game to play it. The downloadable version of the game is nearly twice the cost, requires you to jump through countless hoops (they text you a code to redeem your CD key with) and you don’t even get a printed manual for the trouble. Steam does it right. Instant purchase and your download starts immediately. The servers are fast and I can have the game in 10 minutes in some cases. In fact, I can even pre-order the game and have it sit on my hard disk ready to play on release day. No CD keys, no hassle.

3 and 4. Try before you buy and demos
a. Make your demo longer but not too long. Give a WIDE range of content, do not just use the tutorial level, and definitely do not pick a random level in the middle that requires you to understand what’s going on to pick it up. The Burnout Paradise demo was genius. The demo kept me entertained for hours, when I realised this and that there was yet more I could explore, I ordered the game.

  1. Copy protection
    a. Ditch it. Seriously. It doesn’t work and inconveniences the legitimate customers only. Hear me? The LEGITIMATE customers are the ones that get the short stick. Copy protection gives you no advantage at all.
    b. Get rid of the CD in the drive requirement - My DVD drive failed while I was at a LAN once. I couldn’t play any games at all (except my Steam games), so I cracked them all instead. Hard drives are huge, it doesn’t stop piracy.
    c. It actually HURTS sales as people who DO try before they buy by pirating the game hit the ‘tripwires’ which make the game appear buggy. Of course they don’t publish details of these tripwires, so people just assume the game is buggy and don’t bother.
    d. Mass Effect PC is the ultimate example of the criminalisation of PC gamers. This game lets you install the game three times. Thats it. No exceptions, no buts. I format my PC on average once every 9 months to keep it in good shape. I probably won’t be able to play the game in a years time.
    e. I once had to ring EA to get them to give me a new CD key because the one printed on the manual didn’t work. This required me to take a photo of the receipt, manual and all CDs as proof of purchase.

  2. Value
    a. Provide value added content - free DLC, cheap DLC and patches!!! Don’t publish and forget. This is critical. EA is only just learning the errors of its ways. Everyone should learn from Criterion, they just keep adding free content and game modes to Burnout Paradise, now THAT is value.
    b. Give me something worth keeping in the box. A making of DVD, a nodding figurine of the main character. A ‘commemorative sleave’ is not an extra.
    c. Get rid of ‘Microsoft’ points. If a game costs 1000 points, how the hell do I work out how much that costs? In the level of indirection between points and pounds my credit card gets put away. The fact that you also have to buy points in blocks means you often end up paying over double for something short term. Thats false economy. Let us pay the amount in our local currency and only that amount. Sony is just as bad, but at least they are explicit about how much something costs.
    d. Stop giving us joke DLC. ‘Horse armor’ for Oblivion is taking the p*ss. A new character for a quid, thats a joke. 3 random songs for £3.99. Get real. A whole new set of quests and cities to explore, heres my credit card.

  3. Staggered release dates
    a. Don’t. If you can’t publish all at the same time, delay the publish date. Seriously. It will reduce piracy and stop the cross continental bitching. This thing called the Internet, it lets us all talk to each other you know.

  4. Sticking it to the publisher
    a. Learn the error of your ways. Stop buying out companies only to shut them down or fire all their staff. Patch your games and listen to your customers.

  5. Clones
    a. Be original. Don’t immitate, innovate.

  6. Gaming is changing
    Gaming as a whole is changing. With the introduction of the Wii, more and more casual gamers are on the scene and they just don’t go for the whole long game, big spend mentality. Make your games shorter with episodic content - Half Life 2 is a perfect example of this. Not only that but you can make MORE money. People will pay less money at a time but will keep coming back for more. If its cheaper more people will buy the games and you can charge more for each part than the sum of its parts. People will feel they are getting better value as they can choose how long they want to play the game for with their wallet. Development costs will also cheaper and you will be less likely to make a loss. TV series make Pilots to get a feel for the target audience size. Why can’t games follow suit? Of course this doesn’t suit every game type.

  7. Subscriptions and online games
    Gaming is moving more and more online. MMOs are becoming increasingly popular. Age of Conan had a sizable amount of single player content. There is no reason why eventually all games couldn’t take this form. Now that pretty much every PC has an internet connection, or at least access to one, you can provide new things to your players and also gain a way to verify the game has been purchased. Here are some reasons that you can legitimately require an internet connection while verifying the game is legit:
    a. Checking for updates - let the game patch itself, its easier for most users.
    b. Contact with their friends. Heres a novel idea, let people chat to their friends on MSN inside the game. Now THATS a reason to play the game online. Can you imagine what would happen if Spore had MSN built into it? Teens would never leave it.
    c. Integrated online play with the single player, such as co-op.
    d. Don’t FORCE players to be online however, let them go offline and play the game on the train. Just disable all of the above until they are online again.
    e. Use the CD key to register a username and thats it. Once you’ve registered your user account you don’t need the CD key again. From that point on they log in with that to the game and play online with that account. The keys won’t get shared and people won’t be able to lose the CD keys.

Advice for you in particular Cliff:
a. Make your demos a bit longer. I tried Democracy 2 and its quite a complex game, but I was starting to get into it. By the time I had got the hang of it the demo had run out. No sale (yet). Maybe at some point I’ll give it another go and buy it, especially as I can tell how much effort went into it.
b. Try and get your games on Steam. You will get tons more publicity, I often just go on there looking for cheap interesting looking games.
c. Experiement with pricing, do a week long half price ‘sale’, or ‘buy one get one free’ on your games for a limited time and then advertise it on sites like Digg and Reddit. Bargain hunters and the keen eyed will spread the word and by the time the word gets out the offer will have expired and you will have masses of traffic on your door.
d. Friend codes. Let friends tell their friends and get rewarded for it. For each friend that buys the game they BOTH get 20% off. So if they recommend 5 friends and they all buy it, they can get a free game from your site.
e. Keep being creative. Don’t make Democracy 3. Do something completely different. The more esoteric the better, as long as its fun and looks pretty. People are drawn to pretty things. My girlfriend loves Geometry Wars and Peggle. They are simple, esoteric and visually appealing.
f. Stay independent. As soon as you get bought out you lose your creative freedom and that is what makes smaller developers powerful.
g. Don’t understate the value of your product. If your price is low people often assume the quality is low as well. Developers are good at developing products not selling them, after slaving on your game you quickly learn that selling it and getting the price right is just as hard.

Hope this helps!

I’ll go back to writing my own games now too.

Ian

(Edited to add another idea I had)


#8

liked this thread so i thot i’de post my story here :wink:

i haven’t downloaded a pirated game in about 10 months …
i think the last one i actually did was democracy

i had heard about it from somewhere, didn’t quite believe the concept and wanted to try it out and see how one might put logic to an electoral system :slight_smile:
was impressed but lots further to go :slight_smile:

i’m 33 and would play more pirated games but i’ve cut myself off in the interest of relationships, work and other life stuff :wink:

my first pirated games were the c64. we were in elementary school, we were obsessed with the games, and what was even cooler than having a friend with parents who would buy them all the games was having friends with connections to pass on and add pirated games to our collections … i would salivate over family computing magazines at new games coming out and once a year for my birthday i might get one or two … or else i might get some crappy compilation/we couldn’t sell em and on sale for $1. games …
i lived in small towns so the pirate network was more efficient than what was in stores … which i wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway …

i guess the habits just formed there.
with the consoles we just rented games.

didn’t pick it up again until i was in university and had my first pc. geeks in residence would happily pass games round. and finding the power to download games made it even easier. a big part here was muliplayer games, dukenukem, warcraft etc … when yr trying to convince someone to play with you it’s much easier to put it on their computer for free.

also while we didn’t have tonnes of cash in school, that we did was prioritized for going out drinking or other activities we had to pay money for. if we were able to find free beer and clubs and weed all the time maybe we would have all sprung for our own copies of games.

another aspect is the respect level of game playing.
games are addicting. sad to say i let many a grade slide while playing civilizations, but i always would feel somewhat ashamed for having wasted so much of my time on them. wouldn’t have gone over well if i had given up my other social norms such as going out for food, drinking, going to movies and concerts etc … so that i could buy more video games to feed my addiction …
maybe i would of just played less games of course :wink:

and again today … out of school, and supposedly working hard on my computer, i always get tempted to ‘try some games out’ … and really when i would go and browse new games in future shop … i would be like hmmm … so many big companies i don’t want to support … and i don’t even know what the game is like … but of course after i download it and play it some, i often don’t have the urge to buy it.

so there’s some of my thoughts … all my money is always spent every month in one way or another and i try and stretch it as far as possible with what there is … don’t really know what the solution is …

i think for me a big thing is that truly i just don’t value video games as much as other things in my life and actually find i still have a stigma that would make me feel weird about putting money into them … even tho i know there are great ppl like yrself outthere doing good games …and many wouldn’t exist otherwise …

good luck

(tried to post this on yr blog last night but by the time i was done writing it was down :wink:

oh i also believe it’s aprt of the capitalist system too :wink: … and in my utopian one everyone would be recognized for the work they do and treaty fairly by the collective … tho the uber-capitalists like to point out that their would be layabouts and scammers … i do believe it’s this system that promotes getting as much as you can for as little as possible.

it’s the mass movement towards super sized happy meals because they cost less than an organically grown meal … that lays at the bottom of why many of do this … yup we’re sick

fyi after i played your game once (and was frustrated that my socialist eco utopia i created with approval through the roof and all the standards of life maxed only ended in assassination ;-)… and read who you were i told some friends about it and said they should buy it if they could … :slight_smile: tho i didn’t play again.


#9

Quote - Rid
“and I stopped believing the socialist concept taught by pirates would work when I stopped believing in the tooth fairy.”

Obviously you’re not very bright, just because it takes time and effort means nothing, we justify oppressing the poor using supply and demand neoclassical economics, yet your irrationality shines through. Digital goods are not scarce, according to neoclassical economics they should have no value what-so-ever, would you have protected the whip and buggy industry? It’s just a form of protectionism, plain and simple. We can reconceive piracy as simply another competitive market in which barriers to entry are low and costs are near zero, this whole false dichotomy that piracy = socialism, is nonsense, according to capitalist economics, in the labour market when you have an over supply of labour prices go down, in the information realm where supply of the commodity is infinite the price much higher then zero, yet supply is infinite. A clear contradiction.

Games are not scarce resources, we use capitalism because resources are scarce, not because we use it because it’s this awesome superior thing. Americans are often so limited in their understanding of the world.


#10

Obviously you are very rude.

I don’t dispute that some of your argument has merit but I completely disagree with your method of defending your standpoint. To say to someone that they are unintelligent because their opinion or view of an issue is different or not totally aligned with yours shows an unfortunate level of ignorance. You then insult an entire nation of people by saying that of the 300 million people in the United States there is in general a limited understanding of “the world”, whatever that means. I am not American nor am I a tremendous fan but generalizations like that perturb me.

Here is my opinion of the argument that you have presented…

Hmm, I see. So are you saying that there is no cost/value associated with manpower or intellectual capital? If so then the service industry is in big trouble. Every day hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on labour and services. People sell their skill and/or their labour based on time, effort, and the economically accepted value for their region. As long as there are people on this Earth this will be an infinite and renewable resource yet it will always have a value associated with it. Although the cost of labour varies based upon the standard of living there is no such thing as free labour, even people kept as slaves must be housed, fed, clothed, and kept healthy at least to some degree. I am curious to know what you do for a living and wonder if you would be obliged to do it for free.

Not all commodities have their value exclusively set by supply and demand. For all intents and purposes there is in infinite supply of rocks and stones yet there is an entire billion dollar industry set around them. Gravel pits extract, collect, and sort them. They are used in all manor of construction. Their cost is not based entirely upon the supply and demand but more on the time and effort it takes to obtain them as well as the skill to make them useful.
You go on about buggy whips as if they have any bearing on this argument. You just can’t compare a physical product that has become obsolete to a product that is obviously in high demand. If buggy whips were in high demand and yet extremely abundant they would still have a value, buggy whip manufacturers would not distribute them for free no matter how abundant and easy to obtain they were. Besides, a buggy whip is nothing more than a long switch of wood with a thin piece of leather attached to the end. The fact that just about anyone could make a suitable replacement themselves precludes the need to purchase one at all yet many people did anyway with the most probable reason being do with the quality and the prestige of owning a professionally made one. Again we see the cost benefit of time and effort.

Again I have to hmmm, by this very statement you identify software piracy as theft. The same statement can be used to describe the theft and resale of any commodity. By this logic you appear to be saying that because we can get stolen products cheaper than retail products we should embrace thieves as “competitors in the marketplace” and subsequently the manufacturers and retailers should lower the price of their products to compete with them.

I eagerly await the flaming that is sure to follow.


#11

keep it civil guys.
I know that ironic coming from me :smiley:


#12

I haven’t read all the replies here because I have to get ready for work, but the original post is just plain ignorant. Of course those that work on a product that you take pleasure in should receive payment from you if you use it. I agree there are all sorts of problems with our legal system regarding IP rights, but your solution is to just copy all you want?

The supply is not infinite. The supply is the “artists” themselves. If they can’t make a living making games, they will just stop. You may have a few people that continue to make really low budget poorly made open source games or something of the like, but they wouldn’t be worth playing in my opinion. Time and money go into the production and that needs to be recouped for games to continue to be made. So there is your supply. The price is dictated by what the market will bare. If people will buy a game for $50, then they will sell it that high. If they do some studies and find that if they sell it at $60 that less people will buy, but they will still make more profit overall, then they will sell at $60. That is called economics and the price in this cause is strictly dictated by what people are willing to pay.

I think the flaw here is that major game companies sell anticipated games at this rate and it is likely a smart move on their part. But then other lesser known games will try to sale at the same rate. This will make the price prohibitive and likely cause less profit for that title. Pricing a video game is not an exact science (yet at least) and seems like it would be a tricky business.


#13

A well written summary of video game economics. I definitely think you are onto something with the last point. The problem is that most developers thinks their game will be the next big thing and therefore prices it as such.


#14

One quick addition to what I said. Another problem is public perception. Even if all games were priced appropriately and varied from game to game. The average consumer will look at one game that costs $60 and one that costs $10 and assume that the cheap one would not be as good. If nothing else is known about the game other than the price, many people wouldn’t buy it because they have made the assumption the game isn’t good. There is no perfect answer. :slight_smile:


#15

I have to agree. I was trained at university in economics. I also have an MCSE and worked as a boat builder, guitar teacher and tech support engineer. If I didn’t have people buy my games, I’d be doing one of those other careers right now, and likely wouldn’t have enough spare time to make any games, certainly not one a year.


#16

This is so stunningly true. There are so many things that we can do for a living and so few things that we want to do for a living. If you are lucky enough to make a decent living doing what you want to do you are in the minority.

In reality this entire topic just seems rediculous. There is no moral or economic ambiguity here. We aren’t talking about a father that steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, this is a group of people who augment their leisure time by benefiting from someone elses labour without providing any compensation. They will go out and pay $20 to eat fast food and see a movie, they will pay $50+ a month for cablevision, but they won’t pay $22 for one of your games?

It seems to me that for the majority of those involved it comes down to economic priorities and the ability to get away with it without detection. If there were a greater risk of getting caught they would not pirate the software. Then if they really wanted it bad enough they would pay for it.

The unfortunate thing is that there really is no way to deal with the pirates without making your software more difficult to use and ending up treating all of your clients like criminals.

I have mentioned before that I truly appreciate the Steam way of doing things. It is extremely convienent and feels very safe to use. You say that getting on to steam is not that easy, I wouldn’t know what the criteria is but I do know that they are offering Indie and Casual games.

I see that you are selling your games on Gamersgate.com and I couldn’t help but notice the competition that you have put yourself up against. I don’t want belittle your efforts as I truly appreciate the work that you do but if I were to choose spending $20 on Sid Meier’s Pirates (4 star reviews and 900MB in size) or Kudos (2 star reviews and 20MB in size) I am afraid I am going to have to go with Sid Meier.

Perhaps you need to sell your games along side other Indie titles so that they can shine in comparison rather than languish in the background overwhelmed by the larger more popular 2-4 year old mainstream titles that are being blown out at flea market prices. Just a thought.


#17

tricky though, because the best digital distribution systems like steam, by definition also stock the big budget games. What I can do is lower my prices, and make better games. My next game will be the best one I’ve ever made, and be better value for money than they have been in the past.


#18

I bought Kudos 2 or 3 days ago. I got my attention to it from a “drm - yes or no” thread in bioware forums which linked to your pirate blog. I liked the attitude & checked the game. DL Kudos demo, then bought the full version because I thought the price fair as it was considering that it looks somewhat aged and some parts needs a little more deep (but that I found out only at full version). I would have not bought it at double price. But also I would not have pirated it, its not that I starve from games to play :wink:

Right now I´m looking forward to k2 :slight_smile:

PS: If you havend had removed the DRM I would not have bought anything because DRM is the ugly child of satan.


#19

I’m going to avoid the larger debate, as it’s been done again and again and I’m not interested in launching into it yet again on a new forum, but the OP’s logic connecting socialism to piracy is very problematic. Trying to acquire luxury goods more cheaply so you can consume/enjoy more of them is not socialism; that’s the capitalist individual ethic par excellence. A ‘rational economic actor’ would pirate everything and not care about the impact on other people. The fact that universal piracy is not viable is actually a pretty strong case against the absolute efficiency of an unregulated market full of rational actors, but you got it reversed.

I suggest you go back and re-read your Marx. The alternative to capitalism is not people not paying for things; it’s labour being compensated fairly. An independent game developer putting labour into producing an intellectual product should be compensated for that work such that s/he can afford to take advantage of the labour of others. As a Marxist myself, I tend to find ‘micro-politics’ to be a waste of time, but if you feel the need to ‘live by example’ vis-a-vis socialism, you should SUPPORT small developers like Positech. Positech, for their part, should seek to treat its customers as members of a community rather than mere sources of profit (excellent support and active forum participation by Cliff seems to me to satisfy this expectation) and should not charge excessive prices (there’s no such thing as absolutely ‘fair’ prices for luxury goods, but given the state of the market and the industry, selling great-albeit-less-flashy games at around 1/3 the price of a major studio release is pretty fair IMHO). I personally reject micro-politics, as I stated (I believe that only a mass movement or ‘top-down’ reform can have any effect on capitalism and its harms), but if you wish to pursue that, the ONLY meaningful way I can see a socialist micro-politics applied to this situation is for independent gamers and developers to be supportive of each other. Stealing games from small developers like Positech doesn’t do anything to reduce the global dominance of capitalism; it just means that you can exploit the labour of another at no cost to you. The only way this seems acceptable is if paying for the product is either not within your means or would not actually go to the labourer (e.g., buying EA’s latest game doesn’t change the dev’s salary, just the corporation’s profits). In an ideal world, game developers (like everyone else) would be free from the demands of capitalism and could make games at their whim for free distribution, but as long as all labour exchanges are mediated by a system of capital, refusing the pay for the fruits of another’s labour simply exacerbates the alienating effects of capital on that person. In other words, it’s bad enough that here in the ‘real world’ (read: the world dominated by capital), developers have to sell their games for profit and thus have pressure on them to make profitable games rather than exactly what they want, can’t get their games to as many fans as they might like, etc.; if you pirate their games, they get zero compensation for their labour. Besides, if you have enough money that you can afford to even consider buying a video game, you’re probably on the receiving end of capitalism’s unfairness, anyway. Heck, if you’re on the internet you’re most likely living in an advanced economy and have wealth opportunities bought at the 3rd world’s expense, anyhow. Bourgeois individuals not wanting to pay for their luxuries isn’t exactly what Marx had in mind.


#20

deleted