Some things to consider about piracy...

The reasons why I have pirated software have changed over time.

Cost vs. Effort
For the longest time I had more time than money particularly when it came to luxury items. There was no way that I could spend $50 to $80 on a game. I once had a terrible experience where I was very excited about a new game, saved the money to buy it, and when I got it home found that most of the advertised features were not present and that the game itself was awful. This led me to the point where my decision for paying for software vs. piracy was based upon the critical reviews (read perceived value) and the cost vs. the effort required to pirate it.

An example of the thought process at the time would have been…

  1. Is the game getting good reviews? Yes: (go to 2) No: (go to 3)
  2. Is the game too expensive (relative to $ on hand)? Yes: (go to 3) No: (go to 4)
  3. Is the game easy to pirate? Yes: (go to 5) No: (go to 6)
  4. Buy the game.
  5. Pirate the game.
  6. Forget it.

So in essence I still paid for some software but it was based upon a value scale that was relative to my situation at the time. These days I have more money than time and as such I tend to purchase all of my software. The interesting thing is that as I am an IT professional my personal ability to pirate software has increased over time yet my financial need to do so has diminished. This is not to say that I have money to throw away only that my time is worth more now than before and I have a larger budget for luxury items.

I can tell you where I see some potentially successful methods of dealing with piracy.

This is an excellent service. I have purchase at least 30 titles through their online store. The advertising of new titles and older titles on sale is enticing and I have purchased older games entirely based upon the fact that they were for sale for $10 or less. The ease of purchase it also a major plus. This is by far the best online software store that I am aware of. Others are trying to imitate this method but usually fall short. EA for example has the audacity to charge you an additional $7 to maintain the record of your electronic purchase for 2 years. If you don’t pay this and loose your electronic copy they will not honour your purchase.

Big Fish Games
A casual gamer’s paradise. You pay a monthly subscription fee that provides you with a one game credit each month. All games are offered with a 1 hour free play time limit. This is certainly enough time to become addicted to the game play or decide that the game is just not for you.

Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage
Yes, you read it correctly. They reason that I have included these folks is due to a recent experience that I had. Where I work it was planned that they would be moving to Vista from XP. As I need to stay ahead of the game as far as IT is concerned I looked into purchasing Vista. “Holy Crap!” says I as I see what the retail price is for a full version of Vista Ultimate. Through work I put an order in for a Technet subscription but in the mean time I needed to start working on Vista. Digging back to my roots I grabbed a pirated copy to cover my need until I got an actual licensed version. Now I ran this way for a couple of months and maintained the pirated copy through circumventing the WGA anti-piracy methods. Then one day, after a recent update, I received a WGA message that very politely stated that I may be a “victim” of software piracy and it then gave me the option to purchase an actual license at a very reasonably discounted price. I got the valid key right away and the DVDs came via priority post. I was very impressed with the direction that they took. Rather than treating me (a potential customer) as a criminal they gave me a very reasonable option. This was a win win situation for both parties; I received a valid copy of their software at a price that I could afford and they obtained another paying customer. If only the music and video industries would follow suit the world would be a better place.

Software as an Entertainment Service
When I purchase something electronically that is stored and maintained on the vendor’s server I feel less like the owner of that product and more like a user of an entertainment service and the price usually reflects that. I can normally buy software on Steam for as much or less than I can buy the titles used from a retailer (EB Games). Steam gives me the right to install the software that I have purchased onto as many PCs as I see fit but restricts me to one concurrent connection. As does Big Fish Games and all MMOs that I am aware of. I appreciate being able to play from where ever I am without the need to travel with the game media (DVD or CDs). I also like the fact that I don’t need ridiculous keys to activate my software. I have a few software titles that are useless to me as I have lost the keys and can’t get new ones without piracy or purchasing the titles again.

The harder that software companies work to take away the perceived ownership of something that people have bought and hold physically in their hands the harder the piracy advocates with work to invalidate that effort.

To sum up
Consider the fact that it is very possible that the majority of users of pirated software would not have bought the software anyway. Companies always seem to include all users of their pirated products as lost sales and I just don’t see this as being true. If you look at who is using pirated software I would imagine that they would nearly all fall into a fairly tight income and age demographic.

In the end, where there is a demand for free software there will always be a supply. Each time new anti-piracy methods are introduced it is as if the gauntlet had been dropped and those that can defeat it will defeat it. Don’t spend time and effort fighting the piracy issue; instead find another way to get your product to your clients that is cheap, easy, and safe.

I just have to add this…

  1. Congratz to you for taking the time to understand your customers rather than to assume that they are all just mindless morons with money falling out of their pockets.
  2. I am positive that by asking the question “Why?” you are going to have a lot of people from the bigger publishing companies interested in the responses you get.
  3. Another congratz for finding a way to get many more people to your website and subsequently to your products. Good luck to you with this sudden upturn of exposure.