"Why are you pirating from me?" asks developer

The pirating of software is as sure to happen as the sun rises everyday. Piracy is maligned by software protection groups such as the ESA, and is generally a hot button topic among game developers and publishers.

But Cliff Harris took the issue of pirating very personally–he is a one-man game development company and owns Positech Games.

When the independent game maker saw two of his games, Kudos and Democracy, end up on torrents for anyone to download for free, it really bothered him, to say the least. Harris decided to take things into his own hands and get to the bottom of the problem. On his company blog, he posted an open letter to pirates and asked one question; "what are your reasons for pirating games?"

He wanted to understand how he could improve his games in order to convince more of the public to buy them instead of being pirated. No threats of ESA raids, no moral lectures, no guilt trips. He just wanted to know what he could do.

"I want to improve my business, and ensure I stay afloat, and to do that, it would be [crazy] to sit in the corner and ignore the opinions of that section of the public who pirate my games. I will read every single email, and keep an open mind.

"I will listen to what you have to say, and…use that to make games that sell more, sell more copies of what I have, convert more people to become buyers, and generally make everyone happy," he said.

After posting a question like that, Harris expected to be flamed or worse. But quite surprising to him, he received lots of levelheaded responses on what motivated pirates to pirate. Usually, pirates are condemned, not asked by game publishers about their opinions.

"I expected much abuse, but perhaps some gems of wisdom. I’m guessing 99.99% of people who pirate games never contact the makers to say why, and thus both sides are getting further apart and more annoyed at each other, without anyone learning anything about how to make the situation better.

"People justify music and movie piracy a lot, but proper analysis of PC game (and especially indie game)[understanding] piracy’s causes is pretty rare."

After all the results were tallied, 143 gamers said the reason why they pirated was because of poor demos, or the lack thereof, of games they wanted to buy. So to find out how good a game really was, they pirated the full game. 126 pirates said it was due to the high price of games.

117 said they pirated because of the hated DRMs (digital rights management) on games. Anybody remember the Spore fiasco? Interestingly enough, high marks were given to Steam and Stardock for allowing unlimited downloads of purchased games. A small number of pirates said they did it because they could.

Harris was philosophical about all the reasons behind pirating.

"My games aren’t as good as they could be…Some of the criticisms of my games hit home. I get the impression that if I make Kudos 2 not just lots better than the original, but hugely, overwhelmingly, massively better – well polished, designed, and balanced – that a lot of would-be pirates will actually buy it.

"I’ve gone from being demoralized by pirates to inspired by them, and I’m working harder than ever before on making my games fun and polished."

A very novel approach to stop piracy…make the games better. Who would have thought?


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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