We’ve been talking to friends in the industry about the state of play with regards to copying, warez, torrent sites, cracking, and people’s attitudes to what most people regard as “piracy”.
I borrow books from my dad; I lend him books. I don’t feel obliged to pay for my own copy to read it. He’s in close(ish) proximity to me and knows he’ll get his book back (sometimes, haha). But that’s about as far as that book is likely to get because it is a bulky piece of physical media. Funny how the oldest bit of technology is also the most future proof in this ecosystem.
Records were the same, 40 years ago, and then tapes turned up and people could easily give recordings to each other and the RIAA whined and moaned about it and levied all sorts of crazy taxes on blank tapes and yet mysteriously record sales went up and up ever since until they got replaced by CDs. This, I think, is because there was an inherent value in a record that wasn’t present on a recording on a tape – the physical medium was quite nice, and the recordings usually didn’t sound nearly as good anyway. Then some bright spark realised you could sell prerecorded tapes and actually have the existence of the medium increase profits.
Then we get CDs and there’s a little golden era for the record companies because CDs are novel and taped recordings of them sound so inferior to digital media that tapes die off pretty fast too except for people who listen to music in cars. And then CD players for cars solved that. The RIAA is happy because CDs are actually valuable.
…And then along comes the internet and hot on its heels MP3 compression and they’re back to the tape/vinyl situation again and they start whining and moaning again in the face of increasing music sales on CD despite the amount of copying going on. Then some bright spark realises they can sell prerecorded MP3s on the internet. Does this sound familiar?
The situation is remarkably similar for computer games, in their somewhat shorter history.
First came tapes of games. We copied them (well I didn’t, coz I only knew about 2 other people with C64s in my year at school so we just borrowed each other’s games) and so they put copy protection in and that was cracked anyway. Mysteriously the games industry grows. There are lots of little casualties and the survivors consolidate.
Then came games on disk. They were copied, and then copy protection got put on them, and they got cracked and distributed via BBS to a wider audience. Mysteriously the games industry grows. There are lots of little casualties and the survivors consolidate.
Then came games on CD. They are copied, and then copy protection got put on them, and they got cracked and distributed on the internet to a worldwide audience. Mysteriously the games industry grows. There are lots of little casualties and the survivors consolidate.
Around this time though some bright spark realised you might as well distribute the games on the internet in the first place and the modern day Indie (indicus publishus developus) was conceived. Then the games got copied, so we put copy protection on them and then they got cracked and distributed on warez sites with powerful search engine mashups to aid people.
This is where we are now. There are many, many little ideas springing up all over the place to make money in the present ecosystem – which is basically the same as the record industry’s. We have all sorts of valid and working ideas:
- Encourage people to give full versions to friends and family (like borrowing books!) That’s the model we use, currently
- Ad-supported sites or software (and its derivative, websites full of Flash games that aren’t actually for sale, but with lots of ads). Yuk! But it works.
- Consolidate into being a publisher or affiliate retailer and stop developing games. This is probably where we’ll end up if we don’t figure out how to make more money soon.
- Portals. Haha. No.
- Client/server and various opportunities that entails (like total copy-proofing). Not necessarily multiplayer games either.
- Simply carrying on while the percentages make it worthwhile.
- Magazine distribution of full versions for specific territories (which I’m looking at in great detail!)
- Rant about pirates and waste time on tryign to educate them despite the fact there’s 1,000,000 times more of them than there are of you and if there’s one thing we know about economics it’s that might is right
What’s your choice?