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14 Jul 2014

The Piracy Issue: Why Do People Pirate Games?

Believe it or not, but there are people out there that never pay a cent for indie games (or AAA games for that matter), yet they still play the hottest mobile games and AAA games on the market today. It doesn’t seem fair to those that pay for their games (and other types of digital content) legitimately – and it’s not. Yet, people don’t pirate games just because they enjoy the thrill of pirating or ‘sticking it to the man.’

There’s a reason why people pirate. By understanding these reasons, you can do your part to develop your indie game in such a way that pirates will have no reason to pirate your game. Use these tips to make your indie game less ‘pirate-worthy.’

 

High price, minimal updates

On the mobile side of things, some of the most pirated games on the App Store and Google Play are games that cost an absurd amount of money with no new content after you purchase the game. Case in point, the Square Enix games on the App Store. Unless you truly want to play Final Fantasy III or Secret of Mana on your iDevice, you are going to have to shell out between $9-$16. That’s crazy, and once you buy the game? Sure, it will probably be updated with little tweaks now and again, but as for new content? What you purchased is all you get.

While we certainly don’t condone it (piracy is wrong – pure and simple), it’s easy to see why someone that wants to relieve their childhood with a Final Fantasy title would opt to pirate the game versus spending that much on one app.

On the flipside, the guys over at Plague Inc. have made their game virtually pirate-proof. Why? Not only is the game addictive (you get to create your own disease and conquer the world), but it’s also priced at only 99 cents and the team is constantly pushing new content to its customers. If you wanted to pirate this game, you would have to constantly keep an eye on the updates for the game, hope that someone has released a pirated version of the game, and download it manually instead of having the update delivered directly to you.

To that end, pirating a game like Plague Inc. becomes more trouble than its worth. It’s easier to just throw down the 99 cents and enjoy the abundance of new content that the team constantly churns out to its fans.

 

Easier to pirate than pay legitimately

How many times have we heard about DRM fiascos over the years? Especially on PC, companies like Ubisoft and EA have made it difficult for legitimate customers to enjoy their ‘paid’ games over the years by forcing them to jump through hoops in order to verify the copy of the game being played is legitimate. Truly, it becomes easier to just pirate the game, bypass all of the DRM-nonsense, and enjoy the game without ever having to verify anything.

I don’t condone piracy, but I can understand player’s frustrations. Piracy almost looks like the better option in this case, which is why you need to make it as easy as possible for players to jump in and play your game.

A great way to do this on mobile is by forcing players to sign up for a free account with your indie studio to play the game. All they have to do is login once, the device and copy is identified as being legitimate, and from there, they can play the game easily. Simple as that.

 

No lite/demo version available

Most players don’t want to take a chance on buying a game that isn’t a ‘sure-thing.’ Thus, piracy becomes the safer option. If they enjoy it – great, they have a free game! If not, they didn’t lose any money. It’s a logical choice – and it’s hard to blame pirates for going this route.

To combat this, provide a lite/demo version of your indie game for people to try out for themselves. If they enjoy the game and want to play the full version? Make it simple for them to unlock the game by buying it so they can enjoy the entire game and benefit from your updates going forward. This should be mandatory, and it’s a fantastic way to combat piracy.

 

Do you have any additional tips for combating piracy? Let us know in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. We like the article, however did not find it convincing that being pirated is even a bad thing, and in face more likely a net-positive.

    If I pirate Final Fantasy, and my friend sees me playing it and wants it, and is not a good pirate, i actually increased the sales, as just one example.

    Also “shelling out” $9-$16 is still the same price of a semi-healthy meal so not sure that is such a damaging price.

    We feel that the constant need to “monetize” and the whole “free to play” (i.e. wait to play) is actually doing more harm than good. Crappy games, crappy designs, frustrated players.

    Our solution to piracy, besides the obvious of requiring cloud connectivity, is to have make great games and have a great brand.

    1. “If I pirate Final Fantasy, and my friend sees me playing it and wants it, and is not a good pirate, i actually increased the sales, as just one example.”

      Wouldn’t a lite/demo version of the game (per my suggestion in the post) keep piracy out of the equation altogether? I see your point, but the more proactive you can be to keep players from having to pirate in the first place, the better.

      “Also “shelling out” $9-$16 is still the same price of a semi-healthy meal so not sure that is such a damaging price.”

      It is damaging. There are statistics out there that prove that a mobile game at that price just isn’t going to sell unless you have a proven brand. Square Enix can get away with it, but that’s about it. There’s a reason most premium-priced games are only a few bucks. Heck, even world-renowned company’s such as Rockstar sell older GTA games on the App Store for only a few bucks because most players are not willing to pay more than that.

      “We feel that the constant need to “monetize” and the whole “free to play” (i.e. wait to play) is actually doing more harm than good. Crappy games, crappy designs, frustrated players.”

      F2P and wait-to-play are two completely different things. Monetizing a F2P game can be done right. Case in point: Hearthstone. An awesome game with great design, yet it’s a F2P, monetized game that provides me with the option to buy unique cards ahead of time or earn them myself. It’s one of the gold standards of how to do F2P correctly.

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