Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Game Piracy and the Indie Developer

Via Slashdot I came across two interesting articles with sales figures for indie game developers one for PC and one for Iphone.

The PC game was developed by an experienced indie developer. It took a team of people about a year to make and has racked up sales of about $110k after two years which they reckon is just about break even.

The Iphone game was a one man effort which took about six months but it has only achieved sales of about €535 after a month despite good reviews. It looks like this game will never generate a decent return to the programmer for his time.

What really struck me about these articles is that both games were cracked almost immediately at launch. You can sense the developers' bitterness that many people may be playing their games without paying a cent.

I also know that there is no proof that that piracy resulted in a single lost sale of either game. Perhaps the games were crap. Perhaps a few folks who pirated the game even went out and bought a copy after trying it (yeah right).

I know that content piracy and the fight against it is an emotive issue. I know that "Big Content" has lost a lot of the moral high ground on this issue with clumsy attempts to restrict customers rights and abusive use of legal processes. I also know that the sheer unstoppable momentum of the digital information explosion probably means that the traditional pay for content business model is probably going to die out anyway despite cack handed attempts at restricting digital rights.

Nevertheless, accepting all of the ambiguity about what would have happened if, accepting all he uncertainty about what will happen when, those articles have convinced me that here, today in the world we live in now it is morally wrong to download and use content you are not legally entitled to. It is immoral to pirate pc games. It is immoral to pirate Iphone games. It is immoral to pirate books or films or music or cable tv.

2 comments:

Tipa said...

Most content consumers never even go looking for a pirated version of the game. It takes a certain level of comfort to jailbreak your iPhone, and then go looking for jailbroken/pirate apps. I don't think it would be too off base to say these sorts of people never had any intention to buy your game, and thus don't represent lost sales.

The iPhone app mentioned in Slashdot was another Bejewelled clone. The iPhone store has HUNDREDS of similar games. He was insane to think he could make any money with a cookie-cutter app.

I agree that it is immoral to pirate games. I am proud to own full and legal copies of all the games I play.

But it's silly when a developer makes a brainless minor variation on a common game and then cries PIRACY! when it doesn't do well.

mbp said...

Absolutely agreed Tipa, a developer blaming piracy for their lack of success is probably fooling themselves. I'm sure successful games are pirated far more than unsuccessful ones. To be fair to the two developers I linked to neither of them lingered on this point although some bitterness did show through.

Even accepting your point though Tipa these guys stories bring the whole piracy issue down to earth for me. Its hard to get worked up about people sticking it to a faceless Goliath like EA but these are just ordinary folk struggling to make a few bucks by creating things. Stealing from them is just so obviously wrong.