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Piracy is the purest form of Free-to-Play.
by Simon Roth on 09/21/12 11:34:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Yves Guillemot recently claimed to have statistics showing that PC game piracy rates (95%-93%) are as high as non paying F2p users. Using this data point he that asserted Free to Play is the future. Indeed to me this data proves exactly the opposite. It shows that the current model with paid-for products and a high piracy rate is the way to go.


If you are going to have the same conversion rate to paying customers whatever you do, you should do as much as possible to remove all barriers to entry and reduce costs to ensure a higher profit margin. Spending time and money implementing IAP's, the inevitable complex "always-up" server back-end and other mechanisms, is wasteful and is an unnecessary burden on your business.

It's also damaging your IP: Many users don't want to see their favourite games made free. Despite its success in the mobile arena, on PC, the prevailing opinion on publishers moving to FP2 is motivated by greed or a "me too!" mindset. Or even worse, some players are starting to see it as an admission of a failed, unprofitable product. This is entirely wrong of course, but it's what your customer thinks.

The current implementations of F2p breaks long standing game features and mechanics, not to mention it is almost fundamentally incompatible with narrative driven single player experiences, the bread and butter of the PC gamer. Whether you like it or not, singleplayer games are a massive and expanding market.

The best way to reach this market, as ever, is word of mouth. Piracy is now a huge part of this. If you are in the top 100 most pirated games list on The Pirate Bay, you are reaching several million eyeballs a day. You need to suck up your pride and broken common sense and target pirates as potential conversions, instead of beating them away and breaking your game for your paying customers with poorly conceived F2p elements.

Maia game. No IAP's here.


With Maia, I have already reached out and promised to add extra humorous content to the builds I will be uploading to the pirates via bitorrent. It's had an almost overwhelming positive reaction, helped build my community and even been a significant boon to my shoe-string marketing.

What's more, it will cost nothing on my part. The network will handle it all for me. No down time or maintenance costs. No bandwidth. No servers or log-in databases to be hacked.

No problem.

Piracy, a full free-to-play implementation at the drop of a hat.


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Comments


Gerald Belman
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That's a great idea. CD Projeckt did something similar with the pirated copies they would put out there of the Witcher 2 - when the player went to a whore house all of the whores would be the ugliest wenches in the game - instead of the hot babes in the un-pirated copy. And since there is basically no reservations about pirating software in Russia and China - that's basically pretty funny.

Sergey Nikolenko
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About the brothel in Witcher2 -- seriously? I've tried to google for it but found nothing; could you please cite a source about it? I have reasons to be interested. :)

Gerald Belman
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Yea, Unfortunately I can't find a source either. I heard about it in a TGS podcast. And the subject was brought up by Jesse Cox - OMFGCATA on youtube - he took a tour of CD Projekt offices a few months ago so this might not have been written about yet - considering DRM version was cracked(no surpirse)shortly afterwards - anyways I don't think the copy they distributed got downloaded too much. I actually don't download pirated software(too afraid of viruses/have enough money to buy legal copy) - so I can't even personally verify it. But if you really want to you could message him - he might reply to you if your some big shot gaming journalist type expresso drinking person.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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"Yves Guillemot recently claimed to have statistics showing that PC game piracy rates (95%-93%) are as high as non paying F2p users. Using this data point he that asserted Free to Play is the future. Indeed to me this data proves exactly the opposite. It shows that the current model with paid-for products and a high piracy rate is the way to go.

It's also damaging your IP: Many users don't want to see their favourite games made free. Despite its success in the mobile arena, on PC, the prevailing opinion on publishers moving to FP2 is motivated by greed or a "me too!" mindset. Or even worse, some players are starting to see it as an admission of a failed, unprofitable product. This is entirely wrong of course, but it's what your customer thinks"

Of course its the better way to go.
It keeps costs low, sales high, and the moral high-ground on "your side" while accepting and milking the reality of the situation

In essence, bitch and moan about how many times your game is pirated, how many millions you lose from copyright infringement, but make stellar profits anyways.

But ssssssshhhh, lest the unwashed consumer peasants catch on.

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
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piracy has been used many times to promote a game in the form of "leaks". the cheapest way to have the press and a good chunk of the blogosphere talk about a game that until some weeks back few remembered it's coming out!

Rachel Presser
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Marketing via Pirate Bay is how McPixel made it onto Steam-- if piracy is just going to happen anyway, it's much better to find ways to use it to your advantage rather than instituting bothersome DRM measures that punish customers for paying for the game. (and make people pirate it to avoid the DRM.)

Nicholas Lovell
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I think you are right that piracy and F2P are manifestations of the same fundamental principles:
- it is very easy to share stuff at close-to-zero cost when that stuff is digital
- some people love what you do enough to want to pay for it, and to ensure that you can keep making it

I think that you are wrong that piracy+paid is the best solution. The best solution is to use the free part to find an audience, and then earn the right to communicate with them directly. Then you can encourage them to pay for the existing product, to buy new products or to spend money within the existing product.

F2P is just one execution of that. Your proposed solution is, to my mind, a worse solution because it does not enable you to build one-to-one relationships with your players. I look forward to seeing what other solutions inventive minds come up with.


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