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Why Rovio thinks piracy can be a good thing
Why Rovio thinks piracy can be a good thing
January 30, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

While developers and publishers often do everything they can to prevent video game piracy, Angry Birds studio Rovio thinks that, in the end, bootlegged merchandise and pirated games might be a good thing.

Speaking at the music-focused Midem conference in France, Rovio chief executive Mikael Hed said that his company learned a lot about handling piracy by watching the music industry, reports The Guardian.

"We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy," said Hed.

He explained that unless pirates are harming the Angry Birds brand or ripping off consumers, it isn't worth it for Rovio to fight back with legal action.

Rather, he says the company simply hopes that any pirated goods will generate more interest in legitimate Angry Birds products.

In addition, Hed explained that Rovio strives to treat its consumers like fans rather than users. By doing so, he believes the company can foster a loyal audience, and therefore a reliable business.

"If we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow," he said.

Last week, Rovio confirmed that it plans to launch the official Facebook version of Angry Birds this February, and is organizing a launch event in Jakarta, Indonesia to celebrate the occasion.

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Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Refreshingly fantastic attitude :)

Jason Chen
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If I like the game and I can get it for free without any legal issue, why would I pay $$ for it? :)

Jonathan Jennings
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I would say it has less to do with you obtaining the game nd more to do with you supporting the people who made it.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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A.) You have a conscience and care about the well being of others (may or not be true)

B.) From a utilitarian point of view, if games are made unprofitable then new games will stop being made, which has a negative effect on you if you enjoy games.

Kenneth Blaney
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Even if you get the game for free, there is plenty of merch that you can't simply pirate. Additionally, certain versions of their games are ad supported, micro transaction funded or have similar alternate revenue streams. There, piracy actually helps them get more money. (As long as you don't hurt the brand, no one cares if you pirate their commercial.)

Jeremy Reaban
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Because it's in your own best interest, that's why.

Giving money to people who produce something you like will generally encourage them to produce more things you like.

David Kaye
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because you get what you pay for.

Justin Crane
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When you say without any legal issue are you referring to downloading the free vs. or downloading via a jailbreak and not getting caught? These are two very different things and I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone here why they would want to support their industry...

Brad Borne
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Alright, all developers out there, let's think about this one for a moment. If your games made millions of dollars, netted you bags of investor's cash, brought in a bunch of ad revenue, had their own toy line, board games, and almost infinite sequel potential....

Would YOU care about piracy?

Paul Szczepanek
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Except a few (that you can count on one hand), yes they do in fact care and some of them hire companies to actively pursue pirates. This sane approach is really rare.

Sean Givan
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Well, you don't know who I am, and I sure don't have any popular games published that anyone even bothers to pirate, so if I said that disregarding piracy is for the best, you could ignore my opinions for those reasons.

Is there some narrow band of opportunity and success that a piracy-neutral developer has to be in order to be listened to?

Tomas Majernik
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I bet he would change his mind if he had team of hundreds of people working on a game for several years only to find out that the game has been downloaded from torrents by millions of pirates.

You can`t compare development and investment of Angry Birds and let`s say Witcher or any other AAA title.

I am not saying legal actions can solve the problem with pirates, all I am saying is You need to see the whole picture.

Sean Farrell
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I am not sure if that sentiment has much merit. I understand the sentiment, that you invested much into a game and you see "people rip you off" and are obviously pissed. The question you must ask yourself is, are people going to give you money if they can't get a leeched copy? If you drive it further, does reacting harshly have a positive outcome?

In first instance you must treat pirates like potential customers, not like criminals. They haven't bought your game yet, but may in the future (or the squeal). For example L4D has a relative slow start. I know a good number of people that pirated the game, when the L4D2 came out, they bought the game as preorder. Things are not so clear cut and treating people badly will almost never help you.

Bernardo Del Castillo
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You know, this is why developers (I suppose I'm adding myself in there), have been finding intelligent ways around it. If your model is: I MAKE YOU BUY, you probably have a lot to learn about the new monetizing options that exist today.

An Example is how the vast majority of iPhone games on the highest grossing are actually free.

The increasing amount of downloadable titles and freemium games is also a noticeable change in paradigm.

Today for example I will rarely buy a game that I have not tried, but if I like what I'm seeing I will definately send the developers some love.

The typical paranoid approach of "I'm gonna skrew them before they screw me" has seriously been showing its cracks. The whole picture (and the cool thing about this article) is that fans are not the enemy. If your Game is good and people actually like it, there will find value in your original product.

Imagine this: If your band plays at a gig, and people are selling bootlegged items of your band, that money may not go to you, but people that are really your fans apart from this pirated material, will value owning your original t-shirts, and will get the limited edition of your album. You shouldnt treat them as criminals if they got into your music through a burned cd. Make your fans take pride in buying your products.

Jamie Mann
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Angry Birds was developed by a company with 25 employees and a budget of $140,000. It involved up to 10 employees and took six months to develop.

As such, in relative terms, I think that's reasonably equivalent: 10 people and $140,000 is a pretty hefty investment for a company of that size.

And in absolute terms, I'd suggest that there's been more piracy of Angry Birds than there has been of a game like The Witcher, especially since it has significant appeal in non-western countries such as China, where piracy figures can potentially be measured in tens of millions.

(Anecdotally, I went to China last year, and I've seen how many people play Angry Birds/Plants vs Zombies/Fruit Ninja on the subway - and I've also seen the street markets where stalls are literally crammed to the ceiling with knock-off AB/PvZ toys...)

And there's a nice article on how Popcap and Rovio have managed to make money in China despite the lack of strong IP protection here:

Whatever else I may think about Rovio, they're handling this particular scenario perfectly.

And while I'd be the first to acknowledge that this approach may not work for everyone, I'd also point out that while there's few reports of anti-piracy measures increasing revenues, there's plenty of stories about how relaxing anti-piracy measures and/or working with the community has succeeded in increasing revenue, from the Grateful Dead (who encouraged bootlegging of their gigs) to gaming initiatives such as the Humble Bundle...

Harry Fields
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If you can't muster up the dollar to play Angry-Birds and unwilling to play the ad-supported version, you're beyond hope and will always jump through hoops to steal what you can. A dollar.... If that's too much for you, why would you even have a smart phone with data plan (or other tablet device)?

Ferdinand Joseph Fernandez
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They have the leeway to say that because they've earned lots of profit at this point already. Would you tell a start-up to have that attitude? I'm not so sure about that.