Get a blog.
Disclaimer: I'm not a indie developer, but I'm giving it a hard look so
I've stored up a lot of thoughts about this profession. This is my long rant
about its unique problem of piracy.
1) Does piracy matter?
Those of you who don't think it matters are amateurs in every sense of the word. The pro-pirate groups argue things like 'Oh, well, people who pirate wouldn't buy it in the first place.' I don't understand how people, especially on this board can buy into this, when it has been demonstrated at least twice on this board using concrete REAL-LIFE data that the addition of a simple registration key changes sales by ~30%. How many companies in the world can survive a 30% shift in cash-flow on a long-term basis? How about ZERO (unless you're a monopolist like Microsoft.)
Just take a look at the operating profit of a company like EA, or Activistion. Their operating profit is ~+10%. If they had zero copy protection, their operating profit would most ikely be -20%.
If you are serious about indie-gaming, and when I say serious, I mean you give up a real-job, burn through savings, buy art assets,..etc. you are easily spending $100k+/year. What is the difference between making $130K versus $100k on that $100K investment or even worse, between $100k and $70k on that $100k investment? How about things like not eating and not having a place to live.
Maybe you are a meglo-maniac and you think you can do better than ~30% return on investment in the longterm, but I think you are crazy. A lot of you also do this as a hobby/part-time, but as I said earlier, you guys are just amateurs.
2) Things to do prevent piracy:
a. You are a big company like Google or Stardock and can subsidize your product as a loss leader with profit from advertising and selling other people games.
b. Have a strong online/multiplayer component that requires a closed
server like MMOs
c1. Pre-empt the future by requiring saves to be online or require real-time
c2. Have a simple serial check
Decide (how??) which of c1 or c2 will lose you more sales. How does anyone ever get a real estimate of this???
d. Try to get on XBox live
e. Offshore to Eastern Europe
Unfortunately, my favorite games, the stand alone games that used to sell 300-400K units with slim margins like Planescape Torment or
even the original Fallouts, do not exist. The only way to play quirky, non mass-appeal, but still substantial games like that are to buy the ones made in Eastern Europe (eg., Space Rangers 2.) This is a real shame.
3) Long term solution to Piracy
In the long long term, I think there is a solution to piracy, and we are not going to like it. The solution to piracy is to change the public's perception about software being a product to being a service. And the key to this change will be the ubiquity of broadband/wifi/3G. Bioshock's activation scheme sucked because Bioshock is marketed as a product. WoW's closed server model doesn't suck because it's marketed as a service.
But in reality, MMO's are just another form of online authentication which achieves its lock by withholding half the product. The equivalent model would be like buying a car that you couldn't drive without a company-rented robot chauffer. This would suck with our current mindset but would we really feel that badly about it if the chauffer was marketed as a service/added benefit instead of being perceived as a burden?
You can already see enterprise software migrating itself towards a service model like google apps. And they are paying a heavy price to change the mindshare by making their base app free. But If they succeed in changing the market mindshare, that it is ok to store your data on the internet, I wouldn't be surprised if all enterprise software like 3dMax piggy back on the change in 5 years time, and in 2015 the only way to save your data is to store it in a remote datacenter. Once this happens, piracy will effectively be solved. Games will also join this trend.
So for those of you who hate piracy, cheer on google apps (but mourn the loss of your freedom!)
Get a blog.
Maybe we need a new section for piracy rants.
I'd vote for more heavily moderated forums where people aren't allowed to participate anonymously But I'm probably the only one...
I also think that client/server side software of every kind is inevitable. All it will take is large companies like Microsoft, Discrete or Adobe to start doing it and the sheep will follow.
Of course I do think the big boys will keep releasing "training" software for free so they can retain their market share.
Or perhaps instead of charging thousands for programs like 3D Studio Max, they will charge small fees each time their client/server based programs are used? This fee could be on a sliding scale depending on the quality of the render. The possibilities are endless.
Well it was a well thought out post, I don't see why its out of place. Like it or not this is a major issue regarding indie gamer developers and their business. If you can't post on this topic here, what is this forum for?
Talking on MMos as being games that store there saves on a server is quite an interesting spin on it. Long ago it seemed MMos were all about a large multiplayer sandbox where people interacted (like eve online still is), but with games like guild wars, they are becoming more and more like instanced co-op 'dungeons' with a massively multiplayer lobby.
In other words, I think people are expecting less 'MM' with the MMo, which may point to a gradual shift towards people expecting mostly singleplayer games to need to run online.
I think it's just the regularity of it that gets tedious. Aren't we already having this conversation in two other places right now ?
And still nothing changes....
In my opinion, there's a big misunderstanding between the "pro-piracy group" (this term is absolutely ridiculous!!) and the "anti-piracy group". Some people here (like me) just say "don't focus too much on preventing piracy, focus more on getting more sales", and this is NOT the same as saying "piracy doesn't matter". It also doesn't say you shouldn't do anything about piracy. Do what you think is right, but just watch out that it's not too much (which can be contra-productive as well).
It's just like bad weather. If it rains outside, you have to accept it. You can do some little things like getting a raincoat or umbrella, but don't try to stop the rain. This will a) take too much time and b) won't fully succeed, so in the end, you're just wasting time, and time is money and time is also quality and it can produce your -30% as well.
It can. It doesn't have to. Every situation is different, and there are so many factors that play an important role in your sales, so in the end, you can't predict what will work. You can only estimate or listen to your inner voice. And my inner voice doesn't tell me "fight against piracy by all means", it tells me "concentrate on quality and only do the most reasonable things about piracy". And this is a decision that everyone has to make for himself. In both "groups", there will be people that succeed and there will be those who won't.