The following is an examination of piracy. More specifically, the challenge it poses to software developers in the game industry. This is not intended to vilify nor pardon those who obtain software outside of the proper channels.
The Struggle Against Piracy is Real
Not every game requires an internet connection. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to protect your digital works without one. As long as your game resides exclusively on a client machine, there are those who can break apart, examine and re-configure your files. Even if you have a system in place to confirm legitimacy, these checks can be tainted by third party “cracks” which are easily obtained and often integrated within the game itself in pirate communities and file sharing websites.
Given enough time and determination, any system can be exploited. As game developers, we must be aware of this, and prepare to either invest heavily in creating a product that’s difficult to enjoy illegitimately, or a product that is desirable (and fairly priced) enough to be purchased to support the team behind it.
Be the Face of the Game
As I’ve said before, you need to represent your game with your face and not just through your brand. By maintaining a personal appearance across social networks and your proprietary community platform, fans and visitors alike will understand who is responsible for the content they enjoy. Make it clear that regardless of your team or business structure, a real person is directly impacted by lost business. This is not an argument of the politics of piracy, but a simple statement of fact: if your game doesn’t sell well, you won’t be able to put food on your table (or continue professional game development ).
There will always be those who act irresponsibly at the expense of others. Hopefully, your honesty and openness will persuade the “I’ll buy it if I like it” crowd to support content creators and spread the word.
There are even instances of independent studios uploading their own game on popular file sharing websites, viewing it as an inevitability. In doing so, the team hopes to have an opportunity to directly address those impacting their revenue. While it’s hard to determine the financial impact this has on a studio, it has been shown to leave a positive impression with online gaming communities.
Keep Cool and Engage
Assuming there continues to be a significant percentage of players who don’t acquire your content through legitimate means, what do you do when the public understands its impact on you, yet doesn’t make an effort to change its behavior? There is no best approach, but depending on the game, platform and community, some are more effective than others.
That said, make sure not to expend your energy vilifying or ostracizing those who haven’t paid for your content. Not only does it bring attention to those giving you the headache, but it injects negativity (albeit justified) into the pleasant and engaging public personality you’ve established. You aren’t taking a stance on piracy, so don’t feel pressured to make a big statement about DRM and the state of the industry.
Anything that can be controversial will be when addressing a large enough audience, and the last thing you want to do is ruin your image by making a segment of your userbase feel bad. You have to remember that some may download illegitimate copies of games out of financial or regional limitations.
You can’t distinguish the “good”pirates from the “bad”, but by refraining from personal criticism , you increase the odds of eventually convincing them to purchase a legitimate copy.
So in summary, here are three tips to keep in mind to best manage piracy:
- Let the public know that you are personally affected by illegitimate copies of the game. You’re a real person, not a just a company.
- Don’t attack the pirates on a personal level. Negativity breeds negativity, and you could irreversibly tarnish your public image.