Today I noticed a story from a European company that says they’re going to stop producing traditional “offline” games mainly due to piracy. They claim that for every single copy of game that was sold that 3-10 illegal copies are being played. They go on to say that if they continue doing any sort of traditional game it will require an online connection and will work much the way Steam does.
This sort of thinking I’ve seen for many years and its just an inaccurate as it was the first time I saw it.
First of all, this sort of statistic can mean anything you want it to mean. For example, there’s no way to know if that number is accurate. Second, how do you know if everyone who downloaded the game actually plays the game? Perhaps they downloaded it and decided it was a piece of junk no worthy of purchase? Like it or not, people impose a “forced shareware” concept where possible. We buy a lot of products that simply are not worth it and the industry has made it exceptionally difficult to return products that you find to be inferior. You can return a camera you don’t like or even a $5,000 TV but you can’t return a $40 game you don’t like.
The other thing that is highly suspect is the comment about Steam. If Steam is the wonder solution that so many suggest, why isn’t Half-Life 2 and most of the Steam content at the top of the sales charts? If they’re selling 10 times the number of products as everyone else that isn’t protected like Steam, shouldn’t they be running circles around these other top sellers?
They’re not and that’s for two reasons. The first is that the stat just isn’t accurate. The other reason is pretty basic too. As with piracy in any area, some people just aren’t going to pay. If they can get the product for free, so be it but it’s just not worth it to them to pay for it. Adding a pay-only option doesn’t turn these people into instant paying customers. That’s been my problem with industry groups that try to sell consumers on this concept. It just doesn’t wash. Does a car thief buy a Ferrari if he can’t steal one?
Am I advocating theft? No. What I’m saying is that it is a part of the industry and it’s something every developer knows about going in. To blame all your troubles on it after the fact is pretty weak. The bottom line is that people generally pay for quality products if the price is right. If the price isn’t right or the product isn’t quality then more people are apt to not bother with it, either legally or illegally. I’ve yet to see a product go from openly available to completely locked down suddenly jump up in sales to any degree let alone in numbers that are multiples of their previous sales.