July 31, 2006

[Piracy] More Answers (Warning: Language)

I'm an incurable optimist who believe that everyone does something to help someone else. Pirates are your friend. They distribute your product for free. Give them an incentive to buy your product (get rid of nag screens, have unlockable features, etc.) and they'll buy it.

Uhh...no. The sub-1% donation rate on most free software and the sub-1% registration rate on shareware games go against that logic. Evidently, in your travails around the various warez outlets, the whole slew of "serialz" sites slipped out of your vision.

You already got paid to make it. Why the fuck do you care?

Because I want to continue to get paid. Let's put this in terms that you might understand.

Imagine that I'm on a treadmill that leads towards a wood chipper. The wood chipper signifies unemployment and/or death of the company. How far away I am from the wood chipper signifies how much money the company has. How fast the treadmill is going towards the wood chipper signifies how much cash is going out, also known as the burn rate.

The burn rate is about one foot per month. Let's say that I start twenty feet from the chipper, and it takes me eighteen months to make the game and ship it. After eighteen months, I'm now two feet away from the wood chipper. That's uncomfortably close.

Sales from the game offset the burn rate, but don't slow it. If enough money doesn't come in from sales to offset the burn rate, we're still moving towards the wood chipper and a scene from "Fargo."

Why don't you charge for support?

Support isn't just about fixing problems, it's also about customer relationships. If I help a customer with a problem, that customer is more likely to buy from my company in the future. If I ask a customer for their credit card number before even trying to help them with a problem, I'm essentially ensuring that they'll never buy anything from me again.

You charge too much.

There are times when I want to go see a movie, but I don't have the funds necessary for the tickets. I have a choice...I can either wait until I get paid and go see it then, or I can violate international copyright law and download the film.

Hrm...delay gratification and give others the same respect that I want for myself, or get instant gratification and download a ShakyCam video off the net that cuts off the left half of the screen and has some asswipe in the third row hocking a loogie every six minutes...

I'll wait.

Dude, it's digital distribution. It costs you nothing. Fuck you.

Yeah, distribution costs us next to nothing, but we still had to pay to develop it, pay the ESRB to rate it, pay to promote it, pay to test it, pay for tools, pay for support, and more. Who says that the money we receive only goes towards the cost of a disc?

PC games aren't going away because of piracy.

Well, let's see...piracy on consoles is a fraction of what it is on the PC. What are the stats over the last few years?

Console games have remained pretty close to 600 titles being released across consoles per year for the last five years.

During the last five years, Windows releases went from nearly 700 releases back in 2001, peaked at around 845 in 2003, and have dropped nearly 100 per year since then. This year, we're going to be lucky if more than 500 games are released for Windows, given that we're only up to 270 so far this year, and the word I've been getting is that the strong pro-piracy comments over the last week across gaming sites is leading to at least ten PC SKU cancellations.

1 comment:

Morgan said...

Support is also about customer relationships, but that should not stop you from implementing loyalty programs. A recent study confirms that such programs are effective.

In addition, BioWare operates a large community site that effectively forces customers to register their purchases and be identified as official customers. Surely, this is worth consideration.

And of course screening phone calls by either asking customers for their serial number, Steam ID, etc., or requiring them to input such data prior to being privileged the access to support would also prove helpful. Ever called a mobile telecom service's customer support line? That's what they do. How about a bank? That's what they do too.

There is a lot you can do to authenticate customers while retaining their loyalty as customers.