Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Response to pirates

Ok, I did a lot of thinking about it, and rather than post it as a blog post, with all the inevitable crashing and website burning that would involve, I’ve posted my response


Feel free to comment here though…

57 thoughts on Response to pirates

  1. Cliff,

    I’m glad you did this. I like the changes you are making. I think they will help. Maybe, just maybe, someone from one of the billion dollar game publishers reads this and has some takeaways from it as well. I love PC gaming. It’s gradual death makes me sad. Thanks for trying to keep it alive.

  2. Howdy Cliff,

    I had sent an e-mail in about games in general while your blog was overwhelmed, so i didn’t catch the part where you wanted to know about your games specifically, but i hope it still helped.

    After checking out your games, It’s clear that their very cool, but they are definitely not my cup of tea. I’m neither interested in buying, nor pirating them, and again, not because they aren’t original, and probably very fun and addicting, but because i’d much rather play fallout or something.

    I don’t share your skepticism about the future of PC games, but I am fairly skeptical about the future security of intellectual property, which is sad, because i like to see developers be able to earn. I feel like, despite the potential death of intellectual proper in the very near future, games, both crappy ones and awesome ones, will continue to flourish.

    Look at the music industry. Mankind hs been making music for most of it’s history, certainly for all of it’s recorded history. The music industry didn’t create music, music created the industry. I feel like PC games, even with their significantly shorter history, are here to stay for the same reasons that music will never stop being made.

  3. Interesting results, and I think there are a few interesting parallels to what’s going on in the music industry: DRM, High prices vs. Quality of product, Digital vs. Physical distribution. Nine Inch Nails (among others) recently ditched the traditional models in favor of trying to feel out the “right” way to do things, and the solutions seem almost exactly the same: No DRM, Lower prices, Higher quality products, and Digital distribution – and they seem to be doing pretty well.

    As for the issue of demos being too short, I find that actually irritates people more than anything. Take Missile Command on XBLA, you can play for 3 levels before it asks you to buy the game – annoying! I think there’s a big difference between partial content (play for a minute then, oops, time’s up) and content with a lot more goodies to be unlocked upon purchase. The example that comes to mind almost immediately is Doom, and other episodic content: First episode free – that’s a huge chunk of content, and it lets you experience the game in its entirety. Liked that? There’s 3 more episodes, harder, better, cooler… You don’t want to so much tease the player, as you want to make them fall in love with your game and buy the rest of it – at a reasonable price.

    All very interesting, and a good read, thanks for posting.

  4. Every company that has true quality, ease of use, and good support has received my money without question my whole life.

    At every turn I seek to avoid paying companies that do the opposite. This is true of every industry, digital or not. If I dislike the product or service I received, I’ll try to haggle the price down, not tip, or even steal. To me every company is just another company, and the only good ones focus on quality and make it easy for the customer to use their product. If the quality is good, the price can be high to match that (For the record, it is wise to have quality products at all price ranges, from $5 to $100 and beyond, if you sell a product worth that much. Package deals aren’t a bad idea either.). If the service is good, I will be absolutely happy to try new products because I know that even if I have a problem, my experience and time is safe in the company’s hands.

    Take care of the customer, entertain them, and put your heart into your product, and they’ll come back year after year.

  5. I will have to say that is an honest and refreshing thing you did. I didn’t bother commenting, but everything everyone else said resonated with me.

    I do say though, because of what you’ve said, I’m downloading the demos of your games. If it was years ago, I would’ve pirated them. If it was today, but before I read your post, I would’ve glanced at your games, go “meh – not free” and move on (rather than pirate it). But now, I’m seriously curious.

    Back then, I had no money. Now I have money, but less time. Unless someone really says a game is good, I’d ignore it and move on (like I would’ve before your post). But now because of your post, I’d check them out. If they are even moderately interesting, I’d buy ’em, even if I never play ’em again out of principle. What you did are positive steps, and I believe that should be rewarded. I consider it sad that these days, such behavior is unusual and unexpected.

    One important part of the DRM aspect is the ability to install on multiple computers. Many people these days have multiple computers, and installing (and limiting) a game to one installation is quite restrictive (however,, being able to run a game be the only copy running at any one time, isn’t). If this is the case, as it is with some DRM, guess what copies the other PCs get? Yes, pirated ones. (Steam lets you install games on as many PCs as you want, except the account can only be logged in once). This is the problem with internet activation (good of you for fidding it!) – you install on your main PC, then perhaps a laptop – but it won’t let you play it on the second install because you’ve “pirated” it. Or you reinstall a PC and need to activate it again, only to discover your N activations have been used up.

    It’s debatable whether or not the latter case (buy a copy, but install pirated versions because they work better) is actual piracy, or not, though.

  6. I sent an email to you with my input as I didnt find this till today.

    It’s good to see Devs asking for input from the gamers who use thier games.
    I was thinking, why keep creating more problems for gamers instead of asking for thier input. Thats the way to go.

    I hope the input you get helps a lot as you deserve it. Just hope other devs also get the point and change thier ways too.

  7. Hi there, Cliff!

    I’m a little late to the party… just noticed your blog but I thought I should vent something that the industry had adopted that really, REALLY bugs the hell out of me.

    I am a RESIDENTIAL customer. NOT a business. I really hate software licenses that say “you can only have this program on one computer/processor”.

    Listen, I am not swimming in money but I DO have more then one computer at home. My wife and I hog the computer a lot to surf, do stuff and I have 2-3 computers so that we can all (the family) get on without having to wait. Please don’t tell me I can only have the game on one system. Let me have what I would coin a “residential site license” – as long as it’s under the same roof, please let me install it on all my systems so I can choose from day to day, what system in what room I want to play in / do my taxes on, etc… For those who need the DRM, its easy to figure out. I’m using NAT. As long as all my running programs are talking from the same IP address, you can figure there in the same house. You can even look up the IP in ARIN to see if it’s a residential IP (who is the ISP?, static or dynamic?). Apple has a nice thing that for just a few dollars more, you can run the OS on up to 5 computers. Now THAT’s reasonable!

    Thanks for listening!

    — Paul.

  8. I read your post, I feel that price is still a very relative phenomenon. For instance, it may be reasonable to assume an average man in the USA earns at least $2000 a month. In many countries, it works out close to $120 a month (which is used to cover rent (around $40 lowest), food ($30 lowest), travel ($30 lowest, Bills ($10 lowest) So, what about everything else? When would a person be able to buy these things?

    Think about it, some AAA games (like Warrior Within) are being sold here for as low as $7. EA is giving out a couple of it’s old games for as low as $3.5. Now it’s a good thing you are at least talking something reasonable. For the record here, the Orange Box sells for as much as $23 here, which is _not_ affordable in my country. If your games are going to be $20, it is trying to compete with the Orange box here. The point is people will neither buy Orange Box nor your game because it is like 16 to 20% or a guy’s monthly income. There are good chances people might buy instinctively buy a $3 game and might, after a bit of consideration, buy a $7 game.

    Here is an example I would like to put in place. They have started reducing the price of original DVDs in movies to as low as $1 (to as much as $1.5). That has definitely resulted in a huge amount of people buying these things as opposed to movie piracy. Hollywood DVDs, on the other hand sell for as much as $16 here (which they probably do in the USA too) and nobody thinks about buying those movies anyway.

    First, would you want to sell your games at $2.5 at all? I wouldn’t imagine that, probably you get one or burgers out there for that money. But if you wanted to, you would get the promise of _NEAR_ zero piracy in countries such as mine. If you thought I was exaggerating the figures, Perhaps it would be a good idea if you actually came around and asked people how much would they buy that game for and see for yourself.

    If you wanted to do some charity (or get some goodwill), start at home. :-)

  9. I played the Democracy II demo a few days ago, and it was appalingly short. I was actually a bit pissed off. However, reading your response cleared that up because you’re motivated to present a better product to your customers, and you’re actually listening to them.

    So I’ll go and buy Democracy II next time I want to play it.

  10. Hi Cliff,

    Thanks for sparking this debate, it was about time we had it, and the responses detailed in your blog are interesting to read.

    Your conclusion about removing DRM is particularly important to me.

    I don’t pirate games because it is my passion, however I am no angel and there are other elements of my digital life i am less passionate about.

    I did go out and buy Sin of a Solar Empire, a game i was curious about, precisely because it had no/minimal DRM, that is a stance i will support with my wallet.

    I am considering buying Introversion games for the same reason, and will likewise have a close look at yours too.

    I did buy Bioshock and Mass Effect, though it was with heavy heart and i have felt dirty ever since. No matter how ridiculous it is, the argument about an meteor destroying Bioware or 2k Studios, followed by the injustice of me trying vainly to reinstall their games some time later, is an argument that sits strongly with me.

    Such intrusive DRM destroys my sense of ownership and thus damages my enjoyment of the product. This is the message I want games developers/publishers to get.

    Kind regards

  11. After reading that reply i only have two things to say. 60 bucks for a good game is not too much to ask. GET A JOB.
    And digital distribution is the cancer of the games industry. I have no idea why people are falling for this one so easily.
    I can still play any ancient game that i bought years ago, even though the company who distributed has gone bankrupt. How is that going to work with a game i bought on Steam?
    I don’t have to go to a store to buy my games as well. There is online shopping as well. You’ll just have to wait until the next day for the game. You’ll live.

    Most games fail because they’re made to make money, not to make a game.

  12. I just read your blog about the pirating stuff.

    Here is my comment

    I admit iv downloaded a few things in my time and my reason is because of the price. Back when i was younger games on console’s and handelds and PC games were around $20-$40. Thats not to bad, then as things advanced and time grew on i noticed a trend starting with PC games. The normal prices went from $40 to $50 then $55 and now $60. Same with consoles, the prices are getting stupidly high i dont care how complex a game is to make you shouldnt be charging $60 or more for a single copy of a game that most likely has terrible gameplay or is extremely short which is another thing iv noticed. Alot of games are becoming so short that you can littery beat them in one day. That or the gameplay is really bad. I also hate buying games where there is no demo so i cant see what the game is like. Im not wasting $60 for a game thats gonna suck so i would go out and download it first.

    Now for consoles like i said the prices are still way to high which is why i never buy console games anymore. I have a Xbox360 and i have 3 games for it, Gears of War, Halo, and Ghost recon which i never played. Why would i want to pay $60 per game on a console ?

    Im starting to move more towards Handheld games now. They arent to bad in price, $35 for a new DS game, but a PSP game still $50 which is retarded IMO. I usually wait till the game has been out for awhile so the price will go down. I recently went to ebgames and bought 4 games for only $70. Ratchet and Clank, Crash of the titans, Metal slug, and Bust-A-Move. All were $17 or less used. Anyway i think iv made my point clear i dont buy anything anymore on consoles or handhelds because of the prices. Iv downloaded a few things on the PC because of prices. If they went back down to where games used to be i would start buying more then i have been.

  13. I’ve read your reply to all the blog comments about piracy.

    You found it strange people even those with good jobs complain about the prices of games.

    I don’t think that’s very strange at all its not that they can’t miss it or even that they wouldn’t want to spend it on a good game but that’s where the problem is.

    The current quality of games is a all time low (imho) I mean honestly 95% is crap sure its good looking crap but is mostly the gameplay or game length is just not worth spending 60$.

    I mean take crysis for example.. big budget game with a lot of hype and it looked great and gameplay wasn’t that bad either and at first I was actually planning on buying it but since there was so much talk about it not running well I downloaded it first. Then I finished the game in 1 day… I mean common what’s up with that? I’m sure as hell not going spend 60$ on something that can be easily finished in one day.

    I did buy Sin of a Solar Empire for example simply because it is a excellent game that keeps you busy for many hours. Same goes for the Elderscrolls series which I am a big fan of that game latterly kept me very busy for months. I happily bought those games (amongst others) and where really worth the money I spend on them and would definitely directly buy any expansions or new games from those series.

    But yeah if a game can’t give the gamer a content that will keep them busy and make them feel they had their money worth of course they won’t buy it and seeing that this happens more and more like I said the majority of the games now is crap. So most people (me including) won’t even consider buying a game before trying it by downloading it and 8/10 times it gets deleted within a hour or two 1/10 I play for a bit longer but mainly because I’m bored the last 1/10 I actually go out and buy.

  14. Congratulations to you, for doing something that no corporate entity, and probably 95% of all people in this world would never do – engaging your customers honestly about a difficult problem facing your business. If the slowness of your websites is any indication, you’re going to see a nice bump in sales from this. You deserve it. I’ll be checking out a few of your games as soon as I get a chance. Too bad the big game companies won’t learn from your example.

  15. Cliff,
    Congratulations on actually trying to understand why people pirate games, instead of just lashing out at them or trying to retaliate by sicking government agencies on them. I’ll be honest, I have pirated games in the past, and a lot of the reason for that was not having the money to go out and buy the game. If a game is well written and engaging, then I will buy it when I have the money, as I did with Bioshock. On the other hand, Assassin’s Creed, while it is a beautiful game, does not seem like it is worth it’s hefty price tag, so I will not be buying it. Thank you for trying to understand pirates, and for seeing the error of DRM-use.


  16. I would disagree with lowering the price of your games. I know how much effort you put into these games and you deserve every $20 of it, even if it falls short of $/hour you get from a AAA title. Lowering the price will lower the quality of your game.. so what if your game is now $9.99? It’s now a bargain bin game and now an even better candidate for pirating.

  17. When I Pirate music I make it a point to buy clothing, stickers, ect from the artist I can’t afford everything I need let alone want… when I can I help out but having other products helps in my opinion

  18. Personally would never pirate games, but I wanted to comment on something you said in your post

    “I still don’t get how buying from steam is any different to buying from me”

    The real clincher is that Steam allows me to purchase a game once and having it available on any PC I’m at. That is absolutely Steam’s best feature for me, now if only iTunes would do the same I’d be set :)

  19. I would’t buy or pirate your games because this page doesn’t make me want to click on anything to see if it’s worthwhile. The best thing about steam is the way they showcase the games from the first screen.

    You need to put video of someone playing your games up on youtube or something and then link to in from your site. Democracy2 looks like it’s a snore-fest… but then I realized… to this day I still play some games that my friends think are the most boring and confusing and pointless games they’ve ever heard of… so why do I play them? Probably because I saw someone else playing them and enjoying them and they pointed out what about they game they liked, live, in person, (like a video)

    $10 and $20 are a good price. Fuck that $9.99 shit.

    Now that I’ve grown up and have a nice paying job I can afford as many games as I want. But they all suck so bad. I have to play the pirated version to avoid that feeling of buying first and realizing I hate the game later.

    Sometimes it takes a long time with the pirated version to really decide to buy it. I’ve had UT3 since it came out but it wasn’t until last night when I finally put together the hardware to play it in all its smooth-as-eggs framerate glory did I decide to buy it.

    Same with quake 2, quake 3, Overlord, ut2004, race driver grid, THPS3, THPS4, and many others. Acutually, one thing all those listed have in common is that you haven’t played the “full” game until you’ve played it online. Requiring verification through a master server for online play is the only kind of “DRM” that works but only if there’s good reason to want to play online.

    Being able to download the game as soon as you pay for is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for people who don’t live in places like USA, Canada, UK, Europe. And give people as many different ways of paying as possible. Sometimes American companies randomly don’t accept my visa card because they just don’t like my country’s banking system or something.

    Giving someone the full game with a 4 day OR 4 hour time limit is the worst. (zuma, scrabble)

  20. Great post. Thanks for listening to not just pirates, but people in general.

    Will it change the industry? One can only hope.

    Incidentally, I bought Democracy II a while back and enjoy it quite a bit, but damned if I can’t win without a 10 year election cycle.

  21. Bravo for doing what nobody else is in game development, music, or any other entertainment is currently doing: LISTENING. You asked a simple, insightful question, looked at the responses, and applied that information in an intelligent and productive manner. I wish the rest of the entertainment industry would do this. Hell, governments could learn a bit from this exercise (Hey Congress! DRM is counterproductive! Do something about it!).
    Hello from the US, obviously. I didn’t know about you guys before reading about this on slashdot, but I’ll be sure to check out some of your games.
    P.S. I say your prices are just fine. It’s reasonable and at a point low enough where I don’t have to agonize over every purchase without being low enough to raise questions over the quality of the product.

  22. > People think demos are too short.

    Probably in some cases. But it’s not just length, it’s how it makes the game look. I’ve not tried (or pirated!) any of what appear to be listed as your games so I can’t comment on those, but I did download the Wonderful End of the World demo, to which your front page links.

    I enjoyed that demo, but its shortness made me suspect the full game itself was also very short. IIRC it advertised something like 12 levels, but if they’re as short as the two in the demo then that’s not very much game for the price. $20 isn’t *that* much but it’s at the top-end of ‘impulse buy’ for me. (In the end I neither bought nor pirated it.)

    Maybe this was unjustified; perhaps I only got the early, small levels and the others are much bigger, but the demo didn’t make that obvious if so. It’s always a problem if a demo just gives you the first part of the game as this can be tutorial-heavy story-establishing stuff that doesn’t represent the rest very well. Making a good demo is harder than just chucking in more of the early levels.

    > Steam got a pretty universal thumbs up from everyone.

    I can’t stand it myself, but I can see why it’s popular: it’s a known quantity.

    Direct download is a lottery. Is it going to work at all? Who is this new company who want my credit card details? Is there DRM on the download that’s going to stop me playing the game if a server goes down, the company disappears*, or I have no internet?

    Steam doesn’t inherently solve those problems; its online stuff is effectively a form of DRM in itself, and for non-networked games that’s why I hate it. But it is at least a known quantity: if you’ve already got Steam working, the download should probably just work, and if there are any problems you’ve got Valve to whinge at instead of some new third party. In all, it’s less risk.

    [* – and for indie games in particular, let’s face it, chances are it will sooner or later…]

    > I now use no DRM at all.


    Make sure to mention this upfront; there’s nothing worse than buying a game to find out it has undisclosed activation requirements, and that’s a major factor putting me personally off digital downloads today, having been burned this way before.

    (And increasingly, alas, retail sales. Bioshock, HL2 et al…)

  23. The advantage that Steam has over most download services is that any game I purchase through Steam can be downloaded and reinstalled as many times as I want. And Steam is stable, so I’m confidant that in ten years I’ll still be able to download and install my copy of Psychonaughts. In fact, as long as Steam doesn’t go under, it’s probably more stable than owning the disk, which is apt to get lost or damaged.

  24. Ive seen both your question and response posted on Slashdot, and i initially hesitated to reply because i did not see any direct email link, i still don’t, however i will reply here. I don’t pirate many games, however i would have to agree steam is a really good content distribution method. Just like i hesitated to reply to your question, many people hesitate to buy your games and instead wind up pirating them. it would then seem like a good idea to allow people to purchase the game “in-game” in the demo etc…. and i don’t mean by closing the game and opening a browser…. by simply having a “buy it now” title screen option that has a form for the right information… type it in… create a password to encrypt and save the data locally with (as well as sending payment info to your payment processor), and then change the “buy it now” option to something like “online store” which would be a simple listing and brief description of other games you wish to sell. make it so when the customer buys one game there computer saves and encrypts there payment data (with there consent) so that next time they just click buy it now and “i consent to be charged $x.xx for the game” i hope I’m clear enough with this explanation, but i would love to hear back on with you think about this…

  25. Very brave of you Cliff. I’m personally not surprised by most of the feedback you’ve had as it’s what some of us have been saying for years. I still maintain that your time is best spent making games, particularly given that yours are quite niche, than chasing pirates.

    That Steam is well respected is very gratifying and did surprise me a little, although I’m not sure it helps a lot of indie authors.

    I’ve put full feedback on a post on the blog incidentally.

  26. How about easing into Open Source?

    It sure will shoot the quality of your game right through the roof and the better it gets, the more your website will be viewed and more revenue from ads.

    Also donations. I would love to pay for not only quality but to some one like yourself who wants to help improve the way we live.

    And once your code/game has an hardcore following, may be tShirts and related stuff for the fans.

  27. Great to see both your dialogue with pirates/consumers and your serious moves to address those issues Cliff – it’s brave but also I think very foresighted. Piracy isn’t going to be killed by DRM and other methods that stop people from fulfilling their desire – it’s only going to go away when people have no reason to pirate anymore. Hopefully the lower price, for example, doesn’t backfire.

    I was just commenting about this on my own blog ( and the price argument really resonated with me – it’s good to see someone with such exposure pick up on the ridiculous nature of game pricing in Australia/NZ for example. I’ve lived in New Zealand for 10 years and games have been consistently overpriced by at least 20% – and up till a few years ago, were arriving as much as 2 or 3 months late. It’s not hard to see how piracy became so justified in that specific climate, at least: you’re hearing about the game and people who’re playing it on the Internet, but it’s still 3 months away and you’re goign to have to pay more than most of the Western world. Yet it’s unlikely this will change anytime soon, because the golden excuse ‘it’s because of pirates’ still works… somewhere.

    It would be great to hear how your new initiatives have worked 6 months or a year into the future – we’d all love to see a success story.

  28. To be honest, I have never pirated a PC game. It isn’t because I am too moral or anything like that, it’s because I just don’t care. I quit buying PC games, I even quit browsing the section in Wal Mart.

    Now, before you write me off as “not a potential customer”, here me out. I love gaming but I find that I spend more time playing SNES games on SNES9x than anything else. That would be pirating old console games, not PC games. The reason why? SNES games didn’t spend much time concentrating on how they looked and it showed in the gameplay. I am still playing Nintendo and Square’s (to name a couple) games almost 20 years later.

    In the PC department, you can’t rip Morrowind out of my hands. The Age games are pretty good too as well as the Civ games. I purchased these games (and their expansions) and they are worth every penny. There are though, some PC games that made me feel like I was ripped off. So, I am sure you want to know why I quit buying PC games.

    – Price vs Value

    I would pay alot more than $50 for Morrowind because it is worth it. Now look, I don’t expect every game to be as good and long as Morrowind but when I can beat it quickly and it offers no replay value, it’s isn’t worth much. To be honest, very little that has come out recently is worth even wasting TIME with, much less money. So I just quit, tired of being dissapointed and ripped off.

    – DRM

    Yeah, you guessed it. I HATE having to put in product keys, inserting CD/DVD’s to start a game or having the copy protection prevent the game from running at all. An opened game cannot be returned in most cases. Another reason I just don’t care anymore.

    – Specs

    I am not poor but I am not rich either. I can’t buy the $400 video card just to play “XXXX” and that video card will be obsolete within 2 years. Sorry, I got a family to feed. Another problem with specs is that THEY LIE!

    Honestly, I loved Morrowind and I bought Oblivian. The specs on the box suggest that I fall inbetween the Min and recommended specs (CPU only, everything else exceeds recommended specs). Yeah right, I can’t play it, even on the lowest settings. Again, another reason I just don’t care anymore.


    What the hell is up with that? I bought Sim City Societies and the thing was as unstable a car with 3 wheels! Luckily, I convinced the guy at Gamestop to take it back for a full in-store credit (I bought a couple of console games instead). It isn’t just that game either. It seems like developers are making US pay to be Beta testers. You guessed, another reason I don’t care anymore.

    I don’t care enough to bother pirating games. I will look at your games and I think your prices are fine, don’t drop prices below $9.95 though, it will makes your games look cheap. I want to say that I appreciate your willingness to reach out. I love PC gaming (or atleast I used to), PC is still my favorite gaming platform but I can’t forgive this nonsense year after year. I am glad someone out there in developer land wants to save PC gaming.

    One other thing that is bothering me. My wife loves The Sims 2 but EA is raping customers with these $30 waste of money expansion packs. I buy them, for her but I don’t like it. Please don’t ever resort to this type of barrel scraping with your games. I’ll bet there are alot of things you could teach big houses like EA.

    There is so much more to say but I think this is enough for now. Thanks for listening.

  29. Well, as developing Game Developer, I was planning to talk to developers about this in the future.

    Thanks for making this a point, it’s unbelievable that, what you’re doing and the way you’re thinking, is what the PCGA should be doing, but their not.

    The PCGA will never work unless they kick out 2 companies(I won’t name them) off their board and bring together a panel which consists of people from the gaming community and game developers.

    Although I would like to share more with you on this, time is short.

    Email me if you wanna talk about it in detail.


  30. Quick comment on the ‘joys’ of Steam:

    I realise many people love the convenience but i hate the fact that i am renting a service rather than buying a product.

    If i uninstall a Steam game then wish to try it again at a later date where i don’t have internet access then I’m scuppered, I cannot play it. I am fine with some non-intrusive element of copy protection, I understand the need and will accept a 64 digit product-key, as long as the product key is mine to keep and can be used to activate the game in any future circumstance.

    But requiring an internet connection for some authenication that may or may not be there in future destroys my sense of ownership, and thus some of the joy of possessing a piece of gaming legend.

  31. Yes, when I first started buying music online I found that the DRM on that music required me to be online to even play it. I didn’t like that and I went back to p2p sites.

    Steam seems alot like that. When I buy a product, I want the full use of it. I have alot of games that I can’t play now because they were made for Windows 95/98 but ya know what, if I had a 98 partition I could play them because the CD is in my possession and I don’t need to ask the companies permission to use it.

  32. The question was why people don’t buy games, I will add one why I bought games recently.

    Specifically Supreme Commander and Supreme Commander: Forged alliance and the third was the 14 years old System Shock CD version.

    What do there three games have in common? Loyalty. I played Total Annihilation back in the days I no way could afford it. Well pirated costs were $7 anyway, and now that I was able to afford it I showed my loyalty to an equally loyal creator and bought it.

    The System Shock? I played a $7 version of SS2 so, too I wanted to do something nice for the long dead companies who made it. Plus, everybody mentioning the long, complex story happening onboard of Citadel Station made me feel confused and I did enjoy it, very much! It’s way better than Bioshock which is only LINEAR and not chained, nor complex. In System Shock you need to go back many times to discover things you did not find previously, navigating trough complex tunnels, maintenance shafts and floors, engineering deck, hangar space and many exotic places you don’t see in current games. Well many current games are more D than the System Shock.

    It is true that some LAME LAME LAME gamers were dissatisfied with the level of realism for example System Shock2 provided, that weapons degraded and that ammo was scarce, but that was the point. That made me feel special when I was able to survive that. Bullies will surely like Bioshock a lot where you will always have plenty of ammo and change endless stock of weapons out of game world in menu, then return to game. LAME. Good for dumb console game players.

    As for the game pricing. Wii games and such other console games used to be priced at levels of 8-12% of your monthly income. Again, monthly income of adult, working person!!!

    As for game buying, I can only advise to give the demo player an option at the end of it of using a paypal. To secure the buying customers further, I can recommend the GPGnet method. (Gas Powered Games). You buy a license to use their network and services, not just a game with few levels you will be over in 50 hours anyway. Bonus online content for licensed buyers also counts.

    many people want to share their game creations with friends, show their levels, replays, solutions, or play with them. (this is true for strategy games and racing and fly simulation games too)

  33. Hi Cliff,

    I think I’m actually going to buy a copy of Kudo’s 2 when it releases.

    This is by far the best marketing stunt I’ve ever encountered, and it wasn’t even deliberate :-)

    Love it, really.

  34. Hi,

    There are an other reason for pirate independant game like yours (I don’t read all, maybe some people already said this):
    Stranger like me (I’m french, booooo) who dont’ speak english (very well), for trying and see if we can understand with not too much difficulty. If it is, we don’t play it more, so… If I understand, I buy it after.
    There are lot of independant game like these, I want buy and play, but with my level of english, I can’t, so I pirate them to see that.

    (sorry for my bad english)

  35. Hi,

    Sorry about the late input. Found out about your article on one of the journalist gaming websites (forgot which one). But after reading it I really want to say my thoughts.

    Firstly, I would like to say how much I love the way you’re approaching the subject – from a logical person’s perspective rather than a “we want money” perspective. And it works!

    I agree with the article and like the changes. I’ll admit before the article I’d never actually heard of you, but now I’m looking into your stuff and may actually buy some. But this has also made me definitely not pirate from you.

    My thoughts:

    Money – Games are expensive, and there are a lot of them, meaning I can’t afford every single one. In general, I buy the ones I really want (or ones I can’t pirate), and pirate the rest. That said, I don’t actually pirate that many games.

    Game Quality – I hate highly-hyped games that turn out to be pretty… average. Take Crysis for example. It had all the hype, yet people were saying it’s not amazing. If it’s not amazing I don’t want to buy it, but with all the hype I at least want to try it. A mate had pirated it and gave me a copy. I played it once through, but never again. Now, I don’t want to spend £40 on a game I’ll only play once. So yeah, making a game I would want to play lots would definitely make me want to buy it. I’ve just bought Uncharted for PS3 and love it – simply adding trophies, treasures, medals and rewards makes me want to play again and again and again to unlock everything. Unlockables are awesome.

    DRM – Again, I hate it. I bought Bioshock for PC and couldn’t get it working for DAYS due to the stupid DRM and problems it caused. In the end I resorted to using a crack (on my bought copy) to play it. That has made me want to turn to piracy, as they’re just as likely to work – if not more likely. Hearing you’re getting rid of DRM really makes me happy (plus it’s cheaper for you I assume).

    Digital Distribution – I actually like a disc, box and manual. I’ve never bought any games online (I have dial up though, meaning a download rate of 3kbps stops me). Even so, I’d prefer to buy a hard copy unless it was much more expensive. The good thing about digital is they don’t have discs which will scratch, and I’m sure in the future I’ll download more.

    Demos – Of course I’d like longer, more in depth demos! I mean, who wouldn’t? :) My major gripe with demos though are time limits. I would much prefer to have a single short level which could be completed in 10 minutes than a really long demo but with a 20 minute time limit. Just when I’m doing something fun, getting into it….”Coming out November, pre-order now!”. Really really annoys me.

    Hope this helps, or at least I hope you have the time to read it.


  36. You really shouldn’t push your retailer to implement Amazon’s one click method: Amazon patented it, so they can’t.

  37. Heyo there.

    I read that you said getting games on Steam was hard.

    I thought the release of “Steamworks” made it easy for developers to put their games on Steam and easy for them to update them.

    I don’t know much about the details, but I do believe that Steam is definately a good distribution system.


  38. I just wanted to suggest an idea for your future demos. Give them an ending that will not be in the game, thereby making the demo it’s ‘own’ game.

    also; I usually only pirate games that have editors because I like to pretend I know how to mod.:P

  39. Excellent post, and excellent plans for the future, I’m glad to see more developers looking into this sort of thing.

    Have you considered also porting your games to other platforms, such as Mac OS X or Flash (I don’t include Linux in here because it’s nearly impossible to ship binaries that will run on a large set of Linux machines out of the box)? I’ve bought both of the games published (so far) by Greenhouse because I can run them natively on my Mac laptop instead of hiding in the basement with the XP machine.

    – chrish

  40. I am a pirate, software, videos and music. Considering how common that is, it probably doesn’t surprise many of you too much. What would disappoint the software industry and the RIAA if they came through my door is *what* I pirate and *why*.

    I’ll get the music out of the way, first. I don’t get mine through Limewire/torrents/etc. I use LastRipper & StreamRipper to make copies of internet music streams. Why don’t I just grab whole albums from my favourite artists? Mainly because of the general rule that pretty much *any* album contains only 1 or 2 songs that are more than ‘meh’. I also like to hear different artists-ones that don’t necessarily get regular radio play. (How often have you heard Infected Mushroom’s *awesome* ‘Becoming Insane’ playing on /your/ radio? Go check it out on YouTube right now; I’ll wait.) What it means is I have 10-15 artists that you’ve never heard of for every 1 that you have. Of course, some are not so great, but I can always delete those. Because I don’t listen to music that much, what I do listen to isn’t well represented in local music stores, music in the genres that I enjoy most is legally broadcast for free over the internet (…and recording public broadcasts has been regarded as legal for decades), I rarely buy music unless it is by local artists. (Dr. Fishy!) However you slice it, the music industry is getting exactly as much money out of me if I /wasn’t/ ‘pirating’ music.

    As for videos, while I’ve downloading lots, they are, again, mostly recordings of public broadcasts; essentially ‘Torrent TiVo’. Oh, sure, the industry wails about how I’m stealing from them because I’m not buying those shows on DVD, but most of them are currently being shown (e.g. ‘Good Eats’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Holmes on Homes’ (I bought four seasons of HoH to loan to friends who were thinking of renovating)) or are so old that they aren’t sold on DVD. Yes, I’ve grabbed current movies to see how they were; some I watched partway through then deleted them, some I watched then went and watched them on the big screen. Just like music, though, I don’t watch them often. I have a half-dozen or so DVD’s still shrink-wrapped that I plan to watch ‘some day’, and at least a hundred episodes of various shows that I haven’t seen yet. Again, the industry is getting exactly as much money as if I didn’t pirate any videos.

    As for software, there are two types (applications & games) and two sets of reasons. For apps, I tend to use open source whenever I can; it’s free, actively supported, and covers about 90% of what people do day-to-day. For the rest, if I’m going to be using it for the long haul, I tend to buy it-support being the number one reason. If, on the other hand, I just want to try something, or it’s for a one-shot deal, yes, I will grab a pirated version if a free or trial version won’t do what I need.

    For games, it’s a bit more complicated. Everyone has a mental budget that they allow themselves for entertainment. If, for example, that budget is $20 per month, and they are looking at buying a $60 game, the deal-breaker will be if they don’t think that that game will entertain them for three months, given the game’s playtime versus the number of hours they expect to play that particular game in those three months. That’s one reason why so many people play GW & WoW; they fit within that budget and never end. (The Half-Life series is another one like that; considering the /hundreds/ of mods available for it, the $100 ‘Valve Complete Pack’ has to be a world record for value.) That’s also why many pirate a game; they want to play it, but it isn’t in that mental budget, even if they have the money to buy it. Some, like me, will play it for a while, find it isn’t really that interesting, and delete it. Some, again like me, will find one that they really enjoy after playing for a while, and buy it. Or they will find it in the bargain bin a year or two later and pick it up for $10.

    As for DRM, the first thing I do when I buy a game is head over to and grab a ‘noCD’ crack for it. I bought it, I can do whatever I want to to play like I want to. The irony is that the only people who are hurt by DRM are those who actually /pay/ for their games and don’t use cracks to get around it.

    I. Love. Steam. Valve has finally gotten DRM right (mostly – playing games offline can be a hassle and it still doesn’t install third-party mods for you). Steam doesn’t care what computer you are playing on, if you are running it over a network or off of a USB drive, if you have two separate accounts on two networked computers using the same installation, ANYTHING. It’s DRM is one of the best I’ve come across.

    As for independents, how about using a whole new paradigm? The game itself is free, and the programmer receives donations to improve it. It starts off with fairly basic features, and more features are added in as they are voted in and users donate to the project. Instead of a regular menu, you could have a series of tabs. The first one would be the developer’s blog, talking about what’s going on with the game. The second would be a ‘roadmap’ tab, showing what’s been going on and what is planned. The third would be a ‘future features’ forum tab, where changes to the game are discussed and voted on and users share tips, etc.. The third would be an IRC chat tab, where users could chat live. The last one would be the actual game menu.

    Users would vote on the features that they most want to have. The programmer would respond with how much would have to be donated before he would be willing to work on that feature. Users could then donate (through PayPal or whatever) however much they want for the feature(s) they want, or just to support the project. This back-and-forth dialogue, completely contained within the game, would ensure that users felt a part of the project, and the programmer would be getting fair recompense for his work. It can go beyond the original programmer, too. If, for example, Joe Programmer’s graphics stink, and his sounds suck, Wanda Artist and Adam Audioguy might agree to provide better ones for X dollars in donations.

    It wouldn’t have to be in each game, either. It could be a front end/umbrella for all sorts of games using the same paradigm, each of which could be automatically downloaded and installed whenever you wanted. An organization could be set up to run it, called, say, Spigot. The frontend could be call the Vapor Motor. ;) Seriously, though, such an organization would act as an escrow agent for the donations, holding them in trust until the feature is complete. (Yes, I know; this is getting *way* too complicated. ignore this paragraph for now.)

    Urgh. It’s late and I’m going to bed. Night, all.

  41. One issue with the survey may be that the number of hardcore pirates is underrepresented, since they may be less likely to reply. No doubt you’ve thought about this, and in any case you’re not going to get hardcore pirates to buy your games anyway other than by taking them to court, so whatever you do you lose with them.

  42. Sorry to say it but I think you’ve been duped by the Pirates. I’d love to believe that price is a factor but I suspect its not. In all honesty its more to do with the quality of game than anything else. The really good games get bought and the pirates do what they do.

    Why not try something different and put your money where your mouth is and say something like “If you don’t play my game for 3 hours then its free, otherwise its X price”. Its a marker of confidence in quality and that it’ll be played. The big problem gamers have is the huge disappointment they have with many games, so make something that genuinely different and put your own money up. Its better than a demo in principle as your giving away the full game, at least for X hours of game play. If it doesn’t sell well you know that it wasn’t worth playing longer than that time.

  43. I have one suggestion and one link to something I wrote (about books) which probably applies.

    Suggestion first. Assume that pirated copies of your game are marketing costs and put something in at the end (or the beginning I guess but I’d think the end might be better) along the lines of

    “If you enjoyed this game then buy more by the same author at – I make my living creating games, so if you didn’t buy this game but want to encourage me to create more then please buy a legal copy to keep me motivated to write more and not chuck it in for a life asking ‘do you want fries with that?'”

    The link:

  44. I have a really good suggestion. First off, please let me say that I’m a big fan AND a customer. That being said, I need to leave a comment about piracy later on but that’s a whole different post. My suggestion is this:

    Positech Games Presents

    A Cliff Harris Production

    [Game Title]

    When I hear the name Positech Games, I think indie developer, good games, low cost, high replayability, etc. But even I often forget, that it’s ONE MAN. Film studios will always put their studio banner in this fashion but right before the title comes up, the director’s and/or producer’s name will come up for two reasons:

    1. The film has their signature style all over it.

    2. It’s a DRAW for the audience (i.e. hey that’s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. It’s gonna be entertaining and have lots of action. Hey that’s a Steven Speilberg movie. It’s gonna be entertaining and maybe Oscar worthy, etc.)

    People are fans of particular game studios in the same way that people are fans of particular actors/actresses, directors, producers, etc. because as far as I can recall, nobody has ever put their NAME (as in their personal name), before the title of a game before. We all know that Bungie Studios was behind the Halo series and that Blizzard was behind Starcraft, WoW, and Diablo, or that Positech Games was behind the Democracy series, but what about the actual PERSON who created it. Granted normally there’s a team of people working on it, but who had the most influence on it? Who wrote the story? Designed the graphics engine? These are names that need to come up in the OPENING credits of a game, not the closing credits. And in your case, it is simply:

    A Cliff Harris Production

    I hope that this will inspire a lot of other developers to put their names in front of their game titles because it helps to relate a games title to the name of a particular person.

  45. I just wanted to say that I have never pirated a game. I’ve always assumed cracked copies of software are full of bugs or packaged with viruses and trojans. Not worth the risk in my opinion. However I have Pirated Music in the past and the main reason for that was I was a young kid with very little money and no car. This was back when WinAmp was new, Napster was awesome and there was no such thing as emusic, or rhapsody or any of these pay sites.

    The music I wanted to hear was available on the internet which means I didn’t need to beg for a ride. And if the album wasn’t as good as my friends claimed it was I could just delete it and still have my small amount of money. If I liked it I usually bought it the next time I found myself at BestBuy. Simply because owning a burned copy is like saying “Hey everyone I’m poor/cheap.”

    My point is the accessibility and ease of downloads are a big part of Steams success. You seem to understand that but a lot of game manufacturers just haven’t figured it out yet. They expect us to go to a GameStop and buy the box and the instruction booklet and all that non-sense. That is what we in marketing call a filter. An added, unnecessary step. A barrier between you and your customers. Instead of customers going from “I want to play a game” directly too “I have a new game to play.” consumers are first forced to weigh how badly they want the game against the price of gas, the frustration of traffic, travel time, dealing with the idiot customers at GameStop, dealing with the idiot employees at GameStop and then still having to come home and install the damn thing.

    Thats like an hour and a half delay between the initial urge to play and the actual act of playing. Its much easier to download install and play. Now I’m not sure if Steam has any kind of refund or credit system if you don’t like one of their games (I’ve never had that happen) but that alone would stop most pirating. The fact that a kid is never going to get screwed by wasting his/her money on a piece of crap.

    Lately I have gotten into Combat Arms. I tried it because my friend sent me an instant message asking if I wanted to play with him and I had never heard of it. He sent me a link and boom I was playing within minutes. It really was an impulse type of thing. True its free but I would have gladly paid for it. Now had my friend told me how awesome it was and that I just have to go down to GameStop and pick it up; I would have told him to fuck off. Even if it was still free I would not have ever played it simply because going out of my way to purchase a game at a retail store is a pain in my ass.

    In conclusion Downloads are the only way to go. And to keep people interested release new levels every few weeks. Or a level editor so fans of the game can make their own and increase its lifespan. Games get boring when you’re playing the same maps over and over again. And a free new level now and then makes the initial price well worth it.

  46. Great response. Very positive.

    Quality is my biggie. I pirate almost all of my TV, then buy on DVD maybe 60-80% of what I watch. Same with music or internet services, if I like it enough I’ll buy it to support future development.

    I don’t think I’ve bought more than one piece of shareware. The quality just isn’t there. Unfixed payscales/donations don’t work either imho, millions of people think WoW should be cheaper but pay it every month.

    Games I tend to just buy, because don’t feel safe downloading pirates’ executables. However I buy on console to avoid SecuROM. I just don’t feel like PC gaming is viable right now, whether I get games from publishers or pirates, my machine gets compromised either way.

    Thanks for not using DRM, if you made the games I like, I would certainly consider buying them from you.

  47. Cliff, if you want to sell more games, build a purchase engine into the game itself. If possible, make it part of the game; IE, level 1 culminates with the need to purchase a key, or whatever. Then let loose the game on BT. USE the p2p and torrent technologies to distribute your game.

    Sure, some will crack the game, but then they would anyway. The rest will be happy to have a simple cool solution.

    Try it, it just might work.

  48. Great post on piracy. Nice to see such a thoughtful response.

    Made me look into buying your game Kudos. But I find that the Mac version is still priced at $22, not $9.95. Is this intentional, or did you simply neglect to lower the price for the mac version?

  49. I rarely pirate movies/music/games but when I do, its only stuff that I think looks interesting but that I’d never buy. I would never. Buy. The product. So in my case, its really completely irrelevant because I’m outside of the “market”

    Market- a group of people WILLING AND ABLE to purchase the product.

    I’m simply not willing to purchase the product, therefore, I should be a non-factor. If I couldn’t steal it, I wouldn’t touch it. So its only sort of stealing.

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