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All posts for the month October, 2012

Oklahoma has a question on the ballot that would attempt to limit the type of property that can be taxed. State Question 766 will exempt all intangible property, such as copyrights, patents and customer good will, from being taxed under current property tax laws. If passed, this question would protect the assets of creative businesses, such as game developers, from being double taxed. It would seem that many creative businesses are taking notice and speaking out in defense of the question.

PL Studios is the maker of the Digital Tutors series of training videos for a lot of technology that those in the games industry uses. PL Studios is also an Oklahoma City based business that is directly effected by this current state of double taxation. Piyush Patel recently had an op-ed published in the Daily Oklahoman in which he spoke out encouraging people to vote yes on this question.

State Question 766 prevents property taxation on intangible personal property, which affects the technology industry in Oklahoma and the apps and software your readers use every day. At PL Studios, we help people make movies and games. We pay our fair share of business and property taxes, but we need SQ 766 to pass. It would protect us, and other tech innovators, from potentially devastating new taxes on things like our software and training libraries, our animation tools, our technical know-how and even our name and reputation.

The prospect of taxing ideas and innovations as property could be a showstopper for tech companies looking to start in, or relocate to, Oklahoma. But it’s not just about tech companies. Personal tech would also be taxed. Every Oklahoman with a smartphone could owe property taxes on every app they download, every MP3 they listen to and every picture they’ve taken, every year.

It’s madness to think the state would tax software and apps, but the state Supreme Court ruled it could. The voters have this chance to protect themselves and our growing reputation as a tech-friendly state by voting yes on SQ 766.

I completely agree here. There is no reason why the state should be allowed to tax us for not only the profit made via our creative output but also for our creative output itself. So I will once again encourage all those who are looking at this question to vote “Yes” and protect innovators and creators in our state.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Paywalls are one of those things that have had us scratching our heads for a while. We had questioned the New York Times for its paywall and have shown that it might not be quite as successful as it claims. The main problem with such paywalls is that people don’t like to have their use of a product interrupted and further use blocked unless they pay. Such reactions are not limited to online news either. Other forms of media have much the same issue.

Over at Games Brief, a number of game developers were asked about paywalls in games and whether they should be used at all.

Harry Holmwood writes: “A colleague and I downloaded New Star Soccer at the airport and were playing it on a flight back from Germany last week, got hooked, but then hit the ‘hard payment’ point where we had to pay to continue the career. As we were on a plane at that point we couldn’t do the IAP and had to stop playing. Over the weekend I was tempted to pay and play but didn’t bother – the moment was lost, and I suspect now I won’t do it at all.”

Are hard paywalls a good idea, or should you always make it possible for players to keep playing?

While most developers were pretty varied in their opinions on this question, the general theme is that putting up walls in front of the consumer and preventing them from playing more is something that should be avoided. Take this comment from Philip Reisberger from Bigpoint.

In general, we’ve seen that it’s most important to have the users playing. Monetization is always to be regarded as consequence of gameplay.There are some really core-style titles where a hard paywall is possible, but I’d regard this rather as an exception than the norm.

While it is possible for such hard paywalls to make some money, it would be better to have as many people playing as possible. As soon as a person is no longer able to play, they are less likely to pay into the game. The question then goes to how do you get those people to pay if they can play for free? This is where opinions vary widely.

By allowing a consumer to continuously play, you can provide multiple opportunities for the consumer to evaluate how much they actually value the game they are playing. This is where proper selling of freemium options comes into play. If you have already sold the person on the game itself as something fun to play, then the next step is to sell them on the extras. This can be done by showing them how the core experience can be enhanced by such extras. As Tadhg Kelly of What Games Are explains.

In some cases (Temple Run, Bejewelled Blitz) it’s the same. They basically sell boosters and cheats to make better score runs, and since the core action of the game is so compelling it’s more likely over time that you will buy. Bringing a money-now question into that dynamic is inappropriate for the same reasons as the grind game.

The core issue to remember with paywalls is that it is very difficult to convince someone that paying for the ability to keep playing something they have been playing for free is a very tough sell if all they are getting is just more of the same experience. You need to sell them on an expanded experience, one that they wouldn’t otherwise get if they were playing for free. Of course, there is no one way to do it. There are a variety of market factors that can determine how and when you go about charging your customer.

Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams, sums up this overall market reality.

I’d be very wary about ever saying that a particular model/route is ‘the correct one’ or that you should ‘never’ do something. Every game is different and every platform is different. In PlayStation Home, where we publish most of our games, it’s beginning to appear that ‘paymium’ may be the most commercial route given the size of the audience, their propensity to pay and the ease of generating awareness. But on iOS, being new to the platform, freemium is the only model that makes sense to us currently.

FYI, I don’t believe the gaming world will end up existing purely of games that you can play forever with continuous loops, return mechanics and daily bonuses. I believe there will always be games that have a beginning and an end and a strong linear storyline. For these kind of games, I’m not convinced that freemium is necessarily the correct approach.

This variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy. Look back at the original question. Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played. Why would you want to limit your potential to make money in such a way?

Originally Posted on Techdirt.

For all the rhetoric we hear that pirates are evil, thieving scum, they sure do have a massive positive impact on creators who choose to work with them. Take for instance the recent success held by Sosowski, the creator of recent indie hit McPixel. When Sosowski found his game on the Pirate Bay, he didn’t flip out, he didn’t curse, he embraced the pirates there and turned them into an opportunity for success.

If you dare risk a visit to the Pirate Bay and specifically the page for McPixel, you can see exactly what Sosowski did. He first thanked pirates for uploading the game and then gave away free gift codes.

Yay! My game is here! As weird as it sounds I am actually excited about this.

Anyways, I am not any average video game company, I am just one man making games for a living, so feel free to give me all your money if you like the game!

I get it that in some countries PayPal doesn’t work, or the price might seem really high for some of you, so here are some gift codes for you:
[gift codes snipped]

Most of all, enjoy the game, tell your friends about it, and throw some coins in my general direction if you like it!
All the best,
Sos

This little heart felt message not only led to a lot of people on the Pirate Bay to think more highly of the developer, but it also led the Pirate Bay to seek out Sosowski in order to promote his game on its Promo Bay service.

As a result of the developer’s unusual reaction, The Pirate Bay tracked down Sosowski and the two teamed up to promote the title through the torrent site’s Promo Bay initiative which it launched earlier this year.

The site has been offering a link over the weekend directing visitors to McPixel’s site whilst Sosowski has been running a pay-what-you-want offer on the game. Visitors have also been allowed to torrent the game for free over the weekend to try before they buy.

These two events working in conjunction with each other led to two great benefits for this one man development shop. The first is that the pay-what-you-want sale ended with a total of 3,043 copies sold at an average price of $2.56, with the top price paid being $140. The second benefit is that McPixel is one of the first ten games to be selected by Valve through its new Greenlight service. It is no secret that being accepted by Steam is often a major milestone in an indie developer’s career.

This is yet another story in how piracy can often act as free advertising for artists. This story follows a very similar trend to that of Dan Bull when he used the Pirate Bay to help his single make the charts. There have been a lot of other great stories about artists taking piracy in strides and still managing to be successful. The trick is to accept that pirates are not your enemies, but potential customers who need the right reasons to buy.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Many times, when a company has an early release of their work leaked in the wild, it responds in much the same way that Fox responded when an unfinished version of the movie Wolverine was leaked. It complained about the leak. It got the FBI involved. It fired one of its own reporters who reviewed the leaked copy. Eventually all this lead to the arrest and sentencing of the man who leaked the film. Throughout the whole ordeal, we tried to explain how Fox could have turned this leak to its advantage by using the leak as a promotional opportunity.

When you compare that string of events to this latest report of an early release of Double Fine’s newest mobile game, Middle Manager of Justice, you can see that Double Fine has a better grasp of reality than Fox and many other companies.

“So I was on the train heading to work this week, and I get a call from our tech director saying, ‘Hey, um, so it looks the game is live in every territory.’ And I just went, ‘What!?’” Looking back on it, Chi laughs, but for a time he was worried about how this early launch could affect his game’s reputation.

“It wasn’t what I wanted the world to see quite yet,” he said. “At Double Fine, we pride ourselves on putting a solid product out there, so having something out there that was buggy and not quite ready yet was really frustrating.”

At this point, Chi had a number of options. He could have followed Fox’s example and complained about the early release and told all those people who downloaded the game to stop playing it because it was unfinished. He could have threatened those players if they released any video or screen shots of the game. Or he could have done what we tried to tell Fox it could do, use it as a promotional opportunity. And that is exactly what Chi did.

“I guess it kind of just turned into a beta test,” Chi said. “I mean, if people find bugs that we haven’t found internally, I’d love to know about them so I can fix them,” Chi said.

Even just a few days later, Chi says he’s received a ton of valuable feedback that’s helped Double Fine eliminate bugs, and make the game’s free-to-play elements less restrictive for non-paying players.

“If anything, I welcome these suggestions from people, because we’re still learning and we plan to work on this well after it goes live to make the game deeper, and luckily this means we’ll get an early start on that process,” he said.

While the game was not meant to be in the hands of players, Chi did what he did as a way to preserve the integrity of the company as well as strengthen its relationship with its fans. He used the early release as a way to help fans become more invested in the company by becoming early testers. He didn’t have to do this. He could have had Apple remove the game from those players’ accounts. Yet, he didn’t because having a healthy relationship with consumers is more important than a mix up in the release schedule. Hopefully, more companies will take notice of how Double Fine handled this affair and will respond in kind.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Piracy has been a part of the entertainment industry for as long as content has been released on copyable media. Whenever piracy is around, content creators have attempted to fight the actions of fans sharing their favorite movies, music, games and other works with their friends. While some creators have learned to cope with piracy and have succeeded in spite of it, there are still many more that feel the need to do something. However, many of those creatives have that “something” wrong.

In an article over at Euro Gamer, Robert Florance shares his thoughts on piracy and what goes through the mind of a consumer when making a buying decision, and where content creators should target in order to maximize sales. Robert introduces us to what he considers to be the thought process of a consumer as he makes a choice to buy something.

1. HERE IS A THING I LIKE

2. DO I WANT IT? (YES)

3. DO I HAVE TO PAY FOR IT? (NO)

4. DO I WANT TO PAY FOR IT? (YES/NO)

5. YES: PAY FOR IT

6. NO: JUST TAKE IT FOR FREE

END

That’s it in a nutshell. And here’s the fundamental problem with the whole piracy issue. Publishers are focusing on dismantling Stage 6 of that process when they should be analysing decisions made at Stage 4.

We have written many times about how content creators can affect the result of the decision made at step four. We have written in the past about how consumers don’t just look at price when making a purchasing decision, but weigh a number of currencies. By adding value through these and other currencies, a content creator can make it far easier for a consumer to choose to purchase over getting the content for free. However, if these content creators fail to add the value the consumers want, those customers will have a far more difficult time making the choice to purchase. As a result, the company making the content could fail.

“But these giant companies would have to close down. People will lose their jobs!” And yes, that’s horrible. No one ever wants to see people lose their jobs. But if these companies can only stay in existence by charging their customers extortionate prices for bland, safe product, should they even be there in the first place? Are they not living on a lie? And the creative people at these companies, people who currently spend every day texturing guns and other guns and extra downloadable guns, might they not do greater work on their own? In small groups? Forming daring little companies? Working to progress gaming and earning goodwill from people who will pay and pay again to see their work?

Over the years we have seen companies lose creatives who then go on to create the content they want to make without the interference of gatekeepers. These creatives have moved on to work with enablers that help them add the right kind of value to their content, which in turn sells more to the end consumer. Will larger companies die off? If they don’t adapt to changing trends in the market, yes they will. Is that a bad thing? Of course not.

Finally, Robert explains just what a pirate actually is. He lead up to this in his intro, but it deserves its own little plug down here.

Let me tell you what a pirate actually is. It’s just a word. And that word is a weapon. Corporations and governments will use that word to try to destroy our freedom and halt progress. They’ll use it to try to turn us against each other. When big business talks about a pirate, it’s creating a bogeyman that will be used to justify the continuation of its worst practices. We have to reject it, every time. There are no pirates. There’s only me and you.

We can see these actions by corporations and governments all over the place. Whether it is SOPA, or excessive DRM, or the DMCA with its anti-circumvention clause and heavily abused takedown process, they have been used and promoted as a way to fight pirates even though there is little evidence that such measures are effective in any way. Even a company like Ubisoft, with its strong history of DRM use, has backed away from its previous position. Music rarely if ever comes bogged down by DRM anymore. However, DRM has been replaced by other excesses in copyright enforcement.

Yet, all those actions target the wrong part of the consumer decision making process. They all focus on step six when they should be focusing on adding value that leads the consumer to move to step five. Those pirates that will take content for free no matter what, if they do exist, are just not worth the hassle and burden of actions that negatively affect those who are willing to pay.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Piracy has become a force of nature in the entertainment world. No matter what you make or how you release it, there are pirates waiting around the corner to try to get it for free. No matter what you try to stop this from happening, you just can’t — much like a storm, you have no control over its movements and power. All that is left is to embrace it and hope to harness the storm’s power for your own benefit.

This is what Daniel Cook from Spry Fox has decided is best. In a reprint of his comments at Gamasutra, Daniel explains that piracy is a fun activity that can be harnessed for good.

Being a ‘pirate’ was being part of a community. You and your friends shared games like social gaming gifts on Facebook. It didn’t cost you anything to copy a game and give it to someone. A game was a social token to chat about, a gesture of kindness to reciprocate. A key takeaway from that time is that copying and sharing vast quantities of digital goods is a deeply fun, social and highly useful activity. This is a new thing, a new behavior in a post-scarcity world.

This is perhaps the most commonly ignored or overlooked aspect of piracy by those who want to end it. For many people, sharing games, movies and music is a fun activity that allows them to share what they love with their friends. Despite what those who seek to stop piracy think, there is very little animosity involved in the activity. It is this love of sharing that can be, as Daniel puts it, hacked for the benefit of the creator.

With shareware, we hacked the copying behavior. People would play the random floppies and some of clever programs would say “Hey! Did you know that you can pay for this?” And a small portion of users did. ‘Pirate’ and ‘consumer’ are not mutually exclusive properties. In our capitalist society, almost everyone (with a few notable exceptions) is trained to buy stuff. People who like checking out new software for free are really just another audience of potential consumers.

It was just recently that Ubisoft learned a similar lesson. That the percentage of people who pay for single purchase games is about the same as those that pay in free to play games. If you want people to pay for games, one of the best ways to get them to do so is to let them experience the game first and for free. By giving fans the ability to share the games with others who may not have heard about it on their own, you can expand the pool of potential paying customers.

Unfortunately, there are many creators and gatekeepers out there that want to vilify such behavior. They can’t fathom that someone is playing, listening, reading, watching their work without paying for it. They see no benefit in it. This mindset has dangerous outcomes for their paying customers.

It has been a really confusing time for businesses. Some lashed out by labeling consumers as evil, some tried to protect the old ways with DRM. Relationships with customers…who see themselves as just having fun sharing cool stuff…became antagonistic. 30 years. When you raise kids in a warzone, they grow up parroting propaganda. No wonder the conversation is polarized.

It is actions like adding DRM, anti-piracy ads and threatening fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars that will end up costing the entertainment industry more in the long run. As those in the industry seek to threaten and lash out at paying customers, many of those customers will begin to lash out as well. They will end up doing exactly what the industry wants to stop, pirate. For many purchasers of games, it often starts by downloading cracks for games in order to remove restrictive DRM. But there is a lot that can be done to turn the tide.

Detach yourself from the emotions of history. Give up the past forms of what games were. Adapt to the current environment with one eye firmly fixed upon the future.

People copying digital goods as an inherently joyful social activity is an opportunity. It is an artistic opportunity. It is a business opportunity. It is a cultural opportunity.

There are opportunities out there that many creators have found and are enjoying. It can be things like adding a “Cockroach Edition” to your payment options. It can be adding pirate hats to all your characters and putting the game on the Pirate Bay. It could be giving players the ability to set their own price. It could be anything really. By embracing the sharing culture of your fans, you can expand you fan base and increase the potential to make a living.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

The world of video game publishing is being turned upside down. Much like other entertainment industries, more and more game developers are learning that publishers offer little additional value for the costs they come bundled with. This realization is following other recent events in which game developers, who could not find a publisher interested in their game, ended up crowdfunding and raising the needed money that way. The primary crowdfunding tipping point for video games was Double Fine and its adventure game. That was followed by a number of other successes such as inXile’s Wasteland 2 project.

Now it seems that even with publisher interest, some developers are choosing to stay independent by crowdfunding their new games. Of this group is Revolution Software, which makes the popular adventure series Broken Sword. Charles Cecil told Edge that his company was approached by a publisher to strike a deal for the 5th game in the series, but Cecil had turned them down.

In an extensive interview, Cecil says the industry’s “biggest third party publisher” was interested in taking the new Broken Sword. Instead he decided to seek $400,000 in funding for his new point-and-click adventure through Kickstarter.

“The publisher approached us and asked ‘what do we need to do to publish Broken Sword?’ I was enormously flattered, but decided it was better if we self-published,” he tells us.

Cecil continues to explain that staying independent allows him and his company to control the development and schedule of the game, something lost when signing a publishing deal. He continued to explain that after a publisher takes its cut of the revenue, there is little, if anything, left for the developer.

Publishers take all the risk when they fund a project, but they also take what a developer would see as a disproportionate cut of the revenue. At Revolution we had not made royalties on a game for over a decade until digital distribution which pretty much saved us.

This is something we see regularly in just about every industry. The publisher, label or whatever used to hold all the cards and were able to pull off such deals. Very few of those deals have turned out to be all that profitable for the actual creator. Now, we continually highlight numerous cases of artists pushing back, even to the point of lawsuits. However, the most common method of pushing back is to go independent, much like Cecil here.

Taking a look at the Broken Sword Kickstarter page, it seems that this independent attitude is resonating with fans. This campaign was launched on August 23rd and as of this writing is nearly halfway to its $400,000 goal. Much like the other Kickstarters I mentioned above, this one looks as it will go well beyond that goal.

With all these independent successes happening throughout the games industries, the question must be asked, “Is there a place for publishers?” That is a question those organizations will have to ask within themselves. We have written before that in the future, those companies will have to move away from being gatekeepers and into being enablers. Those companies that refuse to adapt to that reality will find that they will have a tougher time of staying successful in the future. Until then, those enablers that make things happen, such as Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services, will continue to gain ground and enable successful careers for artists.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for artists and creators to take their future in their own hands and succeed or fail by their own merits. While a Kickstarter based business is not a guaranteed success, it is one of the many powerful tools for that purpose we highlight here on Techdirt. Much like any other business model, running a successful Kickstarter campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of speculation about what your potential fans and backers expect. With all this in mind, it is great when people, who attempt a Kickstarter, share their experiences, whether good or bad.

Over at Gamasutra, one such creator, Ryan Payton, shares his experience running the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Republique. As Ryan explains this Kickstarter was not an easy success.

I was driving across Seattle’s 520 bridge on a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the third day of our Kickstarter campaign, dazed and confused, and momentarily considered hitting the red “abort mission” button on our whole Kickstarter. Fifty-five hours into our campaign and we had only gathered 11 percent of our funding goal.

It was this moment that he realized that he needed to figure out why it was not going as smoothly as he expected. While he lists a number of reasons for why the campaign was struggling and what he did to turn it around and eventually succeed, it was his first discussion point that took me by surprise. One of the reasons he felt his campaign was not succeeding was that many people thought the campaign was “too polished.”

A week into our campaign, we were surprised to see dozens of comments online from people saying: “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don’t need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.

As I sought out reasons as to why our campaign wasn’t resonating, I realized that people were put off by how polished everything looked. This was disappointing because, yes, in fact, we worked extremely hard to make everything as professional as possible.

This has been one critique of Kickstarter we have seen come up from time to time. If potential backers feel that the person asking for money doesn’t really need it, they will complain and withhold their money. This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn’t matter who you are and if you “need the money.” What matters is that you are using the campaign to connect with fans and get the money needed to succeed where you need to.

Initially, I was frustrated at the “too polished” complaints, especially when I remembered the late nights and weekends Craig Cerhit put into our video content. I often thought about the rich guys on Kickstarter intentionally making rough-looking webcam videos to appeal to peoples’ charitable instincts and subsequently pull in six or seven figures in pledges.

Based on what I have read about running a successful campaign, having a quality campaign video is one of the primary ways to reach your goal. Even Kickstarter tells people that having a good video is helpfulin making a project successful. If your video is utter crap, people will lose interest. But is there really such a thing as having a too polished video turn off fans? Honestly, there is no reason why it should be an issue. Having a high quality video shows off the love you have for your project. That is the important thing to convey to the public and especially to build a report with them. Something that Ryan learned as the clock was running down on the campaign as his team prepared both a new video and a Livestream event on the last day.

Instead of focusing the team on Kickstarter success or failure, we decided to host a Livestream party for the final three hours of the campaign and just have fun regardless if we hit our funding goal. Too distracted to work on the game, the team started prepping food and activities for a big online thank you party for the community. At the time, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of $355,000 towards our game. We wanted to thank them, even if we failed and didn’t receive the money.

What transpired what something I was dreading the entire month: dozens of articles with headlines like “République May Miss Kickstarter Goal.” While I was anxious about that negative press, it was calling renewed attention to our campaign, which we smartly prepared for: we uploaded an entirely new debut pitch video that reviewed all of the news from the past 30 days (PC & Mac announce, David Hayter & Jennifer Hale), showed new gameplay footage, and addressed all the feedback we got from the community. We slapped a “New Video!” sticker on the top of our page, welcomed all the new and returning visitors, and crossed our fingers that this time they would pledge.

What happened in that last day was an amazing turn around for Ryan and his team. They managed to complete the goal of $500,000 and then some. An excellent ending for what looks to be a great game.

So what exactly turned this campaign around? Ryan and his team did a whole lot of prep work prior to launching but all that prep work did little toward the final goal. What Ryan learned and highlighted in his other points was the importance of engagement with the community in order to connect.

The final three-hour Livestream was the best idea we ever had. We don’t know if the 4,500 views sparked increased pledges, and we didn’t care — it was all about connecting and celebrating with the thousands of dedicated backers and enjoying the victory together. By the time the clock struck zero, we were at $555,512 and hugging each other.

I don’t really know how many different ways we can say it. “If people like you and your work, they’ll pay.” CwF+RtB. Being Open, Human and Awesome. And many more iterations on the same theme. The fact remains, this concept is integral to success.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

There is a lot that can be said about being open and honest with your fans. Sure those fans can be pushy and complain a lot, but amongst all that, there is a real opportunity to connect with your fans and help them build up greater love and respect for you and your brand. We have seen many cases in which doing so has helped build a stronger following and bring in a lot more revenue in the process.

Despite this strong evidence for the power of being open and honest, there are still some companies that feel the need to avoid talking to the public. Any time a fan asks a question about anything, most often the responses are either silence or some form of “No Comment.” When fans hit that kind of brick wall, they feel as if the company doesn’t care about them and are less likely to be engaged in the future. Such responses can also lead to further complaints from the community as well as lost sales.

When the complaints reach a certain threshold, then it reaches the ears of those who have a platform in which to speak and reach a large group of listeners. So when a site like Kotaku gets on its soap box to complain about game publishers who will not engage with the community, then you know a lot of people are listening. The whole article is worth the read but I want to highlight a couple of the suggestions that Kotaku gives at the end.

  • Answer questions. As many as you can. Questions are not your enemy. We’re all here because we all love video games.
  • Don’t be afraid to tease games that are coming in the far future. We love teases. And we won’t even mind if those games get cancelled, as long as you don’t lie or pretend they’re not.
  • Just talk to us. Explain the logic behind your decisions. Help us understand you. Help us relate. Help us empathize.

They have a couple others that are a bit more specific, but these three cut to the heart. Answer questions, don’t be afraid to tease, and just talk. All these things are important to fans and potential customers. These are all part of that process in getting people to not just like what you do produce, but like you as a person or a company. How can they like you if you don’t engage with them? It is this engagement that promotes the transparency needed to increase sales, too.

On the other hand, by ignoring your fans you lose the power to control the conversation as well. We highlighted a story last year in which Nintendo made a very weak gesture at engaging with fans. Unfortunately, there was no such engagement and the fans took control of the conversation. Since Nintendo failed to control the conversation by being engaged, the fans began to complain about policy decisions they felt were not ideal. By not engaging, Nintendo lost a lot of good will that day. Had Nintendo actually taken the time to answer and ask questions as Kotaku recommends, they would have had a far better promotion at the time.

As more and more companies learn how to be properly engaged with their respective communities, we should see a lot more successes like those we highlight on a regular basis, such as Louis CK, Amanda Palmer and Double Fine. These people have taken the time to really build a relationship with their fans. A relationship that leads to those fans parting with their money to see more art created. Isn’t that what is important?

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Piracy is one of those things that is pervasive throughout video gaming. It has become a force of nature, a fact of life. While many companies attempt to fight piracy of their works through DRM or complaining loudly, others are taking a very different approach. Last year we posted a story about a company called tinyBuild that decided to embrace piracy rather than fight it. It released a special pirate themed version of its game on the Pirate Bay and saw a positive response from it. When discussing the move, tinyBuild stated, “I mean, some people are going to torrent it either way, we might as well make something funny out of it.” By having a positive sense of humor in the face of piracy, one indie game developer was able to cope with it and succeed despite it.

This sense of humor is catching on too. Gamasutra highlights another indie dev, Paul Greasley, that, when faced with the realities of piracy, decided to approach it with a bit of tongue in cheek. The developers of the game Under the Ocean released the game under three different options. The first was early, cheap access to the game for $7. The second was a more feature rich and personalized version for $25. The third was a hat tip to piracy.

The Cockroach edition was actually not an attempt to cut down on piracy. It was just one of the liberties of being an indie developer, with nobody to answer to. The elephant in the room is that 90 percent+ of people are going to pirate your game on the PC (and ours is no exception, based on the traffic logs). We just thought it would be fun, and frankly honest, to point that out!

To further seal the deal, Paul had originally included a link to the Pirate Bay. Unfortunately, some wet blankets in the indie scene overreacted to the inclusion of the link. Those developers had claimed that the inclusion of the link was Paul condoning piracy, something he denies. So, to put out the fires and save his cred with those developers, he removed the link while leaving the rest of the option on the site.

It is quite interesting that he even included the link to begin with. Most developers, especially those from large studios, try to do their best to pretend that such sites don’t exist in the off chance they accidentally convert a potential customer into a pirate. Including the link was a massive show of openness with fans. By showing that he knows what the competition is, he was showing fans that he understands what it takes to build up a loyal following.

We’re going to be releasing a whole bunch of frequent updates, with lots of feature additions. If you want to stay up to date, buying it is much easier than pirating it. The users win, because it’s DRM free and they get a bunch of cool new updates for Under the Ocean, and we win, because the updates get us new ways to promote the game outside our game forums.

Make a product people want and will talk about, make that product as good as you possibly can, and treat your customer base with respect.

By recognizing the reality of piracy, Paul was able to identify features and services that will build loyal fans, things like avoiding DRM and providing frequent updates, not just for the game but from himself. What this means for Paul and his game is that players get a great experience from someone who is open, human and honest and in return they will spend more money on his game.