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.