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Parley with pirates

Cliff Harris is the owner and sole employee of Positech Games, an independent developer in the United Kingdom. He’s ranted across forums about game piracy, having seen his precious creations, Kudos and Democracy, end up on torrent sites for anyone to illegally download. Cliff wanted to know why. His games were competitively priced, he updated regularly, and he was just a small developer. So he asked pirates to help him understand them by posting a request on his blog to tell them why they pirated his games.

“I want to improve my business, and ensure I stay afloat, and to do that, it would be mad to sit in the corner and ignore the opinions of that section of the public who pirate my games,” he wrote. “I will read every single email, and keep an open mind. I will listen to what you have to say, and... use that to make games that sell more, sell more copies of what I have, convert more people to become buyers, and generally make everyone happy.”


Above: Cliff Harris hopes to increase sales of his games by taking a somewhat less menacing approach to piracy

“I expected much abuse, but perhaps some gems of wisdom,” Harris tells PC Gamer. “I’m guessing 99.99% of people who pirate games never contact the makers to say why, and thus both sides are getting further apart and more annoyed at each other, without anyone learning anything about how to make the situation better. People justify music and movie piracy a lot, but proper analysis of PC game (and especially indie game) piracy’s causes is pretty rare.”


Above: One of the pirated games, Democracy 2

The results? One hundred forty-three respondents said that they found demos either absent or unrepresentative of the final product, so they chose to pirate the full game. One hundred twenty-six mentioned price, with 122 giving specific examples of overpriced games where they felt piracy was a viable alternative to paying. One hundred seventeen blamed copy protection, with both Starforce and SecuRom explicitly named. The digital download companies fared well:­ Steam and Stardock were praised (both allow unlimited downloads of purchased games and regularly update them with new content). A few pirates just did it because they could, while others viewed intellectual property as “fascistic.”

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10 comments

  • kyongafri - November 18, 2008 2:55 p.m.

    Hey to e1337''' I've installed Crysis at least 6 times because of my harddrive going Jacob Zuma on me, and if they dare try putting a limit on how many times i install , well there will be one less CEO in the world to worry about.
  • kyongafri - November 18, 2008 2:48 p.m.

    I'm quite impressed with this guy.He seems to be looking for ways to convince the people to buy his game while the bigger development companies are looking to stomp the pirates out and beat down on us for other peoples ways. This guy deserves to have an enormous development company.
  • e1337prodigy - November 14, 2008 6:05 p.m.

    Well done to Cliff. People Pirate games for the wrong reasons. A lot of people pirate because of this install limit which is just stupid excuse. If they did the correct uninstall method you get your install back (apparently) and honestly how many of us have actually used up all there installs? By the time you get to your last install you would be using a completely diffent computer and you won't even be playing the game because there will be so many other good games released. I can understand if you want to pirate a game that is over priced but how many are these days? just go on a website and buy from them (play.com or amazon).
  • MacGyver1138 - November 11, 2008 5:41 p.m.

    I applaud the guy for trying to find out what he can do better, but those people are asshats for pirating an indie game in the first place. Indie games are rarely expensive, not to mention that the money to produce them probably came directly out of this guy's pocket. I also agree with an earlier poster about the people who called intellectual property "fascistic." It is pretty stupid to expect people to put time and money into developing something for your enjoyment, and not to expect a return on that investment.
  • valtonray - November 11, 2008 4:01 a.m.

    technically i pirate every game i purchase and more, i always test my system for compatibility before i purchase a new game whenever possible, i'll also test the game and see rather or not it's what i was hoping for. i know there are sites i can test my system for games but those aren't always correct, and with many games rushed out before they are ready(and occasionally never propperly fixed) it's great to be able to test the game beforehand. but if i enjoy the game and decide it's worth playing i do purchase it. it's also convient since retailers such as ebgames won't trade or buy back open computer games(except for a copy of the same game) and if your system isn't up to par with the game requirments another copy of the game does you know good, $50 is an expensive drink coaster. other times disk become damaged or serial numbers get lost, now i don't think i should have to shell out again for a game i had already bought so yes, i'm not above pirating old favorites when i'm ready to return if need be. as for people complaining about the various protection schemes used, while they are annoying at times it's a necessary evil, if nothing else it slows down the time it takes to pirate a game and anyone that didn't purchase the game has no viable opinion in it, it's not an excuse to steal.
  • JoeMasturbaby - November 11, 2008 1:53 a.m.

    very smart guy. (LOL @ stealing Indy games)
  • FancyRat - November 10, 2008 11:30 p.m.

    Interesting. These 'facististic' people need to grow up and stop spraypainting anarchy signs all over their mailboxes.
  • scbyfn4evr - November 12, 2008 6:24 p.m.

    10 points to Cliff for being diplomatic. An additional 10 points go to anyone who kills FancyRat
  • rtrickey - November 11, 2008 1:24 a.m.

    I wish him luck, but they'll probably reward him by pirating even more, because anyone that would pirate an inexpensive indie game is a douchebag to their core and unlikely to change. I think the only real way to sell more copies is to appeal to a larger number of people who are either honest or don't know how to pirate. The things he's doing should help accomplish that, but probably won't reduce the rate of piracy. Anyhoo, I wish him luck, and hope I'm embarrassingly wrong in my cynicism :)
  • spacecase610 - November 10, 2008 10:05 p.m.

    It's good to see that there is a developer actually trying to solve the problem by talking to the people it involves, as opposed to their local congressman. Oh, BTW, First!!!

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