Friday, 10 August 2012

Piracy Drives a Mobile Game to Go Free to Play

Lots of questions, precious few answers.

This story has been brewing for a while, and despite the fact that it's roughly two weeks old already I still find myself almost at a loss of what to say or think about it. Dead Trigger is a mobile game where you take on a bunch of zombies first person style and wreck them with whatever method you choose. The game was originally priced at 99 cents, but after a large amount of piracy the game has gone free-to-play with in game perks being able to be bought with real money.

The thing I'm curious about the most would probably have to be why this game in particular? If this is a widespread problem in mobile gaming then surely there would be more people talking about it. If not then what makes Dead Trigger the strange exception to the norm. Certainly I would believe that for a 99 cent price point that the game probably isn't overpriced, or at least not drastically so.  Whatever the case may be it's probably not a great feeling to have your work taken for free when you weren't even asking much for it to begin with.

I can understand the discontent of the developer. This isn't a big name company producing this, it's a small time operation who were just selling it (or trying to at least) through larger channels. In part due to the reaction of the developer in making it free-to-play many of the early adopters who actually did pay for the game aren't very happy either; while it was only a dollar the fact remains that they paid when they apparently didn't have to.

Piracy has been a touchy matter, with absolutely no end in sight on any front. Many people have made claims regarding what does or does not cause piracy: some say that it's high prices, intrusive DRM (which of course in supreme irony is meant to stop piracy rather than aggravate it), and some people will simply pirate a game for no other reason then the fact that they can. Piracy is wrong, but it's not something that is completely mystifying in its origins or its effects. It is a sad fact that as long as people have a good to sell, others will do their best to cheat the system.

This lesson was learned by the Dead Trigger devs the hard way, with their further comments elaborating that, "Games are always stolen, there is not much we can do about it. I do not believe that piracy can be stopped." As depressing as this statement is I can't really argue against it. Something else they said also caught my eye though, and probably not for the right reasons:

"In my opinion, the amount of piracy is equal to how easy the pirating is, and the game developer has nothing to do with it," he said. "It is really very sad for us and the gaming industry that with a few clicks of a mouse (err.. touches), a user can install the game and use it for free. It‘s definitely easier than setting up an account on iTunes or Google Play, filling out large forms and answering all security questions."

If I may, I'd like to draw focus to the last part of that sentence and what the implications of it seem to be: ease of use and ease of access. Those who pirated the game have to jump through less hoops than those that do not. Perhaps that's the reason why so many people pirated the game? It's merely speculation of course, but ease of access is a big thing these days; more and more often we live in an instant gratification society for better or for worse, so when someone, something, or someplace wants us to fill out forms or download authentication software or things of that nature then aren't some people going to look at the pirated copies that have none of these drawbacks and say "well, at this point why bother?"

I don't believe that it's a legitimate reason to pirate a game, in fact it's a pretty flimsy one, but it is no doubt what at least a few of the people thought about the situation. It's something that's going to have to change either way, and change soon.

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