Indie game developer Jeff Vogel (head of Spiderweb Soft.) wrote a thoughtful piece on piracy on Wednesday, for his blog, The Bottom Feeder . As an industry veteran and most important of all, human, he explains why piracy isn't always a bad thing, and can often be downright justifiable given the right circumstances. No matter where you stand on the issue, he approaches the topic with a realistic mindset, rather than one guided by profits.
He admits to feeling reluctant about writing the post, because game sales support his family. It puts food on the table, and clothes on his kid's backs. He knows that piracy could lead the PC game industry into the bleak world of ad-supported flash games if it were to continue to escalate. Yet, despite all these realizations, he can still find justification for piracy in the real-world.
There has always been the argument that piracy doesn't affect sales as much as press releases want us to believe because most pirates download games they wouldn't normally purchase. That is debatable, but the reality is that some people cannot afford to buy games in the first place. Vogel tells the story of a typical e-mail he receives from children in poor countries:
Every so often, I get an e-mail in broken English from some kid in Russia or southeast Asia or India. He says how how he is playing my game in a cyber-cafe, for fun and perhaps to practice English. The disparity in the strength of the currency between our two countries makes it impossible it is for him to get the 25 or 28 hard US dollars to buy my game. (It's entirely possible in much of the world to not be dirt poor and yet to be entirely unable to scrape together a chunk of hard U.S. dollars.) The message ends with a sincere and heart-rending plea for a registration key.
Now, you're probably thinking, "Yeah, the kid is probably making it up." I doubt it. Remember, my games are easy to pirate. Anyone who wants to steal my games can grab them any time he or she wants. Maybe some of these pleas are fake, but I'm sure that most aren't.
When I get one of these message, what I want to respond is, "PIRATE MY STUPID GAME!!!"
Vogel understands that in reality, not everyone has enough money for games, or in some cases, food, shelter, etc. In situations such as this, he encourages these people to pirate his game if it brings them joy, and provides a distraction them from their uncontrollable plight:Someone who is facing long-term unemployment and bankruptcy probably should not pay for my game. And, in that case, if stealing my game gives them a temporary reprieve from their misery (and there's a lot of misery out there right now), I'm cool with that. I'm happy to help. These are my fellow citizens, and I want to help out how I can.
Vogel does stress that piracy is an evil, just not an absolute one. He denounces frivalous piracy and rich kids with broadband connections. Ultimately, he needs to make a profit to justify game development in the first place and encourages everyone to support their favorite gaming companies buy voting with their dollar.