An open letter to Games Publishers

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As many of you may know, games piracy is becoming more and more of a problem. With hundreds if not thousands of bittorrent trackers live on the internet, people can download cracked versions of your games without paying a cent and play them to their hearts content.

However, I think I may have a solution.

I’m going to illustrate it with a little story, starring Johnny, the publishing Dinosaur.

Johnny was very excited one day, because after months of hard work and hundreds of meetings, his company’s new game, Super Blood Kill 5, was going gold. He was thrilled that the application on which he had worked so hard was about to be released.

Like a lot of publishing Dinosaurs, Johnny hadn’t played the game. In fact, he wasn’t really the gaming type. He was a publishing Dinosaur, and had far too many important things to worry about to be playing silly video games. But the marketing Dinosaurs in his company had told him that their key demographic would be incredibly excited about the release of Super Blood Kill 5, and would be snapping it up in droves.

The marketing Dinosaurs had done a wonderful job on the lead up to the release of Super Blood Kill 5 – they’d arranged for certain high–profile celebrity Dinosaurs to say how great it was going to be. They’d carved conversations on the message trees around the land so that it looked like potential customers were talking to each other about how excited they were that it was being released. They even arranged for some viral marketing to be spray-painted all around the major magical forests of the land.

So now it was time for Super Blood Kill 5 to be released. Like most publishing Dinosaurs, Johnny was following the tried and true formula of carving his game in to thousands of blocks of stone, then shipping those blocks of stone to special caves where people could come and pay for it and take one home.

Now a lot of people did come and buy a piece of stone from the special caves. Some were even there at the midnight launch – queueing up for hours in the cold and dark, just so they could get their piece of stone before their friends.

But there was a problem. Some of the people who got a piece of stone were taking them home, making a mould out of clay, and then telling their friends where to get the mould so they could make their own copy of the piece of stone. This was terrible, because Johnny was told by the accounting Dinosaurs that every time someone made a copy of the game, they were stealing leaves from the company!

Now other publishing Dinosaurs had tried ways of avoiding this sort of behavior in the past. They’d tried making the stone incredibly detailed, so making a mould was really hard. But in the end, mould-making techniques just became more advanced. They’d tried leaving a tiny chunk out of the stone, then making that chunk unmouldable, but again, the mould-making skills got better and stopped that system from working either. They’d even tried attaching homing pigeons to the stone, hoping that the moulders wouldn’t realise, and they’d get hundreds of clay pigeons coming in with which they could track the moulders.

But none of these efforts ever seemed to work. Every time that Johnny, or any of the other publishing Dinosaurs sold a game, people would quickly make a mould and tell their friends how to use it.

So what to do?

Well, two years later when Johnny was getting ready for the release of Super Blood Kill 6, he had a wonderful thought.

“What would happen,” thought Johnny, “if instead of trying to force our customers to purchase the stone in one big chunk, we tried something different?”

See, over the years, some very smart spiders had designed a massive web which stretched the globe. This marvel of engineering made it possible to distribute large amounts of stones around the world almost instantly. In fact, this web was how the moulders were getting their clay versions of Super Blood Kill 5 so quickly.

So Johnny decided to do something really clever. First he organised with some of the spiders to attach a log to their giant web which his customers could carve into with a username and password. Then, he took Super Blood Kill 6, which just happened to have 30 levels and cost 60 leaves, and he split it into 30 pebbles which up on his log, along with a simple way for his customers to send their leaves to him. Finally, he did the same thing with Super Blood Kill 1 through 5, although he only charged 1 leaf for each pebble from Super Blood Kill 5, and the rest were free.

When the game released on the giant web, he was stunned by the amount of leaves which were pouring in. Not only were people buying the whole game one little bit at a time, but there were many more people buying it – evidently because each pebble was so cheap, customers were more willing to make an impulse decision. “Hey, it’s only 2 leaves. That’s nothing!” they’d shout, instead of “Hey, 60 leaves? I can’t afford that!”

They were also buying lots of copies of Super Blood Kill 5, which was fantastic because it was an old game, and he hadn’t expected to make any more leaves off it once Super Blood Kill 6 came out.

He was also very pleased to note that there weren’t many moulds being made of Super Blood Kill 6, but he was very surprised as to why. It seems that people weren’t making moulds of Super Blood Kill 5 because they wanted to steal his leaves. They weren’t making moulds because they wanted to sell the moulds and make leaves themselves. No, they were making moulds because it was easier.

Yes, the main reason people did it was because they didn’t want to have to go all the way to the special cave, and hand over a large wad of leaves before they could get their stone. They wanted it now. Sure, there were still customers out there who were making moulds, but they were only doing that for fun – after all, mould making is very tough to do, and some people enjoy the challenge.

By letting people get the stone one pebble at a time, Johnny had made piracy pretty much pointless for the majority of his audience.

With a blinding flash of light, Johnny magically transformed into an Eagle. Soaring above all the Dinosaurs he used to stand beside. And he was happy.

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