Spiderweb Software on How to Fight Piracy

Sole Spiderweb Software founder, developer and employee Jeff Vogel offers what he calls a decisive statement on what developers need to do in order to deal with piracy – and includes some examples of how dumb he has been in the past. In case you don’t know, Spiderweb Software develops classic CRPGs for Mac and windows. Past releases include the Exile, Geneforge, and Avernum series, Nethergate: Resurrection and its latest release – Avadon: The Black Fortress.

Vogel starts out (on his blog The Bottom Feeder) by saying that when fellow develops ask him what they should do about piracy he tells them to do "the minimum amount you can get away with."

Vogel learned the hard way that implementing complicated copyright protection systems turns off players. Only the most loyal of customers (those that like your games and know that paying for it will mean that you make more games in the future) will jump through your hoops to pay, while the rest will fall off. Spiderweb Software used a system like this for 15 years. Vogel says that he has boxes of games and hint books gathering dust to remind him of his failure. He adds that he might as well have gathered together a pile of money and burned it.

So what is the real answer to piracy in Vogel’s eyes? Do the minimum amount of nagging to get customers buying the game. From the blog post:

"You need some way to force people to pay. Not because they are evil or dishonest, but because they procrastinate. Registration is a pain. They’d rather be spending their time playing your game! If you don’t do anything at all to make them pay, they’ll just forget.

But tread lightly. Once you have any barrier in place at all, you’ll get your payment from all the honest people, the people who know that, if nobody pays, you won’t make more awesome games for them. Anything beyond that will inconvenience your paying customers and do little to nothing to prevent piracy.

It took a long time for me to learn this. Too long. And, whenever I start to forget, I look at the monolith of boxes of old hint books gathering dust in my garage. If you’re an Indie developer, be nice to people. In the end, the ability to be nice is one of the best weapons you have."

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