Jeff Vogel: You Can Fight Piracy By Making People Feel Good About Supporting Developers

Indie developer Jeff Vogel (whose Spiderweb Software studio recently released Avadon: The Black Fortress) writes an interesting article for GamaSutra today explaining his philosophy on the most effective method for dealing with piracy. The thrust of his argument is that players will pay for easy-to-pirate games because it makes them feel good about supporting a developer.

"You want to pirate the PC version of my newest game, Avadon: The Black Fortress? Search for it on The Pirate Bay. You can get a free copy in less than the time it takes to read th… Oh, you got a serial number already? Told you so," writes Vogel.

"So why do people pay for it? Because they understand a fundamental fact: For these games to exist, someone has to pay. If everyone just takes it, I'll have to get a real job and the supply will shut off."

"They get the knowledge that they are Part of the Solution and not Part of the Problem. They know that, in this case, they are one of the Good Guys. It is well-earned self-satisfaction, and it is valuable. To know they are doing the right thing, some people will happily pay 20 bucks. This is how I stay in business," Vogel continues.

"This means that I am very, very careful to maintain a good public image. I try very hard to be likable and engaging and generally not a jerk. I don't always succeed, but I try. The goal for an indie developer is to get people to like you. If they don't want to help you stay around, they will help someone else."

Vogel has been making turn-based RPGs for 15 years, and he credits his ability to make a living with how he deals with piracy. It also doesn't hurt that he makes decent games that people want to pay money for. You can read his entire Gamasutra feature here.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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  1. 0
    Sporge says:

    THIS! Exactly how I feel.  I just really have this bad taste in my mouth for anyone who reaps extravagant benefits off other peoples work just because they gave money at the start.  I understand they are taking a risk, but I don't think they should benefit 100% more than the people actually working for it.

  2. 0
    axiomatic says:

    Honestly I want the engineering developers to reap the rewards. It's the businessman/administrative/management side of games that I think is broken right now. Their piece of the pie is a little too large for my tastes right now.

  3. 0
    Algus says:

    When you can pirate software (or movies, music, TV, or whatever) and have it be more useful, useable, and convenient than the paid version, it seems only natural that some people would pirate, not because they don't want to pay for the product but because they actually want to be able to use it on their devices without all kinds of crazy stipulations and regulations.

    All you have to do is look at what happened with Ubisoft, where some of their single-player games were UNPLAYABLE because they had to take their servers down.  Meanwhile, anyone who had a pirated copy could keep playing.  That's ridiculous. 

  4. 0
    Truec says:

    You know, I'd call the man crazy if he wasn't absolutely right.  I pirated just about every Spiderweb game I own.  I enjoyed each one so much that I later bought them.

    Except Avernum 5, that was an impulse buy  that I only regret a little.

  5. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    In some ways, I blame the demand for 'bigger, louder, shinier!' that has created Studios that have entire departments to do each section. The production of a Computer game is not dissimilar to the production of a large movie, with actors, set designers, lighting/audio professionals etc, we've come a long way since the days where we had to redefine fonts to create in-game graphics.

    The fact is that the shiny has proven, especially in the long term, to have very little impact on game sales compared to the playing experience itself. Dwarf Fortress usually rears its head at this point of the conversation, so I won't let it down 😉

    Possibly the trick here is, rather than demanding that the market meet their needs to make mega-expensive, visually and aurally top-heavy games instead, that game companies should ask themselves "How can we approach the market in such a way that the games are still fun, but we aren't spending millions on polishing the fixings?

    Problem is, many of the larger companies have now made a rod for their own back, because people expect games to be bigger and shinier with each iteration now, many would complain if the next iteration of Battlefield or the like looked worse than the previous, even if the Game itself had an engaging story, great mechanics and fulfilling multiplayer.

  6. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    I'm not sure where you're coming from with "making developers feel good is fine, but…".  The article wasn't about making developers feel good, it was about making customers feel good for supporting developers.

  7. 0
    -Jes- says:

    "They get the knowledge that they are Part of the Solution and not Part of the Problem."

    He addressed your argument right there. Make the paying consumers feel GOOD about paying, instead of taking a massive, invasive DRM dump on them.

  8. 0
    Uncharted NES says:

    Off topic here, making developers feel good is fine, but not when they screw over the player’s rights because of hurt feeling by calling the used game market “piracy”, using draconian DRM, and basically treating the players like the enemy.

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