Last week we published an editorial called “The Hypocracy of PC gamers“. We’ve received a ton of feedback and emails from readers, some good, some bad, but we also got emails from a few game developers as well. One developer wanted to share his story on how piracy affected his studio. These are his thoughts.
I run a small independent PC game studio (which will remain anonymous), and we have a slate of smaller puzzle and RPG games that we’ve made since 2009. We sell the games on Steam and other downloadable services, in addition to selling them on our own site, completely DRM-free. In 2011, we had 12 developers and artists working on new titles, and working on getting our games on the iOS platform. Sales were decent throughout the years, enough to support us and ensure that we could keep updating our games. Then our entire catalog of games was posted on The Pirate Bay and spread to other torrent sites.
“The “bundle” of games hit the torrent sites in January 2011, and by March, sales were down 50%. By May, they were down 80%”We didn’t think much of it at first, piracy affects everyone in this industry, and we believed that sales wouldn’t be affected too much and that gamers would appreciate supporting the devs and buying DRM free games. Then sales went down. A lot. The “bundle” of games hit the torrent sites in January 2011, and by March, sales were down 50%. By May, they were down 80%. We tried to respond to the piracy of our games in several ways. We lowered the price on Steam by 33%. Sales picked up a tiny bit, but it’s impossible because you’re competing with free. We had Steam sales, bundle packs, everything we could. It wasn’t enough, and by October of 2011, I had to let go half of my team — 6 people. We’ve restructured now to focus entirely on iOS games. I dunno how it’ll turn out, but developing on PC and supporting our PC games is not an option any longer. We just can’t afford it.
It’s easy for gamers and game journalists to get on their soapbox and proclaim they know how to fix the piracy issue, they always seem to “know” what developers should do (“Put it on Steam”. “Don’t use DRM”, “Use clever advertising” etc.). But you’re not the ones who have to manage a studio, you’re not the ones who have to make sure your developers get paid so they can feed their families. Our studio was doing just fine before our games hit the pirate channels. Then it all went downhill.
There are some claims that piracy causes millions of lost jobs in the US. I dunno about those numbers, maybe they’re true, maybe they’re much lower. But I know that piracy cost at least 6 jobs in 2011. Six people that I had to fire. Talented, hard-working folks with families.
So to all of you Pirate Bay supporters, all of you “experts” on Internet freedom who support “sharing” and who claim that “it’s not stealing”. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of those 6 people: fuck you.
UPDATE: Our contributor emailed in this addition to the post: “For all those who ask: I won’t name my company nor the games we make. I’m fully aware that my statements go against most gamer’s beliefs on piracy and I have no intentions of drawing the wrath of the Internet to my company, which is already struggling. And this has nothing to do with quality — our games had a great fan base and we were doing just fine for two years before the games hit the torrent networks.”