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Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans

Ars Technica has an interesting article on the reaction of developer ACE Team to finding their recently released combat game Zeno Clash available for illegal download. Carlos Bordeu of the Chilean developer commented on BitTorrent Sites explaining the impact of piracy on an independent developer, saying in some cases they were surprised to find a positive reaction: "We've received several mails and posts in our own forums of people who pirated the game that decided to buy it because of the message. I don't know if it is a significant percent, or whether this is good strategy as a whole... but it has sparked some very positive reactions in the community." Here is the statement they made on the torrent sites, indicating a demo is in the works:

Iím one of the developers of Zeno Clash. I would appreciate you read this if you are about to download this file.

Zeno Clash is an independently funded game by a very small and sacrificed group of people. The only way in which we can continue making games like this (or a sequel) is to have good sales.

I am aware that at this moment there is still no demo of the game, but we are working on one which will be available soon.

We cannot do anything to stop piracy of the game (and honestly donít intend to do so) but if you are downloading because you wish to try before you buy, I would ask that you purchase the game (and support the independent game development scene) if you enjoy it. We plan on updating Zeno Clash with DLC and continuing support for the game long after itís release.

Thanks for taking the time to read thisÖ hopefully it will make a difference.

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42. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 16:11 Verno
 
Please read the post right below yours

Please read my edit
 
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41. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 16:10 RP
 
If you're making a niche title, you don't get a mass market audience by uploading your game to the piratebay.

Please read the post right below yours
 
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40. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 16:09 Verno
 
World of Goo received much more attention with the piracy debacle.

Prove it, I don't believe it. I noticed World of Goo frequently on news sites several months before any of the piracy crap even came up. When it did came up it spawned a whole forum thread here and appeared as a blurb on some RSS feeds oh wow geez the attention.

I think you're missing the point. As I mentioned before, if your game isn't pretty, you can't really show its merits through videos or screenshots. People actually have to play the game. Yes, you can release a demo but how many people will even know it exists? The sources you cite mostly require that the player actively search for the game.

Again no you are the one missing the point Gerick. If you're making a niche title, you don't get a mass market audience by uploading your game to the piratebay. You market yourself to your niche audience and the easiest way of doing that is through websites/podcasts/etc to your specific subgenre. You don't give away your game and hope that people get interested. Ok correction, maybe that's how a monkey makes and sells a game. You might have a point about monkeys.

With Defcon we put the full game out with a specific authentication key, so we could track the use of it. It was all switched on and you could play the pirated game with that key, but at any time we could flip the switch and turn that version of the game off

Emphasis mine. Also I notice no actual numbers to back up any of these claims. Putting out a version specific to pirates is different than putting your virgin game out there. Not valid.

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 16:10.
 
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39. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 16:07 RP
 
Here's a real world example instead of another handwavy hypothetical.

The Introversion guys employed a nifty strategy when they released Defcon: use pirates to drive sales of the game.

The idea was that Defcon was a multiplayer game that needed a constant supply of players online if it was going to work. We were worried that without enough players it wouldn't gain enough momentum, and that it would jump right into a downward spiral. We figured that genuine players would still have a better time if they were playing against pirates, than playing against nobody. So we produced a pirate version of the game and released it into the world.

With Darwinia we released a torrent version that purported to be the full game, but was just two levels and a message telling the pirate they had ripped off a little indie developer. We'll never know how successful that was, but a huge number of people got that version. With Defcon we put the full game out with a specific authentication key, so we could track the use of it. It was all switched on and you could play the pirated game with that key, but at any time we could flip the switch and turn that version of the game off, with a message saying that you needed to pay for the game. That brought in new purchases. The idea behind what we call the "Purity Control" plan is to accept that there's going to be a pirate version on day one and take advantage of that.

So Defcon was pirated a lot. Sales must've been awful. Wait what?

And Defcon is our most popular game, having been launched on the website, on Steam, and on the UK high street all the same time.

He also says releasing a good demo for Darwinia was crucial for driving sales:

We look back and just can't believe the mistakes we made: there's no tutorial. We did a new demo ready for the Steam launch, and so the Steam launch was much better, much more targeted to the right kind of gamers, with a demo that sold the game.

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 16:09.
 
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38. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 16:04 Narf2029
 
World of Goo was probably doing fine but it never hurts to get your name in the news again. Piracy probably didn't help sales a lot, but talking about it probably did. Advertising is ultimately just getting the name where people can see it, after all. Though it can be argued that piracy got the product out where it could be seen too. You can't quantify the help that piracy offers but you can't quantify the hurt it causes either. You can't simply say every pirated copy is a lost sale because there's no way to tell how many of those people were never going to buy it to begin with. You also can't say how many of those pirated copies caused someone to buy the game where they otherwise would not have. That's why I think the best solution is to just make it more appealing to buy, through demos and future support or even making sure the game generally works out of the box. Take some of the risk out of the purchase and more people will do it.

Verno - don't worry about it. I just hope my position on the issue is clear now - I think it's the fault of everyone involved, publishers and pirates alike. I'm not celebrating or defending piracy, I'm just trying to present another side of the argument.
 
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37. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:54 Jerykk
 
World of Goo was doing fine in the press before the piracy business, I have no clue why you mentioned that one.

World of Goo received much more attention with the piracy debacle.

In the days of YouTube, GameTrailers, ARG's, flash sites, podcasts and so on exposure is no longer the biggest obstacle.

I think you're missing the point. As I mentioned before, if your game isn't pretty, you can't really show its merits through videos or screenshots. People actually have to play the game. Yes, you can release a demo but how many people will even know it exists? The sources you cite mostly require that the player actively search for the game. Some small, niche sites like RPS or RPG-Codex will have exposure for obscure indie games but their audience is considerably smaller than those of mainstream sites like IGN or Gamespot.

Conversely, once your game gets pirated, it quickly gets listed on the hundreds of piracy sites around the world. People peruse the latest releases and these people are exposed to your game even if they weren't specifically looking for it.
 
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36. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:43 Verno
 
Ask any indie developer and they'll tell you that exposure, not piracy, is the biggest obstacle they face. Moral or not, piracy is the easiest way to get exposure. If World of Goo hadn't been pirated so much, it wouldn't have made so many headlines on gaming sites around the world. E-mail 2D Boy and ask if their sales improved after that.

World of Goo was doing fine in the press before the piracy business, I have no clue why you mentioned that one. What you're saying was true ten years ago, not anymore. In the days of YouTube, GameTrailers, ARG's, flash sites, podcasts and so on exposure is no longer the biggest obstacle. The biggest obstacle has always been making a product stand out from others. Piracy doesn't help you there, you're just putting your product in someone's hands without getting paid. Making a demo does. You can argue potentially that people might buy it and blah blah but thats all piracy proponents can ever do - argue about theories and what might happen.
 
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35. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:42 J
 
I held out from buying DoW2 until they released the demo and I realized that I liked it enough to shell out £20 for it. (I don't think it is worth £30+ though).

I don't know what to make of Zeno Clash but will wait for the demo
 
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34. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:38 Narf2029
 
I agree that nobody is being pushed down one or the other at gunpoint or anything, I don't mean to imply that. I'm saying that people want these games, and pretty badly in some cases, so why do publishers think it's a good idea to put up roadblocks to these people that want to give them money? Piracy is never going away, but it could be reduced and probably by quite a bit. There are people that will never pay for a game as long as they live, sure, but what good does it do to try to stop those few when it hurts so very many more legitimate customers? It's like amputating your foot because of a hangnail. Why not try to get those less-dedicated pirates to spend money instead? I'm not saying every pirate just does it because they have no other try-before-you-buy option or whatever, but it's equally foolish to say none of them do that. Those are the sales lost to piracy, because they could have been better taken care of but weren't.  
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33. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:37 Jerykk
 
Ok, you write all that up in an email to the creators of Braid, Peggle and so on. Let me know how they respond to charity pirate work. Word of mouth only goes so far and word of mouth does not directly induce sales.

Ask any indie developer and they'll tell you that exposure, not piracy, is the biggest obstacle they face. Moral or not, piracy is the easiest way to get exposure. If World of Goo hadn't been pirated so much, it wouldn't have made so many headlines on gaming sites around the world. E-mail 2D Boy and ask if their sales improved after that.

Best case scenario argument is that indies can't afford advertising but that falls apart due to the wonders of the Internet and the hundreds of ways to expose your game to an audience now, many of them entirely free.

Easier said than done. If your game looks good and is visually unique, like Zeno Clash or Braid, then marketing your game is much easier. If your game isn't pretty, good luck with that. How many people know about Eschalon, Geneforge or Age of Decadence? How many people have heard of Men of War or The Tomorrow War? If your game relies on gameplay rather than visuals, marketing is incredibly difficult. Word of mouth is essential and piracy provides this.
 
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32. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:26 Verno
 
They aren't driving people anywhere, people drive themselves to a torrent site and search for the game. You act like the only options are to pirate the game or blow money on it. The third option would be not doing either. I mean I agree with you, most things should have demos when possible. I think that's a smarter way to do business too. Regardless, it doesn't excuse anyone downloading it especially when it's an indie game and the retards can't use the "IM STICKIN IT TO THE MAN" excuse.  
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31. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:17 Narf2029
 
I'm not saying "run rampant and steal everything" or whatever. But I do see why people view it as an option, and why they have an easier time justifying it every time, at least to themselves. I think it's terrible that piracy is becoming easier and easier to swallow for more people, but what other option is there? If early users say the game has a lot of technical issues, how can you be sure it'll work on your rig without a demo (Mass Effect comes to mind)? Piracy. If every reviewer out there got their review copy buried inside a large sack of cash, how do you get an honest appraisal of the game without a demo (GTA IV comes to mind)? Piracy. If you use up your 3 or 5 or however many activations because your system's had a rough time or you've been upgrading, there's never any assurance you can get your activations back. You're out, and left with a $50 desk ornament, like Spore, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Red Alert 3, and on and on... Or, you pirate the game which has all that shit removed. Which is more appealing? Though to be fair, Bioshock had its limit removed but you can never, ever count on that being done. They either do it or they don't.

I'm not saying piracy is a good and righteous option. I am, however, saying that it's the only other option in many cases. If people had other options, maybe they would take them. I really think if the industry wants to put a serious dent in piracy, they have to start taking care of their customers instead of screwing them hand over fist. Sure, some people are going to pirate no matter what you do and it's never gonna go away. So why drive more people into doing it?

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 15:30.
 
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30. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 15:02 Verno
 
So don't play the game if there is no demo. Stealing from an indie dev is about as low as you can go. Even my morally murky friends who are pirate crazy don't steal indie games. Go beat up your local politicians and make sure digital content gets demonstration capabilities then if you're so worked up over potentially having to return it. If you can't even sit down for 2 minutes and write a letter/email/bakecookies then it must not be a big deal.

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 15:03.
 
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29. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:58 Narf2029
 
Demos have been around a while but so have Model Ts, and it's about as easy to get one as the other. Yes, I do take requests.

If it were as easy as "get the demo" I'm sure a lot of people would. Sadly, there is often no demo, not even for the triple-A multimillion dollar titles. Why? Because we can't return the retail product. If we play a demo that keeps us from buying the game, they don't get that money. They don't care if we buy their game and vilify it for years to come, so long as they get the money. With nearly every other type of retail purchase, you can either try before you buy or return it if you don't like it. If a car salesman said you can't test drive any of his cars, would you just jump and buy one anyway? If you buy a blender and it can't even blend a powdered drink mix, would you accept being unable to return it? If the store says you can't try on clothes and you can't return them after you've bought them, would you think that was acceptable? I think that the number one cause of piracy today is the industry and the way it treats its customers. Pay me $50! What, you want a demo? Fuck you! What, you don't like our game? Fuck you, we're not gonna make games for you anymore! You probably just pirate them anyway, you scumbag criminal! Oh, by the way, we've got a new game coming out. Pay me $50! What, you're insulted by the way we treat you and you're not gonna buy it? Fuck you, ungrateful bastard!

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 15:10.
 
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28. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:56 Buckermann
 
I'm not saying that piracy is OK, but:

don't start with laws. They change all the time. A few years ago it was perfectly legal (at least where I live) to download games and music; as long as you didn't distribute it for commercial gains. Then the law changed.
Today it is perfectly legal to block advertisement. Maybe a law will forbid this, but probably not.
Anyway, laws have to make sense and reflect the morals of its society. A law that has no acceptance with the general population will be ignored. Right now (again, where I live) the copyright laws with it's massive restrictions, for the user, lose more and more acceptance. Maybe it will change again.
Laws don't always define good or bad ethics.
 
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27. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:52 Verno
 
I'll wait for a demo before I make a purchase decision, I am saddened that independant devs need to make public pleas for people to maybe buy their game. Sad state of affairs these days.

Edit: yeah I'm 80 years old and white, A/S/L?

This comment was edited on Apr 29, 2009, 14:54.
 
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26. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:44 Innocent
 
jesus christ hellbinder, are you a 70 year old caucasian woman? you write like it's a letter to pat robertson. heads up bro, this isn't the 700 club, it's blues. consider taking your elderly moralistic ass back to religious sites to post crap like your post.

brilliant understanding of their audience, i applaud the zeno clash devs. hadn't planned on even trying this, but i'll at least download it and give it a go. if it doesn't suck, i WILL be purchasing your game.

it's the year 2009. the world is different now. pirates aren't patch-eyed drunks with cockney accents any more, they are every single teenager in america, and the majority of young and middle age adults.

-Inno
 
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25. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:19 Verno
 
Looking at piracy numbers in a vacuum (a meaningless exercise, IMHO), this is the case for TV shows, albums, movies, and games. Yet all of these industries are still making money. Put another way: why is PC game piracy supposedly more damaging than music piracy?

You're confusing making money with losing money. You can still make money and have thousands or millions of people stealing your product if you have a large enough customer base. That doesn't mean it should be tolerated or excused.

Take it a step further: AdBlock Plus has been downloaded almost 50 million times. Are people with that plugin guilty of IP theft as well?

There is no law stating that you must watch an advertisement so no. At most they are violating the sites wishes and a lot of websites generate their entire revenue stream from advertisements so it's not a great idea. But there is nothing legal to say that it is IP theft. If you took that advertisement, slapped your name on it and pushed it back out there then yes that would be IP theft.
 
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24. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 14:05 RP
 
The only thing that can be reasonably proven is that there is large scale theft of IP.

Looking at piracy numbers in a vacuum (a meaningless exercise, IMHO), this is the case for TV shows, albums, movies, and games. Yet all of these industries are still making money. Put another way: why is PC game piracy supposedly more damaging than music piracy?

I firmly believe that you should reward content creators if you enjoy or use their works, but I've always wondered why PC game piracy is treated differently than other types of piracy...

Take it a step further: AdBlock Plus has been downloaded almost 50 million times. Are people with that plugin guilty of IP theft as well?
 
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23. Re: Zeno Clash Devs on Piracy, Demo Plans Apr 29, 2009, 13:59 Verno
 
Obviously that's a theoretical example since nobody really has a clue what's going on. But it isn't stopping people pretending that they do.

By your rigid definition then it goes like this - Fact: games being stolen. Supposition: everything else. The only thing that can be reasonably proven is that there is large scale theft of IP. Not exactly a great debate or something. It's a forum, people are going to make assumptions and have opinions.
 
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