Indie Haven June Developer Roundtable – Can Piracy make an Indie Game a success? Laura Kate June 9, 2013 Features We at Indie Haven like to get you as close as possible to the games you love, and the people making them. That’s why every month we aim to bring together a wide selection of of Indie Developers from all walks of life, from BAFTA winners to teenage and student devs, to discuss the hottest issues affecting games, development, coverage and the Indie community. These chats will be broken up into chunks and released across the month, before we start all over again with new developers and new questions. This month we welcome a brand new group of developers to the Roundtable. We’ve got Anna Marsh (Developer at Lady Shotgun games, developers of Buddha Finger), Simon Roth (Developer of the huge Kickstarter success Maia), Ashley Ross (lead developer at OmNomCom and creator of the upcoming game Girl With a Laser Cannon), Gordon Midwood (Creative force behind the brilliant Derrick the Deathfin) and Andrew Roper (Recent University graduate working on the game Lazarus). Holly Keenan (Half of the husband and wife team behind A Virus Named Tom) also joins us toward the end of the Roundtable. If you’re an Indie Dev of any size that would like to take part in a future roundtable, please email Laurak@IndieHaven.com and let us know a little about yourself. The more the merrier. Laura Kate: Second Question. “Can Piracy make an Indie Game a success?” Gordon Midwood: Yes, only popular games are pirated, cloned etc. I would be happy for mine to be more. Unless you are talking about games featuring Pirates? Anna Marsh: I’m not so sure Gordon, Buddha Finger was pirated less than 48 hours after being on the app store and I think most iOS titles are. You don’t have to be successful, people just do it because they can. Gordon Midwood: Ah, but if everyone is stealing it, talking about it, copying it that means you are doing quite well, no? Better than silence… Anna Marsh: If pirated copies of your game go on to get people talking about it then yes, it can be a way of getting people into it. Simon Roth: I judge a game a success by how many people are playing it. Although financial success is quite another thing. In the PC arena, yes I think piracy can be beneficial as word of mouth marketing, but on mobile it seems piracy is more problematic as the marketplace is flooded. Anna Marsh: But I have to admit I do think the people who pirate a 69p game are about equal to people who’d nick stuff from a charity shop 🙂 Ashley Ross: Piracy can make or break an Indie Game. There are some games (Eg: Minecraft) that have benefited hugely from piracy (and a relatively simple “DRM” ensures sales) and other games such as project Zomboid, where the developers have said they lost a fair amount of money to piracy. Sometimes so much so that they’re forced to abandon the game. Simon Roth: (I find the idea of releasing a mobile game terrifying) Ashley Ross: @ Simon – In the just over a year of experience I’ve had in the mobile market, I can say you need to be the first with a killer idea or abuse IAPs to make any real profit sadly. Gordon Midwood: Yeah, I had quite a high rate of piracy on lilt line (iOS), much more than Derrick (PC/Mac). Andrew Roper: In a way, yes. It opens up the game to more people, but at the same time it can have quite a financial hit as that’s revenue lost for that game. But then the person who pirated may recommend it to friends/family and they’re not always going to admit to piracy. So in some cases piracy could be the bridge to opening up new sales. I agree with Anna, some games are pirated because they can be. Our iOS games at Indieskies were pirated within 24-48 hours which hit us quite a bit, even though we had low price points. Tl;dr, it’s good for exposing the game and getting more people to know about it, but can have quite a financial hit at the same time. Laura Kate: I find it interesting that Gordon, who if I’m correct lost a fair amount of money on Derrick the Deathfin, is the one advocating piracy. Andrew Roper: Kinda like a double edged sword. Gordon Midwood: I love losing money, its an addictive habit 😉 Ashley Ross: Interesting fact: I increased the sales of my android app by offering the full version for free on my website. Anna Marsh: Oh really Ashley? Interesting. Do you mean you gave away the android build through your website, or a PC version? Gordon Midwood: You can’t stop piracy so you may as well embrace it a bit. That’s interesting Ashley. Laura Kate: I’m just curious, maybe piracy to increase sales seems a lot more of an attractive option when you’re not seeing a profit that you can see dropping Gordon? Gordon Midwood: True Ashley Ross: @Anna – The Android version. It did mean they had to manually download updates. Anna Marsh: Wow – I’ll bear that in mind! Ashley Ross: I’d hardly advocate it to everyone. It bumped my sales up from 1 per week, to 1 per day. Not on the level of what I’d call a commercial success. Laura Kate: Ashley, how long did it take for you to see that happen? Do you guys think that offering the game for free is an option? Ashley Ross: Sales spiked fairly quickly, I think I publicly announced it was free on my site to Twitter/Facebook. Had a spike of 4/5 purchases that day and it evened out after then. I just added a link below the Play store link saying “If for some reason you can’t afford the $1 for this game. I’d still like you to play it [Link]” Anna Marsh: I don’t know, it keeps me busy full time just making mobile builds for app stores right now. And with that we end another segment of Indie Dev Roundtable here at Indie Haven. Next time we discuss The Most Important Indie Game of The Last Decade. What do you think? Have you ever Pirated an Indie game? Have you bought a game because someone who pirated told you about it? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @Indie_Haven.