April 6th, 2012 | By Chris Priestman
Not too long ago, I wrote up an article for Eurogamer entitled “Should More Indie Developers Be Saying ‘Just Pirate It’?” I spoke to a number of indie developers to find out what they thought about piracy and, contrary to popular opinion, I found that piracy is actually a viable way for an indie developer to promote their game and potentially increase sales.
Now, just today I spoke to Paul Greasley who is the developer of a number of games: Black Market which is currently in the Indie Fort Bundle, freeware title Under The Garden and Rambros which he is currently developing and looks rather fantastic I might add, amongst others.
He came to me to consult me about his latest blog post, just to check it over for him – the blog post is entitled “Pirates are my best customers… actually.” Feel free to go over there and read it, or stay here and I’ll sum it up for you.
Basically, Paul outlines how a Reddit user posted an image of the various editions available of his upcoming sequel, Under The Ocean. Those are the Pretty Cool Silver Bear Edition, the Super Golden Bear Edition and the Annoying Cockroach Edition. The latter is our focus here, as while the other two are paid for and ‘legitimate’ copies of the game with various extras, the Annoying Cockroach Edition is a link straight to the Pirate Bay download.
Many people were very surprised to see a developer advocating piracy of their own game – some more than others. Paul says he received an email this morning from a supposed developer who accused him of encouraging piracy which was apparently ruining the entire industry. Paul’s reaction to that, as you can read, was that he was actually advocating piracy of his game only and actually in doing so he has gained a lot more sales from it.
It is because of his different approach to handling piracy of his own game that caused someone to point it out on Reddit where it soon ended up on the front page. This then led to Paul gaining a lot of respect from the many people who saw this and many of them went and pre-ordered Under The Ocean, either on principal alone or trying out the pirated version.
I followed up with Paul about how that day has changed his life. He told me, “Piracy is the reason I’m a full time indie developer now. Well, it’s not the sole reason but it’s mostly because of it. I’d say at least 90%.”
Paul admits that he has never made a profit from any of his games before, not even come close to it. Since making the pre-orders of Under The Ocean available, he told me that he might sell a copy of the game a day, on average. He releases developer diaries in video form and those might increase sales for that day, up to maybe a handful. Four days ago though, he sold 263 copies of Under The Ocean and there has been a tail off from that too. This “huge spike” in sales has allowed him to go full time indie and to celebrate it he is actually livestreaming the development process from now on.
What do we learn from this then? Well, it’s probably not that everyone should encourage the pirating of their games but it is that people are more likely to buy your game if they can try it out, you’re honest with them and if you find new ways of promoting your game. More and more we are seeing indie game marketing evolve – it seems you have to put as much creativity into that as you do your game. Just a thought.