Talking With Pirates

September 11, 2008

I found this story via The Technium (Kevin Kelly).

The game developer Cliff Harris (e.g. Kudos) asked the online world on his website (including many pirates of his own games obviously), why they pirate games. He made no judgement, he was just asking. He got a lot of attention in the blogosphere (et al. Slashdot, Digg) and got tons of replies. “It was as if people have waited a long time to tell a game developer the answer to this question”. After analysing hundreds of replies, he found some very interesting insights.  I recommend to read his post. It`s not too long.

But the most important thing to me is how this new insights and the process of acquiring this information altered Cliff himself:

“My games aren’t as good as they could be. Ironically, one of the things that reduces your enthusiasm to really go the extra mile in making games is the thought that thousands of ungrateful gits will swipe the whole thing on day one for nothing. It’s very demoralizing. But actually talking to the pirates has revealed a huge group of people who really appreciate genuinely good games. Some of the criticisms of my games hit home. I get the impression that if I make Kudos 2 not just lots better than the original, but hugely, overwhelmingly, massively better, well polished, designed and balanced, that a lot of would-be pirates will actually buy it. I’ve gone from being demoralized by pirates to actually inspired by them, and I’m working harder than ever before on making my games fun and polished.”

I don`t think enough people in the industry are doing this. Talking to pirates. Understanding pirates. Seeing them as potential customers instead of judging them, fighting them.

There is a huge potential in having a closer look on the customer type “pirate”. Not just in optimizing your own product to get more value so they don`t pirate anymore, but also in motivating your own team and getting a deeper customer relationship with your target group. And pirates are definitely your target group.

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