Game pirates' response could have lessons for music biz

Cliff Harris asked why people pirated his games, and got some interesting responses. His lessons could also be useful for the music industry.

A couple weeks ago, game developer Cliff Harris asked a simple question on his blog: why do you pirate my games? Then, he broke the responses down into several categories. Subtracting out the folks who view all intellectual property as theft or who admitted they're too broke or cheap to buy games--two groups which will never be convinced to pay--he found that most respondents thought his games are too expensive and not good enough, and that the demos were too short for them to feel confident they were going to get a reasonable value for the buck. Adding DRM to games also alienated a small but very vocal portion of the gaming community.

Did you buy this album? If so, how many times did you listen past the first song?

His response: better games, longer demos, no DRM, and (if the economics make sense) possibly lowering prices.

Reading this, I couldn't help but think of the music business. Imagine the kid who heard a one-hit-wonder's single on the radio, then shelled out $18 for the full CD, only to find that the rest of the tracks are disappointing filler. Add DRM, which makes downloads unplayable on certain devices and under certain circumstances , and no wonder piracy is rampant.

While the industry's taken a long time to get around to a response, it seems to be following a similar path as Harris: lowering prices (in the form of single-song downloads and big discounts on CDs through Amazon.com and other outlets), increasing the content available in free "demos" (MP3 downloads and streams), and eliminating DRM. As far as music quality goes, that's a subjective debate, but at least there's a larger selection than there was 10 years ago.

 

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