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Open source teaches us how to sell games

Electronic Arts is violating a core open-source principle with Spore, and may well pay the price for its error.

I'm loving Dave Rosenberg's blog even more now that he has "left" open source to contemplate starting a gaming-related company. As he demonstrates in a post about Electronic Arts' DRM shenanigans with the newly released Spore, the lessons learned from open source apply far beyond Linux and Apache:

If there is one thing that open source has taught us it's that there are "users" and there are "customers." Odds are that all of your customers will be users first, taking your software for a test drive and then deciding if they want to pay for it. It's all about getting people to consume your software.

The video game industry remains one of the last hold-outs in the war against consumption. Instead of encouraging more use, EA royally botched the launch of Spore with a seriously misguided DRM choice.

Amen. The first order of business, in any business, is adoption, not protection. Until you have adoption, there's nothing to protect. Intellectual property is meaningless if no one covets the property, which follows adoption.

As Dave suggests, by focusing on protection of Spore to the detriment of adoption, EA has potentially left large piles of cash on the table.

Even Microsoft gets this. Sure, it fights piracy, but Microsoft takes a surprisingly light hand to piracy in developing markets, where adoption trumps protection. Only as those markets show a predilection for payment does Microsoft storm in with the Business Software Alliance and other organizations to shore up revenue by stamping out piracy.

EA, take note. Yes, Spore is destined to be a blockbuster as The Sims was before it. But if you try to take too heavy a hand on protection initially, you're almost certainly going to scare off would-be customers.