Piracy is bad, full stop. That’s the message repeated far too often by far too many in the content industries. Nothing as complicated as how copyright infringement impacts a content maker could be that simple, of course. Instead, piracy effects different content makers and companies in different ways. And, as we’ve seen in the past, when rightsholders actually try to connect with pirates and make good use of piracy, they often encounter beneficial results. When this occurs, detractors typically begin claiming all sorts of reasons for why those cases are unique: it only works for big companies that can absorb the sales losses, it only works for small companies that aren’t generating much in sales anyway, it only works for some genres of video games and not others, etc.
This reasoning is pointless. The fact is that smart use of the internet and piracy have too many success stories at this point to be written off in this way. And those success stories keep slamming into the stonewall shouts that piracy is always bad, such as a recent example where an indie developer put his own game up torrent sites, only to find a significant boost in sales as a result.
Game developer Shota Bobokhidze, aka ‘ShotX,’ falls in the latter category. The indie developer from Tiblisi, Georgia, runs his one-man company ShotX Studio which just released a new shooter game titled ‘Danger Gazers.’
The release is available on Steam where it currently sells at $9.99. While that’s not an extremely steep price, ShotX realizes the average game fan may not have the financial means to try out all the new titles that come out every month.
This prompted the developer to release a special edition targeting the pirate community.
He put the game up on the Pirate Bay, telling folks that it was a DRM free version of Danger Gazers, no strings attached. It was the full version of the game, and he simply asked anyone that might download and play it to consider paying for it later via a legitimate purchase or a donation. ShotX went on to post a link to the Pirate Bay on Reddit with the same messaging: just buy it if you like it. And this wasn’t supposed to be some pre-planned gimmick, either.
ShotX says that this certainly wasn’t a planned PR campaign. He just wanted to get the word out and give the free torrent a chance. That said, he does believe that piracy can have a positive exposure impact, which was also the case here.
“It wouldn’t have been effective if it was a planned PR move to get people to buy the product. It was just a kind act that I was lucky enough to get noticed. I’m sure it would have been apparent if it wasn’t so,” he says.
ShotX’s approach worked well. The Reddit post promoting the official torrent reached a broad audience. This resulted in a lot of free downloads but also motivated people to buy the game and spread the word.
“The response so far was amazing,” ShotX says. While he didn’t expect anything in return, the free release actually resulted in a significant revenue boost.
And isn’t boosting revenue the entire point? How can piracy be always bad, full stop, if the end result in some cases is increased revenue for a content creator? That doesn’t make any sense.
Instead, this is yet another example that highlights how content creators can act human and connect with people out there, even those that might download their games for free. Through that connection, even those downloading the game, evil beings as they are, managed to send more money the developers way. Be human, awesome, and make use of the internet, folks.