You can’t convert pirates into customers

Hey folks, remember when I said that pirates never were and never will be paying customers? Well, here is a proof of that. Back at the begging of May a company called Wolfire had a really cool promotion: The Humble Bundle, which allowed you to name your own price for a bundle of popular indy games.

Btw, Wolfire is probably the most ridiculously awesome company name ever. I wonder how they came up with it. Did they just sit around going:

“Ok, let’s think about something awesome… Just start listing things that are awesome.”
“Uh… I don’t know… Wolves?”
“Yes, good!”
“Explosions!”
“Yes! Wolf-splosion… No, that doesn’t work. Something else that’s cool.”
“Um… Cabbage?”
“What? No!”
“Fire!”
“Wolf-Fire! Perfect!”

Wolfire did not set any required minimum price, which meant that you could get all the games for $.01 if that was what you wanted. Yep, you could get the full versions of the excellent World of Goo, Samrost 2, Penumbra Overture along with bunch of other less known games for the price of a single penny. Guess what happened?

Well, for one, the bundle was hugely successful generating over $1.2 million in profits (part of which will be donated to charities and EFF). But the bundle also got pirated. By comparing the number of unique downloads with the number of donations Wolfire noticed that people were obviously sharing download keys, posting them on message boards and etc. In other words, quite a few people out there were to cheap, or to lazy to pay even a single penny in order to obtain these games.

This just goes to show that price is not a factor for pirates. You can lower your price down to a single penny if you want to but it wont help. It may convince a fraction of pirates to become paying customers, but majority is not going to care. They are not your customers. They will never be your customers. They don’t care if you lower the price. They don’t care if you put restrictive DRM on your product – I mean, it’s not like they will ever even know about it. The only reason why pirates even know about that crazy Ubisoft DRM because we bitched and moaned about it on the internet for days.

Of course, selling your digital goods at a competitive low price is good for variety of reasons and will definitely increase the number of customers you get. It is just not going to magically convert all the pirates. Nothing will. People who were going to buy your software no matter what will buy it. People who never wanted to buy it, won’t. Those on the fence can and will be influenced by your actions though. You can lure them with an attractive price, promotions, extensive demos, boxed extras. You can also scare them away with crazy DRM scheme that will eat their computer if they smile at it the wrong way. It’s up to you.

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8 Responses to You can’t convert pirates into customers

  1. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    It is kinda sad that the pirates didn’t download bundle with torrents… They used the bandwitdth they shouldn’t waste…

    I actually bought the package twice, first time I paid 2$, but then I really wanted to pay more so I bought it again for 6$.

    And yeah, DRM is not going to help your business at all. I actually like how these games I bought are really DRM free. I can just drop them to any machine I have and just play them.

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  2. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Fighting pirates is an idiots game. It only punishes legitimate customers, while pirates enjoy better DRM-free product. Developers should just realize that any business involving digital information will suffer from piracy and just spend their time perfecting the product, instead of punishing customers.

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  3. copperfish Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    I loved the Indie Bundle. I paid $20 on day one. Mainly because I’ll encourage Linux games any way I can. I already owned and paid full price for World of Goo. More companies should do this.

    But you are right – pirates won’t pay no matter what and the rest of us just suffer DRM and irritating DVD menu warnings.

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  4. icebrain PORTUGAL Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Meh, I didn’t know they we’re doing that sale, I’d buy it.

    I bought Machinarium (from the same guys as Samorost) a few months ago and it’s very cool, especially the artwork and sound.

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  5. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    @ copperfish:
    Yeah, I actually had world of goo, penumbra and GISH so I didn’t pay 20$. If I would not already have those, I would have spend 20$ without any problems :P

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  6. MrJones2015 GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I always wanted to buy cod modern warfare. The only problem was, it was still over 40 Euro when Modern Warfare 2 came out.
    I mean come on, i would buy that game for 30 Euro, but a game at original price when its 7 years old? and the sequel is released at the same price? screw you!

    I waited 3 years to get it at a discounted price, but no chance.
    I really love this game, but this way. No, Thanks

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  7. MrJones2015 GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    and btw, i think the concept of “you choose what you want to pay” is ridiculous. It its totally against the free market, why pay more if I dont have too?

    If you sold me your hard work and your smart computing experience for one penny, youre stupid. Its not my homework to do your business calculations, so if you havent done your homework, heres your penny and have a nice day.

    This is not Russia

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  8. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ MrJones2015:
    I disagree with you.

    I pay more because I want to support the developers and I like the games I have bought.

    All of those games were old, most likely they didn’t make any income at all at this point. And many people have played more than the penny, average is 9.18$

    I don’t say that you should sell everything you make for whatever prize, but events like these are awesome.

    They made _1,273,613_$ If they would have set the prize to 40$-20$ they wouldn’t have got anything near that number.

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