Sins of a Solar Empire Sales Prove “Piracy is Not the Primary Issue”
Piracy is almost always the one definitive, go-to thing to blame when game companies try to make sense of why their game hasn’t sold well. And it’s a compelling argument – go to any torrent site and you’ll be able to find copies of any and every game you want, available to download for free. Certainly that must be the reason some games fall short of sales expectations.
Stardock would disagree. Their recent release of Sins of a Solar Empire shipped with no sort of CD copy protection and has managed to sell incredibly well. In a post over on the Sins of a Solar Empire forums, Stardock explained their approach – while alien to the games business – ends up with people paying money for their products.
When you develop for a market, you don’t go by the user base. You go by the potential customer base. That’s what most software companies do. They base what they want to create on the size of the market they’re developing for. But not PC game developers.
PC game developers seem to focus more on the “cool” factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen. I’ve never considered myself a real game developer. I’m a gamer who happens to know how to code and also happens to be reasonably good at business.
It’s also touched upon how you don’t need a super high-end PC to run Stardock games, yet they still look great. Sure, they could look even better “[b]ut only if we degraded the gaming experience for the largest chunk of people who buy games.”
The reason why we don’t put copy protection on our games isn’t because we’re nice guys. We do it because the people who actually buy games don’t like to mess with it. Our customers make the rules, not the pirates. Pirates don’t count. We know our customers could pirate our games if they want but choose to support our efforts. So we return the favor – we make the games they want and deliver them how they want it. This is also known as operating like every other industry outside the PC game industry.
… In the meantime, if you want to make profitable PC games, I’d recommend focusing more effort on satisfying the people willing to spend money on your product and less effort on making what others perceive as hot. But then again, I don’t romanticize PC game development. I just want to play cool games and make a profit on games that I work on.
How can you argue with that? Is Sins simply an exception to the rule, or is Stardock right that developers and publishers focus more on trying to keep the pirates out than the customers happy?