Be better than free, proclaims David Perry — legendary game developer, prolific bullshitter

May 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

This was picked up by a handful of sites I regularly visit, including Edge and Joystiq. It’s basically a redirect to a blog post made by Perry, which outlines some of his impressions over the fairly recent Pirate Bay judgment. He says some other stuff, but this is what sticks out, to me:

The REAL way to beat piracy is to focus on “convenience”, “quality”, “access”. I once heard a speech about the “right price” for music. That’s a price where you’d rather pay for the quality, proper meta-tags, “The Real Thing” etc. That’s nearly what iTunes offers, but it’s too expensive (as the speaker said after his analysis), and so the first company to actually work out that “not worth piracy” price, will suddenly make piracy “inconvenient”. You don’t have to agree, but it’s an interesting idea.

Like David Jaffe – another ‘Dave’ – David Perry is not afraid of saying whatever comes into his head at any given time, often making him look a bit of a jackass. The amount of rubbish this guy comes out with… You really just can’t take much of what he says seriously anymore. It’s why I was so surprised when I read this, as it is probably single-most important thing I’ve heard regarding the problem of piracy and how it should be dealt.

Now, there will always be some people who will try and get stuff for free, no matter what. However, there is another element to piracy, and that is that it frequently it offers the consumer a service which doesn’t exist under legal means. Mark Kermode talks about this in his film vblog, and the same applies with video games. But I can think of another example, specific to video games. There is a lot of talk about piracy on the PSP — the use of emulators to play ROMs of old 16-bit classics, PlayStation games etc. Instead of companies asking the question “What can we do to stop this?” maybe they should be asking themselves “How do we get in on this?” instead? There is obviously a demand for these games and it is because companies have failed to fill this gap that pirates have swooped in. Frequently, it’s not a case of people wanting to screw record companies, or games developers or publishers, but to have a product, have it NOW and in this or that format. It’s the companies’ failure for not providing this service, and if they were smart they would realise how much money is there and step up a bit.

And Perry’s comment about this kind of future-offering not being too expensive is also, absolutely, on-the-money. For example, if we look at what Sega’s served up with the release of some classic Mega Drive games on XBLA, we have Sonic 1 and 2, and Streets of Rage 2, all being offered individually for 400 MSP or £3.40. Consider that you can buy a retail packaged version of all of those games, plus 37 more, on the Xbox 360 for around £20 (making it around 50p per game), individually pricing games as high as £3.40 is absurd. Gunstar Heroes is coming out soon on XBLA, and I love that game to death, but I’m not going to pay that amount of money for it.

But this theory doesn’t just apply to film and video games; it applies to television, too. Why do people download their favourite television series instead of waiting for the box-set to come out or paying for an expensive Sky package? The answer’s in the question. Some people don’t want 100 channels of crap. They just want that TV show, they want it now and they want it cheap. While there are some people are will watch a TV show over again after a first viewing, I, myself, find that after having seen an episode of Lost or House, rarely have the inclination to revisit it. Why isn’t there a online digital rental service for the most popular TV shows, one which allows you to suscribe to a season or rent out individual episodes for a cheaper cost than buying them?

Currently, iTunes offers a full episode of The Wire for purchase at £1.89; why not offer a cheaper service which gives people access to the latest episode of their favourite TV show for the price of something around 99p, but with the caveat of only being able to watch it once or within a time limit before the episode can no longer be viewed? If such a service exists, I don’t know of it. And either that means that a) such a service doesn’t exist; or b) they haven’t marketed it well enough. Both are the problem of an industry and of businesses which, time-and-again, fail to keep up with the demands of the consumer.

So, I suppose this is my final message: stop punishing the consumer for your company’s failure to fill a gap in the market; stop your whining, and start doing something about it!

(823 words.)

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