Marcin Iwiński, co-founder of GOG and development studio CD Projekt Red, has some curious thoughts on how to handle a very thorny subject: Piracy.
Speaking late last month at infoShare 2016, Iwiński dove into great detail regarding how CD Projekt Red gained a "legendary" reputation among customers. As you probably already know, The Witcher 3 had a string of free DLC offerings that earned the company a lot of good will last year. According to Iwiński, that DLC was a key part of CD Projekt Red's strategy to fight piracy with a good product. You can watch the relevant segment in the video above at the 14 minute 39 second mark, though I've transcribed some of it below as well:
We released [The Witcher 3] without any copy protection. So, on day one, you could download the game from GOG, and give it to a friend (enemy as well)... and still we sold near to 10 million units across all 3 platforms. But the piracy factor was irrelevant, because we cannot force people to buy things. We can only convince them to do it. We totally believe in the carrot, not in the stick... I've seen many times, comments [that say] 'Hey, I couldn't afford the game when it was full price, but these guys are so fair, and they were never against us. They were always trying to do good, add a lot of value, give free DLC, give free content, that I bought the game from them when it was mid-price.'
...[In] lower income countries, people just cannot afford a 50 dollar game. So maybe our price-point offering in a certain country wasn't right. For example, we have lower prices in Russia. And there is many cases like that.
We don't like when people steal our product, but we are not going to chase them and put them in prison. But we'll think hard what to make to convince them. And uh, convince them in a very positive way, so that they will buy the product next time, they will be happy with our game, and they will tell their friends not to pirate it.
And funnily enough, the more we proceed this way, the more we see them again on forums and Reddit and whatnot, we see that there is a guy saying 'hey where can I download Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from?' And then there is 10 people bashing them, 'Oh you fucko, do not download the game. These guys are fair, they're the only fair guys in the industry. You should go and buy it.'
And so, I'm not sure if this guy will buy it or find this link, but still, it's a very positive attitude and it's excellent word of mouth.
Pretty admirable attitude, no? It's not often that you see developers speak so frankly about combating piracy, or say that there's not much they can do to stop the practice. A cursory search online reveals that the phenomenon Iwiński describes is indeed real:
Other publishers/studios approach piracy very differently of course: Many triple-A franchises come packaged with some form of DRM. Other developers have a bit more fun with it, and release games that mess with pirates in some way -- take for instance Shooting Stars!, a title that mocked players with an unbeatable Daft Punk character. But every so often you have a developer with such heart, that even pirates start considering paying for a good game. Whatever your stance on piracy is, one thing is clear: CD Projekt Red's philosophy sure has worked out for them, at least.