Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pirates Pirate Because It's Too Expensive

This is the next post in a series exploring criticisms of file sharing (part one.) Before continuing, I need to repeat something from my last post: I'm not defending myself or trying to provide a rebuttal to the criticisms of the anti-piracy crowd. I'm giving you the information you need to bring a pirate back to the pay table.


This criticism amuses me. I lurked on several threads where the critics were very quick to translate my open letter into, “I pirate because I think games/albums/movies are too expensive and I can't afford them.” This translation makes it very clear that they didn't pay attention. In my letter, I gave an opinion on price points. For example, I said seasons of a TV show should be about $20. I also said in my letter that I own every season of South Park on DVD. I guess those critics aren't out there supporting the content creators like I am, because last time I checked, each season of South Park hits the streets at about $30. And I buy them when they hit the streets to show my support.

I also said $30 is the most I'm willing to spend on a physical copy of a big budget video game. Why then do I have this $40 physical copy of Skyrim on my shelf? I also said mp3 albums should be around $5 each, yet I can quickly pull up several recent albums that I bought for $9 each on Amazon. For a guy who thinks entertainment is too expensive, I sure buy a lot of products that I think are overpriced.

My price points were a suggestion and not a hard line I draw in the sand. I will gladly pay more than MSRP if I'm a big fan of the product and you're not trying to screw me. But if I'm a casual fan, my price points are usually my cutoffs. Most content for sale feels like it's priced for the superfan instead of for the general fanbase. Some critics called me out on my price points like, "Arkham City is well worth $60 to me, this guy's crazy." There's no great revelation in that statement, every single one of us has pieces of entertainment we can look at and think, "I'd pay more for that than I actually did." Pricing your content for superfans only means less people will see it, less people will use it, less people will buy it and less people will want to buy the next one. Luckily, file-sharing is there to bring me back in and make me a buyer again, without it, you've lost me forever.

Like I alluded to in the previous paragraph, there are creators in all the entertainment genres that I am a big fan of. They have so consistently produced quality work and treated me well as a fan that I will blindly buy whatever they produce next, even if it's not in their wheelhouse. If they were a rock group and put out a rap album, I'd buy it. If they normally made first person shooters and decided to make a role-playing game, I'd buy it. If they were a stand-up comic doing a serious movie, I'd. Buy. It.

You don't build that kind of connection with me by pricing your freshman album like you're Bob Dylan. You don't build that kind of connection with me by suing me for file-sharing your content. And you certainly don't build that kind of connection with me by trying to tell me how, where and when I can consume your content, especially when I've paid for it. In my open letter I gave several examples of situations where I would gladly pay more than my price point, try reading those sections again.

File-sharing is a very polarizing topic, I understand that. I'm not going to fault the critics for being reactionary and calling me names (douche was popular, I even got called a cunt!) because that's going to happen when people are passionate about something. But saying that I'm justifying my piracy because I think the products are too expensive is flat out wrong. What I'm telling creators is that I have plenty of money to spend, and if you would stop dicking me around, you'll get a piece of my pie. When the price and service is right, I practically trip over myself to buy it. I buy every Humble Bundle within the first two days. I bought Louie CK's movie within 15 minutes of hearing about it. I'm not the only one who sees it this clearly.

Consumers are looking for a better value in the content marketplace. Adding DRM, suing file-sharers and getting ISPs to be copyright cops is not providing value. If anything, it's going to reduce the amount of money we put into the market because now we need to buy VPN service. Guess who's products we can't buy?

Next post: Pirates should not be in control.

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