Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sneaking Product Past the Pirates

Software piracy has always been a problem -- it started back in the early days, when games were small enough to be traded on illicit bulletin boards, even at 300 baud modem transfer speeds.  New title sales would peak early and crash fast, in part due to the hit-driven nature of the computer game business, but also likely due to widespread piracy's effect on long-term sales.

In the ad below, Gamester Software (corporate sibling to "adult" adventure publisher Softcore Software) took an interesting approach in an attempt to deter piracy -- the company intentionally limited the availability of its latest releases to a narrow one-month window.  You could buy these products legitimately, as long as you bought them right now.  It feels, sadly, like a concession to the pirates, but it might have made business sense too -- why spend money promoting software that had already been stolen?

Did the strategy work?  Well, The Swarming does indeed seem to be lost to the ages -- a cursory search of the online archives, at least, indicates that copies of the game are not readily available today.  So it may not have been pirated and distributed hither and yon, but it may not have been purchased much, either.

It's an unfortunate irony that the products whose sales were most heavily impacted by piracy are the ones most likely to survive today.  Pirates and their "customers" stole legitimate sales, but the underground network also inadvertently preserved the industry's history.


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