Sunday, 6 November 2011

Opinion Piece: Why Pirating Benefits Wargames Manufacturers

This one might annoy people. I'm aware of this fact.
I'd just like to make it clear that this is not intended as an argumentation for pirating in general (that's a can of worms that belongs elsewhere). It isn't even an argumentation for pirating material made by wargames manufacturers. It is merely a look at how I (that is, me, personally) see ways in which said pirating might in fact benefit the manufacturers far more than it hurts them.

There, that's the disclaimer done with.


The online, non-scurvy kind. You know, downloading stuff you shouldn't, by law, download. It's a touchy subject. The point is, most of Privateer's, GW's and a number of other gaming companies' rules are available through this medium.

I do not mean the unlawful reproduction of actual miniatures, nor do I mean the kind of pirating that goes on in dangerous waters and involves copious amounts of violence. Only the internet 'ooops-I-just-downloaded-all-your-rules' kind.

And I thought I was done with the disclaimers.

A certain fellow I know - let's call him Un-carias - is a pirate. He's got all the rules for his games electronically, and has obtained them in a less than legal fashion. He also owns quite a few of those books legally, but not all.

'Are you saying there's another way than pirating?'
What pirating has done for Un-carias is in many ways beneficial to the Manufacturer. It has allowed him to buy actual miniatures with his money, for one thing.

As he has access to the rules elsewise, he can buy just the miniatures, and actually play the games. This, in turn, leads to more purchases of miniatures, which leads to more playing, and so on. Since he cannot likewise substitute the miniatures, if he did it the other way around (bought all the rules, and none of the minis) he would be unable to play the game. It is therefore unlikely that he would buy the rules to begin with.

What this means is that, in a world without pirating, Un-carias would have been likely to stay with the game(s) he already had, and never got new armies, let alone start a new game system.

Undead pirates. I'm not convinced the Manufacturers entirely mind pirates...

The other part of this equation is that Un-carias has the opportunity to read the rules for everything new that is released, without investing any of his scarce cash. This means that he can make an educated decision about what he wants to buy, and means that he is unlikely to make any purchases that turn sour on him. He could of course not pirate the rules, and instead buy every new Army Book, Codex, Forces book, Expansion, and so on, but since he is unliekly to buy all those armies, he would feel that several of those investments had been a waste of money. When a rulebook costs the equivalent of a box set, this waste is likely to slow down his other purchases, maybe even to the point where he loses momentum and interest.

And this Manufacturer does nothing to dispel that impression...
Therefore, as Un-carias can preview all the rules, he buys more miniatures. But more importantly, he only buys the miniatures he has use of (even if he is at times crap at choosing the 'right' miniatures, based on their in-game power). This means he is more likely to have one or two functioning armies, rather than half a dozen disconnected collections that are essentially unplayable.

And this, I think you'll agree, is much more likely to keep him playing - and buying - the game.

Of course, there is the counter-argument.

He is getting something for nothing. A lot of resources have gone into the making of those rules he so carelessly downloads, and he isn't paying his due.

However, he buys the books he can afford, uses a lot, and wants in their physical form. He's got more of those rulebooks in boxes than will fit in his bookcase. Also, if he couldn't download, but still somehow managed to stay in the game (yes, I'm exaggerating) he would be likely to borrow the books from his more well-off clubmates. This might limit him, but would still not mean any increased income for the Manufacturer.

What it would do, is ensure that his grasp on the rules would be much more tenuous, as he puts in rather a large amount of time leafing (figuratively, as it's on the computer) through those rulebooks. This would impact the club's gaming rather heavily, as he is one of the rules gurus, to whom many turn with questions. Thus, him not having easy access to the rules would make the whole club's gaming slow down to some degree.

Arrogant? Un-carias? Surely not.
 Un-carias would, he professes, like to obtain all the rules legally, but can't afford them on his current income. One day, he might, and then intends to buy his books like an upstanding citizen. Until then, he would be very happy if there was a way to get the rules cheaper, or even for free, by sacrificing all the eyecandy, for example. He likes Blood Bowl - partly - for this very reason, as the rules are readily, legally available for free on that Manufacturer's website.

But for now, he's a pirate. And doesn't lose any sleep over it, really.

So that's it for another opinion piece.


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