Ideas To Combat Software Piracy

Usually when I work on the more graphics-intensive art pieces for this here blog, I will listen to the radio instead of iTunes to help with PC performance. And lately I’ve been hearing an extensive ad campaign that is asking listeners to blow the whistle on workplace software piracy, even offering cash rewards for information.

Yikes! Software conglomerates are resorting to getting their message out over the airwaves. Clearly software piracy is out of control. I think asking people to snitch will yield a few catches, but in no way will it solve the issue.

Here are a few ideas to help:

1. Software is priced TOO DAMN HIGH! Seriously! Some software packages cost way more than the computer you are installing it on. If Nintendo asked me to buy a Wii for $200 and then Super Mario Galaxy for $1,000, I would laugh hysterically and walk away. Solution: If you aren’t going to come down on the overall price, then offer a few affordable solutions. Lease a program for $40 a month. Allow customers to pay in installments – on their terms. Maybe even a pay-per-use program.

There is a lot of compatible freeware available to download online. Lowering the price should be taken into consideration first and foremost.

2. Longer lifespan for each version. Offer downloadable content instead of a new iteration. It’s discouraging to buy premium software because a newer, better version will be released within a year. And the upgrade offer isn’t cheap either. Solution: Software companies should take a cue from video game companies, and only release a new version when the software is a big leap forward. In the meantime, you can offer customers optional downloadable upgrades they can buy. Support your software to last 3-5 years, and people will invest for that kind of term.

3. Reward customers for their loyalty. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Adobe sent you an email saying “Dear customer: We noticed that you bought Photoshop CS3 and upgraded to CS4 and CS5. For your patronage, an upgrade to CS6 will be provided free of charge. Hugz! -Adobe”. Those kinds of rewards acknowledge customers who have been legit, and ensures their continued business.

4. Cloud-based software usage. I have multiple computers, but don’t want multiple licenses. I should be allowed to use one instance of Microsoft Word on any computer at any single time. Solution: A client like Steam would allow this type of framework, where I would sign-in to activate my one license on any of my computers. This type of flexibility would carry a lot of appeal for many users who aren’t monogamous with computers.

5. Provide a number of options for customers that will lower the price of the software. Examples: If you participate in our monthly survey, we will reduce the cost by $200. If you decide to use our DRM program, we will reduce the price by $100. If you agree to turn on issue reporting (for bugs) it is $200 off. If you enable our peer-to-peer suite to share downloads of our program, it is $100 off. The program can be subsidized by ads…if you participate in out next Beta, etc. By assisting the developer in some form, you should be entitled to a discount. I’ll endure a few trade-offs for cheaper software.

If I think of any more, I will update this list.

7 thoughts on “Ideas To Combat Software Piracy

  1. Adobe started (or announced) offering Photoshop for a monthly subscription fee rather than buying it outright, but the price added up pretty quickly.
    I think that if you buy a program or suite, and then an update comes out nMonths after, they should give you the upgrade for free, or at a nominal rate. I bought CS3 at full price, and CS4 came out a month or two later. Burn!

    1. Yeah it’s a tough call. You could have waited for CS4, but usually the release window is when software is at it’s most expensive. Also, CS3 probably had a big price drop at that time too. Ouch indeed.

      It should be rent-to-own, otherwise it would add up quickly.

      I totally agree about that upgrade thing. I often see upgrades asking 50% of the standalone version’s price. Absurd!

  2. The problems with a piece of software like Adobe is economies of scale, and Adobe doesn’t scale. If Adobe sold 6 million copies of Photoshop like Gears of War 2 did then they could price it at $60. Takes a lot of time and resources to create a professional product like Photoshop (from a developer). Also, I’m willing to bet, from scratch it takes far longer to create Photoshop than any Mario brothers game.
    I don’t argue with any of your other points, just the first one 🙂 I know that the changes from CS4 to CS5 probably don’t seem like they are worth the giant cost associated with it.

    1. Photoshop seems like such a staple. I’d like to flip that argument, and state if they did price it for $60, then they would sell 6 million copies. Probably much more than that.

      I agree – to build Photoshop from the ground up would be every bit as intensive as any AAA video game title. But currently I would compare the program to EA’s Madden, which is an upgrade with new features released on a regular basis. It builds on the previous version.

      The Mario Galaxy was a bad comparison. Those games cost around $25M each to produce, which is on the lower end of the AAA scale. Other games like Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto cost $80 – $100M to make. AAA games require more resources, imho, but that’s a tough comparison to make. Photoshop doesn’t need sound production or an animation team.

    2. Doing some quick fact-checking: Adobe has 9100 employees, EA has 10,000. Both companies averaged about $3.8B revenue over the last few years. Given that Adobe releases far fewer products, I will concede that software programs are more intensive to produce and requires more manpower and resources than video games.

      I just assumed smaller dev teams for the Adobe products, and the incremental upgrades weren’t as immediately apparent to me. I am ashamed.

  3. The biggest factor for me is cost. My new laptop didn’t come with Microsoft Office (word, excel, access, powerpoint) and the student addition was $100+. I’m a student…I don’t have $120 to fork over for a few programs. I also understand that games cost a lot to develop…but games have always been pricy. I remember PS2 games being $50 and PSP games were $40. If they would lower the cost, I would be more likely to but it new rather then wait a couple of months for a cheap used copy or a big sale. Three months after God of War III came out, Gamestop i think it was, started selling it for $30. $30! All because I bought it when it came out instead of waiting.

    Now there are those that complain about price but will never buy it new no matter how cheap it is.

    1. Video games are like film releases – they are front-loaded to generate their sales in the first 2-3 months of release. After that, they are discounted.

      The only exceptions are “Evergreen” titles, which sell consistently for years – a lot of Nintendo games or the odd title like Counterstrike are perennial sellers. These will receive slight discounts over a prolonged period of time.

      It’s a weird pricing model to be sure, but the one thing I am VERY thankful for is the prices have been relatively unchanged since the early 90’s. $50-$60 for a game. With inflation they could easily be $70 – $75 or more.

      I didn’t really name any examples but some software packages, like 3D modeling suites, are in the $3,000 – $5,000 area. Those can come down a smidge, methinks.

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