The common consensus is that pirated games are popular because they're free. But not so, according to Valve co-founder Gabe Newell.
One thing that we have learned is that piracy is not a pricing issue. It's a service issue,” Newell told a conference audience in Seattle, as reported by GeekWire.
The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It's by giving those people a service that's better than what they're receiving from the pirates. For example, Russia. You say, oh, we're going to enter Russia, people say, you're doomed, they'll pirate everything in Russia. Russia now outside of Germany is our largest continental European market.”
Elsewhere in his talk Newell also revealed that since making Team Fortress 2 a free-to-play game, its user base has grown by a factor of five.
Interestingly, the developer speculates that TF2 has enjoyed more success as a F2P title than it ever would have done as a purely free release.
The most recent thing that also is really puzzling is that we made products available for free on numerous occasions, without significantly impacting the audience size,” he added.
We recently said, we're now going to do something different, we're not only going to signal that it's free but we're going to say, ‘it's free to play,' which is not really a pricing signal, even though that's what you would ordinarily think it is. And our user base for our first product that we made free to play, Team Fortress 2, increased by a factor of five.
That doesn't make sense if you're trying to think of it purely as a pricing phenomenon.”