The “piracy is stealing” argument raises its head in the media every week and is on the lips of anti-piracy outfits and copyright holders every day. To them, every unauthorized copy is a lost sale and another small dent in the company spreadsheet which, when added to a million others, will destroy it bit by bit. To the maker of Minecraft, however, its an opportunity. Piracy is theft? You must be kidding. Lost sales? They don’t exist.
A quick look at the stats for the still-in-beta PC game Minecraft reveals a very healthy business indeed. At the time of writing the game has 4,880,757 registered users of which 1,469,513 (30.1%) have bought the game. In the last 24 hours alone, 36,618 people registered for Minecraft.
But while virtually all other game developers would be complaining about a near 70% of their market being eaten away by parasites who could not care less about the gaming industry or the fate of those who work so hard for their entertainment, Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson sees the situation rather more optimistically.
Speaking during the closing session yesterday at the Independent Games Summit, Notch dismissed the notion that piracy is the same as stealing, or ‘looting’ as incoming MPAA chief Chris Dodd framed it this week.
“Piracy is not theft,” he said to those gathered in San Francisco. “If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world.”
With this kind of reasoning one could be forgiven for thinking that Notch has pirate sympathies but since he’s a self-confessed member of the Pirate Party, that stance comes as no surprise.
“There is no such thing as a ‘lost sale’,” he added with a philosophy so Pirate-aligned it could be happily transcribed directly into any of their press releases. “Is a bad review a lost sale? What about a missed ship date?”
Notch was expected to talk about piracy for 5 minutes at GDC but in the event only managed about 3 minutes, describing the experience as “the scariest thing in a long time.” But while he may have only utilized 60% of his available time, he appears to have packed in value and left people wanting more, which coincidentally is his game developers philosophy too.
“If you just make your game and keep adding to it, the people who copyright infringed would buy it the next week,” he told those in attendance.
While anti-piracy zealots would insist that Minecraft has a 70% piracy or “lost sale” rate, Notch steadfastly sees his cup as rather more full than the raw percentages of his sales data may suggest, particularly by those viewing them from the perspective of an outdated business model. Indeed, despite this ‘pro-piracy’ stance, Minecraft’s position continues to improve.
Back in September last year the game had 658,429 registered players, that’s an increase of 4,222,328 in less than 5 months.
Currently 1,469,513 (30.1%) people have handed over money – in September that was 155,521 (23.62%) so its clear things are headed in the right direction. In the 24 hour period we examined in 2010, 4,910 people had bought Minecraft. Yesterday 10,381 did so.
“Piracy will win in the long run. It has to,” said Notch last year. “The alternative is too scary.”
If making truckloads of money is scary to Notch, he must be terrified right now.