Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ransoming System (Revised V1.0)

The Ransoming System - A Possible Solution to Internet Piracy
Proposed by
Casey Goddard

In this modern era of P2P file sharing, DRM schemes and the slow death of PC gaming it has become apparent to me that a radical new method of game distribution is necessary for designers, publishers and players to truly enjoy all that can be offered by video games as a medium of entertainment.
Therefore I submit to you a proposed revenue system whereby games can be distributed; The Ransoming System. Rather than the traditional method of charging individuals a set price for a copy of a particular game, consumers would instead “ransom” the game by giving money to the publisher until a target amount of revenue has been reached. Once this amount has been obtained (sort of like a donation fund drive) the game will become freely available to the general public. A possible example of this method might have several ransom donation levels which consumers can choose from. The premium level might include extra goodies such as an art book, collectible figurine, a “special thanks to….” entry in the credits and so on. Think of it like an airplane. Regardless if it's economy or first class seating everyone gets to fly (play the game). It's just some people get to do it with extra service.
Donations to the ransom system can be made via credit card, pay-pall over the internet, or even at a physical location such as a video game store in the form of electronic cash transfer (along similar lines of cash card or pre-order). If customers have no broadband connection physical copies of the game can be made available at game stores for acquisition once the ransom has been accumulated or mailed directly to a given address. Ideally people who pay more for the product would be the first to receive the game.
Of course companies would be required to be very public about who donated to the ransom and how much they gave in order to prevent fraud. Marketing would also remain crucial in order to raise awareness of up-coming games. Downloadable video trailers, demos, promotional events and general advertising must be carried out efficiently in order to generate enough consumer demand to ransom the game. Consistency from developers is also a must to help ensure the ransom of additional content and future games.
In order for The Ransoming System to work as an effective method of gathering revenue the way games are developed must also be changed somewhat. Games would probably have to be shorter and cheaper than what is considered the current norm. Episodic content, expansions or DLC implementing feedback from the consumers is very important to maximize revenue. Of course new content would be ransomed as well. Community would also be essential since fans are more likely raise awareness and contribute to the ransom than newcomers.

So, in conclusion allow me to summarize the advantages of The Ransoming System:

  • Neutralizes the threat of Internet piracy
  • Eliminates the need for any kind of DRM software
  • Utilizes exiting techniques employ in sales and distribution
  • Reduces production costs
  • Encourages growth of gaming communities

There are a few potential disadvantages however:
  • Profits for games will be somewhat normalized
  • Games will be shorter, with room made for additional content
  • MMOs or games which gather revenue based on subscription fees would not benefit from using the ransom system

I’d like to note that The Ransoming System has already been employed successfully on a limited scale for a number of PDF supplements to the table-top RPG Reign. I believe that the system can also be applied effectively to the video game industry provided major developers are willing to give it a try on popular existing franchises.

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