One Reason Why They Won’t Buy

Make sure your copy protection does not annoy customers. That’s been mentioned earlier. When I was working at Indiepath, the GEOM game used to have security system that wouldn’t allow users to install more than one copy of the game.

Luckily one of the customers complained about the issue and we had a chance to fix the problem:

I started the process to purchase Geom, then canceled in the middle. The price of the game is a little on the high end, but not too bad considering it seems to be a good game. However, if I can’t even install the game to both my desktop and my laptop for $24.95 then forget it, you can keep it.

This is exactly why negative feedback is so welcome. If he hadn’t said that GEOM would probably still contain the copy protection. Luckily he mentioned it! Today it allows multiple copies to be made for the user. That’s enough to keep most of the pirates away but still allowing honest people to play the game (like in the case they have more than one computer or so).

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Making trial versions and money back guarantee is a good way to handle piracy. I know I downloaded games from warez just because there wasn’t any demo of it. Of course usually if there is no demo the game is really bad :).

  2. @Ville: it’s safe to use money back guarantee. I mean – even if you don’t use it people who pay with credit cards still have something like 6 months time to inform the credit card company – and make a chargeback (which basically mean they “inform the CC company about fraud usage of their credit card” and you lose money). I will write a post about this in the future, but basically I recommend giving a money back guarantee – it does more good (gives that extra security for those who hesitate) than bad (people can want refunds right away – but as said: they can do that with CCs anyway, whether you give guarantee or not)

  3. I agree that you should do some basic piracy prevention to prevent ordinary lawful people from pirating. There’s no sense fighting the real pirates, as it can only hurt your paying customers.

    Do people use the money back guarantee? Is it safe to promise it?

  4. The copy protection Indiepath uses is Software Passport Pro (Armadillo), we no longer lock down to Hardware since this is too restrictive. We continue to use this software on all our products and software we publish on Cloverleaf Games. Be aware though that a lot of customers have issues copying a serial number from an email to games, our next system will have fully integrated webstores.

  5. @Ville & Mike: Argh :) Those were the days… I remember banging my head in wall when I had to mess with those Indiana Jones codes :P Monkey Island “wheel” was quite an experience as well. Anyway – basically that doesn’t differ from reg keys.

    Piracy: I could wrote a post about that… but my opinions are:
    – I don’t think you should use pirate products. Not from small or big companies. I don’t have a single illegal software/file in my computer. (I used to have… quite a lot, but today computer is 100% clean from pirate soft). Why would I encourage people to non-piracy if I myself cannot show an example?
    – Piracy is an issue – especially in some countries
    – I think piracy should be handled with *some* effort (to prevent the most of the cases) but it’s not something you should *focus* (you cannot have 100% piracy protection anyway – there’s always a possiblity for reverse-engineering)
    – I believe there’s lots of demos and trial versions for people to try the game – no need to use pirate versions.
    – There’s usually 30 day or 60 day money back guarantee: you can test the full version for 1-2 months… and get money back if you are not happy with the product?

    If someone stole the game it’s possible that he wouldn’t buy it anyway. I think there are people who steal every possible game and won’t buy – nor play them. Then there’s people who say they just “test” the game (but for some reason the pirate version still sits on their machine for 8 months after starting this “test”). I’m quite sure people who steal the game, are not going to buy it later. Don’t have statistics about this so I cannot say for sure.

    I wouldn’t focus so much on pirates… I believe putting effort on managing your players rather than dealing with pirates. Have a copy protection and be done with it. Good question though, an issue which is sure to get lots of debate.

  6. Heh copy protection questionnaires, those were the times. I loved the one in Leasure Suit Larry to identify you as an 18 year or above old player.

    Juuso: What do you think about piracy in general in the indie business? What do you think of the rule: if someone stole the game he wouldn’t buy it anyway ?

  7. I used to love the copy protection questionnaires in old games. While of course there were a couple of nasty ones, at least some of them were like minigames.

    Hey I got an idea, why don’t I put in such a questionnaire, and only someone who actually bought the game could know the answers! Like: What was the background colour from the confirmation screen? How many letters did the third word have? :D

  8. We used a registration key – but there was also a “computer identification” system for extra protection (so people could not share the key).

    There’s different options for reg keys. We used Armadillo/SoftwarePassport Professional for the copy protection. It has features like “Hardware Locking, Fingerprinting” (which we used).

    Tim handled the copyprotection so my experience about it is limited – but I remember the case when used did not buy because of our copy protection system. Actually – I’m not sure what kind of system it is at the moment – I presume it is registration key without limitations (or with certain number of uses) and without hardware locking. The main point is that when you get copy protection tools (reg key is okay), then you gotta make sure it’s not too complex for people – and that it won’t prevent them buying the software.

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