Rovio is in an unlikely position to ponder the ills or gains of piracy. The Finnish company’s smash hit “Angry Birds” has seen over 500 million total downloads since its 2009 release, birthed a line of merchandise and was even referenced in an official White House video. None of that has stopped Rovio CEO Mikael Hed from admitting that illegal file-sharing can lead to legitimate business.
Speaking at an equally unlikely venue, the annual music trade show Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale (MIDEM) in Cannes, Hed told an audience of music insiders and reporters that game developers should take note of the recording industry’s missteps and avoid making the same mistakes.
“We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy,” said Hed, adding that “piracy…can get us more business at the end of the day.”
The video game industry continues to struggle with how best to tackle the piracy problem. One method, controversial digital rights management (DRM), has sparked frustration from customers who must jump through hoops to play titles they purchased while pirates continue to steal the content. Other developers have embraced the file-sharing culture and freely offered content, asking fans to buy only if they enjoyed what they played.
Last year, “Minecraft” creator Markus “Notce” Persson came out in support of piracy by proclaiming the action wasn’t technically theft. “There is no such thing as a ‘lost sale,'” said Persson, answering the common criticism that file-sharing takes away actual sales.
Though Hed stopped short of echoing that sentiment, he revealed a simple trick that may help earn legit downloads from pirates: be nice to your customers.
“We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans,” said Hed. “We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have.” (via The Guardian)