Kickstarter, Amazon Store, a thousand different online publishers, web comics, iPhone game store. A buffet of new ways for independent individuals or small companies to put themselves on the market place and get in on the action. No longer will the big publishers strangle us!
Well, that’s one future. Here’s another:
You spend 3 years to build a game. You put it on the smartphone app store. Three people buy it, 4000 pirate it off Bit Torrent, and 200 comments ask “when is it going Free to Play?”. It sinks off the front page inside an hour, and you never come close to breaking cost on your time alone. When you make the argument about your own value, people shrug, leave your page, and go google a dozen similar games that have already converted to F2P or never charged in the first place.
The internet provides more content in a single day than a person can consume in their entire lives. So why do we assume anyone is going to pay for anything when they can get an imitation for free? Why is someone going to be willing to pay X dollars for your painstakingly crafted 200,000 word novel when they can read thousands of stories for free?
Why do we assume people actually respond rationally to the market by gauging based on quality and a desire to reward artists?
Right now, I have virtually zero income. If I want to buy a game, the only way that’s possible is during a Steam sale where its five dollars. That’s good for me – I get to play the game. Right now, it also provides a meager but consistent long tail for the publisher, a feature previously lost as games shuffled through in less than a year.
But what happens if enough people decide to be like me and just play it once its gone F2P? If you wait long enough, every product is ripe for the picking on a bargain bin Steam sale or a back of the web torrent, crack included. How many internet cheapskates does it take to crash a business model? Even million-view youtube stars make piss off those ads on the right side of the page because nobody in their right mind clicks the damn things.
If the internet is an ocean of content, then how do we prevent or deal with customers who decide to forage wide, shallow and cheap, never vesting a cent beyond their internet bill? What if those people are the majority?
I honestly don’t know how much of the above is true. I do think, however, that we must be ready to answer these questions when we move into internet-based business.
If the internet is an ocean, then we need to remember that there are vast swathes of the deep blue sea where life is dominated by far-ranging scavengers.