Pay-as-You-Wish Gaming

Wolfire Games offers a unique pricing model on their Humble Indie Bundle of five computer games. Buyers can pay what they want for the games, and they can direct some or all of their payment to charity (or the game developers). Interestingly, people are still pirating the Humble Indie Bundle even though “they could get it just by donating a penny to charity.” (HT: Tyler Reid)[%comments]


The piracy tells you that a substantial chunk of gaming (and movie/music) piracy is more about convenience than money. It can often be much easier and (in the case of gaming) more reliable to pirate something than to buy it legitimately.

Jason Daubert

Interestingly enough, the bundle has also made over a million dollars in sales.



Interestingly enough, as a software engineer, I have no problem with people pirating my work. Neither do any of my co-workers and friends (and I'd guess software engineers do more than our share of pirating).


It's like the Blues, "it's all about borrowing", as Johnny "Clyde" Copeland told me between sets outside a club as we shared a joint.

Zeppelin borrowed without giving proper credit before they saw the light or heat.



That is only true if you're already part of that world. I have no idea where to look for pirated games and I have no reason to believe that I can trust any random file I find via Google when searching for a game's name. On the other hand, it's quite easy to identify the game maker's website and place and order.

I'd be more inclined to believe that people pirate this stuff because they think it's cool to do so rather than because they are so lazy they can't place a $0.01 order. That's insanely lazy.

Howard Tayler

I looked at the games, looked at the budget, and looked at the average purchase price, then spent $21 so that each of the creators and each of the charities would get $3.00.

It's a pittance, considering I usually spend between $20 and $50 for just ONE game.


YX: But when you pirate a pack of games where your purchase would have been given to charity.... that's a little different.

Chris M.

Clearly, people aren't going to feel really bad about pirating this one. If you can get it for practically free, getting it for actual free is not a big step. The marginal cost to the publishers of pirating the bundle is probably about a penny; you're practically not paying for it, but in a much more convenient way, as everybody's mentioning.

It's an interesting counterpoint to mainstream games, since the marginal cost looks different, but probably isn't.


It's easy to get 10 pirated downloads for every legit download, even if none of the pirates would have ever bought your stuff. 1/4 downloaders pirating is a figure so low it almost sinks into statistical insignificance relative to normal piracy rates. However, it doesn't include torrent users so their piracy rate is probably low. Nonetheless, it doesn't matter because most people not only bought it but paid well enough to make the developers a nice chunk of change. Good on them!


I would bet a lot of the pirating isn't to save $0.01, but rather because the pirates are mostly younger and don't have a credit card, paypal account, or other convenient means to pay.


When I saw the title, I thought you meant Gaming in the sense of Las Vegas. I'd like to see how people would act if they were allowed to pay what they wish when they lose a hand of blackjack.


I agree with Chris in the first comment. Why go to a hundred different places for games, music, movies, and software when you can get most of it in one place, for free? It may be illegal, but there's such a miniscule chance of getting caught that the benefits far outweigh the risk. Plus, one has the added ability to download media and software illegally that aren't available for sale anywhere.

Eric M. Jones

Since video gaming is highly addictive, I am suprised that the Mafia is not involved, Someday, you will get an email that says, "Hey buddy...If you want to see your operating system again, Paypal Fanko and me a hundred simoleons...or whatever you think your cyberspace is worth to ya....ya get my drift?"

Casey Roberson

This situation is rediculous. There are two parties to benefit one for their work or the other for need. Why would pirate a game that is being used to raise funds for a charity? Next thing to happen is the hold-ups of nonprofit organizations for their donnations.

Ken Arromdee

Pay as you want is generally annoying to me. A normal price in a free market happens as a balance of forces where the price tends towards the lowest possible one that doesn't drive the merchant out of business. (Of course, this doesn't happen in every case, because of oddities about consumer behavior and because of loss leaders and such, but it's a good approximation.) If a store's price is "pay as you want", I have no way to determine this price.

Bobby G

I think James (#10) is saying what Chris (#1) means.

If you've invested time and effort into piracy already, the marginal effort to pirate anything is nearly 0. It's really C (chance to get caught) * $P (penalty for getting caught), but this figure is very low. The cost of the effort to put oneself in a position to purchase a game (either online, or going to a store, or setting up a credit card/paypal) is X, the cost of purchasing a game is $G.

When C * $P < X * $G, piracy wins... even if $G is low, since $G and C move together (as another commenter pointed out, if the price of the game is low, the chance to get caught is low).


The 'it's often more reliable to pirate games than get them legitimately' thing is something I've been hoping will get more widely recognized. There are plenty of games that simply won't work if I buy them legitimately--either because they're old and require fan-made patches to work on newer OSes (which pirate bundles often include, and which can be far more difficult to do if the game is purchased over services like Steam) or, ironically, because their anti-pirating measures make them refuse to run on my computer if I buy them legally. When your anti-piracy measures make piracy the only easy workaround to issues, you have a problem.

Not that this applies to the bundle in question that I know of.


@17 gets it exactly.
Some games insist you be connected to the Internet even to play vs. the computer. Others install DRM or other measures on your computer to verify you've got a legitimate copy (Google "Spore" and "rootkit"). No thanks, I've got enough problems getting rid of unwanted processes on my family's computers as it is.

I don't buy such games. I don't pirate the games either since I have no idea what the executable will really do. There are plenty of other games.


if i had to hazard a guess, i would imagine that the perceived 'giving-away' of the software would remove any misgivings a pirate may have about downloading the games, ie increasing who might, rather than diminishing it.

(e.g. i feel less guilty about, and therefore more inclined, to download a program/film that has been on tv - as it is a free medium - than a film or song)


You might be interested in this: pay-as-you-wish, nonprofit Panera (aka St. Louis Bread Co.).