|September 19, 2009||Posted by Matthew J. Neagley|
This article be th’ same as Th’ Sweet trade Article: Landlubber`s Version, jus’ sea dogd up a bit. So if ye dasn’t feel like givin’ yersef a migrane jus’ t’ get into th’ spirit o’ th’ tide, click through t’ th’ other one.
`Tis Talk Like a Sea dog Tide, so ‘t seems only fittin’ that we take a eyeball th’ issue o’ th’ sweet trade an’ how ‘t relates t’ RPGs. Now, I be usually a very tolerant an’ acceptin’ gnome, jus’ ask an’ StarWars fan, so ’tis nay surprise that I be havin’ a very liberal attitude about th’ sweet trade.
Th’ sweet trade… be wrong.
Aye, ye can duel if ye like, but unless ye belong t’ some esoteric school o’ philosophy that believes in freedom o’ information, or might makes right, ye dasn’t really be havin’ a leg t’ stand on in a logical discussion o’ th’ facts o’ th’ sweet trade. An’ e’en then, ye be havin’ t’ justify yer beliefs so as t’ explain away th’ inalienable right o’ them who produce a good or service t’ provide ‘t t’ others at any terms they be seein’ fit, an’ that`s th’ doozy.
Now, I be nay a complete hardass on this one. Th’ sweet trade be one o’ them deals ‘ere sometimes swabbies look th’ other way fer good reason. If ye want t’ be technical, aye downloadin’ a PDF o’ an RPG that`s been ou’ o’ print fer th’ past decade be wrong, but I dasn’t think ere ou’ thar will crucify ye fer ‘t. Same goes fer takin’ a preview peak or any number o’ reasons t’ buccanneer. They’s reasonable, they’s jus’ still wrong, so ’tis up t’ ye ‘ere ye stand on when ’tis ARRR t’ buccanneer. Jus’ reckon that nay matter what YE decide be reasonable, th’ law may nay agree wi’ ye.
Let`s take a quick eyeball how we got in this mess t’ begin wi’. How did th’ sweet trade get t’ be so ubiquitous, an’ why be companies completely bungin’ up dealin’ wi’ sweet trade? Th’ sweet trade be as old as media itself. Hell, monks spent the’r entire lives in th’ dark ages transcribin’ books, an’ that`s technically sweet trade. But sweet trade as we know ‘t today started as soon as th’ floppy drive came into existence fer th’ homeport computer. (Well, ARRR. portable storage media. Thar be older kinds than floppies.) Aft in th’ hoary days o’ yestervoyage, PC owners would be havin’ swap parties, bringin’ buccanneerd copies o’ the’r disks in plastic baggies an’ traded fer whatere anyone else had. Ye could trade a copy o’ an operatin’ system fer th’ newest game, or a word processor fer a programmin’ language. Sweet trade on this scale wasn`t a huge deal, at least we didna think ‘t be aft then. If ye didna know someone who had what ye needed, or ye needed an “official” copy fer whatere reason (th’ manual be a good reason aft then) ye still bought th’ software.
In th’ days o’ th’ bulletin board services (think a cross between th’ Internet an’ a homeport network: jus’ two PCs talkin’ remotely o’er th’ phone) th’ scope o’ th’ swabbies ye could reach an’ th’ number o’ programs ye could get be suddenly exponentially bigger. O’ course, this meant that swabbies be now monitorin’ sweet trade, an’ most sysops (th’ guy who owned th’ computer ye be dialed into) wouldna let swabbies exchange buccanneerd software o’er the’r systems. BUT, thar be also BBSes JUS’ fer buccanneerd software too. Then came th’ Internet, an’ availability made another exponential leap. As more an’ more swabbies got online, an’ speeds got faster an’ faster, gettin’ buccanneerd information an’ programs became easier an’ easier. Today, some companies estimate that as much as 90% o’ th’ swabbies usin’ the’r software be usin’ buccanneerd versions.
Sea dogd software be one thin’, but th’ sweet trade we`re primarily interested in as gamers, sweet trade o’ RPG documents, has made th’ same progression. Wi’ th’ advent o’ th’ omnipresent PDF format, buccanneerd documents be fast an’ easy t’ get an’ usable by sea dogs an’ land lubbers. Sites be havin’ e’en come into existence ‘ere wi’ a single click ye can download entire libraries o’ books. If we assume th’ same rate o’ sweet trade among RPG books that software companies report, th’ impact on th’ RPG industry be undeniable. Th’ greater th’ rate o’ buccanneerd books, th’ less treasure RPG companies recoup fer the’r efforts, an’ th’ less incentive thar be t’ produce RPG resources. Less incentive means less companies producin’, means less variety an’ volume fer all o’ us. Granted, thar will always be some market, an’ th’ biggest companies will most likely survive, but th’ worse sweet trade gets, th’ tighter that market will get.
Take, as an excellent example o’ th’ impact sweet trade has on th’ industry, th’ leak o’ th’ 4E DnD pdfs jus’ days before the’r store release. Granted, WotC riled a lot o’ feathers by pullin’ aft all copies o’ the’r PDFs from online stores an’ movin’ t’ a strictly supscription based system, but t’ain’t that a logical response t’ th’ blarin’ evidence o’ th’ insecurity an’ inevitability o’ sweet trade o’ PDFs? If ever’ gamer in th’ world hadn`t had ready access t’ th’ 4E books days before they hit shelves, would that decision ben made differently? While we`ll nereknow, ’tis pretty easy t’ be seein’ th’ connection between th’ two events.
An’ what about media companies? Why be havin’ they been so slow dealin’ wi’ th’ issues raised by sweet trade? T’ get th’ answer on this one, we need t’ take a quick eyeball economics. Dasn’t worry. I`ll wake ye when we finish. T’ start, we need t’ understand a wee terms fer different kinds o’ goods.
Private Goods be goods that be limited in supply, an’ that supply be easy t’ regulate. Think o’ a car. When ye buy a car, that`s one less car fer sea dogs an’ land lubbers else. An’ if someone dasn’t want ye t’ be havin’ the’r car, they jus’ dasn’t sell ‘t t’ ye. Private goods be good treasure makers on accoun’ o’ o’ th’ easy regulation. If ye want t’ charge 20,000 dubloons fer yer new car model, ye can. If ye want t’ charge 40,000 dubloons ye can, an’ nay one can get one unless ye sell ‘t t’ them.
Club Goods be goods that be unlimited in supply, but that unlimited supply be easy t’ regulate. Think o’ a theater version o’ a movie. Th’ movie studio makes one movie once, then sells ‘t t’ ever’ movie theater ever. If ye want t’ be seein’ ‘t, ye be havin’ t’ pay t’ get in th’ door. Club goods be e’en BETTER treasure makers on accoun’ o’ o’ th’ unlimited supply an’ th’ easy regulation. Th’ cost o’ producin’ a movie per customer be only cents, but they can charge whatere they choose t’ an’ nay one can be seein’ ‘t unless they pay.
Public Goods be goods wi’ unlimited supply, an’ nay control o’er who uses that supply. Think o’ a dam t’ keep ou’ floodwater. Sea dogs an’ land lubbers in town gets protection from th’ floods, but thar`s nay realistic way t’ NAY protect Jones, e’en tho he hasn`t paid his taxes in th’ past ten voyages. Public goods be bilge watery treasure makers on accoun’ o’ nay only can ere take advantage o’ them that wants t’, but sea dogs an’ land lubbers can get as much as they want. In fact, most instances o’ items that be public goods be provided t’ th’ public via government programs on accoun’ o’ thar`s nay incentive fer a private institution t’ produce them.
Now, aft in th’ tide, media used t’ be somewhere between a private or club good, dependin’ on how they be distributed. Books, fer example, be generally considered a private good, while movies an’ music be closer t’ club goods. This be great fer producers o’ these media types, on accoun’ o’ club goods especially be excellent treasure makers. But what happens as media be reduced t’ electronic files an’ put on th’ Internet? ‘t becomes a public good. ‘t nay longer has any limit t’ supply (save bandwidth limits) an’ nay reasonable method o’ control. Producers ben fightin’ fer a long time t’ retain the’r control an’ keep media in th’ realm o’ club goods, an’ continue t’ do so, but gi’en th’ rate o’ sweet trade an’ th’ failure o’ any kind o’ DRM, that`s a loosin’ battle. So, ’tis inevitable that media will eventually be a public good.
Economics class be over. Ye can wake up now.
That`s easy t’ fix aye? All businesses be havin’ t’ do be move from the’r old business model that works on private an’ club goods, t’ a business model that works wi’ public goods,aye? Maybe, but so far, th’ only major functional system fer th’ distribution o’ public goods be usin’ taxation t’ buy public goods fer consumers an’ since that`s nay goin’ t’ work any time soon, new business models based around public goods be havin’ t’ be developed. An’ they be bein’ developed, but ’tis goin’ slowly. This be new poop deck fer th’ business world.
So what can we as consumers do t’ help? As consumers, we can identify companies that be usin’ new business models that work wi’ public goods an’ choose t’ support them models. Here`s a wee models that be havin’ cropped up recently that might be worth lookin’ at:
Open Gamin’ Licence Model: Let`s work on th’ assumption that th’ core books be th’ most often buccanneerd books in a line. They’s th’ most often bought, so that assumption makes sense. If that`s th’ case, an OGL model helps eliminate th’ biggest threat o’ sweet trade by makin’ th’ core books o’ a system free an’ sellin’ th’ expansions, which makes ‘t a good model t’ work wi’, if nay perfect.
Subscription Model: DnD Insider ere? By takin’ a page from MMOs, WotC be takin’ steps in th’ starboard direction t’ deal wi’ th’ new nature o’ media. O’ course, they’s pissin’ off as many swabbies by pullin’ PDFs as they’s excitin’ by movin’ in th’ starboard direction, so maybe very cautious optimism be th’ order o’ th’ tide here.
Free PDF Model: `Tis hard t’ buccanneer somethin’ free. A lot o’ companies be providin’ the’r products freely an’ then askin’ fer donations from them who use an’ appreciate the’r work, especially smaller companies or smaller products.
Ransom Model: Pioneered in 2004 by Greg Stolze an’ Daniel Solis fer the’r game Meatbot Massacre, th’ ransom model works like this: Ye toss ou’ a paypal account, a deadline, an amount, an’ an abstract. If ye reach th’ amount by th’ deadline, ye finish th’ product an’ release ‘t free fer sea dogs an’ land lubbers. Buyin’ into th’ ransom model be like buyin’ a lottery ticket ‘ere either nay one or all sea dogs an’ land lubbers wins. Thar ben several sucessful RPG ransoms, an’ some other products, like webcomics operate wi’ a variant o’ this model. `Tis definately one t’ watch fer th’ future.
Patronage Model: Wolfgang Baur be doin’ great things wi’ his patronage model. Ye basicly buy a share o’ a project an’ then get t’ guide ‘t durin’ design. I dasn’t be havin’ any direct experience wi’ this one, but I do be havin’ a matey who tried ‘t ou’ an’ canna say enough about how cool ’tis. While a patronage model may be more pricey than some alternatives, th’ quality o’ work ye get ou’ o’ one (at least th’ existin’ example) be phenominal.
If any o’ them sound like somethin’ ye`d like t’ be th’ model fer th’ future o’ th’ gamin’ industry, find yersef a company experimentin’ wi’ that model an’ help them define th’ future wi’ yer gamin’ budget. One thin’ sweet trade will nerechange be that th’ future o’ business be dictated by th’ flow o’ treasure, so ever’ piece o’ eight ye spend helps forge th’ business model o’ next high tide’. Spend wisely. Ya horn swogglin’ landlubber!