Right now, everyone's attention is focused mainly on music piracy. That's because people have figured out how to get music for free (or download it easily for a small price) for a long time. This is due to the fact that the average size of a song is only a few MBs, and an album is generally less than 100MB. Downloads are quick, and "piracy" so easy that it has become commonplace. The reason that downloading isn't as widespread for movies and television shows is because the files are so much bigger, and often greater knowledge of which media player to use is needed. Pretty much every audio track you are likely to download will play on your mp3 player, as well as on your computer somehow. It seems that few video files will play on a basic install of Quicktime or Windows Media Player, and that often additional plugins are needed (and yes, I'm sure that if you are reading this blog you know how to download and play movies easily on your computer - you aren't the people I'm talking about).
However, I think that this will rapidly change. People will quickly realize how much media they can get via the computers and lawsuits like those initiated against file sharers by the major music labels might be directed at those sharing movies and television shows.
And that is why it is so refreshing to see the stance that some indie game developers are taking. Like the independent musicians before them that have managed to be successful while giving away their music for free, these developers can do the same.
"We're all here because we love making games first and foremost," said independent games developer Steve Swink, echoing similar statements from independent musicians that just want people to hear their music.
The quote is from an article on Techradar called Is Free Really The Future of Gaming? that looks at these issues from both the perspective of the smaller, independent developers like Wink as well as larger studios like Sony and EA.
The article also raises the question about whether or not advertising is really the solution to creating free medium. This applies to media besides games, and I'm inclined to think that advertising isn't really the solution.
Rather, I think that companies will work more in tandem with game developers. The obvious example is of a car company working with a game company to create the virtual experience of driving the car. To move beyond this will be more difficult, but nobody said that business is easy. Similarly, I've been seeing more and more examples of corporations teaming up with musicians to essentially sponsor a song or album, and offer downloads of it for free as a way of promoting their product.
Games have also been using the add-on content model, in which the initial game experience is free but you can buy upgrades or customization for a price. With this model, they once again have something in common with musicians that have discovered they can give their basic music away for free and charge for scarcer goods like vinyl LPs or t-shirts. The game developers will just have to create demand for in-game goods in a similar way.