Freemium and Subscription Models Making Life Harder for Pirates

(or, Fuck You Adobe)

Just as with music there is a trend in the gaming industry to offer subscription models to gamers, which has had an impact on gaming piracy. Game purveyors are offering perks for players who opt in to paid subscriptions, such as free games and online multiplayer, while punishing pirates by preventing them from getting updates and playing online.

Playstation Plus is Sony’s offering to gamers. Pay a monthly subscription and get free and discounted games, with new ones on offer every month – yours to keep as long as you are a subscriber. Microsoft’s Xbox Gold offers two free games per month. Both services include multiplayer online gaming, and Xbox Gold even includes a feature that matches you up with suitable opponents based on your skills. By tying users into an ecosystem that includes software updates, cloud storage, and multiplayer gaming, both Sony and Microsoft have done a pretty good job at preventing piracy.

Piracy of PC games is more rampant, but software distributers Steam have had massive success offering games and, since October 2012, software. Steam offers users a huge library of games to purchase and play, including older titles (think Age of Empires) for just a few bucks. For more flexibility, Steam has partnered with Humble Bundle, a service that allows you to purchase a bundle of games on a pay-what-you-like basis. Humble Bundle also supports charities, so you can be magnanimous while playing Saints Row 2.

With its non-intrusive social components, Steam has garnered a great community of PC gamers whose members go nuts over its legendary sales. Steam takes the hassle out of compatibility issues, patches and updates, making it (in many cases) a more attractive option than piracy. It also fosters multiplayer gaming through its player matchmaking service and in-game chat.

As for software, it’s a blessing these days that we rarely have to rely on premium software. There’s a shitload of great, free software out there. The only two I ever hear significant whingeing about are Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite (or hell, even just Photoshop). Microsoft Office prices are less obscene than they were in the early naughts – especially if you flash some student ID – but it’s still cheaper to fly to the US, buy Adobe Creative Suite there, and fly home than it is to buy it in New Zealand. Fuck you, Adobe.

Pirating Adobe software is already a pain in the arse. The cracks are always dodgy and inevitably at least one of the apps doesn’t work properly. A friend of mine has to set his computer’s clock back to 2009 to make his pirated version of Creative Suite work. It’s enough to make you want to fork out some cash … until you remember that Creative Suite is pretty fucking prohibitively expensive. Adobe will soon make piracy even harder by moving to a subscription-only model called Adobe Creative Cloud. Users will pay monthly for access to up-to-date Creative Suite apps, with various plans available for students, businesses and individuals.

It’s a nice idea, I suppose. Rather than a huge initial cost, you can pay monthly for an always-up-to-date suite of apps. Currently you can subscribe to Creative Cloud for about $17 per month if you can prove that you’re a student, and the full plan for individuals is just under $60 per month. That’s still a huge investment, and probably not one that the casual user wants to make.

Overall, though, paid software is on the decline, with newer developers offering customers a “Freemium” model. Take a look at the software you use regularly – in many cases the software itself is free but comes with extra features that can be unlocked after handing over some cash (think Skype, Evernote etc.).

Only specialist software such as powerful image and audio editing or office tools are worth paying for or pirating these days. As developers create more and more software and implement freemium models, pay-what-you-want options, or subscription options, piracy will become less “necessary” and less desirable. Until then, and unless you really need Microsoft Office or Photoshop, there are many free, legal software options that won’t give you the exact same experience but will probably do the trick.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2013.
Posted 2:29pm Sunday 11th August 2013 by Raquel Moss.