It has come to my attention, in a rather unsettling way, that content producers are more and more often turning to an adversarial relationship with their fans. I have seen this over the last year in the games industry as more and more game companies are turning to always on DRM (Ubisoft, Blizzard) or are turning to forcing fans to pay extra for online play if they get the game second hand (EA, THQ among others). This type of adversarial behavior is not even confined to games. It happens in film, music and television. Just recently, I had an encounter with SyFy over the policy of punishing fans of their shows who choose to watch online.
In everyone of these cases, the content producers are somehow “surprised” that their decisions are met with backlash from their fans. I don’t really understand why anyone can be surprised by that reaction. When you treat someone well for many years and then, for seemingly no reason, decide to slap them across their face, it should be no surprise that your fans will react poorly.
People do not like being treated like trash or scum. Unfortunately, those people in the decision making process have removed themselves from the presence of their fans and have forgotten just what it was those fans loved about those games or movies or shows etc.
Now, this is not to say that all content producers are like this. Many people get that their fans want to be treated like fans and not the enemy. For example, we have Wolfire Games who host the regular Humble Indie Bundle. They have learned that their fans like DRM free games that play on Linux, Mac OS and Windows. They have also learned that fans like to pay what they think games are worth and to also donate to good causes.
We also have the great guys behind Gog.com, CD Projekt. These guys have learned that their fans love to play DRM free games. They have also learned that fans of older games want to play those games on newer hardware without any hassles. These guys have taken great pains to provide a service that their fans love and have brought that level of service to their new games by stripping DRM from The Witcher 2 even for the retail box copy.
Yet, despite all these successful endeavors to provide fans what they want and to treat fans as fans, we still have large companies who have placed themselves so far removed from their fans and have decided they are more an enemy that a friend. Why? What is there to gain from this?
Sure there is an unusually large group of people who don’t seem to care and spend the money to be treated like a criminal. However, the more content producers treat their fans like the enemy, the more those fans will realize just how short their end of the stick is and lash out. They will follow in the path of those who have already started to lash out. They will resort to piracy to get games that are DRM free. They will seek games from companies that provide those types of games. They will stop buying games at all.
Given all these potential scenarios, do game companies or other media companies really want to risk losing those fans and eventually giving way to others? I know I don’t want to end up like that and will fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening. Will you?