Pay Up, or the Monster Game Gets Whacked
By Geoff Keighley

(Business 2.0) – Is there a profitable way to publish entertainment on the piracy-prone Internet? Greg Stolze found a solution in an unlikely place: the kidnapping trade. Last year Stolze wanted to publish his tactical game Meatbot Massacre on the Web as a PDF. The problem? "I wasn't about to rely on people's good intentions to pay me," he says.

Hence, a new business model, wherein Stolze posted a $600 "ransom" for the game on the Web. If fans collectively contributed the full sum via PayPal within a year, the game would be published. If not, the money would be donated to charity and the Meatbots would never see the light of day. After just four months and 46 donations, the game was liberated.

But could a band like U2 ransom an album and ask fans to donate millions? Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, doubts that the model would scale. "The self-interested thing to do is to wait for others to contribute and take the goods for free," he says. That fact isn't lost on Stolze: While Meatbot has been downloaded nearly 1,500 times since it was released in April, just nine more gamers have donated. (The rest, presumably, rushed out to waste their money on Revenge of the Sith.) But the freeloaders are also potential customers for Stolze's next game, which has a ransom of $750. Even kidnappers deserve a raise. -- GEOFF KEIGHLEY