chris hennebery yummy interactiveYummy Interactive’s VP Software Distribution, Christopher Hennebery wants to make DRM as painless as possible in order to stop erecting unnecessary barriers to online conversion.

The company’s GameShield licensing protection product distributes games to portals and publisher sites and hopes to sell them to players who demo free trial versions. A lot stands between that trial and a conversion, much of it is something Henneberry dubs “bad DRM” and “false positives.”

False what?

He provides the examples of buying a CD that plays just fine at home, but won’t play in your car because DRM software “thinks” the digital assets have been pirated. “Sharing isn’t a bad thing,” he says, “so instead of trying to erect barriers to people who are sharing, use sharing to promote the product.”

The entire process of buying online games is too riddled with what Hennebery terms “a tremendous amount of friction, and that’s the way it’s been for 15 years. You need to get your credit card, find a link, enter a number, and go to a site with an entirely different interface. We needed a solution with e-commerce built in.”

To solve the problem, Yummy Interactive partnered with e-commerce platform Plimus. “We ended up embedding their Buy Anywhere API into GameShield,” says Hennebery.  “When someone downloads or demos, when they hit ‘buy now,’ they’re not taken to another site. ‘Buy now’ is an interaction screen. They’re still in the game. We’re maintaining this experience, the look and the feel, even when they actually hit ‘purchase.’ A five-step process is turned into a one-step process. If they like the game, we want to simplify the buying process.”

“We’ve seen a huge decrease in abandonment and are increasing trials from conversions to purchase. We’ve seen one of our clients base a 19% increase in conversions from trial to purchase. I thought 12 percent would be the median. We’ve also reduced support costs by almost 23%. When they have to get that serial number via e-mail you’d be amazed at how many people don’t do it correctly and have to call in to get it over the phone. We launch this about two months ago, so we don’t have statistically stable numbers but it’s a huge change with how people interact and the conversion rates for those products. This is what we wanted to achieve.”

How difficult was this to implement?

“All this after only a couple weeks of development. Our competitors are still doing it the old way. Digital River, a competitor, has the ability to do this. But once it’s figured out DRM, all R&D just stops. Our competitors in the DRM field only focus on prevention of loss, not optimizing the experience for customers who are paying. When 100% goes into loss prevention, which creates no incremental value for publishers, it’s stagnant thinking. Everything’s pushing server side. Think of it from a policing standpoint. It’s as if you’re 100 percent focused on trying to catch criminals rather than the prevention of criminal activity.

“There are three types of customer: those who always buy, those who will never, ever buy but often steal, and those who will sometimes buy, but only if it’s not too hard.

“I met with BitTorrent and said look, we’re the first DRM company that’s going to partner with you and to have the ability to create upsells. Our system is intelligent enough to know when something’s being virally distributed. We now want our publishers to actually seed torrents before a new product is launched.

“If the game’s good, if it’s fun, if it can stand on its own merits there’s a huge chunk of the pie that will pay for that. There are incremental sales you’d have never received off a torrent site in the past.

“If the consumer wants to buy the product, remove the friction.

About half the publishers get it right away. Others don’t see any value in it, all they want to do is prevent loss. They look at the churn reports from the torrent sites and get ulcers. Loss prevention should be a little bit of it, but it shouldn’t be our interaction with everybody.”