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Fight fire with fire, a new anti-pirating method

An indie game developer Greenheart Games have released a new game called Game Dev Tycoon, putting a clever spin on tycoon games of the past. The game itself pins you in a game development studio in the 80’s and challenges you to make new and awesome games building your company into a video game empire and quickly into fruition through the 90’s and 00’s, just like some of the biggest developers that occupy and rule the market today.

There’s a catch though.

Greenheart Games added a little bonus something to their newly released game for people who felt it prudent to avoid the astronomically high $7.99 purchase price by using a torrent to get the game. This bonus yielded some surprising and quite frankly shocking results for the indie developer.

The game was simultaneously released by Greenheart on their website store and on a popular torrent site, just to see what happened. The team, however, added something special to those who opted to pirate a copy instead of buy the game – they made those who pirated the game experience a little in game message after about 5-7 hours worth of gameplay building their empire.

“Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally.
If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

Seems harmless right? ‘Hey, we’re having troubles with pirates and are losing money on our game.’ This caused an uproar on their forums for the game from frustrated gamers.

The irony that followed on the message board was more incredible than I can possibly describe.

Why are their so many people that pirate? It ruins me!

Why the irony? Well, again, only those who pirated the game would receive the in game message that their company was slowly dying from piracy, so in a sadistic way, the company stuck it to those who chose to illegally obtain the game, while at the same time making a statement to gamers everywhere.

As of today, over 93% of copies were pirated.

The message? Piracy hurts people, companies, games, and ultimately by twisted fate, gamers. of the over 3,300 copies being played shortly after it release, Game Dev Tycoon had been pirated over 3,100 times. Less than 300 people had purchased it. At $7.99 per, that’s nearly $25,000 in missed revenue.

However staggering the stats and number are, a clear message from Greenheart Games assures fans the company isn’t upset. The following is from a blog post on their website.

To the players who played the cracked version!

I’m not mad at you. When I was younger, downloading illegal copies was practically normal but this was mostly because global game distribution was in its infancy. To be fair, there are still individuals who either can’t make a legal purchase because of payment-issues or who genuinely cannot afford the game. I don’t have a quarrel with you. To the rest who could afford the game consider this:

  1. Would you like to see a bigger/better sequel of Game Dev Tycoon in the future? Buy the game!Creating this game was already expensive and this was just a small game. If we ever want to make a bigger/better version we need a lot of support!
  2. Do you hate the trend towards social or pay-to-play free games? Buy games from independent developers! (start with ours :) )
  3. Do you hate the recent trends in the industryBuy DRM free games.

We are not wealthy and it’s unlikely that we will be any time soon, so stop pretending like we don’t need your 8 dollars! We are just two guys working our butts off, trying to start our own game studio to create games which are fun to play.

The game is DRM free, you can use it on up to three of your computers for your own use, you get copies for Mac, Windows and Linux, you can continue your game before piracy wrecked your company and we even aim to provide you with a free Steam key once the game is on Steam. All for a mere 8 bucks.

The actions of this company definitely out some common misconceptions to bed about pirating, at least in the small company scale.

  1. “Not everyone does it, so my one download won’t lose them anything”
  2. “They are super rich, screw ’em, they don’t need my money”
  3. “It’s cool, it won’t effect anything”

As someone who has pirated in the past, yes it’s a lucrative venture, especially for a poor college student. However, you dropped $60 on the 1,354,765,234th COD or Madden installment, why not $7.99 to support growing developers with a cool little game? We all complain that there’s too few original games with high budgets, super developers like EA make the same game year in and year out, and are now adding DRM to them in a fashion that destroys a good game’s reputation, that being said, it’s time gamers own up to the real issue: we are the problem, not companies trying to stop pirating.

If we stopped pirating, there wouldn’t be laughable fails on release day because of DRM complications, presumably in the small scale games costs would stay low because there was no need to balance price to pirated versions, and companies wouldn’t have to investigate the idea of DRM at the console level to stop pirating. Besides, most games have free demos, including Greenheart Games new one. Try it, if you like it, buy it. If not, don’t f***ing steal it. We are ruining the future of game quality and innovation, and with massive layoffs in the industry’s development levels, it’s time to own up and knock it off.

By the way (although their site is down now, presumably due to high traffic from the story) if you want to check the game out, please head here.