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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Game Dev Tycoon out-pirates the pirates

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Greenheart Games)

When Greenheart Games released game dev sim Game Dev Tycoon, it simultaneously released its very own pirated version — with an extra feature to expose the pirates.

Greenheart Games recently released a title called Game Dev Tycoon for Windows, Mac and Linux, a sim that sees the player working through the creation of a video-game.

At the same time as the official game's release, though, the developer decided to get the jump on its pirates. It released a cracked copy of the game to "the number one torrent-sharing site" itself — a copy of the game with a special Easter egg just for the illegal downloaders.

As players make their way through the game, they are tasked with thinking around common issues that come up during the games development process. An additional one was added for the "illegal" copy of the game: after a few hours of gameplay, working hard to try and make their development studio successful, pirates received the following message:

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.

After this, their money would slowly bleed out, any new games created would have a high chance of being pirates, and eventually, the studio would go bankrupt. Strangely, though, the irony seemed a little lost on some of the pirates.

"Guys, I reached some point where if I make a decent game with a score 9-10, it gets pirated and I can't make any profit ... is there some way to avoid that? ... There's no point inventing a new engine because the revolutionary game made out of it will get pirated and I will not be able to cover my expenses," wrote one.

Another said: "Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me! ... not fair."

"As a gamer, I laughed out loud: the irony!" wrote Greenheart Games' Patrick Klug. "However, as the developer who spent over a year creating this game and hasn't drawn a salary yet, I wanted to cry. Surely, for most of these players, the $8 wouldn't hurt them, but it makes a huge difference to our future!"

And well might he despair. Just one day after release, 93.6 per cent of the game's downloads had come from pirates: 3104 pirated downloads compared to just 214 sales, based on information collected via an in-game code that sends anonymous usage data to Greenheart Games.

(Credit: Greenheart Games)

And by now, the proper game without the added piracy problem will have made its way to the torrent websites, since Greenheart Games chose to release the game DRM-free so as not to inconvenience customers.

Of course, developers have been using similar techniques to discourage pirates for decades. For example, Eidos nerfed Batman for illegal copies of Arkham Asylum in 2009. EA's Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 in 2000 would spontaneously blow up all your assets. And then there was EarthBound. You don't even want to know about EarthBound. However, Greenheart Games had a fantastic opportunity to slyly let pirates feel the effects of their own actions.

"This was a unique opportunity. You need a game development simulation game to make this particular joke work. The more general idea/experiment to release a cracked version which inconveniences and counts pirates can probably work for any game and might work in the long run," Klug wrote. "If pirates are put through more trouble than genuine customers, maybe more will buy the real game. Sadly, for AAA games, it is currently the other way. Customers get the trouble with always-on requirements and intrusive DRM, while pirates can just download and enjoy. A twisted world."


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GabrielM1 posted a comment   

I still don't get why game developers don't take a page from TV.

Give your product away and reap the rewards from advertising. Example is The Sims could easily have a name brand in all there bought items and they could change with mandatory updates.

In GTA it would be easy to have billboards of different products in it and they can change every time you pass them buy.

Racing games have a loads of advertising in them from brand of cars to the accessories you can buy


nbenware posted a comment   

Maybe they shouldn't release their first game for $8, and as an unknown gaming company as well.

Besides the reason why so many people pirated the game is because they said "Please don't pirate this game" Which well... gave people ideas to do so.

And third, this game is a total rip off of "Kairosoft's Game Dev Story from 2009"

So yea, now you know why. :)


NobleL posted a comment   

The common problem is that content creators of games, music and films, look at the number of illegal downloads and think that in an ideal world, they would get the money from all those illegal downloads, which is simply not the case. Most people would go without, rather than spend the money.

In the 70's most people would record songs off the chart show, rather than go out and buy records. How many people grab a discarded newspaper on their commute to or from work, and never actually buy a paper themselves?

With this game, I would think that after the one day, they would be 3000 less users, if it was not for the cracked version, not that 3100 more people would have paid for the full version. That is just wishful thinking by the developer.


AllanA1 posted a comment   

The game is pretty cheap 7,99USD, i am downloading it now! (Legally) :D


BobbyK posted a comment   

All developers should take this sort of lead. Company's need to stop assuming that the piracy problem is just going to go away and take some initiative on their own. A fix as simple as this is a win win for a company. They provide pirate hungry fans with a copy, and reel them in for an actual sale because the game quickly gets too hard, and they provide that nice authentic copy to the consumers who have been waiting so anxiously to buy it. Seems like a pretty good business model! It's almost like in-game purchases to an extent... it's free to play even though it's not supposed to be, but you're going to lose because you didn't actually buy it... so buy it and prove your self worth by winning in the actual game!


trueblue711 posted a reply   

Did you even read the article? Although a joke like this was clever and got the message across, it has yet to result in anything good for the developer.


Dunners posted a comment   

Absolutely Brilliant.
What a terrific idea.

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