If you follow things like this, you’ll certainly have noticed a company called Greenheart Games who recently released Game Dev Tycoon. Assuming it was going to be pirated, they released a broken version on a torrent site. This game, as the devs will gleefully tell you, starts off normal but eventually starts draining all your game company’s profits because of piracy.
Greenheart Games thinks they’re pretty funny. When a pirate asks about their in-game game losing money, Greenheart exclaims “As a gamer I laughed out loud: the IRONY!!!“
Greenheart also think they’re the first to do this, but they’re not. The first time I saw a crippled game for pirates was on the Atari ST in the late 80s. Epyx released a port of Rogue, which would get insanely hard very quickly and when the player died, the tombstone read “Here lies: Softare Pirate, Scum of the Earth”. And other developers have successfully released their game for free on torrent sites.
What annoys me most about Greenheart’s effort is that they forgot to work out a way to make this benefit them. When other devs release a game on the torrent sites, they include a “Hey guys, here’s a legit DRM-free version of our game. If you like it, please buy it!” They realize piracy is inevitable, they give it away, and start a conversation with the pirates. We’re cool, we worked hard, please give us your money. This has been proven to work, as any regular reader of Techdirt will tell you, but Greenheart’s best effort was to release the game crippled, without any indication they’re the ones who released it, and then bury a page on their site to lead the pirates to legitimately purchase the game:
I know that some people just don’t even think about buying games. They will immediately search for a cracked version. For this reason, when we released the game, we also published a page which targets people who search for a cracked/illegal version. Unfortunately, due to my lack in search-engine-optimization skills, that page has had no impact yet, but I hope it will convince some to buy the game in the future.
So by their own admission they failed to get pirates to notice this. All they’ve really succeeded in doing is poisoning the well: countless pirates will download the game, fail at it because it’s rigged against them, and think the game is broken and/or sucks. They claim to be trolling, but I dunno, if I made a game I’d want people to like it, and me by extension. This is just a practical joke, and one day I’ll tell you how little I think of practical jokers.
On the other hand, it’s impressed a lot of the gaming press who aren’t really aware of history or other developers doing it better.
As for Game Dev Tycoon? It sure looks to me like a copy of Kairosoft’s mobile game Game Dev Story, don’t you think?
So yeah. I’m annoyed that everyone thinks Greenheart stuck it to the pirates but unless your worldview still includes the notion that all pirates are bad, all they’ve really done is show us how to do it poorly.