Pirates hate piracy (when it happens to them)

Piracy has long been a frustrating problem for software makers, musicians and movie and TV studios. The introduction of BitTorrent, while not designed to facilitate this theft, brought the problem to the forefront. Now one tiny game studio takes matters into its own hands with hilarious results.

Greenheart released Game Dev Tycoon simulation game, but the company also did something unique — seeding a cracked version of that game on a Torrent site. The object of the play is to design games and build up your own successful studio.

The cracked version functions a bit differently though — the more successful your game is, the more pirated it becomes and your company eventually goes bankrupt. In fact, the simulation even includes comments from employees such as “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”.

The results of this experiment are entertaining — in no time those same people who had installed the cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon began posting comments. “Why are there so many people who pirate? It ruins me” one person laments. Another pirate offers his compatriots that he would research in-game DRM to try and prevent this from happening. The irony is amazing.

Greenheart also tracks legitimate and cracked downloads, and the numbers are stunning — 214 genuine users and 3,104 customers running the cracked version on day one of release.

“Over 93.6 percent of players stole the game. We know this because our game contains some code to send anonymous-usage data to our server. Nothing unusual or harmful. Heaps of games/apps do this and we use it to better understand how the game is played. It’s absolutely anonymous and you are covered by our privacy policy. Anyway, the cracked version has a separate ID so I can separate the data. I’m sure some of the players have firewalls and some will play offline therefore the actual number of players for the cracked version is likely much higher”, Greenheart says.

The developer ends his statement with this: “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”. He also points out that those who can afford to should buy the game if they wish to see a sequel in the future, support independent developers and want to buck the trend towards DRM.

This is certainly an interesting and telling experiment. The comments from pirates who do not take kindly to being pirated are both amusing and sad. Perhaps in some small way a few of them actually learned a lesson here.

Photo Credit: StacieStauffSmith Photos/Shutterstock

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