Pirates Feel the Effects of Piracy in Game Dev Tycoon

Developer Greenheart Games has released a "cracked version" of its $8 PC and Mac title Game Dev Tycoon on torrents that's specifically for pirates. The cracked version of the game causes game development studios in the sim go bankrupt due to rampant in-game piracy. Greenheart claims that the pirated version of the game made up 93 percent of its player base at launch, and caused an outburst from pirates complaining about their in-game titles failing through (ironically) piracy. Greenheart said that while it could have released a more straightforward anti-piracy message within its game, it didn't want to pass up on a "unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of [game pirates] and showing them what piracy can do to game developers."

"When we released our very first game, Game Dev Tycoon yesterday, we did something unusual and as far as I know unique," the developer wrote on its blog. "We released a cracked version of the game ourselves, minutes after opening our Store."

"I uploaded the torrent to the number one torrent sharing site, gave it a description imitating the scene and asked a few friends to help seed it."

The cracked version is nearly identical to the full game, says the developer – except for one small little detail:

"Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt," Greenheart wrote.

Greenheart felt a touch of irony as pirates complained about fake piracy in a game. It would have been amusing if it wasn't the company developing the game:

"As a gamer I laughed out loud: the IRONY!!! 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 dollars wouldn't hurt them but it makes a huge difference to our future!"

In the end Greenheart Games blames pirates for any DRM scheme causing real customers hassles:

"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."

Editor's note: Greenheart Games' website and blog seem to be offline. It seems that all the attention today has caused the site to take a dirt nap. Source: CVG



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  1. 0
    DorthLous says:

    Same as everyone else on this one. As an ex-pirate who went out of his way to buy the games he pirated and who now owns more than a 1000 titles on PC alone and also develop games, this just leaves a bad taste in the mouth. World of Goo, Miami Hotline, or the guys behind The Witcher, I can get behind. They are helping us convert people from one side to the others. But I feel this will just insult people who did pirate it (using their own torrent, mind you, and since torrenting *is* legal, they literally gave them a license to play the *bad* version) and push them back in their positions. Just a very bad exercise, could have been done so much better.

  2. 0
    Conster says:

    Actually, they didn't really "turn their back" either, since they deliberately put a pirated version out there. A more fitting analogy would be undercover cops deliberately selling illegal drugs which they put some other ingredients in so you'll have a really bad trip.

  3. 0
    Dusk108 says:

    Imagine a cookie company giving away free cookies that taste like crap, then calling those who ate the free cookies thieves.

    Bad analogy, a better one would be; they made a bad batch, then when delivering to the store, they deliberately turned their backs while thieves stole the bad batch. Your analogy only works if they giving away a demo or free version on their own website or other retail outlet, instead they put a false copy up on a common pirating site.

    Still it's a form of DRM I can support, it annoys pirates not customers.

    edit damnit missed the reply button somehow.

  4. 0
    Conster says:

    I decided to read the actual blog post, and while I understand his point, it gives off a bit of a high-horse vibe. I can't help but feel they overshot the point they were trying to make by making the effects of pirating too severe, especially since a lot of pirates wouldn't have bought the game if they hadn't been able to pirate it. While the blogpost does say the following:

    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.

    I feel the "93.6% of our playerbase were pirates!" bit grossly neglects the wouldn't-play-your-game-otherwise part. Also, it's entirely possible that ratio would've been lower (even at 80%, that's a lot of extra sales) if they hadn't put a pirated version out there right at the start, what with the whole "people will try to pirate first" remark.

    The "IRONY!!!" (that's 2 more exclamation marks than you should ever need, by the way) part is especially overdramatic, since the actual blog bolded the text, and both bolded the "wanted to cry" part and made it bigger. As a gamer, putting only the bits of realism that make things harder in a game leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I wouldn't have minded them having piracy in the actual game, if they'd also offered a bunch of possible solutions in it. Heck, if they'd played their cards right, maybe they could've sold this "hard mode".


    As for them blaming pirates for DRM: I really don't think that's the case. The actual bit is this:

    Do we need DRM?
    Whether or not to use DRM isn’t clear at all to a new start-up. The main argument against it is that all it does is to inconvenience genuine customers. Fact is that any game can be cracked, so all you do is spend time on something that in the end just annoys your real customers while only slightly delaying the inevitable. The only way to protect yourself is to create an online game. I guess that’s why so many studios focus on these types of games and it’s probably a driving force to eradicate traditional single player games.


    Personally, I love single players games and hope to be able to continue down this path and if more people would buy our game, we might even be able to.

    Since their game is DRM free, I think it's clear they're saying DRM is bad. What the post does do is blame pirates for singleplayer dying out, and that just pissed me off.


    As a former pirate who all but stopped pirating once I became able to afford buying games, I can tell you this: as noble as their goal may have been (confront pirates with the fact that their actions have consequences for others, something I wouldn't have a problem with due to having seen the "if you pay for a game that has shitty DRM, you deserve it when hackers make it so you can't play" attitude some people have), their approach and attitude about the whole thing pissed me off enough that I will not play their game, nor any other game they ever make, unless they offer a sincere apology.

  5. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    I really like the way they approached this issue. However, I do have one critique. They missed a massive opportunity to convert those pirates into paying customers. 

    When you look back at other examples, such as Hotline Miami, they took the time to be genuine with the pirate community and thus garnered a lot of success. However, these guys pretty much just pranked the whole pirate community with as far as I could tell, no redeeming factor. There were no calls to support the developer. No "You are playing the pirate version, to upgrade go to this site and purchase" or anything like that. A huge missed opportunity.

    The way they tackled this was deceptive and offensive in some ways. It was deceptive because the torrent was posted under false pretenses, all developer experimentation and research aside. It was offensive because he continues to call those who downloaded the version he uploaded pirates and thieves. Imagine a cookie company giving away free cookies that taste like crap, then calling those who ate the free cookies thieves.

    Overall, I think these guys are looking at this in the right direction, their aim is just off a bit.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

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