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Oblivious yet Hilarious GameDev Tycoon Stunt

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In a creative way to fight? piracy, the developers behind GameDev Tycoon purposefully leaked a cracked version of their game with a joke inside- at some point in the game, your virtual game company will get reports of mass piracy and eventually you will lose since you can't make any money off the game.

Despite what I think, this is still a pretty hilarious troll move. I still think the Invulnerable Pink Scorpion was a better one, though, because it had no other message than the developers just wanted to fuck with you.

However! This is double ironic.. for me because this is every bit the simulated virtual fantasy game companies want you to believe- that if everyone pirates games THE INDUSTRY WILL DIE and so forth. Most people will quickly realize that the game industry has been doing fine even though piracy has been on the rise for the past decade. As someone who writes software and video games, I take the gray area approach. I've actually been buying all my games legally, usually not bothering to pirate-for-demo and holding off on a risky game purchase altogether. However, I also embrace piracy in an odd way- it has nothing to do with products being illegally copied, it's more of the rebellion in exercising your ability to have a General Purpose Computer. Even if others will use such a General Purpose Computer to your detriment.

The original article website was down, but the author was kind enough to post his arguments on Slashdot itself for me to respond to:

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Here's the world's worst barely formatted copy-paste job for those of you who can't access the site because it got slashdotted (and cloudflare dropped the ball)

When we released our very first game, Game Dev Tycoon (for Mac, Windows and Linux) yesterday, we did something unusual and as far as I know unique. 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.

A minute after we uploaded it, my torrent client looked like this:


That's what they did, and

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Soon my upload speed was maxed out (and as of the time of writing still is) and my friends and I had connections from all over the world and for all three platforms! How does piracy feel?


I wouldn't have ever heard of you or your game if it weren't for piracy.

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The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didnít want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game 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 donít buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.

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.


Well it sounds like our game was so terrible people didn't think it was worth money, Herp! Derp!

I kid

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Some of the responses I found online (identities obscured to protect the guilty):

Is there some way to avoid that? I mean can I research DRM or something

And another user:

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

As a gamer I laughed out loud: the IRONY!!!


This part is interesting. My differences in philosophy with the developer aside, these player responses are kind of like the Prison Experiment- where in the position of the game company, they would react by wanting to research DRM even though the player was a pirate themselves.

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However, as the developer, who spent over a year creating this game and hasnít drawn a salary yet, I wanted to cry. Surely, for most of these players, the 8 dollars wouldnít hurt them but it makes a huge difference to our future! Trying to appeal to pirates


I read this as "our game is so shitty, people can't even be bothered to pay 8 bucks for it!". I've seen these same people legally purchase games like Terraria for 7~10 bucks on Steam who are otherwise pretty big on pirating things. Granted my observations are limited to 30~50 samples from the North American Furries with Steam Accounts demographic, but still.

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I know that some people just donít 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.


Who is 'some people'? It's sad when your cited sources are somehow less credible than the "handful of North American Furries with Steam Accounts" I pulled out of my ass. I know requiring resources when casually writing on the Internet is silly, but I'd think a game development company might actually do some demographic research on the people they're trying to sell to and be able to recall some solid figures for this 'some people'. Survey methodology can be very telling.

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if years down the track you wonder why there are no games like these anymore and all you get to play is pay-to-play and social games designed to suck money out of your pockets then the reason will stare back at you in the mirror.


It's "free-to-play with freemium", and no, piracy is not the reason. You said it yourself, these models suck the money out of the players' pockets. Because they can get away with it, these models would still be prevalent even if piracy had never existed because of the whole pocket sucking thing. It's like those quarter-hungry machines from the 90s. Bet you can't just spend one quarter!

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I do think itís important to try to communicate what piracy means to game developers to our consumers. I also tried to appeal to a particular forum a day earlier after someone who I gave early-access to the Store seemed to have passed on the copy to others:

Weíre just a start-up and really need your support. The game is only 7.99USD, DRM free


I'll have to give you props for not having DRM in your game, but you shouldn't beg your players to buy your product.

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Clearly, my post hadnít worked too well since on the same forum someone posted the earlier screenshot (ďWhy are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!) just a bit after I made my appeal and this was followed by many others complaining about piracy.

I still hope that it made a difference to someone.


I'm here talking about it, you can at least have that consolation.

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Over 93.6% 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. Itís absolutely anonymous and you are covered by our privacy policy. Anyway, the cracked version has a separate ID so I can separate the data. Iím 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.
To the players who played the cracked version!


Did you ever stop to think that's because you basically advertised your game on whatever torrent site? This cracked version can spread like wildfire thanks to BitTorrent and this was probably the first thing about the game they see is the game itself.

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Iím 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 canít make a legal purchase because of payment-issues or who genuinely cannot afford the game. I donít have a quarrel with you. To the rest who could afford the game consider this:


How does the global game distribution being in infancy make this "stealing" any more or less wrong in your eyes? Shouldn't it be just as wrong then, now, and forever? And if you do equate it to stealing, how does it make it right if the pirate is young? If some teenager robs 8 bucks worth of snacks from a convenience store, it's still stealing. "Oh it's OK because you're young and can't afford stuff" is a terrible lesson for a parent to teach.

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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!
Do you hate the trend towards social or pay-to-play free games? Buy games from independent developers! (start with ours :) )
Do you hate the recent trends in the industry? Buy DRM free games.


OK. *goes out and buys Surgeon Simulator 2013 instead for 10 bucks and has mindless, stupid fun doing heart transplant surgery with a clock radio*

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We are not wealthy and itís unlikely that we will be any time soon, so stop pretending like we donít 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.


ReDigit didn't have to plead with me, in fact I've never actually talked to the guy. I got Terraria and me and some friends all had fun together. He's the one holding a little of my cash.

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(advertisement of game)


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Do we need DRM?
Whether or not to use DRM isnít 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 thatís why so many studios focus on these types of games and itís probably a driving force to eradicate traditional single player games.


How come there's still tons of single player games I am able to purchase and that make their developers enough cash for them to make sequels and other games? You can't do a simple Steam search? I can play these games offline on the train/bus on my laptop just fine.

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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.

Would I do this again?

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.

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. To our genuine customers


Did you ever consider that your game just isn't that good? This seems like the only possibility you aren't accepting.

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Thank you for your support. Your purchase is more important to us than you might think. We hope to be able to bring you more games in the future. Also, please update to the latest version of the game by using the download link from your purchase email. Before writing this blog post Iíve fixed most of the known issues :)

Patrick Klug
- Greenheart Games


And good luck to your gambit.

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