Game Developer Gives Pirates a Taste of Their Own Medicine

Game Dev

By Scott Bowers

Piracy is an issue that software developers big and small have to contend with. Some companies push tyrannical copy protection that can frustrate legitimate gamers, while others ship with no protection at all. Indie startup studio Greenheart Games took an unconventional approach to fighting off pirates with its maiden game, Game Dev Tycoon.

The developer used pirate-favorite BitTorrent to seed its own “cracked” version of the game to the world, albeit with a slight modification in code. This tweaked version initially operates normally, but after a few hours of play you begin getting reports of your in-game project losing money because… it’s being pirated. The effect is to illustrate the real effect piracy has on a developer.

Game Dev

Greenheart’s Patrick Klug discussed the experiment in a blog post, where he said that within minutes of posting the fake release his upload speed was maxed out. The version made up over 93 percent of all Game Dev Tycoon downloads.

“Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy,” Klug said. “But instead we didn’t 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.”

This isn’t the first time a developer has used modified in-game code in an attempt to deter piracy. Previous games have added invulnerable enemies, overlayed continuous vuvuzela blasts and even replaced bullets with chickens — all with the goal of spoiling a dishonest player’s experience.

Still, the irony of the Greenheart Games solution should be respected. Hopefully it not only deters people from illegal downloads, but also opens some of those pirate eyes to get a better understanding of how frustrating it is to not be rewarded for your work.

Scott Bowers is an avid gamer, blogger and Senior Service Desk Technician at Dice.

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