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Gameception: GAME DEV TYCOON Developer Creates Unique Anti-Piracy Measure

Greenheart Games pulled a fast ones on game pirates this week with their new release Game Dev Tycoon. I wasn’t immediately familiar with the game so I investigated and found that it’s a game about making a game. But what if you want to make a game that’s about making a game in a game about making games? Quantum implosion and then we all get sucked into the inevitable space-time tunnel.

When Greenheart Games released their game about games in which you make games, they also cleverly released an intentional cracked version onto torrent sites. As the game progresses, ans your product goes live, you start to notice that the game’s success is starting to fail due to, you guessed it, piracy.

game dev tycoon
“Kill their children and burn the village. Make the parents watch.” – EA’s response

This is nothing new, many developers just get it out of the way. Back in 2009, Redlynx intentionally leaked Trials 2 onto torrent sites to just get it out of the way, and in 2011 tinybuild released a cracked No Time to Explain with everyone wearing tiny pirate hats. Tommy Refrenes of Team Meat wrote an extensive treatise on the subject. Many indie developers are deftly avoiding the large DRM schemes that tend to cause more problems than they solve, resigned to the idea the internet is a machine for stealing things, pornography, and narcissistic status updates. It’s Web 3.0 or whatever we’re calling it now.

The studio also went onto detail that after intentionally cracking the game, several forum whiners starting posting about how they couldn’t progress in their pirated game. Oh, the mirth! The irony is so thick you could drizzle it over pancakes.

game dev tycoon
“If only I spent less on Hot Pockets and body pillows!”
game dev tycoon
“I need Bitcoins! HELP!”

Greenheart Games gets +10 points for cleverness. They also stated that a whopping 93% of people pirated their game during its initial release. Since publishers don’t release piracy statistics (so their pants don’t look too shit-stained), no one really knows the overall piracy rate for games, so there’s nothing to compare it to. But that’s a metric fuckton of piracy in any case.

I have a theory as to why their games got so pirated so fast and so completely. Game Dev Tycoon is not available on Steam. Without 70% of the digital market, and since probably more people visit torrent sites than Greenheart Games or the lame Windows Store, those illegitimate sources get more traffic, which equals more hits, which equals more pirating. The lack of visibility isn’t necessarily the studio’s fault, but they did set themselves up by offering a free, visible product when probably no one would have bothered cracking in the first place, or at least not 93% of their intended audience. This situation is a self-fulfilling prophecy: we intentionally crack game and release it, then we report how many people pirate it to show that piracy is rampant and damaging. This may end up hurting them more than helping them. If anything, the hub-bub over the game’s smart anti-piracy measures may drum up some much-needed press for them, or it may entice savvy gamers to try and game their already gamed system.

I do have to admire the sheer chutzpah of performing a Gameception style of anti-piracy messaging. Whether or not it’s actually going to get across the message they want, time will tell. If you want to buy a totally legit copy that most certainly didn’t fall of a truck, head over to Greenheart Games and pick it up.


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Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte is the Video Games Editor of a class warrior poet who writes about all things video games. He's sure everything is not under control and is not going to be okay. For a good time, follow his angry rants and smart thoughts on Twitter: @carlwilhoyte.