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Dev cracks own game to track piracy

By Brendan Sinclair

Dev cracks own game to track piracy

Mon 29 Apr 2013 2:14pm GMT / 10:14am EDT / 7:14am PDT

Nearly 94% of first-day downloads for Game Dev Tycoon were pirated; unpaid copies see players overrun by in-game piracy

Independent developer Greenheart Games this weekend undertook an unusual approach to thwarting piracy, one that began with aiding and abetting it. When the studio released its Game Dev Tycoon for Windows, Mac, and Linux, it also put a cracked version of the game up on a popular torrent site for people to download.

As Greenheart co-founder Patrick Klug explained today in a blog post on the studio's site, the cracked version of the game had a few important differences from the version paying customers would receive. First, it would report back usage stats to Greenheart so the developer would know roughly how many people playing its game had stolen it. In the first day on sale, Klug said 3,104 users (93.6 percent) pirated the game, compared to just 214 who played legitimately purchased copies.

The second major difference in the pirated version was a gameplay quirk intended to make a point to those who would rather steal than pay for games. Game Dev Tycoon is a simulation game that has players running their own game development studio. But after a few hours, players of the cracked game will find that their in-game studio's efforts are rampantly pirated, regardless of critical acclaim or popularity. As a result, sales dwindle and the studio inevitably goes bankrupt.

Klug drove home his point with screen captures of forum comments from players who had illegally downloaded the game. One asked if he could research DRM tactics, saying there was no point in creating a new game if it will just be pirated and unable to turn a profit. Another bemoaned how the pirates were ruining the player's company, calling it "not fair."

Klug was torn on those comments, saying, "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."

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Russell Watson Senior Designer, Born Ready Games

86 34 0.4
Popular Comment
They spent over a year effectively copying Game Dev Story?

Posted:3 years ago


Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

1,219 2,667 2.2
Kudos to Klug for still being alive. Seeing the epic irony in those blog comments would give me a coronary.

Posted:3 years ago


Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal

48 69 1.4
after a few hours, players of the cracked game will find that their in-game studio's efforts are rampantly pirated
Haha! That's brilliant. Regardless of whether the game is similar to Game Dev Story, it's certainly interesting to see the results of his work into the piracy side of things. It's an important area to look at if we want to see developers fairly compensated without the use of draconian DRM.

Posted:3 years ago


David Serrano Freelancer

300 273 0.9
93 percent pirated? Wow...

But the flip side is... 214 copies? The game is $8 and they only persuaded 214 people to buy it? A box of Girl Scout cookies is $4 and the average scout sells between 50 to 300 boxes. Some girls manage to sell thousands of boxes. Note to Greenheart: hire this kid as your marketing director!

Posted:3 years ago


James Battersby Developer, Blue Beck

15 8 0.5
I think the industry gets enough awkward publicity without having to use child labour to sell copies.... ;)

Posted:3 years ago


Steven Hodgson Programmer, Code in Progress Ltd

105 152 1.4
Popular Comment
so they copy someone else's work and then complain when 93% of players do the same to them?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Steven Hodgson on 29th April 2013 4:25pm

Posted:3 years ago


Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

472 348 0.7
I see multiple comments about copying Game Dev Story which was a great game, however from what I remember it was only on mobile and not PC, Linux and Mac. How many have actually played it to see if it is a copy or is just the same theme?

I would have bought it to try it but the link to the game from their blog site is offline.

Posted:3 years ago


Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic

2,018 2,375 1.2
Popular Comment
Well, it's a simple experiment, is the problem with this. For instance,
In the first day on sale, Klug said 3,104 users (93.6 percent) pirated the game, compared to just 214 who played legitimately purchased copies
But what about first week sales, as opposed to first day? If half that 93% went on to buy the game after the 3rd day's play, then the statistic isn't as valuable as it first appears. In addition, what about people who pirated, played it for a day, then uninstalled? Both of those points relate to the "try-before-you-buy" demographic who found the game to their liking (or not as the case may be).

Not saying it's a pointless experiment, but it's not as worthwhile as it could've been, sadly.

Posted:3 years ago


Paul Jace Merchandiser

1,199 2,048 1.7
That was very clever of them. I always get amused when developers do stuff like this and then all the pirates who stole the game instantly hit the message boards to complain about the product that they didn't even legally obtain thru purchase.

I'm still waiting for the day when a developer puts a bug in the cracked version of their game that crashes or does something else to mess up the pirates PC that they used for the illegal download. But I suppose that could cause legal issues of another kind:)

Posted:3 years ago


Saehoon Lee Founder & CEO, Pixellore

60 41 0.7
It doesn't matter how much this game has got similar ideas as the other games out there. The time spent on making a game deserves a decent return if there are customers liking the game. It is sad irony indeed. But this has to be one of the funniest counter attack against piracy.

Posted:3 years ago


Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

479 813 1.7
@David - To be fair, I thought about buying it when it came out, but I decided that I already owned it. It's just called Game Dev Story, on my Android.

Posted:3 years ago


James Prendergast Research Chemist

783 492 0.6
Popular Comment
I'm with Morville.

Saying that the majority of your first day sales were pirated when the pirate copy probably got more "marketing" than the official copy is just pointless. I'd never even heard of this game until this pirate sto-oh... very clever, Greenheart Games... Very clever.

Posted:3 years ago


Steffen Reinke Programmer, Mediatainment GmbH

2 0 0.0
Not sure, what the bigger problem is: testing an illegal copy or copy a game?
Its the problem of the Industry, isn't?
We need something new, but no experiments please, so lets copy the cat again and sell it as a brand new dog, mewouing now?

Posted:3 years ago


Russell Watson Senior Designer, Born Ready Games

86 34 0.4
So when Zynga clone games, they are evil for doing it? If an indie does it, it's ok? Or is how much money you make from it directly proportional to how evil you are?

Posted:3 years ago


Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire

150 68 0.5
Hmm, that correlates with the general theory that about 93% of players don't pay on F2P games...

Posted:3 years ago


Karl Bonin Environment Artist, GamesDynamics

1 0 0.0
Man .- that was very clever. I like it when developers do things like that.
Its a nice marketing strategy at the same time - also its sad irony. I agree with Steffen, we need something new - something a player would spend his money on.

Posted:3 years ago


gi biz ;,

341 52 0.2
Uh I follow Linux games very carefully, I rarely miss new products. But I must say I had never heard of this one at all. Not even talked about it. Too bad because the developers seem to have done a good job, I'm definitely going to try this one. It could also be interesting to try both the normal version and the "cracked" version if they play differently.

Edit: while sales figures are indeed sad, admittedly 3318 players including pirated downloads is not a great number. Even if each of them had paid the 7.99$ the gross income would be 17.100 gbp... I'm not even counting the fees... they could've done a better job at spreading the word. That said, we still don't know the background of these 3000+ pirates... are they spoiled stingy users who don't want to part from their money or kids from poor countries who will likely never see a credit card for the next 10 years? As I said over and over, without this information the pirate hunt is as meaningless as it could get.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by gi biz on 30th April 2013 9:39am

Posted:3 years ago


Brian Smith Artist

203 103 0.5
Not sure how clever a strategy this is. The 93% piracy rate could be very misleading as there are some who justify pirating a demo-less game in order to try it. Some bizarrely (and I've known a couple) will even pirate, play, complete and then if they liked it, buy the game. I'm of course not saying the entire number is nonsense, some will just never pay for anything but some of them would still have been potential customers. Rigging your own pirate version will probably just ensure that pirate will never buy the game or any other game from your company. Word of mouth opinion from players could also drive a negative opinion of the game based on a non-representative nobbled version.

Posted:3 years ago


gi biz ;,

341 52 0.2
@Brian: I agree with all you say. Personally, back when I still had a windows partition I played through the whole Borderlands on a cracked version. Needless to say, I already had an original copy, but it's still sealed and I don't wish to open it. Of course I'm not selling it either. At the time I also played Plants VS Zombies from a pirated download, that was because I wanted to play straight away and I only ordered the boxed version the day after. Very similar things happened for Sacred 2, Darksiders, Grid, Tomb Raider, Faery... oh, I also had to crack Fuel as although I have the original disc it didn't want to run. Trine, that was distributed digitally, was impossible to buy for those who missed the first humble bundle. Luckily I could pay for it in the subsequent bundles. Many other games are in my wish list, but are plain impossible to find (new at least): Alpha Centauri for Linux, Wipeout for Dos, Woodruff, Unreal Tournament 2004...
I think many people also download the cracked version of games to make sure they run in wine, as there's hardly a way to know for sure beforehand - and it could also happen that the demo works but not the actual game or vice-versa.

Posted:3 years ago


Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop

323 1,413 4.4
It's certainly been a genius marketing move - I'd never heard of this game before but now its name is everywhere. They must have shifted a load of copies on the back of all of this.

Posted:3 years ago


Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

472 348 0.7
I bought this last night on Windows 8 and whilst it has some similarities to Game Dev Story (as it would since it a game about making games) it feels and plays different enough to stand up on its own.

Posted:3 years ago


Jeremy Glazman Programmer

34 7 0.2
@Brian Smith
Not sure how clever a strategy this is. The 93% piracy rate could be very misleading as there are some who justify pirating a demo-less game in order to try it.
There is a free demo of this game...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeremy Glazman on 1st May 2013 8:11am

Posted:3 years ago


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