Pirates are bad, but key resellers are worse. That's the position of Acid Wizard Studio, creator of the recently released survival horror game Darkwood.
The three-person Polish developer launched the game out of Early Access earlier this month, and to mark the occasion, released the game on torrent site The Pirate Bay as well. In a post discussing the game's journey from concept to launch, Acid Wizard said it's been flooded with emails since launch.
"There's more of them than we are able to reply to, actually," the studio said. "The sad thing is, that a lot of those are scam emails. You know, when people claim to be a YouTuber or blogger and ask for a Steam key. That key then gets sold through a shady platform. To be honest, we're fed up with it. This practice makes it impossible for us to do any giveaways or send keys to people who actually don't have the money to play Darkwood."
The studio's solution then was to release a safe, DRM-free torrent of the game for anyone who might want to play the game but can't afford it at the moment.
This is not the first time a developer has pirated its own game, but the reasoning for it is usually a bit different. For example, when Greenheart Games launched Game Dev Tycoon in 2013, it seeded a cracked version of the game on torrent sites in order to see how many of the first wave of players would steal the game rather than purchase it. Additionally, Greenheart had altered the version of the game released for pirates such that their own in-game development studios would eventually go bankrupt when anything they released would be instantly and widely pirated, undermining sales regardless of acclaim or popularity.
Acid Wizard specifically said it has not added any sort of punitive measure to the pirated version of the game, saying, "There's no catch, no added pirate hats for characters or anything like that. We have just one request: if you like Darkwood and want us to continue making games, consider buying it in the future, maybe on a sale, through Steam, GOG or Humble Store. But please, please, don't buy it through any key reselling site. By doing that, you're just feeding the cancer that is leeching off this industry."