If you haven’t head about it yet, the small indie game developer Greenheart Games set one of the most potent and ironic traps for pirates ever concocted. While many developers opt for some form of DRM, others choose to program in disruptive easter eggs that activate if the game is obtained through less-than-legal means. These easter eggs usually prevent the pirate player from finishing the game, my favorite being Earthbound’s ultimate dick-move. However, Greenheart’s out-of-the-box anti-piracy measure extended beyond the game. They set out to meet pirates head-on with their recently released game Game Dev Tychoon.
Setting the Trap
The same day that Game Dev Tychoon was released, April 28th, game developer and founder of Greenheart Games Patrick Klug also released a special cracked version of his game on popular torrent sites. Toting that the game was “CRACKED AND WORKING!” he had a few friends seed the game. This all seems counter intuitive until you understand exactly what made this cracked version so special.
The version of the game in the torrent was programmed to work normally for a few hours. But after enough time had passed the game pumps up the rate of piracy. By the time your simulated studio was putting out X-Box and PS1 titles you’d be driven into bankruptcy due to theft. Theft that the pirates could do nothing about. Greenheart even put in a special error message that doesn’t appear in the legally acquired game:
This is all so delicious I can’t believe it. It’s a game about developing games that causes pirates to fail, due to piracy. This is hilarious master-level judo-DRM. The torrent was maxed within a minute of going live and, apparently, still was a full day later.
It’s Super Effective!
The pirates did not disappoint. Within a day, forums were being flooded by messages heavy with irony. They’re so on-the-nose that they seem fake. Let me take a few choice examples from Greenheart Game’s blog post:
Not fair indeed.
Don’t Be a Dick
The numbers in Greenheart’s post-prank wrap up were disheartening. Thanks to anonymous data gathering they were able to determine that the number of pirates outnumbered those that bought Game Dev Tychoon more than ten to one. While those are just the numbers from a single day, the ratio itself is sickening. In an appeal to pirates everywhere, Patrick asked that we all “stop pretending like [Greenheart Games doesn’t] 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.” It’s easy to rationalize stealing from monolithic companies like EA. (After all, they fucked up Sim City and Diablo, right?) But the bottom line of piracy is that stealing hurts everyone involved, even the thieves. It’s just easier to see when the people you’re stealing from are two prankster game developers that are too clever by half.
If you like games, don’t pirate. Game Dev Tychoon is available here for $8, along with a free demo.