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Payback: Game Dev Tycoon Fights Piracy With Piracy

We may have reached a point where many developers are attempting to coexist semi-peacefully with the big, bad, money-chomping wolf that is piracy, but that certainly doesn’t make the situation ideal. Pirates are still sauntering away with sloshing tubs of developers’ blood, sweat, and tears, so I think a little (or more than a little) spite is only fair. In the past, that’s meant theft-thwarting failsafes like Batman: Arkham Asylum’s flight-impaired hero and Serious Sam 3’s immortal pink scorpion, but Greenheart’s recently released Game Dev Tycoon might just be the best yet. In short, the pirated version makes your games crash and burn once they’ve hit the market because of – wait for it – piracy.

Greenheart explained its equal parts hilarious and depressing approach in a blog post:

“The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, 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.”

“So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message: ‘Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.’”

As you’d expect, pirates proceeded to leave sticky red fingerprints all over various forums, complaining completely unironically that piracy was draining their piggy banks while they toiled away in vain. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, as of now, this story doesn’t have a particularly happy ending. Apparently, guilty parties aren’t finding the page Greenheart made especially for them, so many aren’t getting the message. Moreover, day one data put genuine sales at 6.4 percent and cracked copies at 93.6 percent. That’s not a gulf. It’s a goddamn ocean. And it’s not like Greenheart’s done anything egregiously wrong (at least, from a business standpoint; I can’t speak for the quality of the game itself), either. Game Dev Tycoon is DRM-free and entirely bereft of obtrusive microtransactions. It’s also offering a free demo.

For its part, Greenheart is doing its best to give their less satisfied “customers” the human angle in addition to the brilliantly fitting one, but only time will tell if pleas can push them over the edge. You know, that incredibly steep precipice overlooking the decision to part with eight whole dollars? Ugh. Time to strap in for a long, exhausting uphill battle.

“We are not wealthy and it’s unlikely that we will be any time soon, so stop pretending like we don’t need your 8 dollars,” wrote Greenheart. “We are just two guys working our butts off, trying to start our own game studio to create games which are fun to play.”

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Nathan Grayson

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