Life on the Internet

Indie devs release cracked version of their own game to lecture pirates

When indie developers Greenheart Games released their first title — Game Dev Tycoon (similar to Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story) — they also seeded a special version to ‘the number one torrent sharing site’ that was nearly identical to the real game, 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.

“Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.”

Unsurprisingly, at the end of day one Greenheart Games had sold 214 copies of their game while over 3,100 users had played the cracked version. That’s 93.6% of players running the honeypot copy.

Makes me wonder what would have happened if they had released a special version that had a gentle up-sell and an option to buy the game from within the game? Can you convert more pirates with honey than with vinegar?

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