Circular Piracy

Game developer, Greenheart Games, created a game about creating games called Game Dev Tycoon. It’s a familiar game genre, a sort of “Sims” about being a software game developer. I haven’t played it, but it seems cool.

But what I thought was really cool? What they did to make a point about piracy:

In a curious social experiment, the developer deliberately uploaded a full, cracked version of its game to the most popular torrent trackers. The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail. 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, the player’s in-game funds will dwindle, and every new game that they create has a high chance to be pirated until they eventually go bankrupt. There is no way to fight it, in an ironic twist, players of the cracked version of the game are doomed to constant failure due to rampant piracy.

I thought that was pretty clever. It’s an old argument and issue for sure, but I like that because they granted the realities of the game they were making and that they were making a game, they had an avenue to make a point and they chose to make that point. So why make that point?  From their own website:

Game Dev Tycoon was created by two brothers. They invested all their savings to start a company and develop the game. They truly enjoy tycoon and simulation games and after seeing many of the new social and pay-to-play games where buying coins is more important than good gameplay, they wanted to bring some true simulation games back. Their motto is less social, less ville, more game and they believed that there is a market for real simulation games but as independent game developers it’s difficult to survive and the reason why so many companies create pay-to-play or coin-driven games are because they make more money with them.

If you like the look of Game Dev Tycoon and you want to see more games like these then you should really think about buying a legal copy of the game. The price of the game is reasonable (7.99USD), you get legal copies for Mac, Windows and Linux, free service updates and you can even install the game on a couple of your personal computers.

If you don’t care about all of this and just want to get a cracked and illegal version then we can’t do anything about that, but if years down the track you wonder why there are no games like these anymore and all you get to play is pay-to-play and social games designed to suck money out of your pockets then the reason will stare back at you in the mirror.

I’ve been writing software for 20-some years. I complete understand. I mean, I dealt with piracy before Napster and torrents. I do sympathize with any artist and person that wishes to make their living on “digital data”, be it software, music, movies, books, whatever — something that’s easy to copy and distribute. I sympathize because that’s how I earn my living and feed my family! I don’t sympathize with the way “Big Media” has gone about trying to enforce things because I learned long ago that pirates will always pirate and good people eventually will pay up, so long as they understand and are given reasonable terms. Since I have limited resources (time, money, energy), I can either work to make my product better or fight the people that I’ll never win over anyways; so why not please those willing to be my customers? Draconian DRM that hampers and just pisses off your legit customers isn’t the right way to go (witness: SimCity 2013’s rollout).

What it really takes to improve this situation is for the public to be educated.

The Klug brothers are right: if you want good things, you have to support those willing to make good things. If you like games like this, support them so they can keep making these things that you like. It’s pretty simple. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite music artist, movie studio, game developer, book author… whomever and whatever. These people have worked hard to produce something, something that you now enjoy and has made your life better. Is it fair for you to take and not give anything in return? Would you appreciate someone doing this with the fruits of your labor? Is the way we should get people to pay by forcing them with ugly DRM and shitty experiences (think about this next time you try to play a Blu-Ray and are forced to sit through FBI Warnings)? is that high quality? is that how you want things to be in life? Or would you rather be willing participant in the process and support those that make your life better?

Which way do you want it?


2 thoughts on “Circular Piracy

  1. I recall reading something very similar from Delta Tao. They said something like – we understand it’s a game; please pay for it when you can. Won we over.

    • It’s a tough thing to balance. I’ve found that you have to do a little something to entice folks… but for the most part, it’s better to make a good product than to try to chase those that will never pay anyways.

      Wish the MPAA and RIAA would learn that.

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