When it comes to fighting piracy, there are a few approaches one can take. If you’re the RIAA, you can make examples of people by threatening to sue them into poverty. If you’re looking for something absolutely foolproof, you can try this newfangled “always-online” business. Yet there is a third way: one that brings the promise of aversion with a few dollups of prankishness: releasing a “pirated” version of one’s game that has been deliberately sabotaged. Such was the route taken by Greenheart Games, developer of Game Dev Tycoon.
Facing the lawless digital seas, their take on the anti-piracy formula was simple: punishment through humor. Like the approach taken with Arkham Asylum – Eidos had inserted a game-breaking glitch into its own release, which made one particular section of the game impossible – the altered version of Game Dev Tycoon works identically to its legitimate counterpart for the first few hours. Then, with little warning, the player’s virtual studio faces rampant piracy problems. Finding said studio’s income dashed by this development, it falls into bankruptcy, bringing the game to an unavoidable end. Despite the humorous twist, Greenheart Games’s tactics highlight the serious issue of how piracy can affect developers – particularly smaller studios, for whom even modest sales can mean the difference between survival or closure.
When it comes to Game Dev Tycoon itself, the developer states that one day after the game’s release, 214 users had paid for their copy, while 3,104 (or 93.6%), chose the “pirated” version. From the Greenheart Games blog:
For those interested, demo for Game Dev Tycoon can be found at this link, and is compatible with PC and Mac. A Linux version is currently unavailable, but is in the works. Should you be swept away by its charms, the game is available DRM-free for $7.99 at the same link.