This is rather interesting, if not a little disappointing too. Green Heart Games pirated their own, just-released game, Game Dev Tycoon, uploading a “cracked” version to a torrent-sharing website, with a bit of a twist:
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.
Part-way through the game, people with the “cracked” copy of the game will get the following “sales report”:
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.
Developer Patrick Klug goes on to list forum messages relating to the game, featuring ironic quotes as whether or not it would be possible to “research DRM” to foil the in-game pirates, and that piracy “ruined” one player’s game, asking “why are there so many people that pirate”. They then go on to show some actual numbers, claiming that only 6.4% of players (214) were playing the legitimate version.
Obviously it’s pointless to try to equate torrent downloads with lost sales, and there can be many reasons why someone would download a torrented version of a game rather than the real thing (not least of all for a niche iOS clone such as this), but it’s good to have some hard data on the matter for a change, and is worth pointing out that there is a demo version available, although the only way to actually buy the Mac version right now is directly from the developers. Judging by the screenshots posted, only the Windows version was torrented, so it would also be good to find out if there’s any difference in the supposed levels of piracy between different platforms.
Arguably though, the story has brought a lot of attention to the game than it would have otherwise had, so in the long run this situation will probably work out well for the developers.
We’ve contacted Green Heart Games for comment, we’ll update this post if we receive any reply. UPDATE: See below.