I think there are some problems. The first one is, the "illegal" game must be legal, since it was uploaded by the copyright holder. Whilst it's true that many downloaders wouldn't have cared about this, and may be people who pirate other games, they aren't pirates of *this* game. This also feeds into the myth that torrents always equals piracy - yet I might go to bittorrent to download say, a Linux ISO, an Open Source game, or this game that they've legally made available themselves.
"Over 93.6% of players stole the game."
Leaving aside the point that copyright infringement and stealing are not the same, this is simply false anyway. Rather, 93.6% of players legally downloaded the crippled version that they made available.
This basically seems to be a very poor version of shareware/trialware/crippleware, except with the twist that they also falsely accuse their downloaders of piracy just to get themselves extra publicity.
It also means we have to take the statistics with a pinch of salt. Even if we ignore the point that this was a legal distribution (and hence, perhaps some people might have decided to download it, even if they wouldn't have otherwise - either for ethical reasons, or because they'd worry about things like trojans/viruses in actual cracked games), the thing is that by uploading it themselves, they have increased the proportion of free downloads. This helps in terms of making people see it, and also helps by meaning that a seeder exists. For many games - especially indie - people may be far less likely to know about the game, and you might not see it on torrent sites at all, or it may be hard to find seeds.
Consider, why weren't there pirated versions of the non-crippled game to download on bittorrent? (Especially since their game has no DRM to make this hard.) This suggests that had they have not made the game available themselves, there would have been few people pirating it.
This also tells us nothing about whether the overall effect is positive or negative - does the increased free downloads mean less people bought the game? Or does the increased awareness mean that more people also bought the game?
If I stand outside a food shop I run, and hand out free items of food, I don't then get to whine "95% of people STOLE from me", when I was the one handing it out. True, in this case the people wouldn't know if it was legal or not, but it still amounts to entrapment, with all of the associated problems that brings, and it makes any associated research or statistics unreliable.
On the game itself, I'd argue that this is a false representation - I mean, if the "cracked" version of the game asserts that it's impossible to make any money due to piracy and going bust is inevitable, this isn't an accurate representation, since many game companies clearly are making money. And indeed, I'm sure that the "proper" version of their game doesn't do this, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to criticise a flawed version of a game. (Did piracy not exist in the 80s and 90s? Funny, I remember the industry saying how piracy was killing the industry back then.)
On the comments by the downloaders - well, they aren't pirates of this game. I've no doubt that there do exist some of them that do pirate other games, whilst also being people who'd complain about piracy of their own games. But it's important to get the correct message - it's not that "pirates" are some different group of people who are stupid and hypocritical, rather, it's that the situation is much more complex. It's not "pirates" and "everyone else", rather, many people may pirate some things, even if they argue against it in other circumstances. This doesn't surprise me at all - are you tell me that no software developer has never taped a song off the radio or a friend? Has everyone posting in this thread never committed any kind of copyright violation? And I'm far more concerned about people who actually behave in a hypocritical manner, rather than people who only do so "virtually" in a game.
And it is sad that people think DRM is the answer, but then what do we expect when the industry has been pushing to make DRM is the norm, or telling us that it's the cure to piracy.
The irony here is that this game may well do rather well from the extra publicity, meaning that releasing free versions onto torrent sites may do better than locking down with DRM.
Edited by mdwh, 01 May 2013 - 07:38 AM.