Firstly, realize realize that there's no such thing as perfect protection, and even "good" protection for your executable requires a large amount of effort to implement effectively -- big game companies undertake this effort because big-name games typically see 80% or so of their lifetime sales in the first couple months. Thus, expending a lot of effort to just delay the hackers and crackers for those two months pays off. Small, independent games have a very different sales curve, sales are typically very slow at first, build over time, and may see large, intermittent spikes if it proves popular, thus it makes much less sense to undertake the necessary effort because hacks and cracks will be available well before your sales pick up to meaningful levels -- you just won't delay the hackers and crackers that long.
As an small, independent developer, you really want to cast off the idea that you will succeed by emulating larger companies. What works for them isn't what works for the little guys. Their wealth and success may seem like what you want, but its really the little guys who are more free -- free to experiment and pursue niche markets, free to cast off all the trappings of success, of dealing with publishers and contract deadlines, of having to sell a million copies just to keep up with rent and payroll, of being able to fail without sinking the entire company for good.
Indies succeed by making "artisanal" games -- they build and live off of a committed following of fans who appreciate the consistent vision, care, and attention that's paid to creating a very specific experience. They're like the little corner shops that sell cheese and dried meats where the owner makes it all by hand using the recipes he's developed over 20 years -- you might get a little less and pay a little more, but its damn good and not like anything you can get off the shelf at your favorite grocery chain. EA, just wants to sell every man, woman, and child their next hotdog, with mild flavors designed mostly to not offend anyone's palette.
The best way to succeed with an indie game is to make the best game you can, give it an honest price, and build a good relationship with your community of fans. That's my number one recommendation.
You can also try out alternative business models like giving away the game but selling subscriptions, services, add-ons and bling, or inserting adds with an option to remove them for a small fee. I know these things might seem tantamount to extortion, but many players seem perfectly content to accept and even embrace these kinds of things when they're getting something for free. I have friends who've put hundreds of dollars into those "free" games. You really need too look at your business model around revenue, not hard sales -- its often better to make a little bit of money from a million people, than it is to make a "lot" of money from 50 thousand -- and when you make money on the back-end of the download, you don't have to worry about people copying your game and spreading it to all their friends, because every one of them becomes a potential customer.
Edited by Ravyne, 02 July 2013 - 01:49 PM.