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frob

Ironic game gets pirates to feel the sting of piracy.

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frob    44911

Over the years, I've been convinced that indie developers should not really focus on DRM, focusing on paying customers.   Also over the course of several years I've also suggested quite a few times in the business forums that indies should even consider intentionally releasing their games on piracy sites, possibly with added in-game ads or other incentives to legally purchase the game.  

 

Looks like somebody finally did that with an added ironic, and very beautiful, twist.

 

 

A game studio called GreenHeart Games developed "Game Dev Tycoon", a game where you run a virtual software development shop.  They released it DRM-free for legal purchases.

 

They also seeded a special build for pirates.  In the pirate-released build, the virtual game dev studio does well for a while and then starts to have their products get hit by piracy.

 

The studio's blog post is one of the best things I've read all year:   http://www.greenheartgames.com/2013/04/29/what-happens-when-pirates-play-a-game-development-simulator-and-then-go-bankrupt-because-of-piracy/

 

Reading the forum posts where game pirates complain about piracy and ask for new forms of DRM is just incredible.

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SimonForsman    7642
Thats pretty hilarious and one of the reasons you should always add a serial key to your games even if they are single player and DRM free, its quite nice to be able to filter out support requests from non customers. Edited by SimonForsman

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slicer4ever    6760

That links dead for me, this is one i found though(i assume it's the same):

 

[url="http://www.greenheartgames.com/2013/04/29/what-happens-when-pirates-play-a-game-development-simulator-and-then-go-bankrupt-because-of-piracy/"]http://www.greenheartgames.com/2013/04/29/what-happens-when-pirates-play-a-game-development-simulator-and-then-go-bankrupt-because-of-piracy/[/url]

 

edit: seems my link just went down as well.

 

 

anywho, i did read the article, it defiantly is a unique game for them to do this with.  And i feel bad for them, having those numbers to backup piracy vs legitimate sales must hurt quite a bit.

Edited by slicer4ever

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frob    44911

And i feel bad for them, having those numbers to backup piracy vs legitimate sales must hurt quite a bit.

Those numbers are typical across the industry.

 

www.joystiq.com/2008/11/13/world-of-goo-has-90-piracy-rate/

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/364271/pc-piracy-rate-above-90-says-ubisoft/

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2010/08/machinarium-suffers-95-piracy-rate-offers-5-amnesty-sale/

 

They are also typical of every single game I have worked on professionally since the late 1990s.

 

In a depressing turn of events, one of our games about 8 years ago became extremely popular in Eastern Europe.  We didn't translate the game into any of their languages, and we couldn't get it distributed in that region.   Based on the online telemetry, we had many times more active players in Eastern Europe than we had total sales across the globe where we did sell the game.  We ended up seeing about 95% piracy on that game, too.

Edited by frob

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TheChubu    9452

Hhahaha, yeah, saw that a few moments ago. Very clever indeed :D

 

Anyway, that quoted comment makes me wonder:

If I make an average game 5-7 I get some cash which is understandable but then if I make an 9-10 game I earn the same cash because I get the message for the piracy

That sounds kinda familiar doesn't it?

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Mito    855

Over the years, I've been convinced that indie developers should not really focus on DRM, focusing on paying customers. Also over the course of several years I've also suggested quite a few times in the business forums that indies should even consider intentionally releasing their games on piracy sites, possibly with added in-game ads or other incentives to legally purchase the game.

 

i think the same way and will be doing that.

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Josip Mati?    1304

Wow. I didn't know numbers were THAT depressing - regular 90% on each game. I wonder how did gamedev industry managed to stay alive with that, seeing that no matter what the scope of the game is or the type of company is, 90% of all the copies of the games are pirated. Anyway, nice read and nice twist in the game, hope some of people will learn from that.

 

I won't lie, I pirated games on a regular basis in my younger days, mostly becase: 1) I couldn't afford them and 2) "Why would you throw a money at junk" mentality installed in me. However, in last 6 years I changed my mentality, especially [b]after I tried to make a game myself, seeing how in fact hard it is[/b] and almost completely stopped pirating games. Not only that, I bought genuine version of the few games I pirated before. Now, I have nice collection of bought games I play and enjoy without any guilt whatsoever and with happiness that I've supported companies who made games I love and play.

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Hodgman    51234

Wow. I didn't know numbers were THAT depressing - regular 90% on each game. I wonder how did gamedev industry managed to stay alive with that, seeing that no matter what the scope of the game is or the type of company is, 90% of all the copies of the games are pirated.

...

I won't lie, I pirated games on a regular basis in my younger days, mostly becase: 1) I couldn't afford them

I'd guess that the percentage of pirates who simply wouldn't buy/play a game at all if there was no pirate copy available is very high... which leaves a small percentage of pirates who actually would pay for the game as long as they were unable to steal it.

In my experience, the majority of pirates are opportunistic like this; they're only playing these games because they can pirate them, if they can't pirate them, then they don't play them.

Therefore, I don't pay much attention to these statistics when it comes to "losing money". Whether 1% or 99% of your customers are pirates is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is the raw number of actual sales. You may as well be counting the number of people that looked at your game on a shelf but didn't buy it, and then get worried that 99.9% of gamers are "window shoppers"!

 

These guys are really clever though, because they've decided to actively engage the piracy community and make use of them as a form of marketing. One minute after they published their torrent, they were getting people downloading their game!

If I put up my own sales website tomorrow, I'd be likely to get a single visitor (besides google's bots) -- selling a game outside of a publisher requires you to spend a lot of money on advertising in order to even let people know that you exist. But by putting up the torrent straight away, they're spreading knowledge of their game virally through piracy networks -- these people who'll opportunistically download any old game they can, as long as it's free. If you assume that you're not going to get any money from these pirates, then you may as well utilize their hoarding instincts to net yourself a community around your game and hopefully spread it's popularity.

On top of that aspect, being one of the first to do this they're getting a lot of coverage in the gaming press, which again is free advertising, this time hopefully targeting people willing to part with their cash.

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way2lazy2care    790

These guys are really clever though, because they've decided to actively engage the piracy community and make use of them as a form of marketing. One minute after they published their torrent, they were getting people downloading their game!

It's a cool approach because it's essentially a demo that advertises anti-piracy and your game. It also makes piracy more difficult as there are more torrents up of the pirated/limited version of the game making it harder for people to find legit copies on torrent sites. Not impossible, but definitely more difficult.

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razorclaw    157

Now we just need a flood of all kinds of broken games to pirates to make it so undesireable to find one that works that they will learn to play the legal way.

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Talroth    3247

Now we just need a flood of all kinds of broken games to pirates to make it so undesireable to find one that works that they will learn to play the legal way.

 

That will just drive the communities to become more isolated and less trusting of random outsiders. Really won't fix much of anything I believe.

 

 

As for Game Dev Tycoon, I think I'm buying a copy just because of the great laugh they gave me during a crappy day at work.

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d000hg    1199

Piracy rates of 90% do not mean though that you could be selling 10X more copies if it were impossible to pirate. Definitely some real gamers take a pirate copy who would pay if it wasn't so easy, but many others only get the game because it's free, or couldn't afford half the games they download if they had to pay.

 

Of course if you have an online game with overheads per player, it still hurts you.

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slicer4ever    6760

Now we just need a flood of all kinds of broken games to pirates to make it so undesireable to find one that works that they will learn to play the legal way.

 

That will just drive the communities to become more isolated and less trusting of random outsiders. Really won't fix much of anything I believe.

 

Eeeyup, it'd pretty much just drive piracy into using more secure/trusting(ironic, right?) systems.

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MichaelNIII    195
I've pirated lots of games in my time, games that I would not of spent a penny on because I was broke ended up getting bought their full version because I enjoyed then (namely portal 1 and 2). I know starcraft BW doesn't stop you from torrenting a copy - but your not allowed to chat or whisper in the chatrooms on battlenet if you use a pirate key. Also, I've seen a lot of small app games released with extra ads for free on sites, which is more then likely the developers released them there.

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mdwh    1108
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

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slicer4ever    6760

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
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.

from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
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.

who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 09:34, said:
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.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?

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mdwh    1108

from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?

So how many other versions were being pirated before their version was added? What did the statistics look like before they added theirs? What's that, we don't know? That's my point - the stats are worthless.

Given that the blog says that they can measure by both the anonymous data sent to the server, and that their "cracked" version has a separate ID, it should be possible to provide stats for all three of:

1. Legal version of the full version.
2. Pirated version of the full version.
3. Their so-called "cracked" version that they distributed over bitorrent.

But the pie chart labels only (1) and (3). So either the numbers of 2 were neglible; they're ignoring (2); or they've miscounted, or something else that makes the stats not tell us very much.

I appreciate they wanted to make their own modified version to give a message, but it would have been interesting to see the typical stats without them encouraging the so-called piracy with an actually legal version. Plus it would have made the message more meaningful - there's a difference between "These people are pirating a game - let's slip them a version with a message" and "Let's hand out free but crippled copies of a game, then accuse them all of being pirates just because they didn't buy it".

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Talroth    3247

Just because someone "provides access" to something does not automatically mean they have granted permission for use or any form of copyright licensing for the content. 

 

I post photos online for vistors to view. This does not give them any rights to take those photos off my site and save copies for other use. The only rights I've granted them are to obtain temporary copies downloaded from the site in the normal process of viewing a webpage. Nothing more. 

 

"it is there" is not the same as "It it there and licensed for us to use". 

 

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

 

So yes, without a software license and release from the creator, or some other form of actual authorization, this is still very much the same as piracy. 

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MilchoPenchev    1178

This reminds me of how the Arkham Asylum games had a hook in to the DRM that disabled an in-game feature (the gliding ability) and then they caught several people posting of their forums complaining about the "bug". 

 

This is much sweeter and so satisfyingly ironic that I wish all games did this.

 

Just imagine if a game had such hooks to its copyright protection that rendered it unplayable at some stage due to some in-game effect. Seems like a nice curb to piracy... certainly better than full-time internet access requirements.

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slicer4ever    6760

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 11:47, said:

Quote
from my understanding, until they posted this article, noone was aware that the uploader was them. thusly anyone whom downloaded the game was fully and intentionally pirating the game.

But it isn't piracy, it's legal - even if one thought they were (I mean yes, I'm sure plenty of people thought they were, but intent doesn't effect the legality - after all, there are plenty of clueless people who think it's always legal to download if it's "free" on the Internet, and in this case, those people would have been in the right).

you are the only person talking about legality, as if the game devs are going to try to sue everyone whom downloaded their version. as far as i am aware, they have no intention to do that. the point of doing this was to demonstrate the severity of piracy on the gaming industry, when you are seeing games whom entire consumer base is made up of those that attained your game through questionable means, that stings.

mdwh, on 01 May 2013 - 11:47, said:

Quote
who said there weren't? they just tried to make themselves the most appealing.

if you are standing on that street corner with 5 other people also handing out your food, how does it invalidate the statistics if people just happen to choose you instead of someone else?

So how many other versions were being pirated before their version was added? What did the statistics look like before they added theirs? What's that, we don't know? That's my point - the stats are worthless.

Given that the blog says that they can measure by both the anonymous data sent to the server, and that their "cracked" version has a separate ID, it should be possible to provide stats for all three of:

1. Legal version of the full version.
2. Pirated version of the full version.
3. Their so-called "cracked" version that they distributed over bitorrent.

But the pie chart labels only (1) and (3). So either the numbers of 2 were neglible; they're ignoring (2); or they've miscounted, or something else that makes the stats not tell us very much.

I appreciate they wanted to make their own modified version to give a message, but it would have been interesting to see the typical stats without them encouraging the so-called piracy with an actually legal version. Plus it would have made the message more meaningful - there's a difference between "These people are pirating a game - let's slip them a version with a message" and "Let's hand out free but crippled copies of a game, then accuse them all of being pirates just because they didn't buy it".

what i am getting from this argument is that your trying to make the point that because they released the cracked game themselves, they brought this onto themselves? sure that's a possibility, but it's one i find laughable at best, and i suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

this is also a problem that is easily seen in the indie film industry. for example John de lancie and Lauren Faust created a brony documentary through kickstarter, they added in their own funds and decided to not take any profits until after the film was released, and make a return from those whom brought the film. Unfortunately, even with the huge support of kickstarter and the brony community, when it came time to release they saw massive piracy of the film, and little significant sales to recoup what they themselves had put into it. Now then, I don't want to argue about rather they should have put in their own funds, or what they were thinking when doing that. that's been argued to death already, it's the point that even through that seemed to have a solid crowd source, piracy effectively killed any real returns, making the film more risky to place on services like netflix, or cable tv.

At the end of the day though, piracy exists, and if company's see always online drm as the only way to curb it, then that's going to be what happens. I feel bad for the film and music industry, because at least with games you have a bit of control, other media is pretty much at the mercy of people not pirating them.

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