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Piracy Games

Cracked Game Released To Get Back At Pirates 509

John Wagger writes "When Greenheart Games released their very first game, Game Dev Tycoon (for Mac, Windows and Linux) yesterday, they did something unusual and as far as I know unique. They released a cracked version of the game, minutes after opening their Store. The pirated copy was completely same as the real copy, except that after a few hours into the game, players started noticing widespread piracy of their games in the game development simulator."
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Cracked Game Released To Get Back At Pirates

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  • by pinkushun ( 1467193 ) * on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:27AM (#43580491) Journal

    The ratio of pirate copies vs bought copies may be obscured by platform.

    Looking at past Humble Bundle stats [humblebundle.com] (games _without_ DRM management) it shows that even though piracy is still as abundant, the same amount of people are still willing to pay. Even more interesting, though Windows buyers ouranked 75% of others, Linux users payed the most on average. ... and that site link in TFA just went down.

    • by beltsbear ( 2489652 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:32AM (#43580555)
      They paid the most because their market is undeserved for high end games.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        They paid the most because they have more money. An assumption as good as the other one.
      • by RoccamOccam ( 953524 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:08AM (#43580969)

        They paid the most because their market is undeserved for high end games.

        I'm hoping that you meant "underserved".

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Both are accurate. Oh yeah, I said it!
      • by crazycheetah ( 1416001 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @03:53PM (#43584201)


        There's other potential reasons, too, however. Let's see if I can come up with more:

        1. There's a higher percentage of people running Linux who have more money to throw at games like this. Having the more money, the higher average paid is really the same (potentially less!) when you're talking averages of their income. (Don't know if there's any truth in this one, but you can test it probably the easiest out of them all, in theory.)

        2. Linux people are used to and very comfortable with setting their own price. They regularly get completely free software and donate back to the original project whatever price point they choose. Many have probably watched projects that they donate to succeed, and many have probably watched projects they donate to fail. As such, they've learned some lessons about paying whatever they want and what tends to be a more successful level of pay for a project. Seeing this, they are aware that paying the more money is worth it, because they want these projects to succeed, and being more experienced than most Windows users in doing so, they pay more.

        3. Maybe the Linux folk value these games more than the Windows folk do. Thus, the Linux folk pay more, regardless of the other points.

        4. There's a lot of cheap people who get a cheap computer running Windows from their parents, and then only pay anything for the Humble Bundle at all, because they can get away with only paying 1 cent or 1 dollar. This isn't as prevalent in the Linux world, where more people buy their computer to their own desires, taking budget into account but not taking it for free off of their parents as much. As such, they're also more willing to pay more for products.

        5. Because all of these reasons (including yours) can exist alongside one another and easily interact with one another (amplify each other, even), it could be a combination of all of these factors to various different degrees. Where income could be involved, that could influence the willingness to spend said income. With less games available for Linux, the games that are available could be seen as worth more due to the lack of supply. Putting all of these into play, you can get a complex system resulting in Linux users paying more on average when given the choice.

        ... There's probably more that I didn't even think about, but I figured that's a good start.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @07:29PM (#43586109)

          6. Because many Windows people already bought the game at full price and don't feel the need to rebuy.

          Windows has a pretty vibrant game market, and has good digital distribution. Many of the non-cheapskate Windows users already bought the games prior to the humble bundle happening. For example I remember when the first one came out and Linux users were spraining their arms patting themselves on the backs for paying $14 for the bundle, or about $3 per game. All I could think was that the two games I wanted from it, I already owned and had paid full price for. $20 for World of Goo and $10 for Gish. I was happy with that too, felt I got my money's worth.

          So I didn't buy the bundle, there was no need. I didn't want the other games.

          What you have to appreciate about the slightly higher average Linux numbers is it is still highly cheapskate. Paying a couple bucks for a game is not much at all. One game at regular price can be a good bit more than that.

          I think that is no small part of it. I've only ever bought one humble bundle, and that one I didn't pay much for because again, I owned many of the games. I bought the Introversion bundle because I wanted to try Darwinia. I already owned Defcon, Uplink, and Dungeons of Dreadmor. I spend quite a bit on games, but I do it outside of the humble bundle. I think you'll find many of the non-cheapskate Windows gamers are the same.

    • by jovius ( 974690 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:01AM (#43580901)

      Here's a forum about this with screencaps: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=550032 [neogaf.com] They show that in the first day 6,4% were genuine versions and the rest were pirated copies.

      I wonder what's the average conversion rate. Usually not all who pirate buy the game anyway. How about demo downloads versus purchases? It's a neat trick they pulled, but I think some context would be nice.

      • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @12:01PM (#43581455)

        It would have been hilarious if they'd done a quick check on the number of downloads for the legit and pirated versions and had the percentage of piracy in the game the exact same as the percentage in real life.

        • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @12:48PM (#43581855)

          The linked forums indicate that the piracy rate is, in fact, 6.4%, and that only ~214 copies were legitimate.

          Kind of puts holes into all of the "just make a better product" arguments, huh?

          • It's only day 1 though, which is silly. This is an obscure title that hasn't been talked about forever like, oh, the 27th Halo game or BioShack 19 or whatever. Should have kept their mouth shut for a week, or set it up to not kick in until a month after release date and then start being dickish.
          • by prehistoricman5 ( 1539099 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @01:46PM (#43582569)


            With only 3344 total users I'd argue that they either need to advertise more or make a better game. Furthermore the gimmick in the pirated version may in fact drive up the piracy rate.

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      these are mostly old games where the publisher is giving them away as advertising for a new upcoming game

  • Not that unique (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:32AM (#43580557)

    >they did something unusual and as far as I know unique
    If I rememeber correctly, the devellopers of Serious Sam 3: BFE did something very simlar a while back. An invincible monster would appear in the later levels of the game.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Same with Earthbound, not unique at all: http://earthboundcentral.com/2011/05/earthbounds-copy-protection/

      • Re:Not that unique (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Gerafin ( 1408009 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:58AM (#43580871)
        This is unique insofar as they released their own cracked version, whereas I believe Earthbound and Serious Sam would detect modified launchers and activate their DRM. One of the Batman games (Arkham asylum, I think) did the same thing, it messed up your batarang so you couldn't complete certain parts. People posted about the issue, thinking it was a bug, on the official forums and then got publicly shamed by a moderator who exposed the fact the 'bug' was related to pirating the game. I don't like DRM but at least they're being creative! But with Game Dev Sim, you could argue it's not DRM.
    • Re:Not that unique (Score:5, Interesting)

      by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:46AM (#43580729)
      Ah, the invincible pink scorpion [rockpapershotgun.com]. It appeared fairly early in the game, which was probably a good idea. If they'd put it in too late then pirates might have been put off (more so) from buying the game, but since it was so early it gave pirates a chance to get a feel for the game but not have to replay too much if they decided to buy it.
      • Re:Not that unique (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:59AM (#43580883) Homepage Journal

        Ah, the invincible pink scorpion. It appeared fairly early in the game, which was probably a good idea. If they'd put it in too late then pirates might have been put off (more so) from buying the game, but since it was so early it gave pirates a chance to get a feel for the game but not have to replay too much if they decided to buy it.

        False Dichotomy. Assuming competence (which I realize is an unsafe assumption) they could have made the savegame from the warez version work on the official version, and the players would not have to replay anything. Just don't load the pink scorpion.

    • The 1986 game Starflight required you to look up things in a code wheel. If you failed it would still let you play, but after a while a swarm of unbeatable police ships would arrive to destroy you for copyright violations.

  • hehehehe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:33AM (#43580571)
    That is the mother of all trolls. Definitely pirate troll level: British admiral hat and solid gold scabbard
    • The pirates are the real trolls.

      This is sweet justice of the finest sort.

    • Re:hehehehe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:42AM (#43580689) Homepage

      Don't forget Serious Sam 3, who's DRM manifested as an invulnerable pink scorpion [rockpapershotgun.com].

      This is what happens when games are made by gamers. It's mainly the big, long-disconnected companies that think DRM will save their games from pirates; everyone else just acknowledges it with a little fun.

      • Wasn't there another game that was rigged to slowly fall apart or something? It was a fairly big title too. Certain sounds and graphical files would just delete themselves randomly every time you loaded it after it was determined to be illegal and soon you were using half a game with unskinned 3D files and stuff. Now THAT was funny. Although, an invincible pink opponent stalking you is up there too.
      • I remember the old Escape Velocity space-trading series used to do something similar. You'd be flying around, and suddenly the invincible Captain Hector would show up to blow your ship out of the sky, along with a friendly reminder to register your copy of the game. He only showed up occasionally and it was possible to avoid him and land safely at planets if you were quick enough, but he certainly livened things up.

        • Heh, this reminds me of the various difficulty levels in many games going up to things like "Insanity", might actually make some gamers deliberately play the unregistered/pirated version.

          "You've only beaten it on 'hardcore'? Hah! I've made it to level 7 on unregistered!'

      • When you have DRM in a game that fails by any method other than notifying the user and refusing to run, you create problem for legit customers. I know that DRM companies would like to try and convince people that their DRM never, ever, fails on a legit copy, but it happens all the time. DRM is not perfect, it has issues. Two games I can remember that failed to function on my system were Neverwinter Nights and Civilization 4 Beyond the Sword. Both gave me a "Insert the game disc to play," error even though I

      • Until you see the actual sales of this game, where ~200 copies were legitimately purchased and the remaining 93% were pirated.

        I dont know that the indy devs would call that "a little fun" as much as a "gee, do I really want to fight these battles forever as an indy dev?" wakeup moment.

  • Hilarious Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bravecanadian ( 638315 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:33AM (#43580579)

    People posting for help trying to progress.

    I'm going to buy this game just because they have illustrated their point SO well.

    • by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:42AM (#43580685) Homepage Journal

      If I buy their game, do I also get access to the cracked version to teach my kid a lesson?

    • Re:Hilarious Irony (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:22AM (#43581099)
      Reminds me of the infamous Deus Ex boat bug.

      For those that aren't aware, the original Deus Ex was released when pirated games were heavily distributed via sneakernet and usenet in the form of spanned 2 MB (or 2.88-- it's been a while) RAR images. Needless to say, this was a lot of diskettes for the games that were coming out on CD at the time, so the cracking teams would cut out every ounce of fat that they possibly could: cutscenes, non-vital sound effects, you name it. The games ran, but you were likely to miss a lot of story and fluff.

      An early Deus Ex rip went through the same process, but for some reason would just stop at an early point in the game-- specifically, when you hopped on a police boat and sailed off to the next level. It turned out that the scripts used to drive the in-game cutscenes weren't designed to fail cleanly, and one of the missing sound effects caused this one to hang partway through.

      People with pirated copies started complaining and looking for tech help with this baffling bug. It didn't take the devs long to figure out what was going on, and only took slightly longer for people who'd paid for it to start leaping down the throats of anyone asking for help getting past the 'buggy' cutscene.

  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:33AM (#43580581)
    but what happens when the in-game pirates start playing their pirated pirated copies of Game Dev Tycoon? And the next generation? And the next? This game was mislabelled. It's not a game at all, it's an infinite pirate creation device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:35AM (#43580599)

    The real irony of course is that the game itself is a rip off of Game Dev Story by Kairosoft for IOS/Android.

  • Generally when you market your wares like this on slashdot, you'd want your servers to be able to handle the load. Come on people, it's not that hard anymore to make a site that can handle the load. As for the game, this is a nice bit of marketing, in that they now have people who are going to go out and look for the pirated version, and then possibly like it enough to get the real version.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:38AM (#43580643)

    Web cams only, something like...

    Dialog Box: "The boss is angry about our games being pirated! Go see him quick! [Click here to see the boss.]"


    Webcam turns on showing the person sitting at the keyboard playing the pirated game.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:43AM (#43580701) Journal

    The secret to this is, slap together some nonsense game title in minutes and then download the pirated version of Game Dev Tycoon. Laugh as you earned a free game just for letting people download your non-working junk code!

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @10:53AM (#43580829)
    Here's the world's worst barely formatted copy-paste job for those of you who can't access the site because it got slashdotted (and cloudflare dropped the ball)

    When we released our very first game, Game Dev Tycoon (for Mac, Windows and Linux) yesterday, we did something unusual and as far as I know unique. We released a cracked version of the game ourselves, minutes after opening our Store.

    I uploaded the torrent to the number one torrent sharing site, gave it a description imitating the scene and asked a few friends to help seed it.

    A minute after we uploaded it, my torrent client looked like this:

    Soon my upload speed was maxed out (and as of the time of writing still is) and my friends and I had connections from all over the world and for all three platforms! How does piracy feel?

    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. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:

    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.

    Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.

    Some of the responses I found online (identities obscured to protect the guilty):

    Is there some way to avoid that? I mean can I research DRM or something

    And another user:

    Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!

    As a gamer I laughed out loud: the IRONY!!!

    However, as the developer, who spent over a year creating this game and hasn’t drawn a salary yet, I wanted to cry. Surely, for most of these players, the 8 dollars wouldn’t hurt them but it makes a huge difference to our future! Trying to appeal to pirates

    I know that some people just don’t even think about buying games. They will immediately search for a cracked version. For this reason, when we released the game, we also published a page which targets people who search for a cracked/illegal version. Unfortunately, due to my lack in search-engine-optimization skills, that page has had no impact yet, but I hope it will convince some to buy the game in the future.

    []if years down the track you wonder why there are no games like these anymore and all you get to play is pay-to-play and social games designed to suck money out of your pockets then the reason will stare back at you in the mirror.

    I do think it’s important to try to communicate what piracy means to game developers to our consumers. I also tried to appeal to a particular forum a day earlier after someone who I gave early-access to the Store seemed to have passed on the copy to others:

    We’re just a start-up and really need your support. The game is only 7.99USD, DRM free

    Clearly, my post hadn’t worked too well since on the same forum someone posted the earlier screenshot (“Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!) just a bit after I made my appeal and this was followed by many others complaining about piracy.

    I still hope that it made a difference to someone.

    Anyway, how many really did buy and how many did pirate our game during this first day? The awesome/depressing results

    Today, one day after release, our usage stats look like this:

    Genuine version: 214 users

    Cracked version: at least 3104 users

    Over 93.6% of players stole the game. We know this because our game
  • If the owner/publisher released the game for free also, then it is perfectly fine to copy since it is an authorized release? Sounds like it's free to me.

    • If the owner/publisher released the game for free also, then it is perfectly fine to copy since it is an authorized release? Sounds like it's free to me.

      The version they released is probably free. The other version that doesn't feature massive in-game copyright infringement (piracy? YARRRRR! SHIVER ME TIMBERS) is still not free.

  • players started noticing widespread piracy of their games in the game development simulator.

    What does this mean? I don't understand what the company did? Can someone explain - I am not a gamer - I used to play Doom Death Match 17 years back, though.

    • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:24AM (#43581115) Homepage

      The game is a management-sim in which the player manages a game development studio.

      In the normal game, you start out in the 8 bit years, writing games and selling them. You use the profits to hire artists and developers, R&D an engine, advertise, licence etc., to make bigger and more profitable games, and as time passes, technology improves. The in-game economy is balanced for a challenging but winnable game.

      In the "poisoned" game they seeded the warez sites with, after a couple of hours of play, the in-game advisor says "we're seeing a lot of piracy, it's going to affect our sales". And from then on the in-game economy is deliberately wrecked, so sales figures plummet despite you doing everything right.

      On cue, the messageboards see pirate gamers asking why the game suddenly became unwinnable -- asking if they can develop in-game DRM, to beat the in-game pirates.

  • Nice idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by KraxxxZ01 ( 2445360 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:06AM (#43580953)
    Can't wait for rockstar tycoon, where piracy takes heavy toll on main characters cocaine habit.
  • Can you lower the cost and sell games DRM-free to de-incentivize the virtual pirates?

  • by HaZardman27 ( 1521119 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:52AM (#43581367)
    From TFA:

    The game is DRM free, you can use it on up to three of your computers for your own use,

    If it was actually DRM free, wouldn't there be no limit to the number of computers you can install it on? Unless the 3 computers thing is just a suggestion. If they have a server monitoring how many installs you have for a particular serial number, and prevents you from installing on more, that's not DRM free.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      If it was actually DRM free, wouldn't there be no limit to the number of computers you can install it on?

      No DRM means there's no technical limit, but it still has a license that may put a limit on the number of computers. It's similar to many software EULAs out there that say that you can install it on however many computers you want, so long as you only use it on one at a time (old Borland software had a license that called this model "treat software just like a book").

  • Yes, there are people who would rather steal an 8$ game instead of buying it. But you know what, they are not going to buy your game anyway. Let us say there is perfect DRM and it works flawlessly and genuine users are not hindered and these hackers are stopped cold. Then what? Still they won't buy your game. Or at least 90% of them would find some other game or some other thing to do.

    Just consider a fraction of them your future customers, if they like your game, and if your name sticks to their mind at some point in the future they will buy your next game. Rest of them, just plain free loaders, if they talk about their game you might get some publicity. You have to stop thinking those 93% of them would have bought the game if it was not possible to get the cracked version

  • by bfwebster ( 90513 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @11:56AM (#43581407) Homepage

    In Sundog: Frozen Legacy [wikipedia.org] (Apple II, 1984), we had a fairly robust, multi-level copy protection method. However, many of the 'cracking' tools out at the time would actually produce a runnable copy of the game -- it was just that the game wouldn't pass its final internal DRM check. In the game, including in 'cracked' versions, you started out on the surface of a given planet (Jondd); you could drive around the planet's surface, walk around the cities, go into stores, buy and sell goods, etc. But when you attempted to lift off into space, if that final DRM check failed, you'd get the message "Clearance to lift denied due to pirate activity" and you would be unable to take off and travel to any other world or system. (Note that you'd never see that message in a legitimate copy of the game.)

    Now, the game actually had space pirates who would attack your ship, so a lot of people didn't realize just what the message meant. We would get occasional phone calls from customers asking what they were doing wrong and how they could get clearance. We'd listen for a minute, then say, "Well, just mail us your Sundog floppy disk, and we'll send out a new one for free." Heh. On the other hand, we had at least one person call us up on the phone and say, "Yeah, I get it" and then order a legit copy.

    Note that for those customers who did buy an actual copy of the game, if they sent in $10 along with their registration card, they'd get another Sundog floppy disk -- that is, a second complete copy of the game, which they could keep as a backup or give away (or, frankly, sell). Also, if anyone actually did have a legit Sundog floppy that died or was otherwise damaged, we'd exchange it for a new one for free.

    Sundog (Apple II) was on Hardcore Computing's "Top 10 Wanted" list (for a cracked version) for quite some time. It was eventually cracked, but I believe it took a year or two. You can find runnable Apple II disk images (for Apple II emulators) online.

    I really don't know what copy protection was in place for the Atari ST port of Sundog, since that happened after I left FTL Games. ..bruce..

  • by gmb61 ( 815164 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @01:09PM (#43582101)
    Since the pirated version adds piracy to the gameplay, doesn't that make it a more realistic version and therefore a better version of the game?
  • by Zephiris ( 788562 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @04:41PM (#43584711)

    Are you kidding me? They release an indie game with absolutely no advertising. They put it up on a pirate website themselves with a known-bad copy. A few hours after going on sale, they're laughing at pirates and saying they have a huge piracy rate. This IS their advertising strategy, and it's as bad as they come.

    When Hotline Miami released, it was available on multiple stores, was receiving a lot of coverage by major sites like Rock Paper Shotgun, and when a pirate version was released? They supported it as if it was official, because they didn't want pirates to get a bad copy of the game. They treated it like advertising, handled it well, and made significant profit with over 130,000 legitimate copies sold, and multiple ports and sequels in the works.

    Hotline Miami got significant positive coverage because it was a good game, and they handled things right. This is a dismal thing which they admit is a poor clone of another game, and instead of going to bat for it, they shoot themselves in the foot and have the gall to whine for sympathy when they put it on a pirate site themselves, made it a known bad copy, AND procede to then laugh in peoples' faces after a few hours, when they do absolutely nothing else to promote themselves, or their game? Let alone produce something reasonably innovative or fun?

    Let me know when some actual, live, half-way sane indie game developers show up. I'll be sure to shake their hand, instead. I'll hug and buy beer instead if it's ZUN. :P

  • by cas2000 ( 148703 ) on Monday April 29, 2013 @06:58PM (#43585855)

    actually, this brings up an issue that's common with all simulations that have an economic or political model - including the sims, sim city, civilisation (and clones), and so on.

    they serve as a form of propaganda for particular sets of economic, political, and cultural rules, that players internalise as they play the game.

    if you program the economic rules so that piracy will ruin your businness then that is exactly what will happen in the game. it says little about the real world....and it's only really obvious in a situation like this where it is a deliberately released piece of overt propaganda.

    a slightly less obvious but more troubling one is the rule in Civ (etc) that democracies aren't allowed to declare war, or that military units can force workers to be content in communism. or that corruption is universal under communism but non-existent under democracy.

    http://freeciv.wikia.com/wiki/Government [wikia.com]

    on the one hand, these are just the rules of the game. on the other hand, they're political propaganda about the pros and cons of particular economic models.

    it's not limited to computer games, either - the earliest version of the game that was ripped off to become monopoly was actually propaganda about the evils of landlords and capitalism....at least that was the author's intention. the rules, however, taught players that monopolies were a good thing because that's how you won the game.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2986/was-monopoly-originally-meant-to-teach-people-about-the-evils-of-capitalism [straightdope.com]
    http://www.salon.com/2013/02/09/how_monopoly_turns_us_into_uncreative_capitalist_vultures_partner/ [salon.com]

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous