DRM is a constantly tricky balancing act between deterring piracy, however briefly, and not upsetting every one of your legitimate customers. That’s why it’s always great to see copy-protection measures that specifically target, and hilariously mess with, inveterate torrenters. Whether it’s Batman’s uncontrollable cape in Arkham Asylum, or Serious Sam 3′s immortal pink scorpion, pirate-specific hijinks provide the best kind of schadenfreude.
This specific example from Greenheart Games, creators of the Game Dev Story-like development sim Game Dev Tycoon, might be one of the best – if just for the hypocrisy at the heart of its piraception. The game’s developers uploaded their game to “the number one torrent sharing site” with one key difference: As players built up their development studio, they are told that not enough people were buying legitimate copies of their games – leading to a slow and unavoidable financial collapse.
“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,” explains Greenheart’s Patrick Klug.
“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.”
And some of the “customer” responses highlighted by Greenheart are amazing.
Key quote: “I mean can I research a DRM or something…”
Greenheart estimate 93.6% of the game’s players were using a cracked version of the game at the end of its first day of release – roughly 3,104 users. Of course, it’s worth reiterating that there are many nuanced caveats around the piracy debate – specifically that one pirated version does not equal one lost sale. You can read Greenheart’s full analyses of their experiment here.