Game Dev Tycoon teaches a lesson about pirating games

By Joe Jasko |

Game Dev Tycoon is a fun new simulation game about managing your very own video game development company, and the first release by a studio called Greenheart Games. But like any game on the market these days, the $8 title was at risk of internet piracy the moment it was released. So in order to combat the expected piracy head on, the developers intentionally created a cracked version of the real game, and uploaded it to torrent sites themselves the same day of Game Dev Tycoon’s release. What better way to combat piracy than by giving an interactive lesson on how stealing games can harm a developer?

But the creative minds at Greenheart Games had a more ingenious way of punishing the pirates instead of just telling them that their copy of the game was illegal. Patrick Klug of Greenheart Games outlined the devious plan and the community’s response on the developer’s blog, amidst a heartfelt plea to buy the games that you enjoy and to support independent developers.

For the first few hours of gameplay, the cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon plays just like the genuine game does. But then here’s where things get interesting: once players have gotten their development company off the ground, the game will gradually send Sales Report notifications to inform you that consumers have begun to illegally download your products. It warns the gamer that, “If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

Following these messages, the player’s funds are slowly dwindled away until they are forced to close their company doors: a very real possibility for game developers today who can’t afford to stay afloat from lack of genuine purchases. Within one minute after posting the fake version of Game Dev Tycoon to a popular torrent site, Klug already found people downloading the game on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. To put this into a broader perspective, after the first day of the game’s release, only 214 users had legally purchased the genuine version, while a whopping 3,104 users had downloaded the cracked one.


Gamers quickly flocked to the Greenheart Games forums in exasperation, after realizing they could no longer progress in the game because so many people had pirated their titles and drained away their funds. One unidentified user who had illegally pirated Game Dev Tycoon commented: “Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!” The delicious irony was not lost on Klug and his cohorts at Greenheart Games.

Klug says the Game Dev Tycoon stunt was a unique opportunity given the subject matter of the game, but still dances around the subject of whether he will ever do something like this again. He did, however, end his post with one discomforting thought as to why so many users might be tempted to pirate games and other illegal software in the first place: “Customers get the trouble with always-on requirements and intrusive DRM, while pirates can just download and enjoy. A twisted world.”

So what do you make of Greenheart Games’ ironic message to internet pirates? If these illegal downloaders are more inconvenienced in games than paying customers are, could piracy show any signs of slowing down soon?

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