Piracy Killed The Video Game Star
July 25, 2013

Piracy Killed The Video Game Star

“So it’s privacy software that’s also anti-piracy?”

It’s one of the funniest gags in the new season of Arrested Development because it so succinctly defines the general public’s attitude towards both issues. We know these are pitfalls associated with daily Internet life, yet we’re not really sure how to protect ourselves or why we should even care.

In one episode, George Michael even tries to explain his “Fakeblock” software to someone by saying that there are all sorts of people out there who just want to steal your stuff.

So wait, is that how piracy works again?

Greenheart Games, an indie video game developer, set out to create a bit of anti-piracy software meant to do just that: keep people from stealing their stuff.

The video game is called Game Dev Tycoon, a game development simulator wherein you control avatars as they work to build video games. It’s already pretty meta, no? Just you wait.

The game was released last April for just $8, and all of that money went straight back to the developers.

Yet, just one day after being available to the general public, the Greenheart guys noticed that 3,104 out of the total 3,318 copies in the wild had been pirated. That’s about 95 percent, by the by.

Luckily Daniel and Patrick Klug were prepared to release their game into such an environment where pirates run rampant. Before shipping the game, they created an alternate version of the app meant to look and act almost identically to the legitimate, paid-for version. The key difference? A few lines of code meant to sabotage the imaginary video game studio being built in the video game. This special version was then leaked online by the developers to teach the world a lesson.

The fictional titles built in the game can be reviewed and earn scores and profit for the developer. Yet, those who downloaded the pirated version get a warning telling them that piracy will hurt their progress in the game and earn them less profit.

Pirate players are only allowed to progress to a certain point in the game before ultimately losing their shirts in bankruptcy.

According to an April post in EuroGamer, some players were a little too frustrated with their stunted progress to realize the beautiful irony taking place in front of them.

“Guys I reached some point where if I make a decent game with score 9-10 it gets pirated and I can’t make any profit,” wrote one pirate on a gaming forum.

It’s an incredibly ingenious way to get the point of piracy across to the very people who engage in file sharing. Many have long argued that piracy is a victimless crime, simply a common part of everyday life. Yet, for those who make their living hocking zeros and ones for-profit, piracy is a huge deal.

Using a meta video game to teach an even more meta lesson is sheer brilliance. The Klugs seem like nice enough fellas to boot. In a statement before the game’s release, Patrick Klug implored potential customers to simply pay for the game. After all, it’s only $8.

He even said he took no issue with those who can’t afford the game and pirate it, but followed with: “To the rest who could afford the game consider this: We are just two guys working our butts off, trying to start our own game studio to create games which are fun to play.”

So, it’s privacy software that’s also anti-piracy?

In a sense…maybe?

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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