Greenheart Games takes ironic aim at pirates

Indie publisher gives freeloaders a taste of their own medicine with a special, "pirates only" release of Game Dev Tycoon.

Yesterday, along with the genuine release of Game Dev Tycoon (Windows demo; Mac demo; Lite version for Windows 8), developers Greenheart Games treated some online gamers to an extra "gift" in the form of a cracked version of the game, which they then seeded via BitTorrent protocol.

Soon after seeding the cracked version of the game, thousands of users downloaded it. As those players progressed through the game--which takes players from producing games in a garage to becoming global leaders in the industry--establishing and growing their companies, they were blocked from proceeding further with the following, not-so-subtle hint--delivered straight from the mouth of one of the character avatars: "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."

Players were prevented from progressing through the cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon with a guilt-tripping message. (Credit: Greenheart Games)

The in-game message and gameplay blocker led to a slew of e-mails from players to Greenheart Games, asking for assistance. Some players of the cracked version even went as far as complaining about how online piracy has ruined their own fictional game businesses and "bankrupted" them. Others ironically bemoaned the lack of a DRM solution.

The end results were discouraging for Greenheart Games, with 3,104 users (93.6 percent) downloading the cracked version. In contrast, the legitimate, $7.99 version saw only 214 downloads (6.4 percent). While of course there is no evidence to suggest the downloaders would have bought the game if they couldn't get it free, that's technically $24,800.96 in potential, unrealized revenue.

If users don't pay for their piece of the gaming pie, then developers suffer. (Credit: Greenheart Games)

If you'd like to throw some surplus irony on this raging bonfire, lead Game Dev Tycoon cofounder Patrick Klug included an unusual, sympathetic comment in his original blog post (which is now unavailable due to heavy traffic--Google cache link):

"I'm not mad at you. When I was younger, downloading illegal copies was practically normal but this was mostly because global game distribution was in its infancy."

Klug's odd justification for piracy in "the olden days" seems to imply that downloading cracked games was OK back in his day ... but now it's not? Other users have complained that Game Dev Tycoon itself looks a lot like Kairosoft's existing gaming-industry simulator Game Dev Story (for Android and iPhone/iPad), but mostly, the score reads Greenheart Games 1, Pirates 0 ... so far.

About Joshua Rotter

Joshua Rotter is a copy editor for and covers iOS.