Recently, a video game called Game Dev Tycoon has received a lot of attention:
To summarize, this is a game where you manage a game development studio. Upon release, the developers also created a “cracked” version of their own game and uploaded it online. It seems like a normal pirated copy until later in the game, this happen:
That’s right, the game studio in the pirated version will be hit by pirates and go bankrupt. The support forum soon get flooded with users complaining about (in-game) piracy, one even asked about (in-game) DRM, something that pirates circumvent and even legitimate users hate. The game also sends back anonymous statistics to the developer. It turned out that 93.6% of the copies are pirated.
This game has:
- A free demo
- No DRM
- A relatively low price (8 USD), not something most people who can afford a computer and an internet connection would find expensive. This is also within the average price range for an indie game.
- Flexible payment method: credit card, paypal, bank transfer
Almost every reason for piracy has been crossed off so why is it still heavily pirated? I would say it has to do with attitude. After a few cases of “justified” piracy, pirates would become desensitized. They no longer feel guilty of their action. Getting stuffs for free is so easy and enjoyable, it is addictive, it becomes a habit. One would only check their favourite torrent tracker, warez forums for new releases without checking the legitimate channels. Piracy has become acceptable. Those who are vocal against piracy are usually big companies who use restrictive DRM methods and lawsuits with outrageous numbers. Pirates would not be moved by such words since those companies would not be damaged greatly by piracy as evident by the continuing survival and expansion in the industry. It takes a small independent company with an interesting experiment to get the point across.
There are technical measures to combat piracy. There are also efforts to encourage buying by giving better service or discounts. As far as I know, there are not many attempts at trying to change the perception of piracy. Those quoted “lost sale figures” are not going to help since the correctness of those figures are debatable as pointed out in the previous post. Equating it to theft does not help either since they are not the same. Does this “experiment” help? I would say, it does to some extent. The experiment has gathered lots of attention. It has made many people realize that piracy is not just a problem for the “big players”, it is also a problem for small independent creators. In addition, it lets pirates experience first-hand the impact of their actions and their hypocrisy.
While this game alone would not defeat piracy and I am not saying that “experiments” like this should be the standard method of campaigning against piracy, maybe it is time to reach out to pirates, understand them and convert them to paying customers.