One of my favorite iPhone games is called Game Dev Story. It’s basically a simulation game where you build a game studio from the ground up. You hire staff, pick which games your company creates, market them, etc… Once you build your company up and start putting out great games, you get high ratings, win awards, and most importantly, you sell a lot of games (which allows you to hire more staff, etc… and thus put out even better games!). It’s an addictively fun game, but it’s also not particularly deep.
That’s not the worst thing in the world, of course, and when it comes to iPhone games, that sort of simplicity is actually a plus. Enter a new game called Game Dev Tycoon. It seems to be the same basic concept, but it looks to have more depth to it, so I’m halfway there in terms of wanting to purchase it. It was made by Greenheart Games, an indie developer consisting of two brothers.
And get this: Knowing it would be pirated anyway, they went ahead and released a cracked version of their game on torrent sites. They even helped seed it. However, they added a twist to the version they released:
The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… 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. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:
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.
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.
It’s a brilliant and ironic move, but the irony doesn’t end there. It turns out the players of the pirated version are a little dense. They started going out on the internet and posting absurdly unaware comments in forums, wondering (for example) if there’s an in-game way to research DRM to protect their (fictional) games (!?):
“I can’t progress furher… HELP!” one user wrote. “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.
“It says blah blah our game got pirated stuff like that. Is there some way to avoid that? I mean can I research a DRM or something?”
Said another user: “Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me! Not fair.”
Oh the irony. It hurts! But I’m guessing it hurts the developers even more, so I just went out and bought the game. If you like sim games and this sounds interesting, why not give it a shot. This sort of genius should be rewarded (and so far, 93% of their users are pirates!). (Thanks to Steven for finding this story)