Indie studio Greenheart Games carried out an unusual experiment last weekend: it made unbeatable copies of its latest game available on a torrent site and tracked the subsequent download numbers and player reactions.
It just so happened that the game in question, Game Dev Tycoon, tasked the player with running a game studio, but Greenheart altered it so that regardless of how well a player was progressing, piracy would eventually ruin their business.
On his blog, Greenheart co-founder Patrick Klug reported that after one day 3,104 torrent users had pirated the game, while 214 people had purchased it.
He also posted the reactions of those who had pirated the game, which ranged from comments that the in-game piracy was “not fair” to one gamer asking if there was any way to implement DRM within the game.
"As a gamer I laughed out loud: the irony!!!” wrote Klug.
“However, as the developer, who spent over a year creating this game and hasn't drawn a salary yet, I wanted to cry."
“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.”
A proper, functioning copy of Game Dev Tycoon is available for AU$10 from the Greenheart Games store.