This is genius. Indie developer Greenheart Games has included an anti-piracy measure in its PC/Mac/Linux sim Game Dev Tycoon. The effect? Gamers running a cracked version will only be able to progress so far before their studio falls foul to virtual piracy. Their companies lose money as a result and can no longer afford to develop new titles.
It forms part of an experiment by the developer to see how computer users obtain their games. Greenheart released a cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon to pre-empt piracy, with both the cracked and genuine versions including harmless code that sends back data identifying which version an (anonymous) user is playing.
"The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detailÖ Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didnít 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," reads the developer blog
. "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 donít 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."
Read the classic responses from forum posters - frustrated at the apparent difficulty curve - and what it means for the studio right here