The One About the Game Developer Who Pranked the Pirates

| Editorial

Let's offer a salute to clever game developers, especially Patrick and Daniel Klug, the cofounders of GreenheartGames. When they released Game Developer Tycoon for Mac, Windows, and Linux, they decided to put a cracked version of the game for pirates to steal on bittorrent, but they did so with a twist: players playing the cracked version of the game will find that piracy drives them bankrupt.

The sad, sad, sad news is that on the first day of availability, they had 214 people playing a version of the game legally purchased. At the same time, they had 3,104 thieves playing the cracked version. In other words, 93.6 percent of the people playing the games were thieves.

Thieves & Customers

Hint: If you're in the red zone, you're the bad guy in this little vignette

The game is priced at US$7.99, and it has no DRM. There's also a free demo for those who want to try it without paying first, and yet 93.6 percent of their players chose to steal it instead.

The game allows players to become virtual game developer tycoons by researching game technologies and develop highly rated (or less highly rated) games that they (virtually) sell. The version that they themselves released as a cracked version does all that, but with a twist.

From the developer:

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:

The effort was part experiment, part prank, and part effort to drive home a point, though judging from the response from some of the thieves, that lesson will be missed.

Game Developer Tycoon Screen

Screenshot from the Purposefully "Cracked" Version of the Game

There's the pirate who posted to a forum complaining that pirates are ruining him. Apparently unfamiliar with the concept of irony, he asked, "Is there some way to avoid that? I mean can I research DRM or something?"

Then there's the pirate who posted, "Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!"

You have to love entitled people. Everyone else's efforts are there for them to plunder.

In his blog post about the situation, Patrick Klug pointed out that single player, pay-once games are becoming increasingly rare. They're being replaced by "free-to-play" games that extract money through in-game purchases and online games that require you to log in to a game server to play.

GreenheartGames wants to change this and bring quality single-player games to market. Their first offering, Game Developer Tycoon, was released for Mac, Windows, and Linux, all without DRM. Show them support. Buy the game for $7.99, or try out the free demo instead. If you like it, buy it.

And don't steal.

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Lee Dronick

This is great! A taste of their own medicine.

Jim Tanous

This was amazing. Especially the pirates pleading for help on the forums: “Is there some way to avoid [going bankrupt due to piracy]? I mean can I research DRM or something?” Giggles.

Bryan Chaffin

Gotta love it. smile


Wow. 93% of users were stealing it? Good lord. That would make me run screaming from the business of developing games in a second. I’m not surprised the pirates didn’t get the irony either.


With a rate of piracy that high, i’d be worried about the reputation of the game spread by the legion of users who don’t realize the game behavior is due to them stealing it.

Jordan Qato

I appreciate the cleverness of these game developers so much in this story that I’m now going to head over to the GreenheartGames website and have a look at their game.

Poster “Spiffo” raises an interesting point, but I’m quite sure this possibility has occurred to the developers also- which is why they quickly publicized what they had done.

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