As fans of MMOs, we aren’t strangers to DRM. An MMO is a form of DRM. You have to have a valid account, you have to log in to the company server… sure, there are pirate or home-brew servers for a lot of games out there, but they are a small drop in the bucket.
Regular games on PC and even mobile platforms, on the other hand, have a huge problem with piracy. Which is why companies keep inventing new ways to try to thwart pirates, the latest version being to MMOify their games and require logins and/or always-on connections. Remember when you couldn’t play Diablo 3 in single player mode, entirely by yourself, because Blizzard’s server was getting hammered? That’s what I’m talking about.
Personally, I’m for releasing games without DRM and trying to find the sweet spot of pricing that gets the game company the most cash, essentially ignoring the pirates. Because, honestly, the more restrictive the DRM the more it annoys legitimate customers… the pirates don’t care since they are playing cracked versions without DRM anyway.
This is where Greenheart Games and Game Dev Tycoon comes in. You see, they released their game yesterday. Shortly after opening their store, they released a cracked version of the game themselves.
Well, you see, the way cracked games work is that once one appears, as long as the crack is good, no one else bothers to crack it. The first one up gets downloaded and re-seeded to other trackers and soon everyone is getting the same cracked version. By putting out their own version, it actually (probably) stopped crackers from trying to crack the game.
But still… why?
The cracked version was identical to the release version, except for one small detail. Since the game is about running a game development company, after a few hours of play, you would get a screen like the following:
Slowly, your games would get more and more pirated until you went bankrupt. The better your virtual company makes its virtual games, the faster you go bankrupt. The legal version doesn’t have this “feature”.
The message boards for the game started filling up with people complaining about the “piracy” in the game, asking if there was a way for their virtual game company to create DRM or otherwise avoid the pirates who were ruining them.
Irony. The sweet taste of bitter tears. Pirates complaining about piracy ruining their game company…
Of course, the real tears are coming from the developer, a start-up that was only asking for a measly $8 for their game. They posted the statistics after just one day of the game being for sale and download. 214 legal users, 3104 pirates. 93.6% of the people playing the game stole it. They got the data from anonymous usage statistics that most games phone home with these days, so they can’t identify any of the pirates, nor do they want to. They just wanted to be able to shine a little light onto a problem that everyone knows is a problem, but that the people who are the problem don’t care about.
Could most of these people afford the game? At $8, probably.
And this is the reason that most games are going to always-on connections or the Free-to-Play with a cash shop model or those social games where you have to buy coins to be able to do anything good.
Sadly, the fallout from Greenheart Game’s reveal is likely to be that a cracking group will just crack the game for real and the piracy will go marching on.