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Devs tell tales of what happens when you give your game to pirates

Devs tell tales of what happens when you give your game to pirates

October 19, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

October 19, 2017 | By Alex Wawro
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More: Indie, Business/Marketing



"It’s definitely been a good decision. Your game is going to end up on piracy websites regardless, and you might as well have fun with it, and in a way prevent it from being a virus or some malicious software."

- TinyBuild's Alex Nichiporchik, in an email to Kotaku about voluntarily putting a version of one of the company's games (replete with little pirate outfits) up on torrent sites.

Pirates! They're a persistent boogeyman in the game industry. But many devs (mostly indies) make a public show of turning a blind eye to people who pirate their game, sometimes even going so far as to upload a clean, virus-free version of their game to torrent sites.

So how does that go for them? Kotaku recently talked to a few developers about what happened after they put their games up on torrent sites, and their responses are interesting: while none of them saw a significant sales boost (and one didn't really see a boost at all), they each enjoyed an outburst of public appreciation. 

For example, a developer on Acid Wizard Studio's horror game Darkwood (pictured) reported that after uploading a version of the game to torrent sites shortly after it launched last month, the studio got a bunch of nice emails -- some of which included receipts showing that people who had pirated the game then went on to buy it.

Darkwood dev Gustaw Stachaszewski told Kotaku that while this appears to have only led to a small uptick in sales, it's still an improvement.

"Our plan was to mitigate the potentially lost sales from people downloading the torrent with purchases from players who would not have heard about Darkwood otherwise," he wrote.

"As game developers we can fight piracy with DRM, which—most of the time—is inconvenient for the players who buy the game, and the game itself gets cracked either way. Or we can accept the fact that piracy is not going away, try to educate players about the realities of game development and the gray market, and trust that at least some people will do the right thing."

By contrast, mobile game dev Ryan Holowaty (of Noodlecat Studios) told Kotaku that this approach doesn't work out quite as well in the Android game market, which is plagued by piracy and copycat games.

"Looking at it from the perspective [of getting buzz], I would say it was a success," he wrote. "But from an actual stopping of piracy standpoint, it was a misfire," in part because Android game piracy relies less on torrent sites and more on direct downloads.

You can (and should!) read more from Holowaty and the other devs about how they made their work available to pirates, and how it worked out, in the full Kotaku article.



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