On Monday of this week my twitter stream became swarmed with talk of a game. It wasn’t because this game was particularly unique, it actually borrows heavily from an existing game on another platform, but rather because of the situation surrounding the games release. The game was Game Dev Tycoon and the topic of conversation was Piracy.

The short version of the story is that Game Dev Tycoon is a game about starting your own Game Development Studio. The games developers saw an opertunity to hold a mirror to the face of pirates and deliberately released a version of the game to torrent sites that worked perfectly, but after a certain point the players in game studio would find themselves unable to continue making money due to rampant piracy of their games. People had a good laugh at the pirates complaining about this unpassable point in the game, amused by the fact they were unaware of the irony of what was happening to them, examples of which you can see by going to the developers blog.

What interested me however was Developer Greenheart Games’ attitude toward piracy of their game.

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They posted the above graph in discussion of piracy of their game. If you continue to read their post however, it works on the assumption that the majority of the people who pirated the game are people who if piracy were impossible, would have bought the game. It treats every pirate as a lost sale. While I can understand why you’d want to feel that way about something you worked hard to create, to me it just doesn’t seem accurate.

Here’s my view on the matter. There’s a huge section of the gaming population who will torrent ANYTHING, LITERALLY ANY GAME AT ALL. These are the people who will try every game they see, filling up their hard drive with hundreds of games just to try. These are consumers who would never buy your game simply because there’s a million other free options they could choose from instead. They don’t want to invest money in something they may not like.

There’s also a large segment of gamers who act under a “Try before you buy” mentality. They don’t care that there’s a free demo available on your site, they want to sink their teeth into indie games and work out if they like them long term. Greenheart Games have shot themselves in the foot on this occasion, as they’ve cannibalised any hope they had of converting those torrent downloads to paid sales. If people torrent your game, then hit an unpassable point they’re going to get annoyed with the game and decide it’s not worth paying for.

Worst of all however, they cost themselves the biggest benefit that the piracy community can give to an indie developer,word of mouth. If your indie game is worth playing, it will end up on torrent sites, that’s a fact. What’s important about that is that for every person who plays your game for free and enjoys it, they’ll likely tell one of their gaming friends what they’re playing and why they like it. While not every person who hears will buy, word will spread about good games if enough people are playing them. Pirates can be your biggest wave of conversation about a game, your chance to get it in the spotlight, and by creating a version of the game that can’t be completed and frustrates that group of people who played for free, the conversation about your game becomes one about how good it was until it got bad.

Now I know these are kind of dead points by now as Greenheart Games has had so much publicity thanks to their DRM that they’ll likely sell more copies than they had previously expected, but for the average indie who’s not making some ultra clever mirror holding statement (one that only has this kind of impact in this game genre) then creating a broken version of your game may not be in your best interests. Pirates might be your best chance to get your game noticed. It might be the only way to get the word out in a crowded ocean of titles fighting for that same attention.

I’ll end with a comment made on Twitter by Developer Mike Bithell about the situation that I think sums things up quite well.

About The Author

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Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com

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