What happens when pirates play a game development simulator and then go bankrupt because of piracy?


points I tried to make

  1. little guys like us struggle even though thousands of people play and enjoy our game
  2. even a 8$ price point, DRM free version and free DEMOS doesn’t stop this.
  3. If only some of these guys would actually pay for what they play there would be the following consequences:

a. devs could sleep easier, have a salary to support their family and grow their company
b. more money means devs could take greater risks to really innovate.
c. crappy social games or forced always-on would not be so damn attractive to devs anymore
d. end result => MORE AWESOME GAMES

If things continue as is, EA and Zynga win. no one else.


What about Valve?

By the way, do you plan to join the next Humble Bundle?


Just wanted to say that I just bought the game because of how brilliant this idea of Piracy issue in a pirated game is. Best marketing plan on making me buying a game I have seen in a really long time !! Thanks and keep up the good work !


Read this. Don’t blame Piracy. Use it.


Did you know that you can steal electricity or cable TV and that walking into a cinema without paying is considered theft? How does that work with your narrow definition?


In a way he did use piracy, just not in the fake “you pirates are great, I really love it when you take my game without paying for it.” way. That’s the reason I and many others bought the game and why I didn’t buy Anodyne.


so to address some weird points.

The "you put it up for free and then complained when people didn’t buy it’ thing.
Well, let me put it to you like this. I have an item on a stall - clearly with a price tag and everything. And you take it. Now you knew that what you were doing was wrong and illegal, and you had every opportunity to act otherwise, but you chose not to. Now I know that is agaisnt the whole copying is not theft idea, but you can see where it smarts. People pirated the humble indie bundle, to avoid paying 1 cent to charity. Really?

The “Its free advertising” idea.
Well it isn’t, because no matter how much the game is advertised by file sharing, there will be those ho will think “Well I’ve got the game now, why bother paying for it”. You can’t speak for everyone, and that is the cost of piracy. now an interesting thing would be to see the numbers in a month or so, although I’d imagine they wouldn’t be too different. Both percentage and actual number of players being shown, as before.

This was an experiment, an opportunity to hold a mirror up to those who pirate games and show the ill feelings and frustration that it causes on the other end. No one is going to be held to account, and the only punishment is that the game will halt because you decided not to pay for enjoying the work that went into it. If you can afford a net connection good enough to torrent a game, then you can probably afford $8.


This is a very interesting test, though from our own experience I would note two things:

  1. Unless you have a huge marketing budget, the fact is that a LOT more people will hear about your game through torrent lists and torrent discussions than they will through your own marketing and PR. So in a way, your test could simply be showing that torrents are many times more effective for visibility and discovery than anything you’ve done with your own PR. This is one of the curses of the indie developer.

  2. Torrents tend to have a huge peak/spike on the initial release of a new item (possibly due to #1 above), and then in our experience the numbers decline and the percentage isn’t so stark.

And unfortunately the “gatekeepers” play a big role in this - I would imagine that if your game was available on Steam at the same time as it was available on the torrents, then your chart would be VERY different. Our games are available on a half dozen different digital download portals (including our own web site), but nothing compares to the numbers that Steam delivers for PC game sales.

Regardless, an interesting discussion nonetheless.

– George Geczy / BattleGoat Studios.


Hi there,
Excellent job deceiving and alienating 93.6% of your audience! Torrent Poisoning is not only a terrible marketing strategy, but it’s unethical false advertising to claim to offer a “DRM-free” product while polluting secondary distribution channels with an identical-looking, broken product in order to manage your digital rights. Torrent poisoning and other DRM tactics are a worthless waste of resources (not only yours but especially your potential consumers’) and reflect a very narrow understanding of the overall system of game development and marketing in the digital era.

I expect that your reputation as “anti-pirate” within the indie developer community will long outlast any meager sales you achieve by guilting a few kids into forking over their pocket change after wasting their time and bandwidth on your trojan crippleware. As a professional game developer myself, I see the sort of dated ‘pirates are the problem’ ideology I go out of my way to avoid working with personally.

As a word of advice, I suggest rethinking your tactics in the future so that you can embrace (rather than condescendingly reject) your largest potential audience. You can make some simple design changes to a free-to-play business model, or set up a legitimate free-play version with proper labeling and links to purchase the unlocked version. Or you can go bankrupt with a lasting reputation as a dishonest scammer casting stones of deception against the tide of networked file-sharing. The choice is yours. Best of luck.


I’ll never play this game but for having the balls to stand up to the internet bullies and for winding up the freeloading no-marks, I bought it.

top marks


A friend of mine online linked your story and I read every bit of it. Nodding at some points, sighing at others (the piracy bit and how popular it was for example)

I grew up in an age when every game that was “must have” had a demo. I have fond memories of playing shareware titles until I couldn’t stand it anymore and I bought the full version from a brick and mortar store (oh the humanity!)

I loved the message behind this, and to my delight a demo button was present on the page. Prior to today, I knew nothing about your company, about this game, or the message that was trying to be delivered here.

At the end of the article, I was ready to buy a copy of the game just to support you guys - even if I never played it. But now that there’s a demo, I’ll give it a genuine go, and then probably buy a copy anyway just for your message and desire to stay true to gamers.

Nicely done Patrick & crew.


I bought your game. Never played your pirated version, but I kind of feel like supporting you. Just not sure if I feel guilt tripped or genuinely interested in the game :’(


Once again pirates win, getting not only the game for free, but extra content in the form of a hard mode. Also software piracy is not theft as nothing is taken away, and a download does not equal a lost sale.


I don’t think it’s fair to call those 93.6% ‘customers’, which implies they had any part in a fair or legal exchange of goods or services in the first place.

You’re more than welcome to embrace the free-to-pay business model with your own games. It’s not any more ethical than calling a game ‘free-to-play’ while incentivizing in-game transactions in such a way that only high-paying customers have access to the full experience. How is that any less alienating to legitimate customers?

If they had thought to take the extra step of having an ‘upgrade’ button after a bankruptcy due to piracy outcome, would that have changed your view on this? It seems to me that you’re overlooking the fact that they already offer a free demo [“or set up a legitimate free-play version with proper labeling and links to purchase the unlocked version”] and that the torrent version effectively acts exactly like a demo, since the “poison” doesn’t kick in until quite a way into the game. Until that point it runs exactly like both the full game and the free demo and probably lasts longer than the regular demo.

Letting the pirates in on the joke, along with the option to buy/upgrade, after the punchline hit definitely would have been even better than what they shipped… but it’s too late to change that now. Besides, it wouldn’t have taken as long for the word to get out and fewer pirates would have the chance to experience the effects of piracy from the other side of the argument. I believe that was the point of this exercise, not stopping or punishing pirates.


I didn’t use the word ‘customers’ once, I only mentioned an ‘audience’ and ‘potential consumers’, so please don’t put words into my mouth.

Let me reiterate what I find different between this tactic and a legitimate free-play version. The developer released a crippled, broken version of its game for free to the public, intentionally packaging and labeling it to appear identical to its full paid version of the game. He wanted to mislead people into believing this was the full version. Yes, if he changed the labeling or packaging to clearly state otherwise, I wouldn’t care.

Speaking of “a fair or legal exchange of goods and services”: Making false claims about a product offered to the public is not only unethical, but might also possibly run afoul of some “false advertising” consumer protection laws. I won’t speculate further and I don’t expect a few thousand torrent downloaders to care enough to file a class-action lawsuit for the hours of their lives lost, though I would urge the developer to take the legal status of its distribution practices into consideration in the future.

Beyond going out of its way to distribute the crippleware, I also find the developer publicly gloating on its blog over the confusion and frustration of the 93.6% of its players it intentionally deceived to be very disrespectful. Maybe it’ll make a few extra bucks from the media buzz over its stunt, but beyond that this is not the kind of work that is helpful to anyone.


just wondering if you guys would include this to https://www.humblebundle.com/ or similar
in future? say after a year or so? it would bring you some small extra income.


I probabIy won’t play your game because I’m not into tycooning but bought the game anyway just for this idea. It’s genius. On so many levels.


By the way, I’m one of those “pirate and look, buy if good” guys, and I just bought it after having a nice run with the cracked (cracked for real, I mean) version. Not sure how it fits into that piechart, but oh well.

PS: It’s still wrong to assume that a pirate is a person exactly opposite to a customer.


Before, you mentioned that buying the new version will not only get you a DRM-free copy, but also a playable version on Windows, Mac and Linux as well as a steamkey, once avaiable. Will I as a earlier customer (Windows Store) will get those stuff, too?

I’m especially interested in the steam key and, especially after this partially heated discussion regarding fairness and value and stuff, I’d feel cheated if by supporting the product before it became avaiable for more platforms, I get less.


My apologies. I missed that subtle distinction in the attitude of the remainder of your post and in my rush to make a point of my own.

I think crippled & broken as descriptions are a bit exaggerated. You could easily argue that ending this version of the game in an winnable scenario isn’t as fun as the legitimate version of the game but I hear that a lot of people hated the ending to Mass Effect 3, for example. I don’t think that design choice was unethical, no matter how many people hated it. Obviously, these are different circumstances but were’ still essentially talking about design choices, not malicious damage to the product.

I also see some parallels between this and “unrated” versions of certain DVD releases of movies. A movie studio releases a theatrical version and an unrated version that ‘contains scenes too hot for theaters’. The viewer might expect explicit nudity or something else more than they actually receive when they end up with 10 minutes of deleted scenes. Labeling the torrent as ‘cracked and working’ (as in DRM removed) might imply fully functioning or unofficial but none of the claims in the torrent description are actually false. I’d also suggest that the potential lack of a class-action suit has more to do with the idea that attempted illegal activity would undermine the case, more than any other factor.

It’s a fair point, though, that frustrating the players that really do use the torrent version as a demo, since they heard about it there first, hurts the conversion rate for those kinds of players. That’s a risk the company decided to take with this particular strategy. Does anyone actually know how many people genuinely use torrent as a try-before-they-buy system Vs. how many just play what they want for free just because they can? Numbers on that are probably pretty hard to come by.

Does it seem more or less disrespectful than illegally using software that took the developers considerable time and money to create?

As for ‘gloating’, it seems more like publicizing the results of their ‘experiment’. I read no real hostility toward the pirates in this article. At least now the users of the torrent version know exactly what’s going on. You can end up with a lot worse trouble than a prank/joke ending to a game when you search torrent sites for warez.