PC Game Developer Pirates Own Game As Promotion

from the nice-work dept

A bunch of folks sent in stories about the decision by smaller, indie PC game developer RedLynx to put its own "pirated" game on BitTorrent the same day as it released the game. The one difference is that it removed one feature (a leaderboard, which the company describes as "the soul" of the game) from the "pirated" version, hoping that those who got the game that way would eventually agree to upgrade to the full version later. The company's CEO explained:
"Piracy is here, so how can we take advantage of that? What we did actually, on day one, we put that game immediately on all the torrent networks ourselves..."
I'm of mixed opinions when it comes to disabling features in "free" versions, but it appears to be working for RedLynx. It's certainly better than freaking out and complaining about "piracy."

Of course, not everyone agrees that putting any content up was a good idea. Over at Escapist Magazine, they drag this guy over the coals for even admitting that piracy exists:
In my mind, posting even a gimped version of your game to pirate sites is counterproductive to attempting to earn money developing said games. Doing so implies that piracy is tolerable, which it isn't. Plus, any traffic which the game may or may not generate to such torrent sites may facilitate users downloading other pirate games which legitimate companies did not leak.

Even if RedLynx made the unscrupulous decision to post their game to a torrent sites, why in the name of Jehovah would the CEO tell anyone about it? I see no advantage for that information to be made public and, conversely, there is a huge possibility for an industry-wide backlash.
This makes no sense at all to me. The CEO is correct. Piracy exists. Piracy of this game is going to happen either way. Figuring out ways to take advantage of it as a promotional tool is the smartest thing you could do. It's not implying that piracy is "tolerable," it's saying that piracy is here, it's not going away, and there are ways to take advantage of it. In many ways it's the reverse of saying it's "tolerable." It's saying that there are benefits to using it to your advantage. Apparently, the folks at Escapist think the proper business strategy is to put your head in the sand. Can't see how that helps at all. As for questioning why he would tell people about it -- again, that's not so complex. By telling people about it, he again is getting a lot more attention for his game and doing so in a way that shows he respects users, rather than thinks that they're all criminals. He trusts that some of those who play the pirated version will decide to upgrade to the full version. And why should he care if others in the industry don't like it? His job, as CEO, is to get more people to pay for his game. If he's found that this method works, what's the problem?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:15pm

    Who knew...

    That nationalist thinking had so pervaded our culture that it has wormed its way into being industry specific as well. This comment proves it:

    "Plus, any traffic which the game may or may not generate to such torrent sites may facilitate users downloading other pirate games which legitimate companies did not leak."

    And? Does this CEO somehow OWE the gaming industry as a whole? He's not responsible for what else people do or do not download. But this is exactly the "With us or against us" mentality that too many people have today. And further:

    "I see no advantage for that information to be made public and, conversely, there is a huge possibility for an industry-wide backlash."

    Ah, such egomaniacal entitlism. YOU aren't SUPPOSED to see the benefit, and neither are other developers. This was done to benefit RedLynx, end of story. Who cares what benefit YOU see, Mr. Supposed Journalist? How about the icing on the cake:

    "Doing so implies that piracy is tolerable, which it isn't."

    Yay for logic FAIL! It does no such thing. Rather, it says, "Hey, watch this magic trick. Poof, this game CAN'T be pirated! We took pirating OUT of the equaton!" This doesn't say piracy is tolerable, it says we're going to make it so there IS no piracy.

    Fairly genius, in my opinion.

    And charging for the leader board is kind of cool too. The leader board is a function of the community. Monetizing the community is a smart way to go...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:17pm

    A matter of semantics

    What I see is a company is taking a gimped/crippled/etc. demo of their product and putting it onto a P2P network.

    I won't describe this action using the phrase "copyright infringement", "unauthorized copying" or any variation thereof.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    10 minutes later, the full version with the leader board and a crack was up, and that ended that "great promotion".

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:29pm

      Re:

      "10 minutes later, the full version with the leader board and a crack was up, and that ended that "great promotion"."

      Fair enough. Then this game will sell minimal copies, the title won't do well, and you'll get to gloat all you want.

      IF you're right.

      And I'm sure that if the game does really well, you'll be back to tell us how wrong you were...

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:08pm

        Re: Re:

        no what happens is like diablo 2 i get the pirated copy enjoy it a lot then i buy the real game get an expansion disk and the manuals and maps and all the neat art.

        yea thats the world i live in, WHEN I can afford to pay for stuff.
        THATS the other point here if i cant afford it....then there is no loss to you.

        PROB is there is a ton of those leacher types that wouldnt pay regardless, they dont last long either at private torrent sites cause they dont share back so that prob gets solved as they get shoved to SLOW PUBLIC sites that teh mpaa and riaa spam

         

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      nelsoncruz (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:01pm

      Re:

      So, the full cracked game is not promotion too? I have bought about 10 PC games this year so far, almost all of which I downloaded and played in full before buying! Some was because I wanted to try playing online (which is blocked for pirate keys), most was just because I liked the game and wanted to reward the creators. Some still have the plastic rap on them. I might just as well make a donation if it was possible.

      I download because I want to see if I like the games first, I want to play them as soon as possible, and I don't want to deal with stupid DRM that limits installations and/or forces me to keep the DVD in the drive.

       

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      batch, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      Good job mashing your keyboard rather than reading. Major fail whale.

      From the article:
      Virtala said that the game has sold close to 150,000 copies since it was launched 18 months ago. "When we compare that hacked version with those who have access to leaderboards and are accessing our servers they match. So at least people have not cracked out leaderboards yet," he added.

       

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:23pm

    I love it

    Developer tries new model, game industry reacts like a jilted lover. The *AA shtuff make more sense to me now.

     

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    Matt (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    Piracy does _not_ exist.

    Infringement exists. It is not "piracy." It is the violation of a statutorily imposed prohibition against making copies. That is a far cry from piracy.

    In any event, it turns out torrent is a really good way to distribute software and (whose surprised?) a fine way to promote it, too.

    Movie producers "pirate" free, crippled versions of their own movies long before the real product is even finished (let alone distributed for retail sale). They call it a "trailer," but it works more or less the same. Is Escapist's argument that they put too much of the film in the trailer?

     

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    Kevin Marks, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    Sounds familiar

    Isn't this exactly Paulo Coelho's strategy with his novels?

     

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      justin, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 12:35am

      Re: Sounds familiar

      It's been working great for BAEN books for years. I can legally download their books from a library find the ones I really like and then go buy them or at least go check them out from the local library.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 5:36pm

    Well that's just great. So what happens if more content producers put up copies of their products on filesharing sites?

    What happens to all those fine creators who wish to destroy filesharing? How does this help them? When content producers undercut other content producers with . . .

    Hey, this sounds like another form of competition to me. But this time it's not just from the pirates!

     

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    Overcast (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Then... it's not pirated - if they copyright holder put it out for free, right? heh

     

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    Angela, Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Stupid disc rule

    The reason why I don't purchase most games I want is because of the stupid DVD must be in the drive rule they have. I have bought several games that once installed do not ask for the disc. It's far to much of a hassle to muck about with discs when you want to play a game. So for those games I just download, you don't need the disc then.

     

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      MattP, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:32am

      Re: Stupid disc rule

      This is the reason I only buy download-able games. For the older games that I have discs for Alcohol 120% works wonders.

       

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    Joe (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Cool idea, but far from "pirating" their own game

    The version he uploaded was not full, thus he didn't really eliminate piracy, nor did he upload his own pirate copy. Saying so is simply mis-representing the case. It's just a nicer form of a demo really.

    That said, it's still a cool idea. And the fact that he's getting so much publicity for the game pretty much makes it worthwhile. Piracy will happen anyway, might as well make some noise in the process. I suspect he'll see some sales from people who "support the cause" but maybe don't even care about the game. I'm tempted to be one of those people myself...

     

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      senshikaze (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:26pm

      Re: Cool idea, but far from "pirating" their own game

      The cool thing about this way of "demoing" your game, you upload to enough peers and make the swarm big enough, you can shut your bit-torrent client off and save bandwidth. much cheaper than a dedicated line for demo downloads.

       

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    senshikaze (profile), Nov 9th, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    Who is this jackass at Escapist to decide what a company does with THEIR OWN GAME.
    He doesn't like piracy, he can make sure HIS video games are crippled by DRM and pirated anyway, Oh wait, he's a magazine editor. Not a game developer.

    Remind me to send an email to Escapist telling them how to do their jobs.

     

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    turn.self.off, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 12:54am

    shareware?

    am i the only one old enough to remember when games where distributed by way of shareware?

    that is, but a 30 second nag screen on game/map load, chop it into episodes and hand out the first one for free, or in some other way show of the game with the option to order the rest later.

    that was how id software distributed doom back in the day, for instance, and i do not see how this cant work in this networked day.

    hell, i think there are companies that are actually doing a brisk trade in casual games this way.

    its only really the hollywood-ish giants like EA thats screaming bloddy murder over the net, as that removes the power EA have thanks to its distribution network. And thats really why other large entertainment groups are screaming to, as they have lost control over the "arts", they are no longer gatekeeper of the "market", saying yay or nay about what gets pitched their way.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 1:06am

    Here's a shocker;

    1) Company put own game on Bittorrent with a bit missing;
    2) Other game companies go nuts;
    3) Journalists are doing it wrong.
    4) It's not piracy if there's no ships involved.

    Yet people won't listen. They're all idiots. :p

     

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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Just the venerable crippleware shareware model variant with lower bandwidth costs

    As the subject line says, this sounds like a software distribution model that has been around for years, only with the tweak of using bittorrent (sensibly) to defray the costs of distributing the limited free version.

    Not a bad idea, but hardly groundbreaking stuff.

    P.S. Escapist has content other than Zero Punctuation? Who knew? :)

     

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    nasch (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 7:22am

    Piracy

    Apparently, the folks at Escapist think the proper business strategy is to put your head in the sand.

    Maybe that's why they call it Escapist.

     

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Nov 10th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Magazine attempting to protect their artificial 'scarcity'

    It seems pretty obvious why the journalist doesn't like the game being available - it is a threat to their business model.

    Video game journalists get free and early access to the games in exchange for writing about them and giving them good reviews. If the (full or mostly full) game is available for free on a torrent network, everyone can download and play, and decide for themselves whether or not to buy it without needing the opinions of some journalist or game reviewer.

    It is the same as the possibility of everyone having access to all the music ever recorded making music reviewers obsolete.

     

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    Devone, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Lol you took a quote from The Escapist?

    The giant trolling site?

     

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    Devone, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Lol you took a quote from The Escapist?

    The giant trolling site?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2009 @ 3:17am

    "Plus, any traffic which the game may or may not generate to such torrent sites may facilitate users downloading other pirate games which legitimate companies did not leak."

    This was the reason for downloading Modern Warfare 2, Halo, and every other blockbuster. The constant promoting on every single video game site did nothing to get people interested in it. But when the torrent is put on the same site as a game no one has heard of... you can't buy that kind of publicity.

     

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    W4RM4N (profile), Nov 12th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Smart Move

    I applaud torrenting your own game for publicity. You get your game out there how you want it to look, so you kinda control your product. Maybe I am nieve, but why would someone "crack" the game if it was already out there? Even minus the leaderboard feature. It seems like it would be too much of a pain for a little bit of bragging rights. Once you get hooked on the game and want to be on the leaderboard, you go buy it. If you don't like it, you aren't out the money, and you aren't pissed at the game company for trapping you into a crappy game. This has nothing but win written all over it.

    Although I see simularity to shareware from back in the day, I would classify this different.

    Dark Helmet, you are killing me! Still laughing about your "recieving" comment.

     

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