Indie Developer Finds Game On Torrent Site, Gives Away Free Keys Instead Of Freaking Out

from the super-chill dept

When game developers find their products available for download on torrent sites and the like, it's understandable if their reaction isn't exactly positive. Many gamemakers pour their hearts into developing their art and finding it available for free, fully cracked of any DRM that they might have included, can be understandably frustrating. It's typically that frustration that launches into DMCA takedowns, complaints about piracy harming the gaming business, and talk of site-blocking and legal threats.

But not every game developer falls into that category. While it doesn't happen enough, some developers try to understand what piracy is and isn't, and where inroads with the gaming community can be made, even amongst those dastardly pirates. A recent example of this would be Jacob Janerka, who created the indie game Paradigm, only to find the game available on torrent sites across the internet.

But, instead of being filled with anger and rage while running to the nearest anti-piracy outfit, Janerka decided to reach out to the pirates. Not to school or scold them, but to offer a few free keys.

“Hey everyone, I’m Jacob the creator of Paradigm. I know some of you legitimately can’t afford the game and I’m glad you get to still play it :D,” Janerka’s comment on TPB reads. “If you like the game, please tell your friends and maybe even consider buying it later,” he added.

Rather than playing whac-a-mole or, even worse, spending many calories and minutes complaining about the reality of video game piracy existing, Janerka decided to engage this community, give away a few free game keys, and include a request to spread the word about the game if those on the torrent site truly enjoy it. That's about as congenial as it gets, especially when we keep this within the frame of this group being one downloading Janerka's game for free when he's attempting to make a business out of his work product.

In the aftermath of this, someone posted the exchange on Reddit, leading to a chorus of approval from the internet community, to further coverage of the story and his game by proxy, and to news coverage of Janerka. In those interviews, Janerka revealed that this isn't some marketing ploy that went well, but rather that he has personal experience with pirating games.

“I did it because I understand that in some cases, some people legitimately cannot afford the game and would like to play it. So maybe HOPEFULLY for a lucky few, they got the official keys and got to play it and enjoy it. I know for sure that when I was a young kid, I was unable to buy all the games I wanted and played pirated games. And when I actually got that disposable income, I ended up buying sequels/merch/extra copies,” Janerka adds.

The developer doesn’t think that piracy hurts him much, as many people who pirate his games don’t have the money to buy them anyway. In addition, having non-paying fans of the game is more valuable than having no fans at all.

Janerka's approach is the polar opposite of most of the larger studios that tend to see game pirates as vermin fit for the judicial system. To see news of the game spread like this, simply because the developer decided to be awesome and human rather than heavy-handed or litigious, should be a signal to creators big and small how to handle having their games show up on torrent sites.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2017 @ 7:04pm

    Dupe?

    I've seen an article about this on Techdirt some days ago. Whazzup? The earlier article is flat gone, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2017 @ 7:23pm

    This is just a marketing stunt. When you're an unknown indie dev the feel good press coverage is worth a few lost sales. I wouldn't be surprised if they put the game up on the torrent site for that exact reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      mrtraver (profile), 5 Jul 2017 @ 7:40pm

      Re:

      Not sure if this is sarcasm or not. I rated it as funny, but in case it's not sarcasm, I'll respond to that.

      Did you even read the whole article, or just the headline? The whole point of the article is that the developer understands, and even admits, that these unauthorized downloads are NOT lost sales. They were never-sales - many of the downloaders never had any intention of buying the game, with lack of disposable income being one possible factor. Who knows; it may even increase sales - the ones that used it as a demo may buy it if they like it, but without that initial download they may not have ever purchased it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Machin Shin, 6 Jul 2017 @ 7:18am

      Re:

      So what? Even if it is a marketing stunt he comes out winning. Worst case was he gave away a few copies that cost him nothing anyways. Now though it has resulted in news coverage that works as free advertising. Not only that bu the news coverage makes him look like a cool guy.

      This in contrast to say EA or Ubisoft, both companies who seem to regularly make the news, but tend to come out looking like total assholes. Like that wonderful mess that was Sim City. Really smooth way to handle pirates don't you think? Lock the game up with always online requirement, but then don't bother to actually build out the server farm needed to handle the load. Then no one can play, not even those stupid enough to pay for the game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 7:32am

        Re: Re:

        Then no one can play, not even those stupid enough to pay for the game.

        Don't you mean that only pirates can play the game, due to the removal of the DRM?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 5 Jul 2017 @ 7:25pm

    Mostly because he figured out that he was f--ked already, so why fight it? The ship already sailed without him, the 'interwebthingie' decided that for him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jul 2017 @ 8:13pm

      Re:

      It's a shame Hollywood hasn't figured that out as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 5 Jul 2017 @ 8:31pm

      Re:

      Treating people like people rather than criminals and treating non-paying fans the same as paying fans gets him positive press and possibly a bigger fanbase. Imagine that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        MyNameHere (profile), 5 Jul 2017 @ 8:42pm

        Re: Re:

        I understand it. But if you are a paying customer, it's not a nice feeling to realize you paid for all the freeloaders. Next game comes out, and the paying customers are lining up with the freeloaders, because they know as soon as it's cracked, everyone gets it for free.

        All the "fans" in the world can't buy you a cup of coffee, let alone pay for development of a new product.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 5 Jul 2017 @ 9:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          No such thing occurs. Thinking like that is exactly the problem.

          Development already occurred. Non-sales, including people who got it free, have zero effect.

          All the distribution industries know this, deep down, which is why they want to charge the same as if you were purchasing a hard copy that had to be manufactured and distributed. Some creators and publishes actually get it, others don't.

          Burn down libraries, right? They are so evil. And heaven forbid you lend or sell something you are done watching, reading, playing, or listening to, if it is a hard copy medium.

          But as for digital content, the production cost is effectively zero. 90% of the world can pirate it (which i am sure is exactly what y'all imagine in your frothing, fevered dreams), 10% can buy it, and you are well into happy profit land.

          You seem to fail to realize that most people who infringe a thing or two occasionally are precisely future paying customers. "Fans" _does_ equal profits. Fans are advertisers and future customers. If you don't believe that, explain free samples, coupons, and Microsoft giving away free or low cost shit to China and schools.

          Pretty sure anyone in industries subject to non-counterfeit infringement, who spend so much time and money whining and trying to "stamp out piracy" are wasting far more than any theoretical "lost profits" could possibly amount to.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            DCL, 6 Jul 2017 @ 12:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            It depends on the game. I agree that an offline, single player game can be duplicated without much impact on the developer (and their likelihood to make future improvements or new games).

            But games that have an online component are a very different case. The designing and running the server components cost a lot of money and takes a lot of resources and that forces companies to find new ways to make money, and they sometimes (really more often than anybody wants) get it wrong either technically, socially or monetarily.

            Something people don't realize is that pirated copies of an online game are a major component of a griefer's ability to make the gameplay bad for others. They know they will get banned so they find a "free game" using a throwaway account to be jerks. Then the rest of the community blames the game company for the bad experience.

            As for the giveaways... well that is not really an option either for bigger companies... A small independent doesn't really have to worry about people coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of a nice gesture.

            I have seen for myself the inner happenings of a major video game company support queue. There is a strong timing correlation with a new reddit comment about how to get a game for free from a company and the phone queue being overwhelmed with people that want to game the system. Don't forget that every call costs the company between $5-10 (at least one with good service) per phone contact, so every call not helping somebody with a legitimate issue is taking away from resources that can go into the making better games. Now multiply that by thousands of calls an hour and you will start to understand why Steam doesn't have a phone support number.

            Does that make being "anti-pirate" and using DRM the right thing to do (very debatable)? But what other tools and techniques do a big game company have (vs a small one)? All companies have to make a profit, but game companies also employ a LOT of people in a very specialized area of expertise. If they go out of business then a lot of people lose could their jobs and the economy of the gaming industry may not support them all being rehired quickly. I am not saying any company is too big to fail, just that assuming a "they have deep pockets" mentality isn't good for the industry as a whole.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 3:41pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Well said. Nice to see someone else understands that there is a huge amount of grey here. The caveman black and white mentality is way to simple for a complex set of human interactions.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 7 Jul 2017 @ 12:26am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Erm, I think you have that the wrong way round. Offline single player games are a one shot deal, you buy them and that's it. If you pirate it, that's the one shot lost (potentially, anyway, some pirate then buy).

              On the other hand, online multiplayer games require constant checking for cheating, etc., and so are less vulnerable to piracy. Even if players choose a private server they're likely to also want to access public servers. People caught cheating are banned. Other buy DLC and the company profits overall. I don't like forced DLC or the fact that free to play tactics are finding their way into AAA games, but online games are less vulnerable to piracy generally, which is why you too often find crappy multiplayer elements shoehorned into single player games that don't need them.

              "Something people don't realize is that pirated copies of an online game are a major component of a griefer's ability to make the gameplay bad for others."

              Then they're caught and are banned from public servers.

              "But what other tools and techniques do a big game company have (vs a small one)?"

              DRM screws paying customers. If companies can't think of another way to convince people to pay them money, they don't deserve to be paid.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                DCL, 7 Jul 2017 @ 12:29pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Doh! I had a more detailed response to this but I lost it due to a dumb move on my part. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to rewrite it.

                The Summary: I have worked for a major PC game publisher for half a decade and can attest that making games is extremely complicated and hugely expensive.

                Any way you look at it profits are important. Even the most passionate of indie game dev that makes something awesome as a labor of love needs to pay the bills and would LOVE to make enough from their game to do nothing but make a new one.

                The most successful strategy for making money is a complicated mix of the type of game, the audience, the market, timing (and current events at launch), game content, the publisher, cost of dev, available dev resources, future content plans, ongoing support strategies, what platforms are supported, digital only or are there packaged goods, and a bunch of other things.

                I am a big fan of CwF + RtB but that relies on some sort of scarce resource that can be monetized, it is difficult to find a way that fits the game and is successful. Remember also that those monetization strategies work best when they are planned in from the start which is often a couple of years before release... public desires change a lot in that timeframe.

                Given that there are not many ways to produce and protect a successful revenue stream from a game and your post shows disdain for most of the tools that game companies have and that highlights part of the problem for game devs/publishers in that whatever they do or try (there has been a LOT of innovation and strategies in the last decade) there is always a vocal group that hates it or sees as justification to game the system to "not reward that behavior" but yet still play.

                I challenge you (and everybody who reads this) to discuss the possible solutions and get beyond the simple statements of "DRM is bad", "Paying for DLC sucks", or "microtransactions are evil".

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 12:30am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Water, can't hardly give the stuff away, much less charge for it. Hell it even falls from the sky. How can you compete with that? Stupid freeloaders and their "rain barrels."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 12:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's a cool imaginary anecdote about how sequels to video games don't exist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 1:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You obviously do not understand the business model that works best with digital copies, which is give them away, and provide other means, like Patreon, or tee shirts, or even live performances for your fans to support you. It is proving to be a successful business model for thousands of people, though it will never support those who live off of the back of creative people, like the studios and labels.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 1:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "But if you are a paying customer, it's not a nice feeling to realize you paid for all the freeloaders"

          You always have, you always will. You pay for shoplifters every time you shop in a supermarket, you pay for people who never buy a copy every time you buy a newspaper, you pay for everyone to use parks for free every time you pay taxes.

          It's reality, deal with it.

          "the paying customers are lining up with the freeloaders, because they know as soon as it's cracked, everyone gets it for free."

          Yet, in the real world, that doesn't mean that the paying customers suddenly stop paying. It just means that you have to cater to those who do pay.

          I'm sorry if this basic concept is still alien to you. Perhaps if you put as much effort into reading comprehension as you do with idiot trolling, you'd have grasped this by now?

          "All the "fans" in the world can't buy you a cup of coffee, let alone pay for development of a new product."

          Unless they actually pay you. Which is why there are so many business models that are successfully doing this. The one that's failing? Attacking your fanbase while whining about all the pirates.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 4:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I don't see where a paying customer is "paying for" the freeloaders. If you didn't think the game was worth a shot at the price you paid, why did you buy it? I can understand resentment that you paid for something you could have "gotten for free"...assuming whoever uploaded the cracked version didn't load it with ransomware or other malware.

          Maybe you weren't in the right place at the right time to score one of the free keys. Life is a series of missed opportunities. But the only ones that count are the ones you are aware of in time to take advantage of.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 4:32am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "I don't see where a paying customer is "paying for" the freeloaders."

            I assume he means that by paying full price for a product, he's paying for the product to be developed while the "freeloader" is not. Therefore, the existence of the product in on him and he resents paying for a product's existence that others enjoy for free.

            Like most of his ideas, it's very flawed and some aspects of the argument are easily refuted by objective reality. It also ignores that there's plenty of ways in which he's been paying for "freeloaders" his entire life - and has probably been one many, many times over without realising it. But, at least it's easy to see where he's coming from for once.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 6 Jul 2017 @ 11:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But if you are a paying customer, it's not a nice feeling to realize you paid for all the freeloaders.

          The thought has honestly never occurred to me, or given me even a moment's pause in deciding whether or not I should spend money on something I want.

          If you honestly recoil at the thought of paying creators because you can't stand the thought that other people are getting the same thing without paying for it, then maybe you're the one with the questionable morals.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2017 @ 11:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            But if you are a paying customer, it's not a nice feeling to realize you paid for all the freeloaders.

            The thought has honestly never occurred to me, or given me even a moment's pause in deciding whether or not I should spend money on something I want.

            If you honestly recoil at the thought of paying creators because you can't stand the thought that other people are getting the same thing without paying for it, then maybe you're the one with the questionable morals.

            This kinda reminds me of the single-payer healthcare debate, or Universal Basic Income.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 1:11am

      Re:

      So, you agree that the best way to deal with things like this is to react in ways that make people more likely to purchase the product even after it's been pirated, rather than lose your shit and attack every current and potential customer and innocent bystanders?

      Glad to have you on board with reality for once!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 1:24am

      Re:

      Have you ever heard of a loss leader? Free marketing? The marketing budget of most companies that have a product to sell is enormous and a huge drain on the profit made.

      I know of various people who spend little on marketing budgets but have huge marketing programs. They are always looking for ways to have free marketing, it means more profit in the end.

      He is another one who has used a loss leader to generate a huge marketing campaign that has essentially cost him nothing but has raised his profile above the masses.

      The ship may have sailed without him, but he has already reached the next port because the ship has docked there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 1:51am

        Re: Re:

        There's also the flipside - acting like a complete dick would probably have lost sales from people who were considering the game but were put off by a negative reaction.

        For me, I've seen this story reported a couple of times, Paradigm was not on my radar before. It is now. I've not bought it yet (funds tied up in summer activities, massive backlog of games on various platforms that I'm trying to to add to), but I will certainly buy at some point in the future and keep my eye on his future projects. I wish I could offer more at this point in time, but when you spend the summer travelling and going to film/music festivals and the like, it's hard to justify videogame purchases!

        Giving away "a few" keys and not freaking out over piracy probably netted "a few" immediate purchases from sympathetic minds in the community, but almost certainly gained some more from some free positive exposure. While, there's some developers I actively avoid because of negative actions in the past.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Zonker, 7 Jul 2017 @ 11:35am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm literally one of those people who had never heard of Paradigm before reading this article.

          I thought I would check it out last night despite thinking it's probably just another generic low budget indie puzzle or arcade game I would have no interest in. How pleasantly surprised I was to find out it would be a creative new point and click adventure game with a fun new style I've been craving, and very highly rated on user reviews.

          So as a result of this article on the developers cool and reasoned response to piracy, I found a new game I might never have found otherwise and bought a copy. According to some of the reviews on Steam, I'm not the only one. Looking forward to playing this one over the weekend.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 3:26am

    Seriously, Techdirt? This article ran on Torrentfreak over a week ago and you're just now reporting on this? Techdirt and Arstechnica is turning out to be the better site. Report these things as they happen. Just feels like Techdirt now reports on old new items reported on by other sites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 3:34am

      Re:

      Welcome to Techdirt, where nobody has ever claimed the site to be a platform for breaking news, and instead is an opinion blog and forum for discussion on stories reported elsewhere. A site which has also been closed to new stories for 4 days over the long Independence Day weekend, as visibly advertised at the time.

      Are you seriously just working this out, or is this one of those "I can't find anything to disagree with in the article so I'll just whine that the site isn't covering what I want it to" kind of deals?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 4:05am

        Re: Re:

        Posts like that are a symptom of the prevalaence of being able to vote on posts. While techdirt doesnt really have such a system, on most forums that do have it, schmucks who post banal, trite, patently obvious crap like that will for some reason tend to get a wave of up-votes/likes/etc

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2017 @ 8:50am

      Re:

      You realize Techdirt isn't a news site, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 6 Jul 2017 @ 7:31am

    So now I'll have to buy it to support this guy because heck, even my inner child got connected to his.

    Despite the trolling up there, this generates a lot of goodwill AND sales. Not now maybe but in the future? Sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 10 Jul 2017 @ 1:38pm

    Publicity

    The only bad publicity is no publicity. This guy has it right! Now, just remove the DRM and let the market speak!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tom, 20 Sep 2017 @ 1:46pm

    To the Steve Koltes of CVC. CBS anchor woman Cindy Hsu recently got involved in dirty coraption business with infamous CBS anchor Otis Livingston to rob CVC company employees bank accounts. never trust Cindy Hsu and Otis Livingston they are crooks and dangerous for business put them in prison!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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