Game Dev Tycoon is an ever-evolving, meta simulation game that has players working to run a popular and profitable video game development studio. It has an inherently complex history in relation to the piracy community, and another development has attracted my attention again. When Game Dev Tycoon first unleashed itself upon the world, it did so legitimately and not-so-legitimately simultaneously. Patrick Klug, from developer Greenheart Games, released a different version of the game on a torrent site at the same time as the regular release. It became clear very quickly that this version was downloaded far more often than the real one was purchased.
Funny enough, there was one big difference between the two versions of Game Dev Tycoon. The illegitmate copy featured a prompt that would appear after a few hours of gameplay. It set in motion a spiral towards bankruptcy due to (you guessed it) piracy. Players of the pirated copy of the game took to forums to complain about its difficulty. They suggested that Greenheart Games include an option for fictional game devs to include DRM into their titles. It was a hilariously ironic situation that continued for five long years.
It was only in 2018 that the Game Dev Tycoon makers made any further mention of this pirate struggle. They added an update to the game that introduced “Pirate Mode.” This essentially introduces the original pirated copy into the legitimate version of the game as a separate mode. Players will find that their games are being pirated left and right, and must struggle to survive against impending bankruptcy. This Pirate Mode even includes the ever-requested DRM option, but for paid players instead of pirates. Anyone who includes DRM into their Game Dev Tycoon titles will find that fans will be divided and send them strongly worded letters. To take the matter even further, players will have to sell off shares of their company just to survive.
It's hilarious to me that Greenheart Games stuck the knife deep in the hearts of pirates and have now only twisted it in further. Their antics bring the subject of video game piracy very much back into the limelight. The largest questions are whether or not piracy will ever stop, and if there's a good way to go about preventing it. Anti-piracy measures like DRM are obnoxious because they bog down systems with extra fluff. In some cases it even requires you to be constantly connected to the Internet for a game that has no multiplayer options. Both of these are incredibly troubling to many gamers out there and the developers that consider including them. Dare they put in something that could cause them to lose half of their player base? But won't they lose half of those same players to piracy?
The latter question is an interesting topic to consider, especially since research like that conducted by the European Commission has been released. Piracy might actually help video game sales, rather than harm them. Some gamers pirate games in order to have earlier access to them. Some pirate games in order to see if they really like it or not. Most will buy said game in the end if they realize they enjoy it, in order to support the team that made it. In the end, those pirating gamers might not have purchased said title legitimately if not for trying it out first. So the inclusion of DRM has become more and more of a heavily discussed topic as far as its legitimacy.
It's great to see such an already meta title like Game Dev Tycoon include a DRM option. Love it or hate it, DRM is a part of video game history at this point. And it's neat to see it immortalized.
What are your thoughts on DRM? Have you been following the evolution of Game Dev Tycoon through the years? Let me know your thoughts on all this and anything else you'd like to chat about in the comments!