How One Developer Gets the Upper Hand and Cleverly Ousts Pirates

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Piracy is inevitable, which is why it seems silly for companies to invest ridiculous amounts of time and money on preventative measures; it only hurts paying customers and it doesn’t really stop the pirates. In fact, the whole process has gotten a lot quicker over the past few years, as pirates generally crack a game and make it available within days of launch, and sometimes even earlier.

A few resourceful developers, however, have begun to use some rather unorthodox – and quite brilliant – tactics to oust pirates. For example, the developer of Skullgirls used a secret message to psychologically trick pirates into revealing they played an illegal copy of the game.

One such pirate, going by the twitter name Dan Hibiki, completed Skullgirls Encore only to receive a rather cryptic and strange message: “What is the square root of a fish? Now I’m sad.”

Hibiki posted a screenshot of the message on Twitter along with this: “So I got this message after beating story with both Para and Cere and I have no idea what it means…”

To which the game’s developer responded with: “Oh that? It means you should probably buy the game instead of pirate it. o:)“

Of course, the pirate – after realizing he had been burned – recanted slightly by saying he purchased the game later, “after loving it so much!”

We’re all for seeing this kind of shaming happen more often, which calls out pirates directly and puts them in the spotlight. Since this has already happened to Hibiki, it’s not likely others will make the same mistake – although you never know.

Skullgirls is not the only piece of software to include this type of shaming tactic. Earthbound is infamous for freezing after the last boss encounter, whereupon the player’s save data would also be deleted.Serious Sam 3 deploys an invincible scorpion that hunts the player down during the entire length of their play session. Finally, another software application called Tweetbot will actually make users publically Tweet that they pirated the application, after doing so.

Game Dev Tycoon even made waves not too long ago for implementing a unique gaming mechanic in pirated versions of the game. Since the game sees players running a game development company, pirates would soon find their business failing with no opportunities to continue after consumers pirated too many of their virtual games, in a clever bit of irony.

Piracy is an interesting problem; it’s not an issue you’re likely to see, for example, in the industrial machinery industry. It’s not as though we’re without a roadmap, however; the music industry has been clawing its way back to relevance and profitability since the days of Napster, and the rising popularity of streaming apps like Spotify and Beats have been a big help in getting people to pay for music again, even if it’s only access to music. One has to wonder if this business model will find its way into the games industry eventually.

The real point here is that piracy is never good, and it’s interesting to see offenders called out and shamed publically for their choices. Of course, pirates aren’t going to agree with this logic – even if they do completely overlook the fact that they’re still able to play most of these games free of charge.

It’s a shame that this market has such a problem, but it’s something that happens with movies and music too. Although it’s likely that piracy will never fade – and will always exist in one form or another – we’d love to see more of these clever tactics being used. It seems silly to make paying customers suffer through strict DRM, anti-piracy measures and cumbersome activation procedures, when the guilty parties are decidedly in the minority.

Image credit: Nicolas Raymond

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