Greenheart Games is an indie company with a just-released title called Game Dev Tycoon, in which players attempt to build and run a successful game development company. In a deliciously revealing social experiment, the developers quietly released a pirated version on torrent sites alongside the official release:
The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:
Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.
Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.
The results of the experiment are hilarious and almost collapse under the weight of their own irony. But the developers also make a pointed statement about the issue of piracy and its effects. The full article is well worth a read.