#2. Spyro's Never-Ending Series of Traps
Damn, even cutesy children's games get pirated? Absolutely, they do. Spyro 2 had pirated versions floating around a mere week after its release, which put a significant dent in the game's sales. With Spyro: Year of the Dragon, Insomniac Games wanted to make damn sure that didn't happen again. What they did was nothing short of genius: Instead of throwing one giant fuck-you into the game somewhere, they turned the entire game into a series of middle fingers.
Insomniac developed a series of crack-protected traps. This meant that, even if a pirate successfully removed the original copy protection, the game would still be affected in ways that wouldn't be obvious until you attempted to play through it. Although it should have been obvious from the get-go, when a fairy politely informs you that you're a horrible person doing horrible things:
"Thank you in advance for licking all of our dicks. Please do have a miserable day."
After that screen, developers decided to see just how much time hackers had on their hands.
It starts small -- for instance, to progress in the game, Spyro needs to collect eggs and gems, just like a real dragon would. The pirated game, however, causes random gems and eggs to disappear from parts of the game you had not reached yet. Since those important items had vanished, the player was unable to continue past a certain point. Clearly the pirates figured out what was going on, and patched that particular problem.
But here's where the real genius of the plan falls into place: Fixing that layer of piracy glitches only exposed another. It would, at different times, prevent the players from pausing the game, keep them from using portals to advance further, and change the menu language to German.
It then enrolled you in a very open and public Nazi social club.
Finally, when all previous issues had been properly patched and the hackers could actually make it to the end of the game, they found that attacking the final boss would immediately send them back to the beginning of the game, with all of their save files erased.
The best part is: It worked. Most of a game's sales occur within the first couple of months, and it took over two months for a properly patched version of the game to become available to pirates.
#1. Game Dev Tycoon Plagues Pirates With Pirates
Game Dev Tycoon puts you in the shoes of a game developer whose goal is to make good games while making enough money to do all sorts of cool rich people shit, like buying food and paying bills.
The game's developer, Greenheart Games, decided to leak a hacked version of the game, mere minutes after releasing the legitimate version, just to see what would happen. Sure enough, within one day, a whopping 93.6 percent of players were playing the illegal version of the game. So now we have a game about making games pirated by pirates? How could this possibly be more meta? Simple: by sticking pirates in the pirated game.
The goal within the game is to build a successful gaming empire and make money. Well, people who stole the real game found that, if they made enough good fake games, they would eventually receive messages like this:
"P.S. We're standing right behind you."
Yup; people are stealing your fake game, and you are making no money. Sad face.
The thievery gets worse the further you progress in the game (you start in the 8- and 16-bit era, when game piracy was barely a blip on the radar) and the better you become at game design. That makes sense, after all -- better games mean more people want to steal them. So, releasing games with solid 9-10 ratings will result in increased piracy and decreased sales. Keep releasing awesome games, and the piracy will become so ridiculously rampant that your company is forced into bankruptcy.
And yes, the irony was lost on the pirates of the world. How else to explain cries for help like this one:
Come on, little buddy ... you're soooo close to getting the point. We know you can do it!
The creator of the game, Patrick Klug, claims that he doesn't hate pirates, although his company doesn't seem to share his sunny disposition. At least that's how we interpret a quote like "If, years down the track, you wonder why there are no games like these anymore, and all you get to play is pay-to-play and social games designed to suck money out of your pockets, then the reason will stare back at you in the mirror." Ouch.
Related Reading: Eager to see more pirates get their comeuppance? Read our first article in the long saga of pirate versus developer. Curious about piracy BEFORE the Internet? Click here to read about early file-sharing panics, like Phillip Sousa's war against the phonograph. And if you're more interested in seeing the dark side of the anti-piracy crusaders, this article reveals the most hypocritical online copyright busybodies.