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.