Game Developers Who Don't Hate Piracy Get Screwed By... Piracy

The handful of people making zombie survival horror game Project Zomboid have pulled their game from the internet, not because they hate that their game is getting pirated. They expected that. They could even live with that, as they had been, quite merrily.

They have pulled their £5 ($7.65) game because, despite their tolerance for piracy, they're now definitely losing money to piracy.

A new pirated version of the game includes an "update" button that, any time it's clicked, forces a new download of the whole thing from the cloud servers that the Zomboid team uses to distribute the game. Each download from that service has to be paid for, by the developers.

On their blog, the game's indie creators explain why this is a potentially costly problem:

Whether piracy actually amounts to lost sales we're not going to get into. The possibility that it raises awareness and promotes the game cannot be ignored, but the difference is offline versions on torrents, which we've been largely unconcerned about, do not cost us real money [emphasis in the original] , only potential money, and even then we can't really guess at what the net effect is. Likewise people who download the game through our website only download it when there is a new version, so once every week or so. These new pirate copies have an ‘update now' button which will download the game every time it's clicked, potentially every time the game is run by everyone using it.

They've pulled the game, but are offering a public demo via torrent. Do check it out and consider this an important anecdote for the ongoing arguments about who piracy serves, who it hurts and who it helps.

Sorry we've had to take the game down for the day [Project Zomboid developer blog]


    It's a sad story. With all those at the front lines claiming the intangible benefits of piracy there are exponentially more behind them just looking for something free and not caring who they screw along the way.

    I would've hoped at least that there'd be less piracy in indie games, from a stance somewhere between "honour amongst thieves" and "not in our own back yard".

      Give a finger and they take your whole arm, these people.

      I think that the Humble Indie Pack was probably the worst example of this. A "pay what you want" policy with all proceeds going to charity and... people torrented the shit out of it.

      There goes the theory that if you play nice, the pirates would treat you well for no other reason than the goodness of their hearts.

    Good case for using Desura. No download costs.

    It's definitely a sad thing that things like this happen so small developers. There's a good chunk of PC users who will fiercely deny that piracy is a problem but the truth is that it is. I was once a pirate myself admittedly but now I buy every single game I want. It's not right, especially for indie devs, that they should put all of that effort in and not get paid for it.

    use authenticated downloads only, problem solved.

    or distribute the updates to distributed file servers. P2P good way to go, also.

    Not hard to get rid of this problem and stick it to the dirty thieves.

    Anyone who thinks game piracy isn't hurting the industry must be a complete and utter idiot.

    Give people an inch, they take a mile. This mentality permeates the piracy of media and it's very damaging.

      Perhaps, but I'd rather have "the people" take that mile than media corporations who want it to be a felony to stream you and your friends singing karaoke on youtube. :\

    Disappointing that things happened like this, but nice to see an indie dev understanding what piracy is. Whether piracy is actually a lost sale is debatable, and can actually have the positive effect of free advertising and making your game more well known. Certainly many people use piracy to try before you buy so piracy can still result in more sales.

    It is nice to see a developer admit these things and that piracy isn't that big a deal for them as it doesn't cost them any real money, only theoretical. The problem here is that it did start to cost them actual money. Hopefully they will find a way around the 'update now' exploit so they can get back to work on what looks to be a pretty cool game.

      Do you know what's better then pirating a game and then telling all your friends about it, encouraging them to get it?

      Buying the game and then telling all your friends about it.

      Do you know what's better then pirating a game to use as your own personal demo before buying the game?

      Downloading an official demo before buying the game.

      Yes sometimes people will pirate games they had no intention to buy in the first place, therefore no lost sale, but that time spent playing the pirated game can be spent playing some other game they purchased legally, helping the industry in the process.

      Anyone that ever adamantly denies pirating is a bad thing are always people trying to justify their gigantic pirated game library. I assume these Zomboid developers are the same. They really should use this situation as a wake up call, even if the circumstances are different to normal.

        Q.Do you know what’s better then pirating a game and then knowing if it's good or bad?
        A.Getting an offical demo

        Q.Do you know what we don't get alot anymore?
        A.Offical Demos

        Q.Do you know why people pirate when there are no demos?
        A.Because no one likes to spend 80 to +100 dollars for a game that sucks arse.

        Also it is possible for people that have pirated the games/game to like it and actually support the it buy buying it. Take me as an example I pirated minecraft,shared with my friends and holyshit we all brought the game because it was a good game omgwtfbbq. Just finished pre-ordering Deus Ex Human Revolution because I enjoyed the leaked version so don't tell me I'm scum and that I don't support the games I love just because I pirated them first

          what a crock of sh♥t, especially seeing as theres a retailer out there that has a 7-day MONEY BACK guarentee.

          Buy the f♥cking game loser. You don't like it, go get your money back.

            hmm, I guess this doesn't work so well if we're talking PC. Still, this weak excuse for downloading games is still a joke.

            I'm not speaking from experience, but surely if someone goes out and repeatedly buys games, only to return them days later, eventually they'll get blacklisted from the store. Also, returns are probably the reason for ridiculous used game prices, as stores are unable to sell a returned item as new, it is not defective so they cannot return it to the distributor, so they then sell it as a used copy at just shy of the price of the new game, even many months after release.

              People are blacklisted because there are others out there who take advantage of the 7 day return policy and basically use their local EB as a free rental service.

              Chances are, if you're a regular person, you're not going to pay for one game and return it more than 10 times for a legitimate reason.

            Ooh, touched a nerve? What, did some evil pirates break into your development studio and steal all your games?

            Then again, you probably don't even have a development studio, but clearly you are rolling in money and ought to give half of it to Africa.

            Retailers refuse to refund PC games, the money back guarantee only extends to console games. If you buy an over priced PC game (and they are over priced, we pay double what the rest of the world pays, and they're all ready being over charged) And it turns out to be shit (which is often the case, thanks to developers being forced to release games before they're finished, without demos, by shitty producers) then you're shit out of luck. No refunds, no customer satisfaction, no exchange, no nothing. You give them an absurd amount of money, with no guarantees or rights as a consumer, and then they fuck you in the arse. And that's before I even begin to mention DRM, Which in some cases has been known to wreck people's hardware (like starfroce).

            It's pretty simple really, Producer's treat legitimate customers like shit, so they turn to piracy.


    And this is why you have some form of online registration to prevent pirated copies from doing anything that causes ongoing costs...

    Not necessarily as a barrier to starting the game, like in minecraft, but at least have somewhere in settings, so it can verify when they try to update.

    A logical reaction to an extremely selfish action.

    Somewhere down the line we're going to have to find a DRM method that actually works without being a complete POS. Once we do that then we'll all be back to paying for stuff like we should be.

      You mean like price points that people are willing to pay for the content delivered? That would probably work.

        Really? I play PZ and it is constantly being updated and is a hell of a lot of fun to play. It already is as good as a lot of PS3 games that cost 50 bucks! The price is 8 dollars for a lifetime auth to the game.. If you think it isn't worth it then you are in it just to see pretty graphics and no real content.

    isnt this similar to minecraft's auto update piracy thing?

    Once upon a time Shareware worked just fine.

    Why not rework it for this age?

    (Or just put bloody DEMOS up?)

    Piracy is a problem.

    Now, small-scale piracy indeed functions like viral marketing and thus can increase net sales indirectly.

    But large scale piracy is a problem.

    Pirates like to claim they're sticking it to large publishing conglomerates (although this argument only works for games that are published by said large conglomerates), but the problem is that said large publishing conglomerates treat piracy as EVIDENCE OF UNMONETIZED DEMAND.

    As such, to pirate a big game from Activision or Ubisoft will only provide more of an incentive for both companies to create yet-more-intrusive DRM schemes. Naturally, these companies will respond to incentives.

    If you REALLY want to send a message to big publishers, you should neither pirate NOR purchase their games.

      It amuses me to no end when I hear this excuse too.

      "I only pirate because.. DRM!"

      Because apparently the pirates love playing these games, they just don't love them enough to pay for them. It's the most hideous sense of entitlement.

      I'll buy a game from Activision when nobody in the company earns over $100kp/a, tbh.

    The only game that I have played that was pirated is Jam with the band which was never released in Australia. (get on that Nintendo) But I plan to buy it from the UK. However I think people who only pirate games are denying people jobs. If you like the game, buy the friggin' thing. If you don't have the money to buy it straight away, wait until the price drops or shop around.

    The really appalling thing was the game was only $8 - just buy the thing FFS, you spend more money getting out of bed in the morning!

    I feel really bad for these developers these days. I've spent over $1000 bucks over the last few years on games themselves knowing that they all deserve the money.
    Piraters of games that sells for just 7 Dollars really make me sick. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.


    Woooow, there sure are some 'interesting' people in these comments.

    For all the hate against pirates, I don't see a single thing about this situation that you can blame on them. I highly doubt the problem with the 'update' button was intentional, and furthermore, I'd be interested in seeing how many people stopped pressing said button once the developers brought this up. And how quickly the makers of the pirated version fixed it.

    Seems to me that the only people with a right to be angry - the ones losing money - are the only ones who aren't.

    And just for the record I have at least $4000 worth of store-bought games in my desk, purely from this generation. I also made sure every one of those games was good before I bought it.

    That's crap.

    I hope the pirates change what they're doing now that they know, I have a soft spot for indie companies.

    People pirated and Alpha version of a dare they!

    Engage caps lock childish rant against pirates!!

    Those poor, sweet, cute, humble, philanthropic, honest, hard working indie devs are just trying to put bread on their tables to feed the 37 starving orphans that they adopted.
    C'mon you guys, it's only $5!!!
    Jesus Christ, $5 dollars... seriously pay them!!!
    As long as it is only $5 it doesn't matter if it's a finished product, or whether it sucks balls or is great. I mean, everyone can afford $5 dollars so pay up.
    I'd even pay indie developers to fed-ex me a bag of dogshit...I mean it's only $5.
    PAY THEM!!!!



    I have a soft spot in my asshole for indie companies.

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