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Some indies don't fight piracy, they embrace it

Some indies don't fight piracy, they embrace it
October 26, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Jonatan Soderstrom is the latest indie developer who's accepted that people will pirate his game, and has even gone out of his way to provide technical support to people downloading Hotline Miami without paying.

He joins a small but growing list of independent developers who have acknowledged that there's little they can do to stop people from stealing their PC games; instead they have found ways to embrace those pirates and make the best out of the situation.

"I don't really want people to pirate Hotline Miami, but I understand if they do," Soderstrom posted on Twitter, adding that he knows what it feels like to be broke. "I definitely want people to experience the game the way it's meant to be experienced. No matter how they got a hold of it."

After finding a cracked copy of Hotline Miami posted on popular torrent site The Pirate Bay, Soderstrom addressed commentors who complained about bugs in the game -- he not only offered advice for some issues, but also promised a patch and asked that the page be updated once it's released.

When McPixel developer Sos Sosowski found his game on The Pirate Bay recently, he also chose not to ask the site to take down the torrent. He instead thanked the people stealing his game for their interest, and offered free download codes in the comments.

His goodwill caught the attention of people on Reddit, and the buzz around his game led to The Pirate Bay's administrators offering to promote McPixel with a pay-what-you-want deal on their site -- a first for any game. Sosowski signed off on the idea, McPixel sold thousands of copies, and the game was eventually accepted by Steam's Greenlight platform, likely with help from the many fans he's won in the last couple of months.

The developers behind another indie title, Under the Ocean went so far as to offer a humorous "Annoying Cockroach Edition" alongside paid versions for their game back in April. This edition's accompanying text acknowledged that pirates were sure to steal the game, but sought to make those people feel guilty for doing so. There was even a link to The Pirate Bay initially, though that was taken down later.

"The Cockroach edition was actually not an attempt to cut down on piracy," artist Paul Greasley explained to Gamasutra. "It was just one of the liberties of being an indie developer, with nobody to answer to. The elephant in the room is that 90-plus percent of people are going to pirate your game on the PC (and ours is no exception, based on the traffic logs). We just thought it would be fun, and frankly honest, to point that out!"

As with McPixel, Under the Ocean's developers picked up a lot of buzz and a front-page post on Reddit for their acceptance of piracy. The team hopes to convert pirates now by releasing frequent updates that are more convenient to install with purchased copies.

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