We get a lot of posts here on DC complaining about how software piracy often leads to a better product (e.g. no stupid, unskippable adverts/warning scenes on DVDs/Blu-Rays, no rootkit-esque or performance-killing DRM on video games, or the ability to listen to your music how, when, and where you want, etc.), and how it often doesn't really harm the respective industry in quite the way or magnitude the industry likes to claim it does.
But here's a case in which piracy has actually harmed Indie Stone, an independent game development studio, as well as the legitimate customers who bought the game. Indie Stone explains in a blog post entitled "Sorry, we've had to take the game down for the day" (note that it's actually been down for quite a few days now):
Pirates have made a version of the game that auto-downloads Project Zomboid from our server whenever the player clicks an ‘update’ button.
We’ve always turned a blind eye to pirate copies, even on occasion recommending people who had problems with the legit version try a pirate version until the issues are resolved. We realise the potential viral benefits of pirate copies, and while obviously we’d prefer people to purchase our issue is not with those.
However, these ‘auto updating’ versions of the game could screw us completely. We have a cloud based distribution model, where the files are copied all over the world and are served to players on request, which means we are charged money for people downloading the game. 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, 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.
Apologies for everyone who’s purchased the game, but this has the potential to cost some of the development funds we’ve made so far, and we can’t risk it. We may be overreacting. But we have no idea of the numbers that could be involved and since an auto-updating pirate version effectively removes any need to buy the game and suggests they are ‘in it for the long haul’ if they are playing the version for numerous updates, we can’t count on ‘try before you buy’ sale conversions from them.
Not only is this instance of piracy causing real monetary harm to the developers, but it also has interfered with legitimate customers since the only way Indie Stone could stop the rampant downloading of the official version was to completely remove it. So now anybody who paid for it can't even download it. At least not until Indie Stone get some sort of mandatory authentication implemented to download it, which sadly results in at least two undesirable things:
1. It places one more obstacle between legitimate customers and the product they purchased.
2. It forces Indie Stone to take time away from developing the game to prevent pirates from costing them real
Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that these guys actually seem to have an agreeable position on piracy in general, as quoted above, and reiterated in their FAQ:
Don’t be down on piracy
We’re not. We’ve said repeatedly that we understand why people pirated the game. With no PayPal options, for a start, there was literally no way for anyone without a credit card to play the game until the demo came out. And until the demo came out there was no way for anyone to try the game to see if it was ‘their cup of tea’. We respect their wishes to try the game before buying, and beyond the leaking of our private test version to 4chan (a betrayal of trust from within the tester group) and the fact that our hands have been forced twice now to release a buggier and less polished game publicly due to piracy issues, we have no ill feeling toward those pirating the game or those distributing the pirated copies of the game. We’re mainly glad that people feel it’s worthy of pirating.
By the way, the game is called Project Zomboid
, and it's really interesting. You should check it out and buy it if it looks appealing to you. It costs £5, which is about $8.