The developer behind $8 PC and Mac title Game Dev Tycoon has targeted pirates by torrenting an altered version of its own game.
The 'cracked' version of the game dev sim has been tweaked so that torrent players' virtual studios go bankrupt almost immediately through rampant in-game piracy.
Developer Greenheart claims the pirated version made up 93% of its playerbase at launch, and spurred a number of ironic outbursts from pirates complaining about their in-game titles failing through piracy.
The developer said that although it could've released a more straightforward anti-piracy message, it didn't want to pass up on a "unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of [game pirates] and showing them what piracy can do to game developers."
It wrote on its blog: "When we released our very first game, Game Dev Tycoon yesterday, we did something unusual and as far as I know unique. We released a cracked version of the game ourselves, minutes after opening our Store.
"I uploaded the torrent to the number one torrent sharing site, gave it a description imitating the scene and asked a few friends to help seed it."
The cracked version is nearly identical to the full game apart from one detail, the developer explains.
As torrent version players grow their own dev company, eventually they will receive an in-game message warning them about the amount of players stealing their virtual game.
"Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt," Greenheart wrote.
Some of the responses the developer found online included a user post complaining that it's "not fair" that so many pirates steal their in-game title, and another asking if researching virtual DRM could help with the issue.
The Greenheart blog continues: "As a gamer I laughed out loud: the IRONY!!! However, as the developer, who spent over a year creating this game and hasn't drawn a salary yet, I wanted to cry.
"Surely, for most of these players, the 8 dollars wouldn't hurt them but it makes a huge difference to our future!"
The developer feels it's important for studios to try and engage with pirates, and it's even published a page on its website which targets people who search for illegal versions and attempts to persuade them to buy the full game instead.
Gamers who dislike DRM or the emergence of 'pay-to-play' models should buy, not pirate, independent games like Game Dev Tycoon, it argues.
"If pirates are put through more trouble than genuine customers, maybe more will buy the real game. Sadly, for AAA games it is currently the other way. Customers get the trouble with always-on requirements and intrusive DRM, while pirates can just download and enjoy. A twisted world."