As major game publishers push overbearing copy protection that frustrates legitimate players, an indie studio has taken a novel approach to the difficult problem of piracy. Greenheart Games released a "cracked" version of its Game Dev Tycoon to illegal downloading sites, but there's a sting in the tail — anyone attempting to play the game development simulation beyond a few hours will get a subtle hint about the consequences of their actions. A message informs the player that people are choosing to pirate their studio's game, and profits will drop until the virtual company eventually goes bankrupt.

In a blog post, Patrick Klug of Greenheart Games said that the cracked version made up over 93 percent of all Game Dev Tycoon downloads, and highlighted the frustrated response of players who were experiencing the struggles of piracy first-hand.

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Greenheart Games isn't the first developer to adopt unorthodox anti-piracy measures. Crysis Warhead replaced bullets with considerably less effective chickens upon detecting a crack, for example, and illicit copies of Michael Jackson: The Experience on Nintendo DS drowned out the music with incessant vuvuzela blasts. Nintendo took a subtler approach with its SNES RPG EarthBound; pirated versions of the game ramped up the number of enemies, and if a player somehow managed to make it to the final boss, their save file would be deleted. Still, the meta nature of Greenheart Games' solution has to be appreciated — the studio is taking a unique opportunity to confront pirates about the effect they can have on game development.