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Anti-piracy group tricks pirates to sell games

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

When the first four levels of Deus Ex: Human Revolution leaked onto the internet in May, an entity called Vigilant Defender decided to do some social engineering without Square Enix's knowledge or approval: It hacked the game - again - to kick players into a web survey where they were asked about their opinions on piracy. The "trial" was disguised as the full game and cut loose the night before the game's official release, racking up over a million downloads before the experiment ended on September 12th. About 900,000 unique visitors hit the survey and probably completed it hoping they would be rewarded with access to the full set of levels. But the survey wasn't the point: it was part of a grand scheme to turn pirates into customers.

You see, Vigilant Defender wants to get hired by game publishers to turn torrents into a profitable distribution method, and the survey was designed to ferret out the people who are willing to open their wallets. Since 27.7 percent of respondents claimed they had no intention of purchasing the game, Vigilant Defender offered them access to a 1Gbps download at a reduced price, calculated from the respondent's answers — it managed a pirate-to-payer conversion rate of 8 percent that brought in €681,000. Apparently even pirates can't pass on a good deal. When we asked Vigilant Defender how it got discounted digital copies of a new release game, it wouldn't say; we were told only that the proceeds "would be a donation going straight back to the publishing/Developer company."