Game Developer Flirts With Pirates on BitTorrent Sites

The developer of a new Windows-based first person shooter game is leaving comments on torrent sites via the actual torrent uploader in attempt to reach out to those thinking of downloading the game. ACE Team, the developer of Zeno Clash, acknowledges that people might like to 'try before they buy' and says they will not try to stop piracy.

There are many ways of trying to influence those who like to share files online. Mostly the influence comes from the likes of the MPAA, RIAA and IFPI, who universally like to ‘persuade’ would-be file-sharers with the threat of legal action, actual legal action and propaganda. This approach doesn’t work.

There are softer approaches available. In 2007 we interviewed Trey Harrison, a developer who instead of threatening the people who cracked his software (‘Salvation’), actually took the time to engage them instead. The group responsible actually agreed not to crack any more of his software – quite a result.

Now it is the turn of ACE Team, an independent game development studio located in Chile. Their latest game, Zeno Clash, is described as a fighting/first person shooter and was nominated in January as a finalist in the Independent Games Festival competition, in the category of ‘Excellence in Visual Art’.

Of course, none of this can stop a game being pirated and Zeno Clash has turned up on various torrent sites – nothing out of the ordinary there. However, what is unusual is the developers’ response to the situation. Instead of getting in touch with the sites and demanding that the torrent be removed, ACE Team have decided to tackle would-be pirates head on – with an appeal posted in the comment sections of the torrent.

I’m one of the developers of Zeno Clash. I would appreciate you read this if you are about to download this file.

Zeno Clash is an independently funded game by a very small and sacrificed group of people. The only way in which we can continue making games like this (or a sequel) is to have good sales.

I am aware that at this moment there is still no demo of the game, but we are working on one which will be available soon.

We cannot do anything to stop piracy of the game (and honestly don’t intend to do so) but if you are downloading because you wish to try before you buy, I would ask that you purchase the game (and support the independent game development scene) if you enjoy it. We plan on updating Zeno Clash with DLC and continuing support for the game long after it’s release.

Thanks for taking the time to read this… hopefully it will make a difference.

Carlos Bordeu
ACE Team

Interestingly, although posted officially on at least one site, this message has been spread by the torrent’s uploader – who says he wants to help ACE Team. “I want to help developers to sell more of this good game, that’s all,” he said.

Carlos Bordeu from ACE Team told TorrentFreak, “Our ‘anti-piracy’ technique is basically the best approach we thought was possible. I think appealing to the conscience of people who download the game is the best we can do. Zeno Clash is not an expensive game. We don’t believe in restrictive DRM.”

The responses from file-sharers have been pretty positive too – even from the hardcore over at The Pirate Bay. Here are a few of them – note, not a “F**K the MPAA/RIAA” in sight……

“It was a touching comment (seriously) I will dl it and see if I like it and then will see if I buy it or not.”

“I love how the developers are commenting in here. Thanks a lot for doing it, instead of fighting the piracy.”

“I have not bought a game in 5 years, but the attitude of the developers has made me want to purchase their game. Fuck, if I like this game, I’m gonna buy it!”

“Developers like this deserve the money. They didn’t come on here with a preconceived notion that we are all thieves who don’t buy our software. I like that, because I and most of the people who use this actually do buy the software and other goods that we enjoy.”

Carlos told us, “We honestly think that ‘converting’ the people who download the game into buyers is a much better strategy than trying to fight them. We are also improving the original game, so it will include features and content that people who download the game will probably miss.”

At the moment downloads of Zeno Clash are pretty low, although it’s hard to say if the developer’s message has had anything to do with that, but a fresh approach is always welcome.

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