The company took the decision to self-pirate the Android version of Shooting Stars after noting high rates of piracy for its previous release, Wayward Souls.
“Our analytics show that 11% of all installs of the game have been paid for. 11%. And that is just the installs we are tracking. Some cracked versions might have taken out those reporting tools,” explained Noodlecake in a blog post.
The version of Shooting Stars seeded on torrent sites has a wave of boss characters called “Daft Premium”, seemingly inspired by music duo Daft Punk.
It includes a series of enemies that have “an obscene amount of health” followed by a final boss who cannot be killed. Once players die, they are shown a message encouraging them to buy the official version of the game.
“We don’t think this is an answer to piracy, or that it will be a big motivator to suddenly stop cracking games but instead, we are embracing it as a fun marketing tactic,” explained Noodlecake. “And hey, if one or two players decide to throw us a couple bucks in the process, then we call that a win.”
It’s not the first developer to penalise pirates through gameplay. In 2013, developer Greenheart Games uploaded a cracked copy of their Game Dev Tycoon PC game to filesharing sites, which guaranteed players’ virtual businesses would go bankrupt.
Other developers have been content to simply publish their unhappiness at levels of piracy. In January, for example, developer ustwo tweeted that only 5% of Android installs of its Monument Valley game had been paid for.
In 2013, developer Lucky Frame claimed that three weeks after its Gentlemen! game launched on Android, it had sold 144 copies, but had 50,030 unpaid installs.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 12th August 2015 16.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010