Ask a dozen developers about gaming piracy, and you're bound to get a dozen different answers. For some, it's a line in the sand, and there's no excuse for it. For others, it's simply the cost of doing business. Some might argue something in the middle: lots of people who pirate games were never going to be your customer, but maybe they'll be convinced to buy it later. The developers of Darkwood decided to take matters into their own hand, releasing a torrent for their top-down survival horror game only a few weeks after it launched on Steam.
Acid Wizard Studio announced the move in an Imgur gallery about the game's development, which began as a crowdfunding effort, before entering Early Access in 2014 because they needed the money. It's been a success on Steam so far, evidenced by the game's "very positive" review status and, according to SteamSpy, having sold more than 72,000 copies.
In the month since the game launched, the team said they've been "flooded by emails," most of which they haven't been able to reply to, partially because a lot of them are people who "claim to be a youtuber or blogger and ask for a Steam key." They're happy to have more people talking about the game, but too often, those keys end up sold at controversial storefronts like G2A.
"To be honest, we're fed up with it," said the developer. "This practice makes it impossible for us to do any giveaways or send keys to people who actually don't have the money to play Darkwood."
To that end, Acid Wizard said they fully support people refunding on Steam, if it's not what they were looking for. But when refunds are processed, the reason why is passed onto the developers, and one struck a chord with them.
"When we read the explanation from someone who wrote that he needed the refund because he didn't want his parents to be stressed out when seeing the bill at the end of the month," said the studio, "well, it made us feel quite bad."
That's when they decided to launch their own torrent, with the message of "if you don't have the money and want to play the game." You don't have to worry about a potential virus being hidden away, and unlike some games that combat piracy by introducing bugs, glitches, and performance issues into pirated versions, there's nothing different about this version of Darkwood.
"When we read the explanation from someone who wrote that he needed the refund because he didn't want his parents to be stressed out when seeing the bill at the end of the month, well, it made us feel quite bad."
"There's no catch, no added pirate hats for characters or anything like that," they wrote. "We have just one request: if you like Darkwood and want us to continue making games, consider buying it in the future, maybe on a sale, through Steam, GOG or Humble Store. But please, please, don't buy it through any key reselling site. By doing that, you're just feeding the cancer that is leeching off this industry."
A cynic could look at this as an easy way to generate headlines, but even that cynic would have to recognize it's a developer giving a game they've worked on for more than four years for free. That's just cool, and hopefully the developers are rewarded for their generosity. Also, it looks neat and I need to play it?
If you feel the need to, you can download the game here.