This is how a free software giveaway can spiral out of control.
Wadjet Eye Games, the local husband and wife game developing team that operates out of their apartment, has had a slow year creatively because it also had a big year personally.
The couple had a daughter, which slowed down release of the fourth sequel to their popular Blackwell Deception game, Blackwell Epiphany. So, they decided to try doing a giveaway of its first game, Deception, in order to drum up interest in Epiphany.
They gave away a free download and included a download key for the game on gaming network Steam as well when they did.
That’s how some less scrupulous gamers figured out ways to download the game over and over and collect keys that they could then sell later on other sites to users who wanted to get access to Blackwell Deception at a lower than retail price.
It was pure profit for the seller, a big hurt for Wadjet.
It spun out of control from there, to the tune of many thousands of Steam keys finding their way onto the pirate market. This is only the beginning of the story. It’s spelled out from there both on Giant Bomb and on the company’s blog. The former piece yielded the Penny Arcade shoutout, which is great lesson for any game maker (even when the reason it gets there is root-canal level awful).
Dave Gilbert, one of the two developers, told Giant Bomb the conclusion he came to when the fiasco was over:
“I can’t imagine doing another free giveaway anytime soon” he said. “[laughs] I’m glad I did it. I feel like the CEO of Coca-Cola after New Coke, where it suddenly became more popular than ever, and he was being interviewed all the time. It was like “‘is this a publicity stunt?” And he said ‘I’m not that dumb or that stupid.’ I feel that way now.”
The good news: lots of folks know that Blackwell Epiphany is coming now. You can hear from the other half of the development team, British expat Janet Gilbert, when she speaks at NYU-Poly later this month about her experience developing point and click adventure games.
Check out the promo for Blackwell Deception: