After fans discovered last week that Amazon’s storefront was hosting pirated sales of indie games Surviving Mars and Frostpunk, the games’ developers worked with Amazon to shut down the illegitimate sales. And now the games’ developers are giving away free copies to anyone who purchased a pirated copy, IGN has learned.
“After some discussion, we’ve decided that all the people that contacted us and provided the receipt for buying the game on Amazon will receive a free Steam code for Frostpunk from us,” PR & Marketing Manager Karol Zajaczkowski said over email. “We are still in touch with Amazon and some other companies that suffered from this event, but it may take some time to find a satisfying solution. In the meantime, we don’t want to keep people waiting if they wanted to play our game, as they didn’t do anything wrong here.”
Some customers have already started receiving their free copies, with at least one recounting his experience on Twitter. After spending $2.99 on the pirated version being sold on Amazon, @cornchak said he got a free Steam copy of Frostpunk, which normally sells for $29.99. Other customers who bought the pirated version can request a free copy from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, a Surviving Mars representative confirmed to IGN that customers who bought pirated versions of that game off Amazon last week are also eligible to receive free copies of Surviving Mars, which MSRPs for $39.99. Affected gamers should email email@example.com with a screenshot of their order number and proof of purchase to receive their free copy.
Additionally, developer Haemimont Games previously tweeted a warning to gamers not to buy illegitimate copies of Surviving Mars on Amazon. Haemimont asked gamers to “please” not purchase these pirated versions while the sale page was still live, informing consumers that it would not receive future updates.
As for 11 Bit, Zajaczkowski today echoed his statement to IGN from last week, noting that the amount of gamers who purchased pirated copies “wasn’t a big number.”
And although confidentiality agreements prevented 11 Bit from disclosing what, if anything, Amazon is doing to prevent something like this from happening again, Zajaczkowski said both 11 Bit and Amazon “are trying to learn something from this lesson.” One thing 11 Bit definitively ruled out was pursuing legal action against the pirates.
“Chasing a single guy won’t make a change,” noted Zajaczkowski, “so instead of that, we would prefer to work with Amazon and other stores to find out a solution that in the future will somehow prevent such situations globally.”
Another thing 11 Bit absolutely won’t be doing is finding a way to punish gamers playing pirated copies of Frostpunk. This isn’t the first time the studio has run into a serious piracy problem, and it’s learned over the years that cracking down on its players is not the best solution for combatting piracy.
Back in 2014, 11 Bit’s This War of Mine ended up on The Pirate Bay for anyone to download and play completely the day it launched. Zajaczkowski jumped into the Pirate Bay comments section, thanked everyone for playing This War of Mine, gave out free Steam codes, and asked anyone who enjoyed playing to spread the word.
“We still believe that encouraging people to buy your game is better than just chasing pirates and taking down the torrents,” Zajaczkowski told IGN today. “Your game will always get pirated, that’s the current state of the industry, and you can either cry about it and do nothing or try to bring some people back from the dark side. We had multiple examples of people appreciating this approach (for example actually buying multiple copies of the game after our post on [the Pirate Bay]), so we’re going to stick to that. That’s one of the greatest things of being an independent developer/publisher – sometimes you can think beyond the Excel sheet.”
IGN inquired as to what Haemimont and Surviving Mars publisher Paradox Interactive’s stance is on anti-piracy measures and pursuing legal action against pirates and will update this story should they issue a response.
Nick Santangelo is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He loves video games and sports, but not sports video games. Follow him on Twitter.