Top 10: Most Creative Anti-Piracy Measures in Games

Serious Sam BFE Red Scorpion

Piracy has always been an important issue when it comes to video games (and pretty much any other medium for that matter.) But while some companies have spent a lot of time and resources in creating some draconian DRM that not only punishes pirates, but also people who bought their games legally, other companies try to do something much more creative. Below, you’ll find a list with some of the most inventive anti-piracy measures in video games.


10. Alan Wake (Xbox 360, PC)

Alan Wake Eye Patch

Although most of the games mentioned in this list take aggressive approach when it comes to combating piracy, Remedy Entertainment’s approach is much more subtle. The pirated version of Alan Wake is playable, but whenever there’s a loading screen, the game reminds you that you should purchase the game legally. Additionally, the main character will use an eye patch at all times.


9. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

Batman: Arkham Asylum Gliding

In the cracked version of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman can’t use the glide mechanic. Although this may sound like a minor detail, gliding is a core mechanic and it’s pretty much impossible to finish the game without using it. I hope you like that first mission, because you won’t be able to move past it.


8. Chrono Trigger (SNES, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Virtual Console, iOS, Android)

Chrono Trigger (Android)

Chrono Trigger is usually regarded as one of the best video games ever made, therefore it’s more likely to be pirated. As a way to avoid this, Square Enix decided to include a method that was fitting in terms of story continuity. When the main character Chrono decided to travel through time via a portal, the game would freeze and an “infinite travel loop” would occur.


7. Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (PC, Xbox)

Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (PC)

Like Alan Wake, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis also takes a subtle approach when it comes to combating piracy. The only difference is that it becomes more aggressive as the player makes progress. The game starts normally, but little by little the difficulty ramps up: enemies become stronger, weapons become weaker and less accurate and so on and so forth. As you can imagine, the game eventually becomes impossible to beat.


6. Mirror’s Edge (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

Ubisoft might be one of those companies who refuses to remove severe DRM policies, but they can be quite creative when they want. Mirror’s Edge, for instance, has the ability to detect pirated copies and when this happens, the game slows down before jumps. Taking into account that the game is all about gaining momentum and picking up speed, lag is probably the most clever way to combat pirates.


5. Serious Sam 3: BFE (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

Say you don’t want to pay for Serious Sam 3, so you download the pirate version of the game. As soon as you launch this Duke Nukem-inspired shooter, you’ll grab a weapon and you’ll have to face an unbeatable red scorpion who will kill you over and over and over again. Even if you manage to beat that red scorpion (probably cheating, because you’re a pirate,) the camera will lock on the sky and you won’t be able to move it.


4. Michael Jackson: The Experience DS (Nintendo DS)

Obviously inspired by 2006’s World Cup, the Nintendo DS version of Micheal Jackson: The Experience makes use of one of football’s most annoying paraphernalia. When the game detects that players are playing a pirated copy, vuvuzelas will start playing on top of the tracks that you’re supposed to be listening to. If we take into account that this is a rhythm game, I assume you’ll have some problems when it comes to playing it.


3. Grand Theft Auto IV (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

In the pirated version of Grand Theft Auto IV, the camera starts behaving as if it was an Uwe Boll movie. That means that the camera will start wobbling and moving as if the main character was inebriated, rendering the game pretty much unplayable.


2. Game Dev Tycoon (PC)

Game Dev Tycoon (PC)

As a way to stop pirates, developer Greenheart Games released a cracked version of its own game, Game Dev Tycoon, on some of the most popular torrent sites. Little did pirates know that this particular version of the game was a little different to the legal version. Those who downloaded the illegal version of Game Dev Tycoon will always encounter a bankruptcy screen. Feeling empathetic? Welcome to the world of game development my fellow pirate.


1. Earthbound (SNES)

Earthbound might be remembered as one of the quirkiest JRPGs ever made, but this should also be remembered as a game that hates pirates. If the game recognizes you as one, enemy encounters become more frequent, making the game a grind fest. But let’s say you’re tenacious (pirates usually are.) You’ll get to the game’s climax and not only will Earthbound freeze, but the save data will be deleted automatically. Burned!


These are some of the games that didn’t make it to the final cut:

  • In Metal Gear Solid, the player needs the back cover or manual of the game to find a codec number.
  • In Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, the game freezes when it detects that the player had an illegal copy.
  • Ghost Trick renders its text invisible.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 blows up all buildings.
  • Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry and King’s Quest required physical goods included in the game to prove players weren’t using an illegal copy.

Source: Punching the Walls of Reality, IGN