It took almost ten years for D-Pad Studio to make Owlboy, "the retro-styled sidescroller you didn’t realize you needed." That's a hefty investment of time and effort by any measure. But D-Pad programmer Jo-Remi Madsen said in a recent AMA on Reddit that he doesn't mind too much if people pirate the game rather than pay for it, because sometimes that's the only way they can get their hands on it at all.
"When it comes to piracy, we're certainly not cracking down on anything, we're very happy people get the chance to play the game. Through torrent, the game has a chance to become available to people who, say, live in countries where it isn't easy to even buy games (maybe Steam doesn't support their currency, or they just don't carry credit cards)," Madsen wrote. "I'd still wish for those to be able to experience Owlboy. Right now, pirating the game is the best alternative they have, as it's totally open to anyone with a sturdy internet connection. Since we're not a big company, it doesn't impact us in the way it would AAA."
Steam is the undisputed king of digital platforms, he said in a separate post, but GOG's DRM-free approach has some upsides too. "I don't have any numbers when it comes to piracy, but I do know that some people who did pirate it, went on to become die-hard fans, spreading the word on the game, which leads to more sales," he wrote. "I've never pirated myself, but situations sure can vary from country to country during hard economic times. My only wish is for people to continue playing and enjoying the game, through whatever means necessary."
D-Pad isn't an especially well-heeled studio: Madsen said that half of the team stayed as his parents' house, rent-free, for more than half of the game's lengthy development period. "We've had VERY few expenses, most businesses would not be able to run at a normal pace with the assets that we've maintained," he explained. "Most of our trips have been covered because we've held presentations, or we've simply applied for funding (my country, Norway, is awesome like that)."
But now, with Owlboy successfully released—and quite good—the studio has "enough funding now to continue making games, and we owe it to no-one but ourselves, my folks and our fans." Piracy or not, you really can't ask for a better outcome than that.