When piracy groups or sites release games online, consumers (despite paying nothing for the pleasure) expect certain standards.
On a base level the game must work as advertised, any DRM should be removed, and no one should add any unwanted extras – particularly not malware, spyware, or forced advertising.
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In the vast majority of cases, pirate releases tend to conform to these standards but a popular pirate site called IGG-Games (Ranked the 1,500th most popular site in the world by SimilarWeb) has been widely accused of not playing by the accepted rules for quite some time now.
According to those familiar with the site’s releases, IGG-Games regularly includes some in-game extras of its own, to ensure that it gets the recognition for distributing (in many cases, re-distributing) pirated games.
In fact, if users try to remove any of the files placed in releases that contain or facilitate the displaying of advertising for the site, the pirated games break and will not run.
While this type of practice is frowned upon in pirate circles, IGG-Games seems to have hit the negative publicity jackpot by adding the above ‘system’ (which many are describing as a type of DRM) to what are ordinarily DRM-free games.
One example involves the relatively low budget title The Eternal Castle [REMASTERED] which is distributed via Steam and has been pretty well received by gamers. It isn’t protected as standard but the addition of custom code means that removing advertising placed in the release by IGG-Games actually stops the game from running.
People have been complaining of this and similar issues on IGG-Games itself for some time but reports suggest that those who get too vocal are finding themselves banned from the platform. However, a team member admitted this week that the code had been put there on purpose to ensure advertising for the site isn’t removed from ‘their’ pirate releases.
“The games that have that dynamic library [DLL], are those that were acquired with administration resources, it starts when the game is executed and verifies the existence of the text files of Igg,” the moderator wrote.
While some are describing this mechanism as DRM, that’s probably a step too far since the titles can still be easily copied as they stand. However, most pirates do not like releases being meddled with. Any code should be functional in a positive way and if any extras are included, they should enhance the experience, not detract from it. Messing with a DRM-free game is never accepted behavior.
There’s also a niggling belief among some pirates that when release groups or sites are prepared to go to this extent to protect ‘their’ content, other nefarious code might also be present in their releases. IGG-Games has been shown to put their own advertising, watermarks and logos in-game, as the site itself admits.
“We used the money to buy these games, so we added watermarks to restrict other sites to grab it and upload to their site. But we only add the watermark to the Menu or the Loading of the game, so it does not affect your game experience at all,” IGG-Games notes.
Despite claims to the contrary, we haven’t seen any solid evidence that IGG-Games releases contain any malware. That being said, the point of all the advertising is to drive traffic to the IGG-Games site, which is ‘interesting’ to visit without a decent ad-blocker, to say the least.
In the meantime, however, pirates are fighting back against IGG-Games’ ‘DRM’. Two threads published on Reddit this week (here and here) detail techniques and software to remove the unwanted code, both of which have been met with enthusiasm by those who enjoy ‘clean’ piracy.