Funny, creative copy protection measures in video games

Check out some of the funniest, most creative, or odd copy protection systems used in video game history to prevent players with illegitimate copies to be able to play or beat a game.

Crysis – Chicken bullets

In Crytek’s “Crysis: Warhead”, guns will shoot chickens instead of bullets if the game can’t validate that it’s a legitimate copy.

And in “Crysis 3”, you won’t be able to defeat the last boss (Alpha Ceph), also making it impossible to beat the game.


Ace Attorney Investigations 2 – Speak Borginian?

The spin-off of one of the most beloved Capcom games, the Ace Attorney saga, “Investigations” stars Miles Edgeworth instead of Phoenix Wright.

If the sequel to the game detects an illegitimate or downloaded copy of the game, it will convert the entire game’s text into the fictional Borginian language, which is symbol based and can’t be translated in any way.


Early games – Words from the manual

In the beginning, the most common method was requiring the player to enter a specific word from the manual (yes, games came with a manual! Often containing general information but also hints).

Manuals for games like “Conquests of Camelot” or “King’s Quest 6” would include answers to riddles or spells recipes (“King’s Quest 3”).

“Metal Gear Solid”‘s radio frequency, used to communicate with a character to further a game, is one of the most well-known measures.


Monkey Island – Dial-A-Pirate

“The Secret of Monkey Island” offered a rotating paper wheel with halves of pirate’s faces. The game would occasionally show a face of a pirate along with the place where they were hanged, and the player would have to rotate the Dial-A-Pirate to enter the year that appeared on the hole.

The game’s sequel featured the same concept but with magic potion ingredients instead.


Sid Meier’s Pirates – Increased difficulty

Some games would initially show that the copy was successful, but eventually render themselves unplayable via subtle methods, such as “Sid Meier’s Pirates” which still allowed players to play the game if they entered the wrong information but its difficulty would be increased substantially.


Superior Soccer – Invisible ball

This one’s pretty funny (unless you had an illegitimate copy, that is).

The game had no outward signs of copy protection, but if it decided that the copy was not legit, it would make the soccer ball in the game invisible, making it impossible to play!


Alan Wake – Becoming a pirate

This thriller for PC and for the Xbox 360 has a peculiar way of telling you to buy the original game:

If it detects that the game is cracked or a pirated copy, it will replace tips in loading screens with messages telling you to purchase it.

But there’s more: If a new game is created, the protagonist will get a black eye patch over his right eye, wink wink.


GTA IV – Drunk

If you played a pirated copy of “Grand Theft Auto IV”, then you’d be completely drunk.

The PC version of the game has a copy protection that swings the camera as though the player was drunk. If you enter a vehicle, it will automatically throttle, making it difficult to steer.


Michael Jackson: The experience – Vuvuzelas

Hate vuvuzelas? Hated them all through the 2010 South Africa World Cup? Then don’t get an illegitimate copy of “Michael Jackson: The Experience”.

This DS game has a copy protection measure where vuvuzela noises are heard as the music is playing, making the game impossible to play.

(Sorry for video quality, guess no-one else tried it!)


Earthbound – This is just evil

Earthbound, the legendary SNES RPG, featured one of the cruelest copy protection measures:

The game would appear to play normally, but would increase the rate of random enemy encounters, making the game harder to beat. Still, if the player progressed through the game without giving up (or was able to crack this protection), another checksum code would activate before the final boss battle, freezing the game and deleting all your save files.

How’s that for copy protection?


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