North Korean parody game cancelled after “Sony-inspired” hack

North Korean parody game cancelled after “Sony-inspired” hack

January 14 2015 | Published by Graham Cluley | Blog Industry News

Video games developers have blamed a hack "inspired" by the recent attack on Sony Pictures for their decision to cancel a game they were creating featuring Kim Jong-Un.

According to its Kickstarter page, the "Glorious Leader!" side-scrolling shoot-em-up would have seen North Korea's leader fighting the US military with help from Dennis Rodman, a unicorn, and his father's ghost.

At first, things seemed to be going well for the game's developers Money Horse Games. Their controversial idea for a video game secured them plenty of media coverage in the likes of The Guardian and Mashable, but there were troubled waters ahead.

After the Sony Pictures hack late last year, in an obvious attempt to capitalise on the situation, Money Horse Games announced that they would be adding a new level to "Glorious Leader!" in which players could help Kim Jong-Un attack Sony Pictures.

According to the Glorious Leader Kickstarter page, that's when things started to go badly wrong. It claimed that its website had been hacked, and a message posted suggesting that supporters' private information had been compromised. The obvious implication was that the hack was in response to the game's controversial content.

At the time, Jeff Miller of Money Horse Games told Associated Press that he should "probably ask for more funds now to beef up cybersecurity." By this stage, the game's Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign had another three weeks or so to run, with only $3,500 of its $55,000 goal reached.

A week later, the developers posted an update to its Kickstarter page about the hack:

We need to address the website hack. We are sure that this is a hoax perpetrated by amateurs. We have NO reason to believe that this was done by the GOP or anyone affiliated with North Korea. It appears to be an opportunistic copycat, as we have been the target of hacking attempts in the past. And we stress that, despite what the message says, there is NO chance that our backers information has been compromised. As soon as we regain control over our website and work computers, we will upgrade our security and continue forward.

 

Things came to a head, however, last week when the company announced - just days before its fundraising deadline - that it was cancelling the game's development as a result of the hack:

As many of you know, over the holidays we were victims of a hack inspired by the attack on Sony. The hackers destroyed data pertaining to Glorious Leader! and other projects we had in development and locked us out of our own computers and wesbite. The timing couldn't have been worse as it hampered our ability to attend to the Kickstarter project. We realize that we also made mistakes in our pledge levels and rewards. It is now evident that our funding goals will not be met, so we are cancelling our Kickstarter campaign. This is not the first time we have been targeted because of Glorious Leader! Between the hacking and other threats, we think it is time to reevaluate our commitment to Glorious Leader! We thank our fans and supporters, and we are sorry to let you down.

 

The Kickstarter campaign had eventually raised $16,816. Clearly Associated Press's coverage of the 'hack' had helped, but not quite managed to be enough to reach the project's goal.

But something simply doesn't ring true about Money Horse Games' explanation.

Is it really likely that the developers had no backups of its source code and other data? Pointing the finger of blame at North Korea, or copy-cat hackers inspired by the Sony Pictures hack, seems awfully convenient for a failed Kickstarter campaign.

There's enough doubt as it is that North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures hack, let alone that anyone would care enough to target a tiny games developer.

If I was a cynic, I might question the entire story of the Glorious Leader hack - and think that it was a desperate attempt to raise publicity for a game that was failing to reach its goal.