Games Piracy – As Bad as Everyone Thinks?

This is an old article from 2011 from my old site illiteratereviews.com

Whilst in my car yesterday on my way to work listening to BBC Radio 1 (well there goes half my audience.). I came across a news story about how games piracy has increased 20% over the last 5 years, with top games being pirated 1 million times, over last year, and this got me thinking, how big an issue really is piracy, and is it really reported in a sensible manner.

Well my first stop was to have a read over the report that this latest round of piracy stats seems to come from. (It can be read here if your interested). If taken at face value, according to Envisional an estimated23% of all internet traffic over the last year was thought to contain copyrighted infringing material. I highlighted two main points there, Envisional don’t conclusively know that 23% of all internet traffic contained copyright material, and the reason for this, they can’t know, it’s not possible. They can make a good guess and from the content of the study, it looks to be a well researched and (for once) educated guess, but it’s still a guess.

(For the rest of this article im going to work with the numbers contained in the report, but please remember they are all estimates).

Of the 23% of internet traffic, 17.9%  BT (BitTorrent) traffic, with 66% of that traffic being considered to be infringing. BT traffic, counts for most of the piracy on the net. Envisional then go on to examine, the amount of infringing items inside the top 10,000 torrents on publicBT, whom Envisional consider to be the largest torrent indexing site on the net. Envisional found that out of the top 10,000 items, 64% of items were an item of copyrighted work. But its worth mentioning that only 6.7% of that 10,000 most popular items were either PC or console games, so only around 650 torrents.

So now we have looked at the numbers, lets take a look at something that is impossible to measure, how much damage is this doing to the Console and PC games market.

I have been gaming since 1996 on PC, and have walls and walls of games, which, I and my parents have purchased, I also have a steam account that currently contains 54 games, and if we take an estimated average price of £29.99 I have spent £1619.46 on steam games alone. That’s a lot of cash. So this brings me cleverly to the first argument you hear when piracy is mentioned.

Games are too expensive.

We hear this passed around alot, as a reason why pirates think that pirating is justifiable. The publishers and studio’s seem to never directly awnser this question, and how it relates to piracy, and here is the reason why. If someone cannot afford to buy a game, but is able to afford an internet connection, and as such has access to be able to pirate it, and they do pirate it. This is not a lost sale. The person did not have the money to purchase the game, and possible could not afford to ever have the money to shell out £25-£40 on a game, this cannot be counted as a loss to piracy. Of course, this again is something that is impossible to quantify, but no-one ever mentions it.

The second reason you always hear

Try before you buy.

Back in the good ol days, when PC-Gamer was 300 pages thick, and I didnt have to work for a living. Magazines used to come stuffed with diskettes, and CD’s full of the latest game demo’s. This gave prospective purchasers the ability to have a good look at the content, the playability, and the feel for the game before, handing over their money to the unshaven bloke in the local Electronic Boutique. (Hands up if you remember Game being EB). These days, as games get more complex, and massively more expensive to produce, developers havent got the time, money or resources to devote to producing good quality demo’s. This I imagine is partly down to the publishers, who having invested vast sums of money, are desperate to get the game on the (electronic)shelves, to start recouping the millions they have pumped into the development. So this opens another avenue to pirates in justifying their activities. Some games should never be released in the state that they are in, and some should never be released at all. So a pirate will justify their downloading of a game by saying they wanted to try before you buy. Does this count as lost sales, if the game is good, and the person intended to buy the game anyway, then no, all it does is help to enforce the persons desire to buy the game, as the already know that they will like it, and what bugs (to a certain) extent they can expect. If that person sets out already thinking they have no interest in purchasing the game, even if it blows them away, then again no lost sale, that person had no intention of ever buying your title. If on the other hand the same person, downloads it, and it doesn’t work, or is full of bugs, and decides not to buy it, then im afraid, yes you have lost a sale, but you should have written and tested the game better.

And some people just like to collect.

Games Hoarders.

Much like stamps, coins and baseball cards, some people love to collect games. I know of a couple of people who purchase 2 or 3 games a month, and also download twice that many. These games never get played EVER, as they are on to the next set of releases. So you just have to hope your game is in the 2 or 3 they purchase every month.

Others are just freeloaders.

No intention of ever buying.

These are the guys and gals, the publishers should really be looking at, these are the serial downloaders who never pay for content. They seem to think that other people’s work, should be theirs for no cost, and in all honesty, they will never be changed. Piracy is here to stay with these guys.

Big Developers don’t need the money

personally, I find it hard to imagine that major developers, and publishers really feel the brunt of the piracy thing, when you look around and see COD:MW3 outselling everything in the world ever, its hard to think that Activision is going to be crying about it. Small developers on the other hand whose sales, may be counted in the thousands rather than millions, are affected in a direct way, and its these guys I feel sorry for, they want to develop good quality innovative games, but they get squeezed hard by people pirating, this doesn’t mean that its o.k to pirate big developers, and publishers work, only that it may not affect them in such a profound way.

In summary.

Piracy is here, and its a very big part of the internet, and I think its safe to say it’s here to stay. Is it always a bad thing, no, as I mention above, it gives people an opertunity to try something they would otherwise never look at, it gives them the opportunity to try before they buy. On the other hand, if you pirate something with the intention of never buying it, but playing to death, then yes you are doing something wrong. Will it ever go away, no never, there will always be freetards, much like there will always be someone gaming the benefit system. With time and effort, and some creative thinking, the effect can be lessened, but then what will the developers and publishers have to complain about.?

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