Study Suggests Game Piracy May Be An Exaggerated Threat

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Study Suggests Game Piracy May Be An Exaggerated Threat

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Videogame piracy is killing the industry, right? Well, if a new study is to be believed, maybe not.

Ever since the widespread adoption of the internet media companies have been decrying the global communications tool as the harbinger of death for any creative professionals. The argument claims that without strict regulation, everything from movies to music to videogames will be pirated ad infinitum, rendering any individual work worthless and eventually collapsing entire sections of industry.

Here in the States there's been an appalling lack of honest scientific study into piracy - major media companies have lots of sway within our government, and hate the idea that facts might ruin their ability to complain - but things are a bit different in Europe.

Relatively recently (late 2010) a group of researchers deployed advanced tracking tools to monitor the actual prevalence of pirated PC games on the BitTorrent file sharing protocol. PC Gamer breaks their findings down succinctly:

The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports. Perhaps owing to the window of the study, RPGs were easily the most pirated genre, followed by the somewhat vague "Action-Adventure" (a category that included Darksiders and The Force Unleashed 2). 37 percent of the pirated games were M-rated, and a strong correlation was identified between Metacritic score and how often a game was pirated.

As PC Gamer points out, these numbers fly in the face of prior reports which painted piracy as the apocalyptic doom of all media. Of course, since the study only persisted for a few months it's entirely possible that its findings may simply be a momentary aberration, but it's just as likely that they serve as ammunition against the angry cries of videogame publishers. Whichever possibility you subscribe to is up to personal preference, but it's nice to see someone conducting honest research into the issue. If nothing else, this should serve as a bullet point in favor of consumer freedom.

For more, you can view the entirety of the researchers' report by visiting this .pdf. Fair warning: It's a bit dry.

Source: PC Gamer

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You know who REALLY doesn't spend money on games due to piracy? The Devs themselves.

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Well there you go then. Can we stop with this always online shit?

Just wondering here, does BitTorrent include data from Utorrent? Because if not, I'm about 75% sure you're not even getting half the data.

Study shows water may be wet.

Please, tell me more about how when people like Ubisoft and EA are revealed by pure fact to have DRM and piracy claims that are utter crap. I love it. I love it, I love it, I LOVE IT!

sid:
Just wondering here, does BitTorrent include data from Utorrent? Because if not, I'm about 75% sure you're not even getting half the data.

And which protocol does uTorrent use? Right, BitTorrent. Protocol != Client Software.

Whoracle:

sid:
Just wondering here, does BitTorrent include data from Utorrent? Because if not, I'm about 75% sure you're not even getting half the data.

And which protocol does uTorrent use? Right, BitTorrent. Protocol != Client Software.

Oh, right. That solves it.

Is there ANYONE that didn't expect this? Seriously, ANYONE at all? If there are, then... well, screw you!

Gearhead mk2:
Is there ANYONE that didn't expect this? Seriously, ANYONE at all?

I'd wager the same people who always show up to any discussion on piracy with rabid cries of how "piracy is theft" and that anything but hatred and call for jail time against people for it makes you a "piracy" apologist/advocate.

FredTheUndead:
Study shows water may be wet.

Cite your sources Mr. Scientist!

I'm suprised that nearly a million people downloaded New Vegas, that's a LOT. Although I can't help but think that a lot of those people downloaded it twice, because they thought all the bugs in the game were because of a bad file in the download or something.

Even ignoring the part where piracy stats look fricking huge, even if those were indeed true, the whole "piracy is destroying entertainment" threat would STILL be ridiculously backwards, as we know for a fact that all entertainment industry has been booming over the past decade.

The internet has been a huge blessing for every artist, from smaller bands and writers and devs who can now go indie, to the businesses that can profit from the huge online viral spread of everything successful.

If piracy harms anyone, it's the biggest blockbuster/AAA/celebrity creators, whose works millions download for free out of peer pressure and mild curiosity, while a few decades ago they would have been forced to buy it or be left behind by pop-culture.

sid:
Just wondering here, does BitTorrent include data from Utorrent? Because if not, I'm about 75% sure you're not even getting half the data.

bittorrent was bought out by utorrent (2006 i believe) they are the same torrent program with different color symbols. I mean that literally.

Anyone catch that they only monitored tracking for ... 3 months?

Yeah...

"The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports."

So as I see it, there are nearly 1 million pirated copies of New Vegas, as opposed to the 5 million paid copies. Even if publishers did exaggerate the extent of piracy, 1/6 copies of Fallout going unpaid for sounds like something worth bitching about. I don't see it as ammo against publishers at all, seeing as how it basically puts a (big) number on pirated copies. And that's only considering mainstream games; aren't indie companies getting the worst piracy ratios?

It's a start at least. I'd love to see this study be continued for at least a year. I mean we all know the "Piracy ruins everything!" is complete crap, but 3 months of research just isn't solid enough these days.

Well... DUH!

Piracy is blamed for bad games and poor sales all the time instead of publishers seeing anything as their fault.

Piracy CAN affect independent developers though, and it has. The original Theif dev closed because of it.

CriticalMiss:

FredTheUndead:
Study shows water may be wet.

Cite your sources Mr. Scientist!

I'm suprised that nearly a million people downloaded New Vegas, that's a LOT. Although I can't help but think that a lot of those people downloaded it twice, because they thought all the bugs in the game were because of a bad file in the download or something.

A million people downloading something is a far cry from a million sales lost. If this figure is correct, then it means that devs on average spent more money on DRM measures than they lost due to piracy.

Nurb:
Well... DUH!

Piracy is blamed for bad games and poor sales all the time instead of publishers seeing anything as their fault.

Piracy CAN affect independent developers though, and it has. The original Theif dev closed because of it.

No, the original Thief dev closed due to not enough profits.

Any possible studio that doesn't make ends meet, could point at piracy, that is one particular constant in this indutry, and declare how "if that wouldn't be there we wouldn't have gone bankrupt", but that is always a Single Cause Fallacy.

Hmmm. That's interesting. I suspected higher numbers, from what data I could actually get.

Partly it's pretty stupid we can't filter by region, because I think that eastern Europe might be responsible for 1/6th of that piracy rate (comparing game prices to how much people actually make a month in these countries... overinflated is understating the issue). Then, we've got China, which they probably couldn't monitor. And China has an absolutely MASSIVE piracy rate from what I know.

Then, we've got Russia, where game stores are barely existent, and even then barely carry anything besides CoD and BF (or other games that need to be played online).

I hoped that this study ran for a few years already and they were just wheeling out the results... turns out, no, it just ran 3 months. What I'm surprised by, though, is the incredible fact that CoD isn't the most pirated game. Strange when you think about it, really. What with CoD being one of the best-selling titles in the world, you'd expect it to get pirated a lot.

maninahat:
And that's only considering mainstream games; aren't indie companies getting the worst piracy ratios?

Yeap, indie, mobile games seem to be a 1:10 legit:pirate ratio, if what I remember from articles from World of Goo and Game Dev Tycoon, vs. 5:1 as according to this report's.

But as I pointed out with their monitoring for only 3 months, I think the number could be much higher - as you're looking at FO:NV's 5 million legit copies over, what, ~2.5years? To 1 million pirate copies over 3 months. One would have to figure out the drop off rate and project it to estimate the ratio for the game's life to date. The charts from the report suggests it drops off by 50% after a month, but I don't know how that projects to later months (since we know there's always going to be someone, somewhere, downloading).

And they're only monitoring BT traffic, what about newsgroups, IRC, filesharing sites, unscrupulous stores selling the pirated copies? Granted those numbers are probably much smaller than BT, but it still adds up. Or trackers in foreign countries that they're unaware of? I remember reading an article how Company of Heroes had 800k unique patch downloads from China, yet Relic had not released the game there at all.

While I agree publishers grossly exaggerate the numbers, I also think it's still higher than this report suggests.

3 months isn't a lot of time to base any concrete research on, and I can't help but think that nearly a million people pirating Fallot: New Vegas, in only three months is a bad thing; hasn't Bioshock Infinite only sold like 3.5m copies so far since launch?

BWAHAHAHAHA

Sorry, had to get that out my system first.

But you are saying all the numbers that companies are tossing at us for the past years are complete bullshit? Who would have thought.

I love it when doodly-do-rights are proven wrong.

I love it even more when developers don;t got any excuses left for poor sales, but instead actually have to accept their game sucks.

Although i don't doubt this will be downplayed again.

maninahat:
"The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports."

So as I see it, there are nearly 1 million pirated copies of New Vegas, as opposed to the 5 million paid copies. Even if publishers did exaggerate the extent of piracy, 1/6 copies of Fallout going unpaid for sounds like something worth bitching about. I don't see it as ammo against publishers at all, seeing as how it basically puts a (big) number on pirated copies. And that's only considering mainstream games; aren't indie companies getting the worst piracy ratios?

Except that you're falling victim to the same fallacy Publishers like to trot out to guilt people when they complain about DRM: that a pirated copy is a lost sale. It's not true and never will be. Certainly not for all pirated copies anyway.

Jumwa:

Gearhead mk2:
Is there ANYONE that didn't expect this? Seriously, ANYONE at all?

I'd wager the same people who always show up to any discussion on piracy with rabid cries of how "piracy is theft" and that anything but hatred and call for jail time against people for it makes you a "piracy" apologist/advocate.

Not really, I often say that piracy of a game/movie is wrong and theft except for a few reasons. Just because you conaider it theft doesn't mean you think prison is apropriate (I don't) or that online DRM is right.

DVS BSTrD:
image
You know who REALLY doesn't spend money on games due to piracy? The Devs themselves.

This image is the only correct response I feel.

Also surprised to see this dabbling around the Escapist given how viciously piracy is attacked. If its considered anything less than equal to child murder its unacceptably viewed by plenty of thread goers.

I don't do it myself but I've never seen the hubbub. I would like to turn writing into a second source of income and the thought of people torrenting things I make doesn't really factor in as a concern to me.

Video Cassettes, VHS, CDs, DVDs, MP3s and beyond have all been touted as the end of entertainment media.

And yet they continue to net record sales whenever they make anything even passibly good.

Strange.

Well it really does make me sad to see numbers like that. Especially considering FO:NV didn't make phenomenal sales figures.

*sigh* Maybe the internet does need to be regulated better.

Hey pirates, you know what I do when I can't afford a game? I wait until I can afford it.

You know what I do when I know a game has shitty DRM that I can't deal with? I avoid that game.

theultimateend:

DVS BSTrD:
image
You know who REALLY doesn't spend money on games due to piracy? The Devs themselves.

This image is the only correct response I feel.

Also surprised to see this dabbling around the Escapist given how viciously piracy is attacked. If its considered anything less than equal to child murder its unacceptably viewed by plenty of thread goers.

I don't do it myself but I've never seen the hubbub. I would like to turn writing into a second source of income and the thought of people torrenting things I make doesn't really factor in as a concern to me.

Video Cassettes, VHS, CDs, DVDs, MP3s and beyond have all been touted as the end of entertainment media.

And yet they continue to net record sales whenever they make anything even passibly good.

Strange.

It's almost as if people are willing to pay for things they enjoy.

maninahat:
"The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports."

So as I see it, there are nearly 1 million pirated copies of New Vegas, as opposed to the 5 million paid copies. Even if publishers did exaggerate the extent of piracy, 1/6 copies of Fallout going unpaid for sounds like something worth bitching about. I don't see it as ammo against publishers at all, seeing as how it basically puts a (big) number on pirated copies. And that's only considering mainstream games; aren't indie companies getting the worst piracy ratios?

1/6 copies being pirated does seem a bit on the high side, but when you have publishers claiming that the piracy rate is 93%, it does indicate that publishers may be pulling figures out of their arse.

maninahat:
"The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports."

So as I see it, there are nearly 1 million pirated copies of New Vegas, as opposed to the 5 million paid copies. Even if publishers did exaggerate the extent of piracy, 1/6 copies of Fallout going unpaid for sounds like something worth bitching about. I don't see it as ammo against publishers at all, seeing as how it basically puts a (big) number on pirated copies. And that's only considering mainstream games; aren't indie companies getting the worst piracy ratios?

This isn't factoring in the people that pirated the game to see if it was what they wanted then paid for it, or if they were using it as a demo and wouldn't have bought it anyway because they didn't.

Just because something is making sense, is logical, has verifiable stats and historical data to prove it does not mean that it's true!

Piracy is killing us all, I tell you!

RicoADF:

Not really, I often say that piracy of a game/movie is wrong and theft except for a few reasons. Just because you conaider it theft doesn't mean you think prison is apropriate (I don't) or that online DRM is right.

To be clear, "piracy" (what a silly term that is for copying files) is not theft. People are free to believe it's theft all they want, but it doesn't make it so. The courts do not consider if theft, so for all intents and purposes it is not. In fact, it's not even tried under the same court system as theft. "Piracy" is a civil matter, not a criminal matter.

Hmm. That's mighty interesting. Now how in earth do I state my thoughts in a calm, rational way?

Reality blows. year after year it seems like all our smart minds do is squander their intelligence on proving facts we already actually know because selfish, greedy people with an agenda is wasting our time with a bunch of lies to further their own goals. If you legalize gay marriage, we'll have people marrying goats! If you let gay people adopt, the children will be mentally scarred! Fur farms are a magical, whimsical animal loving paradise where we hug and cuddle them all day! :D. You can tell we treat our cow's good because of how the meat tastes! Piracy is going to destroy the video game industry! Used game sales are as bad as piracy! Hey, you know, the best kind of beer is to have it cold! 2+2=5.

I'm only stating the obvious with this post, and I didn't have to waste 15 years of my life to prove it. So, I guess on the bright side I'm the one that's coming up on top from this. Here's to hoping that sooner rather than later, we get sick of these brain leeches and decide to get around to burning them before they actually cause some damage. I mean besides what they've done to our society, culture, and environment, of course.

No, really? And they spent MONEY on this folks, way to blow that grant money instead on something useful like a goddamn cure for cancer or AIDS, how about a way to keep our fuel from running out in 50 years? What's next, a study on the affects of sleep? How about one on the strange sensation of "pain" and it's place in the world? Goddammit, I thought people getting this money were intelligent and inquisitive, not denser than a black hole...

Well, at least we have a "physical" rebuttal on whenever always online DRM and ridiculous codes come up for games from EA and Ubisoft.

You can state figures and research till the sky falls down, it's not going to stop companies from throwing more and more obnoxious DRM into their products. With crappy excuses like "it's sooo good to be able to update as soon as you start the game!"

Which can really be read as "we like to control how you play the game, so that even if you don't feel like updating, we can force you to! OR force you out. Oh and thanks for doing out beta testing, suckers!"

More to the topic though: yes, study proves what is already obvious. Not what publishers want you to believe though, who have their own take on things. Piracy and torrenting figures does NOT take into account the number of people who may have downloaded the game twice, or tried it and bought it, or were simply just pirates who wouldn't have bought it anyways. So the picture gets skewed even worse.

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