PC Game Piracy (Near and Dear to my Heart) The Truth…

I believe in the heart of every gamer we all want to know the lowdown on PC game Piracy and Piracy in general.  So here is a look into game piracy and its effect on the industry/gamers.

I am tired of hearing about big multi-billion dollar corporations going after average people that have downloaded their copyrighted content.  I use the lightweight miracle worker uTorrent from time to time and feel no shame.  I have spent literally thousands and thousands of dollars in my life on movies, music and games.  If I bought like 6 Nirvana CD’s 12 years ago and have since had some of them stolen and or broken, should I feel like a criminal for downloading the music I once legally purchased?  I think not.  If I see Avatar in the theater should I have to buy the DVD to watch it at home, I don’t see why I would have to pay 2x to enjoy a movie.  I am just plain sick of these big corporations picking on their customers by suing them, and potentially ruining their lives over copyright infringement of property that has previously been purchased or would have never been purchased at all.  The biggest offenders in my book are the MPAA, RIAA and Ubisoft.  These fools are shatting on customers and average people to protect something that is literally impossible to protect.  I’m sure by now you know how I feel about the subject, but enough with my ramblings, let’s look at some facts about video game piracy.

The thing about facts is that facts relating to game piracy are few and far between.  It is estimated however that in December of 2009 9.78 million games were successful downloaded (through at torrent program).  That is a lot of games.  Can a company really take all those download as a loss?  Most defiantly not, it is highly unlikely that the majority of the people who downloaded their game would have ever bought it, and there is also a group of downloader’s who just do it for the convenience of having the game literally at their fingertips and have already bought the game.  Here is a graph representing Game piracy by country in 2009.

There are so many figures thrown around that it is hard to know what is really going on.  Is DRM really helping, or is it just pissing off legit customers?  The latter.  Of the 9.78 million games that were downloaded in December 2009 the figure represents only a list of 200 of the most popular games from not all P2P/file sharing sites, but only a hand full: BitTorrent, eDonkey, Gnutella and Area.  And also, during bloody December, how many legit games of the like were sold?  We don’t know.  Michael Fitch, director of entertainment at THQ is quoted as saying, “The research I’ve seen pegs the piracy rate at between 70 to 85 per cent on PC in the US, 90 per cent plus in Europe, off the charts in Asia.”  Again, how much of this is actually a loss to a company?  Again, we don’t know.  Fitch continues, “I didn’t believe it at first. It seemed way too high. Then I saw that Bioshock was selling 5 to 1 on console vs. PC, and Call of Duty 4 was selling 10 to 1. Given the difference in install base, I can’t believe that there’s that big a difference in who played these games, but I guess there can be in who actually paid for them.”

And there is a big difference in the number of people who play these games.  Any noob can get a 360 and buy the latest Modern Warfare game and play it no problem.  You have to have some skillz to upgrade your rig with a new graphic card so you can play some of the new releases out there.  So again the math does not add up.

The Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Crime lol) manager at ELSPA states, “Have we made a difference? I think because we have difficulty quantifying levels of piracy it’s hard to say. I haven’t seen an increase year on year on the seizures [of pirates/pirated goods], so I think at the moment we are just holding back the tide. I don’t think it’s gone down and I don’t think it’s gone up – the levels of seizures are staying fairly constant and that’s the only measure I have.”

The Entertainment Software Association puts the loss of the video game industry because of pirated games at around $53 billion for 2007.  Again these figures can in no way factor that the pirated versions of their games would have been actually legitimately bought from the offenders.  AKA – every pirated copy is by no means a loss sale, and that is what this stat is saying.

Direct2Drive’s Nihal de Silvia states, “It’s difficult to say what effect piracy is having on the industry as a whole. PC gaming has long been thought of as an industry in decline, with sales of boxed PC games falling sharply as consoles became the weapon of choice for the modern gamer. Without the availability of an official digital chart, however, this message is skewed.”
Let’s consider Steam and their online store and how they combat piracy.  Its simple to me and it seems Steam gets it; the best way to combat piracy is to lower the price of games.  When Steam has a newish title for 40% off, it’s damn hard to resist the urge to buy the sucker, especially when it has been test driven already.  The point is that companies are implementing DRM and other things into their games to combat game piracy, whereas if they would actually lower the prices of their games they would sell more, more legit sales, more legit customers and everyone would be happy.  Unfortunately in the gaming industry, money is king, and if the industry sees that they can save some money, cough, Ubisoft, cough, by implementing invasive DRM, then they do it.  And in the process piss of thousands of paying customers, give crackers (DRM crackers, not white people) a new challenge and turn average citizens into pirates with a twisted form of blood lust.

Let’s take a look back at the end of 2009 from where we have some more stats.  In November and December of 2009 COD: Modern Warfare 2 was downloaded 4.1 million times, where PC sales were at 300,000 in November.  That’s a huge difference, no doubt.  And with consoles?  6 million legit copies sold and 970,000 pirated.  Again an eye opener and shows why PC gaming may be in jeopardy at some point in time.  There is more money to be made with consoles, more users/customers and harder to pirate.  Bite my tong, hopefully PC gaming never takes a complete nose dive, it’s my platform of choice.
Ubisoft’s brand of DRM is a pain in the ass.  Most gamers know that Ubisoft’s most recent big title Assassins Creed 2 had a type of DRM that we would all rather forget.  To play the single player game it was required to be consistently connected to the internet…all the friggin time.  And what happened when legit customers were playing through Assassins Creed 2, you guessed it; Ubisoft’s servers went down, causing thousands of gamers to loose their saved data, and locking them out of the game they PURCHASED.  Talk about a pain in the ass.  Ubisoft’s brand of DRM smells like a rotten corpse and hopefully will be put aside very soon.  Maybe Ubisoft should focus the money and time they are implement into DRM into the game itself, or lower the f****** price of the game, then more people might be inclined to buy it.  I did see the game in Wal-Mart (360 version of course) for 29.99 (30.00 off), now that’s the way to increase sales.  And of course having this type of DRM basically shafts customers who live in rural areas, who travel a lot or live in developing countries where internet connections are spotty at best.  Way to not support 3rd world development assholes?

TorrentFreak founder Ernesto points out that “Media companies mistakenly believe that piracy can be stopped by DRM, but it is one of the main sources of piracy. DRM is easily circumvented and in reality it only hurts the people who bought the product. There are many cases where people wanted to buy the product but, because of the tight restrictions, they chose to pirate instead so they can use the product freely.  I think quite a few people use piracy to sample a game and buy it if they like it.  There are also people who download it illegally because they have a limited budget. However these people would still not have bought the game if there was no piracy.”

So what is the point?  Games deserve to be respected.  If the game rocks, buy it.  If your wife won’t let you spend $100.00 a month on games because you can never remember to buy her roses for $15.00 then suck it up and budget for the game of your choice (delayed gratification my friend).  Developers put their blood, sweat and tears into delivering rocking entertainment to our PC’s/Consoles, and we owe it to them to show our support by buying their games when we can.

I like the principle of supporting a great product, but we as consumers deserve better than what we’ve been getting from game companies.  Don’t kiss us on the lips for putting you in your million dollar house then shaft us because ½ of Africa downloaded your game.  It’s just not good manners.  Then we may be able to be friends again, until that time I will feel not moral obligation to buy a game that reflects a company eagerness to screw over customers.

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