Game piracy overestimated, claims new research

New large-scale research says that piracy is "extraordinarily prevalent" in the games industry, but accuses "potentially biased" trade organisations of potentially overestimating the problem.

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A large-scale, open-method academic investigation into the prevalence of video game piracy has said that the number of illegal downloads is not as high as reported by industry bodies.

The study was conducted by Anders Drachen from the Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University, Kevin Bauer Cheriton from the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, and Robert W. D. Veitch from Copenhagen Business School's Department of Informatics. A total of 173 games on BitTorrent were analysed over three months from 2010 to 2011.

The games were illegally downloaded by 12.6 million people over the 90-day investigation.

The most popular genre was RPG, with 18.9 percent of the illegal downloads. Other popular genres included action-adventure (15.9 percent), third-person shooters (12.7 percent), and racing (9.3 percent).

The study also pointed at a correlation between the highest-rated games on Metacritic contributing to more piracy.

The new investigation says it clashes with the statements made by trade bodies such as the Entertainment Software Association. The new research paper also claims that previous studies into piracy are "potentially biased, partially due to the interest of the industry to reduce piracy and thus potentially overestimate the problem."

"There is very little objective information available about [piracy's] magnitude or its distribution across game titles and game genres," says the research.

"First and foremost, P2P game piracy is extraordinarily prevalent and geographically distributed," concluded Drachen in a press release (via Wired) accompanying the research. "However, the numbers in our investigation suggest that previously reported magnitudes in game piracy are too high. It also appears that some common myths are wrong, eg that it is only shooters that get pirated, as we see a lot of activity for children's and family games on BitTorrent for the period we investigated."

The 10 most popular pirated games across the research's 90-day period were, from most to least pirated: Fallout: New Vegas, Darksiders, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, NBA 2K11, Tron Evolution, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Starcraft 2, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, Two Worlds II, and The Sims 3: Late Night.

Discussion

1191 comments
betheltony
betheltony

I guess I fail to see the significance of this article.  You loosely paraphrase an article to promote what I assume are your own biases.  The article questions the possibility of overestimation.  The article also references its own shortcomings in that it only tracked the bittorrent network, and ignored the others.  So, you post an article essentially pointing fingers at game developers, accusing them of overstating the impact of game piracy.  You correctly decide to use an 'academic' article to support your argument.  Unfortunately, you scan for a convenient sentence or two, and leave your article at that.  Shameful, biased reporting we have here.... ironic too, considering the subject being 'reported' on.

Reuwsaat
Reuwsaat

In a related news scientists find out that peanut butter has more calories than cabbage.

Hurvl
Hurvl

"a lot of activity for children's and family games on BitTorrent" Lol, why buy the games your kids are always nagging about, when you can illegally download them. It's a win-win situation: you don't need to take time out of your busy schedule OR money out of your wallet and your kids will be quieter for a while (until they yet again want something real bad).

I also thought that action games, especially FPS games were the most torrented ones, but they don't even make the list. Instead "the most popular genre was RPG, with 18.9 percent of the illegal downloads. Other popular genres included action-adventure (15.9 percent), third-person shooters (12.7 percent), and racing (9.3 percent)". 

That makes me think about how many torrented the Witcher 1 and 2 and how that affected the company. Luckily, they're still able to produce a third Witcher game and another really promising title - Cyberpunk. No thoughts about playing it safe because of piracy, they have great ambitions for both games, but pirates don't care about how fan friendly the company they're stealing from is. At least my cynical view doesn't see that as very likely. "Oh, I usually buy the game after I've pirated it, if it's really good. I use piracy to know whether games are worth the money, purely consumer info based". Yeah, right!

godofwarbfcodfa
godofwarbfcodfa

i think that that my  rich friends wouldve convinced their parents to buy them atleast some of the games they want if illegal downloads didnt exist  i never download illegal games just for respect for developers steam sales make allot of games after a while pratically free i  bought coh which i now have 180 hours 

luqmanr
luqmanr

Guys, I've been thinking this for sometime. I'm from Indonesia, most of us here use pirated software, not just games, but we actually buy those pirated software from the pirates. So from what I've seen, people in my country are willing to pay, it's just that it's too expensive. So what if the software makers sell their products way cheaper in my country for example, won't the software makers at least get more money since it's not pirated? Or will something else happen that I haven't consider. What do you think gamespot community?

91210user
91210user

That's believable. Most developers are greedy! Capcom being the biggest example!

tim1935
tim1935

It's just like health research, one year its bad, the next it's good.

MadCat221
MadCat221

I would have thought Skyrim was the most pirated and not FONV, considering how often I see bans for Skyrim piracy on Nexus...

senjutsu
senjutsu

I'd love to see this study extended to see if console games are as pirated as PC games. If not, then mesures like the always connected consoles would be useless.

bragart
bragart

NBA 2K11 " is one of the top 10 most popular games pirated in the 90-day testing period ? 

Very surprised by that .

heretrix
heretrix

Shit. They needed a study for that?


subach94
subach94

seems like we need to do more of this. we must meet the expectations set by the devs.

elmatador93
elmatador93

if the publishers make  games cost less in the second/third world "like 3 or 4 dollars" then people would consider buying them..but after trying pirated copies first

elmatador93
elmatador93

@TohouAsura yes the state in my country right now is really bad..but is it wrong to play a little and run away from all the shit going on  around here ?

actually there has become more violence here than you could see in Far Cry 3 "wich i got for only 1 dollar thanks to pirates :P"

Andrak_Vol
Andrak_Vol

when ever I like a game I buy it, I consider any pirate copies that I may or may not have acquired to be... temporary trials.
If I really enjoy the game after "somehow" playing it *cough* I buy the GOTY or Collectors Edition.

TORCEDOR
TORCEDOR

speaking for self , piracy Is more like merchandising , I get to try games before they are released , and  then I decide if I want to buy it or not, mostly I end up buying it as I was downloading it cause I was interested in it in the first place. else I would not bother spending top dollar on a game that I know nothing about. also used game sales help me sell my old games so I can buy more new games . I guess I am one of those anomalies which the industry does not want to talk about.

vaibhavp
vaibhavp

piracy and drm are different sides of same coin. both hinder sales. both cost organisations money. 

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

WELL NO SHIT.

What a surprise, people from the industry lied. How shocking *sarcasm*.

 And people, being fucking sheep, believed it.

I go to the biggest torrent sites, and the downloads are always in the thousands, unless it's an extremely popular game like Call Of Duty, that is downloaded in abit over 10 thousand.

Very small numbers compared to the MILLIONS said games sell.

But oh, let's use Piracy as the scourge of mankind, because we all live in Silicon valley.


Microsteve
Microsteve

Piracy has never been an issue, the whole thing has always been way exaggerated since day one and not just for  games, music started the piracy will kill music bull**** way before games publishers did

Atrax2k8
Atrax2k8

When AAA games stop having 100$ price tag in my country, I'll buy them.

When Steam, Origin or any other service alike becomes available in my country, I'll buy games.

The last original game I got was Assassin's Creed 3, and I still can't play it because it is a sloppy port. So, yeah, I'm not really into buying before trying, thank you very much.

dexxor245
dexxor245

I stopped reading when this --- The new research paper also claims that previous studies into piracy are "potentially biased, partially due to the interest of the industry to reduce piracy and thus potentially overestimate the problem."

Keywords - "biased" and "overestimate"  I can see it now.

1. Do a biased study for the industry.

2. Exaggerate and overestimate the problem like a typical politician would do.

3. Give the findings to the industry so they can react like "OMFG, we got to do something about piracy!"

4. Industry use those biased studies as an excuse to put in DRM into their games

elmatador93
elmatador93

@somatzu if u live here "middle east" you're gonna have to wait so much time before your gonna ride it..my internet speed is 512 kb..just sayin :D

elmatador93
elmatador93

I live is Syria "middle east"..my dad makes about 200 dollars in a MOUNTH "not a day"..a regular game cost 40 dollars or more..well how can i afford buying such game  ?

and we can only buy shitty computers , how could i know if the game i bought would run smoothly or at least would be playable  with me ?

Tyron1234
Tyron1234

I'm going to try something shocking for Gamespot a comment that is fair to both sides of the issue.  I've played video games for almost 30 years mostly as a broke gamer.  I also happen to now be a software developer that feels the pain.

Some very legitimate gamer complaints I share that get used to justify piracy:

1. Bad DLC not worth the money (Bethsoft I love you and would love to work for you, but Horse Armor in Oblivion? Just to name one)

2. Horrible DRM restrictions that make no sense.  SimCity,  Diablo 3,  the list could go on all day.  Note to developers blatantly lying about the need for DRM does not win fans. 

3. False advertising,  remember the number of unique endings in Mass Effect 3?  I loved the game, the regular endings were o.k, extended cut was a bit better, and would have been even better if they'd been animated from the start and not half static screens.  The killer here was that they pretended like there were some huge number of vastly unique outcomes.

4. Buggy/Glitchy games Duke Nuke'em, Stronghold 3 (seriously guys I loved stronghold 1 and 2, I know your doing free to play now but how about an amazing Stronghold 4?)

5. Hard to know if game is awesome or shit before spending money unless you pirate. 

Some very legitimate developer complaints I share that get used to justify bad behavior: 

1. Fans say they want diverse games and complain about remake after remake yet look at where they spend their dollars.  The crappiest call of duty remake will generate more revenue on a bad day than an amazing new franchise will on a great one. 

2.  Gaming fans are impossible to please and can't even make up their own mind,  your hero lives at the end, half the audience has a tantrum,  your hero dies the other half has one, you end with a cliff hanger they all have a tantrum. And yes tantrum IS the right word for the internet fan base. 

3. People whine and complain about both logical and illogical DRM schemes leaving a developer with little reason to come up with a clever solution and every reason just to go with the easy always online. 

     3.a.  People still buy the games with crap DRM in massive numbers.  

4.  The internet finds blatantly stupid excuses why pirating is o.k.   Sure I get the gamer concerns and I even get the I'm broke concerns, but at the end of the day pirating is stealing from the developers and people don't just do it to big companies hundreds of small games fail every year because they are stolen more than they are bought.

So for all you gamers out there that are trying to justify your piracy here are a few great suggestions.

1. Put your money where your mouth is, don't want another crappy remake buy something new!  don't want games with horrible awful DRM stop buying them!

2. Give thoughtful useful feedback to the developers, not "WAaaaah"  

3. Buying year old games, discount games and other promotions is a great way to stretch your dollars. (Steam sales how I love thee, Humble Bundle's also great)  And as much as many developers don't like used games I'd rather you buy used than pirate any day.   

4. Love a game, or an awesome piece of DLC that really was worth the money.  Let the developers know what you loved, positive feedback is an awesome experience.  If it's not  a super well published game tell your friends.

Finally a thought it takes a lot of people to make and sell even most small games, just look at the credits on Castle Crashers.  When you pirate your taking income away from all of those people and most of us are not the fat cat rich CEO's  you think of when you look at EA.  Whatever you do for a living imagine if whatever you made was just stolen from you, or if you just didn't get paid for half the hours you worked you'd probably be pretty angry right?  That's how most software developers, artists, and game directors feel when they go look at the statistics and see their game has been stolen more times than it has been paid for. 

 

 


 





Andrak_Vol
Andrak_Vol

@Hurvl"Oh, I usually buy the game after I've pirated it, if it's really good. I use piracy to know whether games are worth the money, purely consumer info based"
That's what I do. 

However I always buy my Witcher products (currently staring at my awesome  Enhanced Edition copies)

Hurvl
Hurvl

@luqmanr The pirates use far less resources and money to pirate games than the creators use to make them, so they're not competing on even terms. If the creators lower the prices, the pirates could easily do so too and we're back to square one. The creators need to have the price above a certain level to get some money back, but the pirates have way more generous profit margins, so they could lower the price below anything the creators are willing or even able to do. Lower prices would lead to more sales, but is it really worth it? That's the question and I'm no economist, so I can't give a clear answer.

LE5LO
LE5LO

@MadCat221 - If the research was more recent (instead of from 2010 - 2011) it probably would be.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@senjutsu Not as much, no.

The ratio depends on the games. In very popular games, the ratio can vary from 1:3 to 1:10. For less popular games, between 1:5 and 1:15


Not an accurate assessment, but a rough idea of it. Piracy is still prevalent in consoles very much because even though PC piracy is considered easier to get away with, the intial buy-in cost of a PC makes console piracy an ideal choice for people with very little money.

adilejaz
adilejaz

@elmatador93 Probably people from developed countries will order their products from third world countries then as there is huge difference in purchase price and the copy they have will be legit. :-)

It will back fire on their existing sales.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@elmatador93 @TohouAsura Yeah, I am aware of that. I've seen the footage, and I don't blame you.

I just meant, considering the state your country is in, wouldn't it be better to search for a safe haven away from the turmoil in the meanwhile? You can never know when the situation will explode.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Andrak_Vol That's great, but it's hard to say how widespread that mentality is among the majority of pirates. If I happen to listen to a song on youtube, I might search for other songs by that artist and if they're good enough I'll consider buying their music. That's not always the case, though, and using youtube to listen to music without paying isn't principally much different from using a torrent to get a video game without paying. You're accessing content that costs money without paying for it, but I still see video game piracy as worse than what I do. There is no legal way to acquire video games without paying, but Spotify lets you listen to music without paying, so I guess that's my defense against people who'd call me a hypocrite :P.

nate1222
nate1222

@vaibhavp Watch out!

You're making a practical assessment of the industry. Industry big wigs don't like 'practical'.

ThePixelOmen
ThePixelOmen

@somatzu 

Well said. Although if you can afford to buy the car anyway, and still do that, you are stealing money away from the people who put in all the time, money and creative effort to create the car you are enjoying, and that's kinda shitty.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@elmatador93 No offense but, the state your country is in, I wouldn't worry about how to play the latest shooter when there is actual shooting going on outside...

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Tyron1234 I have to point out to you, as a fellow software developer myself: Fans spend their money there because that is all that's available. It's the chicken and the egg. You aren't going to see a large number of people deviate from the franchises and shitty sequels year after year, especially if the other games aren't available, until a developer takes a stand and actually develops a new and interesting game that people will want to play and will buy instead of Call of Duty 95 - or they'll buy both.

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@Tyron1234 Well, if you're a software developer, then you should already know the people who work on a project get paid beforehand, and not by how the game sells, unless an agreement was set on it.

luqmanr
luqmanr

@Hurvl @luqmanr There's a lot of honest people in my country, I believe most of us would definitely buy genuine software if they could. There's a limit of money they're willing to pay to certain types of software. For example, the most money I would spend on a game is probably 3-5 dollars. If I think it's very worthwhile I would pay $10 for a game at most. For softwares like photoshop and office i too would pay out $10 at most. So if pirates were to sell it even lower than that, I would still pick the legal one.

But yes, there's a problem where there's a minimum number of price that the developers need to sell it on. So I don't know the solution. Though I believe the solution shouldn't come from an economy point of view, or software point of view, it should come from a social or moral point of view. We need to make buying legal stuffs a culture, but the solution is still very hard to see, or people don't want to see it, they only want more money.

0m39AX
0m39AX

@TohouAsura @senjutsu The country I live - Brazil has the highest taxes among all other countries. And it includes gaming, of course. This is the reason why piracy is a main issue for all game companies that decide to launch a console or its games in here. For example, during the PS1 era, there wasn't a single person which I knew back then - and almost EVERYONE had a PS1 here in Brazil - who didn't have a modded console. 

elmatador93
elmatador93

@TohouAsura @elmatador93 we have no other place than our house to escape to..and we got no enough money to travel outside..but our city is kinda safe for now..but i appreciate your awarness


Andrak_Vol
Andrak_Vol

@Hurvl Oh, RE: Music if it's been officially released to a service like Spotify or even their own Youtube channel, they obviously intend for people to listen to it for free, at least initially.

I also listen to music on youtube and what not, however my rate of purchase tends to be..... lacking.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Peter_Desert @luqmanr @Hurvl Lol $10 for Photoshop, a 600+ dollar program. In all honesty though PHotoshop doesn't cost money to produce anymore. The program hasn't changed significantly since Photoshop 10. All they do now is add small features and then shit out a new Creative Suite software bundle on a yearly basis. Adobe doesn't deserve your money that often.

luqmanr
luqmanr

@Peter_Desert @luqmanr @Hurvl Piracy? No, it's because of the current state of my country's economy, and my government isn't doing anything to make it right either.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Peter_Desert The price levels in Indonesia might be quite different from the US or other similar countries, so perhaps it's not that ridiculous to want to buy a game for 5 dollars. People spend their vacations at places like that, mostly because they *are* much cheaper than their native countries. Retail prices for games in Sweden is like 87 dollars for new PC games or more than 100 dollars for new console games, but I haven't bought retail games since 2007, so I don't mind. Steam's and GoG's sales sometimes lower the prices for good games to 3-5 dollars and I've bought several games I like at those prices.

Peter_Desert
Peter_Desert

@luqmanr @Hurvl Ha! look at this guy! piracy has ruined him and he doesn't even know! 
 

" For example, the most money I would spend on a game is probably 3-5 dollars. If I think it's very worthwhile I would pay $10 for a game at most. For softwares like photoshop and office i too would pay out $10 at most. "


Some games are worth $10, but you can't really ask for all games to be sold at that price. do you realize how much it takes to make them? most of us actually just want the price tag to fall to $50 ($40 would be amazing).

then you come and say $10 for photoshop?! HA! LUNACY! whats next? $15 for 3Ds Max?

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

@0m39AX@TohouAsura@senjutsuInteresting. My country had the very same occurence.

If your console wasn't modded, you were doing something wrong.

LOL I remember when my dad took my PS1 to get modded when I got back to my country. I wanted to play a Spiderman game I bought but the disk was not authentic. It's like they took it to pit-fighting :P

Before that we lived in Germany, and there my console was not modded and all my games were newly bought.

This is indeed an issue with how they ignore certain countries, so those countries resort to pirating because import costs aren't worth it.

Do you want to know when Xbox360 officially launched over here?

2013.

Yes. A 2005 console launched here, in 2013.

SONY hasn't launched any of it's consoles here, all imported.

When the PS3 was released, it cost here about...

1 368.365 U.S. dollars


I shit you not.

snxx
snxx

@0m39AX@TohouAsura@senjutsu
(continuing)

- The second is in your example: PS1 games were, indeed, largely pirated around here, but much of that is exactly due to Sony not selling the console officially here. In the two generations that preceded PS1, the third and fourth gen, we had a strong SEGA presence here through Tec Toy, and even though there was piracy, it was nowhere as rampant as it became with Sony's console. Tec Toy thrived and original cartridges were a very common sight. So it is, really, largely a matter of the industries investing here and adapting to local market. SEGA did it here in the 3rd and 4th gen, but the local market was considered "lost to piracy" in the 5th ans 6th gen mainly because Sony decided to ignore us. Now let's take a look at the 7th gen: Microsoft officially launched Xbox360 in 2011 at a price many considered "fair" (or, at least, fairer than before) and the results were that, one year after that, the original retail game sales were 144% larger! (source: http://g1.globo.com/tecnologia/noticia/2012/11/brasil-vende-35-milhoes-de-games-em-9-meses-de-2012-diz-pesquisa.html). And that's not accounting for digital sale, which I'm sure also grew a lot, since they're cheaper.

In the end, if Brazil's case mean something is that here we have hard data to imply that if you adapt to local market, adjust prices and give support to your consumers, you WILL reduce piracy and increase original game sale. But the developers probably think it's easier and cheaper to just come up with new forms of DRM instead...

snxx
snxx

@0m39AX@TohouAsura@senjutsuWhile you're right that piracy is rampant here in Brazil, you're wrong in two accounts:

- The first is that Brazil is nowhere near "the highest piracy taxes among all other countries", this very study found out that Romania, Croatia, Greece, Portugal and Hungary are the top 5 countries with the highest percentages of piracy when compared to local population. And there are lots of others "pirate havens" besides Brazil, including Russia and China.

(I'll talk about the second aspect in next post)