Prevention or action—which method is more effective against piracy?

Prevention or action—which method is more effective against piracy?

There are two ways to fight piracy in video games: prevention and active methods. Let’s try to look at these two ways of limiting piracy and see which seems more effective. 


Preventive methods


The “technical” methods aim at preventing the console or PC from launching the game if it does not come from an original source. 


This method has been used since the early days of video games, since as early as 1985 Nintendo created a system for its first consoles—the NES—which allowed the game to be played only if the cartridges used had the company’s logo.


Over the years, the video game industry has gone through activation keys, game alterations (the pirated version was sometimes amusing—we listed some of them in our article), DRMs, watermarks, or the “always online” system launched by Diablo 3 and popularized by Steam, which became the standard for almost all games. 


From now on, it seems that the most promising method for the years to come is the blockchain technology. Indeed, apart from its other well-known applications in cryptocurrency, the blockchain technology allows a very reliable authentication which could therefore allow a person to be associated with a specific copy of the game, thus avoiding piracy. 


One of the main criticisms of these methods is that whatever technique is used, hackers have always found a way to circumvent them—many even see them as a challenge and do it for fun. DRM methods have also been accused of slowing down games and causing technical difficulties and performance drops even for players with legal versions, as shown in these articles about the (both anti-piracy and anti-cheating) software Denuvo. 


Preventive methods, however, if they do not eliminate piracy at the source, allow a tracing of the illegal activity, which should facilitate the actions taken afterwards—in particular the cleaning part. In addition, these methods can also prevent infected files from spreading.  Watermarking seems to be particularly effective in this respect.


Active methods


What to do once the preventive methods failed and one or more copies of your video game are online? 


Tracking


The first thing to do is to identify the existence of the pirate file on the networks. This means scanning all search engines with relevant keywords and separating fake pirate links (scams) from real copies of your product. A Google search is not enough to find all the links—many pirates have now turned to Russian search engines, which are less censored. 

You need to complete this search by scanning dedicated sites and discussion forums—not all will appear in a global search. 

Of course, every file must be checked—many so-called DMCA farms send thousands of requests per day without any verification at all, removing perfectly legal files and promotional tools, making your product less visible and causing you to lose revenue.


Removal requests


The next step is to send a request to Google so that search results linking to pirate sites containing an illegal version of your game are removed. 

But this only removes the search results (and only on Google)—you still need to contact the hosts of each copy. Thus you need to identify the host (the pirate site itself will never remove your content, despite the fact that some claim to do so)—it means you need to find out whom to send the removal request in order to make it effective, and to do the follow-up if your first attempt proves ineffective. You will then need to continue monitoring to see which files have been removed, and which are still waiting to be processed. And once all of that is over… you’ll have to do it again.


However, if all of these actions are carried out over several weeks or months (depending on the extent of the problem) removing the search links and content at the source, directly from the host, is still the most effective method. 


If this sounds long and tedious, that’s because without experience in cybersecurity, and without the proper tools—coupled with human verification—it is indeed! 


Conclusion


Of course, as in any industry, one of the most effective “tools” is to offer a good product, at the right price. 

The reality is that no method can completely get rid of piracy. Unfortunately, at the moment it is still simple to find illegal copies of the latest video games, even when after a Google cleanup. Preventive methods, as good as they are, do not prevent products from ending up on illegal download sites—they just make piracy slightly more difficult. Therefore, it is imperative to supplement them with systematically searching for links to your video game on the networks and sending takedown requests. 


Does the task seem long and complicated? Do not hesitate to contact our team of experts, we have more than 10 years of experience in the field!


Next week, stay with us to learn about the main arguments used by hackers. Pure bad faith or valid criticism? 



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