Many games have been pirated over the years. But some of the piracy statistics are particularly interesting for shedding light on the behavior of pirates and studios, and the consequences of using illegal copies.
The indie game World of Goo, known for its high quality, is also infamous for a rather sad record: over 90% of the copies used are actually pirate versions!
Prototype—a game reminding of the GTA universe—has reportedly been pirated about 2.35 million times. The Radical Entertainment studio never really recovered from the losses. They had to lay off a lot of people as a result of this commercial failure. In the following years, the studio did participate in the design of the Destiny series, but they never produced any game of its own again.
Starcraft 2 is still one of the most popular games of all time—and Overwatch, a much more recent creation of the Blizzard studio, is full of references to this famous strategy game that has reached cult status. Even though it is only possible to pirate the single-player content of the game and not the multiplayer part, more than 3 million illegal copies have been counted so far.
Many gamers still consider Mass Effect 2 to be one of the best video games ever made. Its developers tried to attract players with free DLC to combat piracy, hoping that reducing the cost of the game would be positive for the sales. Despite these actions, 3.24 million copies of the game were still pirated.
Mafia 2, a game that has been compared to the Grand Theft Auto series if set in the 1950s, was much less successful than the famous franchise. With far fewer resources than GTA, it has been pirated far more than the latter—more than 3.5 million times. According to analysts, this is probably due to the lack of effective protection. GTA had invested a lot to limit piracy, so players turned to this similar title, which is easier to find on parallel networks.
The 5.4 million pirated copies of this fighting game from the famous Final Fantasy universe have apparently caused more than 335 million dollar revenue losses.
With 5.4 million pirated copies combined (and an estimated piracy loss of more than $1 billion), the iconic Nintendo DS title is also the undefeated champion of pirated games—at least for the Diamond and Pearl games. In the following titles, Nintendo apparently put protections in place that would make the game impossible to complete.
Other highly pirated titles include Street Fighter IV (1.85 million illegal copies) Spore, which was pirated more than 500,000 times in its first week of release, the Need for Speed series (about 2 million per title in the series) or almost every game in the Call of Duty series (about 3 million per title in the series).
The loss of revenue is therefore far from being anecdotal, and the fact that the majority of games are now playable only online is no longer a sufficient protection.
As the example of World of Goo shows, piracy is not limited to blockbusters, and indie games suffer greatly from this phenomenon—either because of the lack of means to implement effective protections or because of the mentality of their creators. Piracy is, after all, part of the long history of video games.
This independent video game designer, a former pirate himself, writes about the ambivalence of his feelings when he discovered that 52% of his players were using an illegal copy.
However, some indie game developers prefer that people who don’t buy their games simply pirate them, rather than buy keys on unauthorized websites, especially on G2A. In any case, they don’t get any revenue—but the fake keys make the companies waste a lot of time checking them.
Some of them, not being successful with the release of their game, even go so far as to make an illegal copy available, asking their players to buy the game if they like it! Many “pirates” have agreed to pay for a legal copy of the game after finding the version published on The Pirate Bay.
Of course, this last method only works if it is perfectly supervised by the developer, and only for independent games—a blockbuster company won't be able to play the sympathy card.
The safest solution is, of course, to monitor the networks, and to remove illegal copies as soon as they appear in order to avoid any loss of revenue.
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Next week, stay tuned for a comparison of antipiracy methods in the video game industry: