Gaming Confessions: Piracy

This week’s confession is on Piracy of PC Games

This is a little different than my usual confession, I’m not going to use this page to list games that I have pirated because that would be silly and a pretty dull read as all the games that I have downloaded in the past were classified as abandonware. This week’s confession is my standpoint on piracy in general.

My opinion can be a little complex and it does contradict itself in places but I try to appreciate the viewpoints of a consumer and a developer/publisher. I could rant on this at length, but I have condensed it to 5 simple points; two for a consumer, two for a developer/publisher and one universal law

1.      Not every game that is pirated game is a lost sale

A recent article on BBC News states that sales are down by approximately half a billion from the previous year which has been attributed to an increase in piracy (apparently the fact that several retailers are reporting decreased sales has nothing do with this decrease) doesn’t effect has been lost as a result of illegal downloads or piracy. This may be true if you count every download or pirate game as a lost sale. However this is not the case, there are thousands of people worldwide who use the technology that is not readily available as an on demand rental service. Some will download a game to try it before they pay out the £40-£50 for a game, while others use it to play a game that they wanted to experience but not necessarily enough to pay full price for it. Had these people actually bought the game it would have probably been second hand which would mean that the developers/publishers get exactly the same amount of money in the end which is absolutely nothing.

2.      If you don’t support your developer you won’t get any more games

Not getting appreciated for your hard work is an awful feeling, knowing that you have put time and effort into something and then seeing someone take it for nothing makes you feel worthless as if the value of the product is a direct reflection of you and your worth. By pirating a game, this is the message that you are sending to everyone who worked on a game.  From a business standpoint if a product doesn’t make money developers and publishers will be less inclined to make a sequel. If games stop making money there will not be any more games.

This isn’t a doomsday warning it is fact. We have seen one video game crash in the past which nearly destroyed the industry before it even started. In more recent history there have been several games that have been criminally overlooked and poor sellers, sometimes the company survives others it does not. Look at Singularity one of the arguably most original concepts for a FPS of the year, it had poor sales and it’s unlikely that we will ever see a sequel or the concept of a time machine gun again. Luckily Raven Software survived this commercial failure to fight another day but others were not so fortunate. Bizarre Creations and their neon coloured racer Blur again a very good game from a good developer but unfortunately it didn’t sell well and Activision started looking at options for the studio. One of the most circulated stories was that Activision was looking for a buyer for the studio and after not finding one within 90days the studio may now be closed. I don’t mean to pick on Activision but these are two high profile examples that spring to mind.

3.      Suing those who pirate games does not discourage others

One of the most common arguments that game pirates use to defend themselves is that games are overpriced and that studios now make as much money as major Hollywood studios and that losing a sale here and there will not damage the company.  This defence is entirely wrong and quite harmful in the long run, however when a developer/publisher threatens to sue someone for thousands of dollars for downloading a game it only strengthens the pirates resolve proves(at least to them) that everything is financially driven and nothing more. I’m not suggesting that companies should ignore pirates; I just believe it would be better if the companies involved focused on those selling pirated games rather than the individual consumer. After all, if I download one game then that is potentially one lost sale(see point 1) total loss based on RRP £50, however if I download a game then make 100 copies with intent to sell then that is a potential loss of £5000. Which of these two who deserves to be hit with a lawsuit? The one downloading a game for his/her own enjoyment or the one trying to profit?

4.      If you pirate all your games you annoy those who pay for them

There will always be those who pirate games/movies/music in general, and there will always be those who pay. If you download something that I paid for it pisses me off. Why should I waste my hard earned money paying for a game if you don’t? I can forgive those who fall under point 1 but for those who are serial downloaders, the ones who download everything and pay for nothing (we all know someone like this) you are being selfish and it is you that is causing hassle for the rest of us. When people talk about illegal downloaders or pirates they tend to conjure an image of a serial downloader rather than that of the majority who may only download one or two things. Unfortunately it is the former that companies take you as normal which makes them more aggressive when they find someone who has been downloading games. It also drives up prices in stores for those of us who purchase games as publishers will try and recoup what they believe are lost earnings. The only person who wins in this scenario is the serial downloader, everyone else is a loser.

5.      Always remember Wheaton’s Law

The final point is all encompassing and it would be wise for both consumers and developers/publishers to take it to heart. Wheaton’s law is simple don’t be a dick. If you like a game or a company then show them support and buy their products. If you create a game that thousands enjoy you should be proud and happy, there will always be those that want something for nothing but don’t penalise all of us for the sake of a few.

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  • Brian Heitzenrater (FrehleyzComet)

    I strongly support #1. I’ve found a lot of bands that I like and have purchased their cd’s because I was able to download some of their music first. On the other hand, I’ve also saved myself a lot of money by doing the same thing and discovering that their music was crap and not worth my money. The good thing with the music industry now is the innovation of youtube. I can now listen to a band’s music without having to dl it “behind closed doors”.

    While I have never dl’d a game legal or illegal, I can understand why people would do this. The difference between my example and the article is that I’m only out $10-$15 for a cd while a game is obviously a lot more than that.

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  • Tim

    Well said Stewart – totally agree that it should be those looking to profit from pirating that should be targeted and brought down and not the individual consumer, with the ever rising costs of cd’s and games etc (along with everything else), it’s hardly surprising many people try to download pirated copies before purchasing if they like.

  • Tsarkon

    Nice article. I have to say, I agree with you on just about every point. It’s nice to finally see a moderate standpoint on the subject instead of the usual extremes. Hearing other people, you would think that a baby dies every time someone pirates something or else that the developers are soulless greedmongers who would do anything to drain our bank accounts.

    I started to write a long reply here about how piracy is not the pandemic it is made out to be, but it was quickly developing into an article of its own and I wouldn’t want to detract from what you have written. Nice work. And btw, two thumbs up on your bio. I’m a major geek too I have two young daughters who are already strong in the [geek] force. 😀

  • Dragondan000

    It’s not wheatons law. Wil picked it up, and even made reference to the source. It’s actually called Jon Gabriel’s Greater Internet F***wad Theory, from Penny Arcade.