Jay Barnson linked to a startling article by the Director of Marketing at Reflexive Games, stating that of the people playing their game (Ricochet Infinity) 92% of them were pirated copies. Do read the full article to put that number into perspective.
Let me try to put some spin on that 92% figure:
* This was well into the lifespan of the game, and it sounds like they were just looking at a snapshot of how many pirated copies were being played at the moment. It could be that a great number of people paid for the game when it was new, but that it has since fallen off the charts and out of notice on various casual game portals. Everyone that wanted the game and was willing to pay for it had done so. They bought it, they played it, and moved on. Therefore the only players still around are pirates who downloaded the game recently. I gather that it takes a while for a torrent to spread around. So as time goes legit sales fall and pirated copies proliferate. It could be that shortly after release that the ratio of pirates to legit users was reversed. More importantly, the all-time ratio might not be nearly as grim.
* It’s possible that a portion of that 92% were people that actually owned a legit copy but circumvented the DRM because it was annoying, or it interfered with their use of the product. (Like having it installed on their PC and laptop, for example.) Again, the original article is just too vague.
* The study didn’t (couldn’t) include people who didn’t take the game “on-line”, whatever that means. This is a breakout game for crying out loud. Okay, it’s a very elegant and sexy looking tenth-generation descendant of breakout, but still: I dunno what the “online” portion is about. If it’s some sort of PvP then I could imagine the more casual moms & dads (who paid for the game) would stick to the single-player stuff (and thus not show up in the study) while the kid in his parent’s basement (who didn’t pay for the game) would favor the part of the game that lets him call other people “fag”, since that’s obviously the big draw with online gaming.
But even if I was right about all of the above, I doubt it would bring that piracy figure into the single digits, which is where I would have guessed it was.
Are the numbers this bad everywhere, or just in casual games? Brad Wardell, founder and president of Stardock, has maintained that piracy is about convenience more than money. I’d imagine that finding a torrent to download and install a 6GB file for something like STALKER would have to be pretty danged inconvenient. A 6GB download would take longer than just driving to the store, anyway. By contrast, I think Ricochet Infinity is one of those games where you download the “demo” for 40MB and then just enter a serial number of some sort to unlock the whole thing. In the case of that sort of game, piracy is far more convenient. (Not that I’m saying this is a valid excuse, I’m just saying that maybe (hopefully) piracy isn’t quite as bad for other sorts of games. Just being “big” might be a sort of inadvertent anti-piracy measure.)
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