Handheld Game Piracy

By Shamus
on Jun 7, 2010
Filed under:
Video Games

Ok, so we want to research how much piracy costs the portable market. The methodology:

Researchers arrived at this number by searching for Japanese versions of the top 20 releases from 2004 to 2009 on the top 114 piracy sites around the world. The retail cost of the games and their ratio of sales were then factored in to determine the cost to the Japanese market; that figure was multiplied by four, “under the assumption that Japan accounts for 25 percent of the world’s software market,” to come up with the worldwide figure.

They came up with a figure of $41 billion.

Let us, for a moment, ignore the absurd notion that 1 download creates losses equal to the full price version of the game on launch day. I know it’s hard to ignore this, because it’s a very, very silly assumption. But I think it’s important to look past this pedestrian madness so we can examine the more unusual madness underneath.

The Nintendo DS has sold 128.89 million units to date. The PSP has sold 66.7 million. This comes to 195.59 million units. Those 195 million owners have managed to rip $41,000,000,000 USD from the hands of honest, hardworking game developers worldwide. If every single handhheld owner was a pirate and they all pirated in equal measure, then every one of them would need to steal $210 worth of software.

But not all of those units are in service. Some are broken, lost, or simply sitting in a drawer somewhere with a flat battery and a fine coating of dust. Then there are people who bought the DS Lite when they already owned a standard DS. So the actual number of active gamers is much lower than 195 million. And this study looked at activity over the past five years, but the distribution of portables was lower five years ago and sales have followed a nominal curve. And of course not all users are pirates.

I have no idea how you’d combine these userbase numbers to make them useful against the flat $41 billion figure because I never took any fancy statistics courses. The kind of courses you’d need to take if you were going to “research” piracy by Googling for pirate sites and multiplying by a number you made up.

And then there is the used game market. People have claimed that used game sales are eating 75% of the publisher profits. So even if these pirate sites went poof, it stands to reason that 75% of them would just buy used. (Ignoring the fact that many would just go without.)

And now we can circle back to the original point that not all downloads are lost sales.

What we have here is about the most absurd, sloppy, arbitrary, and lazy figure possible. It’s outrageous to even call this “research”. This is guesswork where all of your assumptions are tilted in favor of the conclusion you wanted to arrive at before you began collecting “data”. These guys are obviously charlatans, but I have to admit what they’re doing looks like fun.

Moreover, I want to try it:

Currently the ads on this site make me about $beer money per month. But! I get less than a million page views a month. Something like 10k visitors a day. (Google Analytics is hard for me to understand sometimes. But I’ll bet the researchers had a tough time squeezing data out of Pirate Bay, so it’s cool.) There are 390 million people worldwide with access to the internet. If all of them visited my site, my traffic would increase by a factor of 39,000.

In the end, all of you people who read this site but don’t forward links to your friends are costing me over one million dollars a month!

You people make me sick! You are stealing a million dollars worth of bread out of the mouths of my children. Do you know how much bread that is? And I’m not even talking about the expensive Pepperidge Farm stuff that’s all tiny and made of nutrients and comes in the fancy bag. No. We’re decent, honest, sensible people and we’d only buy the cheap stuff that’s mostly air and processed chemicals or whatever, so that the million bucks could go as far as possible.

bread.jpg

But that’s not good enough for you people, is it? You’d rather see us all starve because of your selfishness. I hate you so much.

Anyway, thanks for visiting and be sure to visit my sponsors!

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A Hundred!20202013Many comments. 173, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. BaCoN says:

    I peed myself laughing at the last part. On a completely unrelated note:

    Shamus, what do you think of LtR:O going ‘free’ this fall?

    Actually, wait, that’s all that unrelated at all. Hm.

    • Cezar says:

      Yeah I also would like to know Shamus’s view on the matter.

      OnTopic: 41 Billion? Does that amount even exist?

      • krellen says:

        Considering the US gross domestic product is something like $15 Trillion a year (and so is our debt), I’d say yes.

        Heck, $41 billion is a fairly poor quarter for most oil companies.

      • Drexer says:

        We’re talking about American billions here, so if your amazement came from the initial terror based on working with proper base 10 wording, then you can rest safely. Whenever I speak of those amounts this is actually what happens to me, so…

        But yeah, world economics work with values far above that like krellen said.

      • Robyrt says:

        The entire Japanese boxed games industry is $3-4 billion US dollars. (Not including online games.) This supports the 90/10 pirates/buyers ratio from indie sources, and also the outlandish practice of citing $41 billion.

    • Jordi says:

      That’s funny. I had already peed myself when I read the amount of money the “researchers” came up with.

  2. Sharnuo says:

    Would you mind if instead of forwarding people here I just gave you some bread instead?

  3. Jason says:

    If I gave you some money out of my pocket, would it help ease the pain?

  4. ps238principal says:

    Here’s a forwarded link that might be relevant.

    The scientists at Cracked magazine have determined that, according to the RIAA, the Pirate Bay has stolen 46 more times the dollars than currently exist on Earth.

    • Heron says:

      The Cracked thing is amusing, but inherently flawed… the RIAA isn’t asserting that one case of copyright infringement is worth $384k, it’s asserting that one case of illegally distributing copyrighted material is worth $382k.

      That doesn’t make the RIAA’s claims any easier to swallow, but unfortunately it does mean most of the comparisons Cracked makes are not applicable.

      Since I’m bored at work, I thought I’d do my own math using the RIAA’s actual assertion.

      If every person in America shares exactly one song illegally via Bittorrent, then every person in America is (according to the RIAA) stealing $382k (using Cracked’s calculation-per-illegal-distribution).

      Let’s do that math:

      Population of US: 309,448,072 (census.gov)
      Damages per illegal distribution according to the RIAA: $382,353

      Money owed to the RIAA in our hypothetical scenario: $118,318,398,673,416

      That’s $118 trillion, and that’s only if we all “distribute” one song per person by sharing it in Bittorrent.

      Make it more realistic: let’s say every college student in the US shares a small music library of 75 songs on Bittorrent. In 2007 there were 18,248,000 college students (nces.ed.gov)… let’s see how much the RIAA would say is being stolen from them:

      18248000 * $382353 * 75 = $523,288,315,800,000

      If you were to somehow use actual numbers, I suspect the calculated “cost to RIAA” would be much larger.

      It’s a pretty ridiculous claim.

      • Cuthalion says:

        Well, by “damages”, they’re probably talking what they’re legally allowed to claim, rather than what it necessarily cost them.

        In other words, the law has bizzarely high penalties for piracy.

        • Heron says:

          Sure, damages are supposed to be inflated from what the actual loss was, but as I understand it they are also supposed to be vaguely related to those actual losses. The RIAA consistently fails (or, refuses!) to demonstrate that the damages they are seeking bear any relation to actual losses.

  5. Meredith says:

    That’s a lot of pretend money.

    Where do rentals come into the “stealing” picture? That’s how I play most handheld games…the vast majority of them are not worth $30.

  6. Atarlost says:

    Hang on. How can you buy bread with $beer money?

  7. Hugo Sanchez says:

    Loved it, Shamus. I look forward to stealing your children’s bread by not giving you beer money for years to come.

  8. Factoid says:

    I want to know what kind of crazy programming language Shamus is using where you can put spaces in your variable names.

    Shouldn’t that be $beer_money ?

  9. Manny says:

    Oh noes! Poor Young family! Does it help when I disable Adblock for your site?

    Is using Adblock like pirating the whole internet?

    • TehShrike says:

      AAAAH HA HA HA

      For some reason, I found the “pirating the whole internet” thing to be totally hilarious :-D

    • Vegedus says:

      I’ve wondered this myself. While it’s hardly illegal (just like changing the channel when commercials come on, or using a tivo isn’t), since half the internet runs on adds, it still is cutting off a lot of people’s livelihood. If a site is driven only or primarily by adds, you certainly aren’t supporting by using an addblocker.

      But is it immoral…?

      • Cuthalion says:

        Note that not all adds are pay-per-view. If ads are pay-per-click or pay-per-purchase-of-whatever-they-advertise, then if you’re not going to click/buy anyway, adblock makes no difference. Of course, there’s also a chance that without adblock, you would’ve bought/clicked, but a lot of us just ignore them all the time and have rarely/never even clicked an ad.

        If Shamus’s ads are pay-per-view/impression, then let me know and I’ll be sure to keep adblock off for this site.

        • Rosseloh says:

          Indeed, the important question at the moment (for me at least) is: are your new ads pay-per-view or pay-per-click?

          I can see them (constantly trying to get me to play Age of Conan, a game that I found quite lackluster), but if you need me to click on them I’ll do it every time I show up.

          • Garden Ninja says:

            I wouldn’t click on them just to help Shamus out, unless you have actual interest in the content, since (I think) that is essentially click-fraud. Let’s not send Shamus to jail please.

            • Rosseloh says:

              Is that actually an issue?
              Hmm, I was under the impression that clicks were clicks, and since he didn’t solicit them (well, as long as the potential auditor has a sarcasm-detector) it would be clear.

              Still, I’ll exercise caution.

      • Shamus says:

        I prefer “rude” to “immoral”.

        People have the right to surf however they choose, just like you have the right to stand and enjoy a street musician and then not put anything into the hat. And to a certain extent, the musician might just appreciate that you enjoyed the tune even if you didn’t chip in. But there is a certain social understanding that it’s not cool to stiff them if you can afford to donate. It’s an honor system.

        The entire internet is on the honor system, really. It’s just that copyright holders refuse to believe this.

        Of course, the game was ruined by the spammy sites like Gamestot and IGN and Fileplanet, where using Adblock is just basic self-defense. If not for them, a lot less people would be using adblock.

        • H.M says:

          I’d be a lot more bound to use the things advertised online if they werent apparently designed to be as annoying as possible. Making my computer crash because your damn ads chokes it does NOT make me want to visit your sites, guys!

          • Binks says:

            Yeah. I recently went and installed adblock on google chrome (my secondary browser, and one I wanted to leave vanilla for various reasons) because it was choking on ads constantly. Little html ads are fine (and I purposefully put sites I visit often that don’t have annoying ads on the adblock exception list) but whoever had the bright idea to make the first of those stupid and loud flash ads deserves to be punched in the face.

            • fscan says:

              Just use Flashblock (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/433/). I don’t know if there is something like this for chrome though.

            • Susie says:

              My solution to this is to install the flash block program which blocks all flash until clicked on. Sure, it’s annoying sometimes, but it sure beats having my ancient laptop freeze all the time because of random flash content. As a bonus, I get to ignore the most annoying of the flash ads.

              Here’s an interesting question though – I would love to garner some $beer_money for Shamus, but I’m pretty sure that the ad companies frown on empty clickers, and if too many people do so, the price per click deteriorates. Either way I feel guilty. Perhaps when I’m not in starving artist mode myself I would donate … or maybe if there was a place I could by the cool T-Shirts that Shamus comes up with :-)

        • Johannes says:

          Given the quality of some street musicians, I feel inclined to pose a different analogy: I have the right to walk the street, looking around and enjoying my nice stroll through the city, all the while ignoring the street performer. ‘Cause that’s how some (if not a great many) sites make me feel: all banners and ads screaming for attention, begging to be read, preventing me from reading some article or whatnot. They can all count on my unwillingness to take notice of all kinds of redundant crap, the offering of which I personally find rather rude as well.

          That said, on sites that I like and that behave properly I turn my ABP off. The occasional flashy fail-ad I can tolerate – by right clicking and selecting ‘Block Image’, or something alike.

          • Mari says:

            Or in my case, I have the right to be clumsy and still walk down the street without tripping over every random street musician stretched out all over the sidewalk. I have an itchy clicker finger (pardon the pun) and tend to accidentally click random air space because of some neural damage in my mouse hand. With ads all over both sides of the monitor I frequently accidentally navigate away from the page I’m in the middle of reading because I inadvertently clicked an ad.

            Still, it’s a nuisance I put up with for Shamus because I enjoy his page enough that I want to see his family fed.

        • glassdirigible says:

          edit: Realized the functionality described below is currently present, I just didn’t realize it. Eri’s comment tipped me off that it did exist. Thanks.

          I would like a version of adblock that only blocked flash/javascript based ads (and gave the option to block specific pictures). If the ad doesn’t move or make sound, I am more than ok with it being there, especially on a site that happens to be relative to my interests.

          I do pay attention to ads posted with the comics I read and the blogs I read because they’re often appropriately targeted at me, and perhaps selling something I want. Of course, courtesy of the jackasses with annoying ads, I rarely see them.

        • Moridin says:

          I have adblock, but I turn it off in many sites(like this). I wouldn’t need to use it at all if no-one used irritating ads(flashing .gifs that advertise porn-sites, for example).

        • Vegedus says:

          Hm, I do like that perspective.

          For the record I’ve never really used ad-block. I’m simply not annoyed enough by adds to care to install a mod, oddly enough. For one thing, the flash things don’t compare to the add-annoyance in the nineties and before Web 2.0 and all that. The adds that annoy me most are those at youtube, really.

          I don’t think it matters what kinda adds they are, though. It seems like pirate logic otherwise. “I’m probably not going to click on your adds, so I’m probably not deriving you of any income.”

      • eri says:

        I’d argue that if you have sites you want to support, you should disable Adblock on them. However, I don’t have a problem with using Adblock for any random sites you might visit. It only really becomes a problem if you are continually viewing their content and refuse to compensate them for it.

        • Heron says:

          I would think it depends on whether the site is getting paid by clicks or by impressions. I don’t know how Shamus gets paid, but smaller sites are usually paid per click; I generally block ads on sites unless I:

          a) believe they are getting paid per impression
          b) want to support them
          c) believe they won’t serve misbehaving ads

          I never click ads, so on the smaller sites that I frequent (like Shamus’) I generally leave AdBlock on unless the people running the site specifically ask their readers to show support by turning it off. (Or when they do something sneaky like only show “A Thing About Stuff” to people with adblock turned off. *ahem*)

          • Shamus says:

            For the record, my ads are impression-based.

            Please don’t adblock my site thank you thank you!

            • Telas says:

              Presto! Adunblocked!

              I mean unadblocked?

              Er… Green thumbs up in the octangle thingy!

            • Blanko2 says:

              does firefox have adblock as a standard?
              because i don’t recall ever turning on anything like that and i can’t find any option to remove it, yet i see no ads on your site
              (help me disable adblock to give shamus bee-i mean, bread money)
              is what im trying to say.
              in parenthesis.

              • Nick says:

                I turned of all my content blocking too, but I don’t see any ads either.

              • Zak McKracken says:

                Same here
                I thought I was blocking ads on your side, but I ain’t!
                There are none for me to see

                … could that have to do with not being in North America?

                Until now I was always thinking how nice it is that you have no ads on your site, and how this blog is probably just a hobby for you that has the nice effect of sometimes pointing people towards the escapist, for which you work and which presumably pays you money …

                In general I find ads horribly annoying, but e.g. the ones on Penny Arcade are actually fine with me. I hear they put them through a tough selection process, and that is extra fine with me, so that’s one of the sites where I don’t block ads.

            • Kreek says:

              i unadblocked this site a long time ago

              though admitedly im a little disapointed that the things about stuff thing has been replaced by ads for some reason >.<

            • HeroOfHyla says:

              Congratulations! I’ve just put you as the only site on my adblocker and adblockPlus exceptions lists (I never tried adding an exception before)!

              Also, just refreshed to see the result, and those animated ads are annoying. Fortunately I’m a fast reader so I scroll past them pretty fast.

            • krellen says:

              Does that mean I could make up for not sharing links to your site by just obsessively refreshing the page?

              • silver Harloe says:

                Google is smarter than that, I’m afraid, Krellen. Unless you can refresh the page from a different IP address every time…

                • krellen says:

                  I’m behind a NAT at work. I wonder how Google deals with that. Would it really count visits from everyone I work with as a visit from one person?

                  Because if not, I probably could refresh the page from a new IP every time.

            • Galad says:

              I use Adblock plus and Flashblock, but I’ve never blocked anything from this site manually, yet I’ve never seen an ad here, any ad. How do I ‘whitelist’ the site, add it as an exception as someone mentioned? It must be the Adblock Plus preferences, but it’s not very clear.

              nmd, found it, green lighted now. Still no ads. I wonder if I’m doing something wrong..

            • Ian says:

              Ask and you shall receive.

              Done.

              • somecrazyfan says:

                I hate when they put adds on every single page of their site, adds that are big as the screen and force you to close them manually.Also when they put huge X to the top corner that actually opens 1-30 other windows with their sponsors, because the closing button is actually lower and you need to scroll down.Those people are assholes.

            • Matthew says:

              Gosh, I didn’t realize there were ads on your page, Shamus! But just because you asked (and because I’ve been frequenting your site a lot, and I’d like you to not stop) I’ll unadblock you! Presto!

            • Daf says:

              I’ve had AdBlock turned on by default for the last three years, but I have it disabled on a few sites (usually to allow pop-ups).
              I put Twenty-Sided on the exception list about 4 months ago; it’s the only site I have unblocked specifically for advertising. :)

            • Kdansky says:

              As I do not click ads anyway, I might as well do away with them. Therefore I always use adblock, even on this site. And it doesn’t even hurt your “sales” at all:

              http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2010/03/adblocking.html

  10. Syal says:

    “Of of the mouths”

    Was that number for just those twenty games?

  11. trevman says:

    To be fair, I haven’t seen the study, but the lack of rigor on this just seems absurd. What I’m hoping happened was that the the researchers were just responsible for collecting raw data, which was then multiplied by several arbitrary factors by this entertainment association.

    Also, [grammar nazi] they came up instead of they come up [/grammar nazi]

  12. Mischa says:

    Calculating…
    1,000,000 / 39,000…
    Ok, that is a sensible amount of beer.

  13. Sekundaari says:

    I can’t imagine the monster that would stuff a million dollar’s worth of bread into the mouths of your children. Well, maybe EA guy.

    I also can’t imagine how much money authors are losing, when pictures of the covers of books show up online. I mean, the cover is an important part of the book. People would pay much less for a book without a cover. And all those pictures spoil the cover, which supernaturally leads to lost sales. Even spoiling the name of the book must severely hurt the author, and must be ended. There’s clearly no conceivable mechanism for these actually increasing sales.

  14. Abnaxis says:

    That has got to be the most half-assed, worthless peice of crap study I have EVER SEEN! Are they even trying? Let’s see:

    “searching for Japanese versions of…on the top 114 piracy sites around the world”: So….they counted how many pirate versions there are? How does this even relate to the number of downloads?

    “searching for Japanese versions of the top 20 releases from 2004 to 2009”: After all, everyone knows pirating behavior hasn’t changed in the last five years…

    “retail cost of the games and their ratio of sales were then factored in to determine the cost to the Japanese market”: So…we come up with an average number of games pirated based on the top 20, extrapolate that percentage to ALL games, and treat that as a lost sale in EVERY case? How does this sound even remotely reasonable?

    “that figure was multiplied by four, ‘under the assumption that Japan accounts for 25 percent of the world’s software market,'”: Because everyone knows the entire world is technologically and culturally equal to Japan. I mean, why wouldn’t we expect Americans to pirate the same (well, other than less mobile network structure proliferation, an entirely different legal system, and a radically different market demographic, but I’m sure the error these introduce can be hand-waved as insignificant)

    “the study didn’t include peer-to-peer file sharing, meaning the real figure could be even higher”: Right. Everyone knows the correct way to address gross inaccuracy in your study is to systematically ignore a significant proportion of the population. Good job, guys!

    I have done A LOT of statistics, and I frankly can’t imagine anyone with half an education putting their name on this. If an actual analyst is responsible for this, I have got to get the number of company they work for, because they obvously have more dollars than sense. Then, I can make up arbitrary crap and get paid for ‘research’.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Most of the PSPs out there play games off of UMDs. Which means someone who wants to pirate a game needs to buy a stack of mini-discs, crack them out of their cartridges, find something to store them in that scratch them (they’re much pickier than CDs), and for however many games they want to keep in their active library, find UMD cases to put the mini-discs into. As far as I know, Sony doesn’t sell or license to be made those UMD cases, and you can’t just buy blank UMDs. So pretty much every pirated game able to be played represent a game sold at retail someplace. Well, that’s an interesting turnaround, isn’t it? Further, in order to put data onto the thing, you need an MD-Data drive. There’s probably a couple of thousand of those out there, but not millions and millions of them.

      Which brings us to another interesting question: Why are the big players turning to downloadable games for their handhelds? That kind of move only *fosters* piracy! The answer is that that they don’t really care that much about piracy, know that it doesn’t represent lost sales anywhere near the magnitude of what they claim, and the expense of *maintaining* the equipment to put the games onto their special media is *greater* than the amount they expect to lose due to making piracy easier. There’s your hard figure, kids. Piracy of handheld games is in the low single-millions of dollars per year, world wide.

      • DKellis says:

        Not necessarily.

        Up until recently, it was possible to hack the PSP’s firmware to “crack” it, and all that needed to be done was to download the pirated game image/rom onto your computer, and then transfer it to the memory card in the PSP. (Being able to transfer files from your computer onto the memory card of your PSP is an advertised feature, incidentally, not a pirate-loophole.)

        It’s a little like mounting a disc image. (I know that’s oversimplifying, but it works around the same way.) You don’t have to buy a pirated UMD disc; just crack the PSP firmware, download the game, transfer it to the PSP, and you’re good to go.

        Of course, this requires someone to crack the firmware in the first place, and as of the latest version of the PSP (the 3000 series, I believe), it has not been cracked. Rumours abound that this is because the guy who is credited with cracking the 2000 series got paid off by Sony not to do it.

        So it is incorrect to say that pirated PSP games need to be distributed on UMDs.

        It’s about the same for the Nintendo DS: a special cartridge thingie that runs off a micro-SD card, which stores your roms. I think if you hack the firmware of the DS you can also change the wallpaper of the DS startup screens and whatnot.

        As far as I can tell, Sony is concentrating mostly on updating their firmware to prevent piracy-holes, and Nintendo is concentrating mostly on hunting down and C&Ding the micro-SD cartridge reader.

  15. mark says:

    *gasp*

    OH MY GOD.

    I- I’m so sorry shamus. I didn’t realise…. I couldn’t, didn’t know!

    So sorry….

    *sob*

    I…. I didn’t know!

    -mark

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I just wanted to point out the redundant redundancy of writing $xx usd,when $ means the same thing as usd.So its redundantly redundant.

    Also,loved your research,and I must say Im sorry I pirate your blog.Those words Ive read need to be ripped out of my eyes and returned to you.

  17. Falcon says:

    Two things, one that last bit…. pure concentrated comedic awesome.

    Second, how do they justify those figures? I mean total sales for video games in the US were about $20 billion, and that’s hardware and software across all systems (PC included). Software only was around half of that. So lemme do some imaginary play with numbers type stuff. $10b x 4 to get worldwide volume (why not use their own numbers). $40b/4 figuring handhelds at 1/4 of software sales by value. $10b x 5 for number of years, and grade the whole thing on a curve (because the market has grown steadily over that timeframe, and merely because I can) and I figure a generous value of $40 billion total handheld software sales. So no piracy and automagically they double sales? Wow, must be nice up in dreamworld.

    As has been said before there is lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    • Cuthalion says:

      Remember that piracy rates we do know of are more like 90%. Imagine, killing piracy and multiplying your sales by 10!

    • Raygerieo says:

      They can’t justify those numbers as these are obviously pulled out of someone’s ass.
      You cannot track how often a file’s been downloaded, especially with torrents.

    • Abnaxis says:

      “As has been said before there is lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

      Ohhhhh no. This is many things, but it is not statistics. Statistics is actually running an appropriate and valid analysis on data. Half the numbers are pulled from their asses, with no quantitative basis whatsoever. The other half of the numbers violate pretty much every assumption statistical inference requires to be valid.

      I’m sorry, but crap like this really ticks me off. There are many good research projects out there, where proper practices are followed, and they are written off because anyone who sees a statistic assumes it comes from one of these business major jackasses who thinks they can just make numbers up and it will be right.

  18. Greg says:

    Their horrendous statistics aside, I could easily believe that on average handheld console gamers pirate $210 of software. I’ve only seen pirated DS software (in terms of handheld games), but normally it consists of a few hundred games stored on a little card – each one of those has over £2100 on them (without breaking a sweat) so it’d take less than 10% of users to be pirates for the £210 each stat to be correct.

    Of course with their methodology any relationship between their conclusions and reality is pure coincidence. Also as the number of games an individual has pirated increases the number of games they would have bought almost certainly drops off.

    • Jabor says:

      In addition, it’s not only people who own the console that actually pirate the games.

      I know a number of people who pirate handheld games only to play them on emulators instead of the actual handheld.

    • ehlijen says:

      I too was unimpressed by the $210 of piracy per user statement until I remembered that we’re talking $US and US game prices. Down here, AUD$210 buys you two games, at best.

    • Sauron says:

      Erm… not exactly. I’m not sure where you’re getting your stats from, but the most popular version of the DS piracy cartridge, the R4, only handles normal microSD rather than microSDHC, and it’s usually fairly difficult to find a microSD card larger than 2GB. DS games range from 8 MB to well over 100 MB. It’s possible to trim the padding and whatnot, but, on average, games are going to be closer to 50 MB than 20 MB, and, of course, the best ones tend to be larger. Running some quick estimations, I think we’d need closer to 20% of users to be significant pirates for that figure to work out.

      That said, this is based entirely off of Greg’s assumptions here. Tweaking the assumptions even a little bit and I’d still believe 10% of users accounting for all of the piracy.

      • Greg says:

        flash memory up to 8 gb is not terribly expensive through the channels that usually sell the R4. It’ll support up to 32, IIRC.

        On my R4 I mostly play emulated genesis games, or NDS games that I actually have the cart for somewhere.

        [note — this is a *different* greg than grandparent post]

        • Sauron says:

          Oh, I know 8GB isn’t terribly expensive. I’ve got a number of 8 and 16 gig SDHC/miniSDHC/microSDHC cards around (I’ve found that, once you’ve got a reader or two, SD is just cheaper and more convenient than thumb drives). The issue is that the R4 actually does not support the microSDHC format that is required to have an 8GB card. Normal microSD only goes up to 4GB, and even the 4GB ones are relatively difficult to find (and the channels selling the R4 only have up to 2GB microSD and then 4GB+ as microSDHC, for use with carts besides the R4).

          That said, I’ve personally got a CycloDS for homebrew and NDS games I’ve already purchased. (I have a _horrible_ habit of losing NDS carts if I have to carry them around with me, but if I keep them in a box somewhere and my Cyclo in my DS, I have nothing about which to worry.) The Cyclo supports microSDHC, and I’ve got an 8GB card in there (not that I’m using anywhere near that much, but they’re cheap and I like future-proofing), so there are certainly *some* users that are probably filling 8GB and 16GB cards with pirated games, but the R4 is still the most popular cart.

      • Greg says:

        Fair enough.

        I’m not getting stats from anywhere, I was generalising from the couple of examples I’ve seen, I’m willing to believe that those are exceptions if someone with a better source (such as any source at all :P) disagrees.

        The general principle that a high per person average might just represent a minority with a large quantity of pirated games still stands though.

      • DKellis says:

        Note also that many users playing pirated games may not necessarily keep the games on the micro-SD.

        In fact, most of the time I’ve seen (yes, I understand this is anecdotal evidence), if someone really wants to keep a game, they usually buy it. For the rest, it’s usually a case of play-through until they finish the game, lose interest, or both.

        So it’s not so much a question of capacity as of thoroughput.

  19. I don’t agree with piracy, but things like this just make me sick. The entire piracy issue is just littered with bogus, grossly inflated statistics like this. And every time they talk about piracy losses, all of these statistics get spread around like so many 4chan memes and YouTube Poop.

    I mean, really, where did these people learn math? Where is the scientific method? Was someone actually PAID to come up with this? This kind of sloppy “research” would get you flunked out of a 6th-grade science class, let alone any serious professional or academic setting.

    • Falcon says:

      Yes, but lest you forget these ‘studies’ are paid for by people less interested in hearing the truth, and more interested in hearing what they want. These shoddy studies give them the spurious statisitcs they use to lobby politicians with. With truth being far less exciting and inflamitory it has little use to them.

      • ehlijen says:

        I believe a Dilbert Cartoon episode put it nicely when the statistician said:

        “One rat…one test case…I can make these numbers say…that immoratlity is possible?”

        • Jarenth says:

          According to another Dilbert cartoon, “Studies have shown that accurate numbers aren’t any more useful than numbers you just make up.”

          • SolkaTruesilver says:

            A study once shown that 78% of people would believe anything you say as long as you include a percentage in your statement.

            The percentage raise to 86% when you name a 2nd, and 93.7% when you reach the 3rd. But usually, it’s better to include a comma to look precise.

  20. midget0nstilts says:

    But that’s not good enough for you people, is it? You’d rather see us all starve because of your selfishness. I hate you so much.

    Anyway, thanks for visiting and be sure to visit my sponsors!

    No problem, Shamus.

  21. eri says:

    Even though this study is a load of crap, it is worth noting that game piracy on portable systems is absolutely massive. The PSP sells almost entirely based on its ability to run illegal software, and it actually sees jumps in sales that coincide with cracked firmware releases. The same goes for Nintendo: almost every DS user I know pirates games by using an R4 or similar. I actually think piracy is a bigger problem on these handhelds than on the PC, since most PC gamers I know that pirate games often buy those same games later on out of either respect for the developers, or to access features like patches and multiplayer. I know nobody who feels even slightly guilty about portable piracy.

    I think the bigger issue is one of ideology. We have created a culture wherein people are under a huge amount of pressure to stay up to date, and to consume everything. Unfortunately, there are so many products available that it is simply impossible for the average person to buy all of them. To keep up with that need to stay up to date with all the latest games, users resort to piracy. The prevalence of this culture also means that it is socially acceptable, and even expected, for people to pirate every game under the sun. While I’m against pay-to-play models, in an age where bandwidth is so cheap that people can afford to download dozens of games and then never play them once, it makes sense to charge by the hour and not by the game.

    Not coincidentally, this also likely leads to people playing individual games for far less time than they used to. Game completion statistics are usually pretty low, but when even short games like Call of Duty only see around 50-60% completion… that’ pretty disheartening. It also explains why developers put so much effort into the opening sequences of their games, at the expense of the rest of the game.

    • Jarenth says:

      It’s always amazed me that almost all people I know with kids that own DS’es simply buy these R4 cards for them. And instruct them in how to steal games and put them on there.

      My own father once mocked me for not doing this, for buying DS software instead of stealing it. Now, my father is not a software pirate (or even a gamer) and he’s usually opposed to all things piracy-y, but in this case it just didn’t register. If you have a DS, you get one of these cards. They hold so many games.

      Baffles me to this day.

      • Old_Geek says:

        Boy do I need new friends! I wouldn’t know where to get one of these R4 cards if you put gun to my head. Here I am buying DS games like a sucker! Gamestop must laugh themselves sick whenever they see me coming!

        Same reason I never started doing illegal drugs. I couldn’t find a crack dealer with a pocket full of hundred dollar bills and a seeing eye hooker to lead me…

      • Greg says:

        My sister works in a (legitimate) games shop and sometimes people come in and try to buy R4 cards from the very shop they don’t intend to buy the games from. It boggles the mind that people don’t see the problem with this.

  22. Slothful says:

    Yes, Mr. Young, starve, STARVE! Your helpless plight amuses me to no end! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

  23. ehlijen says:

    Bread? When we were children we used to dream of even seeing bread! Hah!

    The Bread Pirate Rogers would always steal it before we got to the bakery!

  24. wtrmute says:

    You said:

    There are 390 million people worldwide with access to the internet.

    Quoth Wikipedia:

    As of 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth’s population uses the services of the Internet.

    The 2009 estimate for world Internet users is actually 1,802,330,457, which we can round down to two significant figures to 1.8e9 Internet users. So your traffic could actually potentially increase by a factor of 180,000, not 39,000.

    I don’t know how much beer and bread costs where you live, but that’s probably enough money to buy a cubic kilometre of plain white bread.

    • Jarenth says:

      You could make a bread house for your kids to live in. With a beer moat for added protection.

      • Hugo Sanchez says:

        You’d need to put a safety net over the beer moat, otherwise that’d just be irresponsible parenting.

        • General Karthos says:

          You could just encircle the beer moat with a fence on the inside and never let your children leave the house.

          But honestly, who would want to leave a house constructed entirely of bread with a beer moat?

          Much like the study above, since I have never heard of anyone ever leaving a house made entirely of bread with a beer moat, nobody wants to leave a house made entirely of bread with a beer moat.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I would never approach such a house because I dont like bread,and I hate beer.So if someone were to drag me inside one,Id promptly leave.

            • Syal says:

              That’s irrelevant; we’re dealing with statistics here, not hypotheticals.

              • Jarenth says:

                Statistically speaking, a bread house ‘n beer moat is the safest investment in the world.

                Have you ever heard about the bread house market tanking? Or bread houses catching on fire? And I’m fairly sure no-one has ever been sued for people falling into their beer moat and drowing.

                The only thing you’d have to watch out for is Hansel and Gretel on a low-suger diet.

                • kmc says:

                  No one ever complains about bread houses catching on fire. You just see an uptick in the toast house market. And jam sales.

                • Mari says:

                  The biggest problem with bread houses appears to be deadly black mold infestations which are causing many bread house insurers to leave entire states unprotected due to the excessive cost of repairing these mold infested bread houses.

                  The other thing to watch out for is hurricanes. Or pretty much any rain, really. Especially if you went with the popular Wonder Bread house. That stuff turns to mush in the water, you know.

        • Eldiran says:

          You could put a normal moat in front of the beer moat.

      • Old_Geek says:

        I had a Rye Bread house once. The entire thing got soaked everytime it rained. And talk about lack of privacy…

  25. Felblood says:

    How does this study account for down-loaders with a legal license to the software?

    After I wore out the buttons on my GBA, I got an emulator and some .gba files, so I could finish some RPGs and see the ending (having to start over with a new save naturally). Of course, I eventually caved and bought a new GBA anyway (Castlevania is hard to play on a keyboard), so this couldn’t have cost Nintendo much if anything. (This is all legal, supposedly anyway, so I hope Shamus isn’t bothered by this comment. As with anything to do with software licenses these days, it’s really up to the particular judge you get. I am not a lawyer.)

    This also brings up the issue of emulation, and people who don’t actually own the platform in question. These people are, arguably, not potential customers in the first place, and would likely not be able to play the games they pirate, without investing in a new console. (This isn’t to say that someone who emulates a console isn’t obligated by law and good upbringing, to buy one first.)

    How high would your salary have to be to buy the entire “1250 SNES roms, [U]!” that I’m looking at a torrent of, right now? Some of these games are pretty obscure and a working cartridge could go for more that $100 on an auction site. Others of course, no-one alive would pay actual money for. :P

    • krellen says:

      And the industry wouldn’t see a dime of that anyway, as they no longer produce the product, so it shouldn’t be counted as a “lost sale” in the first place.

      • ehlijen says:

        Or should it?

        What if some people only choose to not buy it because they know they can get it for free later. If they knew that they couldn’t, how many would then go and buy it while they can?

        Not all, sure. But maybe some? So we’re back to not knowing how the numbers correlate, aren’t we?

        • kmc says:

          I see what you’re saying–that maybe waiting until a game is really cheap (used sales) or available through emulators (piracy, for our current purposes) drives sales down for any individual game, thereby shortening its life unnaturally. That if people bought the game new when they first wanted to play it, the game/platform would have lived longer and the company would still be producing it.
          I do think this argument has some merit–after all, it’s common sense that if every used sale of a game were back-translated into a new sale of the game, the game’s sales statistics would be significantly higher and it probably would have stayed in production longer. The company may even have stayed afloat longer. However, I don’t think that most people who really want to play a game (in other words, the people who drive the market) wait for emulators. Some people might regularly wait for used games to become available, but most of those people are still not going to buy most of those games new if that’s the only chance to play it. The cost is prohibitive. They are probably balanced out by the people who buy lots of games new just because they have the disposable income *ahem, I’m talking to you, young military officers*. ;.)

          • Felblood says:

            Due to the kind of computing power you need to emulate a current generation console, most emulators for home consoles are released for last-gen products, after the next generation has launched. By the time you’ve afforded a gaming computer that can emulate a PS3’s OS and hardware, and still run a game smoothly, you’re probably the type to just buy the games.

            It’s portables, like the GBA and the PSP, that have a lot of people playing them on their PCs, while the games are still in stores. However, you generally lose out on portability and multi-player, whihc are the main selling points of most portable platforms.

      • Felblood says:

        Ah, but just because it’s not for sale on the SNES doesn’t mean they aren’t still shipping it on portables.

        The obscure collectors items, Like Nobunaga’s Ambition and Alien Versus Preditor (the Beat ’em Up), won’t be re-published, but Final Fantasy 1 is sure to be in there, along with Super Mario World and Yoshi’s Island and Tetris Attack. You know; the games that have been getting re-sold on every platform, ever since Mario All-Stars dropped for the SNES.

        Even Nobonaga’s Ambition could be considered to be stealing sales from Spectral Force, which scraps most of the interesting mechanics from Spectral Souls, in order to rip off a slow paced strategy game, that nobody cares about any more (It’s like Total War, but instead of being awesome, it’s terrible).

        You wouldn’t pirate a modern Cross-platform game, just because you don’t own all the platforms that it’s available on, but at the same time, we can’t predict that a game that is currently out of reach, won’t someday see a port. It’s obvious that the most logical place to draw the line is at no free rides, even logic tends to leave early adopters and budget gamers out in the cold.

  26. Reverend Del says:

    That there is statistics for the dumb and headline greedy. “Piracy costs portable gaming $41bn a year” be a great print line wouldn’t it? Gaming rags with less sense than an apple would lap it up.

    As I said in an earlier post, I pirate old games I physically cannot purchase, so it’s not a lost sale, they’d never have got my money anyway because I couldn’t have purchased it in the first place. It’s not a good justification for taking the games, but it’s mine and I’m sticking to it. There are many other folks with reasons for piracy some (most) are worse than mine) others are better. The guy that downloads to replace games he owns but can no longer play. Well surely that’s just backing up? But it will be counted as piracy.

    It’s a silly figure conjured up by lazy researchers. It’s nigh impossible to figure out how much piracy is actually costing the companies, because they have no way of knowing how many pirates already own or went out and bought after playing their free “sample”.

    • Mari says:

      Then there are people like me who have actually bought several copies of a single game (granted, an old game that’s selling new for $10 in stores) because my children apparently eat the CDs and I can’t be fussed to deal with sorting through the potential malware that comes from installing pirated programs so I suck it up and have spent about $100 on ten dollar copies of Zoo Tycoon rather than replace them through piracy.

  27. Josh R says:

    Who do you think commissioned the survey?
    You gotta please the guys who pay the bills.

    You come to the conclusion “stop being such a whiney bitch” and they won’t commission any other surveys.

  28. Mart says:

    I wonder why they not make the assumption that Japan accounts for 20% of world’s software market. Then they can boost the claim to 41B/4 * 5 = $51.25B!!

    Or if the assumption is 10%, then the figure would be $102.5B!

  29. TheZoobler says:

    Shamus, you clearly need some form of DRM to save all those viewers you lose every day. I mean people could just be copy/pasting your blog posts to text files and sharing them with their friends!

    The correct response is to make every page on your site an un-highlightable Captcha Code (the “enter these blurry text characters for security purposes thingies) with Print-Screen key protection.

    And make each page only viewable when connected to the Shamus Young Social Club Network for Windows Live. Which requires three passwords and five screen names to access.

    Seriously though, that $41 billion figure is pretty weak lol -.-

  30. (LK) says:

    that figure was multiplied by four, “under the assumption that Japan accounts for 25 percent of the world’s software market,” to come up with the worldwide figure.

    In the most elementary level statistics classes offered to high school and college students, you’re taught that these sort of arbitrary modifications of data based on broad conjectures makes your work and your final data statistically worthless.

    For once I’d like to see someone study piracy without running their raw data through arbitrary multiplications or divisions based on vague assumptions. Doing this is throwing the data they harvested away, because inevitably whatever scientifically valid data they get, they stack modifiers on to make it match to the numbers they wanted as their result.

    A good high school education will teach people that these procedures are scientifically unacceptable. Why don’t people refuse to reprint such dishonest work?

    In statistics, pulling that shit is almost as glaringly invalid as it is in algebra to “solve” an equation by multiplying both sides by zero. If you modify your raw data mathematically, your modifiers must be sourced from other data, and have an empirically valid (and openly disclosed!) justification.

    There are measured numbers available for piracy rates in nearly every country in the world. If you wanted to make statements about the whole world, you’d use the data from the whole world, not deliberately start with a smaller (less accurate) sample size and multiply the result. The only reason people do that is if they are deliberately attempting to provide false data to support a preformed conclusion.

    I major in a physical science. I am required to understand statistics and data analysis. This study is either severe incompetence or a very deliberate lie. I say that with full confidence.

    • Falcon says:

      Full confidence and zero surprise. This study is not for people like you or I, with a rudimentary understanding of statistics and 3 working brain cells. It is for media yes men, and politicians who lack both.

    • krellen says:

      Statistics is rarely required at High School level in the US, and a lot of majors can get away without one at the College level as well.

      You’d assume someone putting out a statistical study would have studied statistics, but we all know what happens when we assume.

  31. I have done absolutely everything to show ads on your site. It’s not happening. I tried man, I really did. Whitelisted your site on adblock. Didn’t work. Disabled adblock. Didn’t work. Tried Chrome instead of Firefox. Nothing.

    I have no idea why I can’t see your ads, but instead can I send loaves of bread through to you? I don’t know what’s easier, maybe if I do it a slice at a time per envelope or would you prefer a couriered package? If you’d like I can toast or butter the bread for you to save some time (and effectively giving you even more money!).

    • Manny says:

      Same thing here (not for the buttered bread, it won’t be healthy anymore when it finally reaches you). No ads show up even when I disable adblock altogether. However, when I enable adblock, it shows that it does block some warcry ad.

      Are you getting paid per impression for invisible ads? That would be very nice for (almost) everybody…

  32. James Pony says:

    I see Shamus forgot the fact that 110% of all piracy-related losses come from licensing and implementing DRM and other anti-piracy measures.

  33. Simulated Knave says:

    The other thing is…who buys games at full price? I don’t. I’m not crazy. I wait until they come down to $20 or $30 (from $70).

  34. tussock says:

    Re: adblocking.

    I allow js for shamusyoung, quantserve, and google-analytics. Do you need scorecardresearch or warcry to get the big dollars? Because they’re not on my whitelist, and don’t sound much like they ever will be.

  35. Josh R says:

    Here in the UK with no form of Adblock, I still see no adverts…
    Is this area related? I kinda feel cheap about it lol.

    Maybe do some merch or something.

    Who here wouldn’t buy a t-shirt with shamus’ mug on it

  36. Clint Olson says:

    For what it’s worth, Shamus, I keep your side on my AdBlock whitelist, but I was strongly tempted to put it back on just before reading the article. As of today (as in, it wasn’t there yesterday), your site is displaying an annoying animated Age of Conan ad that has enough bright colors and movement to draw the eye away from your articles. I don’t usually mind ads on your site, really truly — but is there any chance you could influence the ad content away from being animated?

  37. Gil says:

    Hilarious post and excellent points, Shamus! I’ve been following you since you were writing DM of the Rings and look forward to your blog on a daily basis – thank you and keep it up!

  38. walrus says:

    Whoa, when did this site start having ads; I don’t mind them, I just don’t remember them being here. I don’t use adblock either. Did ads start after this particular post?

    Also what happened to the “Thing about Stuff”. I thought they were pretty clever. I get an ad instead.

    I don’t comment much (once actually) but I do follow this blog, as there is some truly great stuff in here. I might comment more often but I find I don’t really have anything interesting to say, and when I do I can wait a few hours and someone will say it for me.

  39. Kian says:

    Let’s make some statistics.

    I once heard a guy mention how he pirated games but then bought them if he liked them. It stands to reason that he liked all the games because publishers are so awesome they always make great games. I figure he was representative of pirates as a whole. Anyway my sample size is 1 and otherwise I’d just be making numbers up. Which, as a respectable statistician, I’d never do.

    90% of gamers are pirates. Pirates will often have larger game libraries, because getting games for free costs less than paying for them. Which means the 90% percent of pirates are buying more games than the 10% of people that don’t pirate. I figure a modest estimate would be pirates have twice as many games as legitimate buyers (since time is still a limiting factor).

    Figuring that the video game industry is worth 20bn USD annually(source: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6246425.html ). Since this accounts only for the 10% of gamers buying the least amount of games, pirates are actually generating 360bn in sales. Which means legitimate buyers are in fact costing the industry 20bn in sales every year. Figuring the industry is about 30 years old (ready the presses, this is going to be huge)

    Legitimate buyers have cost the industry 600bn usd!!!

  40. Dazdya says:

    On a totally unrelated point, I must say that all important movies and books set in the future use credits in stead of dollars or pounds. I was therefore very disappointed when the EU decided on the name ‘euro’. It’s an obvious missed opportunity.

    This discussion reminded me of that.

  41. Warstrike says:

    My first reaction “How do you pirate DS games anyhow?” I used to be a geek, but apparently am so no longer. Never gave it a thought before. (although I do buy DS games used at gamestop which is probably just as bad).

    • (LK) says:

      There are third party cartridges which people load games into via SD cards. They’ve been in the news a lot, Nintendo has been trying to get their manufacturer shut down… but they’re built and sold by a company in China, where trademark and copyright is not consistently enforced (as far as I’m aware they figure bootlegging is at least useful to keep cash flowing around in the economy, even if it isn’t directly taxed).

  42. Aufero says:

    I tend to forget to whitelist my favorite blogs. Thanks for the reminder!

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