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Piracy Study States Actual Rates are Far Lower Than Suggested

Marcus Estrada

If you listen to developers, the Electronics Software Association (ESA), and others, you'll hear the constant banter about a fight against game pirates. According to their studies or internal knowledge, rates of piracy are high and these are the things that force developers and publishers to create new forms of DRM. Partially because of such claims, three academics from separate universities got together to put together a real study.


Here is the overview of their study, titled "Distribution of Digital Games via BitTorrent", which is available in full here:


"A key problem in the game piracy debate is the lack of comprehensive and objective information about the nature and magnitude of the piracy activity and its root causes, such as its economic and behavioral drivers. The majority of the data available on game piracy originate from the industry (e.g., individual publishers or developers [12,19]) as well as branch organizations such as the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) [9,17,18]. The data reported by the industry are potentially biased, partially due to the interest of the industry to reduce piracy and thus potentially over-estimate the problem. Also, industry reports often lack methodological transparency [15]."


Their study was conducted over a 90 day period and cataloged 173 games across many platforms (360, DS, PC, PS3, Wii, etc). Overall, they saw 12.7 unique peers grab the torrent downloads. They uncovered a great deal of information, such as that the countries pirating via torrent most heavily are Romania, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, and Hungary.


The most popular genres for pirates are RPG, action, third person shooter, and racing. Also, the most heavily pirated games tend to align with games that get higher ratings on Metacritic, although not always. The top five games torrented during the study period (in 2010-2011) are as follows: Fallout: New Vegas, Darksiders, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, NBA 2k11, Tron Evolution.


Researcher Anders Drachen said the following of the study's results:


"First and foremost, P2P game piracy is extraordinarily prevalent and geographically distributed [at least it was during the period analysed]. However, the numbers in our investigation suggest that previously reported magnitudes in game piracy are too high. It also appears that some common myths are wrong, e.g. that it is only shooters that get pirated, as we see a lot of activity for children's and family games on BitTorrent for the period we investigated."



Do you think piracy is an issue that requires more stringent regulation or are things fine as they are?

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