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  1. 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?
  2. Those who were ever curious about Wii modding probably ran into the name "Wiikey" back then. This group was known for releasing one of the first modchips for Wii, which allowed players more access to their systems, as well as the possibility for piracy. Modchips, while not a new fad to gaming, have obviously never been condoned by developers. Recently, the Wiikey team announced that they had "completely reversed the Wii U drive authentication" as well as disc encryption and other things. If their claims prove true then that means they have opened up a method to players to run games from a hard drive without the whole aspect of purchasing them first. If true, this could sell many more Wii U systems, but also worry developers and publishers. Nintendo issued a statement about the whole thing: "Nintendo is aware that a hacking group claims to have compromised Wii U security; however, we have no reports of illegal Wii U games nor unauthorized applications playable on the system while in Wii U mode. Nintendo continuously monitors all threats to its products' security and will use technology and will take the necessary legal steps to prevent the facilitation of piracy." What will Nintendo to do? If the Wiikey exploit is proved to be a legitimate threat, then we should all expect to see a Wii U patch or two coming soon. It's the easiest method to cut off more users from accessing exploitable features, but not perfect.
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Game Dev Tycoon Developers Target Pirates

    Piracy has been a part of the game industry since before "don't coppy that floppy" became a slogan and persists to this day. Some developers attempt to stop it with online DRM while others slyly make the game much harder. Some notable examples of this are Earthbound, which increased enemy spawn rate and eventually deleted all save games, and Serious Sam 3 which actually stuck an immortal enemy into the game. Game Dev Tycoon by Green Heart Games is taking a similar tactic, but now things seem all the more ironic. In their title players must manage a game development studio and flourish. However, those who pirated the initially released version were greeted with the game telling them their virtual development studio was hit by piracy. If pirates continued to take their games the digital studio would spiral towards bankruptcy. How was this accomplished? Green Heart Games uploaded a modified version of the game themselves to pirate sites, which were quickly snapped up by eager players. Many did not realize this was a purposeful slight at them and even visited the official forum in an attempt to figure out how to deal with in-game piracy. It's both funny and sad because these methods still don't accomplish the goal of getting more pirates to purchase. Instead, they'll probably wait around until the regular version is available, if it isn't already. Still, hopefully news of the developer's prank will get players who had never heard of the game before to give Game Dev Tycoon a shot.
  4. Piracy is the biggest issue to hit the gaming world in recent memory. At least, that“s what popular developers will tell you. Online piracy, or the downloading and uploading of products without paying for them, has been around as long as the internet has been popular. Video games have been one hot product to continually see pirated versions hitting the web on the day of release or even beforehand. Many developers and publishers have attributed more and more “lost sales” to pirates in recent years. Companies of all kinds have attempted to stop the illegal accessing of their content for a while. The longest standing methods for securing games have been serial keys and copy protected discs. Of course, those with the technical knowhow are always one step ahead of these things. Throughout the years, serial key generators have proliferated the web as well as hackers who easily remove copy protection. In the modern era, many developers continue to fight against piracy with stronger methods and mixed reaction. SecuROM, used most famously by EA, is one method of disc copy protection which harms paying users more than pirates. One of the tenants of SecuROM is to only allow a game to be activated a certain amount of times. For example, Spore initially only allowed players to install the game three times before basically voiding their purchase of any value. Of course, that ignores the more unfortunate features of the program, some of which prompted users to file a class-action lawsuit. Another popular (for companies) method that arrived to combat illegal downloads is games which require an always-on connection. Unlike SecuROM, which tends to only require one-time online activation, an always-on game is exactly what it sounds like. If you want to play a game, you must always be connected to the internet so their servers can continually authenticate that your game is genuine. Not only does it strike many as a violation of privacy, but hurts gamers who do not have consistent (or any) internet connection. While many developers search for further intensified methods of protecting their property, indies seem to slide in the opposite direction. Last year, Sos Sosowski did something unprecedented. He took his weird game McPixel and allowed The Pirate Bay to promote it on their front page. Although the site regularly features independent artists“ works, this was the first time a game had been given the spotlight. This is just the kind of event that would send a big developer into a panic. However, it was something that both Sosowski and The Pirate Bay officiated together. He wanted his game to be available to download from thousands of people who had never heard of it before. It“s true that he would have loved to get money for his game, but in a way, that“s exactly what promoting the game on a pirate site did. Instead of acting like pirates are evil beings, he embraced their inevitability. Instead of trying to come up with a convoluted (and expensive) scheme to thwart pirates, he invited them to simply enjoy his work. They took to it and downloaded the torrent thousands of times, but not before many donated some funds. There“s something about someone giving away their hard work that makes you appreciate it more, after all. The promotion is since long over but the torrent remains online. It would have been there without the developer“s consent, either way. More recently, Anodyne hit The Pirate Bay as well. The game got the same promotional treatment as McPixel and was actually uploaded by the developers. Analgesic Productions posted this comment on their torrent: “While I of course prefer if you bought Anodyne (as we worked a lot on it), I understand that not everyone is able to purchase it. I guess what's more important is that more people get to experience the game.” This is the same sentiment expressed by Sosowski a while ago. Just like McPixel, they also set up an easy page for people to purchase the game for any price, if they chose to. Any price is allowed, and of course, none whatsoever if people chose to pirate. But why would an indie developer of all people allow their games to be downloaded freely? Don“t they require the money from their games even more than a massive company? Yes, indie developers struggle off the meager funds most make. Some people get lucky and create immensely popular games like Minecraft or Super Meat Boy. Most of the time, though, they get nowhere close. Still, when you are a team of one or just a few, it is easier to see every aspect of the game. For small developers who have little to no money to promote their own games, torrents and otherwise free downloads are the easiest method. Of course, indie games are not the only pirated games out there. Despite the best efforts of big companies to secure their games, most of the means are cracked immediately or soon after launch. Each triumph in the piracy community over updated protection further angers developers/publishers, but the cycle will not end for a long time, if ever. That is, unless every game suddenly became free to play. However, considering how hard it is to maintain a thriving community for one, most companies will probably stick to more traditional means. Why aren“t big companies about to start embracing piracy as indies have? For one, piracy is basically deemed an illegal activity by media moguls. Explain it away all you want, but it certainly wouldn“t sound “right” for a big name to suggest players just pirate their games. However, with or without acceptance, people are going to keep on pirating games. As such, it seems that perhaps they would do better to loosen restrictions, as they aren“t making a dent in downloading habits anyway. With all that said, massive developers and publishers would probably prefer that the problem go away on its own than invest in expensive and fake-prohibitive anti-piracy measures. However, they“ll keep doing it as they have all convinced themselves it really makes a difference and doesn“t hurt their own consumers. In the future it seems likely that we will see many more indie developers show an acceptance of piracy“s inevitability. If nothing else, it advertises their games to people who may have never otherwise seen them before. Hopefully a few of those folks will show their appreciation by buying the titles they love as well. What do you think? Do companies have anything to gain or lose by embracing or fighting against piracy?
  5. Yes, you're probably scratching your head a bit over the idea of piracy helping any game. However, it was definitely the case over the 72 hour period that Anodyne was promoted on infamous torrent/magnet site The Pirate Bay. Alongside that, the developers offered ways for interested parties to purchase the game at a discount, donate, or still buy at full retail value if they so chose. With the official promotion over with, the Anodyne blog has been updated with the results of their brave foray into piracy. Although the game came out earlier this month, it quickly saw a steep decline in sales. Beforehand, they made almost 1,000 sales without the promotion, but the trend was quickly dissipating as they made a deal with The Pirate Bay to run a promo for their game. What change to purchases did they see during the promo? Nearly 5,000 copies were sold in the 72 hour period. Yes, sold, not downloaded. Certainly a massive amount of copies were downloaded freely, but by having themselves opened up to a whole new audience, they were able to get many more purchasers than before. It was a rousing success for the small indie company and because of it we may begin to see this become a trend for indie developers. McPixel paved the way by being the first game ever promoted on The Pirate Bay.
  6. In this day and age, it's almost impossible to keep content from being proliferated freely online. Even games with the fanciest copy protection still tend to get broken and pirated quickly enough. However, it's most depressing when a high profile game sees release for pirates a month before launch. This is what has now happened to Gears of War: Judgment. In a response to Eurogamer, a Microsoft spokesperson said the following: "We are aware of isolated cases in which Gears of War: Judgment content has been propped on the web and are working closely with our security teams and law enforcement to address the situation immediately. Consumers should be aware that piracy is illegal and we take vigorous action against illegal activity related to our products and services. Playing pirated copies of games, such as Gears of War: Judgment, is a violation of the Xbox Live Terms of Use and will result in enforcement action, such as account and console bans." In the case of their property leaking so early it makes sense that they are getting into gear to ban users. Thankfully, these actions will only harm those who have pirated content and should not affect any innocent users by accident. How does a game get out a month early? If a developer didn't sneakily take the game home, it's entirely possible that some journalist out there with a preview copy did something tremendously naughty.
  7. Marcus Estrada

    Anodyne The Pirate Bay Promo

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  8. Marcus Estrada

    McPixel McPromo

    From the album: Marcus's Album

  9. DreamRift, the developers behind the 3DS game Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion, have spoken to Gamasutra about their take on piracy on the platform. This comes after developer Renegade Kid made comments as to finding they would no longer be able to support the 3DS if piracy became a big deal on it. Unlike Renegade Kid, DreamRift's co-founder Peter Ong has a bit of a different stance. it is not that he fears piracy himself, but fears what the publisher reactions may be to it. Ong made this statement about how and why simply the fear of piracy could lessen games on the platform: "We definitely found that piracy was a significant factor in our Nintendo DS development efforts. When we approached publishers to propose potential game projects with them, most of them brought up their concerns about piracy at some point. Many publishers even cited the issue of piracy as a specific reason why they decided to back away from our game project, especially with it being an original intellectual property concept. The publishers' fear was that, in a climate where piracy is commonplace, original games and new mechanics are far less likely to be successful than games based on previously successful mechanics, established licenses, sequels, and sports." There is no need for statistics, but if a publisher believes they are going to get less back for releasing certain kinds of games because of piracy, they will use that argument to cancel projects. Many new IPs and ideas were turned down, as Ong states, and he fears that this will happen again on 3DS. If it does, that could be a major hit for the system. At the very least, Nintendo has very strong first party products, but everyone needs some amount of third party support. Let's hope that Ong's predictions do not end up taking a toll on the 3DS, or even Vita, whenever piracy actually is enabled on the devices.
  10. Marcus Estrada

    Renegade Kid Clarifies Comments about Piracy

    At the start of the week, developer Renegade Kid had some harsh words to share with gamers. Before that a new hack of the 3DS had been unveiled, and seemed to actually be near to a breakthrough that the hacking scene had been waiting years for. In response to this, Jools Watsham posted that Renegade Kid would "have no choice but to stop supporting the platform with new games." Due to some backlash over his statements, Watsham has posted another blog entry to clarify himself. First, he addressed that what he said was never an attempt to insult Nintendo. He has always been a "huge supporter of Nintendo" and for anyone to have interpreted statements otherwise were barking up the wrong tree. Interestingly, he goes on to say that he isn't against piracy itself either. His revisited statement in regards to piracy is as follows: "This does not mean I am taking a stand against piracy. This does not mean I am taking my business elsewhere in an action of protest. What this means is if we cannot make money from developing games we can no longer develop games. That is what can happen if piracy gets bad. If enough people choose to illegally obtain copies of my games for free instead of paying for them, it directly affects my business and my home." Why not actually take a stand against piracy? He goes on to say that it exists in every market. After that, he mentions that games must be priced fairly to help alleviate some of the issues, but piracy is always going to go on regardless. So after all that, we see that his initial post was more of an emotional reaction than pure business strategy. Watsham recognizes it is a bit futile but the relative safety of the 3DS for so long had lulled him into a false sense of security.
  11. Marcus Estrada

    Renegade Kid Voices Opinion on 3DS Piracy

    Co-founder and Director of Renegade Kid (Mutant Mudds, Dementium), Jools Watsham, had some interesting things to say yesterday. Very recently, the 3DS hacking scene has begun to bear fruit, and people are taking notice. It isn't just excited hackers or those hoping to benefit from them though, as even developers are paying attention. On his personal blog, Watsham shared his opinion about piracy and what it could mean for the company. "Piracy on the Nintendo DS crippled the DS retail market, especially in Europe. We“ll never know how/if Dementium II landed in as many hands as the first game, Dementium: The Ward, due to the rampant piracy at the time. Dementium: The Ward sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide, which is a great success for an original mature-rated title on the DS. Recorded sales of Dementium II are less than half that. We“ll never truly know why that was so, but many seem to believe that piracy had a lot to do with it. If piracy gets bad on the 3DS, we will have no choice but to stop supporting the platform with new games." It would be a huge shame if developers like Renegade Kid and others decided to go this route with the 3DS in the future. For a system to thrive it is dependent on many good game offerings, both from big and small developers. Obviously small developers must be more careful about sales, but it all seems a very tricky situation. However, at this point, his post seems to focus more on "maybe" than factual evidence as to rates of piracy versus sales. Watsham also doesn't consider the fact that many pirates are young people with very little disposable income, which would not really aid sales anyway. Hopefully the point doesn't come where Renegade Kid choose to abandon the system, but no one could fault them if they did.
  12. Marcus Estrada

    Vita One Step Closer to Being Hacked

    Wait, wasn't the Vita already hacked? If you've paid attention to the news earlier this year then you might remember some hacking already going on with the system. Games such as Motorstorm: Pacific Rift were exploited in order to open up a mode to run the Vita Homebrew Loader (VHBL). However, this hack didn't grant you access to the Vita itself, but simply the PSP mode that is a part of the system. Things may now be changing as developer Yifan Lu is making quick work of accessing the Vita usermode. Titled simply Usermode Vita Loader (UVL) it will, when completed, grant users access to playing things like homebrew and emulators on the system. What makes this different from VHBL? Instead of running in the weaker PSP mode, it will have the power of the Vita behind it. While a NES emulator would not really need much, it might open up the possibility of more resource-intensive emulators being playable on the go. Of course no discussion about playing pirated games has been mentioned by the developer. With this code it won't even be allowed, as you would need something more than usermode to run that sort of data. This is notable as before this only the VHBL developer has been publicly working with the Vita. With Lu's code being checked and worked on right now it's only a matter of time until people are hacking their Vita and fighting with Sony's future firmware updates.
  13. Delete that Assassin's Creed torrent, you scum! According to Ubisoft's CEO, Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft games see a 93 - 95% piracy rate, so cut it out! Guillemot shared this information with Gamesindustry at Gamescom while explaining that free-to-play games and their PC games enticed roughly the same percentage of users to pay. He cites that only five to seven percent of people actually paid for anything in either, citing a 93 to 95% piracy rate on their PC games. Given those percentages, that would mean that Assassin's Creed was pirated on PC more than it was bought on the 360 and PlayStation 3 combined (around 14 million as compared to roughly 10 or 11 million cumulative sales). Driver: San Francisco would have seen slightly more than all other versions combined (about 1.4 million compared to about 1.3 million). If this is true, it's likely a lot of PC gamers would attribute it to Ubisoft's extremely prohibitive, purchaser-punishing DRM that is usually gutted in the process of being cracked, as well as the staggered release dates that many PC gamers feel is disrespectful to them as customers. Guillemot also discusses the relative ease and efficiency with which free to play games are made. Due to recycling assets and avoiding shelving costs, it's much easier to put a game out, he claims. "What's very important is that we can change the content and make it a better fit to the customer as time goes on," Guillemot states. These sentiments mean that it wouldn't be too surprising to see Ubisoft's name become household in the free-to-play market, probably. "I think it's very important for new generations to come regularly with innovations for the industry, so I think we've been waiting a bit too long," he said, surely intending to remedy this with the money gained over the last five years from Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed 2, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles, Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines, Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, Assassin's Creed: Project Legacy, Assassin's Creed: Lost Legacy, Assassin's Creed: Multiplayer Rearmed and with the upcoming Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed III: Liberation. "What is important is that when those new generations do come, they bring enough innovation to make the market strong again." Assassin's Creed III will be available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 30th in North America and October 31st in Europe. For those piracy-addicted PC gamers, it will be available November 20th in North America and November 23rd in Europe, assuming they don't steal a leaked version the week before release.
  14. Marcus Estrada

    Repro Game Cart Kit

    From the album: Classic Gaming Expo 2012 (CGX 2K12) Photo Album

    "Homevision games were produced by Taiwan GEM Int'l Corp. and distributed by GEM Int'l, Belgium. The Repro Cart was packaged with the Repro Game Kit, a game-copying unit like the one offered by Vidco. Just plug your cart into the receiving unit and you've made yourself a copy of that game. Nifty."
  15. From the album: Classic Gaming Expo 2012 (CGX 2K12) Photo Album

    "You're missing out if you don't have all of these 10 classic games. Stampede, Boxing, Fishing Derby, Kaboom!, Skiing, Freeway, Tennis, Laser Blast, Ice Hockey, Dragster"