Hackers and pirates are ruining gaming for the rest of us. It is a common misconception that pirating a game is a victimless crime. If anything, there are millions of victims. When games are pirated, developers and publishers lose money. This in turn hurts gamers everywhere.
The problem isn’t just a handful of illegal downloads among a few outsiders. Games are pirated a lot more frequently than one might think. According to recent statistics from TorrentFreak, Alan Wake was pirated 1.14 million times (as of December 2010). That’s more copies than the game sold which, according to VGChartz, is only around 980,000 copies.
Think about how much revenue that Remedy Entertainment and Microsoft lost due to over half of the game’s copies being downloaded illegally. They are big companies so it’s no big deal, right? Wrong! Alan Wake was a great game and many people who played it would love to see an Alan Wake 2. Unfortunately, selling 980,000 copies after a five year development time probably isn’t enough to justify working on a sequel. Two million copies sold on the other hand…
Considering pirates may have essentially killed a sequel to Alan Wake, it is clear that pirating games isn’t a victimless crime at all. Every single gamer that misses out on Alan Wake 2 (which at this point is merely conjecture) is a victim. And that’s not even counting the developers who deserve to be paid for their work. People wonder why so many devs like Pandemic Studios and Ensemble Studios have been shut down in recent years. Well loss of revenue due to piracy is probably a contributing factor.
Alan Wake isn’t an exception either, but rather the rule. Other Xbox 360 games listed in TorrentFreak’s annual report were Dante’s Inferno at 1.28 illegal downloads (once again more than the game even sold on the 360), Red Dead Redemption with 1.06 illegal downloads, and Halo: Reach with 990,000 illegal downloads. Call of Duty: Black Ops rounded out the top 5 with 930,000. As you can see, there are a lot of pirated copies of games out there. Even games that haven’t been released yet are being affected. When you tally up all the lost revenue, it must reach in the tens of millions! This obviously isn’t good for the gaming industry.
So how are people able to get past safeguards and pirate games so easily? Surely these millions of “gamers” aren’t technical masters able to bypass the built-in security of consoles and digital rights management of PC software themselves. It is possible for the masses to pirate games in large part because of a small number of highly knowledgeable hackers. One example is a hacker known as “Geohot” who has been in the news lately for contributing to “breaking” the PlayStation 3’s security. Sony subsequently sued him for his actions. When things started to get serious, Geohot began asking for donations to help fund his legal defense. The worst part of all is that gamers have actually been donating.
Now that doesn’t make sense! If you are a gamer, why would you donate to someone that is actively harming the gaming industry? Why would people who love their PS3 suddenly side against Sony? It would be like gamers supporting the state of California against the industry in the Supreme Court case about violent video games. While hackers like Geohot may argue that enabling piracy is not their intention, it is an inevitable consequence of their work. Is it any surprise that after the PlayStation 3 security was broken the PS3 version of games like Black Ops were immediately flooded with cheaters online?
Industry analyst Michael Pachter has said that copying a game from a friend’s file is like going into a store and stealing it. It is a crime either way. If you are a true gamer, then you should not be inflicting harm on the gaming industry by illegally downloading games. Similarly, you should not side with hackers like Geohot against the gaming industry because their work is what makes piracy so prevalent. As video game designer David Jaffe tweeted, if the man broke the law then they should throw the book at him.