The #1 excuse/reason given for game publishers not putting out games for the PC is … piracy. People downloading and playing their games without paying. And there is no disputing that piracy is a HUGE issue for PC publishers, but the reason I call it an ‘excuse’ is that time and again we are seeing publishers who say that the PC is also a great place to make money DESPITE piracy.
Anyway, TorrentFreak recently put out their list of the top games tracked on BitTorrent in 2011. Here are the most pirates games for PC, Wii and XBOX360:
Top PC Game Downloads on BitTorrent in 2011
Crysis 2 (3,920,000)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (3,650,000)
Battlefield 3 (3,510,000)
FIFA 12 (3,390,000)
Portal 2 (3,240,000)
Top Wii Game Downloads on BitTorrent in 2011
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (1,280,000)
Mario Sports Mix (1,090,000)
Xenoblade Chronicles (950,000)
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (870,000)
FIFA 12 (860,000)
Top Xbox 360 Game Downloads on BitTorrent in 2011
Gears of War 3 (890,000)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (830,000)
Battlefield 3 (760,000)
Forza Motorsport 4 (720,000)
Kinect Sports: Season Two (690,000)
There was some commentary to go along with the list:
As 2011 comes to an end, we follow up our most pirated movies and TV-shows charts by taking a look at the most pirated games of the year. Crysis 2 comes out on top in the PC games category in 2011. On Xbox 360 Gears of War 3 receives the same honor, while Super Mario Galaxy 2 scoops the title of most pirated Wii game for the second year in a row.
In February, more than a month before its scheduled release date, and advance copy of Crysis 2 leaked on the Internet. Crytek and EA were hugely disappointed and feared a piracy fest, but the opposite was true.
Although tens of thousands of people downloaded a copy, the real boom came when the full version was released in March, resulting in nearly 4 million downloads by the end of the year.
This ‘success’ landed Crysis 2 the title of most pirated game of 2011 on the PC platform, beating Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 with 3,650,000 and 3,510,000 downloads respectively. Interestingly enough, the interest among pirates in the Xbox 360 version of Crysis 2 was relatively low and the game didn’t make it into the top 5 there.
They note that the data “is collected by TorrentFreak from several sources, including reports from all public BitTorrent trackers.”
People ask me why the XBOX360 numbers in particular are so much lower than the PC despite having similar general audiences. The reason is simple: you need to hack your console to play pirated XBOX games, and if you are caught doing so Microsoft has been diligent about banning and deleting accounts.
There is not much context around the numbers: for example, we don’t know how many people downloaded multiple times or had failed downloads or non-working files; we don’t know how many people downloaded disk copies of games with DRM that stopped them from playing.
And most importantly we have no idea how many people downloaded a game and then bought it. That is important to know for two reasons: one is that some publishers use the full retail value of every attempted download as ‘lost revenue’, so the more we can delineate reality the better we can estimate impact.
The other is that it is a reason pirates often use to justify downloads. The common reasons are that demos are seldom offered; software is non-returnable so if you buy a $60 game you are stuck with it – and in the case of digital downloads or games linked to Steam/Origin/Impulse (which is most big games) you can’t even trade them on a site like Goozex or trade them back to GameStop to credit; and finally people just want a fair chance to try the product before actually buying.
Regardless of the accuracy of numbers or rationale, piracy remains a huge concern for the industry – and one that plagues the PC worst of all.