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Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethical

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Post Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:20 am

Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethical

Yes, I wrote this! :)


Video game piracy has been around since the 1980’s and has taken many forms, such as making illegal copies of software on cassette tapes for the Coleco Vision and distributing them. This allowed users to play the games for free without paying the full retail price and because of it, the software distributors lost a big potential gain. (Steinberg). However there are many reasons why not only does video game ‘piracy’ help companies more than it hurts them, but is leading to the actual right thing to do in terms of software distribution and development. To understand these reasons, one must first understand what causes people to pirate video games and how it actually impacts the companies who make the video games.
Whenever people hear about video game piracy, they suddenly think of theft of intellectual property and certainly if theft is completely illegal, so should piracy. Big name companies and the media actually use this terminology to suggest a similarity between software and physical property. (Stallman). However, video game piracy is not actually stealing something away from someone because whenever someone pirates a video game, what they actually do is make a copy of it to use for himself while the person who was distributing the game still has a the same copy they started with. This is a key concept in analyzing piracy and why people do it. An analogy between software and physical objects is an extraordinary example to get your mindset in the right direction with this issue: For instance, if I stole a sandwich from you, then you would no longer have the sandwich and cannot eat it. If I eat it, then it is gone from you for good. However, if I ‘pirate’ the sandwich as if it were a video game, then I would make a copy of it for myself. We can both eat the sandwich, leaving no harm to you or your ability to eat the sandwich. (Stallman).
This is why there is actually no harm to anyone despite industries saying that they suffer economic loss. The developers only actually suffer ‘harm’ whenever the person making the copy of the game would have actually purchased the game if they could not find a way to download it. (Stallman). Despite this fact, many companies will show statistics that each copy that is illegally downloaded is a loss of money. This actually may not only be untrue, but may be the complete opposite of what happens in many cases. For instance, the number one most pirated video game of 2010 was Call of Duty: Black Ops, yet it was the biggest grossing video game of 2010. This just shows that game companies who see high illegal download rates in games also see high sales in those games, too, if the game is good. (Tburnett).
To understand why each illegal download of a game is not a loss for a company, one must take a look from the downloader’s perspective of this situation. GamePro has done just that in their article titled The Cost of Piracy. They have a list of the most common motivations for pirates. The most important part of this list that they have is item #2 that reads, “Checking out the game - System requirements, worth the price, game play "experience".” Many game companies do not offer demonstration downloads of their video games and this hurts the consumer because they have to take a risk on buying a game to see if the game will perform like it is supposed to on the potential consumer’s computer. Another way this hurts the consumer is that they take a risk of buying something they may not like and almost every store does not allow returns on video games, especially online and digital download-only stores. One parallel between a consumer of a video game and a consumer of a restaurant or any other good is that if someone does not like what they bought, they must be able to return it. If someone orders a cheeseburger and it does not come with what they ordered or is cold and disgusting, they should be able to have it replaced with a different burger or menu item. Video game consumers have no way of telling how the game will be besides reviews of the game that may be biased or come from someone with an entirely different perspective of the game. This is why many people will pirate a game and then test it out to see if it is to their standards of purchase. (Chiang).
Companies that create great games usually have to make a hard choice about distribution. The companies want to pull as much money from the consumer as possible and prevent people from trying their games without purchasing them. So, the choice the publisher has to make is what kind of anti-piracy rights management will be included into the game, if any. DRM, Digital Rights Management, is software that is used by most PC game publishers that uses special tricks and tactics to find assure that you are playing a game that you bought. However, every form of this very, very expensive DRM software has been hacked by piracy communities and a work-around patch is usually readily available for any game. Therefore, the only people who even see DRM are people who actually have a valid purchase of the video game. Many people believe that if DRM could stop people without being an annoyance or malicious, then it would be a good thing. Many forms of DRM only require that you input a very long (sometimes up to 48 digit) code to activate your game, but more malicious DRM requires you to have a constant connection to the developer’s servers, where background code is being ran the entire time you play. Not only does this limit the game to those who have internet at all times, but it also slows down the game, sometime to the point to where the game is no longer playable. DRM can also sometimes just be glitch and not allow you to activate your game even if you’ve made your purchase legitimately, and instead lock the game out of your computer. Also, DRM can sometimes be considered a virus by your computer’s anti-virus or firewall software, and to actually play your purchased game, you need to uninstall those protective services. (Chiang). Nintendo even resorts to even an illegal measure, depending on where you live, to thwart piracy: Whenever someone is suspected of running a pirated game, or even a backed-up copy of the game, their newest console called the 3DS destroys system files inside of itself to assure that the system will no longer turn on. (Bilton).
So, if piracy can be reduced by lowering the price of games, releasing demonstration downloads for games, or removing annoyances from DRM, then what about just offering the games as free downloads? Game makers would never release a game if they could not profit off of all the work that was put into the game’s development, but there are two points to the theory that there is a lack of payment companies can receive that need to be addressed. One of them is that one of the biggest online games ever created is Farmville, which operates for free. (Steinberg). Another point is that radio is a free to listen to and operates free-of-charge to consumers. Of course, both are ad-driven, but this shows there can be major industries that operate for free. (Stallman).
In conclusion, there are many reasons why people pirate video games that are ethical and actually lead to more sales by the game companies because many people, who pirate the games, tend to go out and buy a copy. And those who don’t go out and buy it may just get rid of it because they actually do not enjoy the game or because it does not work on their computer. The companies are not hurt by piracy as much as they make themselves out to be and actually see good amount of sales come in because of it. However, piracy would still be a problem at that point. A company has several options to combat piracy like decreasing the price of their game to a more reasonable level, or offer the game entirely free. If the company decides to instead invest in anti-piracy digital rights management software, they would need to invest a lot for any average video game that usually gets people to just pirate the game so that they can remove this ‘feature’ and play the game without the complications that DRM brings. If the company decides to go with the option of free distribution, then there are many options for making money off of it like one of the most played video games of this generation, Farmville, has shown or like the public-access radio stations.
Bilton, Ricardo. "Nintendo Targets Pirates With 3DS - International Business Times." International Business News, Financial News, Market News, Politics, Forex, Commodities - International Business Times - IBTimes.com. 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/127766/20110328/nintendo-3ds-targets-pirates-update-remote-bricking.htm>.
Chiang, Oliver. "The Cost of Piracy, Feature Story from GamePro." GamePro: Video Games, Video Game Reviews, Gaming News, Game Trailers, and Game Info for Gamers. GamePro, 29 July 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://www.gamepro.com/article/features/215976/the-cost-of-piracy/>.
Stallman, Richard. "Why Software Should Not Have Owners - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)." The GNU Operating System. Free Software, Free Society: The Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman., 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-free.html>.
Steinberg, Scott. "Video Game Piracy: Is It Good for Business? - CNN." Featured Articles from CNN. 09 Sept. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-09/tech/video.game.piracy_1_video-game-piracy-software-piracy-game-sales?_s=PM:TECH>.2. Nintendo Targets Pirates With 3DS
Tburnett. "Blogs | Gamepro.com - Prepare to Play." GamePro: Video Games, Video Game Reviews, Gaming News, Game Trailers, and Game Info for Gamers. GamePro, 12 Aug. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://www.gamepro.com/blogs/tburnett/post/112142/>.
Van Der Kleij, Danny. "Where Are These Amateur Game Programmers?" Diss. Piet Zwart Institute, 2010. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. <http://pzwart3.wdka.hro.nl/mediawiki/images/3/34/2010_DannyvanderKleij_Where_are_these_amateur_game_programmers_final.pdf>
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Post Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:51 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

can i have the cliff notes version? lol
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Post Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:53 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

In conclusion, there are many reasons why people pirate video games that are ethical and actually lead to more sales by the game companies because many people, who pirate the games, tend to go out and buy a copy. And those who don’t go out and buy it may just get rid of it because they actually do not enjoy the game or because it does not work on their computer. The companies are not hurt by piracy as much as they make themselves out to be and actually see good amount of sales come in because of it. However, piracy would still be a problem at that point. A company has several options to combat piracy like decreasing the price of their game to a more reasonable level, or offer the game entirely free. If the company decides to instead invest in anti-piracy digital rights management software, they would need to invest a lot for any average video game that usually gets people to just pirate the game so that they can remove this ‘feature’ and play the game without the complications that DRM brings. If the company decides to go with the option of free distribution, then there are many options for making money off of it like one of the most played video games of this generation, Farmville, has shown or like the public-access radio stations.

Last paragraph is always the cliff notes version. :D
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Post Fri May 13, 2011 7:03 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

I disagree, personally.

If people already have a game they've stolen, usually their only incentive to buy a legitimate copy is if the game has online-only features or extra downloadable content that their pirated version can't use properly. I'd say the second leading-cause of buying a game you've already pirated would be if you'd updated your system firmware or used another update which rendered the pirated content useless.

No doubt pirating games often leads to game sales, but I wouldn't say it's ethical.

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Post Fri May 13, 2011 8:03 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

Your views of why people would buy a legitimate copy after already pirating a game are very close to mine, but I don't see why that would make in unethical.
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Post Sun May 15, 2011 4:19 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

There are a few games i've purchased after pirating but the reason i pirate certain games is because they are single player or really bad, i don't see a reason to pay for most single player titles although there are a few exceptions to this but for the most part i only buy a few games anyway as i'm happy with the ones i have already, i have to agree when it said that piracy doesn't actually cost them anything as those who pirate the game are most likely never going to purchase it or never planned to purchase it in the first place.
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Post Sun May 15, 2011 5:22 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

I bought Mass Effect 2 because it was too big and I didn't want to wait to install/play it. Don't regret it by any means, ended up playing it a lot, which warrants me paying for it In my opinion.
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Post Mon May 16, 2011 10:39 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

i have never once pirated a video game unless downloading a keygen for Diablo 2 counts then i have (lost my old cdkey for it) but on the whole i do think that if people pirate games it does make them wanna go out and buy said game but i dont see how it's ethical
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Post Mon May 16, 2011 3:37 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

I guess I'm the only one that would pirate games because I'm poor. :p
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Post Mon May 16, 2011 11:09 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

I've pirated a few games before... But deleted them if they were bad.. If they were good, I actually bought the game.
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Post Tue May 17, 2011 6:40 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

ace wrote:I guess I'm the only one that would pirate games because I'm poor. :p


Well, not the Only one. lol :roll:
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Post Thu May 26, 2011 1:24 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

crait wrote:Your views of why people would buy a legitimate copy after already pirating a game are very close to mine, but I don't see why that would make in unethical.


You must an 8-bit thief! Image

Debating the short lengths to which stealing is an ethical behavior or action to endorse, the only purposeful and ethical reason I can see to pirate is exemplified in China. When the first Gameboy DS flash carts became obtainable online, Nintendo Gameboy DS sales rose over 5,000%. The average Chinese worker just can't be bothered to pay that money for games they'd otherwise enjoy.

So Nintendo gets essentially "robbed", that's the downside. But where I see the pirating as an ethical and acceptable business loss is not only in the sheer number of system hardware sales Nintendo receives, but the publicity, the game information, the audience that exploitation picks up, the fan base it maintains, etc. And that's my key issue here, pirating isn't ethical because stealing isn't quite "ethical" in itself weighing the consequences. Do I pirate? Yes, but the ethical solution here is that in return for Nintendo "being forced" to accept a loss on their individual game sales, they're getting many benefits that they otherwise may not have achieved as steadily or as repeatedly. While that may seem to make it more ethical for me to pirate, it doesn't. I'm not China, and I wouldn't want to be.

Besides... you ever see how a game comes nowadays? Chintzy little thin plastic bullcrap with an 8 page game manual inside, sometimes colored if you're lucky, with their fifty cent disc being held in on the other side? Seems like an ethical loss if you're still maintaining or perhaps bettering yourself in your own business standard.

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Post Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:44 pm

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

Has anyone here seen Extra Credit's video on piracy? I personally am torn on the subject. I used to think that there where perfectly legit reasons to pirate a game. I still kinda do but after watching his their opinion I have found myself acknowledging allot of their points.


http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2653-Piracy
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Post Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:27 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

Thanks for the link! I'll add that to my list of videos that I still need to check out! :D
DPM, I can't believe I never responded to what you posted!
Debating the short lengths to which stealing is an ethical behavior or action to endorse,

The thing is that it isn't stealing. That's what I was debating. Stealing implies that you're taking something away from someone so that you have it and the do not. Pirating is making a copy so that you and I both have one. If someone asked you to donate all of your money to them, you wouldn't. If there was a ay to duplicate your money when giving it to them so that there was no loss to you, I'm very sure you would do it.
And you're right about the key idea: Companies gain more than they 'lose.'
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Post Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:33 am

Re: Piracy: Why It is Not Only Better for Industry, but Ethi

DarkPacMan77 wrote:I disagree, personally.

If people already have a game they've stolen, usually their only incentive to buy a legitimate copy is if the game has online-only features or extra downloadable content that their pirated version can't use properly. I'd say the second leading-cause of buying a game you've already pirated would be if you'd updated your system firmware or used another update which rendered the pirated content useless.

No doubt pirating games often leads to game sales, but I wouldn't say it's ethical.

-DarkPacMan77-


i can say this for near the whole of the wii hacking community and say, this is the truth, i have downloaded 30+ games, *not many considering to some*
however i have bought 12 *before i could actually download the games*
if i couldof done so before hand i wouldof never even bothered tbh
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