What game thieves have to say for themselves

There is no doubt whatsoever that downloading and playing a game that should have been paid for is theft. The perpetrator is benefiting from another person’s labour that has a commercial price which has not been paid. The fact that with digital content you do not need any materials to manufacture a copy is totally irrelevant. It is still theft and the people who download games without paying are thieves.

And it is theft on a grand scale. The current orgy of online IP theft is the biggest outbreak of mass stealing in the history of humanity. Tens of millions of people are stealing because they think they can’t be caught.

Earlier this month I wrote this article about $304,149,300 stolen from Activision, the reaction has been quite amazing. This article in TechDirt criticises me and takes the tone that it is perfectly acceptable to steal games. This is a professional journalist biting the hand that feeds him. Does he not realise that the people who spend their lives working on games need to be paid? And has he not seen the damage that game theft has repeatedly done to the games industry?

Here are some of the pathetic comments that people made to the TechDirt article:

I download games because I want to know if its worth spending money to own the game. Give us more demos and I’ll download less! (maybe)

Amen! I can’t wait until these overpaid nancy boys quit whining and realize that their customers are no longer going to tolerate a company stealing money by providing little value for a high price. Then again, they have politicians in their pockets, so why should they? I say, fire all the top executives that have made any mention of ‘stomping out piracy’ and elect all new politicians (preferably younger than 60) into office. Next, we need to formulate some teaching tools that a kindergartner could follow so that the remaining executives can understand the current technologies.

I downloaded MW2 out of spite alone. I specifically did so because they chose not to support dedicated servers. Meanwhile, it’s a lot easier for my downloaded copy to play on the dedicated servers that people made on their own, than it is if I were to buy a legit copy.

This is the problem now, developers make a game for every platform, and dont change it much from the console version for the PC – instead of taking advantage of the power and better capabilities of the PC. Its not worth the time to even bother if its a direct console port.

If the marketers decided to treat their customers respectfully, offering a product that was actually worth full price on the PC, or offered it at the price it was actually worth, they wouldn’t have a “piracy” problem.

The problem is that while piracy can be traced partly to the “blackbeard” torrent users who just want something for nothing, it can also be traced to attitudes and decisions of the company that released the IP.

And then there were the comments that people made to the original article on here:

Sorry Bruce, but they dug their own grave on this one and you need to get off your soapbox and try to find the REAL reason piracy exists.

You sir are confused.
Nothing has been stolen.
The original is still there .

Nothing is stolen.
If it was the police would be involved…….
………We all tread on thin ice so we cannot point fingers.
Let he that has not ,throw the first stone.
nobody, i thought so.

COD:MW2 isnt too great anyway. Yes it is a good game,if you can overlook the pathetically short single player mode, and the ridiculous regenerating health system (why does everything have to be dumbed down
nowadays?), and invincible allies…………

Further, saying that it’s stealing because somebody’s enjoyed the fruits of others’ labor without paying is questionable. You want to go down that road? How about not watching the commercials for a television program? Every time you get up to go to the bathroom or skip past them on your DVR, YOU ARE THEN ALSO STEALING. I suggest you call the authorities and turn yourself in.

I have pasted my dictionary’s definition of the word “theft”. Note that “every part” bit, as long as the copyright holder still has access to their work then it has not been thieved.

Damn pirates. If it weren’t for them, maybe MW2 wouldn’t have bombed at retail?

If customers are treated with respect, they’ll purchase your content. If you treat them with contempt, they won’t.

I’ve sworn to myself that I’ll never, ever buy an Activision title, ever again. (Barring, of course, any and all Blizzard-Activision titles, because Blizzard is 100% deserving of my support). That (put whatever expletive you want here) CEO of Activision disses the gaming community as a whole; it’s only fair that he suffers the consequences. Not to mention MW2 is WAY overpriced, and if that CEO would’ve had his way entirely, it would’ve probably been twice as expensive. Same goes for Spore, simply because their draconic DRM “protection” is a slap in the face to people who bought the game, and it’s not even that well-made.

the trouble is, due to the combined ease and inexpence of both fast downloading, and mass digital data storage, piracy has become so easy and prevailant that it’s an easy target for companies to blame when looking for an excuse to explain away their lack of sales, or for justifying their extortionate prices.

I love this bit, Bruce “Explain their low morality to them and the harm they do….”
Can we do the same thing to ‘investment’ bankers, realtors, solicitors, accountants, big Pharm,……

There is more, but you get the idea. The thieves use a range of excuses to justify their stealing to themselves. And there is a big lesson for the industry. The thieves are barbarians at the gate, looking for any opportunity to destroy everything we have built, the proof is in the quotes above. Any lack of vigilance and they will be through the gate, destroying all before them, as they have so many times before. Against this you need to make your business model as tight as possible against these thieves. Be proactive against them. And always remember that you may have to abandon a well established platform tomorrow because the thieves have destroyed it as a viable target for games.


#1 Dan Davies Brackett on 01.22.10 at 6:22 am

What is your response to the claim that not all downloads are lost sales? Certainly you wouldn’t disagree that there’s an inverse relationship between price and demand; that some people go without luxuries like entertainment for lack of ability to pay. World of Goo’s seminal experiment in pay-what-you-want for seems to have shown that not everyone attaches the same monetary value to a game that its creators do. Could some pirates simply be demonstrating an unwillingness to value your labour the same way you do?

Whose fault would that be?

#2 IronM@sk on 01.22.10 at 9:23 am

Once again, another half cocked rant without any real thoughts or advice on how to combat the issue, other than “tightening up” and being “proactive”. Tighten up how Bruce? Be proactive how Bruce? At least give examples to support your ideas and diffuse your tunnel vision. If by this you mean more DRM and restrictions for legitimate users, exactly how does that solve the problem? It doesn’t. Forget the piracy aspect, it just makes more people not want to buy your product.

You then go on to infer that developers should drop the PC (possibly Nintendo DS and Xbox also) altogether because pirates have “destroyed” it? LMAO you are conceited. Despite piracy, how much did Modern Warfare 2 gross on the platform again Bruce? I’m guessing nobody involved with the project will go without food tonight.

The more I read your blog the more you come across like South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson. “I am right and I don’t need to read those studies that prove i’m wrong because I have another study here that says i’m right!”

#3 Angry at Activision on 01.22.10 at 12:43 pm

Another question: how much did Activision steal from their customers? They recently pulled ALL their Ultimate Alliance content for both #1 and #2. Even if you purchased DLC and have ‘rights’ to it, if you deleted it off your drive or your system goes belly up, you can’t get it again. Fun fact: #2 NEEDS a now-missing download to play networked with anyone that still has their DLC on their system.

I’m not one who d/led (or played) MW2, and at the rate Actv. has been anti-gamer (like their constant lawsuits, particularly on Brutal Legend), I may skip ALL their games. Even if they have Blizzard.

#4 Tony on 01.22.10 at 12:47 pm

There are two sides to this coin, and you’re really only giving consideration to one of them. While I absolutely agree that piracy is theft, and a huge problem in the marketplace, please consider that there 3 different types of people who have and use pirated software.

1. The petty criminal who just doesn’t care, and wants anything he can get for free, legal or not. I’ll call these guys Infants, because it is fitting.
2. The avid gamer who normally plays, but cannot find enough information about the actual gameplay to warrant paying for it yet. I’ll call these guys Gamers, though that term can become a little misleading in this context.
3. The true pirate who makes the game easily available to first two types. Pirates, for obvious reasons.

First, the Infants are probably mostly teenagers… give them a little time. Even if they ARE teenagers, its just plain wrong, and destructive to the very games they want to play. For such people there should be a punishment, especially if there is multiple pirated software on their computer. Unfortunately there is not a good way to catch such people, though I’ll get into that in a bit.

The “Gamers” reason is much more often an excuse than reality. Though there occasions where games fall into this category, they are usually given poor ratings online or are one of the MANY scammy flash games. As a good example of a game that SHOULD be pirated in my opinion, are the $10 – $20 flash games that have been re-packaged and sold as complete games. In most cases these games also come with short demos which wet the appetite, but 10 minutes after you buy you realize the demo WAS the game, and there is nothing more to it.

The pirates themselves come in many varieties, but a moderate degree of encrypted keys and automatic game updates reduces the potential pirates to only the more skilled of Crackers (“hackers” who are destructive instead of constructive). You’ll always have a few good Crackers on a good game, its unavoidable… but there are ways to alleviate the damage they can do. Most important however, is NOT to gain the attention of the Cracker community.

To lessen the impact and occurrence of software pirating, all three situations must be considered. Those Cracker communities out there are a mix of hackers and crackers, and their first tenant is freedom. No one can deny the necessity for DRM, but when the DRM becomes so restrictive that even the paying gamers suffer, those communities will attack. There have been at least two game I am aware of (I paid and suffered) for which the DRM actually made the game unplayable for a long while (until they updated it months after release)

In my humble opinion, and it may not be much, a moderate level of DRM is expected and necessary. More specifically, use a combination of mac-address/unlock-code/private key, and periodic automatic online key updates, which are used together to decrypt critical run-time components on game launch. Its hard to get into much more specifics without this post becoming even more overly verbose. The only catch being you would also have to agree to the gaming community that should you decide to remove the servers being used for online verification, you will make a patch available that will no longer require it.

Long story short, do your best to defeat the Crackers, without harming the payers, and for the most part everything should work out fine.

#5 joe cavalry on 01.22.10 at 1:19 pm

If it takes 10 hours to play a game and you pay $60, then you paid less than it costs to go see a movie and be entertained. So just pay the price.

If the game is bad, well, there are bad movies and both games and movies have reviewers, so…., pay the price.

If the price is a little steep for you, then wait a few months, the price will come down and you’ll be able to get a used version. Then pay the lower price.

#6 Trevelyan on 01.22.10 at 3:39 pm

I think that the excuse to do with “its their fault for making a bad game/being a bad company” etc is like eating a meal in a resturaunt without paying giving the excuse it was a bad meal and so you therefore are going to punish the shop by eating it anyway.

A better excuse is just you are too poor to pay/dont want to pay. The issue of demos is a good point, though. I remember just playing PC Gamer/PC Format discs over and over for the demo stuff and then actually buying the game to get more content. I found several games that were disappointments but also found games that I had never heard of but liked enough to buy afterwards.

Really though, game piracy will always exist and it is naive to totally try and stop it. Ultimately it will restrict legitimate users more than stop dedicated software pirates – see any DRM game, most notably Spore.

Realistically I will likely never install a game more than 2 or 3 times in my entire life and then I may even end up selling it. But why should you be restricted by DRM like this? And why should you need to register online in order to use something you have legtimately bought in a shop? I know the reasoning behind it – supposedly – but again, it just reduces the functionality for the innocent whilst just creating a bit of a challenge for pirates.

I am not against software piracy particularly strongly – if someone gets busted for it that is their fault, however. However if I was to release an indie game on XBL and say, 50% of those that downloaded managed to find a way to circumvent the trial functionality, I would be really pissed because it cost me time and money to develop it.

So I do agree with the theft statement. Tesco is huge, but I dont think anyone who downloads a game would steal from them. In fact the people who make those products will inevitably get far less than the people who make games. The real reason people are “ok” with doing it is because it is so easy to do with little – almost never – consequences.

You will see it more in poorer countries. For the last 6 weeks ive been in Uruguay, one of the “better” Latin American countries. Yet even here, modern console games cost more than 100 US Dollars each and copies are available in many market stalls and even in some retail shops. As for DVDs and CDs, they do sell them at slightly higher prices than you can get here so they aren’t too unaffordable, but it is very easy to find copies or get someone at an internet café to download what you want.

So here, the reasons are more understandable. Firstly there is the issue of cost, things just cost significantly more than the UK, the US or Europe (compare GDP as well as the actual price). Secondly there is the big issue of availability, people can’t actually buy what they want beause it isn’t there (see also Disney and their DVD releases). Thirdly, if everyone else does it with even university tutors condoning the distribution of pirated software that relates to the course, even more feelings of guilt are removed.

This is where I think that the biggest problem lies. Nobody does anything to those that break the law. In the UK, it is almost certain that you will not be persued for downloading copyrighted material. So what does that say of poorer nations? Uruguay is by no means “poor” – it does have that division of wealth that is associated with poorer nations, but the division isn’t so big as other countries and there isn’t big humanitarian issues here. However, the cost of importing goods, low wages and other issues mean that things are unjustifiable to purchase. And the government does nothing. Many people don’t even know they can get in trouble for having copied things and really, why should they. What big company will go after someone who has a copied DVD in Latin America?

People here also photocopy fiction and textbooks but one person I talked to didn’t like it at all, she would much rather have the original copy of the Da Vinci Code, but at over £15 for the paperback – and living off the lower female wages that are far far lower than those in the UK – she just cannot justify it to herself or her family to buy it.

So being here in Uruguay and seeing the price of goods has made me realise how tight people are back in the UK. People who are “poor” can somehow afford to drink and smoke. Ebay in the UK promotes all kinds of buyer protection and I recently bought 5 of Shakira’s albums for £5, the voucher of which was even from eBay themselves. There are plenty of deals to be had so there is really little justification for people to boycott the buying of a game and still playing it.

So the issues in the UK come back to one thing – it is just damn easy to do and get away with. People break the law all the time with regards to music copyright and nobody will know or do anything about it. Even lending a friend the CD to copy is illegal as is lending them a game. Even downloading the same thing on a different format is illegal (VHS on DVD, Bluray on DVD).

Piracy isn’t new at all so why would it be considered such a big issue now? I think it is important to look at the reasons why and try and deal with those. I find it difficult to justify buying a game through digital download as I am still used to the idea that the internet is not an integrated part of your computer (and vice versa). Therefore, I would expect to be install a game I buy in the shop and play it unrestricted just as i’ve done all my life. If the game is not online, why should somebody have to use an internet connection solely in order to register their software? And if somebody else can get away with not doing it (irony here, downloading a pirate copy and a crack requires you be online) then how can companies use the reasoning that it is to stop piracy?

I don’t download games for the reason that I generally just play on my 360 now (same console for 3 years now, try keeping the same PC configuration for that long when buying the latest games). Even so, I would like to be able to play a game when I want to without having to install, download or register for anything else while im at it. I think that this could drive away many people (as well as the issue of PC requirements) which would leave those who do acquire the game to be, largely, pirates.

The 360 is a pirateable platform for sure, people can play whatever they want and there has even been the possibility (still may) to play online with a modified console. So why do 360 games sell so well when you can also pirate those too? A 360 will always play a game at an acceptable framerate, yet PCs are subjective and will only play some games with some configurations and others with extra hardware and all will have varying framerates.

The point is, money is a crap excuse (poor countries have that reason covered and PC games are often half the price of their console counterparts yet some still pay full price for them) and corporate hatred is no justification to actually still use the product. I would suggest it is more down to the fact that computer configurations vary so wildly these days and so playing a game is not as simple as it used to be; coupled with restrictive piracy software this means less people are likely to play PC games meaning that the piracy figures will be higher as the overall figures are lower.

As a final note, I would suggest that current generation of consoles have left many people unable to justify paying for a PC that has the additional capacity to play modern games (£120ish for a 360 is the same price for a graphics card). So why would you buy Mass effect for the PC when you have the same thing on the 360? And when you know Mass Effect 2 is just around the corner, would you upgrade your PC or just get a 360 that can play a whole load more games?

So there, the issue isnt with money or the big bad companies – those are just biproducts of a decrease in the popularity of the PC as being a gaming platform for the latest & greatest. Piracy hasn’t seemed to have affected subscription MMOs, however. And I am fairly sure that when steam puts up offers that I am not the only one who goes to grab stuff.

I think that the PC still has life in it as a gaming platform, but at what cost and technical expertise will people be persuaded to buy MW2 on a PC than on a 360? And if all those people buy it on a 360/ps3, why not chase up all those criminals who steal the PC version (as I would assume they are far less than those who pirate it on the 360)?

Long post over.

#7 David on 01.22.10 at 3:40 pm

Modern technology makes this discussion difficult, because the idea of what is property used to be less ephemeral. If I steal your car you no longer have the use of it and you no longer can sell it to me. If I steal one of the copies of your book you have fewer copies to sell and you can no longer sell it to me. If I photocopy your book you’ve lost the ability to sell it to me. If I download a copy of the code that you created you’ve lost the ability to sell it to me.

There can be arguments made about whether you would have been ever able to sell it to me, and that’s on what many of the negative comments have been focused.

Evidently the taker (I won’t yet say thief) of the copy felt the copy had enough value to them to bother to take it. The taker therefore denied the owner of that amount of value… that is the amount stolen from the owner. If that value is greater than zero then I would say stolen and thief. If the thief plays the stolen copy of the game for 20 hours, then the value of the theft would be 20 hours of entertainment for the thief. Justify it away because no one wants to think poorly of themselves, but that’s what you’ve stolen.

If you wouldn’t have paid for the game, you tried it, didn’t like it, stopped playing it then maybe it wasn’t theft, but shouldn’t it be up to the owner whether they are smart enough to let you try it for free?

What’s to be done? More and more developers are moving to a server model, where you can only play when connected to the server. Expect this to continue to grow.

#8 Mark on 01.22.10 at 6:34 pm

there are many alternatives to pirating that do not take much of your money.

1. gamefly
not too much a month, and you cant rent all the crappy 10 hour games that you like, send them back if you’ve played 2 hours and hate it..

2. blockbuster/etc,
similar to gamely, only you do not keep as long as you need to.

3. wait for a fricken price drop.
for many games i’m not sure i’ll get much play out of, but still am interested in owning, i just wait for the price drop. Most, if not all (ESPECIALLY PC GAMES) drop in price.

I agree, people who pirate, and their excuses are pathetic. If they think the game is shitty and not worth paying for, why the hell are you even downloading it in the first place? obviously you plan on playing it, so obviously it has some worth to you if you plan on devoting your time to it.

It is so obviously theft, and it really wish it were easier for the publishers to prosecute these people to the full extent of the law.

#9 Ashendarei on 01.22.10 at 9:05 pm

So Bruce, another slow week of blog hits?

This reeks of your earlier article, where you boldly make extreme statements, then sit back and watch as the site hits flood in while people rush to defend or argue the points.

Exactly what point are you trying to raise with this post?

#10 Jack on 01.22.10 at 9:42 pm

Bruce, I’m sorry, but you’re just so clueless here, and it’s hard to take your other writing seriously when you express zero comprehension on this subject.

The Techdirt article is dead on. Not 90% on. Dead on.

Just because someone downloads 10,000 songs or 500 video games doesn’t mean this person will ever listen to or play them. Nor does it mean that’s 10,000 songs or 500 games of lost income to manufacturers. Yet the RIAA, You, etc., claims it is so and gets people to pay ridiculous settlements.

How can Hollywood have just had it’s best year ever if download piracy is killing them?

Wake up on this subject, dude!

#11 steve on 01.22.10 at 9:49 pm

taking without paying = theft. simple as that.

i can understand some of the comments they make ( understand ..NOT agree with, their just trying to justify that they are not complete w*nk*rs.. sorry , but fail)

personally , i dont like sony…yeah yeah , i’m still not over “star wars galaxies” , and i haven’t brought a sony product for 6+ years , and in case any of you are wondering , i havent played or downloaded any either
(and YES , the loathing IS that deep)

and as per usual i’ve got an answer that would work in
” the world of steve” ™ and as usual if any company wants to send me huge amounts of cash they can buy the idea off me.

games some with a set of “difficulty levels” usually , easy, medium , hard and expert. …just jack up the settings to “so insanely hard you’ll die in less than 3 seconds” and have that as the standard/default setting for all games released, with security to protect the other settings , then by registering the game you unlock the other settings. that way , the thieves spend hours d/loading, and find they get their ass’s kicked repeatedly whenever they try to play. if it becomes the industry standard , then they’ll give up stealing by torrent downloads etc , ..yes some hackers will sit there for hours cracking the codes .. but if the code auto updates every week, then they’ll need to work on it all the time , and when they do that theres no satisfaction as it becomes a chore.. and sooner or later they will give up , therefore drying up the problem at source.

hope it helps , and some company makes me rich :D


#12 TheBuzzSaw on 01.22.10 at 10:17 pm

Honestly, Bruce, your rants are the same. You figure if you shout it out loud enough, people will start believing it. Meanwhile, your arguments (if you can even call them that) are ripped apart 500 times over, and you NEVER respond to any of them. You just hold up the comments and say, “See? Look at what the pirates are saying!” Frankly, I saw many valid statements in comments you posted. You prefer to state, “I don’t care. Piracy == Theft. Consumers are evil.”

Piracy is unethical. There is no doubt about it, but calling it “stealing” is an immature way to go about the discussion. When I “piracy is not stealing”, prevent yourself from believing that I am implying that “piracy is perfectly OK”. If someone assaults me on the street, I cannot take him to court on charges of murder just for the added moral sting. I cannot say, “I don’t care that I am still alive. He attacked me, and it is just same as if someone did fall over dead as a result.” The judge will throw it out. So, Bruce, your argument that piracy == stealing has neither moral nor legal correctness. If you want to argue that piracy is wrong, go for it. Just stop calling it stealing, because it is not stealing. Get over it.

#13 John Smith on 01.22.10 at 10:22 pm

Bruce you’ve cherry picked the comments from that web-site from the younger audience or perhaps the bandwagon jumpers just out to make a point about a particular game – for example Modern Warfare 2. You’ve ignored some of the salient points made such as a pirated copy not equalling one lost sale or any of the comments on DRM. You’ve not made any clear suggestions which is in keeping with much of your blogging which is very vague and superficial.

I think every developer has the right to protect their software but its the way they go about it that makes gamers so angry. PC users like to upgrade and so limited activations based on a system snapshot stop honest gamers being able to use their legally purchased software. Invasive protection such as Starforce or Securom also pose problems and not just to the security conscious PC user who is concerned with such invasive protection leaving their systems open to attack.

I have a game, one I legally bought many years ago that I’d like to install on my Windows 7 powered PC but I can’t. Why you ask? because the invasive copy protection is no longer supported by the company that makes it and so a patch would be required from the developer. Now most developers couldn’t care less a year down the line let alone four or more but this particular developer is now out of business – and before you ask its not due to piracy. So I’m stuck unless of course I download a cracked version so am I know one of these morally bankrupt people you speak of?

As I look across my shelf of games I see more and more games that use invasive copy protection that may well leave me in the position I am in now with this particular game. Its a ticking time bomb as far as I’m concerned, how much longer will these games run? What happens one my next upgrade, my next OS? You keep drawing parallels with the film industry yet I can watch a DVD bought many years ago when DVD’s first became available even now on my PS3 in its Blu-Ray drive yet I can’t play a game I bought a few years ago. People still pirate films in great numbers but the film industry doesn’t tie me to playing my film on one DVD/Blu-Ray player and require me to ask permission from an anonymous third party to activate it on another DVD/Blu-Ray player. The film industry doesn’t use invasive DRM like the games industry does, even using such invasive DRM that people claim its actually caused their systems harm.

Its easy for you to lecture about piracy but what about the rights of the end user to enjoy the product without worrying about security, potential harm caused by DRM or the worry of just how long they will have access to that expensive piece of software they paid for.

Its about time the PC games industry got their act together. As a gamer who visits a great many forums and time and time again I see people fed up of developers rushing out a new game and then patching it later if at all. There is no quality control and games release with show stopping bugs. A film company wouldn’t release a film with the ending spliced into the middle and the start at the end or release a film with the ending missing so lets see a little more care and attention from the developers. Perhaps if the quality was there people would feel more obliged to hand over their hard earned cash to buy the games.

#14 TheBuzzSaw on 01.22.10 at 10:32 pm

Now, you also need to correct your understanding of the so-called damage that piracy does to the industry. As has been pointed out a dozen times before (and ignored by you equally as often), you cannot prove any amount of damage from piracy until you can prove that someone chose piracy INSTEAD of purchasing the game. You like to brag about games you worked on in the past and how they were destroyed by piracy. Your argument? “I know they were good games. Piracy MUST have been the cause.” Riiiight…

If I simply choose not to buy your game, I have done just as much damage as my friend who pirated your game. For the sake of argument, let us say that my friend would NOT have purchased your game had piracy not been an option. Please explain to me where the damage is. (I know you’re thinking it right now. Stop. I am NOT justifying piracy or saying it is OK. I am simply targeting YOUR very arguments on this matter.) Where is the damage? How has this friend of mine done more damage to you than I have? Because he benefited without paying? As has been mentioned already earlier in the comments, that is a DANGEROUS road to go down. Implying that someone benefiting is somehow stealing from the source of that information leads to a paradoxical universe. You are benefiting repeatedly for that picture of Thief II. I hope you are sending them a check for all the benefit you are receiving. (Unless you own that game series, in which case, you can ignore my ridiculous statement.)

Frankly, if piracy really DOES harm the game industry, then it is time for a new game industry to emerge. As Techdirt points out numerous times in its blog, there are PLENTY of ways to make money that exclude chasing down pirates. Piracy is more difficult that you think, Bruce. Have you ever tried it? I’ll tell you right now: it is 500x easier and faster to download my game from Steam than it is to find a functioning torrent (with a decent number of people seeding it). That is a service worth paying for. You CAN compete with pirates. Not everyone in the world is a freeloading cheapskate as you would like to believe. Sins of a Solar Empire sells just fine without any kind of DRM.

#15 H on 01.23.10 at 12:13 am

Not that I agree with everything you’re saying about piracy, Bruce, but you might be interested to know that Techdirt have just said you’re welcome to replicate everything on their site for your own commercial gain (ie pirate it and profit from it):

You might consider getting someone to write a script which will parse techdirt, get all their articles, publish them on your own site (Brucedirt.com??) credit them to you and sell advertising around it. It may or may not make you some money, but it will certainly prove a point if they decide, after all, they’d rather you didn’t do it.

#16 steve on 01.23.10 at 1:19 am

oh , and anyone who wants to , can google search “gowers review”

…was CoD:MW2 worth £45.00?
was illegally downloading it worth 10 years in prison ?

#17 steve on 01.23.10 at 1:26 am

sorry for 3rd post in a row bruce.

link to the “penalties for copyright infringement” that pertains to the “Gowers Review” .. for those too lazy or busy to google search

#18 other-reasons on 01.23.10 at 3:12 am

how about the folks who pirate cos they don’t have access to the legitimate copy? And where available, the legitimate copy is not priced to reflect local purchasing power? Think developing countries. Oh, i forgot. they are not supposed to consume new media. Amazon won’t ship ps3 games to me. my console is a waste of a large sum of money sitting idle with no where to get decent titles from. then i stumble on need for speed somewhere on the net. i grind my internet for weeks to download it just so i can play the darn thing on my slow ass PC. i just can’t see myself as stealing.

#19 sh1rts on 01.23.10 at 6:51 am

Piracy is theft, period. Listening to people justifying it is just pathetic. Bruce is absolutely 100% spot on here and he should know, he’s been in the industry since the early 80’s and piracy was rampant then too, I remember it !

Someone downloads 10,000 songs and 500 movies with no intention of watching them. Why ? What’s the point of that ? If they downloaded them just to fill up space on a disk then that’s moronic. If it’s so they can distribute them to friends then – guess what – that’s theft too.

I agree that games developers, or rather the companies they work for, have been guilty of releasing a lot of sub-standard tosh and/or kicking sand in the faces of the community (hello MW2). Don’t buy them then ? There are enough reviews out there to help you make a decision. Of course you’re still going to be disappointed now and again despite any amount of research or loyalty, happens to me still (hello MW2 again, Wolfenstein 2, etc.. ) but my hit rate is higher than my miss rate for games, going to the movies, buying CD’s..

Piracy is theft. There are no counter-arguments, just lamers trying to justify illegality.

Keep pirating games and watch as more and more developers – even the good guys, the ones who produce good games – go out of business. Is that what you want ?

#20 Bruce on 01.23.10 at 7:01 am

@Dan Davies Brackett
It doesn’t matter that not all downloads are lost sales, they are still stealing.

#21 Bruce on 01.23.10 at 7:05 am

This isn’t a rant, it is other peoples very silly comments about stealing.
There are no thoughts or advice in this article (there is advice in the last para actually) because the article is entitled “What game thieves have to say for themselves”, so that is what’s in it.
There are lots of other articles I have written here that go into other aspects of piracy. Try reading them.

#22 Bruce on 01.23.10 at 7:07 am

I can’t get an Aston Martin here at the price I want to pay. That doesn’t mean I go and steal one.

#23 Bruce on 01.23.10 at 7:17 am

What a load of uninformed rubbish you have written there. I have worked in the industry since the late 1970s. I have seen companies go bust because of piracy. I have seen people lose their jobs because of piracy (lots of them). And I have seen many of these people forced to leave the industry because of piracy.

All you are trying to do is to come up with a feeble justification for stealing.

#24 Benjamin on 01.23.10 at 8:34 am

It’s mind-blowing at all the excuses people will come up with to justify their actions. Honestly, man up and do without. If you don’t like the price, don’t like the company, and don’t like their practices then don’t buy from them. Entertainment is not a fundamental right and it certainly isn’t a necessity. (And don’t tell me video games are not entertainment. They are and they serve no other purpose at the moment.)

#25 Lee on 01.23.10 at 9:11 am

I do agree with the sentiment and definately that piracy is theft. But I also agree that there are a lot of games out there that are total shit. Most of the companies that went bust and most of the jobs lost are because they produced crap. That said I am sure there have also been some lost due to piracy.
I did once read an interview with one of the senior staff at EA in a magazine a few years back where they did some research and found that in all probibility some of their games actually sold better due to piracy.
I think perhaps this is where the concept comes from. In that article he did also point out that projected losses from the piracy were higher than the possible gained income, which then defeats the point.

I do agree with a statement made somewhere above that if you think a game is worth less than you are being charged then just wait until it is in the $10 bin (I paraphrased and added a bit there).
The most I have ever paid for a game for myself was $25 using this tactic, and that came with the expansion as well. :D

But I do recall one game I bought for a place I was working at. It cost us $99 brand new (pre-order). When we got the DVD it turned out that it only came with the BETA version and we had to download over 40 Gigs of various patches and ad-ons, some at extra price.
The game was an MMORPG which actually had some potential to be awesome. But they only had one server, in the USA, and it was poorly setup. Even those in the USA had pings of around 300. We were getting well over 1000 ping. Unplayable. After months of constant patches resulting in almost 100 gig downloaded we gave up as the game had actually got worse (though the pings dropped by about 100).
It had no single player content, was purely online and was so poorly constructed that it barely ran on our latest machines as well. Making it useless.
Several months after it released the game officially flopped and was handed over to a small fan community, the company completely divorced itself from the game. The game was re-released for free download online, but with much less content due to the original company refusing to sell a lot of it’s IP. We even lost our bonus character items etc. we got with pre-release special.
Slowly and surely the game died. I think it has since vanished completely except for remnants of it on various websites.
That game was FURY MMORPG.

This unfortunately is becomming a common story in new game releases. Actually it is an old story, the failure is simply bigger these days. I would say a good 20% of games… AT LEAST, in the entire history of gaming are like this. I would also say that combined with this some gaming companies are woefully out of touch with thier customers and always have been. Poor community sentiment has arisen and thus it has been natural that many people turn to piracy with the ease it can be conducted these days.

Once bitten twice shy.

This does not excuse it, but it does explain it.

The only solution IMO is a two-fold shift in the games industry.

#1: In game micro-payments. If players can download the game for free and then simply pay for extras in a game then it would be much better and piracy would vanish. This is how all purely online games should aproach the issue. Monthly subscription is ok but not for everyone as we have seen with the piracy issue that WoW suffered from.

#2: The community built around a game is now just as important as the game itself. Listening to these communities is now vital for game designers and developers (yes even developers should get off thier bum and listen to what they are being told). Games are designed for players to play and experience a sensation of fun. Far too often, through the entire history of games, it has either been sweaty old men in board rooms making the decisions or naive indie developers making “cool” games (the latter being far more recent in particular).

Some standards need to be set in the industry and decent qualifications need to start becoming a requirement. The industry needs to get off it’s collective backside and help univerisities around the world teach potential new game developers and designers decent methodology. I do realise that no unifying game design theory exists but there are some great starts and there are certainly many things that you can do wrong which can be made known. The industry need to move with the times and mature and stop using 20 year old tactics to force people to purchase games with 20 year old dry content.

So yes, it is theft. It is not really excusable as the choice ultimate lies with thief not the victim. But there are valid reasons for why this occurs, like all theft. To stop this we need to address them, not just punish more people. This idea can extend beyond piracy, but that is a far more complex issue.


#26 Trevelyan on 01.23.10 at 9:28 am

How about resale of an already played game? Compare this to lending your friends a game to play who then give it back when they have played it. Is this the same as piracy? What if a monetary exchange takes place, does that change it at all?

Essentially it has the same result for the company; one copy sold, many people play it. The publishers, developers etc make nothing out of pre-owned game sales yet multiple people are still using one copy to play a game (I have often rented games with no replayability).

Back in the early 2000s my best friend and I didnt have much money being only small, so we had to make do with buying games between us and swapping them all the time (age of empires 2 for red alert 2). How many other people do/did the same? I am not justifying piracy at all but piracy in the sense of getting something without financing those that developed the product isn’t so different in the end result as using second hand stuff.

#27 Bruce on 01.23.10 at 9:49 am

Just because the publisher doesn’t derive income from a secondhand sale it doesn’t mean that stealing games is OK. It is OK to sell an Aston Martin secondhand but it isn’t OK to steal it.
I have written about the secondhand market here: http://www.bruceongames.com/2008/10/08/secondhand-games-worse-than-piracy/
And here: http://www.bruceongames.com/2009/10/02/is-game-becoming-a-secondhand-shop/

#28 andrew rushton (long time reader) on 01.23.10 at 3:40 pm

>I do agree with a statement made somewhere above that if you think a game is worth less than you are being charged then just wait until it is in the $10 bin (I paraphrased and added a bit there).

Yes you can wait either until the unsold copies are reduced to clear (takes ages), or you can buy used copies (a far shorter wait), but Bruce has already said “So from a publisher’s perspective secondhand games have exactly the same effect as piracy. Multiple customers get to play the game but in return the publisher only gets the profit back from one sale. And the customer who buys a secondhand game is making zero contribution to the cost of it being made.

Of course this in intellectually wrong as well as morally wrong. When you buy a game you are not buying the plastic and cardboard, you are buying the right to personally enjoy the IP embedded on it. But most customers don’t see it that way”

So if Bruce and the run-for-profit-not-quality games companies have their way, then second hand games will cease to be legal to sell. That’s clearly unfair to the customer, and morally wrong, but it might one day happen.


#29 steve on 01.23.10 at 8:39 pm

quote from lee
“#1: In game micro-payments. If players can download the game for free and then simply pay for extras in a game then it would be much better and piracy would vanish. This is how all purely online games should aproach the issue. Monthly subscription is ok but not for everyone as we have seen with the piracy issue that WoW suffered from. ”

a damned good /rant imho sir, would just like to make one point tho…

in my opinion, in-game micro payments detract from games and gaming. why ? because then it becomes a matter of who has the largest disposable income to win , not player skill..
i can understand companies doing it , but i dont like it personally. i’ve played MMO’s for 10 years or so, and i think character progression and developement should be based on skill and time spent playing.. i work hard to level up my toons, yet cant compete against a gold buyer who doesn’t give a sh1t about the in-game economy, and will pay way over the odds for best kit, power leveling off other players ( or illegal ingame companies) therefore driving up inflation in-game without lifting a finger to progress his toons the way the games supposed to be played.

(some people will take the easy option , whether it’s “morally” right or wrong , or legally so)..gold buyings still illegal in most MMO’s i play, and i’ve left others where it’s allowed , because i cant spend huge amounts of money on items, prefering to feed my family instead.

#30 TheBuzzSaw on 01.23.10 at 8:47 pm

Bruce, try actually RESPONDING to our posts, for a change. You ignored my posts and just called it all “uninformed rubbish”. Are you so insecure in your position that you avoid direct discussion with your readers? Shouting that “piracy is theft” is not an argument. You have to actually EXPLAIN why you feel it is theft. I gave you some concrete examples of how absurd your position is, but you just jumped to the conclusion that I must pirate everything. I don’t. I avoid piracy. I think piracy is unethical, and I discourage people from doing it. I am arguing whether it is theft, not whether it is morally acceptable.

As for your belief that you “witnessed” companies die to piracy, WHERE IS YOUR PROOF? Sure, it is easy to prove that piracy was taking place, but from a raw numbers standpoint, where is your proof that people would have paid? Had piracy not been an option for these people, would they have bought it? Odds are that they would not have!

#31 Erik J on 01.24.10 at 12:02 am

I don’t like pirates because it gives companies like Adobe an unfair advantage. Games are different but not by much, free pirate games enhances “top sellers” effects.

Downloading is the future, preferably in an easy way, it’s sad but atm a torrent is still easier than Steam. I hope game developers will try harder to be competitive with pirating options.

#32 Robin on 01.24.10 at 8:55 am

“And I have seen many of these people forced to leave the industry because of piracy.”

Name one.

#33 Bruce on 01.24.10 at 9:25 am

David Lawson and Mark Butler, bosses of Imagine.

#34 Joey on 01.24.10 at 12:04 pm

Piracy is hurting the industry, but there are people out there who are uninformed about the whole ordeal. Its not your typical internet fiend sitting at his desk rubbing his evil hands together and laughing a manic cackle as he hits download on MW2. Its also young children, professionals and parents. People see the opportunity to get something for free (or cheaper) and they go for it.

And then there are 2nd hand sales. Its exactly the same scenario to be honest. Its stealing from the developers and somebody else profits off of it. Its only now with DLC that companies have been able to sneak an extra sale or two in order to benefit from a 2nd hand game.

Advertising is most likely the answer. Not obnoxious load time advertising (Wipeout HD – The advertisements increased the games load time) that could be seen as the same as commercials. More references to real life products. If all of the billboards in Crackdown 2 were referencing real life products that changed when you went online I could see that being another source of income for the developers – something that could help when it comes to piracy.

The one thing to keep in mind – DO NOT PUNISH LEGITIMATE PEOPLE! SecuROM is appalling and is a fine example of how a situation can get out of hand. Pirates will pirate regardless of security. There is no stopping them. But there is no reason to triple bolt the front door and make things harder for people who own keys when the thief simply climbs through the window.

#35 Daniel on 01.24.10 at 1:51 pm


It’s copyright infringement, not theft. Theft deprives the original owner of possession – copyright infringement merely ignores an owner’s right to use their creation as they will (ie. sell for a certain price).

The analogies of “you wouldn’t steal a car” etc. are incorrect. In the examples given the owner of whatever is stolen can no longer use and benefit from the item. For downloading games (or movies, in the example) a new copy is created at the point of downloading.

To make the analogy accurate, if you suggest that the game producer is having money ‘stolen’, then the analogy should be that the car maker is having money ‘stolen’ when a car is taken.

I would think a gaming site would actually approach this topic with some discerning information, instead of parroting a line from groups more concerned with propaganda than promulgating actual information.

#36 steve on 01.24.10 at 2:59 pm

you’ve all seen this…

but i prefer this one from the IT crowd.

either way , if you think pirating stuff isn’t illegal , …why not just take a walk down to your local police station with your hard-drive and show them the contents. ? well, go on , get yout coat on, and go down there right now…
hmm , funny enough , i dont see any of you actually doing it.. so i guess i’ll just have to wonder why.

(pirating stuff makes you a thief … but not a complete idiot…trying to justify what you’ve stolen …THATS what makes you an idiot)

enjoy the clips before U-tube bans them :)

#37 Ferry on 01.24.10 at 4:58 pm

Keep it up Bruce. I like your style, calling it like it is. But please understand if you are raised thinking downloading everything for free is normal, you don’t consider it stealing.

Until game thieves have something they worked very hard on for years stolen from them, they will not understand how horrible the theft they are committing is.

Be it your money, your idea, or your resulting entertainment product, there’s nothing worse than seeing something you made with your own two hands destroyed or taken from you without your permission. Especially like with game piracy, where you’re unable to do anything about it.

I always shut game pirates up with one single question:
“Did you ask the makers or publisher of this game for permission to download and play it without paying for it?”

If they are so sure it’s okay to download a game without paying for it, then why don’t they drop the internet anonymity and openly ask the creators if it’s allowed for them to do that? But all you’ll get back is another excuse of a person in either denial, without morals, or in the victim mentality that blurred ones conscience enough to steal.

#38 S.E. Gordon on 01.24.10 at 6:26 pm

Bruce – I think your timing is bad with this article. Aren’t you asking for donations for your Evony lawsuit? Is it possible that some of the people who are thinking of donating may have engaged in this practice in the past?

I would like to offer yet another opinion into the mix. After working as a theater manager years ago and seeing the absolute rubbish shoveled out by Hollywood, I am a big advocate for try before you buy. There’s a lot of misleading advertising (including creating fictitious reviewers, using sales staff in reactions to a film and paying reviewers under the table) that will tell you anything just get you to buy a ticket. The problem is, 99% of them aren’t worth the ticket price. I have a huge family on my wife’s side and we trade DVDs that we purchase all the time (which is totally legal, I might add). This has saved me from purchasing colossal losers such as Lady in the Water and The Happening, both touted as Shylaman’s best work yet. I can definitely understand some people’s frustration with the movie industry and watching it online. Up until Avatar there have been few authentic moviegoing experiences worth shelling out $10+ to see. I commend James Cameron for breaking this trend.

#39 docred on 01.24.10 at 8:35 pm

I am certainly no angel…looking back at the 80’s and early 90’s, there were a handful of times when I copied software, especially games. I also bought a huge number of games and software for the various computers and game platforms I happened to own over time. (and as someone who collects vintage computers and game systems, I still own the vast majority of said software, much to my wife’s dismay) Over the years my views on the subject changed to the point where I have not done such for many years. Not trying to make excuses or rationalize anything – I am merely laying out some history of my own experiences. I also never tried to make excuses or justify illegal copying. There were times when I could afford such, and times I could not. Generally in the times I could not afford games, I went without. I didn’t buy a new system every six months when it came out because I had other things that the money needed to be spent on.

Gaming is a luxury. It is not a requirement, a right, or a necessity for life (It hurts to say that, and I’m sure that will garner some clever comments :) ) That is why there are two or three excuses I hear from game copiers that I find pathetic and laughable :

1. ‘I can’t afford it, so I am going to copy it’ – if you can’t afford it…then you need to make more money. Get a job, or get a second job, win the lottery, I don’t care. Again – games are a luxury, not a right. When I was younger and making less money, I could not afford all the things I wanted. I had to either work harder and/or be patient until I was earning more. You are not entitled to an ipod/3 game systems/cell phone/car/stereo/computer/snowmobile/boat/weekend partying and the recreational stuff that goes with it/trendy expensive clothes/etc etc etc all at once. You are entitled to what you can afford. Everyone now seems to think they are owed the full monty all at once. Not the way it works kids. Work harder or smarter or find a way to afford it. You want to afford more games? Make more money or give up some other perk in your life. Too many things are considered ‘essential’ today. Priorities…like the family I know who has a 50″ plasma tv, satellite, and all the trimmings, but dresses their three children in hand-me-down rags, eats out all the time, and complains they can’t make ends meet and are hard done by. Priorities.

2. To those who live in areas or countries where games are unusually expensive – yes, it is unfair. Global economics is not fair, its frustrating, it is a dog and pony show that many countries and groups manipulate to their own advantage, mixed in with many market forces of many types. However, if the games are so hideously expensive or hard to get, how were you able to afford the console in the first place?

3. ‘There are so many crappy games, I shouldn’t have to pay for them all’ – again, you are right. There are some bad games out there. Overpriced games. Very true. In many aspects of life we all get burned on this one, paying for something that disappoints us. Demos were a great way of allaying this in the game world, and maybe a resurgence of that could help things. However…buyer beware. If you worked for me for a day, and I decided at the end of the day that you didn’t do a very good job, should I say ‘oh, you were a disappointment, I’m not going to bother paying you for your time, see you’ ? Not a perfect analogy, but as close as any other here. There was no food eaten, nothing taken from you…except your time. Would you feel cheated?

If you are going to copy games, pretty tough to stop you. Each person must make their own choices. Everyone should tone down the rhetoric on trying to rationalize their actions though :)

I realize the subject is not quite as simple as I portray it above, but those two excuses do ‘stick in my craw’ when I hear them. I think a major reason is because as I mentioned earlier, so many people now think they are entitled to all the toys they want right here, right now, without patience or working for a few years or even months to afford them.

Do I sound like a crusty old fart? I suppose I do :) But many of the rationalizers of this issue sound like whiny, spoiled children. Perhaps instead of having three or four game systems and a computer that you can’t afford to buy games for, you should limit yourself to one or two systems and actually purchase the games.

#40 Common Sense on 01.25.10 at 12:13 pm

“There is no doubt whatsoever that downloading and playing a game that should have been paid for is theft.”

That’s an absurd opening, even just considering the amount of criticism and argument that your first such assertion prompted.

Of course there’s “doubt” that it’s “theft” – according to the law, it is NOT theft. Many courts have distinguished between “copyright infringement” and “theft”, and the content industry running a campaign to call the former the latter does not make it so.

#41 steve on 01.25.10 at 3:52 pm

@ docred post#39
“can i copy/paste and steal that whole post under “fair-usage rules , can i ? please , please ?”
hehe, reminds me of my own child-hood…
..and the old addage my mum was fond of saying..
” if you want it .. get off your backside and earn it” a work ethic i still have to this day.

@ “common sense” post #40

quote” Of course there’s “doubt” that it’s “theft” – according to the law, it is NOT theft. Many courts have distinguished between “copyright infringement” and “theft”, and the content industry running a campaign to call the former the latter does not make it so.”

.. you’re absolutely right.. it’s copyright infringement

.. if you stole a copy of the game from the shop , you’d get either a fine,100 hours community service .. or a maximum of about 6 months prison.

so .. copyright piracy..theft? …no.

worse than theft? …in the eyes of the law, the penalties are about 20 times worse…
so are we to assume it’s 20 times worse than theft?

#42 Just An Aussie Thing on 01.25.10 at 11:24 pm

“I can’t get an Aston Martin here at the price I want to pay. That doesn’t mean I go and steal one”

There is a very well known and universally accepted economic model which is, arguably, the foundation of Capitalism. I’ll keep it simple for you, mainly because I know you will, without genuinely contemplating it, just default to ‘ugh..piracy is theft’ (despite the law completely disagreeing with you – and before you mention ‘IP theft’ do some *serious* research on the subject rather than your Daily Mail grade research which largely comes directly from your opinion).

The simple version is that: for a ‘product’ to be viable, the selling price must be such that it isn’t worth making copies (fakes, whatever term you want to use) to the degree that companies are unable to realise super-normal profits. Morals are irrelevant here – to twist your own analogy it would be like leaving an Aston Martin in Moss Side with the doors ajar and the engine running simply saying ‘bad, bad people shouldn’t steal’ doesn’t alter the fact that my chosen method of storing my vehicle was not ‘viable’.

Now I know you are thinking – ‘ahhhhh – got you because taking the car is theft’ read what I wrote again and see if you can see the actual point – magic eye style!!

#43 ErdTirdMans on 01.26.10 at 9:14 am

You’re right, it’s stealing (well, technically it’s infringement, but in a brought sense we could say theft), and the comments you’ve quoted are juvenile excuses for doing so.

Now, how has this destroyed the game industry’s sales again? As highlighted in a recent Gamasutra article you posted, 1 sale is gained for every 1,000 pirated copies suppressed. The thieves weren’t customers to begin with, and I’m willing to bet the word of mouth generated by 1,000 pirates makes a sale or two… probably the very pirates who commented that they use piracy as a try-before-they-buy option.

#44 ErdTirdMans on 01.26.10 at 9:16 am

(Not that this makes pirating okay – it just means pirates aren’t the barbarians at the gates. If sales are down, look to the recession and increasing competition for your reasons why)

#45 Common Sense on 01.26.10 at 8:16 pm

“so are we to assume it’s 20 times worse than theft?”

No. We’re to assume that the copyright lobby has disproportionate power over politicians, and recent amendments to copyright legislation are ludicrously over-the-top.

Copyright infringement is punished by US-prompted legislation worse than violent crime. It’s ridiculous.

#46 Robert on 01.26.10 at 8:30 pm

I’m a professional school student. I study long hours, and, unlike grad students, don’t get paid. All my savings go to rent and food. I love games, I love gaming and I really, REALLY wanted to play Dragon Age Origins. I knew I wouldn’t buy it because I didn’t have the cash.

I still didn’t download it because I, unlike some, have a fully functional moral compass. If you want to play a game, pay for it; otherwise don’t play it. You can make up whatever tripe you want to try and help you sleep at night, but it’s still wrong.

Instead, save up, get the game as a gift (as I did, I waited a couple months and got it as a gift) or just don’t play it.

#47 Canedriver on 01.26.10 at 10:38 pm


I agree with you to an extent but the underlying problem is what dug this hole. You can almost say the companies brought it on themselves.

Games with poor content, bugs, senseless story lines, backdoor cheats etc where the consumer felt ripped off. Because the game is now opened it cannot be returned for refund (rightfully so in some cases)

The problem is you burn that consumer one to many times and they will find a way to sample the product. Demos don’t even work because i don’t know how many times the actual game was sub par with regards to graphics, story line etc. I have seen a lot of games where it looked like all the money went into the demo and the game itself was an afterthought.

Once that pissed off consumer gets pissed enough he will find a way. This is how I think Piracy initially got widespread, and once that door is opened it cannot ever be closed.

This is also why I disagree with you on games being sold 2nd hand. Once the consumer gets a crappy game what recourse is there?

#48 PCollins on 01.27.10 at 8:01 pm

Oh dear Bruce. Wrong again. Piracy is copyright infringement. Not theft.

#49 Joey on 01.28.10 at 11:33 am

@ PCollins

You are right. For items of similar value, Copyright infringement will get you 10x longer of a sentence than stealing the physical product.

@ Canedriver

I would like to believe piracy is something as humble as you say. Refusal to pay for a product that isn’t worth the tag they put on it. Something that came about due to mismanagement and ill treatment of what the customer should get.

Its not that romantic. Its plain and simple. People pirate because its cheap, easy and because they can. I know people who pirate and don’t even use what they get. They just do it for the sake of it!

#50 Cloud on 01.28.10 at 3:16 pm

Quote: I know people who pirate and don’t even use what they get.

So, where exactly is the damage (to the company) in this case? That the company didn’t get money for an unused product?

#51 Joey on 01.29.10 at 5:48 am

@ Cloud

Well if they allow other people to obtain what they have copied, that could be damaging. But for the most part, some people just do it for the sake of it. I buy games on steam when they are on sale just for the sake of it. I bought so many in their xmas sale it would take a month to download them all.

#52 Cloud on 01.29.10 at 8:55 am

@ Joey

Point taken (about the sharing the downloaded but unused pirated copy).

#53 Tyler on 01.30.10 at 5:05 am

I see your point, Bruce. I openly admit to pirating games. However, I view them from a “demo” perspective. If the game is worth buying, I do so. Thanks to Steam, it’s even easier. I pirated Dragon Age: Origins to see what it was like and how well it would run. Two days later, I purchased it on Steam. My feelings about downloading a game illegally and not liking it are way better than paying $50 for a non-refundable game that I don’t like. If I don’t like it after downloading I delete it anyway.

#54 FishyHat on 01.30.10 at 6:13 am

“I have seen companies go bust because of piracy.”-Bruce’s line that he never provides evidence for.


Give a list of development houses that were killed off because of software piracy, Bruce.

Now let me be very clear on this: I want you to list development houses that shut down not because of a bad market, bad decision making or spending more than what they brought in. Piracy and piracy alone.

I also want links to every single one backing this up, you’ve brought this same, tired line up many times. Now it’s time for you to provide solid evidence for this statement.

#55 Bruce on 01.30.10 at 6:25 am


That is just plain silly. It is impossible to prove.
However here is a list of publishers that mostly disappeared. And by sheer coincidence disappeared when home computer game copying was at its height: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ZX_Spectrum_games

#56 Bruce on 01.30.10 at 6:35 am

For those who are deluded into thinking that possessing unpaid for software isn’t theft. Here is the Federation Against Software Theft: http://www.fastiis.org/

Dictionary definition of software theft: http://www.mondofacto.com/facts/dictionary?software+theft

Another dictionary: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/software+theft?jss=0

In fact it is in loads of dictionaries: http://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&q=software+theft+dictionary&meta=&aq=f&oq=software+theft+dictionary&fp=a4f0098186c698b6

So if you download games without paying you are stealing and you are a thief. Simple.

#57 FishyHat on 01.30.10 at 7:47 am

“David Lawson and Mark Butler, bosses of Imagine”- Bruce.

Lawson and Butler made bonehead moves with Imagine.

In the end they were inept to the task and you either have a extremely skewed memory about the time you worked at Imagine or you’re lying.

1: Imagine was overstaffed and trying to be much bigger than it actually was. Unnecessary expenses and Imagine went hand-in-hand.

2: Imagine bought an entire warehouse of surplus they did not need and then could not get rid of.

3: Imagine was in debt up to it eyes. Unpaid advertising and tape duplication bills, to the tune of £50,000 back in ’83.

4: Imagine spent advertising money it didn’t have on games that had no hope of release. Does Bandersnatch or Psyclapse ring a bell?

Imagine died because of mis-management and overspending, not piracy.

Lawson and Butler are to blame for their own mistakes, not piracy.

Don’t believe me? Well then, let’s look at a quote about Imagine…from you:

“but I’ve had a look at the financial records of the company and there has never been a VAT return, never a bank concillation, never a creditor’s ledger control account, never any budgeting, never any cash-flow forecasting, no cost centres, not even an invoice authorisation procedure. Just no financial controls at all.” -Bruce

Funny. you didn’t mention piracy being a factor, just idiotic financial handling of Imagine. Or how about this?

“I stayed at Imagine too long. Once the writing was on the wall I should have taken my then intact reputation elsewhere. Loyalty did not serve me well.” -Bruce

So even you knew that it was a sinking ship…once again, nothing about piracy.

What next for you, Bruce? Tansoft and piracy? By all means…and i’ll go into great lengths on how Tansoft and the Oric didn’t have a hope in hell against the Spectrum and Commodore in the UK.

But hey, you had France…I guess that’s….something.

In closing: More than a few of us know quite a bit about the history of the companies you worked for. Try to pull the wool over our eyes again if it suits you….i’ll be waiting.

#58 FishyHat on 01.30.10 at 8:39 am


If it’s impossible to prove why do you insist on saying “I have seen companies go bust because of piracy”

To imply you’ve ‘seen it’ means you have personal experience with development houses folding because of piracy. This cannot be taken any other way.

As for your ‘list’I take it you didn’t really look at those houses:

Beam Software (Melbourne House) is still around. Now Krome Studios.

Artic Computing- Died out because their adventure games were inferior to companies like Infocom. AC only used a two word parser.

Addictive-Bought by Prism Leisure. Still in operation.

Automata- Stopped after Croucher and Penfold split up, Automata charging wholesalers full price for small orders didn’t help matters.

Dk’tronics-Folded, unknown.

Psion-Still in operation. Now Psion Teklogix.

Durell-Still in operation. Now making software for IFA/ general insurance brokers.

CDS-Still in operation. Now iDigicon Ltd.

Incentive-Was in operation until 1991, changed to Superscape then vanished.

Legend-Only made two games before folding. The Great Space Race tanked which would explain why they closed up shop.

NGS-Bought by Titus which folded.


Rabbit-Went into Liquidation. Bought by Virgin Interactive.

RSS-folded. Unknown.

Ultimate-Turned into Rare. Bought by Microsoft.

U.S. Gold- Bought by Eidos.

Virgin-Bought by Titus. Titus folded.

Activision-Still in operation

Adventure International-Bankrupt.

Atarisoft-Nothing but a brand name of Atari. Label was hardly used.


Anyway i think you’re starting to see that you’re misinformed about a large majority of these developers. Most were either bought up by other companies or are still around.

#59 Bruce on 01.30.10 at 9:54 am

Every single BritishSinclair Spectrum publisher and Brititish Amiga/ST publisher either went bust, gave up on games or got taken over. Except for System 3.
Theft of their work was a major factor in this collapse and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.

#60 FishyHat on 01.30.10 at 12:27 pm


One again, if you’re going to make such wild claims you MUST present proof. You cannot just throw a statement out like that and expect it to stick without evidence to support.

This is a list of some prominent Amiga publishers:

Atric Computing- Once again i must point out that AC did not keep up with the times. The Infocom parser was far more advanced that what AC was working with.

Pison- Pison is still around as Psion Teklogix, this alone invalidates your previous comment. Psion was a London based gaming company that also made products for the Spectrum as well as the Amiga.

Pison switched to mobile computing and wireless data collection. Why would they bother making games at this point? Thats like wondering why ‘The Woz’ doesn’t have to worry about money…I thought it would be rather self-explanatory.

Just because they left the gaming industry does not equate to victims of piracy. They made a smart business move that paid off…it’s as simple as that.

Software Farm- Unknown

Personal Software Services- (P.S.S.) Unknown


J. K. Greye Software- Unknown

Silversoft-As far as i know they’re still around as a IT consultant and interactive media company still based in London. Like Pison, they switched gears.

Codemasters- How you forgot about Codemasters baffles the mind. They started off on the ZX Spectrum and released several titles for the Commodore/Amiga. This also invalidates your comment as they are still in operation.

List of prominent Sinclair publishers:

Imagine-Died out due to their own inpetitude.

Ocean- Ocean=Infograms, now Atari Inc. They re-named themselves and were never bought out.

Elite-Still in business, still located in the UK and one more that invalidates your comment. They make cellphone games.

Ultimate-Turned into Rare. Bought by Microsoft.

Gremlin Graphics-In business well into the 90’s. Bought out by Infograms.

A’n’F-Either became or was bought by Icon Design Ltd, now closed.

Mastertronic-Merged into Sega. Name purchased from Sega by Frank Herman, one of the original founders. While the original company no longer exists, Mastertronic and at least one of it’s founders is still very active in the business.

Thinking that piracy was a ‘major factor’ in the collapse of developers in the early to mid 80’s, especially with no evidence to support such a wild claim, is deluded. Especially when you ignore the supersaturation of the market back then.

I want to make it very clear that you said:

“Every single BritishSinclair Spectrum publisher and British Amiga/ST publisher either went bust, gave up on games or got taken over. Except for System 3.”

This is a totally incorrect statement. Elite alone makes it invalid..how you could even say this without even considering Codemasters? you worked there for God sakes!

Codemasters was bought, but the company is very much intact….this just baffles me to no end.

So once again i find myself asking you to provide solid evidence to support your claims. I’ve provided at least three companies that are still very much active, i believe i have done this with both 100% accuracy and tact. Can you do the same?

I await your response.

#61 Bruce on 01.30.10 at 1:23 pm


This is getting tedious. Can you not see that you are making my point for me? Dozens of companies either went bust, gave up on games or got taken over. And theft was a massive contributing factor.

I admit that Elite have a few casual flash games on a website. But Codemasters got taken over, like I said. They were never the same after PS1 piracy crippled the company. And I was there so I saw exactly what happened.

It is inevitable that when theft gets over 90%. And it does. That a publisher no longer has the expected income. Jobs go, projects go and often whole companies go. No money = no wages. It is that simple. The thieves kill the industry.

#62 JDoran on 01.30.10 at 4:20 pm

Bruce, I’m sorry, but FishyHat is making more sense than you. How did PS1 piracy cripple anybody? The console sold a HUGE amount of games. and Imagine went bust because they were badly managed and released poor products. Hewson, Gargoyle Games, Ocean, The Edge, etc all survived, despite the piracy that you claim killed Imagine. If imagine had released games that people liked then those games would have been bought. Yes, people would have pirated them, but lots of other people would have bought them. If you provide quality at a reasonable price then many people will pay that price. There are freeloaders of course, but there will always be a small minority who care only about themselves.

#63 Lee on 02.01.10 at 12:20 am

Yeah I must agree with Fishhat there. He soundly defeated your argument Bruce.

Not one of those companies went bust due to software piracy, though in some of those cases piracy played a small factor. Most of them are still around today in some form and those that died, died because they made crap games and/or were poorly managed.
In fact I cannot find a single company in all of gaming history that could honestly say that piracy was the primary cause of the demise of the company, sure for some it was A factor, but not even the straw it has always been a minor issue.

In fact some of the most pirated games in history have been made by some of the most successful companies in history.

But to equate piracy to success is a stupid as equating it directly to failure. There are often far larger factors involved in the success and failure of a company. Some of these you have spoken about in previous articles.
Perhaps you need to go and re-read your older articles on the game industry and why it fails and stop getting so hung up on these more recent piracy and related issues?
Easy thing to do.. been there myself. :P

#64 Joao Henriques on 02.02.10 at 5:10 pm

Agree with the author!

If people don’t have money or don’t want to spend it them don’t play it! There is many many AAA games out there at 10€-20€ (in promotions or classic editions) that anyone with a PC or console can pay.

#65 Lee on 02.02.10 at 11:57 pm

Tell me Joao, this is something that has bugged me for some time.

What gives a game an A, or AA or AAA or A+ rating, or any of the other different tags added to them.

By what standards are they juged? Is it sales? Is it reviews or feedback?

I question the validity of any statement claiming any of those tags on a game.

#66 JDoran on 02.03.10 at 2:34 pm

>What gives a game an A, or AA or AAA or A+ rating, or any of the other different tags added to them.

>By what standards are they juged? Is it sales? Is it reviews or feedback?

In a literal sense, you are perfectly correct – games (or films, books, etc) are often described as being AAA class or whatever, when in fact few, if any at all, are universally agreed to be excellent.

But I think that maybe here Joao simply meant games that were well received and generally agreed to be of good quality, which to me is fair enough. I’d object when a seller describes a game as AAA class if it’s not, but I think a general statement such as Joao’s is acceptable, since it doesn’t mention any particular game or even a particular range of games, but instead he’s saying that there are AAA games available for different machines for reasonable prices, which I don’t think anyone could honestly disagree with, given the full range of used or reduced price games now available.

#67 AC on 02.03.10 at 4:06 pm

Part 1

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) http://www.bsa.org/country.aspx?sc_lang=en-GB deems the use of any unlicensed download as piracy as you can see in their definition below:

“What is piracy?

Software piracy is the unauthorized copying or distribution of copyrighted software. When you purchase software, you are actually purchasing a license to use it, not the actual software. The license is what tells you how many times you can install the software. If you make more copies of the software than the license permits, you are breaking the law. Whether you are copying, downloading, sharing, selling, or installing multiple copies of software onto personal or work computers, you are committing software piracy.” BSA

This is a very helpful definition because it helps us understand that anyone involved can be reported to the authorities. This is why the BSA offers financial rewards of up to one million dollars for information that can lead to the arrest of people who have pirated software. With such extensive rewards on offer, software pirate investigators have already become a reality.

Activision hired a private investigative company http://ipcybercrime.com/ to assist them track down Christian Del Amo, this is one of the better stories http://venturebeat.com/2009/11/06/how-investigators-tracked-down-a-modern-warfare-2-cyber-thief/, but this shows how he did it http://www.joystiq.com/2009/11/06/activision-catches-both-pirates-and-thieves-in-modern-warfare-2/. Do note that he stole material goods from his employer in order to do this. As it is believed that all torrents originate from his pirate it means that those who have downloaded Modern Warfare 2 are party to supporting the actions of Del Amo. As he in currently in police custody and his lawyers are declining to comment, it is rather foolish to support his actions online. As you can see Activision uses private investigators that work with the police authorities. The police are now holding hard evidence that could permit them to track the torrent users so this case is far from over. In fact it has only just begun. It really depends on how much Activision wants to push.

However, there is a contradiction in the notion of general piracy. It has been alleged on numerous occasions that software producers have used piracy as a tool to capture market share. Have a look at the interesting comments made by Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, in this video and start to spot these for yourselves, check chapter 7 entitled piracy http://fora.tv/2009/09/23/Free-Conomics_with_Chris_Anderson#fullprogram. Do note that Chris Anderson makes it very clear that he accepts the law and does not make the mistake of encouraging piracy. Instead he explains how Microsoft changed their marketing approach because they understood that their traditional attitude towards piracy was unsuccessful. He therefore offers an intelligent viewpoint.

In Mike Masnick’s article, he argues that people who download from torrents have not committed theft. Given the fact that Everiss was directly giving reference to Activision, the company behind Modern Warfare 2, this argument is moot in contrast to the police events that have led to the capture of Del Amo. However, Masnick does not stop here, he then goes on to make four key claims:

1. He claims downloading is acceptable due to DRM
2. He claims that consumers should fix the price of products not producers
3. He claims downloading can be justified as a means of sampling a product
4. He claims producers should find alternative means of obtaining their revenue

With regards to point 1 it is known that the US Congress is considering new laws in this area, however these have nether been made nor passed. However a few companies have made unilateral agreements with their customers in this area, this is encouraging to see.

With regards to points 2, 3 and 4, these are an oversimplification of a series of mature views that have been emerging within intellectual circles for many years now. It would be a mistake to assume that Masnick’s views on this are legally acceptable at this point in time. While I appreciate the logic that exists behind these intellectual arguments it is not appropriate to encourage readers to commit a crime.

Actual theft was involved behind the piracy of Activision’s product, Modern Warfare 2. This is because Del Amo stole physical goods in order pirate Modern Warfare 2. As his pirate is believed to be the father of all Modern Warfare 2 torrents, anyone who has downloaded it is therefore party to supporting this theft. I doubt Chris Anderson, who speaks highly of Masnick, would be foolish enough to endorse this type of behaviour. This is because there is a difference between freedom of expression and endorsing a crime.

#68 AC on 02.03.10 at 4:07 pm

Part 2

Notable futurists do not support piracy. However they wisely tend to avoid such arguments altogether because they look further ahead than conventional thinkers. In the future they see the tools of production as becoming more democratised. Ray Kurzweil is perhaps the most significant thinker in this area.

The point people really need to grasp here is that conventional industries cannot sustain themselves once the means of production is democratized unless they create new business models. Over 25% of people on the planet now have access to the internet. These rank as the wealthiest people in the world, the sort of people conventional music, film and gaming industries have targeted. But societies are essentially moving away from being meritocracies to those that promote individual excellence and the pursuit of personal goals for financial returns. In other words the nature of work and society is changing. This is why individuals can now make music, films and games on a limited budget and sell their products online. Piracy affects everyone that is now moving forward into this brave new world. This is why developing a sensible attitude towards it is so necessary.

The real issue here is to obtain an understanding of the forces that are at work. This homemade video that lasts around 20 minutes helps explain this process. It is called Robots vs Luddites. If you have the time it is worth watching.

Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh2cyOX8sCA&feature=related
Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLpHdGFxEMw&NR=1.

This is the form of democracy Kurzweil was hinting towards. Essentially the core issue behind combating piracy revolves around companies maintaining the monopoly of production. However, because society now seeks liberation from production costs, it means that production itself now has little value. Rather the only real value is in the time people have taken to make the master product. This represents the human value, not the duplication of it. This means sales should have little impact on profit because they rely on duplication that is now essentially free. This of course is already changing the premise of capitalism. Market forces themselves are establishing the rules here. The new world we are entering into will have a new economic basis. It will be very different from what we are familiar with and be far more liberating.

While democratisation is coming, do understand the nature of law has not yet changed to accommodate it. The shareholders behind the large corporations have much to profit from resisting this change, because in the end it has been their money that has funded many of the ventures and they have profited from it. The Luddites smashed the looms because it threatened their livelihoods. Never make the mistake of thinking a board of directors will not instigate legal action against you for downloading material without a valid software license if their shareholders press for action.

At this point in time the law supports producers. If you pirate their products they are within their rights to involve the authorities, private investigation firms or legal professionals. The impact of this on your life if you are convicted could be significant. But do not take my word for it, instead read it from the people who have been convicted themselves http://global.bsa.org/faces/index.html. But of course, let us not forget that companies and governments also pirate too.

All internet users need to make themselves aware of the issues. Given that tracking software exists Torrentfreak now highlight a new service for torrent users http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bays-ipredator-vpn-opens-to-the-public-090120/. For €5 Euros a month (That is about $7) you can now allegedly conceal your torrent downloads. This new service will come from IPREDator and it is by the founders of Pirate Bay. So the real question you need to ask yourself is this. Why do you need to pay have anti tracking software in order to download from a torrent if it is legal?

Of course, the authorities can track payments to IPREDator, so anyone who is foolish enough to subscribe to it will be offering evidence that will allow the authorities to prosecute them. Ownership to such software will be seen as an affirmation of intent to commit software theft the same way as having possession of specialised locksmith equipment.

Today millions of people are prepared to be martyrs to petty causes. Be sensible, allow someone else to be convicted over game piracy. Instead try education and start shopping for products that understand consumer needs. This means the most effective way to encourage good software is to only buy from companies that offer a good product for a sensible price. If they fail to do this then use your consumer powers to choose not to purchase the product. Of course, do understand if you elect to download a pirated copy without a valid license you will be committing software piracy. In the case of products from Activision this is a PLC with shareholders. In fact here is the current share value http://investor.activision.com/stockquote.cfm. A shareholder has a business interest and as such only a complete fool would advertise the fact that they have


#69 AC on 02.03.10 at 4:09 pm

Part 3

… committed piracy on public domain.


#70 Ant on 06.19.10 at 6:36 am

@AC – Having a lockpick set means I intend to commit crimes with it? Must be the same for bolt cutters then… And saws, and hammers, and crowbars, and…


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