$304,149,300 stolen from Activision

That’s right, over 300 million dollars stolen just of the one game, Modern Warfare 2, in 2009. Obviously Activision had much more stolen from them with other titles, but MW2 is by far the worst affected. According to TorrentFreak 4,100,000 copies of the PC version of MW2 were stolen and 970,000 copies of the Microsoft Xbox 360 version.

Thieves using bit torrents are indulging in the biggest orgy of theft in the history of humanity. When they can steal with no chance of getting caught then they will. How they justify this appalling lack of moral fibre to themselves is beyond me. I have heard a whole litany of empty excuses from the thieves to try and justify their actions but the fact remains that they are benefiting from other people’s labour that they should have paid for but haven’t. So they are thieves.

And they are stupid because they damage that which they love. Activision are not about to go out of business because of this particular frenzy of stealing. But in the past plenty of other game companies have gone bust because of game theft. And many top creative game developers have left the industry for ever. We have lost a huge number of potentially great games to piracy. It doesn’t even need for the company to go bust, they can just allocate their resources elsewhere. There are nearly as many Nintendo DS consoles in the world as Wiis, PS3s and Xbox 360s combined. So where are all the great DS games? That’s right, piracy stops them even being written.

The fact is that if you want people to work for you creating great games then you have to pay their wages, they have to pay for their food and rent just like everyone else.

There are a number of possible solutions to this massive stealing problem:

  • Educate the thieves. Explain their low morality to them and the harm they do to the development of games. I think this has no chance of succeeding, they have proven, on a massive scale, that they are perfectly happy to steal.
  • Technical protection. This is the best solution. A game console’s main purpose in life is to serve as an anti piracy dongle. All three current generation home consoles succeed at this, the PS3 works best, followed by the Wii with the Xbox 360 putting up a distinctly average performance. But open, multi purpose platforms like the PC and the iPhone lack this technical protection and so piracy is rife.
  • Alternative business models. Monthly subscriptions and in game items are increasingly popular alternatives to up front game purchase. Many people are perfectly happy to spend thousands of dollars on a simple browser game like Evony for instance.
  • Using the ISPs to stop peer to peer distribution of stolen IP. This is probably the main viable route. Already implemented in France and proposed for the UK and most other civilised countries. The scale of thieving is so enormous that the thieves are not directly punished, instead they get a warning letter. If they continue to steal they get another warning letter. Then if they ignore both these warnings they are disconnected from the internet. A very mild course of action against thieves, many of whom have stolen thousands of dollars worth of stuff they should have paid for.
  • Publisher activism. The publishers can go after the thieves that are stealing from them directly. However the thieves don’t like this and indulge in massive online activism to stop it. So the publishers, even though they are morally right to protect their property, are loath to take this sort of action for fear of Streisand effect.
  • Government action. There are millions of thieves out there that the government is turning a blind eye to. In fact government authority is being totally usurped. If I fancied a new Ferrari and went and stole it the police would show a great interest. However is someone steals a game that I publish, using torrents, they aren’t interested. Yet the Ferrari and the game are both the result of people’s labour.

Eventually something will be done, stealing on this scale is unsustainable whatever way you look at it. In the meantime game development suffers and the thieves are too stupid to realise it.


  1. Is that 300M figure assuming that every one that pirated a copy would actually have bought a copy if they had no other option? Or what about people that buy the game but download a copy anyway so they can play without the CD in the drive, that is pretty common too when the copy protection restricts the legal buyers more then the thieves. I’m just curious how accurate it is. I also would like to know how the figure compares to the total sales figure.
    At 60€ MW2 is too much for what the game is in my opinion. I didn’t pirate it either, not my kind of game so maybe not a good indicator of my moral fibre *shrug*.

  2. Just wondering: Are those companies really calculating that their turnover ist rising by $304 billion? Woudl be interesting to know how much of the thieves would have bought that game for this price if there would be no pirated versions available. I guess it’s somewhere around 50%.

  3. Bruce, it’s interesting that you’d give Evony a mention in defence of anti-piracy, given that the parts of the game are based around stolen content…
    Technical protection… Not so sure if that’s really valid, since all it really takes is time, and pirates have plenty of that. Even hardcoding the console not to play cracked/other region games has been worked around. What technical protection might do, is delay the time it takes for the game to be cracked, so that hype generated leading up to the game’s release can leverage more people to impuse buy, rather than wait for a cracked version to be released.
    Even alternative business models don’t render the game immune from piracy.
    It could be argued that bring the retail costs down might reduce the amount of pirated copies downloaded. One of the biggest arguments for justifying piracy is the perception that the developers see very little of the total profits. It’s not going to stop piracy outright, since there will always be an element that refuses to pay (believe it or not, some shareware games have been pirated) , and anarchists who believe that what they’re doing is right. Just look at movie and music piracy. The only effective way to limit the acivities of pirates is to go after the sites that act as distribution points. You only have to look to Mininova to see how effective that can be in the right country.
    I don’t see massive corporate activism doing more than creating an enviroment where real criminals will be the ones profiting from actual sales of ‘stolen IP’. At least there will be a bit more truth to the claims that pirating media supports the activities of terrorists.
    I think what needs to be reevaluted is the way games are marketed and distributed. There really needs to be more of an emphasis on why the legitmate copy is better to own than the pirated, and not in a ‘shame on you’ fashion either. But no matter what steps are taken, it is still implausible to think that piracy can ever be completely eradicated.

  4. You forgot to mention Activision took part in price fixing, whereby the game was put up on Steam at a certain price (forgot but it was cheaper) for Aussie customers, then it was ordered to be taken down and re-released for $89.95US, thus creating two different price points.

    You also neglected to mention a possible reason for the piracy was because of the PC customer backlash over the fact features that normally make a PC game a PC game (Dedicated servers, Mod support etc..) were stripped from the game, turning it into what was essentially a direct console port. They basically took PC gamers pants down, bent them over and gave them a good rodgering.

    The console gaming community is vastly different from the PC gaming community. They expect a good multiplayer experience and forced player matchmaking via listen servers just won’t cut it in the PC world, not for a first-person shooter at any rate. In addition, the PC crowd didn’t like being controlled in the way Activision/Infinity Ward wanted so massive community revolt ensued.

    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.

  5. You sir are confused.
    Nothing has been stolen.
    The original is still there .
    Copywrite laws are not being used as they were written.
    Walt disney and florida have made a mockery of the law (from 60 years too forever ).
    The law was never meant to be forever, if so then
    everytime you sing happy birthday or sing santa is coming to town then you are breaking the law.
    (did you sing at xmas?)
    The law was meant to protect a person’s right to benifit
    from thier work while they are alive. Not a corporation
    or someones great,great grand kids forever.
    As for government involvment we have enough.
    The government is not there to police the web , it doesnot belong to the u.s. if you want to block sites
    talk to the other caring counties like china,south korea,
    iran. They only have the best interest of thier people in mind. haha
    The only time the law makers act is when they get big fat checks for the movie studios or record companies.
    As for no Nintendo DS games not being made is because
    the platform sucks.
    I love the way they make up these figures.
    How do you know every download was viable?
    How do you know the would have all bought the game ?
    “biggest orgy of theft in the history of humanity” i don’t
    think so i would have to say wall street ,major banks,oil
    companies and so many more .
    You should not try and ram your misguided morals
    as a shill for these corperate ass hats down anyones throat.
    As for France they are going to get the E.U. human rights beating because you cannot remove peoples access to web without proof or are you above the law
    like the movie and music industries.
    And who pays your bills ?

  6. @IronM@sk & @MuckyMoe

    Thank you both for proving one of my points for me.
    These are typical of the pathetic excuses that game thieves come up with to justify stealing.
    And they miss the point that game thieves enjoy the fruit of another man’s labour without having paid for it.

  7. Putting aside the moral issues, even in a world with zero piracy game developers still face the problems of rentals and more importantly, used game sales. The latter in particular is a perfectly legal way for people to obtain a copy of the game without the original developer or publisher seeing one single cent for their work.

    That to me says the solutions have to be in our business models and to somewhat of an extent, technological.

    To put it another way, realistically, we have to assume that due to market forces that the price we can sell any copy of static bits is going to converge to zero someday. But we have an edge over music and movies, because we really sell interactivity, which is a constantly changing, dynamic set of bits. We sell experiences, and experiences can be implemented as a service. We have to get beyond the idea that we are selling a copy of static bits.

    I look at browser games, MMOs, services such as OnLive — there is an explosion of alternate distribution channels. This is an opportunity, and I think it is a waste of time to bemoan the death of boxed retail. People are still going to want great content, and the people who figure out how to deliver it to them while still making a buck are going to make a lot of money.

  8. @bruce

    Nothing is stolen.
    If it was the police would be involved.
    What is stolen where i live in Canada is a tax i pay
    for blank media.
    I cannot even put my family photos or home vids on
    a cd or dvd without giving a payment to the artists.
    I am the artist but do i ever recieve a check from the
    government , never.
    As for pathetic excuses they sound alot like the ones
    you use against peoples freedom.
    Do you use a dvr or vhs to tape programs, have you ever made a mixed tape?
    Do you copy parts of other peoples articles or have ever
    photo copied a chart,graph or picture from a book for
    school work?
    Do you have permission to use every picture on this site.

    We all tread on thin ice so we cannot point fingers.
    Let he that has not ,throw the first stone.
    nobody, i thought so.


  9. Bruce, I tend to agree with you for the most part, but in this I have to disagree (in the details, not the overall message).

    •Educate the thieves.

    -People can and will rationalize ANYTHING. Until you can find a way to look at things from an outsiders perspective (much harder to get them to actually SEE it, as everyone looks at the world through their own particular filter/view) it’s unlikely you’ll be able to influence behavior in this matter.

    •Technical protection.

    – Technical protection is probably one of the worst things to happen to PC gaming since its’ inception. The particular event that impacted me most vividly was the EA – Spore fiasco. I purchased the game the day it released (go go hype machine!) and didn’t discover till after installing it on my desktop (home) and Laptop (mobile) that they only give you 3 installations before you have to call in to unlock the software.

    I haven’t purchased an EA game since.

    •Alternative business models.

    – I believe Alternate Business Models are definately a viable option. Also, offering demo versions of games for prospective customers to play seems to have been tossed by the wayside, to the consumers’ detriment.

    •Using the ISPs to stop peer to peer distribution of stolen IP.

    – Content filtering on the internet is never going to be 100%. Even if you could get (read: Force) every ISP in the world to agree to your policing and actually enforced it, people would simply find a new route to transfer it. (Usegroups, P2P Kazaa, Torrents, all evolutionary progressions)

    This doesn’t even factor in the scaling issues, where pirates and hackers (not to lump them together) both begin to innovate new and more efficient methods of swapping files.

    •Publisher activism.

    -You know, I used to play Diablo 2 on B-net. I, and many of my friends, were EXTREMELY happy when Blizzard announced that they had located and cleared out several thousand hacked / fake accounts. I don’t think the public outcry is quite what you make it sound here.

    •Government action.

    – I understand what you’re saying here, and agree that if you create a product you should be compensated for said product. I don’t however, believe that the government should be responsible. I would encourage the publisher themselves to go after the thieves, because even though it’s unfair to the publisher to have to bear that additional burden, it’s a better alternative then to create laws and tie up law enforcement further then they already are.

    Giving the government any additional control over the public sector should always be done only when absolutely nessisary, and even then should be thought over and alternatives sought first, in my humble opinion.


  10. Do you have permission to use Rodney Dangerfields
    picture on your site .

    just kidding but if that is you
    You look alot alike.
    R.I.P Rodney you got my respect.

  11. @MuckMoe

    In regards to your complaint about the levy on blank media in Canada:

    1) Your claim that you have never received a check from the Canadian government for the tax charged is unfounded. The taxes collected by the CPCC are distributed to eligible performers, publishers, and recording companies. Check your standing with the CPCC to see if you are eligible.

    2) The very same bill that enacts this levy also gives people the right to create their own private, non-commercial copies of copyrighted material. This bill extends people’s freedoms, rather than limits it as you claim. If you still think the bill is restrictive or unfair, perform your role as a citizen and write to your government representative.

    3) Your series of questions are completed dependent upon what is copies, how it is copied, and how it is distributed. There are circumstances where it is perfectly legal to copy and distribute copyrighted material that you do not own the copyright to. I am supposing that you were asking rhetorical questions to prove a point. However, you have failed.

    4) We do not “all tread on thin ice” as you claim. If you are an informed citizen and take time to understand the workings of copyright law and fair use you would not “tread of thin ice.” Until you do so, cease your senseless ranting on subjects you know nothing about.

  12. Vince brings up an interesting point regarding rental and used games.
    Rental is covered to varying degrees under copyright laws relevent to the country that the rental store is in. In some cases it can get rather murky – eg. Australia, where one of the requirements for rental with out permission or license, is that the program not require installation onto the machine to run. So where does that leave games released over multiple platforms?

    It would seem odd that we don’t hear more from industry regarding potential lost sales to the second hand market over the projected market life of the game. After all it is only legal to sell a second hand programmes if the licence doesn’t forbid if the re-sale of the item, or states that the item may only
    be used by the purchaser. I think that part of this is due to the variation of how copyright and second hand sales are viewed differently from country to country, and the other part is due to anti-monopoly/fair trade laws. This was the case in Japan, 1998, when the courts ruled that the sale of second hand video games was legal, after Japanese software manufacturers attempted to limit the sale of second hand video games by declaring it to be illegal under certain copyright laws.
    For the industry, it’s probably not worth the risk that it could come back and bite them. That, and games have a shelf life in terms of how long they’re expected to sell for.
    Removing the box and disc will be the end of second hand sales anyway. Of course that still leaves the problem of piracy, unless all the content is stored server side. Even then we’ll still see the problem of gold farmers, character ‘trainers’ and unofficial item sellers…

  13. @Benjamin

    1. you miss understood.
    i am not a registered performer, publisher, or recording company.
    I buy the media and pay a tax for personal use.
    My home movies are being taxed to give money
    to “artist” that had nothing to do with the content of said media. (artists get money for my work?).

    2. i never said the tax was wrong.
    it does protect us from the lawsuit crazy copywrite holders
    that think they deserve everything for their work forever.

    3 a copy is a copy no permission then you are a thief
    don’t try and muddy the water.
    you have played music at parties at your house for guests , then if the music companies have it thier way
    you will be charged.

    4. So you never made a tape copy, cd , vhs, photo copy
    saved a web site to your computer. taped a t.v. show.
    payed for a used game or dvd or book or used said
    items without doing the copy yourself,
    if you still answer no to this then where do you live?
    In the past or under a rock?
    everytime you visit a web site you down load the pages to your computer cache.
    some lawyers would like that to be also illegal.

    If you still say no too #4 then our conversation is
    you were born this morning or you are the lord himself.
    The web doesnot like lies.

    This is all theft , you can pick and choose what you call
    it. You can say but there is a loop hole. (fair use).
    Still theft if the artist gets nothing.
    so you shouldn’t throw the first stone because you
    have done at least one of these crimes in the past.


  14. I’m sorry, but there are so many errors and ridiculous mistakes in the above article that I barely know where to begin. However, to give it a go:

    1. One pirated copy does not equal one lost sale. The person might never have bought the game even if he could not get a pirate copy, and anyway some people use pirated copies to judge if the original is worth buying, so some of those pirated copies equate to games sold.

    And you’re assuming that all of those games that would have been sold (most of which would not) would all have been bought at full price, and not bought later, when the game was either reduced in price or was
    resold as a used game in a shop like Game.

    2. You say “A game console’s main purpose in life is to serve as an anti piracy dongle”. Is that what you truly believe? So the Atari 2600 was designed to combat tape to tapepiracy, not because it’s hardware was cheaper to produce than a full blown computer? A console is used to play games, and is designed to be easy to use, it’s (limited) resistence to piracy is incidental, and is becoming less a factor over time.

    3. You also say “Using the ISPs to stop peer to peer distribution of stolen IP.”. I assume that you are serious here? So you expect the ISPs to police the internet. Presumably you expect the Post Office to police the post too, and open all letters and parcels to see that the contents don’t break the law?

    If the ISPs have to police the internet, then their expenses will go way up, and the costs will have to be passed on to the customer. And it would be impossible to accurately identify all copyrighted data anyway, and if the ISPs are forced to follow this frankly ludicrous suggestion then the pirates will simply start archiving data so that it can’t be easily identified as illegal.

    You also say “Already implemented in France and proposed for the UK and most other civilised countries.” In what way is it civilised to charge people (via tax or higher ‘net bills) simply to track down civil offenders of the bloated gaming industry? That’s punishing the innocent for the (civil, not criminal) crimes of the the guilty. That would never be allowed in a “civilised” country.

    4. You say “If I fancied a new Ferrari and went and stole it the police would show a great interest. However is someone steals a game that I publish, using torrents, they aren’t interested. Yet the Ferrari and the game are both the result of people’s labour.” Do you honestly believe that this is a valid comparison? Stealing a car
    is TOTALLY different from copying a game, since the former deprives the owner of his property, whilst the latter deprives them of nothing but a potentially (POTENTIALLY) fee. Yes, stealing a Ferrari is wrong, but if you could photocopy cars, and someone photocopied a Ferrari and drove around in that, he would not be depriving the owner of the Ferrari of anything.

    4. 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, and the terrorist shoot out that was just put in to garner media attention and free publicity, but there are a lot of people, like me, who want more than just another by the numbers Call of Duty/Halo/Quake game. We want a game where they go all out to give us everything we could ask for in a game. But all we get are more sequels, whether acknowledged as such or the same game but with different characters, names, themes, etc, and we get ever better graphics, more realistic effects, and whatever, but less configurability and replayability. It’s a damning endictment of the gaming industry that the best first person shooter on any machine ever is still arguably Perfect Dark, which is now ten years old and published on a console two generations back.

  15. Your headline is trollish, or misleading at best. Money wasn’t stolen. Pirated copies of a game were downloaded. Everyone would agree that not every one of those downloads is a lost sale, therefore your number is bunk. Also assuming a sale price of $59.99 per copy is inaccurate. MW2 has sold from anywhere between $40-$60 per copy, new. It can currently be had on amazon for $50. Therefore your number is bunk.

    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.

  16. Forcing ISPs to cut off their customers on the basis of three unproven complaints about piracy is a really bad idea. Did it never occur to you that Evony could have three of it’s affiliates make complaints about piracy regarding your own Internet connection? That would have been a very effective way of silencing you and not triggered the Streisand effect.

    Claims about massive losses are made continually by the recording industry. But their revenues and profits keep increasing. All similar arguments will be regarded with great skepticism.

    In many cases anti-piracy technologies encourage piracy! If you had a DVD of a recent movie and an MP4 which would you rather watch? Would you prefer to be forced to watch some anti-piracy rubbish for a couple of minutes at the start of the movie (with fast-forward disabled) or would you prefer to just start watching it? Would you prefer to be able to pre-program the sections of the movie that you watch (as some parents want to skip the sex and/or violence in movies for their teenagers) or would you prefer to be forced to watch the movie straight-through with only a manual fast-forward to skip sections? Would you prefer to have a DVD that can’t be played properly on many (most?) computers because of the CSS encoding or an MP4 that plays on everything from PCs to mobile phones without an issue? I think that in most cases a pirate MP4 will give a better experience than a DVD.

    I’ve started watching content from sites such as blip.tv (in the little time I have for such things) and I only play games that are part of the Debian distribution of Linux (free software).

  17. 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.

    From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:

    Theft \Theft\ (th[e^]ft), n. [OE. thefte, AS.
    [thorn]i[‘e]f[eth]e, [thorn][=y]f[eth]e, [thorn]e[‘o]f[eth]e.
    See {Thief}.]
    1. (Law) The act of stealing; specifically, the felonious
    taking and removing of personal property, with an intent
    to deprive the rightful owner of the same; larceny.
    [1913 Webster]

    Note: To constitute theft there must be a taking without the
    owner’s consent, and it must be unlawful or felonious;
    every part of the property stolen must be removed,
    however slightly, from its former position; and it must
    be, at least momentarily, in the complete possession of
    the thief. See {Larceny}, and the Note under {Robbery}.
    [1913 Webster]

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

  19. The problem with this debate is that we’ve got a big gap between the two positions, each overstating their case. The “Owners” (i.e. the companies who extorted the copyright from the actual artists) complain about all these lost sales, as if every copy could ever be converted to money, and they pretend that it’s ‘theft’ where it’s actually just ‘(illegal) copying’. The hard-core anti-copyright lobby, on the other hand, complains about copyright monopolies stifling expression, ripping off artists (see the Canadian record companies case currently in the courts) and greedily demanding money for every use fair or foul.

    Most of us exist between these two extremes. Most people buy DVDs and CDs and books, but they also copy these same media when it suits them – when the copied media is easier to use or more available than the legitimate version. Most people want to pay a small but reasonable amount for what they use, but hate it when corporations try to step in and be the gatekeeper or prevent uses which people see to be “fair” (e.g. showing a movie to friends, making a mix tape, putting music on a home video, etc.) When the choice is between not having the thing at all – say a CD or a record no longer in print – and copying it “illegally”, a lot of people will choose the latter.

    In this age of perfect digital copies that leave the original intact, there is no excuse any more for not distributing any and all media available. There is no excuse for region locking, for no-skip zones in media, for differing costs between countries and markets. There is no excuse for games which lock certain features down, make their owners’ computers vulnerable to other attacks (the Sony CD debacle, anyone?) or deliberately limit people’s ability to use their purchase.

    Making outrageous claims of billions in damages or calling copying ‘theft’ only hurts your position.

    Have fun,


  20. @MuckMoe

    I misunderstood your statement “I am the artist but do i ever recieve a check from the
government , never.” so I understand your complaint. I did say in my second point that if you think the levy is unfair, petition it. However, your first and second point are confusing. Why are you complaining about the levy in the first case and yet say you don’t think the levy is wrong? It would be impossible for the CPCC to only collect taxes on discs that are to be used for personal backups on music. Please demonstrate a method that would allow the CPCC to only collect the levy for discs that would be used for personal backups.

    Yes I have illegally downloaded copyrighted material for a variety of reasons, none of which would fall under Fair Use. What is your point? That this somehow invalidates Bruce’s or my argument? That is an ad hominen argument. Discussing the economical implications of internet boot-legging is not “throwing stones”, so stop using that metaphor.

    Fair Use is not a “loop hole”, it is an extension of the right to free speech. More specifically, it protects those who would criticize another’s commercial works. How could criticisms be possible if they could not demonstrate a point using source material?

    @Russell Coker

    I am in agreement with you. This is not theft and thus the term “internet piracy” is incorrect. The correct term is bootlegging software, which is the act of illegally copying and distributing software.

    @Dissenters in general

    I am not in disagreement with you that Bruce is incorrect on several of his points. Many of his points are either impossible to implement or may have no effect on the situation. However, I do disagree with this odd notion that companies are not allowed to protect their IP and products from bootleggers, though their current methods are draconian and usually ineffective.

    If you feel that strongly about it, don’t purchase or bootleg the product. In a capitalist society, the best way to disagree with a companies practices is to “vote with one’s dollar.” All bootlegging does is encourage companies to continue their anti-bootlegging campaigns as they DO see every illegal copy as a loss of profit. Bootlegging sends the message that if someone can get something for free, they will*.

    If enough people don’t purchase their products, eventually businesses will either have to change their practices or fall into ruin. It really is as simple as that.

    *This is true for about one-third of the people. See Radiohead’s and 2D Boy’s “Name Your Price” experiment. Roughly one-third of the people payed nothing (or as close to nothing) for the music/software.

  21. I work for an ISP, and handle the majority of DMCA complaints that come our way. We dont police the internet, the owners of the property seem to do that quite nicely though and send us of the IP’s of those attempting the theft. Users get 2 warnings and then a permanent ban from our service. it sure is gratifying to scare the thieves and show them that yes, somebody is in fact watching you steal, and yes, you can get in trouble for it. I’ve closed a few accounts, but never seen the publishers take legal action so far.

  22. “Grandmother, what great arms you have!”

    “That is to hug you the better, my dear.”

    “Grandmother, what great ears you have!”

    “That is to hear you the better, my dear.”

    “Grandmother, what great eyes you have!”

    “That is to see you the better, my dear.”

    “Grandmother, what a great mouth you have!”

    “That is to eat you up,” cried the wicked wolf; and immediately he fell upon poor Little Red-Riding-Hood, and ate her up in a moment.

    Thanks for the article, Grandma…

  23. I’m not a big reader, but I’ve read a lot more since getting into downloading books off torrent sites. You want to know how many books I’ve downloaded? More than I could ever hope to read.

    You want to know how many of those I read (more than a chapter)? 10.

    And how many of those did I purchase after reading? 8, with 2 I have finished in the last two weeks and not yet purchased.

    And how many did I buy without reading completely, just so I could have a paper copy to read? 3.

    So when I buy the next 2 I will have purchased 13 books that I first downloaded off of torrent sites.

    How many of these books would I have bought if I hadn’t been able to download them off torrent sites? 0.

    And I can honestly say that because I am a cheap, lazy reader. I want to get something for my money. But if you think I’ve stolen something you go on thinking that. The minute someone prevents me from downloading books from torrent sites is the minute they stop getting my money.

    That is not to say that this is the same with the game downloaders and others who do not purchase. But please don’t paint us all with the same brush.

    And please reconsider your definition of the term “theft”. I find it lacking.

  24. first, let me tell about where i’m coming from. i am a long time gamer that has also worked in the video game industry. i am high supportive of the medium and highly critical of the industry.

    yes, Bruce, i agree that downloading something that has a price without paying for it is stealing. the culprits deserve a day in court.

    in truth, the legal difficulties in arresting people for downloads lies in the hands of the industry. the key is the difference between owning a product and licensing a work (far more complex); the industries (video game, music, movie) want the best protection of both worlds.

    an example of owning a product is buying a book. i can give that book away, lend it and sell it as i wish. if the book is destroyed, i do not have the right to a replacement.

    an example of licensing a work is buying licensed software. if lost or broken, i can download a replacement copy. however, i cannot give away a copy, since i don’t actually own a copy; the license must be transferred to another user.

    the industries want the protection of both. they want it so that the consumer does not ‘own’ their game or DVD, only a ‘license’; this allows the industry to prevent used sales and otherwise control the life span of their product. however, they do not want the consumer to have any right to backup or have access to replacements when the physical media becomes broken or otherwise unusable. there are many other examples.

    because of this inconsistency, digital copies of games cannot be classified as a concrete type of property. this case is actually not stealing; it is making an unauthorized copy of a work, which is illegal. an even larger problem is determining the effect on the market and fitting punishment.

    i also disagree with the methods that you recommend to deal with this.

    1. you assume that all the thieves have low morality. having been a teacher for quite a while as well, i know that having low, even insulting, expectations of students accomplishes nothing. you would do better to educate them on the economics of the situation. for example, if a game company that i work for makes a lot less than expectations and budget, that company could lay off myself and others. less games for a console means less consoles produced as well. in all cases, people, such as their family and themselves, lose jobs (though executives do fine; this is a rant for another time). as a side note, regardless of how many millions that a game makes for a publisher, almost all developers see zero windfall.

    in addition, there are other reasons for piracy. for example, it has been well reported that in places like Brazil, the XBox360 and games cost an astonishing amount (eg. USD$1400 http://kotaku.com/213809/brazilians-will-pay-1400-for-the-xbox-360). though not an excuse, another reason is the current recession and the constant pushing of a ‘need’ for certain video games being rammed down the throats of people.

    2. actually having had a single golden opportunity to speak with a few people involved in early console design, they never mentioned piracy once in the reasons for creating a console. they were meant as computer-powered toys for the average consumer with low production costs at the cost of power and versatility. instead of being powerful and multipurpose like the computers of hobbyists, they were simple and easy to use.

    proprietary formats, such as cartridges, arose because few existing formats would allow for random access and were often very costly. the ‘piracy protection’ was an unintended consequence. the use of the CD to carry data, a very cheap media with fast random reading, marked the near end of cartridges.

    don’t even get me started on copy protection and rootkits. a company’s product should never break other products. full stop.

    3. i do think that alternative models have already started to show that there are other methods. however, the ones you mentioned only really apply well to online games. personally, i think rental shops such as Gamefly and digital distributors such as Steam are the future.

    a good number of the music CDs, DVDs and games that i buy have some sort of special packaging and bonus materials, which are things that don’t come with an illegal download. when a game actually removes certain wildly popular aspects in a port to a different system, that is the opposite of an incentive to buy.

    4. are you willing to give up your rights to privacy in an ISP and allow government agencies and companies free access to your information without a court issued warrant? i think this is a clear violation of due process as well as a case of assumption of guilt before innocence.

    5. do you really want to see RIAA style blanket lawsuits against possible infringers? due to the similarity of the piracy process in these instances, that is how this kind of thing would act out. if you want to know fair, ask Mavis Roy, who was put through the ringer even though she didn’t own a computer (settled for zero dollars).

    6. what type of government action do you want?

    also, game development will continue to suffer, but the thieves are not the reason. just ask anyone that has worked for EA.

    until developers/artists/writers/voice actors/etc get proper respect and reimbursement for their efforts, games will suffer.

    until executives and marketers stop pandering to an adolescent view of sexuality and other mature themes, games will suffer.

  25. “If I fancied a new Ferrari and went and stole it the police would show a great interest. However is someone steals a game that I publish, using torrents, they aren’t interested. Yet the Ferrari and the game are both the result of people’s labour.”

    That doesn’t make copyright infringement “theft”, no matter how often the IP industry tries to claim it is.

    Here’s a better idea: stop screwing your customers over. Stop ripping off those in some markets as opposed to others. Never implement any kind of region coding ever again. Pass the savings of digital distribution on to consumers. Don’t make legitimate purchasers hunt around on piracy sites to find NO-DVD cracks so they can enjoy their game as much as a pirate. Don’t lock content away on a disc so you can sell it to consumers later as “DLC”.

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

    If copyright is being abused – as it has been since it was taken over by corporations – then governments should stop spending public money enforcing it.

    (And, while we’re on the subject, copyright terms for computer software are absurdly long. There’s a huge amount of “abandonware” being lost forever because it’s got no current commercial value but it’s still technically piracy to preserve it.)

  26. Sorry – my point with your Ferrari “analogy” is that it’s not an analogy at all. A Ferrari is a piece of property. If it’s stolen, it is physically TAKEN AWAY from the owner.

    IP infringement only removes a hypothetical right, that being to sell that product to the infringer. If they were never going to buy it anyway, you’ve lost nothing.

  27. This is not THEFT it is PIRACY there is a significant moral and legal distinction. In theft an object is stolen, piracy merely copies the original. Your article is sensationalist and one sided therefore making you a very bad journalist. I suggest you open your mind and perhaps discuss the deeper underlying issues.

  28. I think what needs to be reevaluted is the way games are marketed and distributed. There really needs to be more of an emphasis on why the legitmate copy is better to own than the pirated, and not in a ’shame on you’ fashion either. But no matter what steps are taken, it is still implausible to think that piracy can ever be completely eradicated.

  29. @ed – actually, it’s copyright infringement. If you’re going to try to take others to book for getting it wrong, make sure YOU get it right.

  30. For the convenience of all the pirates, I have created the following handy checklist to assist you with your posts. Just check all the excuses that apply to your piracy:

    __ The game is too expensive to buy, so I steal it.
    __ I would not have bought it anyway, so I might as well steal it.
    __ It does not match the legal definition of “stealing” and “theft” anyway.
    __ The game was not good enough to prevent me from stealing it.
    __ There were not enough extras with the game to prevent me from stealing it.
    __ It is the game developers’ fault that I must steal.
    __ It is the publishers’ fault that I must steal.
    __ It is the world economy’s fault that I must steal.
    __ Johnny steals, so why shouldn’t I?

  31. the whole thing is poppycock. people will damn “pirates” from their high horse, yet never mention second hand sales. go check to see how gamestop is doing with their pre-owned games charade. most of their profit is allll from buying used games from consumers for 5-10 bucks and reselling for 5-10 dollars less than a brand new copy. with no profit gained by the publisher.

    meh, there is sooo much that can be said. also, guys, dont bother explaining “well this game is this way, so they deserve it” to the author of this site. he is in no way a gamer and he looks at it all from the outside w/ no real understanding. he works with “marketing” in games. all he does is try to sell games and make more money for the publisher or COURSE he wants piracy to die.

  32. That’s not what the critics of the industry’s “copyright infringement is THEFT DAMMIT THEFT THEFT THEFT STEALING THEFT” bullshit are saying, Evan.

    Nice misrepresentation of the argument.

  33. Selling a game you have legally paid for is not wrong, either legally or criminally, providing you don’t retain a copy of that game once you’ve sold it.

    The trouble is, both digital downloads and games that need online authorisation and tie themselves then to one user or one machine permenently make further sales of that legitimately paid for game difficult if not impossible for the person who has paid good money for it in the first place. This is morally totally wrong, and should be illegal, but in England at least, the honest man has few rights (despite what we’re told by he hypocrates who misgovern us).

    And yes, it’s also morally wrong that shops buy used games cheaply then sell them at nearly full price, or alledgedly sometimes even sell them AS being new.

    Of course, if games were produced that had enough longevity and replayability to make the player’s want to play them for months afterwards, then there would be almost no used copies being sold for months afterwards. But instead we get given games with ever shorter single player modes, with unlockables that no on cares about, and generic multiplayer modes with no bots, and few options, that are dependant on finding good and dedicated people on-line to play with.

    Wwe don’t want unlockable interviews with the designers, or gamerpoints that serve no purpose other than bragging rights for twelve year olds, etc – give us unlockable levels, unlockable configuration options of in game aspects, unlockable bonuses that allow us to replay the game in new ways, etc. There’s nothing new in that, it’s all been done before, and adds immensely to the game, so why not add these features to all games?

    And all multiplayer modes should have fully configurable bots (computer controlled enemies) as an option. Otherwise you are dependent on finding people who want to play not only the same game as you, but also the same level and with the same game settings. Not so difficult in the early days of a popular game, admittedly, but as time goes on, people migrate to later games, and if the game is a poor seller anyway, then there’s proportinately less chance of you finding anyone to play the game with. And since the players you meet on line are all but anonymous, they are free to unleash the worst of their natures, if they so choose. The online gaming world has lots of racist/bullying/obscene/immature etc people, taking advantage of their safety from retaliation, so that they can safely ruin games and insult people from the security of their own bedrooms.

    And even if you find someone to play the game properly, they might be much too good or too bad at the game for you, they might get angry when losing, or just bored, and log off, they might misunderstand the gaming rules, or not wish to play properly (finding it more fun to shoot their own team mates, or ignore what’s best for the team and go and do something else ingame that they find more fun, etc).

    Well written, intelligent, definable bots, can give you all but the best experiences of playing with real people, and they don’t cheat, they don’t log off to do something else, they do what you tell them to, they play whatever game mode and whatever setting you choose, and they take the game seriously, and play it properly and at the skill levels you select. Bots can be used to pad out games when there are too few humans playing, and can be used to even out discrepancies between the skill levels of humans, either by adding better bots to the less skilled human(s)’ team, or by pitting the humans against bots, thereby letting all humans fight on the same side.

    Any game with a multiplayer mode should have bots, and they should be fully definable, be able to play all of the game modes, use all weapons, and should each have individual settings such as skill, playing style, appearance, etc. That way the multiplayer mode would always be available, even for one person, on one machine with no online connection.

    Actually, Bruce, maybe you should write an article on why games producers don’t put bots in most games anymore?

  34. @ Common Sense: I was not judging the pirates — I was just trying to make it easier for them to list their excuses. I re-read your comments, and I think your reasons are in the list. If not, just add yours to the handy checklist.

  35. @JDoran: I like your points about the lack of bots in modern games. I find that the old games I go back to time-after-time have bots. Bots provide a lot of the advantages of online multiplayer play without the worst of the disadvantages. In fact, really good bot AI, which should be achievable with modern consoles, should provide an experience that is more consistent and generally superior to online multiplayer. But this, sadly, has not happened.

  36. “How they justify this appalling lack of moral fibre to themselves is beyond me.”

    If I like what I download, I support it and buy the original CD / DVD, and collector’s edition if I can find it. I own a pretty big games collection, from oldies to new titles, across several platforms. I’ve probably downloaded about an equal number of games, if not more, and I’m not sorry. Not one bit.

    And here’s why.

    First, 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.

    Second, I like to try something before I buy it. A new game comes out, and the Internet is abuzz. Before I spend my hard-earned $40, or $60, or w/e, I want to make sure I’ll enjoy it. I’m a college student, and therefore poor. (I can already hear the crowd chiming “Excuses, excuses…” at the back — say what you want, it’s still the truth). For all the hype in specialty media, a lot of heavily-advertised games either suck or just aren’t my cup of tea. I’d rather buy something I enjoy.

    Finally, some of the games I want are simply not available where I live, and having them shipped from overseas would triple the price. (Refer to point two). (“But Chris, if you can’t afford it, then don’t play!” says the crowd. Let me think about it… mmmmmnope.)

    In this day and age, p2p doesn’t hurt the industry as much as companies claim. It’s doubtful any and every downloader would’ve bought the game if they couldn’t get it for free anywhere else. True fans will buy; the rest of the crowd moves on.

    Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes here, but IMHO, torrenting and p2p are actually helpful in measuring how popular a game REALLY is. Let’s lose those $$ signs for a second and dig a little deeper. If people torrent it like mad AND sales are also good, then it has a loyal fanbase. And that’s always a good thing.

  37. Maybe game developers should stick to making games that customers are actually willing to pay for(multiplayer, MMRPG, micropayment games, educational games for schools, children’s games)? They should satisfy their customers, not their players which obviously isn’t the same thing these days. Why invest millions of dollars and years of work into game only to see posts on forums like “damn that game sucked, luckily I didn’t pay for it”.

    And price does matter. Only HC players are willing to pay 50 – 60 dollars for a new FPS that is quickly played through. I’m not saying that it would justify illegal downloads, but when Steam was selling games for 2 – 20 euros during holiday season, Modern Warfare 2’s 60 euro price tag wasn’t too welcoming.

    Even the 1st Modern Warfare is still 50 euros. Maybe if it is 20 euros after MW 3 comes out, I’ll give it a go, neh?

  38. FailChris, 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.

    Instead of selling their games for reasonable prices, they instead try to combat the pirates, which is not only pre-doomed to failure, but actually hurts the honest user.

    I mean, we all know that if a game sells in a shop for £40, then the shop gets £20, on average, right? By the time the distributor, the taxman and the cost of the packaging and media are subtracted (though admittedly the packaging and media costs are very small nowadays) then the games company might get £5. And less than £1 of this goes to the people who actually worked on the game (it’s split between the programmers, the designers, the artists, etc). The vast majority of the £5 goes to the board members, towards advertising and other expenses.

    Admittedly, this is a breakdown from the Atari ST market, so it’s nearly twenty years old, but I don’t doubt that it’s still correct. I’ve not seen a modern day breakdown of the sales cost, but no doubt only an eight or so of the retail cost, on average, goes to the company, and less than 20% of that £5 goes to the people who actually played any part in the making of the game.

    And since the software house only gets £5 per game that’s sold commercially for £40, then if the software house sold the game themselves to the consumer for £5 a time then they’d lose nothing, as they’d simply be bypassing the distributors and shops.

    And so, when Valve released Half-Life 2, both over Steam (as a direct download) and as a commercial product in a shop, they could have offered the game as a £5 download, instead of the £40 or whatever it cost in the shop, and still have made just as much profit on each sale of a downloaded version as they did on a retail version. In fact they’d have made much more, as the £5 price point would have encouraged far more people to risk buying a game they might not have liked.

    Instead they charged the same price for the downloaded version as they did for the retail version. Pure greed.

    Not only that, they “locked” the game, so that you couldn’t run it without first logging onto the Steam server to play it.

    This meant that if you didn’t have a net connection, then you couldn’t play the game you’d just paid £40 for at the shop! Pirates, of course, had a version with the protection removed, and so didn’t have to log on at all, and didn’t even need a ‘net connection.

    Oh, and there were a *lot* of unhappy customers, who at first couldn’t log on to play the game, as Valve’s servers couldn’t handle the number of people attempting to log on.

    So, you could pay £40 for a downloaded version, or pay £40 for a retail version, and then you couldn’t play it if you didn’t have a ‘net connection, and even if you did for the first few days it was problematic getting your game to run.

    And you can’t resell your £40 game when you tire of it. like you can with your older games. The digital downloads of course, are simply files on your computer, so you wouldn’t expect to be able to (which makes the £40 price point even more insulting – fair enough for a £5 download that’s limited to you, but for a £40 purchase you should be allowed to resell it as long as you don’t then keep a copy yourself), but you can’t sell the game DVD you bought from a shop either, as it is now registered to you, on your computer. This actual situation differs from game to game, but the DRM hurts the legitimate user to one degree or another, by not only preventing him from playing the game he paid good money for on whatever machine he wants, as DRM ridden games can dictate which machine(s) they limit you to, but you can’t sell the game when you finish with it as no-one else can register it to play with it.

    Or you could pay £5 at the local car boot sale for a cracked copy of the game, or download it for free if you had a fast connection, and then you could play the full game anywhere, on any PC, with no hassle.

    Can you blame ANYONE for being tempted to pirate it? Why should the honest user be penalised not only by having to endure a stupid system designed to fight piracy, but also to have to endure that system when he knows full well that that system isn’t even encountered by the pirates, as they have a version of the game stripped of the protection system?

    Instead of coming up with ways to defeat the pirates, which will never work as they can be all broken (at most they slow the release of a game by a day or two, whilst the protection is cracked), and which only serves to cost the company money and to inconvenience the legitimate user at no real cost to the pirate, companies should concentrate on making games cheaper to buy, as then people will be much more likely to purchase them. Yes, there will always be people who will steal a copy even if the original only costs a few pence, but most people who would copy a £40 game would buy it for £5. And if the companies only get £5 per sale retail on a £40 anyway, then they should charge £5 per digital download.

    That would cut piracy massively. Not ever more ridiculous, expensive, intrusive (to the legitimate user only) protection that can (and is) cut from the pirated distributions within a very short while.

  39. Lets be real, how many times in the news is there something about shady business practices? And how many shady business practices don’t we hear about? Consumers have been able to fraud businesses, but never on a scale like this before.

    Piracy (which I take to be for ones own use) and bootlegging (which I take to be for cheap resale) have changed the nature of information completely, and like it or not there is no going back. This means that anyone who tries to make a business out of information is going to be hit with piracy in one form or another.

    But it reflects that information is so freaking cheap nowadays its scary. We’re flooded with it 24/7, and expecting all consumers to pay top dollar for a product that theoretically has no scarcity is wishful thinking.

    Anything digitized can become as plentiful as oxygen in an instant. And in a society that constantly desires more of everything, this kind of piracy should be expected.

    Point is, calling people thieves and scoundrels and lawbreakers will not stop anything at all, nor will strict information control because information cannot be controlled indefinitely. Even the tightest information controls that humanity has thought of do not work after extended periods of time. The fact that so many people are “breaking the law” goes to show that the current kinds of thinking is outdated and has to be changed, and quickly if anyone is to respect digital law.

  40. 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,……


  41. I’d say 2nd hand games are worse. Piracy isn’t exactly lost sales. People who steal will most likely not buy the product if forced to. But then there are people who would rather save $1 or $2 and pirate than pay for the product. That is a lost sale.

    2nd hand sales do take away from sales though. A person who is about to pay for the product goes to the counter, requests a new copy and is told they can save on a 2nd hand version. The store, who simply stocks the product profits. The publisher, who pays the wages of the dev’s, gets zilch and nil on a sale.

  42. Those crazy table manufacturers. Every time a table is sold at a yard sale, they don’t get a penny.

    My point is, reselling is a fact of life, complaining about it doesn’t fix it. One good solution is to make games with good replayability, then people don’t want to get rid of it.

  43. Governments steal from people. people need to steal to survive. Only anarchists should not download pirated software. Those who accept paying taxes, having an identity card and obeying the rules of economy should not complain when someone steals something from them. This is the society you live in, if you accept the nice things, prepare yourself for its vices. Sir, you are owned. seedorf1905@gmail.com

  44. I’m really sorry, but I’ve just skimmed through your (interesting) comments guys …

    As far as France is concerned, Hadopi (the law presumably “enforced” in France) is actually not enforced 🙂 If you look at
    wikipedia (and if you live in France btw), The (Constitutional) council found that the law violated the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and in particular presumption of innocence, separation of powers and freedom of speech.

    In my humble opinion, I think adding more and more protections on products is not the way to go. As an example, Spore was simultaneously full of DRM and the most pirated game ever. The more you protect, the more you are attacked. Although I do not have a big background in the entertainment (music, games, …) industry, I think Steam and iTunes are on a good way to bring pirates back to legality with reasonable prices.

  45. I’d just like to add my two cents, as a person who makes it a point to buy games:

    In the past, I suffered from different DRM software that was supposed to protect games from piracy (but didn’t), and as a result I now always check what kind of protection comes with a game. I skipped a few titles for this very reason.

    My ISP’s P2P filtering is tampering with online gaming – a legitimate activity – as well as torrent downloads. I had to personally call the company several times just to be able to connect to a certain digital content distributor (Rhymes with ‘theme’), until they could sort out the problems, and there are certain times in a week where I am completely unable to play with friends who use other ISPs.

    My point is that from the technical side, the ‘solutions’ are not solving the problem, and are creating others for legitimate customers. That contributes to a general feeling of “if you’re paying for this you got screwed twice” where I live, and for a lot of people that’s enough of a reason to go pirate a game.
    I sure wouldn’t mind to know that a product I paid good money for is not being downloaded for free, but so far I haven’t seen a single game that didn’t get cracked, and a good technical protection should take into consideration what hassles it creates for valid customers.

  46. any one know where i can get a cracked version of modern warfare 2 i’ve downloaded a version but i need a crack to play cheers guys

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