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. @ 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.

  2. @ Joey

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

  3. 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.

  4. “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.

  5. 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.

  6. “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.

  7. @Bruce

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. @Bruce

    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.

  10. @FishyHat

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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. 😛

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. >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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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


  18. Part 3

    … committed piracy on public domain.


  19. @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…


    Wake up

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