Will good come from the huge piracy of Modern Warfare 2?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has broken records for game sales. So it’s only natural that it’s also the most-pirated game of 2009, according to downloads measured by TorrentFreak.

Activision’s Modern Warfare 2 was the most pirated game on the PC and the Xbox 360 this year. And Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros. was the most pirated on the Wii. Modern Warfare 2 sold 4.7 million units in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in its first 24 hours. But the pirates managed to get their hands on copies of the game before it went on sale and distributed it on the torrent networks, as we noted in an earlier story on how private investigators tracked down a Modern Warfare 2 pirate.

torrentfreakThere were 4.1 million unauthorized downloads of the PC version and 970,000 for the Xbox 360. That’s more than double the number of pirated copies of Electronic Arts’ Spore, which was last year’s winner of the dubious honor of most-pirated game. But it’s interesting that Modern Warfare 2 went on to break all records, selling $550 million worth in its first five days.

Pirates download PC games most — three times as much as they download Xbox 360 and Wii releases. The data is collected by TorrentFreak from all public BitTorrent tracking systems.

No game publishers will say that game piracy is a good thing. But in places such as China, there are interesting things happening. Some games have been pirated for years in those markets. That establishes the brand name for those games among the game pirates. But when the markets mature and people are more willing to pay for games, particularly online versions of those games, the brand name recognition achieved through piracy starts to generate a financial return. Game executives such as Electronic Arts chief executive John Riccitiello have recognized this phenomenon and hope that it will lead to a long-term gain.

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