Why is the Industry Doing Nothing to Combat Piracy?

This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.


I'm not a fan of piracy. Quite frankly, if somebody has the means to legitimately purchase something, be it a physical good or some sort of media, said person should do so. Pirating something you can buy, in my eyes, constitutes theft.

So why isn't the game industry doing anything to stop it? I'm not saying to shut down torrents, The Pirate Bay, or a ton of other file-sharing sites; there's still plenty of legitimate uses going on there. No, what I'm wondering is why the industry seems bent on punishing legitimate users and driving them towards piracy. Can I cite an example? Indeed, I can, and you can too. Just walk into your local Gamestop (or equivalent) and look around. Try and figure out the average price of a new video game, and if it's about, oh, $60.00 USD, congratulations. You now understand (partially) why piracy is such a problem in 2011- games are simply far too expensive, and for this, a variety of reasons are given. Games, nowadays, can cost countless millions to produce, promote, etc., and this is often presented as an excuse for passing costs on to the consumer. The trouble is, it's possible to go see a few blockbuster movies in the course of a paycheck- but only a couple blockbuster games. I can understand how films keep their prices down: promotion, promotion, promotion. That's not to say that movies aren't pirated either, or that people who do pirate aren't going to pay anything- the evidence proves otherwise. Rather, most people tend to pay for things, but pirate a few, which I presume is either do to:

A. Budgetary constraints. They wouldn't have purchased it anyway, it's thus not really a lost sale, but it could also be…

B. Obscurity. Some people won't go see a movie they don't know about or fear that they'll dislike. This does represent a lost sale, since after the person pirates, plays or watches or listens, said person is highly unlikely to pay, even if s/he enjoyed whatever was pirated. This is also true for A.

These are just a couple of the reasons people pirate things, but don't they make a couple of solutions really obvious? Reduce prices.

Wait, is that too hard? No. No it's not. Do you know why? Because if the price of video games was cut in half, publishers would still be swimming in money, consumers might be more inclined to buy, and piracy might shrink. Can piracy be stopped? Not without destroying free speech in the process. Can piracy be discouraged into obscurity? Ah, that's a lot more likely. You know, publishers don't seem to give people much incentive to buy games, either. For example, why not include cool stuff for customers?

Why can't more publishers put more special, physical bonuses with games? The map comes with most copies of Skyrim, not just the collector's edition. And it's real cloth.

Seriously, I see a ton of awesome stuff coming in the collector's editions of so many games, but, aside from the obvious (the game) there's really no special incentive to take the ordinary game over whatever's available on The Pirate Bay.

Personally, I prefer to own a physical copy than digital, but I will buy digital content. Still, when I buy a physical copy, it's so much nicer to have something, even a little keychain that I'll gladly put on my ever-growing ring of keys and doo-dads than just the game and several flyers for upcoming shovelware.

The other problem, I find, is obscurity. What happens when a game that's already unpopular winds up massively pirated? Chances are, the developers will either stop making innovative games that don't get enough attention or lock them down with DRM, DRM that winds up getting cracked in the end and punishes legitimate customers with all sorts of hassles that I don't care to start talking about right now.

What can be done for these games? Why not make them those special little bonuses? This isn't to minimize the games, of course, but why not give them away with other games? That's a surefire way to get attention, and it's a win-win-win situation all around- the price of the "free"game can be built into the main game, the creator of the smaller game can make money from the sale of their own game with the bigger one, and the end result is that the smaller game gets a ton more exposure than it would have if it wasn't included. But is this a dumb idea that can't work? I don't think so. If you're familiar with the Humble Indie Bundle, a bunch of games that come out every so often, indie titles, then you'll know that you're able to set your own price. You may also know that if you pay the average, you get bonus games. But does this work? Yes, it does: I just bought the Humble Voxatron Bundle and payed the extra money for the extra games that they threw in. These bundles have given indie game developers millions of dollars for what could've been awesome, unknown games.

So back to my original question: Why isn't the industry doing anything to combat piracy? There's a lot more they can do, like rewarding legitimate buyers with cool swag, or dropping prices or even bundling games together. So why doesn't the industry make it better to buy? Look at Sony: their proposed Passport program, for the Playstation Vita, forces you to pay for your games twice. Because the Playstation Vita lacks a UMD drive, you can't just shove in your old PSP games or movies, you have to pay for them. Again. In spite of your owning own them. Right now, I think the best thing gamers can do is complain and actually carry out on their promises. I'm not advocating piracy (Sony is doing a good enough job of that already) but if the program is unfair, ignore it! The best thing they can do is have nothing to do with it, and make sure that they state clearly their reasons for doing. True, there are a couple rumours of little bonuses in the Passport program, but at current they're just rumours. I suppose it's unfair of me to bring up the Passport program when I know so little about it, but its disappointing to hear that it'll charge you twice for something you've already purchased with no promise of anything extra, no promise of anything special. That's saddening.

At the end of the day, all the gamers aren't as powerless as they're lead to believe- they can bring down (at least partially) piracy- DRM can't, but little bonuses and good incentives will help. So will the industry do anything to combat piracy? Maybe.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.00.11 PMGamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!
blog comments powered by Disqus

GamesBeat is your source for gaming news and reviews. But it's also home to the best articles from gamers, developers, and other folks outside of the traditional press. Register or log in to join our community of writers. You can even make a few bucks publishing stories here! Learn more.

You are now an esteemed member of the GamesBeat community. That means you can comment on stories or post your own to GB Unfiltered (look for the "New Post" link by mousing over your name in the red bar up top). But first, why don't you fill out your via your ?

About GamesBeat