My Pirate, My Friend

Piracy, the video game industry's multi-billion dollar problem, may have met its match.

The solution to the illegal copying of video games perhaps isn't a law enforcement task force or volley of lawsuits, but the legitimisation of the act itself.

Last week news broke that The Pirate Bay, one of the largest websites in the world dedicated to the illegal downloading of video games, was being purchased by a business group in Sweden with plans on turning the site into a purely legal operation.

Global Gaming Factory X doesn't plan on stopping the downloading of video games, but rather hopes to make enough money to pay the publishers for those downloads.

"We would like to introduce models which entail that content providers and copyright owners get paid for content that is downloaded via the site, " Hans Pandeya, CEO Global Gaming Factory, said in a prepared statement. "The Pirate Bay is a site that is among the top 100 most visited Internet sites in the world. However, in order to live on, The Pirate Bay requires a new business model, which satisfies the requirements and needs of all parties, content providers, broadband operators, end users, and the judiciary."

The news comes just months after a nine-day trial against Stockholm-based Pirate Bay found four guilty of making copyright content available. The four were sentenced to a year in prison each and were fined more than $US3 million.

While heralded by the Entertainment Software Association, the ruling and even the possible closure of The Pirate Bay would likely have little lasting impact on piracy. That's because it doesn't address the people pirating games, just those making it easier to do so.

Billy Pidgeon, an analyst with Game Changer Research, feels that piracy can only really be dealt with by some meeting of the minds.

"I hate to hear the industry talking about how they have to crush piracy, throwing down the gauntlet," Pidgeon said. "The last thing the industry wants to do is alienate their customer base."

People saying that they deserve to take a game for free, Pidgeon adds, is just as absurd.

That's why Pidgeon was so delighted to hear Electronic Arts' reaction to news of their game, The Sims 3, being pirated.

Three weeks before the game was released for sale, it showed up on pirate sites.

John Riccitiello, the head of EA, told Kotaku that they were initially very nervous about the leaked title.

But because the game relies so heavily on online play, something EA can control, gamers who grabbed an early, free version of the title didn't get the full experience, only a taste.

In the end, Riccitiello said, EA decided to think of it as the publisher putting out a really good demo of the game, instead worrying over lost sales.

"That's great, I love to hear them talk like that," Pidgeon said of EA's take on the issue. "Super distribution (like piracy networks) can be turned into an advantage. It's not necessarily lost sales."

In other words, when you can't beat them, use them.

Well Played is a weekly opinion column about the big news of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Feel free to join in the discussion.


    This is the best solution and reaction to piracy that I've heard of. I do hope it works out well.

      Would piracy be so rife if games were priced more reasonably? It will always exist, but decreased game prices would also decrease piracy.

        Bullshit... I download games and music because I can..

        I can buy a game for $50 or a CD single for $2 Ill still pirate it because I can..

        "You wouldn't steal a car" - I would If I could download one..

        First i'm not going to go on about how its not really 'stealing' because you're not depriving them of a physical object that they can't sell later blah blah..

        The point is that i download the odd game or two, but i wouldn't if i games were a little more reasonably priced. Here in Australia, it costs me $110 for a new Xbox 360 or a PS3 game. I have to wait at least three years before it'll drop to something more like $60-$80. In the states it only costs about $50, i have little to say about this aside from the fact that its ridiculous.

        Once i worked out the exact differences in prices. Take games from EA (these are old mind you) Medal of Honour (airborne) cost $99.99 in Australia in the US it cost $21.15. After converting from US to AU currency is $22.06. Which is a difference of $78.84. Can you believe that? Australians pay $78.84 EXTRA for EXACTLY the same game, bought directly from the EA site.

        How about steam, its entirely digital, should be cheaper right..?

        Call Of Duty 4, Australian $88.50, $52.99 US.. After converting from US to AU currency its about $55.35, how much do i end up paying EXTRA? Thats right. $35.51.

        Adobe is the worst. Photoshop CS3 (Full) costs $1619.00 AU, it costs $1058.89 US, after converting currencies its about$1105.06. How next extra do i pay? $506.11.

        Thats all i'm going to say.

    I'm confused. How exactly are they planning on making money? They've said they want to make everyone happy, and that's great, but how?
    Their user-base consists of people who know they can just find another tracker site and get what ever The Pirate Bay is offering for free, and are already at peace with their decision to do so. Even if they're delivering a quality service (on the level of say, Demonoid) they are going to have to compete with other trackers doing it for free.

    I can't help but think their 'new business model' is going to turn out to be iTunes with the users replacing dedicated download servers.

    [Don't get me wrong, I'm all for thinking outside the box when it comes to a compromise between piracy and developers getting paid. I just don't understand how this is going to meant to work.]

      Again, all for this...
      As I see it, the advertising revenue from the site (massive traffic = large advertising revenue) would pay for/subsidise the transactions but there is no way that this will meet the expectations of the studios given the volume of material adn the current retail price.
      I wonder where the extra money would come from.
      I think what is more interesting is how they will manage banned games.
      As an illegal site, an Australian can aquire R rated games from UK etc and still play them, where a legitimate site will be bound by the pathetic (27yo gamer here) MA15+. I still see these customers either shopping or DL this from elsewhere.

    One thing publishers need to do is put more of their old games onto services like Steam. If I had to choose between hunting through shops in a vain hope of finding some 5-10 year old game, or just downloading the damned thing, I know which one I'd choose. Make games easier to get = a lot more sales from lazy people.

    Oh, and people don't want to pay for broken games, either. I'll mention again how I HAD to download patches meant for the pirated version of Dawn of War 2 to get my legitimate retail version to work. That's just completely absurd. Once burnt, twice shy...

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