EA CEO: “I Think Of Pirates As A Marketplace”

EA CEO: “I Think Of Pirates As A Marketplace”

John Riccitiello, the gaming-savvy head of Electronic Arts, doesn’t want anyone to pirate games. But those who do, he told Kotaku, present a new market that EA needs to make money from.


By selling people who grab games digitally — without paying for them — post-release downloadable content.

“They can steal the disc, but they can’t steal the DLC,” he said.

The opportunity to discuss how one of the world’s largest publishers might see software-pirating gamers as a potential revenue source emerged last week when Kotaku sat with Riccitiello for a wide-ranging interview about EA’s games and future.

Riccitiello spoke energetically about the popularity of the company’s downloadable content add-ons. Some of EA’s DLC has been free, such as the launch-day offerings of a new town in The Sims 3 or a nudity option in The Saboteur. Others, such as the paid DLC for November’s Dragon Age Origins, generated a million downloads in its first week, according to an EA spokesperson.

“The consumer seems to really like this idea that there is extra stuff,” Riccitiello said, while expressing surprise that some of this DLC is downloaded so soon after people start playing the games. “The consumer wants more, and when you give them more or sell them more it seems to be extremely well received.”

Some of the people buying this DLC are not people who bought the game in a new shrink-wrapped box. The could be seen as a dark cloud, a mass of gamers who play a game without contributing a penny to EA. But around that cloud Riccitiello identified a silver lining: “There’s a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace,” he said, pointing to DLC as a way to do it.

The EA boss would prefer people bought their games, of course. “I don’t think anybody should pirate anything,” he said. “I believe in the artistry of the people who build [the games industry.]I profoundly believe that. And when you steal from us, you steal from them. Having said that, there’s a lot of people who do.” So encourage those pirates to pay for something, he figures. Riccitiello explained that EA’s download services aren’t perfect at distinguishing between used copies of games and pirated copies. As a result, he suggested, EA sells DLC to both communities of gamers. And that’s how a pirate can turn into a paying customer.

Riccitiello also hopes some of those pirates will come around and become not just DLC purchasers, but game purchasers. He said the music industry erred in “demonising” its consumers rather than reacting to them. He believes that EA has an obligation to make it enticing for people to play games legitimately. And he hopes that services such as EA Sports’ community hub or the BioWare social site that hooks into Dragon Age will make it so alluring that it will be “increasingly less likely that people will pirate because there is so much value on the other side of the door.”

Until the pirates are converted there’s some DLC they can buy, if they want their game to be more fun and if they’d like to show the people who made the game a little more support.


  • Good to see someone working out ways on how to get money from people that pirate games, rather than just whinging about it….

    But, I don’t see how DLC is much harder to pirate. Steam games already get pirated, so how is DLC any more protected?

    • in the case of the xbox 360 for example… which isn’t a hard console to pirate as long as you are prepared to risk being banned from live… lol…

      DLC content is tied to the console and signed when downloaded… it can be played on other consoles only if the purchaser is signed into live… piracy of 360 DLC is pretty much non existant due to this fact

    • I’m guessing this is solely console-based discussion. As yes, it’s probably just as easy to pirate an add-on as it is the original game on PC (in most cases, so I’m told).

      I can’t say I know anything about console piracy as I only own a PS3. But perhaps on the 360 they have managed to secure the downloaded content somehow but the games themselves are still vulnerable.

  • Not to mention, if a defining reason for being a pirate could be that one does not agree with the current prices of video games, then there’s not a chance in hell they would want to pay for DLC

  • While everything else he says is true,

    “Some of the people buying this DLC are not people who bought the game in a new shrink-wrapped box. The could be seen as a dark cloud, a mass of gamers who play a game without contributing a penny to EA. But around that cloud Riccitiello identified a silver lining: “There’s a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace,” he said, pointing to DLC as a way to do it.”

    THIS is immoral. They are trying to milk more money of the second sale market. The way they do this, is they sell 90% of the game and give you the remaining 10% as ‘DLC’. Fair enough, it’s free and in the box. But when the owner wants to resell the game, they can only sell on 90%. So essentially, they only ever OWNED 90%. EA is retaining part of the product and only allowing the user to ‘borrow’. They sell a product that’s half-way between a physical object and a virtual one. It’s just plain immoral.

    Dragon age was released with half a dozen DLC content packs. All of them could be bought with the game as part of the retail package, but the content was never given to the user. There’s no line in the sand where this behaviour constitutes a fair deal. Unlike other games, EA are CLEARLY cutting up the final game into smaller, downloadable chunks.

    If they were actually pressing this onto the disc, and pressing the extras onto the CE disc, then the user would own the content and it wouldn’t be a problem. But that’s not what they’re doing.

    It’s immoral.

    • Well the future of gaming is going to be lovely, isn’t it?

      Once pirating is stiffled, they pretty much can raise the prices as they please, and not worry about profit loss. : /

    • yea but 5 of the 7 (i think) dlc were bonus items ant stuff blood dragon armour ETC only 2 were real DLC Shale and wardens keep i bought the game first hand so shale was free asnd wardens keep was like 9 bucks and in the grand schemem of thins its 9 dollars wardens keep being day one DLC was a bit cheap (shale doesnt fall into tbis cus that charictor is thier wsy of getting revinue from the secondary market) but atleas it wasnt like resident evil 5 day one DLC thats alreasdy on the disc you just download a 100KB unlock script

      • The RE5 DLC was not already on the disc. The DLC was bigger than 100k and it contained netcode for vs multiplayer. All of the art assets were already on the disc, but the DLC was a new game mode. It had nothing to do with the DLC reusing art assets off the disc.

  • This just makes sense from a business perspective. As an example, I did not purchase Fallout 3 but ended up buying all 5 DLC packs. Interesting to see what EA thinks of the recent ban wave with this in mind. If M$ stopped you from accessing XBL while using a DVD backup, that would still allow these ‘pirates’ to access and potentially purchase DLC/movies etc. As it stands, Most modded consoles have been banned – I know at least one that is still on live though, so most pirates/modders aren’t given the access to these services. M$ will lose out potentially on live subscriptions and EA and others will not have that customer base.

    • I agree somewhat… I can understand the business case from a second hand sales perspective but like you said, when most pirates are banned (sooner or later) and prevented from purchasing the material how can you make money from them.

      Besides, pirates dont pay for games, they steal them, this is what makes them pirates. Why does he or anyone think this will change???

    • That’s another problem with providing DLC this way. If XBL goes down you can’t use your extra content. And because of that, you probably can’t load your saves. Same thing happens in Dragon Age.

      Fallout 3, at least on the PC, put the DLC files onto your disk and lets you use them whenever you want; no connections required. And you have the option to purchase them on a retail disc and then have the capacity to re-sell it.

      But Fallout 3’s DLC wasn’t really to stop people reselling the game. Everyone would have had to pay for the DLC if they wanted it, whether they had a new OR used version of the game. EA on the other hand is retaining the reselling of content which SHOULD be on the disc. If people buying new copies of the disc are getting it for ‘free’ then really, it’s just part of the game. Part of the game which you don’t own.

  • well the absurd retail price of games is one thing. $110 for new 360/ps3 games? ripoff. i waited and bought modern warfare2, borderlands and dragon age for $48ea through the kmart sale and trading into jbhifi.

    i especially dont want to pay that much for a shit censored version of L4D2.

  • What has happened to the days when the whole game is on the disc… Makes me sad. So much simpler. Makes me like my NDS more.

    When I sit down to play a game I don’t want to spent 1/2 an hour updating the firmware, installing the game on the harddrive and buying DLC. I just wanna play the game.

Log in to comment on this story!