Most studies regarding video game piracy are funded by companies attempting to prove how widespread piracy is and how much money everyone is losing. There is actually very little objective information on precisely how widespread piracy is and what kind of behaviours lead consumers to pirate one title over the other. This new study by Anders Drachen set out to provide a more accurate snapshot and ended up dispelling some of the widespread myths of video game piracy.
One of these misconceptions is to do with how widespread piracy is. According to Drachen, the numbers previously reported were too high. Drachen doesn't claim that piracy isn't widespread and that it isn't an issue, simply that numbers haven't been reported accurately. According to the report that has to do with taking 'snapshots' of pirate activity. If you take that snapshot immediately after a game's release it tends to over-exaggerate precisely how much pirate activity is actually taking place.
The report found that piracy is usually focused on very few specific titles. The 10 most popular title accounted for 41.8% of activity, which is astounding. The ten most torrented games, over a period of three months from late 2010 to 2011, were Fallout: New Vegas, Darksiders, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, NBA 2k11, TRON Evolution, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Starcraft 2, The Force Unleashed 2, Two Worlds II and The Sims 3: Late Night.
There were a couple of common sense conclusions that were interesting: metacritic score tends to have an influence on what is downloaded, whilst genre has less of an impact than initially thought. There also may be some issue with ratings. Games rated 'M' and 'T' by the ESRB make up a majority of pirated games.
You can read the full report here.