Whenever piracy is mentioned, people always whip out the argument that, if pirates actually like the game, they will totally purchase it in the future. For Stardew Valley, the latest game tearing up the Steam charts, that age-old saying might actually be true for some players.
Yesterday, as I was rounding up Steam reviews for farming simulator Stardew Valley, I came across this curious evaluation:
I wondered: how common was this phenomenon? So I looked up torrents for Stardew Valley, and dove into the comments. What were pirates saying about this game? What would I find?
The first thing I saw was the most obligatory type of comment:
Now, Stardew Valley isn't a huge title. SteamSpy estimates that there are a little over 100k legit owners total, and the biggest torrent online for Stardew Valley has only 130 comments. But, even so, it appears that the people pirating Stardew Valley think the game is so good, they're telling everyone else they are going to buy it. Heck, some people say that pirating the game was the exact thing that drove them to purchase the game legally:
There are also players who are taking the time to remind others to purchase the game, or are vouching that the game is worth buying:
You've got players troubleshooting how to carry over their savefiles from the pirated game to a legit copy:
You've got people writing comments with the assumption that others have bought the game:
And, most telling of all, you've got people who outright say they felt guilty for pirating the game — and that's why they ended up buying it:
You might think, OK, what's remarkable here? People always say piracy is a good thing because it leads to more sales, so, duh, of course people are saying this in Stardew Valley's comments. Well, no, actually. That's not necessarily how things play out for other games. For all the times people defend piracy in public spaces, when you look at actual torrents themselves, you don't always see a lot of people saying they're going to buy the game on the actual torrent. On a huge title like Fallout 4, you can scroll through all 1.6k comments of the biggest torrent around and only find a few people announcing that they're going to buy the game, and an even smaller number of people reminding others that they should support the developers by purchasing the game.
Most comments on any given game are people troubleshooting issues, trying to work out why a game won't run the way its supposed to. At best, a player might endorse a game as worth playing/pirating, not necessarily purchasing. And at worse, you have players in the comments trashing a game, telling others that whatever the developers are asking for isn't worth it — so, yeah, pirating would be 'justified.' Players who tell others to buy a game certainly exist on most game torrents, but Stardew Valley still seems to have more of these types of players than the average game.
It's particularly surprising because torrents are the last place where people need to defend the practice in the first place. If you're browsing a torrent, I'd wager changes are pretty damn good you're considering downloading a game. And you can probably assume that anybody else who is on there is likeminded enough that they won't judge you for being a pirate; you don't need to do the whole song and dance about the merits of piracy, as you might an article online, or an argument on Twitter.
The pirate promises surrounding Stardew Valley might just be bullshit; there's no way of verifying if pirates are actually buying the game. It could all be a performance. Even so, the comments alone are a testament of Stardew Valley's charm and winning formula: the game is so good, pirates actually obligated to explain themselves, they feel the need to assure other pirates that yes, they are going to buy the game at some point, don't you worry.