Posted by Flappybat (72 posts) -

Most of the gaming media yesterday jumped on the story of the high piracy rate of an indie game. It's an interesting story with an eye popping set of statistics until you think about exactly what we are dealing with here: A game from an unknown developer, not published on Steam or as far as I can find any other major outlet, not previewed or announced for sale on any major site has a high piracy rate when released by it's own developer to the pirate bay in a quiet period after a crush of big name releases.

Whilst the coverage of the piracy rate is comparatively light compared to the excitement of the game punishing pirates the huge difference between sales and pirated copies is not really a surprise when you consider how much more visibility an otherwise unknown title received from the pirate bay's games section than it would have done from indie games websites or forum discussion. As a small independent release there's a possibility it might have even flown under the pirates radar if the developers hadn't directly intervened.

At the end of the day the story tells us very little other than how a shrew developer got a large amount of PR with a story that makes a nice sound bite.

#1 Posted by Raven10 (1734 posts) -

Actually those numbers are pretty standard across all PC games. About 90-95%. This includes major AAA games, highly hyped indie games, and relatively unknown titles like this. I know, for example, that World of Goo had about a 90% piracy rate and it was talked about by all major websites and was on Steam. It is a really sad state of affairs, especially considering there are blogs like this that think this is an exception to the rule.

#2 Edited by EXTomar (4507 posts) -

Here is a strange thought: There are A LOT of games released on PC where the biggest and most visible market, Steam, only has a fraction of the total. Stuff is being released all of the time by self published and indie sites where "professional journalism sites" don't have enough time to review them.

So here is a thought for you: If you are correct that no one knew of Game Dev Tycoon because of low visibility, how did "teh pirates" find it? Could they have a web site they check that tracks new software added? It is almost like they created software and systems to self sustain their activities.

Online
#3 Posted by Arabes (338 posts) -

@extomar: The only reason "teh pirates" found out about this game was because the developers put their own game up on a file sharing site and showed it to the pirates by having it listed as a newly added torrent. if the developers hadn't done this it would be quite some time before anyone added it to a torrent site because no one fucking bought it.

#4 Edited by oldenglishC (922 posts) -

Welcome to the 24-hour media cycle, friend.

Without making a mountain out of every molehill, there just aren't enough "stories" to keep things going.

#5 Edited by towolie (51 posts) -

looking at the total stats to me it seems like there game is completely unknown to the world. and because of that the only people playing it randomly found it on pirate bay. ( where the developers uploaded a copy themselves before it even got uploaded by others ).

looking at this whole story i don't really think you can "BLAME" piracy for anything based on this story.

#6 Posted by Matt_F606 (297 posts) -

I hate that piracy is such a big thing in games and music, but at least they have concert money. Size of the game shouldn't matter. Always online sucks but at least people get paid.

#7 Edited by Jams (2959 posts) -

@towolie said:

looking at the total stats to me it seems like there game is completely unknown to the world. and because of that the only people playing it randomly found it on pirate bay. ( where the developers uploaded a copy themselves before it even got uploaded by others ).

looking at this whole story i don't really think you can "BLAME" piracy for anything based on this story.

Seems like some people will never let their be a valid reason in their mind. There's always some answer that makes it okay to pirate something.

#8 Posted by TooWalrus (13139 posts) -

There was a hullabaloo? I read about it, chuckled, sighed, shook my head and moved on.

#9 Posted by Levio (1784 posts) -

Got it. If I ever make an indie game, I should make sure to fake my own death or something. Maybe even go all "balloon boy" for that sweet time in the spotlight.

#10 Edited by towolie (51 posts) -

@jams said:

@towolie said:

looking at the total stats to me it seems like there game is completely unknown to the world. and because of that the only people playing it randomly found it on pirate bay. ( where the developers uploaded a copy themselves before it even got uploaded by others ).

looking at this whole story i don't really think you can "BLAME" piracy for anything based on this story.

Seems like some people will never let their be a valid reason in their mind. There's always some answer that makes it okay to pirate something.

well where i live pirating games and movies is legal. so in a sense no i don't see anything wrong with it. and i'm willing to bet i give more money to game developers than the average gamer even though i download allot 2 ( i often buy the games that are worth it after playing the illegal version. )

#11 Posted by Brodehouse (9606 posts) -

This is an amusing story of a clever trick played by developers, and a restatement of something we already know is true (there's piracy on the PC). When there's a ton of announcements coming up that 'journalists' should be poking and prodding and using their experience and knowledge to inform the public about and give a better understanding of the workings of the industry... We have this little carebear story causing an apparent hullabaloo.

I don't think the gaming media are sellouts or low-level marketing, I think they're largely a sideshow that fails to inform anyone of anything more often than not.

#12 Edited by hughesman (312 posts) -

I think this is really more of an example of how much gaming sites just regurgitate content they see on other gaming sites.

I'm very glad you don't see that as much on giantbomb.

#13 Posted by Gaff (1654 posts) -
  1. Indie developer releases a game, simultaneously releasing a special version for pirates.
  2. Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.
  3. Developer sees the irony of it all and makes a blog post about it.
  4. Various video game news sites write about the story.
  5. Some people blame video game news sites for stating the obvious / falling for the developer's clever ploy / argue that the game wouldn't have gotten that much exposure if not for piracy.

Please tell me I'm wrong about this sequence of events.

#14 Posted by Chibithor (574 posts) -

@gaff said:
  1. Indie developer releases a game, simultaneously releasing a special version for pirates.
  2. Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.
  3. Developer sees the irony of it all and makes a blog post about it.
  4. Various video game news sites write about the story.
  5. Some people blame video game news sites for stating the obvious / falling for the developer's clever ploy / argue that the game wouldn't have gotten that much exposure if not for piracy.

Please tell me I'm wrong about this sequence of events.

I think the developer would see the irony of it all as he's making the pirate version of the game which would put that event at the number 1 spot, supporting the suggestion that it was a clever ploy.

#15 Edited by Gaff (1654 posts) -

@gaff said:
  1. Indie developer releases a game, simultaneously releasing a special version for pirates.
  2. Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.
  3. Developer sees the irony of it all and makes a blog post about it.
  4. Various video game news sites write about the story.
  5. Some people blame video game news sites for stating the obvious / falling for the developer's clever ploy / argue that the game wouldn't have gotten that much exposure if not for piracy.

Please tell me I'm wrong about this sequence of events.

I think the developer would see the irony of it all as he's making the pirate version of the game which would put that event at the number 1 spot, supporting the suggestion that it was a clever ploy.

If I believe the developer's blog post over at their website the irony came from pirates complaining publicly about in-game pirates. If those forum posts weren't made, the developer (probably) wouldn't have made the blog post? Then again, I'm guessing some people are convinced the pirates' posts about the game were pre-meditated and all part of the developer's plot to get publicity. Oh, internet.

#16 Posted by towolie (51 posts) -

@gaff said:

@chibithor said:

@gaff said:
  1. Indie developer releases a game, simultaneously releasing a special version for pirates.
  2. Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.
  3. Developer sees the irony of it all and makes a blog post about it.
  4. Various video game news sites write about the story.
  5. Some people blame video game news sites for stating the obvious / falling for the developer's clever ploy / argue that the game wouldn't have gotten that much exposure if not for piracy.

Please tell me I'm wrong about this sequence of events.

I think the developer would see the irony of it all as he's making the pirate version of the game which would put that event at the number 1 spot, supporting the suggestion that it was a clever ploy.

If I believe the developer's blog post over at their website the irony came from pirates complaining publicly about in-game pirates. If those forum posts weren't made, the developer (probably) wouldn't have made the blog post? Then again, I'm guessing some people are convinced the pirates' posts about the game were pre-meditated and all part of the developer's plot to get publicity. Oh, internet.

i think they wanted to do a piracy blog from the start. and the comments just gave them a great way to spice the post up.

#17 Posted by jozzy (2041 posts) -

It is a cute story, but I wouldn't be surprised if [Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.] was the developer themselves pretending to be one. That post was just too perfect, makes it very suspicious to my cynical self.

I don't say this to excuse pirates because I am strongly against pirating, I just agree with the people calling this a very smart marketing trick by the developers.

#18 Edited by Nivash (241 posts) -

@raven10: I seriously doubt that because if any given game was pirated at ten times the rate it was sold, we're talking about absurd numbers of players. Take tomb raider: it sold 3,5 million games across all platforms. Let's for the sake of argument assume that the PC version contributed 1 million of those. That would mean that 10 million people pirated it! That's insane - there' no way that's possible.

Just take a look at the torrent sites: right now, the highest leeched PC game torrent on the Pirate Bay, is Dead Island Riptide which has roughly 5000 downloaders across all versions. Tomb Raider is 10 Gb big. Assuming an average download speed of 20 Mb/s, which is way higher than the average connection speeds apart from South Korea, but I'm assuming the pirates are resourceful, it would take a little over an hour to download that under optimal conditions . But there's no way you can reach that with a torrent so let's say three hours, which is still hella generous. Assuming the number of downloaders remain constant, that means the torrents listed on the Pirate Bay can expect to facilitate about 40 000 downloads a day. The 3,2 million sales mark was reached in 21 days - in that time, the torrents would have facilitated 840 000 downloads which corresponds to roughly two thirds of the legal sales. And this doesn't even take into account the fact that the numbers of peers obviously declines over time the same way it does with any release, legal or not.

So where on earth did the remaining 9,16 million downloads come from? There would have to be 14 unique, equally popular, combinations of torrents on some other sites which for some reasons are not listed on the Pirate Bay. That just doesn't make any kind of sense: the whole point of torrenting is to achieve to highest numbers of peers in as few torrents as possible - or Tomb Raider would have to have been 14 times as popular as Dead Island Riptide which would mean about 56 000 downloaders at any given time over three weeks.

You know what comes pretty close to that, with 56 000 seeders and 12 000 peers at this time? The last episode of Game of Thrones. Which is pirated to hell and back because of the simple reason that it besides being the most talked about TV show in decades is both an HBO exclusive and that it is for all intents and purposes a US exclusive! There is simply no way for the rest of the world to get it legally for several months, barring the lucky few who have access to it through an HBO streaming service (including myself this season, thanks to HBO Nordic) But TV shows peak extremely early once everyone has watched an episode: the previous episode has half that number of seeds and almost a tenth the numbers of peers. And TV shows are always pirated way more than any other media anyway for a very simple reason: they are short. This both keeps the filesize down and means that pirates consume more of them.

Speaking of which, would you ever be able to guess which is the most seeded PC game torrent right now? Here's a hint: it's not Bioshock Infinite. It is....

<drumroll>

Subway surfers PC edition, which handily beats out the runner up Skyrim's 5000 seeds with a ludicrous 20 000 seeds. Why? Probably because it's only 20 megabytes big. And in that case I don't think it's stretch Subway Surfers might actually be pirated at ten times the rate it is bought. But for a AAA title, in the launch window? The numbers just don't add up.

#19 Posted by Jimbo (9775 posts) -

It's really smart work by the developers. With a big enough marketing budget you can own the games press, but there are other, more creative ways to generate press coverage if you don't have that luxury. Provoking controversy, selling charity, a neat gimmick like this... all different means to the same end: getting noticed. For an unknown developer putting out an unheard of game, getting press attention is everything - it doesn't really matter how they get it as long as they get it.

They may well have high piracy rates, but 5% of lots is a hell of a lot better for them than 100% of nothing. I don't believe this benefit scales up to bigger budget games -because they typically already have plenty of attention and don't have so much to gain- but for a game like this I'd wager that piracy overall (and especially this story resulting from it) is probably helping them rather than hindering. That doesn't justify individual acts of piracy of course, and if you want to play the game you should obviously pay for it.

#20 Posted by Raven10 (1734 posts) -

@nivash: You are vastly over estimating the percentage of sales that come from the PC versions of games. I don't know the exact figures but generally I've heard from developers at GDC and the like that they get around 10% of their sales from the PC versions of games. In certain cases that number may be a bit higher, but in the case of something like Tomb Raider I would bet about 300,000 sales were from the PC version at most. Tomb Raider isn't really in a standard PC genre so those numbers could be even less. Maybe no more than 200,000. So saying that maybe 1.5 million people pirated it is not a huge leap.

#21 Posted by Chibithor (574 posts) -

@gaff said:

@chibithor said:

@gaff said:
  1. Indie developer releases a game, simultaneously releasing a special version for pirates.
  2. Some pirates post about their virtual company being ruined by in-game pirates.
  3. Developer sees the irony of it all and makes a blog post about it.
  4. Various video game news sites write about the story.
  5. Some people blame video game news sites for stating the obvious / falling for the developer's clever ploy / argue that the game wouldn't have gotten that much exposure if not for piracy.

Please tell me I'm wrong about this sequence of events.

I think the developer would see the irony of it all as he's making the pirate version of the game which would put that event at the number 1 spot, supporting the suggestion that it was a clever ploy.

If I believe the developer's blog post over at their website the irony came from pirates complaining publicly about in-game pirates. If those forum posts weren't made, the developer (probably) wouldn't have made the blog post? Then again, I'm guessing some people are convinced the pirates' posts about the game were pre-meditated and all part of the developer's plot to get publicity. Oh, internet.

Whatever the case the posts are really weird. This is how people talk about and ask for help in hard parts of a game. In this case, "I'm in the Xbox/PS2 gen and due to piracy I can't progress. Help?" Not "Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me! Not fair."

#22 Posted by Nivash (241 posts) -

@raven10: That's the problem, there are no exact figures. It's really that low? I thought a two to one ration was realistic, but what do you know. But even at those numbers that's more than twice the amount I calculated as the theoretical absolute maximum. I can't stress that enough: that's a theoretical maximum assuming optimal productivity in a way that is simply not how torrents work. No torrent is going to maintain peak peers for three weeks straight. The real downloads are probably closer to half or even a third of that, putting them more in parity with the legal sales, at most twice as many. But ten times as many? I just can't see that being true.

#23 Posted by towolie (51 posts) -
@nivash said:

@raven10: That's the problem, there are no exact figures. It's really that low? I thought a two to one ration was realistic, but what do you know. But even at those numbers that's more than twice the amount I calculated as the theoretical absolute maximum. I can't stress that enough: that's a theoretical maximum assuming optimal productivity in a way that is simply not how torrents work. No torrent is going to maintain peak peers for three weeks straight. The real downloads are probably closer to half or even a third of that, putting them more in parity with the legal sales, at most twice as many. But ten times as many? I just can't see that being true.

seeing that in top sales charts the xbox and ps3 version where 1 and 3 and the pc version was on spot 5. i don't think a game can get to spot 5 if it only sold 10% of what it sells on consoles. i think he is underestimating how many pc games are bought digitally.

#24 Posted by Flappybat (72 posts) -

I think I read an article on RPS that talked about PC representing close to a third of total sales. It was behind both consoles but more than you'd think with how it gets treated by publishers.

#25 Posted by BaconGames (3296 posts) -

Unfortunately for someone like me who would be super interested in doing stats analysis on piracy rates, most number breakdowns are kept behind the scenes by major publishers and rarely discussed or released by most every developer. Specifically I would be interested to dig in and see the relationship between the pirate percentage and purchased percentage (in that the pirate percentage is complicated and needs stratifying). Another approach is to simply look at percentages over time across games and see how changes in percentages pattern to specific decisions. For instance, is the gap between the purchase population and pirate smaller or larger if say it's on certain distribution platforms? What about DRM solutions? Does press impact the piracy gap? Made in certain countries and how does that interact with where they are primarily pirated? What are the demographics of pirates? @nivash makes a good point that bandwidth limitations and logistics are also a factor to be considered.

There are many ways to break down software piracy using concepts in social science but one important way to do it is to use statistical analysis to uncover potential social and/or structural factors that are explanatory in and of themselves or further lead along the trail of contextualizing purely social and cultural elements at play.

#26 Posted by Raven10 (1734 posts) -

@towolie said:
@nivash said:

@raven10: That's the problem, there are no exact figures. It's really that low? I thought a two to one ration was realistic, but what do you know. But even at those numbers that's more than twice the amount I calculated as the theoretical absolute maximum. I can't stress that enough: that's a theoretical maximum assuming optimal productivity in a way that is simply not how torrents work. No torrent is going to maintain peak peers for three weeks straight. The real downloads are probably closer to half or even a third of that, putting them more in parity with the legal sales, at most twice as many. But ten times as many? I just can't see that being true.

seeing that in top sales charts the xbox and ps3 version where 1 and 3 and the pc version was on spot 5. i don't think a game can get to spot 5 if it only sold 10% of what it sells on consoles. i think he is underestimating how many pc games are bought digitally.

Where did you see those charts? Individual SKU numbers are not released in either the US or UK as far as I know. If you want a very vague estimate, VGChartz lists Tomb Raider PC as having sold 150,000 units compared to a bit over 1 million on both consoles. So about 5%. I also checked Black Ops 2 and it is listed as having sold 900,000 units on PC compared to about 10 million each for the console games. Far Cry 3, a game that is vastly superior on PC sold 500,000 units total compared to about 5 million between the consoles. Again, these aren't official numbers and are probably off by as much as a couple hundred thousand units, but even in that case, the results are pretty obvious. About 5% for Tomb Raider and Black Ops 2 and 10% for Far Cry 3.

#27 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@arabes said:

@extomar: The only reason "teh pirates" found out about this game was because the developers put their own game up on a file sharing site and showed it to the pirates by having it listed as a newly added torrent. if the developers hadn't done this it would be quite some time before anyone added it to a torrent site because no one fucking bought it.

Hey, remember when McPixel did the same thing and saw a spike in legitimate sales thereafter? I don't think you can attribute GDT's failure solely to packaging it into a torrent.