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Piracy Stats Games

Study Links Game Piracy To Critics' Review Scores 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-pan-it-they-will-come dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study (abstract) published at the annual ACM Foundations of Digital Games conference by researchers from Copenhagen Business School and the University of Waterloo explores the magnitude of game piracy on public BitTorrent trackers. The researchers tracked 173 new game releases over a three-month period and found that these were downloaded by 12.7 million unique peers. They further show that the number of downloads on BitTorrent can be predicted by the scores of game reviewers. Overall the current paper gives a seemingly robust overview of the state of game piracy on BitTorrent. Although the results may not be all that surprising, it's certainly refreshing to see a decent report on BitTorrent statistics every now and then."
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Study Links Game Piracy To Critics' Review Scores

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  • How is a tautology even vaguely newsworthy?
    • by bjourne (1034822) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @05:45AM (#36983638) Homepage Journal
      Because someone will, or already has, misinterpreted the correlation to mean that more torrent downloads leads to higher game reviews. So as you can see, piracy is really good for the game industry!
      • Better game scores. Combating global warming [wikipedia.org]. We should all be pirates
      • Because someone will, or already has, misinterpreted the correlation to mean that more torrent downloads leads to higher game reviews. So as you can see, piracy is really good for the game industry!

        Tomorrow, mainstream news websites will report that game reviewers boost downloads.
        Next week, talkshows will discuss the financial consequences for the gaming industry of allowing websites to review games.
        Next month, politicians will consider banning game reviewers.

    • Re:Wait... what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FrootLoops (1817694) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @06:15AM (#36983792)

      It's not a tautology. It's just incredibly obvious that better-reviewed games would be downloaded more on BitTorrent.

      [To be clear a tautology is something that is by definition true, like "a blue horse is blue" or "if a and b are rational numbers, then ab is rational". Usually the former example--which is essentially an error of redundancy--is the type "tautology" refers to in common speech, while the latter is used in formal logic.]

      • The second example is true, but it is not a tautology. The statement "a is a rational number or a is not a rational number" would be a tautology. The difference is that when you translate the statement into a formal logic a tautology is always true because of the syntax e.g "A v !A" where-as the example that you give depends on the behaviour of the predicate is-rational. So although "R(a) ^ R(b) -> R(ab)" is true for some predicates R, it is not true over all possible predicates R.

      • It's not a tautology. It's just incredibly obvious that better-reviewed games would be downloaded more on BitTorrent.

        [To be clear a tautology is something that is by definition true, like ... "if a and b are rational numbers, then ab is rational".

        That's not a tautology. That's a mathematical consequence. Tautology is a repetition of meaning. "a and b are rational" has a different meaning than "ab is rational", even though one can be shown to always imply the second. Otherwise you could say that the entirety of provable mathematics is tautologous.

      • by Dynedain (141758)

        Your second example adds additional meaning and information (because it is a mathematical extrapolation) and therefore is not a tautology. A tautological statement adds no new meaning, value, or understanding.

        • by jandrese (485)
          A better example would be: A and B are rational, therefore A is rational.
  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @05:40AM (#36983616)

    The more higher rated a game is, the more people download it on BT?

    Is that it? What an unexpected result.

    Higher rated -> More people want to play it -> More people buy it OR More people download it

    Simple.

    • Not quite that simple. There are a couple of games in the top ten with low review scores but are from popular franchises - Tron and Star Wars. There's also at least one, Two Worlds 2, that had a staggered release with a gap of several months between territories.
    • I'd like to see them look at the correlation between a game having DRM (or the severity of the DRM) and the amount of copies pirated.
      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        That sample is a bit small for a good correlation but the game listed at the top is an add on for a game with very light DRM. Well, light in comparison to most games. To add myself to your data: It is something I would never download. The game was very good and DRM was light.

        This sounds like something that would be a good /. poll.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          Wait, mandatory worse-than-WGA activation is now "very light" "unintrusive" DRM? If that's not a slippery slope, I don't know what is.

          I'm not ever going to install an uncracked game with a rootkit anywhere near a computer I care about. Steam might do less damage than SecuROM, but it still sits there with administrative rights to do things beyond your back.

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            I'm not ever going to install an uncracked game with a rootkit anywhere near a computer I care about.

            The parent post is wrong, Fallout New Vegas is not an add-on for Fallout 3. It is a different game on mostly the same engine. New Vegas does not have any sort of rootkit. It requires Steam, even if you buy it in the store, like Half-Life.

            Steam might do less damage than SecuROM, but it still sits there with administrative rights to do things beyond your back.

            That's nothing. I was going to install a sta

            • by Haedrian (1676506)

              Or the fact your computer has to be on the internet. (Which is, at this point, a silly complaint.)

              Only to install. And for the first time you run it. Then you can stay without, there's no need to remain connected - there's an offline mode.

            • by KiloByte (825081)

              That's nothing. I was going to install a stand-alone game once, and the installer wanted admin rights! It could have done anything behind my back!

              Jesus Christ, get a grip on yourself.

              Any game actually sold has 'admin rights', at least during the install, and can do things behind your back. I've never seen a windows game willing to install in a user's home directory before.

              I hope you're joking. Have you, uhm, tried installing a Windows program some day? A good majority is distributed as .msi -- which, unless specifically marked as requiring admin rights, can be installed as non-root just fine. On Win7 for example, it goes to C:\Users\Bill Gates\AppData\Local\. Every well-behaved program does this or an equivalent. And that DRM-infested games are not well behaved is an argument against them.

              I love how some people have to try to justify some reason to hate Steam. Steam is pretty much the least bad DRM we're ever going to see.

              "But Tommy will butt rape you with a CONDOM while Bubba does this with a spiked di

          • by sgt scrub (869860)

            Your right. Fallout had mandatory online activation. For some reason I was thinking of the Oblivion install. My bad.

      • I kinda think there would be not much of a correlation. At least not 'til you also take sales into account.

        Don't forget that there are also a lot of crappy games with severe DRM that ain't even worth the time needed to download them, let alone crack their DRM. Considering that there are about as many good as crappy games, I'd guess that just looking at DRM and copying will result in a gauss bell. Because DRM has little if any influence in copying.

        I'd like to take a closer look at the factors review score, D

    • What it shows me is that if the game is free, people will trust the review implicitly and get the game purely on the reviewers opinion. If the game costs money, people are more likely to wait and see the reaction from the gaming community before buying.

      Again, nothing we didn't already know.

    • It's actually much more interesting that the correlation only explained 10% of the variance! So in a certain sense, it's very unexpected- and misrepresented by the researchers.

      What if the story was more accurately called "Study shows Piracy mostly unrelated to Critic Scores?"
       

  • Conclusion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The best way to fight piracy is to make shitty games

  • by sarkeizen (106737) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @06:00AM (#36983722) Journal
    ...and in other news water is wet.

    I guess companies should continue to buy or otherwise influence reviews.

    I just skimmed the actual study [openarchive.cbs.dk] and it doesn't really provide much more info. It does make the claim that their methods are closer to the true number of pirated copies and refreshingly that these are not necessarily correlated with lost sales. However it's conclusions aren't all that interesting. My guess? This was more about their measurement techniques and the outcome was tacked on so it could get published (or have a chance of getting published)
    • by jandrese (485)
      Seems more like: Good games are correlated with good review scores AND with larger numbers of illegal downloads.
  • by beef3k (551086) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @06:17AM (#36983800)
    Looking at the table presented in the article, their conclusion seems a bit odd...

    Fallout: New Vegas - Downloads: 962,793 Avg. rating: 83.7
    TRON Evolution - Downloads: 496,349 Avg. rating: 59.5
    Starcraft 2 - Downloads: 420,138 Avg. rating: 89.5

    "Metacritic Scores explain 10% of the variance in the unique peers per game on BitTorrent,”. I guess the remaining 90% is just noise then...?
    • by paziek (1329929) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:05AM (#36984076)

      Yes, they ignored the fact, that Starcraft 2 pirated version is just campaing mode, while the most important one for this game - multiplayer - is only for legal copies.
      Fallout doesn't have multiplayer part, so if you pirate, then you get 100% of the game.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Yes, they ignored the fact, that Starcraft 2 pirated version is just campaing mode, while the most important one for this game - multiplayer - is only for legal copies.

        That's a matter of opinion not fact. I have never had a desire to fire up a multiplayer game of Starcraft 2. The campaign was just fine. It's not like it's a MMORPG or anything

  • Better game gets downloaded more, well duh.
  • How do you count downloads on bittorrent? At best, you can get a sketchy number of peers and seeds but how does that translate to actual downloads?

    Also, how do those download numbers stack up against actual sales? Is there a method to determine what portion of these downloads represent actual loss for the companies (copies that were only pirated) versus what is essentially pre-sale test drives?

    • by Tukz (664339)

      Also, how do those download numbers stack up against actual sales? Is there a method to determine what portion of these downloads represent actual loss for the companies (copies that were only pirated) versus what is essentially pre-sale test drives?

      Or people who just can't play the game because of DRM crap and use a pirated version to play their paid for game.

      • by Garwulf (708651)

        As I mentioned in another reply, Tweakguides did some research on this, and crunched the numbers. The article (which is long, but worth reading), is here: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_1.html [tweakguides.com]

        To answer your question, they found that the DRM only had a negative impact on piracy, and that was when it was successful. Lack of DRM (or light DRM) showed absolutely no impact on piracy rates whatsoever. So, either the people who are pirating to get away from DRM are an insignificant minority, or it's just an

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      They probably explain in their paper, yes?

      The easiest way is probably to hack a BitTorrent client to act like it's downloading the game but never actually download data -- acquire peers through all the normal means, contact them, ask for their piece bitmap, and then choke off the connection. You can even recontact the peer multiple times to watch their piece bitmap fill in, though it's probably a reasonable assumption that every non-seed person in the swarm will eventually finish the download.

    • by Garwulf (708651)

      Tweakguides did some research on this, and crunched the numbers. The article (which is very long, but very worth reading), is here: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_1.html [tweakguides.com]

      As far as methodology goes, I think that's covered here: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html [tweakguides.com]

      But, in brief, for the console market, the numbers for a popular game (they used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) in the console market was 1 pirated copy for every six copies sold. For the PC game market over the same period, it was 10 to 12

      • you can draw some general conclusions about lost sales

        Not really. They're two different games and two different scenarios. All you can do is make assumptions.

        • by Garwulf (708651)

          Well, the difference can be a source of uncertainty, but there are trends based on general similarities that can be calculated. For example (pulling numbers out of my hindquarters), if the average sales for an RTS by company X is 400,000, and they've not only produced several RTS games, but they've got a consistent ability to hold off piracy for two weeks, then they do have a reasonable expectation that if they release an RTS with the same level of quality and they can hold off piracy for two weeks, they w

          • but they've got a consistent ability to hold off piracy for two weeks

            Unless "crackers" don't care about said games at all, I wonder how they would do that.

            then they do have a reasonable expectation

            Except that "reasonable" is subjective.

            with the same level of quality

            "Quality" is also subjective.

            Again, two different scenarios. When it comes to how "good" or "reasonable" something is, people will have different opinions. It's simply an unknown scenario. Some people might find a correlation that they deem as "good enough," but not everyone will share that opinion.

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @07:11AM (#36984122)

    They further show that the number of downloads on BitTorrent can be predicted by the scores of game reviewers.

    Since the link is blocked at work, it would be nice if the summary actually included what the link was. I assume higher reviews correlate to higher piracy. Which is another way of saying popular games are pirated more than unpopular games, which is another way of saying popular games are popular, which ultimately says fuck all.

  • This would be more interesting if it was also correlated with sales... Some things that aren't answered by the numbers in the article could indicate that a well reviewed game has higher sales, too. For instance, what if pirated downloads of those were a smaller percentage of sales than with less well reviewed games?

    Just showing the review scores and the number of downloads is too far from a complete picture...

    • by Garwulf (708651)

      Tweakguides did that: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html [tweakguides.com]

      Also, the entire article is worth noting: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_1.html [tweakguides.com]

      Basically, when they crunched the numbers, they found that the determining factor for whether a game sees large-scale piracy was popularity. For the popular games, the piracy rate came out at around 1 pirate copy for every six copies sold for the consoles, and 10-12 pirate copies for every legitimate copy sold for the PC.

  • Rather than developing expensive DRM solutions, publishers can cut piracy rates tremendously by ensuring their games get low review scores. Everyone knows that game sales are based mostly on hype, and ever pirated copy is a Lost Sale, so it follows that a game with a high hype to review score ratio will actually outsell a hyped game that also has high review scores.
    • What we need to do is use all of our resources to go after people who potentially cause a loss of potential profit. This is clearly a good use of our resources and money, so we should get as many FBI agents and policeman involved as possible (as well as politicians who rush through new laws because of how important these potential losses are).

      • by brit74 (831798)
        What we need to do is use all of our resources to go after people who potentially cause a loss of potential profit. This is clearly a good use of our resources and money, so we should get as many FBI agents and policeman involved as possible (as well as politicians who rush through new laws because of how important these potential losses are).
        --
        Failing to give me all of your money and property deprives me of potential future gain, and therefore makes you a thief!


        This isn't at all a surprising argument
        • This isn't at all a surprising argument strategy for a pirate to use.

          It was just a joke. And how did you come to the conclusion that I myself am I pirate? Just because of the arguments that I use?

          Afterall, when the facts are so much against them

          What facts? Don't you mean opinions on morality? It's interesting that you speak as if you know all about my opinions and how I think (unless I am misunderstanding you) when I haven't really said anything revealing in this article yet.

          there's really no other strategy than trying to exaggerate reality and play mind games so that they can justify their self-serving actions.

          Why would someone need to justify anything that they do when morals are subjective to begin with?

  • In other news, shitwater brand bottled water will be changing their names...The CEO attributed the decision to a recent study showing that people care about the quality of products.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

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