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2D Boy Explains  World of Goo  '90 Percent Piracy'  Methodology
2D Boy Explains World of Goo '90 Percent Piracy' Methodology
November 17, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander

November 17, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

World of Goo creator 2D Boy estimates that in the month since the game's launch, the piracy rate for the game's PC version is approximately 90 percent.

After widespread media reports propagating the high number, the developer followed up on its official site with further details, elaborating on how it generated the number -- and admitting that "itís a very rough estimate and the measurements are flawed."

2D Boy says it recorded high scores sent to the server and the IP from whence they come, divided its total sales by the total number of unique IPs it recorded, and thus arrived at the 90 percent number.

According to the developer, the actual piracy rate may in fact be lower than that estimate, however, as the methodology doesn't account for multiple machine installs or dynamic IP addresses that periodically change.

But similarly, says 2D Boy, there are factors that could potentially raise the estimate: multiple installations from behind the same firewall, like in an office environment, would only register as one, and not all consumers opt to allow their scores to be submitted to the server.

"For simplicityís sake, we just assumed those would balance out," the developer wrote, "so take take the 90 percent as a rough estimate."

2D Boy cited a Gamasutra analysis column written by Reflexive Entertainment marketing director Russell Carroll regarding piracy of Reflexive's Ricochet Infinity, which found a 92 percent piracy rate for that game based on a similar methodology.

"One thing that really jumped out at me was his estimate that preventing 1000 piracy attempts results in only a single additional sale," 2D Boy wrote.

"This supports our intuitive assessment that people who pirate our game arenít people who would have purchased it had they not been able to get it without paying."

Finally, the developer also noticed that there was little difference in outcome for both Ricochet Infinity and World of Goo -- even though the former shipped with DRM, and the latter without it.

"We canít draw any conclusions based on two data points, but Iím hoping that others will release information about piracy rates so that everyone could see if DRM is the waste of time and money that we think it is," the developer said.

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Bryan Diggs
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Considering that most home networks have a dynamic IP address nowadays, it's hard to understand why they would even use that formula and for that point, publicize it. I now my home network switches IP's two or even three times a day, times thirty days means I could have played it on ninety IP's by now. Very strange.

ron carmel
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we did, in fact account for dynamic IPs and several other factors. there is a lot more detail about our methodology in the blog post on our site (linked above). we estimate about 80% piracy to be a minimum but 90% as a more realistic number, mostly because the option to submit scores (without which a player is not included in our statistics) is off by default.

Bryan Diggs
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I can't say that I've seen more research into the issue, good job. Even 80% is still very troubling though, very unfortunate. But I'm look forward to picking up a copy.

Good luck,


Mark McCormack
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I sometimes think the old shareware model might make a positive difference; distribute a demo or limited version for free, make it easily available, and incorporate a nag screen to remind the player there is a whole game behind it that they can purchase and enjoy legally.

If it's easier to find and download a free demo than a pirated version, then I think it's likely many will try the demo first. True some demo users will still go on to download it illegally, but I think this method could net at least a few more sales.

Look at any torrent site and its obvious DRM doesn't work like the developers would hope.

Roberto Alfonso
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Just like with Russell Carroll's column, understanding that a pirated copy is not equal to a lost sale is vital to plan future moves. While my personal belief is simple (if you can't or won't pay for it, you should not use it), it is an incredible big market that should be tapped in some way.

Peter Kojesta
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This issue of piracy has gained more traction this last year; more articles about it, more people speaking out.

Unfortunately, smaller developers stand to lose the most in this mess I think.

Larger developers and publishers, although quite unhappy with pirated copies, at least have more sophisticated coping systems (and easier access to less pirate friendly platforms via consoles). Essentially, they can take a hit much better than a team of 3 guys who broke their backs and wallets for a year+ to make a fun title.

Preaching decency is not going to work in this case, and using complicated DRM is not going to solve the problem.

My opinion is that in order to affect more sales, developers should consider investing time in the development and nourishment of the social aspects and community around their titles; bearing in mind that itís hard to get something without giving something.

I purchased Starcraft because I read the short stories in the manual at a friendís house, it was a great way to involve me in the vision for the game.

I recommend developers consider alternative ways to reach consumers, not alternative ways to prevent them from acquiring your visionís expression.

Patrick Dugan
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I think you all may be missing the real pearl of this. If stopping 1000 piracies effects one additional sale, then it's a pretty low pay-back operation, right? Isn't it better to have 1000 more people experience your game and talk it up? Wouldn't that, perhaps, lead to two people buying the game, and if so, then fighting piracy would actually limit sales?

Let's come at this from another vantage point: services instead of products. Musicians now put a good deal of their stuff, sometimes the entire album, for free listening online via flash players and the like. The upsell is the portability of the music (which is a service quality) and seeing the band live (a service quality). That this metric was derived from an online high-score board (a service) is a hint to the real solution. The solution is not DRM, the solution is better services.

The greater the share of your value comes from your server rather than instantly copy-able code, the greater control you have and the greater incentive your audience has to pay for the experience. Look at Starcraft, massively pirated game, sure, yet still sells everywhere from Buenos Aires to Seoul to Moscow, people are still buying this game years later. Even though you can still use with a torrented/cracked version, it's much easier just to shell out twenty bucks and get it right out, and the social dynamic of the multiplayer service adds to that sentiment I believe.

Also, in countries with a disadvantaged exchange rate, it might improve revenue to provide exchange rate adjusted prices to IP addresses coming from those countries. Technically someone could fly to Thailand or South America and buy your game at a discount, but I think they're in the minority relative to the people who want to play your game but make Pesos or something, and sixty pesos can be a weeks worth of groceries if you buy cheap (maybe half a week, still).

Let's think outside the box, this is largely a problem of perspective, not entropy.

Alex Nautilus
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Patrick Dugan sayd: "Technically someone could fly to Thailand or South America and buy your game at a discount"

Trying to buy a game here in Brazil is not a good deal for an US citizen. Games are very high priced in our stores. The local market for games is tiny and piracy is huge. 9 out of every 10 video games sold in Brazil are illegal.


Martin Fuller
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Thin Clients anyone? At least part of your game runs remotely on a server. Think of all the money those MMOs are making over in china etc.. nobody can pirate them.

Pay per play / subscription gaming is the future IMO, we're just not there yet.