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How prevalent is game piracy? A new report offers perspective

How prevalent is game piracy? A new report offers perspective

May 16, 2013 | By Mike Rose

Although there's no denying that piracy is hugely prevalent in video games, a new report from Aalborg University and the Copenhagen Business School has found that it is perhaps not as widespread as previously reported by the Entertainment Software Association.

Professors Anders Drachen and Robert Veitch conducted an analysis [PDF] of BitTorrent file sharing over a three-month period between late 2010 and early 2011, analyzing the torrents of 173 video games across 14 different game platforms. The study aimed to provide an unbiased review of video game piracy, as previous studies have typically been conducted or commissioned by parties for or against the practice.

The Copenhagen study found that 12.6 million unique peers on average were sharing torrented copies of games like Fallout: New Vegas, Darksiders, Tron Evolution, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Starcraft 2 and The Sims 3: Late Night.

That's a lower rate of piracy than reported by the staunchly anti-piracy ESA. The trade group previously said 9.78 million "illegal" downloads of about 200 games occurred in December 2009 alone.

And influential pro-P2P sharing website had reported 18.4 million downloads for the top five most-downloaded BitTorrent PC games of 2010 ("The five most downloaded console games add a further 5.34 million downloads," the study notes).

According to Copenhagen's study, the 10 most torrented games made up 42.7 percent of all unique peers, while the top 20 countries accounted for a staggering 76.7 percent of total video game file-sharing. The biggest offenders were Romania, Croatia, Greece, Portugal and Hungary.

Elsewhere, the report found that RPGs were the main type of game to be pirated, with the genre making up 18.9 percent of all torrents surveyed. Action-adventure were next (15.9 percent), followed by third-person shooters (12.7 percent) and racing games (9.3 percent).

"The numbers in our investigation suggest that previously reported magnitudes in game piracy are too high," said study co-author Drachen in a press release on Wired.

"It also appears that some common myths are wrong, e.g. that it is only shooters that get pirated, as we see a lot of activity for children's and family games on BitTorrent for the period we investigated."

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