Warning: You Might Have to Foot the Bill for Video Game Piracy

Media Division | November 9, 2016

From the 1980’s well into the 2000’s, many of us fondly remember utilizing our video game console of choice for hours on end. As nostalgic as it may be to sit down with a game paddle in front of a TV screen, it is definitely no longer the reality for gamers of the 21st century.

While laptops and tablets still serve their purpose in the gaming industry, smart phones have taken the reign as the most popular device used for gamers to get their fix.

According to a market research study conducted by PayPal and SuperData Research, 8 in 10 consumers (79%) use a smart phone to play their video games, leaving other mobile devices behind with tablets coming in second at 59% and laptops at a lowly 49%.

Telecompetitor reported that SuperData’s research estimated that the mobile gaming market valued at $37.6 billion in 2016 alone. This number only represents just under half the value of the global gaming market across the board – a whopping $77.3 billion.

While a large majority of mobile gamers pay for their game fair and square, there still remains a large population that seeks torrent downloads or other outlets to get around the purchase price of the game.

Earlier this year, GameRant featured highly praised mobile game The Witness. Created by Indie game developer Johnathan Blow, The Witness was critically acclaimed for its success with fans, selling at record numbers.

Unfortunately for Blow, the game has also topped charts for those choosing piracy sites to illegally download the game.

Blow previously created well-received Braid, which pulled in an estimated $4 million dollars at $15 per download.

The Witness was priced at $40, Blow’s earnings will remain significantly higher than his initial Braid video game release nonetheless.

Though he is still able to make a profit, video game piracy can still affect the makers of the game. Johnathan Blow stated that the money created from Braid directly funded the creation of his higher quality second product, The Witness.

If pirates continue to download the games illegally, this inhibits Blow’s ability to produce and put out continually higher quality products in the future.

Although some may argue that Blow still makes out like a bandit, developers who are just starting out often depend on any profit from their final product to create a career out of game developing.

GameRant expanded on the pirate perspective of game developing: “Requesting that creators work on their projects for the love of the medium has long been the argument of those expecting quality content without paying. However, there is eventually a tipping point, and there are always ramifications – even when none are immediately apparent. Quality Indie developers have already been pushed out of the industry simply by not being able to afford to work on another game, and that trend will likely continue if nothing changes in terms of privacy towards independently-funded titles.

How is Mobile Gaming Piracy Kept at Bay?

As defined by Defective By Design, Digital Restrictions Management (commonly known as DRM) is the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media.

This practice is widely protested within not only the gaming world but for a large majority of those who get their media through internet services. Many game developers, too, still contest the use of DRM and consider piracy a part of the video game world landscape.

Some developers still attempt to take creative approaches to deter pirates, such as that of Game Dev Tycoon, who created “cracked” versions of their game for those who download by torrent instead of making a fair purchase.

The game itself is ironically based off a video game developer, and when downloaded in torrent form by pirates, the “cracked” game causes the game player to suffer themselves from piracy, quickly leading the game to failure.

While this single attempt proved relatively successful, mobile video games remain a largely pirated industry with little consequence.

For the time being, game developers continue to look for creative outlets to stop pirates. If you can’t get them to pay for the experience, what better alternative than to simply aggravate them instead?

Massive's Media Division publishes timely news and insights based on current events, trends, and actionable cross-industry expertise.