Home Gaming 35% of PC gamers pirate, suggests PC Gamer survey

35% of PC gamers pirate, suggests PC Gamer survey

5 min read

Ac iv kenway

I will confess, I used to be a pirate. I used to pirate music, primarily through sharing mp3s with friends or through applications like Limewire. I even think I pirated a version of Civilization. Then, I grew up, got a job and it became way easier to buy all forms of media, and never pirated again. But some people continue to pirate, and the reasons for that decision varies from country to country, as well as across ages and income levels. Thanks to a new, comprehensive survey, we have a bit more insight into what drives piracy now.

If you go by the comments people make online, you’d think that the main reason people pirate is because they don’t like EA/Ubisoft/Blizzard/insert developer here. If you go by statements made by different developers over the years, you’d think that the majority of gamers are pirates. But the reality is a whole lot more nuanced.

Over on PC Gamer, they ran a survey about piracy habits among respondents. Granted, there were some obvious troll answers, and perhaps people took the survey multiple times to skew answers, but with 50 000 responses, some interesting trends emerged.

Pirate depp

First and foremost, how many PC gamers currently pirate? Well, according to the survey, 35%. That’s not nearly as many as are often accused by publishers. However, that number changes dramatically when respondents were asked if they’ve ever pirated, shooting up to over 90%. I’m going to assume most of those gamers are like me – pirating back when they were young students but changing their ways as they grew up. In fact, I don’t have to assume that – the numbers back me up.

First up is the issue of age. Teenagers have the highest piracy rate, going as high as 40% of them currently pirating their games. That number goes down by 5% for every decade older the gamer get. This is closely correlated with income, with over 50% of those in the lowest income bracket pirating games compared to less than 20% pirating in the upper income brackets. But it’s actually about more than just affordability, although that is a major factor in piracy.

When respondents were asked why they pirated, the answer changed a lot depending on age, although most users sited “can’t afford” or “demo game” as reasons. At most ages, pirates tended to use their thievery as a form of demoing the game (and the majority went on to purchase the title) as compared to simply getting around the affordability issue. There were also some people who wrote in answers including:

Many others again and again repeated major points. A game was unavailable to purchase anywhere digitally. They already owned the game on another platform or had lost the disk. The price in their region is exorbitant. Not available in their region at all. To demo a game before buying it.

Reasons for piracy

However, the demo concept changes again when sorted based on country. Some countries are notorious for piracy. Brazil, Argentina, India, Russia and other Eastern European countries all have reputations for piracy. However, looking at the reasons behind it, it makes a lot more sense. Sure, some of the pirates cite the same reasons as other countries, but people in these countries are must more likely to claim “too expensive” as their reason. Those conducting the survey explain why:

we spoke to a pirate who lives in Bulgaria, who explained a new game on release day costs almost a third of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income (imagine new games costing $400 in the US). “The thing is, they think $50 and €50 is the same for every country, but it’s not, because the wages and economy are different,” said the pirate, who goes by the handle Overkill online.

Looking at a list of average wages in Europe, many countries with high piracy rates (like the ones mentioned above) sit near the bottom of that list. Denmark and Norway, with piracy rates around 26 percent and 22 percent, according to our respondents, have the 6th and 3rd highest net incomes in Europe.

While this doesn’t prove causation, it certain works according to common sense. If a game is going to cost you half of your monthly income, you probably won’t buy it, at least not at launch. It makes more sense that those in such a situation pirate the game early on, perhaps opting to purchase once the title is marked down in a Steam Sale or pops up in a bundle for cheap.

With so many people admitting to having pirated games in the past, why did they stop? Well, 56% attributed it to Steam Sales with 50% saying that buying the game legally on Steam became easier than pirating the titles. 44% said they got increases in income and a surprising 22% just felt bad about stealing games and stopped doing it.

I’m glad that the survey mostly confirmed what many of us suspected – if developers make their games easily available, people will be less likely to pirate assuming they can afford the game. Some might still steal a copy to see if it’s worthwhile for them, but not all pirates are unrepentant thieves. Of course, looking internationally, it seems developers and distributors could reduce piracy if they actually adapted their pricing more for local markets. I know I’d appreciate it here in South Africa – it can be really hard to justify buying a game for R1k. Of course, I still don’t pirate, I just end up playing my older games or free games more.

Last Updated: January 4, 2017


  1. Pariah

    August 29, 2016 at 11:38

    Yeah the cost has certainly upped the value of packs like the Humble Monthly, as well as Steam sales.

    On Steam at least, we do have local pricing that is definitely cheaper than the Dollar or Euro price (the latter being more apt to compare against) – it’s just that console games, and physical retail games, don’t follow suit.

    Ps, I fall in the same category as you. Pirated as a teen because I couldn’t afford them. Then I started working and haven’t pirated a game in over a decade.


  2. Admiral Chief

    August 29, 2016 at 11:40

    I wonder where they get it these days though, with that OTHER site being down

    I’ve not pirated a game in over a decade, and those pirated I tend to buy again if the game was brilliant


    • Nikola

      August 29, 2016 at 13:09

      suuuure you haven’t pff:|


      • Admiral Chief

        August 29, 2016 at 13:50

        I get them from Albania!



  3. Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

    August 29, 2016 at 11:53

    • Admiral Chief

      August 29, 2016 at 11:55



    • Pariah

      August 29, 2016 at 11:57

      “Hi Subway. I’d like to demo one of your sandwiches please. If I like it I’ll pay for another one.”


      • Dungeon of JJ

        August 29, 2016 at 14:20

        ^ this


    • HairyEwok

      August 29, 2016 at 12:01

      Hey I do it. I try the game out. If I enjoy it I’ll purchase the game to show my support to the developers.


    • The Order of the Banana

      August 29, 2016 at 12:05

      • Pariah

        August 29, 2016 at 12:05

        what the fuck is that? Have you been hanging around Darryn much lately? O_O


      • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

        August 29, 2016 at 12:13



    • miaau

      August 29, 2016 at 13:07

      Well, when I was a teeny-ager and even in my twenties, I would sometimes copy a game from a friend, just to see what it was like. That is how I know I cannot play FPS games, for example.

      Did not stop me buying Halo 3 or Gears of War for Xbox 360 when it was on special, though. Ooops. Bad buy.


    • Dungeon of JJ

      August 30, 2016 at 07:01

      PC games are so much cheaper than console games, and we have decent sales. This “demo” a game is crap. Buy it, or don’t buy it.
      You don’t buy a book and take it back because it wasn’t as good as you hoped.


  4. Hargrim

    August 29, 2016 at 12:07

    Used to pirate for the financial reasons, then when I started working it became a ‘convenience’ thing, until I really started buying games and realized how much more convenient regular updates, mod support and in-game multiplayer is


    • Pariah

      August 29, 2016 at 12:11

      Also the fact that it works and doesn’t risk installing spyware or keyloggers or other shit. I remember hating how some games you just couldn’t get that crack to work.

      Like Diablo 2. I made a copy of my disk as a backup (good thing too – lost my original disk), but it would only work if I copied the files to a folder on the HD, installed from there, and cracked. CD didn’t work for shit.


  5. Dungeon of JJ

    August 29, 2016 at 12:49

    Refuse to pay and too expensive? Come on. Then wait, or grab it at a sale or on a bundle.
    I don’t know anyone personally who still pirates games, it’s like an archaic practice.


  6. BakedBagel

    August 29, 2016 at 12:49

    Pirated NMS


    But seriously. If i feel a developer or publisher is talking bs my urge to pirate intensifies. If i like it. I buy it.



    • Matthew Holliday

      August 29, 2016 at 13:28

      I feel you, I dont always buy into the hype, if it looks shady, “demo” the game and buy it if its worth.


      • BakedBagel

        August 29, 2016 at 14:14

        If the game is like 20-25 $ on release most of the time i wont pirate it. But if a game is flaunting that $60 price tag. Be damn sure i will try out your game lul.


        • Matthew Holliday

          August 29, 2016 at 16:25

          Yeah, some games I just dont wanna wait to test then buy, but stuff like no mans sky, i demod beforhand.


  7. Ghost In The Rift

    August 29, 2016 at 12:56

    lol back in my day pirating was our form of socialism, somebody got the new Age of Empires 2 expansion and we all met up and discussed games and who was gonna be doing the burning work, good old days.


  8. HvR

    August 29, 2016 at 13:00

    Think those numbers are about to drop fast

    Pretty much every big torrent site has been taken down past 2 weeks as movie companies made deals with governments who forcing ISP’s to take action.

    Might see the of the weekend LAN to “sync” up with buddies.

    Age: 33
    Reason: All the free booze and wenches en ek lyk fokken hot met ‘n eye patch


  9. miaau

    August 29, 2016 at 13:06

    In years past, I regularly used cracks or NOCD systems to play games I owned. I hated to use the original disk, mostly as this increased the chance of mis-placing them. I thought there was nothing wrong with that, seeing as how it was my game. I STILL hate that, on my Xbox One, I cannot play a game unless the disk, which it does not need to use during game-play, is inserted.

    I have played pirated games in the past, but, 90% of the time, if I played the game more than 5 minutes, ended up buying it. That is fair. This was all years in past. Some people I know, for example, think I was silly for not chipping my Xbox 360, for example.


  10. Nikola

    August 29, 2016 at 13:08

    Dirty dirty PC gamers ruining our industry, shame on you;)


  11. Matthew Holliday

    August 29, 2016 at 13:26

    Sometimes its hard to justify R800 for a singleplayer game that gets you 5 hours of gameplay.
    But with games needing so many patches nowadays, its just so much more convenient to just buy the games.

    And something to keep in mind, if it was as easy to pirate on console, as it is on PC, console would have the same stats.
    Console doesnt hold the moral highground, they just dont have the choice.


  12. chimera_85

    August 29, 2016 at 13:59

    In SA some people have old hardware and really can’t afford full price for games so they pirate and buy the game when it’s on a sale.

    Some people also pirate as to try the game first cos demos are like things of the past or to test if your PC can actually play the game before spending so much money for it to play at 15fps 🙂


  13. T W

    August 29, 2016 at 17:20

    Man, 35% seems a bit high. I would think it’s just less than 25%.
    But they did the research and I didn’t so I can’t argue effectively.

    HOWEVER, I will admit that I’ve only pirated ONE game in the past 10 years.
    And that was Rocket League because I didn’t believe the hype.

    After playing it for two hours, I uninstalled that pirated version and bought it legally on Humble Bundle.
    The game is WORTH the money.


  14. Michael Bergh

    August 29, 2016 at 17:56

    I started to support the online gaming companies like Origin. Then a few months back, someone hacked my account and played my Battlefield 4 with a multihack tool. PunkBuster and GGC-stream then banned my account and I was unable to play Battlefield again. PunkBuster just states that they cant prove anything, but once you’ve been banned.. always banned. So I phone the company that I supported.. EA / Origin. They cant do anything.. So.. I payed good money for a game to be a legal player but the companies that suppose to support you DONT… Now.. I will be a Pirate again ahrrrr.. Not going to waist my money again on any company that dont support their clients…


  15. Dane

    August 30, 2016 at 10:42

    Not even gonna lie. I pirate the sh*t outta movies and music, though I do go to the cinema at least once every two weeks, I do go to music festivals and concerts. I used to pirate games when I was in school and my parents scoffed at my hobby/addiction. Now I just watch streams and youtube videos of games, if I like it, I buy it.


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