Home Gaming Friday Debate: Is it ever okay to pirate games?

Friday Debate: Is it ever okay to pirate games?

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piracy

The big theme in gaming news this week seems to be piracy. Nintendo’s taken a swing at those who make ROMS of their games available to download online. They’ve hit sites like LoveRoms and LoveRetro with massive lawsuits that include damages of up to $150 000 per illicitly available ROM.

Denuvo has also gone after one of the most prolific crackers, with Revolt’s Voksi finding himself in a legal pickle after an investigation by Bulgaria’s Cybercrimes unit. The DRM and anti-tamper software isn’t especially loved by consumers, but that’s hardly a good reason to go about cracking brand new games.

Would be Nintendo Switch pirates who downloaded a supposedly cracked version of a piracy-enabling custom firmware tool were duped when it was found to do little but brick their systems. It’s terribly hard to feel sorry for people who tried to steal software that would only enable them to steal more software though.

As you can probably tell, I’m not especially fond of video game piracy. I think it actively hurts the industry, leading to more DRM and countermeasure, which itself hurt the industry in a cyclical sort of way. I do however think that piracy has its place, particularly when it comes to the preservation of games. If we’re to look at games as an art form, then they should be preserved and playable for years to come. In that case, when servers are no longer available for games, the systems to play them on are no longer in use, and there’s just no other legal way to play a game, I can’t honestly say that I’d consider it unethical to crack those games or download those roms.

There are also games that it just isn’t possible to play legally, thanks to regional releases. Is it okay to pirate a game that was never released where you live?

I can’t sit here on any sort of high horse and pretend I’ve never pirated games either. When I was younger, I copied games from friends on PC, Amiga, Commodore 64 and even did bootleg recordings of Sinclair ZX Spectrum tapes. I don’t do it now though, because I know better, I’m swimming in games as it is, and I can afford it.

As pointed out in the comments this week, Piracy will never go away – especially in third world countries, with the unaffordable price of games. Is it okay for people to pirate games and software based on their financial situation though? Maybe! What I will never condone is the crowd that coos that “If I like it, I’ll buy it” though, especially on PC. Steam offers reasonable refunds, so that excuse has become moot. TI feel the same about those who pirate games because they don’t like a particular publisher. Maybe just….don’t play the game then?

That said, I probably would download a car if I could. What do you think though? Is it ever okay to pirate games?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: July 27, 2018

123 Comments

  1. Original Heretic

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    When I was young, dumb, and full of…poverty, I pirated.
    But since I started getting a proper paycheck, I paid for my games. And also became a LOT more selective on what I play.

    Reply

  2. Francis Kong

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    I follow the principle that “Piracy” is always a response to failure to market effectively.
    When given the choice between acquiring something from a known legit source or taking the more technically ardous route of Piracy, the customer would always choose the easier way and pay money for it.

    The media industry has only itself to blame for the piracy phenomenon in that it tries to create artificial supply constraints to increase prices.
    I can list several times when I forced to import a game where the local suppliers would not even consider bringing in one.
    But thank goodness for Steam.

    Reply

  3. G8crasha

    July 27, 2018 at 11:49

    Some pirate games rock, while other sucks: Rock: Assassins’ Creed Black Flag, Suck: Sea of Thieves!

    Is this even a debate! Theft is never acceptable in any situation. That’s not to say I never pirated a game in my younger years. But what has been proven is that a developer can offer a game for free and still make tons of dosh through DLC. Look at Fortnite. The developers are rolling in money, but the game is free, and due to the enjoyment people gain from it, they are willing to pay for cosmetic DLC, which I’m pretty sure fills their coffers faster than it would if you paid full price for the game!

    Reply

  4. RinceThis

    July 27, 2018 at 10:34

  5. Dutch Matrix

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    All my games are either delivered via Steam and Origin as well PS Store. How exactly is anti tamper software a problem for consumers these days?

    Reply

    • konfab

      July 27, 2018 at 12:54

      So what happens if the game that you paid for on Steam/Origin gets pulled from the store and automatically barred from being played?

      To me, that presents the ethical case for piracy, when you have paid for a piece of software and are arbitrarily prevented from using it.

      Reply

      • Dutch Matrix

        July 27, 2018 at 12:58

        But by the time a game gets pulled from Steam, do you still want to play it though?

        Reply

        • konfab

          July 27, 2018 at 13:02

          Some games are timeless.

          To date there is nothing close to the experiences of X-wing alliance.

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            July 27, 2018 at 13:03

            What about Star Citizen?

          • konfab

            July 27, 2018 at 13:03

            Not Star Wars.

            Now pirating a game from a place like GOG is just mean, as you can backup that executable yourself..

          • miaau

            July 27, 2018 at 13:25

            People who are not Star Wars CORE fans will not get it, I am afraid. been there.

  6. Sageville

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    YES!

    When you bought the game and the disk got scratched beyond use….

    BRING IT!

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      July 27, 2018 at 12:52

      That’s about the best reason I can think of!

      Reply

    • Dutch Matrix

      July 27, 2018 at 12:52

      Also if your dog got into your shed and ripped into all your games, proudly displaying your Sims 2 collection in the backyard

      Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      July 27, 2018 at 10:54

      Fair, though many companies will actually replace your disk in those cases (the publishers, not retailers)

      Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      July 27, 2018 at 10:54

      Fair, though many companies will actually replace your disk in those cases (the publishers, not retailers)

      Reply

    • Guild

      July 27, 2018 at 11:20

      But you buy digital now 😛

      Reply

      • Sageville

        July 27, 2018 at 11:23

        Disk 4 of my WOW install: “Abort, Retry, Fail”…

        Back in the day….

        *Also, one episode of Farscape that wouldn’t read… #PiracyConfessions

        Reply

        • Pariah

          July 27, 2018 at 11:24

          Kids today will never know this agony.

          Reply

        • For the Emperor!

          July 27, 2018 at 11:27

          My disk 6 of Unreal Tournament went missing 🙁

          Reply

          • Guild

            July 27, 2018 at 11:33

            I got pissed when I found out one of my disks for Baldur’s gate when missing.

          • Pariah

            July 27, 2018 at 11:33

            GoG has been a lifesaver for many of my older games.

    • Original Heretic

      July 27, 2018 at 12:52

      That’s about the best reason I can think of!

      Reply

    • Dutch Matrix

      July 27, 2018 at 12:52

      Also if your dog got into your shed and ripped into all your games, proudly displaying your Sims 2 collection in the backyard

      Reply

  7. Admiral Chief

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    I used to be a filthy pirate, but then I took a Steam sale and HumbleBundle and PSN monthly games to the knee

    Reply

  8. Skittle

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    I’m not going to drop $60+ on a game just because it has pretty trailers.

    Witcher 3 proved that games will have great sales as long as the company behind it is respected and they release quality products.

    Reply

    • Spathi

      July 27, 2018 at 12:54

      And, it goes on special for R 200 with all DLC every Steam sale. Best R 200 I’ve spend on a game!

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        July 27, 2018 at 12:57

        Nooooice

        Reply

        • Spathi

          July 27, 2018 at 15:59

          +/- 175 hours in, still busy with main game. Loving the world so much.

          Reply

      • Dresden

        July 27, 2018 at 15:59

        It’s a steal! I paid R250 for my GOTY edition back then and it got me 350+ hours of pure blissful entertainment!

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          July 27, 2018 at 16:02

          Those Skellige questions marks still haunt me….

          Reply

          • Dresden

            July 27, 2018 at 20:04

            I dedicated one day and destroyed them ALL!
            Interesting fact- on one of the isles, there’s a level 48 archgriffin which will kick your arse if you aren’t prepared for it.

          • Original Heretic

            July 27, 2018 at 23:08

            I worked meticulously worked through the first two areas, eliminating all them question marks, before hitting Skellige.
            When I reached it, I nearly crapped myself when I saw how much was there.
            So I put it aside, played something else for a bit.
            And then my PS and all games got stolen….

            So….Skellige haunts me still!

          • Dresden

            July 27, 2018 at 23:10

            That sounds horrible man. It would haunt me as well, seeing that I have to explore every nook and cranny of each map I play.

            And the worst part is, seeing how busy life gets, you’ll probably never get a chance to realistically try and finish the game again.

          • Original Heretic

            July 28, 2018 at 06:12

            Yup, doubtful that I’ll ever go back to it.

          • miaau

            July 27, 2018 at 23:25

            It will kick your arse even if you ARE prepared for it.

            Holy crap, that thing annoyed me.

          • Dresden

            July 27, 2018 at 23:33

            I went for an Alchemy-orientated build, which coincidentally is very strong vs. griffins, so I didn’t have much of a problem.

            Took a while, but I was in no real danger. Also, I was a very high level when I found the bastard (something like level 44 I think), so that also helps.

  9. Spathi

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    Nice try BSA!

    Generally speaking, it is not justifiable to pirate software. Can’t afford something, then you can’t have it. I buy games only on Steam specials.

    There are obviously rare exceptions like when you previously purchased a game but lost the physical media, or it doesn’t work anymore for some or the other reason. I have Wing Commander 3 on 5 discs, but I don’t have an optical drive anymore. So I purchased it once, still have it, but can’t play it. I would attempt to justify this.

    This being said, whilst I know it is wrong, morally and legally, to pirate, I still pirate series I can’t watch on Netflix or Showmax and have in the past pirated games “to try them out”, which I then did for about 20 hours…

    Reply

    • GooseZA

      July 27, 2018 at 13:05

      WING COMMANDER!!!

      Reply

  10. PoisonedBelial

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    I think it ok in 1 situation:

    If you are on the fence and you want to try before you buy – BUT THEN BUY THE DAMN THING.

    Sadly 99% of people just end up playing the pirate version and then don’t buy.

    #bringbackdemos

    Reply

    • For the Emperor!

      July 27, 2018 at 12:54

      #bringbackdemos !! Or give us more open weekends like Steam sometimes has

      Reply

    • Original Heretic

      July 27, 2018 at 10:57

      Bring back demons?!?!
      Mine never left.

      Reply

    • Pariah

      July 27, 2018 at 11:19

      Demos were what used to sell me on a game. Not reviews, not magazines or articles or even friend recommendations. Demos.

      I want them back too.

      Reply

    • For the Emperor!

      July 27, 2018 at 12:54

      #bringbackdemos !! Or give us more open weekends like Steam sometimes has

      Reply

  11. For the Emperor!

    July 27, 2018 at 10:49

    “There are also games that it just isn’t possible to play legally, thanks to regional releases” – this reason I have a lot of sympathy for. Also when a game is old, not on Steam/Origin/GoG, and there is no way to get it. I first try to get it on Steam/Origin/GoG before I would go snooping for “other” versions…

    Reply

  12. Original Heretic

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    When I was young, dumb, and full of…poverty, I pirated.
    But since I started getting a proper paycheck, I paid for my games. And also became a LOT more selective on what I play.

    Reply

    • Spathi

      July 27, 2018 at 12:54

      This exactly.

      Reply

  13. Kromas

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    I pirated back in the day because before pre-order culture was a thing I pre-ordered games specifically for collectors editions.

    Those editions usually arrived weeks after launch. So I pirate a game till my copy comes. I have to admit that pre-loads and soft keys plus certain retailers sending your copy a day before has made my pirating days non existent. The last game I pirated was Mass Effect 2 cause my CE arrived 3 weeks late.

    Reply

  14. For the Emperor!

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    I will admit that I do the “try before I buy” for series, and sometimes movies that I am very iffy about. I am running out of space for all the box sets though, and also patience for stuff to end! Like Supernatural – you KNOW that is going to have one hell of a Complete Collectors Edition when it is finally done!

    Reply

  15. Nigel Alan Smith

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    I have a few things to (not argue, but point out) yes steam a refund system, but only up to 2 hours… Now take final fantasy 15 for example, 2 hours in and you are just finishing the tutorial .. While they do have a demo available it doesnt give you much to work on..
    (i have bought ff15 legit)

    Games that i would happily pirate over and over are games such as call of duty. loved the story line on all of them, always have, always will.. But to pay 1000 rand for a 3 hour story because its multi-player is the main focus is ridiculous … Games these days are multi-player with a tacked on story mode and doesnt leave much for the people who want to stay clear of toxic communities

    Reply

    • Guild

      July 27, 2018 at 11:29

      Sorry but disagree with you. Why not wait for the CoD games to go on sale? They usually do.
      Admitting to “happily stealing it because you don’t like that the MP is the main focus and the SP not worth it’s value” is not a valid argument for stealing it.

      Reply

  16. Francis Kong

    July 27, 2018 at 10:50

    I follow the principle that “Piracy” is always a response to failure to market effectively.
    When given the choice between acquiring something from a known legit source or taking the more technically ardous route of Piracy, the customer would always choose the easier way and pay money for it.

    The media industry has only itself to blame for the piracy phenomenon in that it tries to create artificial supply constraints to increase prices.
    I can list several times when I forced to import a game where the local suppliers would not even consider bringing in one.
    But thank goodness for Steam.

    Reply

  17. konfab

    July 27, 2018 at 10:54

    Older games are also ridiculously overpriced.

    Paying $10 USD for a game written in 1998 is daylight robbery IMO.

    Reply

  18. Caveshen Rajman

    July 27, 2018 at 10:55

    If Critical Hit ever released a game, I’d pirate it just to spite my brother from another mother, Alessandro.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      July 27, 2018 at 11:01

      …actually…

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        July 27, 2018 at 11:02

        What, CH is gonna release a game?
        Or is it just some kind of event where everyone get’s to shoot Darryn in the face with non-lethal but painful projectiles?

        Reply

  19. PoisonedBelial

    July 27, 2018 at 11:07

    Can we not ask Takealot?

    They seem to be milking piracy…

    https://www.takealot.com/empire-family-unit-tv-game/PLID46872029

    Reply

  20. Pariah

    July 27, 2018 at 11:16

    No. Content creators deserve compensation for their content. I wouldn’t want my content stolen, so why would I go do that to someone else?

    And please save the “big corporation” argument – the employees did the work. Their jobs, and therefore salaries and very livelihood, are on the line. If a game doesn’t sell well, the corporates just cut jobs and move on to the next cash cow. The only victims are the employees, the people who actually did the work, put in the long thankless hours and provided that entertainment you like to complain about online.

    Reply

    • miaau

      July 27, 2018 at 11:22

      As a somewhat content creator, sort of, I fully agree.

      This is right up there with people insisting that we release source code open source for our clever proprietary, cutting edge (world wide) tech. No.

      Reply

  21. miaau

    July 27, 2018 at 11:16

    The past

    Years ago, I had Master of Orion 2 and the disc was damaged. I called a local number, in Randburg. THey said, come on round, bring everyhing I still have of the original packaging. I did, they took it and gave me a new box of Master Orion 2. Took a 2 minute phone call, a 15 minute detour, and 2 minutes there. THey had it our, ready for me.

    I cannot even properly remember what the game was (Warcraft 2?), but the local number was one of those “leave a message and we will call you back.” They never did. So, we copied the the game from someone else, installed it, loaded a crack and I could play my legal game.

    In the 2nd case, stuff them. I pirated.

    Of course, in the early 90s’, we copied ALL the games from our friends. So, one friend would buy a game and ALL the rest would copy it. We did not even think about it as a moral or financial concern (for the game companies). We just did it.

    The now

    Um, yeah. Games are super cheap to get. There is more of an understanding of the world now, even for other 13 year olds.

    I think FOMO is what leads people to piracy, i.e. Can get Game X on game-pass (steam sale, whatever), but all my friends have new game Y, I cannot afford it, so I pirate.

    I, looking back as well, think piracy in general is not good for the industry as a whole. The industry includes all role-players, gamers, makers, distributors and all that.

    Reply

  22. Kikmi

    July 27, 2018 at 11:32

    I still rate the reason why piracy was so rampant in the 90’s and early 2000’s was specifically due to either a) Cost or B) Location. Since gaming has become a global market and the fact you can pick up dozens of great cheap or free titles thatll keep you running for months and months (Hello Warframe/Pokemon Go) but alas, newer titles are very easily over R1000 (dont come here with the 600 argument because you are wrong) which makes life quite a pain in the ass considering your console is only 4x price. It becomes harder and harder to invalidate the piracy argument when you start accumulating the costs of dlc, lootboxes, microtransactions, cosmetics and the ilk that shares the ever increasing “cost to own” situation.

    Let me make it clear, I do not support piracy, HOWEVER, no one is stopping you from doing it.

    The real question here is “Do you enjoy the entertainment that others have worked for to provide you with hours of enjoyment?”. If yes, then support the developers, if no, go read reviews or listen to gaming podcasts with recommendations and soap boxing. Remember, just like you these dudes need to eat. And yes unfortunately this includes fucktwats like Konami and EA.

    But

    If your country is limiting your selection due to archaic by laws or nanny state syndrome, then pirate the fuck out of it. Why? Because, do you honestly think that publisher wants your money? Do you think your government wants your tax? Clearly not. Its not the zero sum argument of “it hurts the industry”. That in itself is a fallacy. There is more chance that a pirate will pirate the game and buy it than it is for a pirate just to take take take. Theres a billion specials on at any one time and usually the favourites wil come into circulation. Most people, even though they might own it or pirated it on another platform will likely chuck the money the devs way. but no, there is zero impact on the industry. Have a look at the coffers of actiblizz or electronic farts, and then tell me piracy is an issue

    Reply

  23. Magoo

    July 27, 2018 at 11:38

    Simply for the fact that pirating a game fuels a malicious industry, yes it’s definitely wrong.

    As for playing a game that you haven’t paid for, I approve of a number of reasons.

    Reply

  24. Craig "CrAiGiSh" Dodd

    July 27, 2018 at 11:40

    Yarrr …

    Reply

  25. G8crasha

    July 27, 2018 at 11:49

    Some pirate games rock, while other sucks: Rock: Assassins’ Creed Black Flag, Suck: Sea of Thieves!

    Is this even a debate! Theft is never acceptable in any situation. That’s not to say I never pirated a game in my younger years. But what has been proven is that a developer can offer a game for free and still make tons of dosh through DLC. Look at Fortnite. The developers are rolling in money, but the game is free, and due to the enjoyment people gain from it, they are willing to pay for cosmetic DLC, which I’m pretty sure fills their coffers faster than it would if you paid full price for the game!

    Reply

  26. Tbone187

    July 27, 2018 at 14:03

    No in most cases and especially if you’re simply trying to satisfy your lust for the latest offerings.There’s just too much media circulating around to be pirating stuff.

    I don’t game often these days tho and will gladly purchase a title on the bargain counter as there is so much I missed out on over the yrs. Most recent being SW Force Unleashed 2, Batman Arkham Asylum and Unchartered 3 which were dirt cheap and really good titles,so no need to pirate really.

    I’ve bought games tho where the DRM is so frustrating, I had to get the cracks to play them. Hitman Absolution for example. Steam is a total cockup imo!!Hopefully things have improved over the years in this regard although I hear you don’t actually own the games on there either. Not ideal really.

    Plus there are so many free to play games these days to keep you occupied whilst saving for a game,there really shouldn’t be as much piracy on AAA titles.

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      July 27, 2018 at 14:06

      Your argument very nearly fell apart when you referred to Force Unleashed 2 as a “really good title”.
      Your only saving grace is that Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 3 are in there as well.

      Reply

      • Tbone187

        July 27, 2018 at 14:09

        Controls are a bit wonky but I like the different characters.I’m very casual these days though so maybe not the best person to comment.

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          July 27, 2018 at 14:14

          It’s not the controls that are an issue, it’s the horribly weak story. Compared to Unleashed 1, it was so SO poor.
          I mean, a game where you run around as a Jedi carving enemies up with a lightsabre is meant to superb fun, not a chore.

          Reply

          • Tbone187

            July 27, 2018 at 14:16

            True…I did n’t play the first to compare tho so that perhaps works in my favour.

          • Original Heretic

            July 27, 2018 at 14:25

            Ahhh, okay, yes, that would make a HUGE difference.
            Going from 1 to 2, the only real improvement was the ability to dual wield your lightsabres.

  27. Tbone187

    July 27, 2018 at 14:59

    I see plenty guys here saying they used to pirate back in the day. That leads me to thinking it may well be an experience that people evolve through perhaps? i.e. You start out a real junkie,wanting the latest content at any cost, but gradually become more refined in your tastes and stop hording media.

    I think a lot of people horde media for the sake of it btw.I know a guy who simply grows his music collection, not knowing what he has. I hate it when I see somebody with loads of track 1s for example.

    When there’s a connection to the media you’re consuming, the more effort and resource you’ll use to consume it.Naturally. This is something publishers have be moving toward I feel, generally. CD project Red for example. Those guys understand that building that connection is more important than chasing up on who’s pirating their stuff.

    I once went to a jazz gig in London where I was lucky enough to watch Ronny Jordon and George Benson. Ronny gave out these coupons basically with downloadable content that you got for simply attending. I thought it was an awesome approach.

    The flip side is to piracy? I was given a pirate copy of Shadow Club’s music. Joburgerz…Never heard of ’em. Loved it and was first in line to buy their gig ticket when they came around locally.

    It’s a rather complex topic to have a definitive answer I feel.

    Reply

  28. Deceased

    July 28, 2018 at 05:13

    After the moment that I realized the amount of effort writing any software system takes – I’ve not pirated a single game… So my stance towards any form of software piracy is that it’s on the “Not Okay” side…

    That being said, the fact that you never really “Own” the games that you purchase, but are simply paying for the privilege of experiencing said game… that in my mind is also on the “Not Okay” side… Sure, I get it, the person does not really buy the source-code, so you can’t expect a game to cost > R1M – but at the same time, the idea that someone “could in theory negate every game in my steam-library and I would have no footing according the terms and conditions” kind of doesn’t sit well with me 😐

    Now finally, coming to the conclusion on my rant:
    Depends on what sort of pirate you are I guess…
    If you’re into piracy for all the food – I guess you’re a rubber-human
    If you’re into piracy for all the booze – I guess you aim to be the best swordsman
    If you’re into piracy for the mermaids and cooking ingredients – I guess you’re Sanji

    But that’s just my 2 cents…

    Reply

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