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Piracy might actually help games sales, one EU study finds

2 min read

Does piracy actually help games sales

For the longest time now its been pretty much accepted that piracy is terrible in any industry, and videogames are no exception. Developers have explained how stolen copies have cost them millions in sales, while others have argued pirated copies aren’t directly taking away from legitimate sales. The idea here is that greater exposure of a game can only help drive its more legal sales, and a new EU study seems to back that up with some data.

A 306 page document chronicling the effect of piracy across several mediums in the EU has found that while piracy seems to negatively affect both films and books, videogames are the exception where it seems that illegitimate copies help drive up interest in a game, converting to better legal sales. The study goes so far to suggest that for every 100 games illegally downloaded, players obtain 24 more games legally as a result. The author continues by suggesting that illegal playing of games and the streaming of them has a good conversion rate, often getting pirates to drop cash on some purchases to get access to new features (with the rise of so many socially connected online titles, this isn’t a surprise).

But there’s a catch. The study was conducted in a personal manner, which involved questions to participants which could have elicited lying. Although care was taken to not directly ask whether a participant was illegally obtaining digital content (and several calculations were used when it was clear this figure was being skewed), it doesn’t hide the fact that this regularly occurred throughout. So much so that the study attaches a pretty large 45% margin of error to its findings, which can make many of the figures seem like complete noise.

Still, this is one of the deepest looks into this discussion outside of social rhetoric yet, so while its findings may be up for question as to their accuracy, the questions it poses are still curious. There’s no doubt that a piracy-free industry would be the best – one where consumers of games purchase the content that so many people have poured work and money into. But it’s certainly a more nuanced issue with the prevalence of good word finding its way around, and this study serves to only amplify that idea.

Last Updated: September 27, 2017

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