Free Rider vs the Illegal Downloader

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Black OPs, Console, DRM, Figures, Illegal Downloading, PC Game, Piracy, Piracy Problem, Pirate, Sales, Sales Figures, Statistics, Torrents

There are different classes of illegal downloaders and each group makes a part of the whole piracy market. In its simplest form the Piracy Pyramid looks like the picture below and the illegal population consists of Crackers, Uploaders and Downloaders. As the colour gradient suggest, the top of the pyramid represents a very small percentage, which is probably less than 5%, of the illegal population.

 

Imagine if the Cracking Groups one day decided not to share the crack with the illegal downloaders. Instantly 95% of the illegal population would have no choice but to either move on, or buy the game. That’s mind blowing!

And personally … one of the things that really annoyed me… Sometimes illegal downloaders are very ungrateful. Not all, but those small minority, the ones that normally have big voices, would spoil it for the rest of the population! As wrong as it is, they are getting things for free, and yet most of the time comment boxes are filled with complaints, rather than thanks!

So what is a Free Rider Pirate? This refers to an illegal downloader that downloads anything and everything, regardless of what it is. They enjoy downloading because they have enough HD space, bandwidth, and perhaps are internet pack rats. They are often described as people would never buy this material, and almost to the point that it becomes a self propagating justification.

WarFace has heard all the excuses, but in all honesty there are only a handful of original ones. Even though most of the excuses are debunked fairly quickly, the pure arrogance of piracy is the fundamental belief that it will happen. There is nothing publishers or game developers can do to stop it; pirates will always crack your software.

This isn’t completely true… but you have to be smart about it! As the Music and Movie industries have shown all too often; suing anyone and everyone regardless of proof, shows that you are dealing with big cold hearted companies that don’t care!

But in this blog I am looking at one of the excuses that I always knew was rubbish, the Free Rider. The excuse, which most illegal downloading is done by a small group of downloaders! There are no stats for this, but it helps when I say it like this; that 10% of the total copy infringers, the free riders, are illegally downloading 80% of the material on the internet.

What this in effect is saying, that one illegal download doesn’t equal one sale. Basically “Free Rider” pirates are downloading so much, and wouldn’t buy it anyway, that if you discounted this portion of the illegal scene; the piracy figures would be very small. Therefore the leftover illegal downloaders, who might perhaps buy the product, are such a small percentage that the losses to the company are supposedly minuscule!

Apart from the fact it’s supposed to be an excuse for the “Free Rider Pirates” that they would never buy it anyway. It also seems to be an excuse for the rest of the illegal downloaders who might have paid for it. However these excuses never have any proof, facts or figures, but ultimately it helps keep the piracy thought alive!

So how do you work out the difference between a free rider pirate and an illegal downloader? And of course what percentage of the piracy market do they own?

If there is such a group of illegal downloaders that just download anything and everything. Well call me silly but they should have a major presence on the P2P networks. Therefore the difference between a highly popular torrent and a lowly one should be the 20% of average illegal downloaders. Because they are the ones who only download in small amounts! Right?

The graph below tracks a number of illegal titles recorded throughout 2010. We have listed them in order of the number of illegal downloads per day, the lowest, Silent Hunter 5 (106) to the highest, Call of Duty: Black Ops (26,713).

 

But it clearly shows that as the popularity of games is higher, so are the number of times it’s downloaded. To be honest this is what you would expect, games that are popular are downloaded more times than unpopular ones.

However in the test results we have Call of Duty: Black Ops the block buster of 2010, both legal and illegal. This wildly upsets the results, in favour of the Pro-Publishers, putting the Free Rider population at 0.004% of the illegal downloader population. So let’s call that an anomaly and exclude the results for Call of Duty: Black Ops.

But still there is no evidence for the “Free Rider” pirates, as the table below shows. From the total results, by taking the first 5 and the last 5, then comparing the difference, it puts the Free Rider at around 2.6% of the population.

 

Then if you look at the first and last 10 results, 20 results, and finally first half by the second half; you can see there is no correlation to “Free Rider” pirates owning the majority of the illegal population. The most you can suggest is 14.4% could possibly be downloading lots of illegal material.

  

14.4% (12,620 downloaders per day)

85.6% (75,049 downloaders per day)

87,669 (Total downloaders per day)

Are there hoarding pirates out there? Of course! Do we all know one? Probably, it’s very likely! But this is no reason to claim its prevalent, and even less of a reason to use this as an excuse to justify all illegal downloading habits! 

I know what you are going to say next! That this is rubbish! free riders make up “80%” of any particular torrent not “80%” of the illegal downloading scene. So if we assume that 80% of a torrent is a waste, and we get no revenue from it, we can show an estimation of the losses.

If we take the lowest torrent, Silent Hunter 5, with roughly 106 illegal downloads a day. Assuming only 20% (21) of the illegal downloaders are going to buy Silent Hunter 5 every day, worldwide. The total losses over 6 months is € 135,376 for the lowest popular torrent in our test range.

 

The highest, Call of Duty: Black Ops, would have lost € 34,116,107 over 6 months. The 2nd highest being Medal of Honor and its loss was € 10,375,445 over 6 months. Of course Black Ops was a block buster anomaly of 2010. If you are wondering what the average 6 month loss is, if Black Ops was discounted, it comes out € 2,153,176.

Please feel free to download and view the data sheet containing all the results used in this experiment: http://www.warfaceaps.com/files/FreeRider-DataSheet.pdf

While you can argue these figures; what you really have to ask, is € 135,376 worth putting an anti-strategy plan in place? For example, it may seem like a small amount for a PC game, and €34 million seems like an awful lot. But from a previous WarFace blog we calculated the legitimate sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops using the quanties reported from this feed http://gamrfeed.vgchartz.com/story/82685/call-of-duty-black-ops-sells-7-million-copies-on-day-one/.

We calculated that Black Ops sold roughly 210,000 copies on the PC, taking 3% of the sales market share. The PC versions was sold at a cheaper price of € 44.99, the consoles price was € 54.99, and the first day sales was € 9,447,900 million for the PC. Plus you have to remember the above piracy loss € 34 million is also based on the lower € 34.99 game. Every statistical result is in favour of piracy being a problem and having a profoundly negative effect on business!

This clearly shows that 20% of the illegal downloading population makes a significant difference. Of course it depends on the popularity of the game in the first place, but the piracy losses could be far greater. The average income lost per title for the 6 month shelf life of a game has been calculated at around € 2 million.

Call of Duty: Black Ops sold roughly 375 million Euros on the first day across all platforms.  But the likes of Ubisoft Silent Hunter 5’s loss of € 135,376 could be perceived as nothing. But it isn’t, in these trying times Publishers will be cutting back on expenses, and one of the main ones is Game Developer costs!

If you have to ask how far you could stretch € 135,376, then you’re not a small software development team in the tough world of gaming media! Struggling week by week, hoping your publisher will reward your talented work and that gamers will recognise your games.

On 11th of February 2011, Crysis 2 was illegally leaked; the official release would be a month later on the 22nd March 2011. But what really is interesting, that the first game Crysis was a PC release only. But they soon realised after the amount of Piracy, releasing a PC exclusive title was unsound as a business plan! If I was Crytek, I would flat out refuse to release Crysis 3 on the PC at all!

What does this say for the PC industry as a whole? Does it make sense to release PC games at all? Sure people by PC games, but when Call of Duty: Black Ops makes € 227,108,700 on the Xbox and € 138,574,800 on the PS3. You have to wonder from a business point of view why go to the expense of releasing on the PC at all? Now ask yourself do you honestly believe that piracy isn’t killing the PC industry?

What are your opinions on PC gaming Piracy? Do you think there is a small group of people illegally downloading the whole illegal market? And if you think there is, how many people do you know who download at such an extremely high rate?

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