In the magical fairy tale land that video games (and, for that matter, music) industry execs live in, every instance of a pirated title is equivalent to one lost sale.  They trot out this canard like clockwork every time that they need to justify a new and even more draconian form of DRM to hobble legitimate buyers while never actually impacting pirates in the slightest.

But wait, could it be that there is a positive benefit to piracy.  Could software thieves actually contribute to sales:

Indie developer Daniel Amitay credits piracy with a doubling of sales (thanks to The Escapist). The developer behind the iPhone game “Punch ‘Em!” says that his game being pirated ultimately helped double the sales of his game.

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Examining two separate 17-day periods, (Dec. 4 – 20 and Dec. 30 – Jan. 15) he found that the first period was flat, with sales slightly outpacing piracy rates. But in the second time period he found that the piracy rate was 39 percent higher. But as the rate of piracy grew so did the number of sales; he’d found that his sales doubled during the second time period.

“Throughout Punch ‘Em!’s paid lifetime, I couldn’t raise its sales count in the long term,” he said on his blog. “So if thousands of users end up pirating my app, but hundreds buy it as a result of hearing about it from their pirate buddies, why should I cry?”

While I do not condone piracy, I have long since grown weary of the insane assertion that there is a strict one-to-one relation between lost revenue and illegal downloads, and Amitay’s stats are just one more piece of the puzzle.  A software pirate is just as likely as a legitimate consumer to spread positive word of mouth about the new game that he is enjoying, and that feedback will drive new sales.

This phenomenon is probably more strongly felt when the software in question is cheap to legally obtain, however full price AAA games are not exempt from the benefits generated by word of mouth buzz.  (Ignoring, of course, the obvious fact that lowering game costs is the easiest way to lower piracy rates and boost revenues.)

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3 Responses to “Piracy as a sales device”

  1. Void says:

    I always think it’s interesting how much lowering the price point increases sales of a game (and ends up increasing profit too).

    I understand that companies can be upset about piracy, but it isn’t the horrible tragedy they make it out to be.

  2. Ron says:

    Its very true. Its a fallacy to assume that just because someone pirated some software ( or anything really), means you lost a sale. Like the poster above me, everyone has different thresholds on what they’d acquire.

    If 10 people bought your software for $100, but 150 people bought it at $10, you netted $50, you didn’t lose $500. You cannot count every pirated piece of software as if it was a lost sale.

  3. Andrew says:

    I continue to hold out hope that the big publishers will see how reduced prices on Steam generate huge sales figures (and thus profits) and change their model…. but they still seem to think that if they can get away with charging more money they will improve their figures. Morons.

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