In the entertainment industry, there will always be piracy, preferring to download it illegally rather than spend money on it. It would seem that, while sales in tv, music, and movies have certainly take a hit from the practice, that piracy in video games is the biggest threat currently.
But how much does piracy affect sales in the modern age? A recent European study suggests that not only does the practice not drastically affect sales, it may even benefit them.
The study, done by the European Commission, found that the illegal consumption of games leads to increased legal consumption. It estimates that for every 100 illegally downloaded titles, players legally obtained 24 more games than they would in a world in which piracy didn’t exist.
“This positive effect of illegal downloads and streams on the sales of games may be explained by the industry being successful in converting illegal users to paying users,” the study authors write.”Players get hooked and then pay to play the game with extra bonuses or at extra levels, only free games are more likely displaced.
Plenty of modern games like Overwatch and Counterstrike feature microtransactions for aesthetic purposes, purchasing character and gun skins. Grand Theft Auto: Online has proved that the payments are a hugely profitable market in the industry, earning $500 Million in microtransactions back in 2016 alone.
Interestingly, the same study finds that it still has a considerably negative effect on the sales of films and book, with a neutral effect on music. Games are the only medium in which
This study comes from surveying 30,000 consumers, spaced across the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, and Sweden. To extrapolate the date, the authors used a number of survey strategies and statistical models to limit the effects of false and misremembered responses from the participants. They also accounted for the fact that people who like games are more likely to play both pirated and legitimate games.
An example question would be one that asks the survey takers about their generalized moral attitude toward piracy and their familiarity with piracy terms, both of which are highly correlated with reported piracy rates.
“If people know piracy terms but do not report piracy, this might indicate untruthful responses.”
Lastly, econometric models were used as a way of estimating the effects of the practices based on piracy-correlated factors, including high-speed internet access and the frequency in which the internet is used to do homework or read news.
At the very least, the study poses a lot of interesting question, as well as comparisons to the effects of piracy in other industries.