Illegal downloads continue to thrive, despite ongoing efforts to crack down on online piracy. Methods have included legal action against file-sharers, blocking access to sites at the ISP level, with other ideas also in the works, but some companies are focusing on studying illegal downloads to understand just how impactful piracy really is to their businesses.
U.K game developer Sports Interactive did precisely that following the launch of their title, Football Manager 2013, in November 2012. After the game was cracked in May this year, copies quickly made their way on to the web, but while the developer was powerless to stop people from illegally sharing the game, it was able to track where the copies ended up.
As MCV reports, a ‘flaw’ in the crack enabled Sports Interactive to track the IP address of everyone who downloaded it, enabling the developer to gather data on where copies were being played, and even how often.
SI learned that the game was illegally downloaded 10.1m times, and the data further revealed that the largest concentration of downloads was in China, which racked up 3.2m downloads in the last six months. Turkey (with 1.05m) was in second place, followed by 780,000 in Portugal. Amusingly, one download was tracked to the Vatican.
According to the developer's studio director, Miles Jacobson, it was estimated that 1.74% of the total number of illegal downloaders would have actually purchased the game had a cracked copy not been available online, suggesting that the financial impact of piracy in this case wasn’t quite as enormous as the 10.1m download figure might initially suggest.
However, that 1.74% still translates to around 176,000 potential sales, which Jacobson said was equivalent to around $3.7m in lost revenue.