Videogame piracy study finds number of downloaders substantially smaller than reported

Ubisoft survey

When it comes to reports of video game piracy the numbers bandied around stretch into the tens of millions. Back in 2009 the Entertainment Software Association claimed their study had tracked 10 million downloads across 200 titles. A year later TorrentFreak reported almost double that, saying the top five PC games had been downloaded 18.14 million times.

A recent study, however, states that across 173 games there were 12.6 million peers.

While we’re still dealing in the millions of downloaders, the study challenges the both the number of downloads and the pervasiveness of file sharers. If studies from three years ago were finding 18 million downloads across five games, suggesting a similar number of file sharers, it would be a safe hypothesis that that number would have grown in the interim time, especially when the sample of games grew to 173 titles.

According to the three-month study performed by Aalborg University’s Anders Drachen, University of Waterloo’s Kevin Bauer, and Robert W. D. Veitch of Copenhagen’s business school, the ten most popular games were accountable for 42% of the file sharers, around 5.37 million peers. Again, defying the TorrentFreak survey.

The team also noticed that in the first few days following a game’s release it will have a spike of download popularity, this will decline rapidly in the following weeks. Meaning any short-term surveys will generate skewed numbers.

The team gathered their data by developing a web crawler which compiled a list of unique peers for the post popular illegal game torrent files, it then compared these lists to determine which file sharers were seeding multiple games across their sample.

You can read the full study over here.

Cheers, Wired.