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PCGA: PC game piracy is declining

"There are stats that corroborate that."

Just days after the PC version of high-profile shooter Crysis 2 was leaked onto the internet, forcing developer Crytek to issue a statement that said "piracy continues to damage the PC packaged goods market and the PC development community", one group has claimed PC game piracy is actually on the decline.

"What's really interesting [according to PCGA research,] is piracy was largely, historically rampant when you had an optical drive or a piece of physical media. And people would go and download the crack for it," Matt Ployhar, the new president of the PC Gaming Alliance, told Gamasutra.

"In some cases the crack was done days before the game ever even hit retail shelves. Now what's happening is piracy was so bad in other geographies - it's kind of bad everywhere but there are certain places where it spikes - that it was an equation of survival of the fittest.

"The only PC gaming business models that existed and continued to thrive and that could continue to live were MMOs. They do really well. You can still pirate them but they're an order of magnitude harder to pirate.

"And then there are free to play games. You can't really pirate free to play. You can but it doesn't make a lot of sense. So what's happening is game design is shifting and as a result of shifting game design, piracy, at least on the PC side, is actually declining as a result."

Following Crytek 2's leak online the game industry made its anti-piracy stance clear.

The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) told Eurogamer piracy "poses a very real threat to the UK's games industry".

But the PCGA claims it has statistics that show piracy is waning.

"There are stats that do corroborate that," Ployhar insisted. "I'm not saying that piracy is going to go away. It's fascinating to watch. For example, you get a game like Crysis that got hit hard by piracy. Now what you're seeing to combat that or reduce the chances of piracy are developers implementing achievements, in-game pets, all of these things that are tracked and stored in the cloud.

"So even if you pirate the game you're still not getting the bragging rights. You've got all these additional mechanisms where the value proposition of the game, where if you pirate it, it's just not going to be as fun."

Digital rights management is one method game publishers use to try to protect their games from piracy.

Many gamers, however, consider DRM to be restrictive and frustrating.

"There is an interesting thing going on where I've heard of people - I won't mention names - who one of the first things that they'll do is they'll go crack the retail copy that they bought and load it onto a drive," Ployhar continued. "And that way they can take it to any other PC that they've bought.

"And the driving factor there is, that they want the extra level of flexibility that comes along with that, when you don't need that disc spinning in your optical drive. But they still legitimately bought the game, right?

"But then, they're downloading this hack, which is going to light up in some of these forums, 'Oh, there are 50,000 downloads of XYZ crack.' And I'm like, 'Well, yeah, but some percentage of those are from people who legitimately bought the retail box for that, they just want the extra flexibility that you would get, almost as if it was digitally downloaded.' It's a weird perspective, but it happens."