Blog: Why the PC is Not about Piracy

How many times have you heard that PC gamers are nothing but pirates? Well if you listen to Cliffy B—you know, the guy behind the Gears of War games—he had said this about why Gears of War 2 would not come to the PC:

“Here’s the problem right now; the person who is savvy enough to want to have a good PC to upgrade their video card, is a person who is savvy enough to know bit torrent to know all the elements so they can pirate software.”

There were three very good reasons why I didn’t buy Gears of War for the PC. One: It was released a whole year later on the PC and it wasn’t even confirmed for the PC until months after it was out on the XBox. Two: After the half-assed effort put into Unreal Tournament 3 for the PC, I wasn’t going to buy another Epic game ported to the PC without reading the reviews. Three: There were several technical issues with the PC game, especially with the multiplayer. This hurt your ego, Cliffy, and you haven’t learned from it. Just look at Bulletstorm.

This view doesn’t seem to be lacking from the IGN staff, either. Recently, they tried to answer a question about why PC games are being delayed. Well, Antonio from the IGN Gamescoop Podcast and a member of the IGN PC Team had this to say:

“I think it’s a couple of things. These days with multiplatform development, there is no reason for them to develop first and foremost for the PC. They know where their breads buttered in. These days, it’s on consoles, so you delay the PC one [and] it does you a couple of things. One: not having the PC code come out the same day means that the person who might have a PC and consoles is less likely to pirate on the PC because they’re going to go out and buy it on the console because they want it right away. Two: more importantly it allows them to have, like, a second launch of their game. Like ah, we have L.A. Noire coming out for the PC here in a month, and it’s basically going to give Rockstar an opportunity to have, like, a whole new launch for a game that no one’s really talking about again… I just think that for developers that are making multiplatform games, it’s worth their time to focus on console development first then PC later.”

I have a serious problem with this position from the IGN staff because they review every single game via a console unless it’s a PC-only title like Hard Reset. Now, I’m not saying this happened, but I suspect that it might have. I think that IGN made this a semi-scripted Q&A, where they said we want this but they wanted these employees to spin it with their own words. The reason is because IGN makes their money from advertisements and get all of their AAA-advertised games for the console unless it’s PC only. They took the same position every single publisher and some developers take when it comes to the PC: everyone will pirate it. Therefore, they’re sucking their advertisers’ dicks to make sure they don’t lose their income and free games.

How do I know that this viewpoint is bullshit? Glad you asked. Just look at the most popular torrent site, and you’ll see a game coming out later this week already being pirated: Battlefield 3! The most interesting thing is that the PC has quite a few downloads, but so does the XBox 360 version. I seriously wish I could get my hands on the sale figures for that title, for console and PC respectively. All we’ve ever had to go on is the publisher’s word for the sale figures in quarterly reports; we never see the raw data for profit and sales. The reason this is important is because I want to look at total sales and the number of pirates for not just PC but console as well. I want to show you the real percentage of piracy for all platforms because it isn’t just PC gamers.

To counter Cliffy B on PC gamers, don’t you think that anyone who can mod their console for any number of legit or illegal reasons can pirate your game just as easily? The answer is yes because they obviously had to go to one of those sites to get the software needed to do it. How many people have modded their consoles and pirated console games? I bet you know of at least one person who has pirated at least one song or game on the PC, even unintentionally, but you would be hard pressed to name someone who has pirated a game for a console. With that in mind, I ask you this: How many people do you know own a PC and how many an XBox or PS3? We would be hard pressed to say for sure what someone else has, let alone if it’s modded. This, however, does not stop publishers and developers from pointing the finger at the one platform they know for sure everyone is guilty on, and that’s the PC. Keep in mind this doesn’t even cover how many of these consoles are sold online pre-modded or the handheld market’s fight with mod chips, either.

The PC is an open platform, and people will sometimes make mistakes and get something illegally, fully aware of it or not at the time. I know this from experience when I used to fix computers or take Internet help desk calls. The average person will think a program online is legit, like Limewire, and find out later it isn’t. These jackwang companies are saying what they do to put you on a guilt trip for something you may or may not have done intentionally. They’re trying to make you think the PC is evil and the only way to be saved is by embracing the holy console—which you know now is anything but. This argument from IGN that it’s better for games to be made on the console first then ported to the PC is just another example of someone giving a biased opinion by trying to use the scare tactic of piracy as an excuse, which is bullshit that needs to stop!

Here is an example to back up my point about how piracy is an overused term. Everyone has heard about the game Crysis, right? You heard that it was pirated, right? Did you hear about how many units they sold? No? Well, that’s not surprising. If you go to Wikipedia, you will find that the game sold over 1 million copies close to launch, then went on to sell over 3 million copies total. This went on to be one of the best-selling PC games of all time, but they complained about piracy? That’s triple platinum! You only need 1 million copies sold to get that special platinum logo on a console game. Keep in mind this does not include the expansion’s sales figures. Here’s how it happened for me and many gamers at the time: Crytek kept the specs of the game close to the vest, and when they did come out a month or so before release, we were hit hard and had to upgrade, but with only a month to prepare. It took me two months after the game came out to get it, which was when I finally had the hardware. This is how the majority of my friends did things as well. Thus the 80,000 from first two weeks of sales make sense when you put it in that perspective, but the company won’t blame themselves for it and instead say it was always the pirates.

There are more recent games, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, that have claimed similar poor sales numbers on the PC. If you look at the sales report from when the first game came out (courtesy of Gamasutra) you can see that the XBox version sold 4.9 million units; the PS3 version sold 3.1 million units; but the PC, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo Wii only sold 400,000 units combined. This estimates to be about 8.1 million units sold total, but there’s something after it you have to take to into account with this number for the PC: “with digital sales via outlets such as Steam not taken into account for this total.” This means the digital units sold would exceed this number, but by how many? That is a damn good question and here’is your answer. Thanks to Digital Game Insights, they show that the estimated sales of this game through Steam was 1,296,000 for November 2010. This skews the report made by Gamasutra by almost 1 million units sold for the PC alone. This is, of course, me being modest with the original number of 400,000 and the PC only having sold 296,000 out of that. This illustrates that companies are not up front about PC sales, but why can’t we see the figures for units sold on the individual platforms like the PC after this inital look? The only conslusion I can draw is that they do this so they can blame piracy without providing all the facts, so they’re just spinning the truth to suite their excuses to investors and the public. There’s doubt in my mind that this game did not sell as well on the PC because of many issues noted in many reviews about technical problems, such as with multiplayer and poor performance with systems that far exceed the recommended requirements. This game was a case in point of a bad port, but they fixed many of these problems a few months later after I picked it up. Unfortunately, the damage had all ready been done, and many didn’t want to take the chance. I only did because of a friend telling me about it. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have picked it up myself in January 2011.

Here’s another point about companies not being completely upfront about piracy. Earlier this month, I read an opinion article over at PC Gamer entitled “Ubisoft, piracy, and the death of reason.” For quite some time now, Ubisoft has been treating all PC gamers like criminals with over the top DRM requirements, such as being online 100% of the time to play and not saving your game locally, so losing your connection means losing all your progress. Now, long after these DRM requirements were implemented, we’re hearing about their sales. They’ve dropped by a staggering 90% on the PC. The sales on the console have not picked up in response to this dramatic drop, either. The crazy part is that Ubisoft called this a success, and analyst Patcher was quick to blame piracy, but really, where does the truth lie? The article went on to talk about a recent Ubisoft game called Driver: San Francisco and how Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s review influenced PC Gamer writer Rob Zacny to not buy this game. There were many PC basics and advanced features that should’ve been included but weren’t because they cut corners to make a quick port, obviously. The truth is this, he saw a problem with this game—and so did I from a technical standpoint, so I wouldn’t want to buy it, either.

As a PC gamer first, I will tell you I pay for my games, and so do the vast majority of others. This isn’t to say there aren’t those who will pirate to save a buck, but so do console gamers. This goes to anyone making a game on consoles or PC. Here are some things to remember when bringing a console game to the PC: We want games that aren’t technical fiascoes like Rage and Gears of War. We want the basic features that have been there since Quake, and we want you to treat all gamers with respect. As a developer or publisher, you’re a part of the business and your goal is to make money, but PC gamers are tired of being treated like a minority. You make your games on the platform we prefer, and all we ask in return is for you to give us the same consideration that you do for consoles. Hell, maybe more of those cheap-ass pirates will pay for your games if they show effort and respect was put into them instead of being more of the half-assed ports that have become the norm. There is a problem with piracy—there is no doubt in my mind about that—but pirates aren’t the only ones with the problem here.

One quote that’s come to mind is this: “Print the news and raise hell.” I may be raising hell with this because these are things many companies do not want out there, but fuck ’em. I’m here at Gaming Bus because we will put the truth first, even if it means we make these companies pissed, and I for one am glad it’s here. It honestly could not be said better than this: “The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.”


About Brandon Mietzner