The truth (?) about game piracy on BitTorrent

With my esteemed colleagues Kevin Bauer, University of Colorado, and Robert Veitch and Ioanna Constantiou, Copenhagen Business School, I have been working on mining BitTorrent for information about game piracy for the past six months. We are publishing early results at the Foundations for Digital Games 2011 Conference, with some exciting results, including the first objective, unbiased report – or so we think/hope – on the actual magnitude of game piracy. Digital piracy is at the heart of one of the most heated and divisive debates in the international games environment, with stakeholders typically viewing it as a very positive (pirates) or very negative (the industry, policy makers). Despite the substantial interest in game piracy, there is very little objective information available about its magnitude or its distribution across game titles and game genres.

In our report at FDG, we run a an analysis of the distribution of digital game titles, which was conducted by monitoring the BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing protocol. The sample includes 173 games and a collection period of three months from late 2010 to early 2011. A total of 12.6 million unique peers were identified, making this the largest examination of game piracy via P2P networks to date. The ten most pirated titles encompass 5.27 million aggregated unique peers alone. In addition to genre, review scores were found to be positively correlated with the logarithm of the number of unique peers per game (p<0.05). I will post more information once the academic copyright has cleared – in the meantime, you are welcome to contact me with any questions.


2 thoughts on “The truth (?) about game piracy on BitTorrent

  1. Hi Anders,

    An interesting you have there! One thing that did get me wondering though was if it would be possible to have a look at the number of sold copies in relation to the number of downloads and how this correlates with the game reviews. Although I know it might be difficult to get real sales numbers for many of the games.

    I guess that would make this even more interesting (for me at least).

    Keep up the work,


  2. Hi Roel

    Thanks for the kind words. We agree that correlations with sales numbers would be very interesting, but alas, sales data are not freely available for the games industry – we tried pretty hard to get them but did not find a credible source. If you know how to get the numbers, we will be happy to run the analysis đŸ™‚


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