Remember back in the day if someone wanted a game (or any work of media), all they had to do was log on to LimeWire or Kazaa and then just download it with ease. Times have changed and the good ole days of downloading media illegally are long gone. While media piracy hasn’t died yet, it’s no longer worth the effort for so many people.
This is a look into what has changed that made pirating games no longer worth the time or effort for so many people. Please note that this list is not advocating for or promoting online piracy and a reminder that it’s still illegal.
5. Crackdown on Torrent Sites
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, torrent sites along with peer-to-peer file sharing services were the best place to get all the free media you wanted. Video games, movies, music and more were all available for download. Why? Because the laws were unclear and the legal system had no real way to deal with it at the time. Copyright holders tried suing but cases like A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. only opened more loopholes for file sharing software developers to navigate around.
That all changed in 2005 with MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. when the United States Supreme Court ruled that software companies can be held liable if they promote their product as a tool to infringe on someones intellectual property. This gave content creators and copyright holders the legal recourse needed to go after other torrent sites and file sharing services.
Following the ruling, other file sharing services were forced to shutdown or reform their practice after being hit by a lawsuit. At the same time, governments gave ISP’s the legal resources to shutdown websites that promote online piracy. However that did not stop piracy as a lot of the torrent sites had to go more underground to the dark corners of the internet. This now means users are more at risk of downloading a malware when trying to avoid paying for a game.
4. Developers Love to Troll Pirates
Software coding is very complicated and one minor edit could render the entire program completely useless. Anyone who codes knows this all too well and have used this knowledge to troll pirates. Stumble onto any gamer site and you will find several good stories of developers having trolled pirates.
Some of the most memorable story’s of developers trolling pirates include the chicken gun in Crysis, the scorpion from Serious Sam 3 or Grand Theft Auto IV becoming a drunk driving simulator. Some even have made pirated versions unwinnable by including minor traps or events like Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. A few even go a bit further by including a minor lecture on why pirating is wrong.
Then there are developers that have included glitches that only affected pirated copies of the game. As an added bonus, these glitches have tricked pirates into confessing their crime on message boards.
3. Advancements in Anti-Piracy Technology
Trolling pirates is funny but not everyone has the time to carefully code such an ingenious prank, hence an anti-piracy software will have to do the job. Digital security is a major industry and for many companies it involves protecting a clients intellectual property from being pirated.
Most anti-pirating systems are designed to make the game unplayable if the software has been tampered with. Arxan is great example as their system has been designed to prevent their clients software from being reversed engineered or tampered with by unauthorized users. The most recent example is Ubisoft has used a combination of Denuvo with VMProtect to keep Assassin’s Creed: Origin from being pirated for a month since launch.
No security software is perfect and overtime someone will crack it or they will become obsolete. However it’s always going to be an arms race between hackers and security companies in an attempt to have the edge over the other.
2. Way Too Time Consuming
Remember that part about torrent sites being shutdown or developers messing with trolls? Another impact of those two has also been making pirating games being too time consuming.
First of all good luck trying to find a good torrent site, many hardly last or are just not that reliable. Looking for one is going to take sometime and that is not counting the ones that want to screw with your computer. One should also factor in the time it takes to undo the damage caused by a virus or malware.
Next there are developers that have packed their games with so much junk files that it deters pirates. The most notable example of this is when Machine Games made Wolfenstein: The New Order massive file size of 43.65 GB, making illegal downloads take weeks to complete.
All of this comes to the final point . . . .
1. Online Stores Have Made Them Cheap
Today a person could take the time to look for a dependable torrent, wait several hours to days as it downloads, install the game and hope it works. Or one could just log on to Steam, pay between $5 to $20, wait an hour as it downloads and installs then play it with no problems. If the game is not on Steam then check out Origins or UPlay and if you got a console then just rent the game through some kind of digital service.
Online distribution platforms like Steam now allow players to purchase their games at an affordable cost. Meanwhile rival services like Origins and UPlay offer their users a free title once a month without any pre-purchase. The point is that because of digital stores, actually buying a game is a better option than pirating.
Some may argue the risk of pirating is worth it because it means you get a free game, hence to quote the great web humorist Maddox, “It’s only free if your time isn’t valuable.” Because why go through the trouble of trying to pirate a game when one could just spend $5 and play it instantly.
Have these facts deterred you from pirating or was there something that was missed? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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