3 Reasons For Software Piracy

I have heard lots of arguments that defend piracy. Some people are convinced that there’s nothing wrong in software piracy. While I don’t agree with claims that suggest that one pirated copy would equal one sale lost, I think it’s developer’s right to decide how his work is used.

Anyway, here are some arguments I’ve heard to support piracy.

The “don’t make crap games” statement

Some people argue that “because developers make such a crappy games there’s piracy”. I agree that developers should focus on improving their games and improve the player’s experience about the game, but I still disagree that this should be the reason for copying games illegally. Developers – especially indies – need all the money they can to make better games, and if software piracy harms their sales they might be out of business before they get chance to finish those better games. It’s a tough business, even when it might not look like it for all players.

The “I just wanted to test the game to see how it looks like” claim

Many games developed today offer demo and trial versions where you can test the game for 30 days or 60 minutes or so. Since casual games are typically found from different portals, one could download the same game from different portals and play it for hours to see what the game looks and feels like.

Many games come with a money back guarantee. Some people say they were disappointed after buying the game and that’s the reason why they use pirate copies. I recommend checking the guarantee terms: some sites offer you to test their game for a month or even months, and if you don’t like the game – you get your money back. If there’s a money back guarantee, why not buy the game first, and ask your money back if you aren’t satisfied with the purchase.

The very common “I don’t have money to buy games” explanation…

…from people who owns a $1000 computer, spend $50 on clothes per month, drink beer using $50 per month, go to movies using $50 per month, talk in cellphones for $50 per month, spend $50 on gas per month… and has seven hundred other things where he spends his money. Yet – he says he cannot afford to buy computer games. Maybe one should take a look at where he spends money, and suddenly he might find money for buying games legally?

One claim is: “if the games would be half priced, I would buy them”. I must point out that many games are already half-priced. Casual games cost around $20. They are just as fun as some $50 games. If you check a local bargain bin, you can find couple of years old games for $10 or $20 – games that originally were $50 or so. There are half-priced games if you just look for them.

And if you really think you would buy a casual game for $10 but not for $20, then consider buying the game together with your friend. If one game for $20 is too much, then get a friend of yours (or 3-4 friends) and let everybody put $10 (or $5 or whatever) and buy the game together. Technically this is illegal, but if the another option is that you were going to get it for free (by ways of piracy), then I think this is much better option. I’ve done this to buy some games (not all, but some) when I was a kid: we gathered about 3 guys together and suddenly $50 game cost us only about $15-20 (the one who got the game package would pay more). I think for kids this is an okay option if you really cannot afford to buy (and also nice way to get games for those in countries with lower income). When I got older, I spent those full priced $20 or $50 for games and continue doing so.

Now you have no more reasons to continue using pirated copies, right?

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. i am writing a research paper for class could you please put more info on the three reasons why and please be specific, thanks

  2. @Jinx: You’ve just given a great piece of advice for anyone selling games (or other products) online: buying must be REALLY easy. You are a great example of a guy who would like to buy games – but can’t do that because “money order” is not easy to do.

    Btw – have you considered using something like PaidByCash.com or some or other pre-paid cards? I believe they might be available for those without CC or bank info.

  3. I really hate when you want to buy games online you can’t because you have no credit card, checking account or bank account. I’m a big game lover and I have a very rare gift. My gift is that I can beat a game within a week depending on what type of game it is. People all around the world get ripped off so many times by people who are selling the games. If I had it my way I’d go online and pay for all my games with a money order. I just wish there was a site that isn’t a scam.

  4. @Lachlan Littlemore: Yes… “greedy publishers” was my thoughts in the past as well (another reason for indies start telling they are doing games alone ;)

    @swordfish: Heh, WC3 thing… sometimes things can go this way. Although… if you’d heard only about WoW, do you think it would have been the same situation? ;)

    @centurion, well yes… although reading/seeing/hearing can never beat actual playing (although there might be demos available)

  5. “I just wanted to test the game to see how it looks like” claim is wrong. Just read couple of reviews and you will have good picture about how the game looks and how it is playable.

  6. I admit it, I’ve pirated games. Most notably, I pirated Warcraft 1 and 2 and got many many hours out of it. The main reason for doing so was that getting ahold of a legit copy wasn’t easy for a young teen, no job, no money, no car, and living at least 100 miles from the nearest retailer. No credit card, no online ordering. I just wanted to play with my buddies! Justified? No, but that’s not my point.

    Fast forward a few years. 16 or 17 years old, I’ve gotten a car, found a job, and actually have money to spend. I’ve finally made the jump into the modern age of computing, and the very first game I purchase legally is Starcraft. And then I bought the expansion pack. My copy of Starcraft gets stolen…oh well.

    A few months later, I defy the odds and actually purchase another game legally: Warcraft 3, and then the expansion pack. God I love this game.

    I let a friend borrow my WC3 CD so he can play single-player on his PC. He likes it so much that he purchases the game so we can play together online.

    Fast-forward a few more years to the present. WC3 is old, I’ve kind of grown out of gaming. What’s this? World of Warcraft?! OMGWTFBBQ I MUST HAVE! 1 year out of my life down the drain (and well worth it!). I get all my buddies hooked on it and the epidemic iterates several times.

    So in short, if I had never pirated WC1 and WC2, I never would have purchased Starcraft+expansion, Warcraft 3+expansion, or World of Warcraft + 1 year subscription, my friend would have never bought Warcraft 3, and at least 10 people I know would have never purchased WoW.

    Now if I could reclaim the countless hours I’ve spent playing these games.

  7. When I was younger I used the “games cost too much” excuse mostly. Sure, we had a PC worth many multiples of a game’s price, but when I was a kid, my parents bought that, not me. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend money on games. On the contrary, I spent *most* of my money on games, but it never seemed to be enough as the “good” commercial games were always well out of my reach as a mere “pocket-money” earner. If I was a kid nowadays I could probably get by on the odd commercial game along with the plethora of freeware and budget/indie priced games.

    I think another aspect of the cost excuse was that I realised that the majority of the money I paid went to greedy retailers and big publishing companies. Very little of it went to the gurus themselves. I probably thought that if the big fish were less greedy in inflating their prices, they’d get more purchases from me.

    Now that I’m older, have a steady income and know how much sweat and tears goes into making these products, I don’t keep any pirated software.

  8. I’m mid-way through starting up an indie games company with a few friends (which is how I discovered across this site and now read it regularly). A few nights ago it suddenly struck me if/how actually making games that have a direct, tangible link to my income would change my views on piracy, as I do pirate an awful lot. I arrived that the conclusion that it wouldn’t change my opinion much other than make me more likely to fork out money to indies.

    I do buy a decent amount of games, films, music and software when I can, however I’m in no position to buy everything. And, to use one of your examples, I will sacrifice that night out to pay for a product… but more than likely I’ll pirate it first. If it’s not good, I’ll probably uninstall it or wait until I can pick it up cheap in a bargain bin or sale when it’s closer to what I’d pay for it. If it’s good I’ll pay the full price for it straight up.

    The refund argument is near enough moot, nowadays. Especially for PC games. Almost all shops refuse to refund an opened game and returning a product online is often a pain or flat-out refused.

    I could download the demo to test it rather than pirate it, sure, but these days it’s actually faster and easier for me to download an entire game via illegal means than it is for me to download the demo version via legal ones (or even to get the full version of a game via retail or digital distro). I’d even go so far as to say that if I HAD to buy the game without being able to play through it first, chances are I wouldn’t (assuming it’s over, say, £20 for the game or £10 for the CD/DVD).

    If people pirated my game and didn’t think it was a great game, I have absolutely zero qualms with them just deleting it and moving on. If they pirate it and enjoy it, I’d like to think that they would put the money forward for it. I respect that you don’t have any pirate software of any kind on your PC and that you’re setting an example for a totally piracy-free world, however I don’t believe piracy will go away for a long, long time. I’d like to think that my own set example is a good compromise for the average gamer who pirates and for my own income. Sadly it’s just not one you can enforce too easily.

    Of course, this may all change in a couple of years if I see piracy really hurt my sales :)

  9. The sad irony… When i was younger, i was one of those “I don’t have money to buy games” type… well, actually more like “I don’t have a source of income”. Now i have a pretty well paid job, and i’m still pirating games. And the worst of this: i’m working as a game developer!!! :-( I guess piracy has become a part of me. I think the most important part here, is that pirated games are so easily available. I can setup a torrent for a night, and when i get back from the work on the next day, i can already play it, without bothering to find the game in the first place, and then spending 1/20th of my wage. But i hope, someday i’ll start buying games too. Actually, i’m planing to get “spore” as my first (actually second after WoW), when it will show up.

  10. @Roman: I believe in setting an example. I personally don’t have a single pirated software in my computer. No illegal MP3s or illegal copies.

    @noname: DRM – that can be painful, I think it’s shame some developers are actually pushing people to pirate the software!

    @Pekuja: There’s one big lesson here: making proper demo.

  11. Aren’t these points actually very closely related to the same problem? A lot of games today cost $60, which is a lot of money (the third point) for a bad game (the first point), so it makes sense to test the game first (the second point) so that you can pick out the games that are actually good. This is not a problem if there is a demo available and the demo actually gives the player a good idea of what to expect. The lack of demos or being lead to buy bad games because of bad demos might drive a person to pirate the games instead to sample the product, and then when they’re used to that, they might just keep pirating games they do play, and then invent excuses for their pirating. My point is that every game should have a good demo available for it, so that people can get a good idea of what they’re buying, and then they won’t be driven to piracy so easily.

  12. Some other ones I hear a lot, and agree with some…

    + DRM/Protection. Original game disc (especially for commercial games) needed to play games. So annoying… And SO fun take shitpile of CDs with you if you travel and have games on laptop. I think this is BIGGEST “piss off” reason for me, and generally I end up getting NO-CD cracks for about every game I have bought…

    + Problems HOW to pay game online. = No credit card. Cant get paypal because of it, or they do not accept debit card, or some other ridiculous reason (I still have no active paypal account, and never will, years ago they refused to activate mine because of previouns reason) etc… = Too much hassle to pay. (Try to get credit etc. card if you happen to be unemployed or student etc. Not that easy always.)

    + Demo version too short. One can’t get clear picture of game at all. Usually this apply only on complex non casual games.

    + Demo version crippled. One can’t really get whole picture of capabilities. Especially problem for NON-games.

    etc. Those are just few I hear a lot…

  13. Fighting piracy is very hard. In opinion it comes down more to teaching people that this is bad and against the law than to making better protection. Though, teaching is harder (at least in short time).

  14. @KaRt0nEs: Sounds bad – although many online companies have money back guarantees that are acted upon.

    @Karja: I actually thought about saying that “why download crap games in the first place”, but then decided not to put it here. Anyway, now you’ve said it.

    Valid points from both of you.

  15. I think the first comment hits the spot – but in a different way. Regardless of indies’ hardships and problems in creating great games, a consumer has no obligation to support them if they don’t produce material that’s good enough. However, if the game sucks there’s no reason to pirate it in the first place, so the “crap games” opinion just isn’t valid IMO.

    The second argument bears more validity, though. I agree that there are legal methods to test programs and games, but all of them require more effort than getting a pirated version. Imagine a common immoral person who’s vaguely interested in playing a longer session of a casual game: he has a few choices:

    1) Look through several portals to download the same game many times, mess with savegames and installations and whatnot,
    2) Pay for the game, without any guarantee that the company will return the money if it’s not fun enough. Yes, they say that there’s a money back guarantee, but there’s no guarantee that there really is. It’s just what some small business on the Internet writes on its webpage. And either way, the (ex-)customer has to jump through some hoops to perform this. Or,
    3) Download a pirated version complete with a crack in a few minutes.

    The point is that the third option is the easiest one; doing things legally makes you “waste time” in one way or another.

    I don’t know how one could compete with the simplicity of piracy, so I’m not suggesting any changes in the methods; I’m just pointing out that there’s not much incentive except for the feeling of doing the Right Thing(TM) by paying.

  16. The third one is the one I hear more often. Very funny considering we then go out and sometimes spend those 50$ in two nights. spanish pub drinks are not cheap :(

    Just one note. At least in Spain, the second one is true. All commercial and specialised videogame stores state that, one opened, no software product (from a Windows to a PC/console videogame) can be returned.
    The only exception has been with the XBox360 Oblivion game, which appeared to have some problems and hang-ups if you didn’t download the Live patch, so stores had to accept returns of that item if the client said he didn’t have broadband internet connection at home.

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