It doesn’t take much to sent me off on a tangent. Usually all 1 has to do is mention motion controls, and I could rant against them for days on end. Another topic that can set me off like a firecracker is illegal file sharing. Believe it or not, there was actually a time when torrent sites could thrill me in ways that previously only salami and cheese on a cracker could. Those were the innocent days of the internet, and to a lesser extent: deli meats. Back then I thought torrent sites could be a great way for the indie developers of music, movies, games, and more to get their ideas out in a cost effect way. Thus, allowing and encouraging the creation of more indie content. However, over the years the name torrent has become synonymous with pirating, and for good reason.
1 of those reasons would be this article that TorrentFreak.com wrote. In it they claim that (through “information collected from all public BitTorrent trackers”) Modern Warfare 2 was pirated more than any other game in 2009. They suspect that there are at least 4.1 million illegal copies of that game for the PC alone. This torrent news site also said that by tracking these same sources, they’ve determined around 970,000 copies of the Xbox360 version were stolen.
And in a strange turn of events, the sales figures for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 end up being the mirror image of the stolen copies. According to the latest NDP Group sales figures for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2:
- 4.6 million retail units were sold for the Xbox360
- 1.87 million retail units were sold on the PlayStation 3
- nearly 170,000 retail units sold for Windows PC
Which brings me to the point were I really want to smack someone; because, I know that some place there is a boy, girl, man, or woman who would say, ‘so what?’ They would use the defense that game piracy is a victimless crime, because they’re only taking a copy of something intangible; and I wonder if they see the truly sad part about that argument. I wonder if they realizing that they are only victimizing themselves. Do you think that they realize that they’re slowly killing PC gaming?
The true death of PC gaming will not be because there are not enough gamers to support it. The death of PC gaming will not be caused by the invention of easy to use console technology like project Natal. It won’t even be the trend of bad PC sales that we’ve seen over the past few years, because you can always find a company to support a niche market if there is profit to be had. No the true executioner of PC gaming will be piracy, because as with anything in gaming, it always comes down to money; and no publisher is going to want to put out a PC title when they know that millions of PC pirates are just going to take their hard work and profit.
However, making money is not the only reason (it is the main reason, but not the only one) for the current console domination. Another biggy is the fact that consoles are seen as a safer choice by many publishers, because they are a closed system. This allows the console creators to make the rules and actively enforce them on the console gamers; which would be impossible for the internet based PC developers to do to PC gamers. They would never be able to equal the show of force put forth by Microsoft this year when 1 million XBL users were banned for modding their consoles to play pirated games. Another reason for the current console domination is the fact that anyone can pick up and play a console. The PC is a very hardcore system used by a very hardcore gamer type. The Wii on the other hand is something that anyone can easily understand in 5 minutes. This puts the PC at a serious disadvantage as far an install bases goes; and obvious logic says that the more gamers in your install base, the more games you can sell, and the more money you make. Therefore, I have to wonder how much longer can developers be expected to treat the disadvantage PC as a serious money making platform, especially in the face of so much piracy?
In the end, I expect some backlash for my comments here today. If doing Got Game every week has taught me anything, it has taught me that PC gaming is a sensitive subject for many people. However, avoiding the truth will not help anyone. The good ship PC Gaming is sinking, and sinking fast. I give it a good chance of lasting long enough for me to play the upcoming Mechwarrior game by Smith & Tinker on a PC, but probably not much longer than that. And that is so sad, because PC gaming doesn’t have to end this way. But its salvation rests with answering 1 seemingly unsolvable riddle: how do you convince millions of PC gamers that their rampant piracy is destroying PC gaming? I don’t have an answer for that riddle, and in a society that turns a blind eye to digital piracy, I doubt anyone ever will.