How Serious is Online Video Game Piracy?


When politicians say that video games are corrupting America’s youth, it’s immediately obvious that they know few facts about the average gamer. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), an anti-piracy group, has compiled the following statistics:

  • The average game player is 30 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.

  • The most frequent game purchasers have an average age of 35.

  • About 45 percent of gamers are female.

  • Females over 18 make up a larger portion of the gaming community than boys aged 17 or younger.

  • The Entertainment Ratings Standards Board rated 91 percent of video games “E” for “Everyone,” “E10+” for “Everyone Over the Age of 10” and “T” for “Teen.”

  • When children purchase games, parents are present 89 percent of the time.


If you’re getting a degree from one of several online information security colleges, then you may be studying how to prevent video game piracy. A recent analysis of BitTorrent digital game distribution found that the top 20 countries for video game piracy accounted for 76.7 percent of BitTorrent’s video game download volume. However, the problem is more significant in developing countries and in poorer areas of industrialized countries. The top five countries for video game piracy (as a percent of population) are Romania, Croatia, Greece, Portugal and Hungary.

Why Is the Problem Bigger in Developing Countries?

Residents of developing areas primarily pirate video games because they can’t afford the prices of new games. Russian video game reporter Tim Seyfelmlyukov gave an example of pricing for the game “Max Payne 3.” The average retailer charged 2700 rubles ($85) for the game, and some “barely legal” shops sold imported versions from Europe for 1500 rubles ($48). Used copies went for about 900 rubles ($28) in big cities and for about 1640 rubles ($50) in small towns. When the average salary for a Russian adult is 17000 rubles ($540) per month, it’s tough to fund a video game habit.

Another issue in developing countries is the lack of government interest in prosecuting piracy. Seyfelmlyukov says that in Russia, people jailbreak PS3s and modify Xbox 360s publicly, sometimes even in shopping malls. The average cost to prepare a console for piracy is 1500 rubles ($48), or the cost of one game. Again, why purchase a library of games when you can jailbreak your console and have an unlimited supply for the price of a single video game?

Russians also take pride in sticking it to “The Man.” Seyfelmlyukov says that Russian gamers, as a whole, blame piracy on greedy game developers. They don’t accept the “no pay, no play” argument that says when developers aren’t paid for their games, then they won’t make new games. Instead, according to Seyfelmlyukov, many Russian gamers consider people who pay for their games to be “stupid.”

Which Games Do People Steal Most Often?

The Top 10 pirated games make up about 41.8 percent of all downloads. reports that the current Top 10 list of most commonly pirated games includes:

  1. “Fallout: New Vegas”

  2. “Darksiders”

  3. “Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit”

  4. “NBA 2k11”

  5. “Tron Evolution”

  6. “Call of Duty: Black Ops”

  7. “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2”

  8. “Starcraft 2”

  9. “Two Worlds II”

  10. “The Sims 3: Late Night”


One common piracy myth is that pirates only steal “shooters,” meaning violent games or games meant for mature audiences. However, researchers have found that family and children’s games are also heavily shared on BitTorrent. The most commonly pirated video game genres are:

  1. Role-playing games: 18.9 percent

  2. Action-adventure: 15.9 percent

  3. Third-person shooters: 13.7 percent

  4. Racing: 9.3 percent

How to Solve the Problem of Piracy

In reality, some researchers argue that video game piracy isn’t as prevalent as some organizations like ESA have suggested. The gaming industry hopes that switching to cloud-based online gaming instead of using physical media will help to curb piracy.

Some companies have come up with more innovative strategies. For example, an Australian company named Greenheart Games released a game called “Game Dev Tycoon” in April 2013. They also uploaded a version of the game to The Pirate Bay, where it was downloaded 3,000 times. In “Game Dev Tycoon,” players develop and run their own video game development business. However, in the pirated version of the game, the video game development company is inevitably driven to bankruptcy — by pirates.


About the Author: Max Lauderman is a reporter and video game critic. Aside from the advanced copies that he is given for his review, Max pays for all of his video games.


  1. I rarely purchase games anymore, I don’t have the time and $60 for a new game is just too much.
    I rent games or wait a few years until they are under $30.

    The game industry just like the movie industry think they every pirated game/movie is a lost sale. I doubt many people who pirate the games/movie would pay full price, they would just play less or find other things to do.

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