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Spore faces biggest pirate attack

Sinking the single-player game
Wed Dec 10 2008, 11:43

ACCORDING TO a weblog, video game Spore has been named the most pirated PC game of this year.

The Torrentfreak bog compiled a list of the 10 most downloaded PC games in 2008 using data from the peer-to-peer sharing protocol, BitTorrent.

A reported 1.7m illegal downloads of Spore were recorded since the game was released in September of this year. The game's seller, Electronic Arts (EA) said it sold nearly 2 million copies. Will Wright, the creator of Spore, found his other big-selling EA game title, The Sims 2, coming second on the list with 1.15m illegal copies downloaded.

Unfortunately for Will Wright the Digital Rights Management (DRM) software used for the game Spore came under considerable criticism when the game was first released. Understandably so, as this, Torrentfreak says, was the main reason it was so quickly pirated.

The original DRM used for Spore limited customers to three activations after the game was installed.

This prevented legitimate customers from being able to enjoy the game conveniently, whilst effectively killing the second-hand market.

Shockingly enough, the pirated version of the game tipped up less than 24 hours after Spore was shipped. The pirated version came without any DRM, of course, so within 10 days of the game's launch more than half a million people had their hands on a DRM-free version.

EA subsequently released a 'DRM-lite' version that allowed an unlimited number of installations – however, this was too little too late for EA to avoid vocal criticism.

Freelance games journalist Paul Pressley told the Beeb that the pirating of games is inevitable. "The best [games publishers] can do is come up with measures that stem piracy as much as they can, without impeding legitimate customers," Pressley said.

Pressley went on to say that the PC market is getting smaller in terms of single-player games and publishers do overstate the problem.

"The majority of their sales are console-based, which makes piracy much harder and while pirates will take a small percentage of their sales, the majority of people will buy a legitimate copy of the game," he said.

Noticeably absent from the list are online-only games.

Unlike single-player games, games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) require an active subscription rather than a legitimate copy of the game in order to play. WoW now has more than 11 million subscribers worldwide, and Warhammer Online shifted more than 1.2m units in the first few weeks after its launch.

However, game developers are increasingly withdrawing from creating new PC titles. That fact, and a seemingly unbreakable subscription model for online gaming makes it look like game pirates could sink the commercial viability of single-player games. µ


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