World Of Goo Piracy Rate: “82%”

By John Walker on November 15th, 2008 at 12:03 pm.

Too much effort went into this one.

The post yesterday reporting World of Goo’s 90% piracy figure drew a surprising response. The P-word regularly generates comments threads that scare our hosts, but this one was odd. It became a discussion about whether one could disprove the 90% figure, and then extrapolating this to reach peculiar conclusions. Some could see this as people claiming there were far fewer stab wounds than first predicted and therefore there hadn’t been a murder. Others might suggest that fighting over the exact number is completely irrelevant, as that’s not the point of the issue. Now 2D BOY have responded with new look at the figures.

In response to the vociferous arguments that dynamic IPs and multiple installations could be responsible for a lot of the 90% of registered IPs against sales, 2D BOY dug deeper. While it’s true that a dynamic IP, or second installation, would appear as a unique user, that doesn’t take into account the player IDs. The majority of those whose IP rolls around with each connection would still be using the same player name. So based on player names, 2D BOY discovered that there are 1.3 IP addresses per player – not the figures that many were spuriously claiming.

The stats are these:

76% of players have contacted the server from 1 IP
13% from 2 IPs
5% from 3 IPs
3% from 4 IPs
1% from 5 IPs
1% from 6 IPs
1% from more than 6

Of course it will be pointed out that each game has room for three player IDs, and they took this into account too.

“we also looked at how many players IDs were created (rather than used) from each IP address. given that the vast majority of player IDs are associated with only a single IP, this is a fairly accurate measure of how many profiles the average user created. on average, a player has 1.15 profiles per installation.[Their emphasis]

It then completely nerds out to get the figures. I’ll not summarise, but paste their maths:

when we take the total number of player IDs (which is smaller than the number of unique IPs from which leaderboard entries came) and divide it by 1.15 (the average number of profiles per installation) the number of estimated unique installations drops by about 35% as compared to the estimate based on unique IPs. let us further say that the average user installs the game on 1.25 computers with different IPs (i.e. not behind the same router), which i think is a high estimate. that lowers the estimated unique installations by another 20%. after factoring both of these in, the piracy rate would still be 82%, and we should keep in mind that this number doesn’t include those who never opted to submit scores to the leaderboard (it’s an option that’s off by default). so while it’s possible that the actual piracy rate is lower than 90%, it’s unlikely that it’s significantly lower. 2d boy hopes this satisfies the more rigorous number crunchers out there :)

A drop from 90 to 80% makes one difference: it means there are twice as many legitimate copies out there as previously thought. But twice 1 out of 10 is 2 out of 10 – it’s not the most enormous leap.

I’m sure that many will pick at the maths above and argue their reasoning why they think this number might be lower (or even higher), but I’m not sure that’s relevant. Unless there’s a dramatic proof out there that slashes this figure into a quarter, it strikes me as a distraction. If one can’t destroy this number, and therefore the 82% figure is close enough to accurate, given that it might be slightly lower or higher, what then? That’s the interesting discussion. Is this piracy a problem?

2D BOY certainly don’t believe that adding DRM to their game would have made any difference. (I would argue that logic dictates this – something that is always cracked on Day 0/1, and only affects the legitimate customers and not the pirates, is going to do nothing realistic. But clearly very few publishers agree, so there’s still much debate to be had). But have they been robbed of 86% of their sales? Again, the implication from the company is they think perhaps 1 or 2 of every 1000 of those pirated copies could have been a sale. But there’s still tens of thousands of people with a copy without paying for it, far more than those who did pay.

Here’s another question. If piracy figures don’t represent lost sales, what do they represent? Is it an indictment of humanity? Are they free advertising? Could 2D BOY have benefited in any way from them? Or are they causing active harm?

Whatever the significance of the PC’s piracy rates, the results from 2D BOY make one thing very clear: While some of us are paying for our fun, a lot of us are not.

Edit: A rather significant statement from 2D BOY’s Ron Carmel appears below in the comments. It’s helpful to put it up here:

“by the way, just in case it’s not 100% clear, we’re not angry about piracy, we still think that DRM is a waste of time and money, we don’t think that we’re losing sales due to piracy, and we have no intention of trying to fight it.”

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614 Comments »

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  1. Tom says:

    Iain – we’re not talking about siamese twins joined at the head here, one of which doesn’t have a heart or lungs and so is making the other’s heart and lungs pump and work for two bodies, thus putting enormous strain on said organs. Separate and one will die, don’t separate and both will die.
    We’re talking about something fairly simply. Murder – fairly plain and simply 90% of the time.
    There is nothing complex about piracy. There are no deep routed reasons, or psychological ambiguities that needs to be taken into account.
    It is actually extremely easy to take a fairly solid and absolute moral stance on this one imo.

  2. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Please explain to me how it’s not a crime to download and use something for free that you should have paid for?

    In the same way that it’s not a banana. The word has a defined meaning, which the circumstances you describe don’t fit.

  3. Tom says:

    You serious Supernash?
    I can download any software I want over here in Blightly without fear???
    *slaps head*
    Oh if only I’d known!

  4. Tom says:

    Rev. – Again though, arguing semantics.
    More to the point: making use of a law (or lack of) in order to justify what is plainly wrong.

  5. Dan Lawrence says:

    @Kieron

    Sound like you are talking about Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Basically, don’t do things that you wouldn’t wish to be taken up as a general rule. In this case, don’t pirate games because if everyone pirated games no games at all would get made.

  6. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Most of these have costs of some description

    Calling the police doesn’t. It’s not hard to look around you and find some sort of crime/antisocial behaviour/suspicious loitering going on to report. Besides, what do costs have to do with it? The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t. That doesn’t make it wrong or immoral to call the police and report a crime, even a minor one. Indeed, it’s fairly vital to the running of a decent society that we do.

  7. SuperNashwan says:

    @Tom
    There is nothing complex about piracy.
    If you honestly believe that there is no point you contributing to this thread. Piracy doesn’t exist by itself, it takes a place in the economics of the games industry and wider entertainment industry with numerous causes and effects, the impact of which must necessarily be complex. If you want to Daily Mail the issue to simplify it to the point of immediate understanding and moral absolutes you won’t find any sympathy here.

  8. Catastrophe says:

    @ Iain – I totally agree

    @ Tom – you’re thinking too black and white when people have already explained why it isnt black and white.

  9. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Again though, arguing semantics.

    Semantics are the heart of the point you were attempting to make. We don’t call it theft because it isn’t theft. We don’t regard it as a crime because it isn’t a crime. You wish it was, so you inaccurately use those emotive words, but you’re wrong. Don’t post bollocks if you don’t want people to challenge you on it.

  10. Sam says:

    @Tom: It’s extremely easy to take an absolute moral stance on anything. That doesn’t mean that that moral stance is going to be shared with other people. It’s also worth noting that, as I suspected would happen, you’re starting to conflate “illegality” and “immorality”.

    You’re also splitting hairs with the piracy is not morally equivalent to sharing thing. The piracy rate for WoG is around 80%. This is equivalent to 4 pirate copies for every one “legal” copy.
    Are you saying that if everyone who bought WoG let 4 of their friends come around and play it, that this wouldn’t have precisely the same effect as this? If the only difference you can state is that torrents are shared with “people you don’t know”, then that makes interesting limits on what you can define as a “community”, doesn’t it? (Given that charitable acts work on a similar basis to torrents, in that they are about people giving to those they don’t know…)

  11. Paul Moloney says:

    “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t. ”

    Your point seems to be based on your belief that people will never behave individually in a way detrimental to their collective long-term interest. History is littered with counter-examples proving this isn’t true. I highly recommend you read Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”.

    P.

  12. Dan Lawrence says:

    Link on the categorical imperative:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative

    @Rev

    For example, your cases still fit within the categorical imperative. While you would still say a general moral rule was to call the police if you see a crime you would still say that not everyone should call the police at the same time if they see a crime.

    @Moral Relativity

    Its fun to talk about but practically morality is only relative to situations and conditions and for most of the people who pirate their situation is not sufficiently different to justify their deviation from the rest of us. Unless their is a crazy foundation handing out gaming systems to the underprivelaged and starving of Africa.

  13. SuperNashwan says:

    Sound like you are talking about Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Basically, don’t do things that you wouldn’t wish to be taken up as a general rule. In this case, don’t pirate games because if everyone pirated games no games at all would get made.
    I didn’t study much philosophy but I understand it more as Rule Utilitarianism, as in generally we know using someone’s work without reward would cause harm, even if in a specific case it would not. It’s one of the reasons for example we keep people convicted of murder incarcerated for life at great expense rather than simply killing them and disposing of them, which would be of greater benefit to society by easing the tax burden.

  14. Tom says:

    LOL!!!! Oh sweet jesus. SuperN… oh god.
    Love the chosen qoute old bean. Love it. Awesome stuff. “Daily Mail” – talk about pot calling the kettle black.

  15. Tom says:

    Rightio, that’s it. I’m out. This is fucking ridiculous.

  16. SuperNashwan says:

    What does that even mean? Wow.

  17. Muzman says:

    Kieron Gillen says:
    Wh[ich] is why Stuart’s position is ethically flawed on a really basic level: if everyone did it, the system wouldn’t work. One of the best test for an ethics is whether they can be applied universally and all that jazz.

    Well, the categorical imperative has its uses but it’s really a matter of self assessment and actually makes it difficult for one to tell other individuals how they ought to govern themselves or make laws etc. It’s also a problem that for any given thing we can be fairly certain that everyone isn’t going to do it, and if significant numbers were to take up a given questionable act, life would alter greatly and the question become irrelevant long before it reached universality.
    But it is an ethcal question, that’s true.
    My problem is I think that the Rev’s viewpoint is accurate and could be proved so and therefore should be (eventually) openly accepted on sheer humanist principle of truth. But I’m not sure what people would do then and what that means for games. Would people still buy games knowing they didn’t have to? Could games as we know them exist in that economy? Pessimistic thoughts enter. Pessimistic thoughts that a) break the above caveat against abstract universalisation arguments and b) imply I think I’m morally superior enough to know ‘the truth’ where others are not. Icky and not terribly relevant to the discussion.

  18. Iain says:

    @Tom: Actually, people pirate for all kinds of reasons.

    Take Windows – people pirate that because a) it’s too expensive, b) doesn’t do anything that a free OS like Ubuntu might do, c) simply because they like having things for free, or d) they think that Microsoft are a big huge evil corporation who don’t need their money… the rationalisations are endless.

    But how about a more tangible example: Say you were a school teacher in Africa or the Far East who needed to use a computer, but only had a salary of a couple of hundred dollars a month. Would you buy a knock-off copy of Windows and Office for $10 or fork out two months’ salary and not eat for a few weeks so you could buy legitimate copies? And is it immoral for you to pirate if you’re using the software to educate kids in the third world?

    You see, the question of morality is anything but absolute. Moral absolutism is dangerous because more often than not the people who make the definitions aren’t the people who need protection.

  19. Pags says:

    Not that I wish to knock on Iain’s example, but I’d love to see a teacher in a third world country use World of Goo to educate children.

  20. Sam says:

    @Muzman: I already *do* buy games knowing that I don’t have to (after all, piracy is easy, and pirated copies work better on my chosen OS due to the lack of Insane Copy Protection) (I’m talking about running stuff in Wine on Linux here, btw). Stuart does as well, apparently.
    So do, arguably, any other people that are technologically aware and have internet connections and buy games – certainly, there are many people I am aware of who both pirate and buy games, so clearly they don’t have a moral issue with piracy in themselves.

    So, the real question is not if people would, but how many people would? (I suspect that more games would transition to WoW-like subscription for server-hosted services models, for a start, though.)

  21. Pags says:

    Also, I mean that sincerely, I’m not being sarky for the sake of any argument.

  22. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Your point seems to be based on your belief that people will never behave individually in a way detrimental to their collective long-term interest.

    When have I said anything like that? People clearly do that all the time.

  23. Rev. S Campbell says:

    While you would still say a general moral rule was to call the police if you see a crime you would still say that not everyone should call the police at the same time if they see a crime.

    But people have no possible means of knowing when anyone else is calling the police.

  24. Iain says:

    @Pags: I once used Dawn of War and Audiosurf as visual aids in a Maths lecture I did at a school in Oldham. Is that close enough? ;-)

  25. Pags says:

    Not quite as heartwarming as World of Goo in a small African primary school, but it will do.

  26. cullnean says:

    Found this makes for good reading i think its american so discard as necessery

    The unauthorised duplication and/or use of computer software. This usually means unauthorised copying, either by individuals for use by themselves or their friends or, less commonly, by companies who then sell the illegal copies to users. Many kinds of software protection have been invented to try to reduce software theft but, with sufficient effort it is always possible to bypass or “crack” the protection, and software protection is often annoying for legitimate users.

    Software theft was estimated for 1994 to have cost $15 billion in worldwide lost revenues to software publishers. It is a serious offence under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which states that “The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to copy the work.”.
    It is estimated that European software houses alone lose $6 billion per year through the unlawful copying and distribution of software, with much of this loss being through business users rather than “basement hackers”. One Italian pirating operation employed over 100 staff and had a turnover of $10m.

    It is illegal to: 1. Copy or distribute software or its documentation without the permission or licence of the copyright owner. 2. Run purchased software on two or more computers simultaneously unless the licence specifically allows it. 3. Knowingly or unknowingly allow, encourage or pressure employees to make or use illegal copies sources within the organisation. 4. Infringe laws against unauthorised software copying because a superior, colleague or friend compels or requests it. 5. Loan software in order that a copy be made of it.

    When software is upgraded it is generally the case that the licence accompanying the new version revokes the old version. This means that it is illegal to run both the old and new versions as only the new version is licensed.
    Both individuals and companies may be convicted of piracy offences. Officers of a company are also liable to conviction if the offences were carried out by the company with their consent. On conviction, the guilty party can face imprisonment for up to two years (five in USA), an unlimited fine or both as well as being sued for copyright infringement (with no limit) by the copyright owner.

    Some people mistakenly think that, because it is so easy to make illegal copies of software, that it is less wrong than, say, stealing it from a shop. In fact, both actions deprive software producers of the income they need to continue their business and develop their products.

    Software theft should be reported to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST).

  27. Dan Lawrence says:

    @Muzman

    The Categorical Imperative is pretty useful given that some situational factors don’t vary (Classic example, human rights based on the fact that we are all human and have some inescapable biolgical factors in common) and thus, for all humans are practically absolute if you accept the Kantian premise.

    In the case of piracy we can make several inferences based on relative other fixed costs required to pirate World of Goo that the most extreme cases of poverty very likely do not make up the 82% of pirate users. If you like your relative pool of moral users is decreased.

  28. cullnean says:

    nope the organisation mentioned last are an english bunch

  29. Paul Moloney says:

    PM:Your point seems to be based on your belief that people will never behave individually in a way detrimental to their collective long-term interest.

    Rev:When have I said anything like that?

    When you said:

    “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t. ”

    The fact is that people’s worlds have caved in because everybody did “it”, whatever thing “it” was at the time. I’m a humanist, and therefore believe in the essentially goodness of people, but I’m not deluded to the fact we can fool ourselves. If we were that good, we would have never hunted several species of whale almost to exhinction.

    “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t.” I bet some Easter Islander probably said something similar to a friend as they chopped down some trees one day.

    P.

  30. Sam says:

    @cullnean: Can we have a link to the original source for that. I assume it’s from FAST, who are understandably somewhat biased – those figures for the billions of dollars of losses, for example, have been queried before, just like the similar figures that the music industry trots out. Generally, they assume that all pirated copies represent lost sales, which we already know isn’t the case (if you accepted the 1:1000 figure, the $15 billion becomes a much less scary $15 million, considering that that’s the entire, industry-wide, loss).
    In addition, this includes losses due to piracy of (much more expensive) non-games software, and we don’t know precisely what fraction is what from those figures.

    Finally, this suggests, as previously mentioned, that downloading from a torrent isn’t illegal – the copy can be legally argued to be made by the *servers*, which aren’t owned by the downloader. Hence, the downloader has not violated the letter of the law.

  31. Kieron Gillen says:

    Thanks for people picking up my shitty philosophy stuff.

    KG

  32. Rev. S Campbell says:

    “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t. ”

    But there you’re confusing individuals with society as a whole. You really need to clarify your points more clearly (eg with regard to use of the word “people”) if you’re going to nitpick.

  33. cullnean says:

    @sam, id give a link but thats all there is m8 also im not being draged into this not after the last mauling i got on piracy.

  34. Dan Lawrence says:

    @ Rev

    “But people have no possible means of knowing when anyone else is calling the police”

    I guess they can give it a go and get a busy tone :) By which I mean that your example is infeasible, to all report the same crime a large enough people would all have to independently witness it and ignore one another whilst in proximity to call it in on their mobiles. I can’t concieve of a practical case where your hypothetical holds, in fact it sounds like a cunning debating trap to encourage people to say that because it is improbable that everyone will pirate a game its ok. This ignores the difference between moral improbability and simple statistical improbablity, one has direct bearing on the question at hand the other doesn’t.

    The categorical imperative is a moral imperative it deals with moral questions if you see a crime you should report it because that is what you would wish anyone else to do given that the stastical likelyhood of enough people calling in at once to overload the infrastructure is very remote.

    When choosing whether it is wrong or right to pirate a game we are directly addressing that situation, the fact that not all people choose to steal the game is irrelevent as it is a ‘should’ question of morality.

  35. Dan Lawrence says:

    Correction:

    ‘large enough group of people’

  36. Paul Moloney says:

    “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t. ”

    But there you’re confusing individuals with society as a whole.

    Rev, the line in double quotes was spoken by you.

    P.

  37. Rev. S Campbell says:

    to all report the same crime

    Who said anything about reporting the SAME crime?

  38. Duoae says:

    It is illegal to: [....]unknowingly allow, encourage or pressure employees to make or use illegal copies sources within the organisation.

    Isn’t that illegal? You can’t normally be tried for possessing stolen property if you had no idea that the property was stolen. If you were knowingly or ‘unknowingly’ (read: not asking the question but suspecting) dealing in or using stolen property then that’s a crime but last time i checked simply having some stolen property usually resulted in that property being confiscated and you being out of pocket….. which i also think is harsh.

  39. Tom says:

    *high fives cullnean”
    That should have been the nail in the coffin – obviously it wont be.
    (yes, I know I said I’m out yet here am I, whatever).

    @Sam – that’s part of a fairly standard EULA. Take a look at the last piece of software you purchased and you’ll find one… oh… hang on. Sorry, what was I thinking. I’m sure there’s on on the web somewhere.
    (hardy ha ha! Aren’t I funny!) ;)

  40. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Rev, the line in double quotes was spoken by you.

    Yes, I know. I had hoped you had the intelligence to grasp the entirety of the reference being made without me quoting two dozen lines of context and bloating the page even further.

  41. Tom says:

    Oh Revvy. Reeeeevvy, Revy, Revy.
    *pulls out silenced pistol*
    Never mind old bean. You had a good innings.

  42. Pags says:

    @Rev S. Campbell: Again, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the same crime. You’re dealing with statistical probability again, ie. whatever number of crimes you’re talking about all happening at the same time, rather than the moral probability.

  43. Paul Moloney says:

    Yes, I know. I had hoped you had the intelligence to grasp the entirety of the reference being made without me quoting two dozen lines of context and bloating the page even further.

    I’m having a hard enough time following your argument as it is. So when you said “The point is, if everyone did it our world would cave in. But they don’t”. Do you think that people never act in a way detrimental to the group as a whole, or not?

    P.

  44. Pags says:

    improbability x2*

  45. Sam says:

    @Tom: wait, you’re claiming that EULAs are legally enforceable? In actual fact, they’re of dubious legality, and have, in some cases, been successfully challenged as a concept.
    In any case, this clearly *isn’t* part of a fairly standard EULA – it looks like FAST’s standard “piracy is bad” press release thingy, which, as I have already noted, has never actually had any of the quoted figures justified.
    So, if you believe that an appeal to authority “should have been the nail in the coffin”…

    (Also, you’ll note that I’ve stated before that I buy my software. You can choose to not believe me, but that’s your choice and frankly says more about you than it does about me.)

  46. Tom says:

    … !? … *pulls out gatling gun*

  47. Rev. S Campbell says:

    Do you think that people never act in a way detrimental to the group as a whole, or not?

    As before: do you mean “people” as in “individual persons”, or “people” as in “the collective mass of all humans”?

  48. Duoae says:

    @ Tom. EULAs have questionable legality and even that hasn’t been fully tested in a court of law as far as i’ve seen.
    I think some cases ruled against the EULA as an unlawful (i.e. unenforcable) contract and others ruled in favour of the EULA…. either way i’m not aware of a clear legal precedent for treating EULAs.
    Personally i believe that EULAs are morally deficient and legally wrong and hopefully law will address this issue some time soon.

  49. Sam says:

    @Paul Moloney:
    Well, in psychological tests where people are given the choice of cooperating or not, there are a surprising number of people who are prepared to “take one for society”. (This is different to taking one for, for example, “the future” – people seem to be able to conceive of the idea of community better than “future community” – hence charity, and yet Easter Islanders chopping down all their trees.)

  50. Tom says:

    *starts prepping nuke*
    Fallout 3 anyone?