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. PHeMoX says:

    Quote:

    But if that something can be trivially obtained for free through legitimate channels, and some other circumstance prevents one from legitimately acquiring it, be it lack of funds, lack of availability in one’s country, or what have you, *and* (this is key) doing so does not deprive anyone else of legitimately acquiring it, I don’t feel inclined to cast too many stones. Whereas I might if the person could easily get it the legit way but just doesn’t feel like it.

    That’s a strawman. Everyone totally has enough money, people just decide to spend it differently. Those 20$ on drinks last weekend? Could have been savings towards the next Gears of War game.

    Good for them that they apparently have different priorities, but don’t think this fact gives you the right to pirate a copy just so you can get your hands on it anyways. It just doesn’t work like that. Apart from the fact that ‘the internet’ isn’t free of grey zones and illegal activities.

    I totally do not understand how ‘lack of funds’ is a legitimate reason to pirate a copy.

  2. Klaus says:

    Your argument seems more like a straw man because what’s being said is: ‘I pirated it because it’s too expensive for me.’ and you reply ‘You don’t have the RIGHT to pirate it!’.

    No one, or at least the person you quoted said anything about having a right to anything. All that basically said was; If a person can acquire something that is difficult to obtain for them – for free, which also doesn’t stop anyone else from having it as well then he doesn’t feel too judgmental towards that person. And the key word there is ‘too’ which implies that he feels at least something.

  3. Jon R. says:

    Only because you don’t want to understand it.

    Not everyone has enough money, and even if they did it wouldn’t make your position any less short-sighted. It’s the classic industry view of “if you don’t like how we’re doing things, don’t buy it” which, if things actually played out that way, would itself lead to the collapse of the industry in many regions all the same. To cling to it is no better than daring everyone to just let the industry die. And that’s just pure arrogance.

  4. Harry says:

    I stole it coz I couldn’t get the full game through Steam at the time. I’m probably evil.

  5. Phil says:

    I’m in the UK. I haven’t pirated the game, but I did try to buy it on steam and wasn’t able to (and I’m still not) – I don’t know how many people like me there are out there, but pirates everywhere in the world can download this game, wheras the people who buy games can only get them in the countries where they’re sold.

  6. Jerricho says:

    @Phil & Harry
    It’s still available on the 2D Boy website as it has been since pre-orders opened early this year. How can any of you still be using the NOT ON STEAM complaint?

  7. malkav11 says:

    Another random point – not so much about World of Goo, since it’s pretty lightweight in requirements, but… just because someone has the money to buy the hardware with which to run a game does not mean that, after purchasing the hardware, they would also have the money to buy the game. And I for one, were I offered the choice between buying a game that I couldn’t run, and pirating a game that I could run because I’d spent all my money on hardware. Well. I think you can see where I’m going with that. I imagine that there aren’t very many people genuinely in that situation, but the argument that having money for hardware = having money for games is not correct.

  8. malkav11 says:

    Oh…my earlier post, I think I meant “illegitimate” channels. Sorry for the extremely delayed correction.

  9. PHeMoX says:

    Quote Quote Quote:

    “Another random point – not so much about World of Goo, since it’s pretty lightweight in requirements, but… just because someone has the money to buy the hardware with which to run a game does not mean that, after purchasing the hardware, they would also have the money to buy the game. And I for one, were I offered the choice between buying a game that I couldn’t run, and pirating a game that I could run because I’d spent all my money on hardware. Well. I think you can see where I’m going with that. I imagine that there aren’t very many people genuinely in that situation, but the argument that having money for hardware = having money for games is not correct.”

    @Malkav11:

    You’re wrong. If you had money to buy expensive hardware, this means you have a certain income. It means you can afford to spend several hundred bucks on hardware. It means you had a choice what to spend your money on. It also means it’s very likely you will have money left afterward.

    Only a fool would spend their very last money on something as ‘useless’ as computer hardware, if it would REALLY mean not being able to spend money on anything else.

    You’re fooling yourself thinking you can’t buy games afterward. In fact, just to take an example… why buy an expensive PS3, if you can’t regularly spend about 60$ on new games?

    Having money for hardware does mean you have money for games. It’s just that you do not wish to spend your money on games… that’s totally something different.

    People that can buy the latest hardware really aren’t poor enough by far to justify their personal piracy.

  10. PHeMoX says:

    Quote Quote Quote:

    “Only because you don’t want to understand it.

    Not everyone has enough money, and even if they did it wouldn’t make your position any less short-sighted. It’s the classic industry view of “if you don’t like how we’re doing things, don’t buy it” which, if things actually played out that way, would itself lead to the collapse of the industry in many regions all the same. To cling to it is no better than daring everyone to just let the industry die. And that’s just pure arrogance.”

    @Jon R

    It has little to do with arrogance. If you don’t buy games because you’re not satisfied with the industry, but download them illegally anyways… then you’re just another hypocrite.

    Everyone does have enough money… People that really are too poor wouldn’t even have a PC. If you can’t own both Unreal Tournament III and Far Cry 2, then you’ll have to make a choice which one to buy (first).

    There’s really nothing unfair about that!!!! It certainly doesn’t give you the right to pirate [i]both[/i] games.

    There are a gazillion people out there downloading their music illegally. They have this same argument; “we’re poor, don’t blame us”.

    It’s stupid. Those same people go out to dance clubs, bars, restaurants and what not more. Spending their precious money on booze, food, entertainment and so on.

    Spending money on games is a choice, people nowadays just don’t feel inclined to.

    Even when I myself think games are generally too expensive, they will usually end up in a budget bin eventually. You do know some of the great games can be bought for 10$ if you wait about a year or so. So either you save more money and buy earlier, or you wait and buy cheap.

  11. malkav11 says:

    Who says they’re not buying games?

  12. Bhazor says:

    Reply to malkav11

    Who says they are?

  13. Dblade says:

    “Just because they pirate, doesn’t mean they would buy the game anyways.”

    So we are talking an 80% piracy rate, and reducing it wouldn’t really convert pirates to paid. So is the game really crap or something that 80% of people wouldn’t pay for it if they couldn’t get it for free? If they wouldn’t pay to play the game, that seems to me to indicate a game that sucks. I can see the point of a “rental” pirate (although a demo does exist, and is generous, as mentioned) but this seems to me to be saying that world of goo is crap, and not even worth 20 bucks.

    Yet the game is an award winner. I can’t help to think the whole “piracy prevention not leading to sales” has to be flawed. If there is a well-made, fun game out there that can’t be obtained for free, of course people will buy it. That whole argument to me has serious flaws, because it’s really saying that most people don’t find the game fun or engaging enough to pay money for it, if the ability to get it for free was taken away. The lack of piracy will return increased sales if it is strong enough, because the product is fun. It is only when it isn’t that pirates wouldn’t be converted in good sized numbers.

    Also, we really need 2Dboy to come clean on how piracy has affected them in terms of financials. Can they develop new games from the money they’ve obtained? Everyone is talking in abstractions, but if high piracy rates prevent developers from being sustainable enough to make new games, expect to see a lot more Bratz Petz games and F2P MMOs.

  14. Mudrc Chytrolin says:

    I think that lower price would create much more income (at least when game is over year old it could be possible to drop the price).
    I buyed WoG in -80% STEAM price drop, withou knowing WoG al all. And I think that every one who was mentioned as a “pirated loss” * would buy it immediately when -80% would apply. And I think that for every one pirated loss would come 10’s-100’s of “do not pirate nor buy because price seems too high for me” and there would be also “-80% yeah i must have it even if I do not nkow what is it at all” like me…

    *) pirated loss ment as “The on who does not buy it because of downloading it”