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Uh-Oh: It's The Top 10 Pirated PC Games of 2008

Another day, another post about piracy to fuel the impassioned debate of the principled hordes. See how we dance for you.

It’s a particularly interesting piece of piractical news this time, even if you generally avoid the shouting matches around the subject. Filesharing news site Torrentfreaks have done some mathematical investigative work, casting an eye over a bunch of trackers to come up with what they reckon are the 10 most pirated PC games of the year to date. Care to bet on what’s number one before we draw back the curtain?

Worth noting that, annoyingly, we don’t know quite what sites Torrentfreaks have monitored for this or what their research methods were. It’s more than likely private trackers aren’t included, for instance. The actual totals could well be far higher than the “estimated download count” below, but if their maths is correct it should at least be a reasonable snapshot/average of the year in torrents. It may be entirely off-base, of course – but it doesn’t seem fantastical.

1 Spore – 1,700,000 – Sept. 2008
2 The Sims 2 -1,150,000 – Sept. 2004
3 Assassins Creed -1,070,000 – Nov. 2007
4 Crysis – 940,000 – Nov. 2007
5 Command & Conquer 3 – 860,000 – Mar. 2007
6 Call of Duty 4 – 830,000 – Nov. 2007
7 GTA San Andreas – 740,000 – Jun. 2005
8 Fallout 3 – 645,000 – Oct. 2008
9 Far Cry 2 – 585,000 – Oct. 2008
10 Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 – 470,000 – Oct. 2008

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking either:

a) “but Spore’s rubbish!”. In which case, shuddup. We’ve done all that shouting already.
2) “it’s because of the DRM! This is a successful protest against the forces of evil!” In which case, mmmmaybe. Mmmmaybe not.

That Spore’s high placing is a direct result of its headline-making crazy-copy protection is certainly the popular theory. It’s hard to doubt that it didn’t play some part, thanks to a double whammy of protestors voting with their feet and protest-observers being confused and afraid by all the Chinese whispers about what Spore’s copy protection actually involved. Take a look at the number 2 game, though. That makes me doubt that Spore’s bittersweet chartopping here is quite as simple as so many will likely presume.

It’s The Sims 2 – a four year old game, and still significantly more torrented than this year’s heaviest hitters. That’s certainly nothing to do with DRM – that’s simply demand from a potential playerbase that’s way larger than most others even dream of. Given that Spore comes from the same stable as The Sims 2 and transparently chased the same audience, there’s a pretty strong chance a meaty fraction of its leechers came from that demographic, not the the DRM protest/fear demographic. I have no figures to back this up, sadly – this is just me raising an eyebrow and saying “eh? EH?” knowingly. Most likely, Spore’s king of torrent hill status is a combination of both factors. The same can’t be said for game number 3, which is really something of a mystery.

From my sagging office chair, it rather seemed as though the PC port of Assassin’s Creed came and went pretty quietly. There was some hoo-hah about dodgy performance and ludicrously protracted exit procedures, and there was the hangover of console AssCreed players irate about its comprimises, but it didn’t really seem to inspire either great love or great protest.

So why so high? Possible factors: the fact a version was leaked significantly before it hit the shops; the fact it came out during a relatively quiet time for big-name games, so perhaps enjoyed heightened interest; the fact it had pretty high system requirements, so may have appealed more to a tech-savvy audience, au fait with torrenting; the fact it did have something of a bad rap off the back of the console version, which made interested players more reluctant to purchase. All theories, and there’s probably one simple answer I’m too stupid to deduct. It sure does look weird there, though.

No real surprises otherwise – all big-name sequels, as you might expect. Only 3 of the 10 are original IPs, in fact. We can also doubtless expect the likes of Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2 to climb higher once they’ve been on sale for longer, while GTA IV and COD5 should make their presence known very soon. Also, San Andreas being so high after three years seems odd, but that’s most likely down to extreme anticipation for GTA IV.

So, not a complete picture of the year that was in terms of piracy, but it’s an interesting document of what have been 12 months that seemed to really shake PC gaming. Or our comments threads, at the very least.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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