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Piracy Activity vs. Product Features in Digital Games

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The practice of illegally copying and distributing digital games is at the heart of one of the most heated and divisive debates in the international games environment, with stakeholders typically viewing it as a very positive (pirates) or very negative (the industry, policy makers). Despite the substantial interest in game piracy, there is very little objective information available about its magnitude or its distribution across game titles and game genres. This paper presents a large-scale analysis of the illegal distribution of digital game titles, which was conducted by monitoring the BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing protocol. The sample includes 173 games and a collection period of three months from late 2010 to early 2011. With a total of 12.6 million unique peers identified, it is the largest examination of game piracy via P2P networks to date. Analysis of the data shows that games of the “Action” genre, which include the majority of major commercial AAA-level titles, comprise 45% of the unique peers in the dataset, although games from “Racing”, “Role-Playing Game” and “Simulation” genres have higher numbers of unique peers on average than “Action” games. The ten most pirated titles encompass 5.27 million aggregated unique peers alone. In addition to genre, review scores were found to be positively correlated with the logarithm of the number of unique peers per game (p<0.05).

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Anders Drachen, Kevin Bauer, Rob Veitch

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