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BitTorrent Piracy and Selective Media Focus

If you have read any of the coverage surrounding a recently published study headed up by Anders Drachen of Aalborg University called “Distribution of Digital Games via BitTorrent” then one point you have had hammered into your head by now is that the study concludes that previous estimates concerning the amount of game piracy taking place on the torrents have been too high.

The study does indeed come to that conclusion, but it also reports quite a number of other things that many in the media seem strangely less eager to include in their coverage. Among those points:

* “Out of 173 game titles in the study, released during the Fall 2010 or early 2011, 127 were found on BitTorrent networks.”

* “Approximately 12.6 million unique peers accessed these files.”

* “This analysis reveals that it is a few titles, typically major commercial titles, that are the most heavily distributed on BitTorrent…. The ten most pirated titles encompass 41.8% of the total dataset.”

* “[T]here is a positive correlation between aggregate review scores, such as those obtained from Metacritic.com, and BitTorrent popularity.”

While it’s easy to see how those facts and numbers can be spun into good news for rights-holders (by those determined to do so, at least) when you read them as a person who offers anti-piracy and DMCA takedown services, it’s hard not to see it as news that gets worse in direct proportion to how good your company is at what it does.

As I see it, the “good news” here is that if you produce mediocre crap video games (and what game publisher doesn’t have THAT as a goal, right?), then piracy probably won’t have much of an impact. If, however, you produce games that reviewers like, and that people might actually want to play, then you’re pretty damn likely to witness piracy of your products.

Perhaps the real headline for coverage of this study should be “Study: Piracy Only Impacts Popular Games.”

I guess that doesn’t make as sexy a headline for a tech-focused news outlet as “Estimates of Game Piracy Too High” or “The ESA Remains Wrong About Everything Related to Piracy,” though.