Video Game Piracy On The Rise, Will Cost The Industry As Much As It Makes

Video game piracy has been around since video games were first introduced into the home. Some of you may remember the days of bootleg cassettes, the rise of file sharing websites and even console game piracy on some systems. One thing has remained clear since then, piracy has always been around and will always be around and whilst some may condemn those that pirate games illegally there are always others who will downplay the act of piracy and the impact it has on the industry.

Last month a report from Arxan Technologies, an applications security company, showed that gamers pirate almost as much as they legitimately pay for. Tru Optic research states that the total revenue lost to pirated games was approximately $74.1 billion in 2014 whilst the global video game industry only bought in $83.6 billion in revenue last year. It’s a shocking revelation and shows just how big of an impact piracy is having. It’s no wonder that we’ve seen companies try to counter this through DRM and new revenue models such as free to play and online subscriptions.


The number of pirated games is expected to rise this year as well with Arxan estimating that a total of 31,000 paid games will be hacked and made available to users for free. This is more than double the amount of games that were pirated in 2012. In fact Video games is now the second most pirated category ahead of Movies, TV shows, Music and Adult content in terms of revenue.

Hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide are easily able to find and access websites that distribute pirated content. Many of these sites survive based on Ad revenue (i.e., advertisers are paying to promote their products and services on these sites), while others charge users a fee or request donations from their users. The largest piracy websites generated more than $200 million in advertising-driven revenues in 2014.


It’s clear that piracy is here to stay, and whilst some users may buy a game legitimately after playing a pirated copy, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the majority have no intention of purchasing the game in order to support the developers and publishers. This isn’t the only threat posed by video game piracy, other threats include users being able to cheat in game or bypass certain in game policies.

Piracy is always a hot topic and some companies have chosen to rule with an iron fist by clamping down on piracy through DRM, others have changed their business model to incorporate free to play and in game micro transactions and some have an open mind to piracy and believe that it can actually boost the sales of their games.

Share your thoughts with us in comments below.


A passionate gamer with a love for Koei Tecmo's Musou games. I also enjoy following and analysing the Games Industry.


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  • nick c

    Piracy is so awful and the reason why the cost of gaming has exploded as well as intrusive drm requirements. Where do people get the idea that if they cannot afford something they should steal it? It’s honestly a risk developers take with kids that have no money and poor losers with no dignity.

  • Ben Talton

    it is never ok to steal

  • Chris

    I believe Gabe Newell is full of Crap in this case. If you can’t afford the game, TOUGH! Piracy is flat-out stealing as you’re downloading games you have no legal right or permission over. Not only do you NOT need video games to have a happy and healthy life (as video games and all art forms are hobbies by nature), but there are countless numbers of games, both free and cheap, that you have access to for fun (like Team Fortress 2, Lord of the Rings Online, One Button Blob, Happy Wars, Warframe, Hustle Kings, Marvel Heroes, and SOOOOOO many more) that the “well, I need this particular pirated game to have fun rings so damn hallow.

    The whole “poor people needing to play game” feels like desperate justification for piracy.

    • Sultanescu Karol

      Never said that poor people NEED to play games, but they will want to. And where there’s a will, there’s a way. In addition, I doubt that a life without hobbies counts as a healthy life. There’s much more to living than simply subsisting from day to day. You could say that vidya is a first world need, sure, but as I said in my original comment, it’s becoming more and more affordable, and therefore widespread.

      The stealing comment… it’s a bit more complex. Can you steal something that is in infinite supply? It’s not like the supplier is going to be missing any of its imaginary stock.

      I don’t have much concrete data, but I have myself as an example. I couldn’t afford games as I grew up, but I can now, and I have 900 games on my Steam list now. Did I contribute to the game industry by working in it and buying so much? I like to think I have. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? No. I’m just one consumer that came out of a huge potential consumer base.

      • Chris

        Okay. I was a poor college student, but I didn’t steal DVDs from Wal-Mart because I wanted it because then I would be in the wrong. There are COUNTLESS other options for video games to play through entirely legal means.

        “Can you steal something that is in infinite supply?”

        Do you have a legal right to it? If “no,” then it is stealing.

        “No. I’m just one consumer that came out of a huge potential consumer base.”

        Every dollar counts and people who pirate games without financial compensation, then decide not to buy the game at all represent a loss of a potential sale because of piracy.

        • Ben Talton

          glad im not the only 1 who realizes pirating is stealing

  • dayeight

    what’s the first most if it’s not music?

    • ZhugeEX

      Just software in general. Applications for pc and mobile etc…

      Stuff like Photoshop etc…

  • Joshua Pirog

    Somewhat misleading in the sense of , a lot of people who pirated a game wouldn’t have actually paid for the game even if they couldn’t pirate it. It was there, it was available to try for free illegally, so they did. It doesn’t mean they had enough interest in the game before or even after downloading it to have bought it.

    • ZhugeEX

      Of course. Not every pirated game would have been a sale.

      The research paper quoted is from a security company who are trying to make it look like every pirated copy is a lost sale but that’s far from the case.

      All the number shows is how big piracy is overall.

      It does little to show about the actual impact on the industry


        I love that News outlets are still trying to push the “piracy hurts the little guy” bullshit. I can afford to pay 20 AUD for the next game from Devolver Digital. I CANNOT afford to pay 120 AUD for the new Godzilla game. Most adult pirates I’m sure can afford to buy a game or two every now and then but no-one should ever have to pay two months of their wage to buy the next CoD or GTA, something many of us had to do.

        • Terry Ghast

          Well, if you look at this in the standpoint of hobby, say, archery, the bows are pretty expensive if you are ever to buy one, especially the ones produced by good famous company, so if you want it, you save up to buy it, cuz there’s no way around it, but in a game standpoint just because it’s a software doesn’t mean people didn’t put time and effort into making it, everyone deserves credits for their efforts

        • Chris

          You can’t afford the new Godzilla game, that doesn’t mean you’re fucking entitled to the Godzilla game.

      • Chris

        Not every pirated game would have been a sale, but every single one of them was a potential sale. If you pirated a game, you found enough worth in it to illegally download it. That’s not a demo. That’s the fucking game. There are reviews and Let’s Plays to showcase whether or not you’d be interested in the game.

        That’s active theft as you have no legal rights to those games, and that IS a loss of a sale through stealing.

        Piracy is so huge that it’s caused the shifts towards DRM, subscription based games, microtransactions for free-to-play games, companies like Crytek going multiconsole, and Epic games keeping their games from PC given how rampant piracy is.

        Not to mention the loads of developers and heads of the industry who actively criticize piracy.

    • Chris

      That is an absolute load of bullshit. There are plenty of free game on options on all current GEN platforms. You do not ” need” the newest games. And if pirates were so damn uninterested in the game beforehand, why even pirated it all? More so, if they do find it they enjoyed the entire gaming experience, you honestly think that the majority of them Will return to the marketplace and pay full market value for the game? I hate the DRM that developers employee into their games, especially with PC, but seeing the statistics, and the absolutely ludicrous justifications for piracy, I don’t blame them!

      • nick c

        I strongly agree but people been justifing it for decades now. In all in one subscription service like how music and netflex works might be the only way to stop it at this point. Just like coworkers stealing food from the office fridge they just don’t see how it’s wrong shockingly.