Dragon Age veteran Mark Darrah left Bioware last year after nearly a quarter of a century at the company. Since then, he’s launched his own YouTube channel, Old Game Dev Advice, where he publishes videos talking about console certification process, game publishing business models and other practical advice for aspiring game creators.
In his latest video, he weighed in on videogame piracy. Ordinarily, you’d expect Mark Darrah to argue on the side against piracy, but instead declared that the situation is actually a bit more nuanced than that. Darrah said that publishers who claim massive losses to piracy to justify DRM and other anti-piracy measures have it wrong, but so are pirates who claim their actions have no real impact.
The conventional argument from publishers is that every pirated copy is a lost sale at full price and therefore calculated their losses as such. But that’s a bit of an exaggeration, Darrah argues, likening the assumption to police reports of the street value of drugs they seize in raids. Darrah said that such a calculation model “exaggerates and expands the number well beyond what is realistic.”
However he also offers that pirates are underplaying the impact of their actions, saying that they “are equally coming from a completely ludicrous place.” While not all pirated copies of a game are equivalent to a lost sale, it can’t be argued that none do. Mark Darrah says that on piracy, publishers only see a failure on their part to protect sales.
So regardless of whether pirates choose to view piracy as an act of protest, publishers will still hold that lost sale against the market. The only time Darrah considers piracy a legitimate act is when a game ceases to be available anywhere. “It’s hard for me to argue against that. You’re not really taking money out of someone’s hand because they were choosing no longer to even sell it to you.”
What Darrah questions is whether or not piracy really is a necessity to the people who partake of it. “If you’re sitting there right now saying, ‘Well, it’s okay that I pirated this game because I never would’ve bought it,’ then why don’t you ask yourself this question: If you never would have purchased this game, why was it so important that you pirate it?” Darrah asks. “Why did you need to play it at all?”
Darrah wraps up his video with the conclusion that piracy’s impact on the industry — or the argument in favor of it — is not so cut and dried. “I know you have a justification as to why your particularly piracy is okay,” Darrah says. “I’m asking you to stop for a moment, double check that that’s not just an excuse, and that your real reason for piracy isn’t something else.”
That being said, while a majority of pirated games are of PC releases, the issue remains relevant even within the console space. Moreso on Xbox where games are often published by Microsoft for both Xbox consoles and Windows 10 PCs. In the past, several measures have been taken to jailbreak past Xbox titles that were released on Games for Windows.