Pirating Games

Posted on Jun 17, 2008

If you haven’t figured it out already, making video games is hard work. It’s a multi-disciplinary act of creation requiring skills in programming, mathematics, art, animation, game theory, sound design, and music. That amount of work required to produce a game is directly congruent to the amount of ambition for the game in question. Think Spore is going to be a good game? Think it took too long to be released?

Here’s a challenge that might put things in perspective and change your mind: try making a game.

I’m not suggesting going out and making your own Spore. I couldn’t do that on my own and no mere mortal could either without investing their entire lives to the effort. I am suggesting you start with something relatively small like a Donkey Kong or Frogger clone. Building your own game might help you to appreciate someone else’s a little more.

Once you have gained your new found appreciation for the amount of work required to develop a video game, you might start to reconsider “pirating” games. After all, if some of those bigger-budget games required the labour of dozens or even hundreds of people; the company that spent all that money producing it probably needs to make some of that money back in profits to pay those people. Suddenly “pirating” games seems a little… cheap.

However, there is still a big problem with the gaming industry. First off, the budgets are astronomical. In turn this makes the prices astronomical. Which leads to more people choosing the thriftier option. This makes the margins at the game companies shrink. It becomes a vicious circle. Piracy is just a symptom of this circle, and hopefully we’ll all find a way to fix it.

I think digital distribution is one step in the right direction. Trimming those budgets in order to trim those prices would probably help too. Finally, if gamers were more sympathetic, they might think about shelling out in order to support game developers. Digital distribution helps the industry because it cuts the cost of stocking shelves and is able to satisfy the urge for immediate gratification from gamers.

While it may be crazy to expect to throw down a hundred bucks for every new release that comes out, I hope that you consider at least paying for a few of those games. It’s not crazy to pirate a game; but if you can afford it you, you should probably buy it instead. After all, a lot of work went into your enjoyment (unless of course it was a rubbish game and you want your money back… ;) )


I might someday finish one of the many games I am working on and decide that one of them might be good enough to charge for. So this post might have sounded a little biased. Sorry about that, but it’s just how I feel.

Also in the sake of disclosure; I have pirated games before, but I’ve also paid for a tonne of them too. It’s hard on the wallet these days, but it’s still worth it for those special ones.