This article coming from someone like myself, who used to own the biggest pirated online gaming network, is kind of ironic, but also very true. My goal here is to show through various examples, why digital piracy is not hurting the industry, as most people involved tend to exaggerate about.
To start with, pirated movies and tv series. This is something that almost everyone has pirated nowadays, even your grandma is watching pirated tv series once in a while. There are multiple reasons for why this is happening, first and foremost “availability”. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to watch what you want unless you become a pirate.
Most movies and series are made in the U.S., by the time they reach your country it’s old news, this is very true for most tv series, with the exception of a few blockbusters like Game of Thrones, you almost never get to watch new episodes when they air in the U.S. At best you will need to wait a few months for them to become locally available via official channels.
Next reason is “location”, not everyone lives in big cities with easy cinema and cable tv access, or the one cinema they might have, won’t play the movie they want to see.
The last and most important reason is “money”. Most people nowadays can barely go through the month with their basic expenses, it would be impossible for them to pay for access to digital goods. If digital piracy didn’t exist, all those people would never have seen or know about “said” goods in the first place.
It wouldn’t have made any difference whatsoever in the revenues of the producing companies. By offering cheap and quality services, companies can both help people quench their thirst and also make some revenue.
A perfect example of that is Netflix. It came to Greece a few months ago, i tried it out and now it’s the only thing i am using. For just a few euros per month you get access to a huge library. More services like Netflix is the definitive answer to the question of how to “combat” digital piracy.
Next in the digital piracy list is music. Music has been pirated since the age of the cassettes, then pirated music cd’s and now mp3’s. To be honest the amount of music cd’s i have bought myself can be counted with one hand’s fingers. The main reason for that usually is “money”. Buying retail music cd’s is damn expensive. You usually buy an album with 20 tracks which you only like maybe half of them.
Apple was the first to introduce the digital music purchase industry via iTunes, since then a lot more digital distribution services have appeared. The good thing about this type of service is that you can buy just the tracks you want and not the full albums. Even tho this was a service towards the right direction it was not enough to combat piracy, things were just too expensive for most people to consider spending money on.
Due to almost everyone pirating music, the industry was forced to evolve into what it is today, practically offering free music distribution in the exchange of ads. Nowadays you can officially watch any music video for free on youtube, both you and the publisher get what you want. You get to listen to your favorite music for free and the artist/company gets something in return, it’s a win-win.
Moreover quality music services like Spotify offer huge music collections for just a fraction of the cost, it’s really something worth spending money on. Now what you should consider is this, if digital piracy didn’t exist, would companies be forced to find other solutions and make music easier to access for everyone? No, they would just sit in a pile of cash and not give a shit. Piracy helped evolve the music industry and make it more accessible to everyone, not taking into consideration their wallets, but their music preferences.
The last part of our digital piracy analysis concerns video games. Here from personal experience i can say that piracy has been very beneficial to the industry and it wouldn’t have been where it is now unless piracy existed.
To start with, online games like Mu Online, Lineage II, both of which we had pirated servers back in the TFN (The Frienz Network) era. All MMO games back then (2002), were subscription based, meaning you had to pay using your credit card for access. This alone made pirated gameservers a seller, cause of the free access they provided to players, it was something like a “proto-f2p”. Because a huge ammount of players got access to online games from pirated servers, these games became ultra popular and helped evolve the industry into what it is today, with almost all online games being Free 2 Play.
Something similar happened to pc games, companies like Valve understood this first, and made the Steam platform in which you can get bargain prices and exclusive discounts for games. After Steam, other platforms started popping like mushrooms, providing gamers with competitive prices and services. Nowadays the only reason someone would pirate a pc video game would be because he has no money to spare, and wouldn’t even buy the game in the first place because of that.
Console games are slowly entering the dance, after the Playstation 3 piracy fiasco, Sony learned the hard way that they need to change, that’s the reason services like Playstation Plus and Xbox Live Gold exist. By utilizing their online digital store and offering huge discounts and special gifts to customers it just made the consumer experience much better, and all of that happened because Playstation 3 got pirated in the first place.
To sum up, no, digital piracy is not bad at all. It’s role is more of a constant reminder to companies that they need to improve their services if they want to make revenue. I’m afraid to even consider where the industry would be now if digital piracy didn’t exist.