We've heard a lot of numbers thrown around relating to game piracy—everyone from the ESA to Crytek has put figures out there, usually suggesting that the problem is larger than we might think (opens in new tab) . An academic paper published recently tells a different story, however. Using state of the art BitTorrent tracking software, the new data obtained has led Aalborg University researcher Anders Drachen to conclude: "the numbers in our investigation suggest that previously reported magnitudes in game piracy are too high."
The study was conducted over three months, beginning in late 2010 and concluding in early 2011. During that time, about 12.6 million unique peers were identified pirating games. The most pirated title was Fallout: New Vegas, with 967,793 downloads. That's a lot, but the overall piracy rate still falls well below past reports. Perhaps owing to the window of the study, RPGs were easily the most pirated genre, followed by the somewhat vague "Action-Adventure" (a category that included Darksiders and The Force Unleashed 2). 37 percent of the pirated games were M-rated, and a strong correlation was identified between Metacritic score and how often a game was pirated.
Of course, a three-month period may not represent the lifetime piracy rate for a game. The study is also quick to point out that it was not aiming to speculate on how pirated copies translate in terms of lost sales. You can read the full report for yourself here , and Wired has broken down the methods used to obtain the data in a more digestible format.