Pirates? Wrecking my preferred platform? It’s less likely than you’d think.

To pull a phrase from my preferred Presidential candidate: “Let’s just be clear,” if the PC gaming industry is in trouble, and I’m not convinced that it is, it’s not the fault of pirates. Game publishers are just using that tack to justify treating their customers like common criminals.

There’s been a lot in the industry news lately about the pirating of software. In the spirit of the RIAA, Activision has taken to suing individuals for owning pirated copies of Call of Duty 3. In most cases the individuals pleaded guilty and settled with Activision. How did all those lawsuits work out for the Recording Industry? I’m pretty sure it didn’t strike fear into the hearts of pirates everywhere, though Activision is reportedly bullying those they’ve sued into settling.

Then we’ve got this little gem regarding from Ubisoft Shanghai director Michael de Plater regarding the delayed release of the PC version of Tom Clancy’s EndWar

“To be honest, if PC wasn’t pirated to hell and back, there’d probably be a PC version coming out the same day as the other two,” he said, talking of the voice-controlled RTS.

“But at the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you’re doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version. Piracy’s basically killing PC.”

He’s essentially saying that if they released the PC version on the same day as the other platforms, potential customers would just download the pirated PC version instead of buying the console version. That’s right, not only is piracy killing the PC platform, it’s depriving publishers of console sales. So, de Plater is saying that PC gamers are all a bunch of pirates who will always choose to steal the game instead of legitimately purchasing a copy, even for their console, given the choice.

First of all, I call shenanigans. I think Game Politics hit the nail on the head –

So, PC piracy is affecting sales of console editions in a significant way? Does that even make sense?

Did game consumers throw down $300-600 for Xbox 360s and PS3s in order to play bootlegged versions on their PCs?

I have no statistics to back up this claim, but I think I’m part of the minority of gamers that has both a current-generation console (the Wii doesn’t count) and a powerful “gaming” PC in their home.

When I make the decision about my preferred platform for any given title, it mostly boils down to genre, and to whether I have the extra $10 to give to Microsoft for an X360 game. For the most part, I play first-person shooters and strategy games on PC, and pretty much everything else on X360 (third person action, platforming, turn-based RPGs, Sports, etc). In my opinion the respective control schemes, mouse and keyboard versus gamepad, and respective screen size, 21-inch monitor versus 40-inch television, are the deciding factors. It’s NOT about whether I can pirate the game or not.

The Spore DRM fiasco is the manifestation of this line of thinking – that PC gamers will download any given game for free if they can. So we’re all treated like pirates and theives. As consumers we are expected to put up with limits on the number of times we can install the game, needing to have an internet connection to register and play the game, faulty registration servers, etc. Meanwhile, the pirates are laughing at all the poor saps who wanted to support the industry, because they’ve already cracked the DRM and have been playing for weeks.

We’re still waiting for the gaming industry to provide reliable and accurate figures on how much money they’re losing to PC piracy, since they’re using it to justify their waning support for the platform and their treatment of its proponents.

Here’s the kicker, though. This past week the story broke that Fallout 3, which is going to be a serious Game of the Year contender, is already available for download on the torrent sites – for X360.

Also see Stardock President Brad Wardell’s blog post on this subject.


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