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Did Wolfenstein: The New Order accidentally find the best defense against piracy?

As sure as the sun rises in the east, so too will piracy be a plague upon PC gaming. Publishers and developers can implement as much DRM as they want--but any line of defense against piracy, no matter how clever, cannot prevent an onslaught of stolen copies courtesy of parsimonious game pirates. The most recent victim of this particular cybercrime is Wolfenstein: The New Order, which has reportedly been illegally downloaded over 100,000 times within a week of the game's launch. But The New Order seems to have stumbled upon the one thing that might be able to change a potential pirate's mind: their own impatience.

Actually-a-legitimate-news-site TorrentFreak revealed the sad plight of these swindlers, many of whom lamented how long it would take to download The New Order's 43.65GB file size. Some commenters went as far to say that instead of waiting to illegally obtain the game for free, they opted to just pay up so they could start playing in a fraction of the time. This is no doubt a vocal minority in the thousands of Wolfenstein pirates, but it's amusing to think that the sheer inconvenience of a fresh torrent persuaded would-be thieves into doing the right thing.

This incident raises an interesting point: In this day and age, with crazy high bandwidth and blazing-fast Internet readily available, what methods are left to deter PC game pirates? Requiring an online connection isn't a real solution, as seen by the hamstrung PC release of Watch Dogs when Uplay servers buckled under all the duress. Tacked-on multiplayer modes aren't likely to sway any pirate into becoming a paying customer for the single-player-content.

In fact, if Bethesda purposely inflated Wolfenstein's file size to dissuade pirates, that isn't really a great fix either. (To be clear: I by no means think this to be the case, but it is theoretically possible). Sure, a few torrenters lose their tempers and buy the game out of sheer frustration. But PC gamers who actually paid for Wolfenstein would be suffering for the anti-piracy measures just the same, forced to endure a longer download and potentially wasted hard drive space.

Clearly, publishers and developers will have to continue thinking of new and creative solutions to the problem of piracy, because it shows no signs of ever going away on its own. Anonymous users stealing 100,000 copies of Wolfenstein might sound insignificant--but that's millions of dollars that Bethesda won't be getting, money that could've gone towards justifying the development of a sequel or a new IP. PC gamers may joke about being the master race, but the console crowd rarely has to suffer on account of a subset of bad apples in their midst. If publishers fear that porting their games to PC will be a waste of time or resources, we'll inevitably see fewer and fewer multiplatform releases taking the chance. And nobody--not even the PC-bound pirates in question--wants that.

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137 comments

  • semitope - June 23, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    I have pirated tons of games. Finished very few. I have also bought a few too many games. These companies didn't really help anything when they started selling PC games for $60. That is a guaranteed pirate for me even if its something like the witcher 3 or dragon age inquisition. Simply not paying that much for it. $49 looks so much better and $39 would almost be guaranteed buy for some of these games. I guess they don't want to canibalize console sales but if profits are the same who cares. A lot of them have their own distribution system online and pay nobody but maybe the government. they can TRY to price these things much lower and make the same profits but nope.
  • StoutYeoman - June 8, 2014 10:48 a.m.

    DRM has almost nothing to do with preventing piracy. DRM is at best a thinly veiled attempt at bamboozling shareholders and at worst a way of preventing consumers from doing completely legal things with the software they purchase. DRM has been proven time and time again to be completely ineffective as a deterrent to piracy; however, it has been shown highly effective in preventing us from doing perfectly legal things like playing offline or bypassing the launcher. The purpose of DRM is not to stop piracy; it's to punish the legitimate user.
  • Vonter - June 5, 2014 8:34 p.m.

    Is a bit funny how many people seem to have a remorse about pirating. In the end is a matter of degrees, 'cause really, if a game can't convince you to pay for it, it might not be worth your time. Although there is that other case of those games you are ashamed to buy or those others than don't come to this part of the world and/or country. Anyways I haven't heard of a good game bombing because of piracy, but I've heard of bad games that bombed because morbidly curious people wanted to see how bad it was.
  • mothbanquet - May 31, 2014 1:24 a.m.

    Speaking as someone who has pirated a great many games in my time, my once-pilfered library is now completely legit. Why now? One simple word: Steam. Maybe another: sales. With the advent of Steam and other discount sites, we now have a regular flow of titles that you literally can't afford NOT to get. Though I wouldn't condone or excuse thievery, the price of new titles especially in the economy of the past few years is more than enough reason for some to turn to piracy. I know others who specifically pirate games from certain devs or publishers, more as an act of protest than anything. I can certainly contest the need to charge full brick and mortar store prices for digital downloads when they have none or few of the overhead or shipping costs attached to them. It does give me a sense of satisfaction to pay for new games, knowing I'm part of the industry's growth. While I don't think a huge price tag is justified for downloading new releases, I'm content now to simply wait for them to go down in price and enjoy the huge backlog of unplayed games until then. My personal experience has shown the best defence against piracy is reasonable (or irresistible) pricing and my collection grows larger with every 75% off deal I jump on.
  • Waldo - June 4, 2014 7:03 a.m.

    You're right on. Some people will always pirate, but when a game is priced reasonable, the honest majority will gladly hand over some money to those deserving. Maybe you should cut and paste your post and email it to some of the big businesses out there.
  • saravis - May 30, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    No, once again its a "solution" that will hurt the consumer more than the pirate. Pirates can find ways to significantly shrink the file size down. While consumers of physical copies wouldn't be too concerned by the large file size, those that buy via digital distribution would, especially if they have a bandwidth usage cap. In the end it wouldn't deter piracy, it might even encourage it. In the end people just need to accept that piracy happens and just release a product that will make the consumer happy.
  • Gorzul - May 30, 2014 3:58 a.m.

    Reading this article, I feel almost insulted by your naivete. First of all, Bethesda isnt losing million of dollars because 95% of those pirates wouldn't bother playing the game AT ALL if it weren't free to them. Either because they don't think its worth their money in the first place or because they dont have any to spare. In some countries $60 is half your monthly salary. So thinking that those 100k would've paid for the game, and at the full price as you suggest, is beyond ridiculous and frankly, quite ignorant. And I dont know what pretty little suburban neighborhood your were brought up in, but if you think that someone who wasn't planning to pay $1 for the game will suddenly run out and pay $60 for it so they can play it a few hours early, you really need to get out more and see the world. This theory is laughable! And one more thing about piracy, they can deflate files faster and more efficiently then dev can inflate it, so if it were "purposely" inflated with junk code, they'd deflate it faster than you can blink. They are also champions of compression. And lastly ,well more than half the sales are made digitally anyway, so the whole large download thing you're suggesting, doesn't make sense, and would affect legit customers more than pirates. Do a bare minimum of research before embarrassing yourself and your employers, seriously.
  • alecj - May 29, 2014 5:14 p.m.

    Stealing is stealing.....thats pretty much the bottom line. You arent entitled to someone else's work just because you exist.... Its wrong, immoral and just plain selfish......that said. I find that whenever they talk about numbers of copies of a game pirated they forget some important details. Firstly, most of the people downloading a game illegally (at least from my conversations with these kinds of people) would never have bought it. They either dont have the money or refuse to give their money to companies because of personal ethics. Secondly, its obviously more impactful to say 100,000 people stole something, but first of all," its", at its base level, computer code....one person taking it does not prevent someone else from having it, like a physical good. That puts a much harder to quantify cost on theft. Also, it costs nothing to produce the extra copies taken by way of torrent. The game exists as data that was there regardless of the pirates. Again, i find it repugnant and sad that anyone thinks they have a right to take something that doesnt belong to them, no matter the larger morale dilemma behind corporate ethics, but piracy's cost is a complicated discussion and doesnt equate to physical theft. Just my 2 cents
  • winner2 - May 29, 2014 7:46 p.m.

    Ah, now here's the explanation (idea and execution included) I was hoping to see. I agree with your 2 cents. Pirates are calling cyber piracy a "victimless crime", but that is, as you said, a complicated discussion. Did someone else work to make that product? Yes. Are they paid DIRECTLY from consumer purchase income? No. So you have a situation where a person takes advantage of another person's work, because the income from consumer purchases does benefit the former and help to ensure their continued financial safety, but the latter did not take something that must be replaced at an expense to the former, and did not necessarily deny them a purchase. So I would say that no, it is not entirely a victimless crime, rather it is a crime with a victim although in a more obscure and an arguably less impacting way, as you said. So, ethically, we have this: A pirate takes advantage of a worker by using their product without compensating the worker for creating said product. And materially, we have this: A pirate does not "steal" a "material" product, rather they violate the rights included with the ownership of the original license, which belong to the creator/s of the product, although in a way that doesn't concretely detract from the gain of the creator/s. Now as for the "x many people would have/wouldn't have bought it" discussion, or a recap of it: We have no way of saying without accurate statistics how many pirates would have bought the game if they couldn't pirate it, and all that other business. And so not every occurrence of piracy equates to a missed opportunity for a sale. And I agree; IMO, if you pirate, here's the thing. It's not that you're committing a crime, that's all tied up in legal matters that some people just disagree on and wish would change. It's that you took advantage of someone without giving something back when payment was expected. If you put a product out in the market with the hope that everyone follows the deal that someone can use your product if they pay you X,Y, or Z, and people violate that deal and use your product without compensating you, I think you'd be upset to a degree too. I have yet to see an argument convincing me that piracy is justified to any degree however. This is getting long and it took your reply to spur me into putting my thoughts down, so I'll leave it at that.
  • CUFCfan616 - May 29, 2014 3 p.m.

    Welcome to the entitlement generation. (I'll generalise here) Kids these days think they have an inherent right to play the latest games, watch the latest film or GoT episode and so they go and acquire these by whatever means necessary, i.e. torrenting. Then when an article like this comes along you see the same people trying to justify it; I'm just trying before buying, the developer's sold thousands of copies already, they're not going to miss my $50; piracy isn't theft because I'm not taking a physical product. Any time you have to justify why you're doing something illegal, (and pirating games is illegal because you haven't paid for the license for the right to play/watch your latest torrent) then your actions are criminal along the lines of petty theft. Yeah it may not seem like much to you, but it all adds up at the end of the day and hits the pursestrings of the developer, the publisher, the retailer and the taxman, all of which for some reason (again read the entitlement generation) piraters think are the evil people trying to get in the way of what are now seen as necessary goods rather than the luxury goods that games actually are.
  • felix-alexander - May 29, 2014 10:47 a.m.

    Difference between theft and piracy: Theft removes the original item, piracy copies the original item. Of course we are stealing the time/money that went into producing the game, but with all realism we aren't ACTUALLY stealing anything.
  • sevenSixteen - May 30, 2014 1:24 a.m.

    Be sure to tell the theater manager something similar the next time you sneak into a movie you didn't buy a ticket for. They'll understand.
  • FoxdenRacing - May 29, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    You'll never stop the entitled brats that don't have the conviction to go without something in the name of sticking to their principles, or who won't even pretend to have convictions; all you can do is beat them over the head with their hypocrisy until nobody else takes them seriously. Best thing the companies do is stop exaggerating. The "You're taking food out of the mouths of crying, starving babies wrapped in a burlap bag in the developer's cold, cold house you monster!" type appeals are making the problem worse, not better. Even on the rare occasions it's true [3-man indie teams who quit their day jobs and took out a loan to finish their game? Possible. Salaryman at EA? Only through their own inability to manage money], because those making that kind of plea the most are big companies, and it comes across as crocodile tears. Best thing the customers and pirates alike can do is stop acting self-righteous. Dropping $200 preordering the 'used to mean something' special edition [or $1,000 on all 5 versions from 5 different stores] doesn't make you better than the guy who drops $60 on launch, does not make you better than the guy who drops $40 after price cuts, or the guy who drops $15 picking it out of the used bin 3 years later. Suck it up, admit you're insecure, and find something else to use as a measurement of your self-worth. Likewise, complaining up a storm and then *getting it anyway* is beyond hypocritical. Either have convictions and stand firm in them, or admit that you're a self-centered, self-righteous jerk who wants a free lunch. Generally though, two things need to be accepted by everyone involved: One, the days of video games being premium goods are over. Piracy rates, the strength of the used market, the 700% or more uptick in purchases during Steam sales, all the signs point to one thing: Games are priced higher than the overall market will accept...pricing things based on what only the dyed-in-the-wool zealots will pay is hurting them. Combine that with the industry attitude of pumping out games with a distinct "you had to be there" strategy means those who would pay $40 day one, aren't as likely to pay it in 6 months...doubly so thanks to the focus being shifted more and more towards competitive online where if you're not there during the first so many weeks, you're at a permanent disadvantage...and unless you're looking at the biggest of the big names, the place is going to be a ghost town by then anyway. The companies are hurting themselves by giving those who would buy later, less of a reason to wait until it's in their price range (and no, fixing bugs that never should have shipped is not a good reason to wait; it's a mark of shame on the company). Faced with those choices, those who aren't absolutely bent on the series will either go play something else, or (if they don't have the scruples) turn to piracy. In short, it's long past time for 20 years of empty promises in the vein of 'CDs are hundreds or thousands of times cheaper than cartridges...prices can come down and the devs will make more to boot!' to go from bald-faced lie to reality. $40 launch-day, $20 after 6 months. Contrary to what the clown at EA says, lowering the price will not 'devalue the brand'; it'll strengthen it by bringing it to a larger audience, meaning more people will treasure it. The strength of a brand is not in its price, but in how well the customer base regards it. Two, the industry needs to accept that budgets are out of control, and haven't been sustainable for 5 years or more. The pool of customers is not growing as fast as the cost of state of the art is, and the gap is only going to get bigger as time passes. Gaming has exploded in popularity the past decade, but to be perfectly honest the pool of potential customers is getting broader, not deeper; we're seeing more people playing a broader spectrum of games more so than we are the audience for specific games getting larger. Even the mighty juggernaut that is CoD has seen its sales peak and hold, with sales numbers changing very little iteration over iteration.
  • shinkeiDEI - May 29, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    I am amazed that people blatantly defend piracy. Are you guys serious?
  • petasz - May 29, 2014 6:47 a.m.

    Games in my country, especially new games are at least 15.000 Ft, or 55 euro. The minimal wage here is 375 euro. it's even worse on something like Playstation Store, where new, DIGITAL games can get 20000 Ft, or 74 euro. Take this in consideration. Yes, you can find good deals on Steam, but it still leaves a mark on your wallet.
  • winner2 - May 29, 2014 4:53 a.m.

    Hey guys and girls, just don't pirate. Go outside, play with your kids or SO, bake something, whatever. Pirating is bad.
  • Alskeora - May 29, 2014 3:48 a.m.

    For me, I can only see 2 exceptions for Piracy. Either if the game's abandonware, so nobody owns it anymore, or if you already own the game, but are downloading it because it doesn't work on your current format (being outdated for instance). On all other occasions, you should buy the game. You don't want to give money to EA? Don't play the game. The game's too expensive? Wait for it to be on sale or save up for it. Don't pirate it.
  • Shigeruken - May 29, 2014 3:47 a.m.

    I have this friend who pirates game to see how well they run on PC. He never plays a pirated game for more than half an hour, and if he feels inclined to do so he purchases the game on Steam or wherever it's available. The sad fact is that there are many developers and publishers willing to release products that simply do not work. I experienced this first hand when I bought the Wolf Among Us and discovered that it wouldn't start up on my laptop. To this day telltale has offered no solution and no refund. Had I not been a hardware enthusiast with an impressive dekstop, I would have had no way to use the product I paid full retail price for. I've got another friend who always pirates games he pre-orders if the NZ release date is delayed. He completed Mass Effect 2 in the few days before he was able to pick up his pre-ordered retail copy at the store. There are many reasons people steal games. What's important is to remember that if you don't support the creator of content you enjoy, they may not be able to continue producing said content.
  • semitope - June 23, 2014 8:09 a.m.

    Its not "stealing" if you are speaking English. As far as producing said content, that is why we have the console peasants.
  • shawksta - May 29, 2014 1:24 a.m.

    Oh jeez these comments 0_0

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