Stealing Thunder

Pirates. An ideal subject matter for hackneyed analogies about sea shanties, dead men's chests and bottles of rum. None of which you shall read here, this being a serious investigative article and all. Let it just be said, it was once rumored that Chuck Norris lost a fight to a pirate, but this rumor was a lie created by Chuck Norris to lure more pirates to him.

Truth be told, not even the ginger warlord or Steven Segal (or David Hasselhoff in his prime) could stem the onslaught of PC games pirates, currently causing developers to weep like children.

At GDC 2007, id boss Todd Hollenshead blamed piracy for the death of PC games (that old chestnut). As much as 50% of all PC game sales are lost to piracy in the US he said, and up to 90% in Asia. Epic honcho Michael V Capps weighed in, saying that piracy was the reason behind UT3 cross-platforming.

For the most part, PC gamers do not enjoy the finger of blame pointed their direction. "What a load of crap," the average brigand bleats on a forum. "Most people who pirate games don't buy them anyway, so how are publishers losing money?" Another token voice pitches in: "Draconian piracy protection hurts games more and the customers are beginning to get tired." Others moan that piracy has been about for eons.

Outspoken developers are clearly shocked by the venomous reaction of the gaming community. "I think I already stoked the fires a bit too much on this issue," says Epic man Michael Capps when approached for a comment, although others call it like it is. "PC gaming piracy these days is BAD," announces Jørgen Tharaldsen, Funcom product director. "In many regards, it's easier to get hold of a pirated version online than going to a store to buy it."

Above: In 1996, an unscrupulous rotter hacked into the id website and robbed the Quake source code. More amusingly, Hexen II was leaked during a press meeting in Australia, and id's ownshakey security system was to blame for Quake 2 going AWOL.