THQ Exec Rails on PC Pirates, Hardware Makers, You

By Aaron Linde, Mar 03, 2008 3:37pm PST Prompted by the closure of Titan Quest developer Iron Lore last week, THQ creative director Michael Fitch ranted on the state of PC gaming and rampant piracy in a post on the Quarter to Three forums

"The research I've seen pegs the piracy rate at between 70-85% on PC in the US, 90%+ in Europe, off the charts in Asia," Fitch wrote. "I didn't believe it at first. It seemed way too high. Then I saw that Bioshock was selling 5 to 1 on console vs. PC. And Call of Duty 4 was selling 10 to 1."

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward recently expressed similar dismay at the high levels of piracy for the PC version of its popular first-person shooter.

Fitch explained that piracy doesn't just harm sales—Titan Quest took a big hit in word of mouth when pirated copies of the game crashed after various failed security checks, prompting a negative response by those who had illegally acquired the game. "A lot of people are talking about how it crashes right when you come out of the first cave," Fitch wrote. "Yeah, that's right. There was a security check there."

But piracy wasn't the only thorn in Fitch's side; the developer claims that hardware vendors make PC game developers' jobs a great deal harder, too. Everything from hardware and software conflicts to simple issues like fragmented drives or spyware, Fitch said, are inevitably blamed on the software developers by consumers.

"Put together consumers who want the cheapest equipment possible with the best performance, manufacturers who don't give a shit what happens to their equipment once they ship it... But, it's always the game's fault when something doesn't work."

There are few better examples of the 'it can't possibly be my fault' culture in the west than gaming forums," he added.

Though some development studios have claimed that making a leap to multiplatform development is the only way to offset loss brought on by piracy, not all developers have had such sour luck. Stardock and Ironclad Games recently announced that their PC strategy title Sins of a Solar Empire—which features no copy protection whatsoever—sold over 100,000 copies in less than a month after release.

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  • I've been a fellow viewer for a long time and just want to chime in on this Piracy issue.

    Developers are complaining about the piracy being so bad on the PC. I can relate that it's very easy to download a torrent and play the game, but their numbers seem a little odd. They state 80% are pirating their game and that they lost sales to the console version. Have they thought that maybe these people have already bought the console version and are pirating the PC version because they don't play on the PC 100% of the time? I personally think that these numbers of piracy would be a lot different if they took into account the people who already bought the console version vs. the PC version. I really don't know anyone who buys 2 copies of the same game.

    On another note, do they have any evidence that the people who "pirate the game" would actually buy the product otherwise? I know a lot of people pirate games because they just want to play it for 20 minutes or what not. They really have no interest in the game at all. Just a thought.

    Plus is it me or do you never hear, "Rentals are killing our sales?" With Netflix, Gamefly, etc... hurting their sales at all then? Because I know this if Piracy dissappeared from the PC, I still wouldn't buy some of these games and I would resort to renting instead.