Monday, June 22, 2009

PC Game Sales vs Steals (Week 2)

As explained last week I have decided to document and compare the PC games sales charts to pirated PC game activity. Each week I will present the sales charts, as reported by Shacknews, along with the top 10 most active PC game torrents from a popular torrent hosting site.

Interestingly, the NPD Group this week decided to cease releasing its weekly top 10 best selling PC games chart to the media. As such, the NPD's week-long delay in releasing its chart is no longer an issue. Therefore, two weeks of data are presented below from Direct2Drive, Steam, and a popular torrent site.

Direct2Drive's Top Ten (by unit, 6/7 - 6/13)

1.The Sims 3
2.The Sims 3 (Mac)
3.Prototype
4.Civilization IV: Complete Edition
5.The Sims 3 (Prima Bundle)
6.DCS: Black Shark
7.Fallout 3
8.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
9.Mass Effect
10.Civilization IV

Steam Top Sellers (by revenue, 6/7 - 6/13)

1.Prototype
2.Left 4 Dead
3.Killing Floor
4.Team Fortress 2
5.Counter Strike: Source
6.The Orange Box
7.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
8.Penumbra Collector Pack
9.Railworks
10.Plants vs. Zombies

Most Active Torrents (6/15)

Seeds Leechers
1.Prototype 294118622
2.The Sims 3370810592
3.Grand Theft Auto 45063647
4.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare12973192
5.X-Men Origins: Wolverine8713015
6.The Sims 2 (incl. all expansion packs)5642657
7.Empire: Total War Special Forces Edition5852556
8.Fallout 315872382
9.Terminator Salvation3782172
10.Pro Evolution Soccer 20095352053

Direct2Drive's Top Ten (by unit, 6/14 - 6/20)

1.The Sims 3
2.The Sims 3 (Mac)
3.Ghostbusters: The Video Game
4.Prototype
5.Civilization IV: The Complete Edition
6.Fallout 3
7.Aion: The Tower of Eternity
8.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
9.Mass Effect
10.Call of Duty: World at War

Steam Top Sellers (by revenue, 6/14 - 6/20)

1.Prototype
2.Empire: Total War
3.Left 4 Dead
4.Ghostbusters: The Video Game
5.The Elder Scrolls Game of the Year Pack Deluxe
6.Counter Strike: Source
7.Team Fortress 2
8.Killing Floor
9.The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition Deluxe
10.The Orange Box

Most Active Torrents (6/22)

Seeds Leechers
1.Prototype 28539785
2.Grand Theft Auto 44603670
3.Ghostbusters: The Videogame4203426
4.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare13313165
5.NBA Live 0816542820
6.The Sims 2 (incl. all expansion packs)6382480
7.Empire: Total War Special Forces Edition5152474
8.Terminator Salvation3842349
9.Fallout 315882287
10.X-Men Origins: Wolverine6552252

The most active PC game torrent list is presented with the number of Seeds and Leechers. Simply put, Seeds corresponds to the number of people who are uploading or sharing the game, whereas Leechers corresponds to the number of people who are downloading the game. One thing to note is that duplicates were not included in the most active torrent list. As a result, the presented number of Seeds and Leechers does not necessarily correspond to the total number of pirated game copies.

When comparing each outlet across the two weeks it can be seen that the games listings are somewhat consistent. Prototype appears at the top of Steam's list and the Most Active Torrents list for both weeks, whereas The Sims 3 dominates Direct2Drive.

There are, however, a number of exceptions to that consistency. Perhaps the most obvious is the release of Ghostbusters: The Videogame on June 16. The game debuts on each outlet's chart, landing at #3 for Direct2Drive, #4 for Steam, and #3 for the Most Active Torrent list.

More interestingly, Empire: Total War makes an appearance on Steam's 6/14 - 6/20 chart, when it was completely absent the previous week. This is most likely due to the 50% off promotion given during the June 20th weekend. When taking into account the fact that Steam's chart is organized by revenue, and not units, it can be seen that a greater profit was generated by an older half-priced game than a brand new full price game. Essentially, Empire: Total War outsold Ghostbusters: The Videogame more than two-to-one, at least on Steam. Combined with the appearance of The Elder Scrolls products on Steam's 6/14 - 6/20 chart, publishers should realize that Valve's digital distribution is a great method for generating new revenue from older games. Assuming of course they don't realize that already.

When viewing the week-to-week torrent activity, two points immediately stand out. The first is that despite remaining in first place across both weeks for Direct2Drive, The Sims 3 completely disappears from the 6/22 Most Active Torrents list. Upon further investigation I discovered that The Sims 3 not only fell out of the top 10, it completely disappeared as a download from the referenced torrent site. As to how or why this occurred, I have no conclusive explanations. Perhaps the game's DRM has proven to be very effective, or perhaps this incident is completely unrelated to any copy-protection. I do know, however, that Electronic Arts is very happy right now.

The second point that stands out is the appearance of NBA Live 08 on the 6/22 Most Active Torrents chart. This might be due to the recent conclusion of the 2009 NBA Finals. Of course NBA Live 09 was never released for the PC, so downloaders flocked to the most recent NBA Live title, released on October 2, 2007.

In terms of relating PC game sales to PC game piracy, nothing conclusive can yet be drawn from such a small sample size. One obvious conjecture might be newer games that sell well are also pirated well. Hopefully further trends can be deciphered next Monday, when three weeks worth of listings will be available.

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