Piracy just doesn’t make sense anymore

March 16, 2014

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When I was a kid, buying a game was a very, very big deal. We don’t all have the same story, but when I was in high school in France a PC game would easily cost 350 francs. (that was roughly $50, and taking inflation into account that would represent about $75 today). My parents would give me 100 francs a month (taking inflation into account, that would be about $20) to buy comic books, music, movies, snacks, drinks, etc… It meant that if I wanted to play 3 (3!) video games a year, I basically had to give up on all other types of entertainment (including going out with friends, etc…) for the whole year. Christmas was kind of the only real way to get video games, but even then, given their prices, it was pretty rare to actually get one (that, and my parents didn’t like video games anyway, so it was tough to get them to consider buying one for Christmas).

The internet was in its infancy back then, and it was really tough to know if a game was actually good or not. If you were lucky, you could base your choice on your favorite video game magazine’s review, feedback from your friends, or, more frequently, on the cover of the game in the store. Let’s just say I’ve sunk good money in terrible games more than once (worst memory: Ghostbusters for the Atari 2600, and yes, that was way before high school). Bottom line is, I quickly became reluctant of sinking 3 months of pocket money into games that could turn out to be awful.

My monthly allowance of 100 francs was mostly used for comic books, snacks, and going out with friends. Piracy was the “obvious” thing to do if I actually wanted to play any games on my computer. And although I’m sure everyone has their own story to tell, it felt like pirating games was pretty much the consensus around me at school, with people passing around huge boxes of floppy disks, or, for the rich among us, CDs that could sometimes contain hundreds of games.

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Yes, this was an AAA title back in the days, fond memories, even if I had to pay an arm and a leg for it :)

I don’t know how much money kids get from their parents every month these days. I don’t know if the money I got as a kid was average or not. What I know however, is that it’s never been that easy and cheap to get video games legally today. No later than today, I got 9 Android games from the humble bundle for a price of $10. Last month, they had a bunch of Sid Meier games at a huge discount too. Steam regularly have sales, sometimes up to 90% of discount on games that are less than 6 months old. And of course, let’s not forget PS+, Sony’s program which gets me about 60 games per year for $50, including a large amount of AAA titles.

Yes, today I get somewhere between 50 and 100 times the number of games the same amount of money could buy 15 years ago. So when I see people complaining about the price of videos games today, I just don’t really understand where the issue is.

Sure, the discounts and sales don’t necessarily get you the latest and greatest AAA titles, but the situation feels a lot better than what it used to be. To a point that, like many people today, I actually own much more games than I can actually play. The same is true for movies with Netflix, or for music with services such as spotify and pandora. I truly believe piracy is a problem directly related to poor legal alternatives, and that the issue is being resolved with services such as PS+ or Steam.

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I do not judge people who pirate. I’ve done my own share of it as a kid and whatever they might be, people have their own reasons. But I still think today piracy makes much less sense than it did back in the nineties.

What’s your take on piracy? Do you have a subscription to a service similar to PS+ ?

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