No evidence that piracy affects video game sales – EU Commission

A report by the European Commission has found that illegal downloads of video games do not affect sales. In a 307 page report carried out by research firm Ecorys, the EU Commission wanted to find out how the digital consumption of pirated material affects the legitimate purchases of said materials.

In the report, data was taken from 2014 and took in to account six EU countries. France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK were all investigated with the illegal consumption of games, music, books, TV and film. The reports main conclusion, however, states that "in general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements."

The report goes on to state that "does not necessarily meant that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect (p.7-8)." Sounds confusing but the gist is that there isn’t enough data to show that there is a financial loss for companies when European copyright law is violated.

Overall, 18 per cent of averaged EU respondents used illegal downloads or streamed games illegally, with 16 per cent playing on an illegally modified console (p.13). Incredibly, though, the report shows this as a good thing. "The estimated effect of illegal online transactions on sales is positive – implying that illegal consumption leads to increased legal consumption.

"This positive effect of illegal downloads and streams on the sales of games may be explained by the industry being successful in converting illegal users to paying users. Tactics used by the industry include, for example, offering gameplay with extra bonuses or extra levels if consumers pay (p.14)"

The lengthy document also mentions that the figures for sales of games are not publicly available outside of nation sector organisations or sector watchers, citing our sister site MCV’s reporting of chart data on a weekly basis. So while the studies of games are in the report, they are generally inconclusive due to the lack of information on overall sales as opposed to physical sales of games which have declined along with other disc-based media.

The report also found that in the UK, minors (people aged between 14-17) consume more gaming than any other group. 49 per cent of people in the past year and purchased, downloaded or streamed a video game, or had played online. Of that 49, 75 per cent of them were minor, which is higher than the EU average of 66 per cent (p.12).

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