ESA shows dark, pirate-infested December ’09 numbers

We’ve been reporting a fair bit of numbers this week, like for instance, the 3 million copies of Borderlands sold and the 3.5 million downloads of the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 demo. Or how about the 1-vs-50 battles of the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which is a big number in its own right. And what of the 10 awards Uncharted 2: Among Thieves grabbed at the Interactive Achievement Awards, a game that by the way has been reported selling over 3.5 million copies by now. Impressive numbers we love to see, no doubt. But unfortunately, they’re today being overshadowed by an even more astronomical number that should have us all soul-searching and worried.

GamesIndustry is reporting that according to trade groups including ESA, the Entertainment Software Association, a eye-popping 9.87 million games were illegally downloaded during December 2009. That’s based on ESA’s survey that just covered 200 titles on some of the more popular peer-to-peer platforms such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, Gnutella and Ares, which means the actual number of successful download is even higher.

“These figures under-represent the true magnitude of online game piracy,” ESA said. “They address only downloads of a small selection of ESA member titles. And while they account for illegal downloads that occur over select P2P platforms, they do not account for downloads that occur from ‘cyberlockers’ or ‘one-click’ hosting sites, which continue to account for high volumes of infringing downloads.”

“ESA’s reporting demonstrates a strong correlation between countries that lack sufficient protections for technological protection measures and countries where online piracy levels for entertainment software are high,” said the body. Among these countries are Italy (20.3%), Spain (12.5%), France (7.5%), Brazil (6%) and China (5.7%).

This is deeply worrying and saddening. Although games are more mainstream now than ever, especially since the staggering and jaw-dropping launch of Infinity Ward’s — also pirate-invaded — Modern Warfare 2, something has to be done in order to bring these numbers down, a lot. People downloading games illegally is among the reasons why we hear, read and write about lay-offs in the industry and even studios closing down altogether. And we hate to be carriers of such bad news.