SI’s Miles Jacobson highlights the impact of PC piracy with numbers

At the London Games Conference which took place last night, Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson detailed the impact of PC piracy on the super popular Football Manager series and the numbers make for some interesting reading.

According to Jacobson, who uses the Football Manager 2013 release as the example, the game remained uncracked for a total of 191 days which resulted in a sales increase of 4.9% which would equate to $886,000. Quite a chunk of change I think you’ll agree.

Tracking the pirated version of FM 2013 they discovered that around 10,000,000 unique IP addresses were running a dodgy copy. Digging deeper into the IP addresses they also discovered that 18% of these went on to play the game five times or more.

How did that impact the rate at which legitimate copies were activated? The activation rate fell by 17% once the crack became available. Running the numbers, Sports Interactive believe that 1.74% of the illegal downloaders would have actually purchased the game if that crack had not been made available.

In sales terms, when the crack was not available, there was an uplift of 144,000 units and a loss of 32, 000 when the crack appeared on the scene. If the crack had never surfaced that would mean that there would have been 176,000 in unit sales. As they point out that’s “a potential variance of $3,700,000 in net revenue”. That’s a large sum that I’m sure SI would rather have banked to improve and grow their business.

Now let’s do some finger pointing and look at the worst offenders for piracy. This table was produced by SI based on the data they gathered.

Top 10 territories for piracy


Illegal downloads

Legitimate activation in the post-crack period


















South Korea


– 50%




+ 7%




– 37%




– 59%




– 91%




– 58%

Legitimate Activations by territory

Si Piracy


Piracy is always going to be a problem, it’s been an issue for game developers for decades and it’s not going to go away. There simply has be a better understanding of the impact that lost sales has on a game developer and look the best way to tackle it.


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  • sorudo

    they are forgetting a big part of this scale that should be considered, allot of these players who downloaded the game illegally would actually never have bought the game to begin with.
    also, allot of the illegal players become legal players because they know what they game is and bought it afterwards, a fact that is true even till today.

    so to conclude, let’s take a rough number out of the illegal chunk and see 35% at least from there “lost” revenue, they ether already bought the game or never wanted to spend money on that game.

    • Tim McDonald

      They… didn’t forget that, though.

      “Running the numbers, Sport Interactive believe that 1.74% of the illegal downloaders would have actually purchased the game if that crack had not been made available.”

      By implication, that means they reckon 98.26% of the people who played the illegal version would never have bought it anyway. Without knowing what those calculations were it’s hard to argue whether that’s accurate or not, but that’s a hell of a lot lower than most developers and publishers would say.

      As for some players buying it because of the cracked version, that’s also fairly difficult to track… but the table in this piece shows that Italy, at least, had MORE people buying the game once the cracked version was available. These things were presumably taken into account, although again, it’s hard to know how accurate these are.

  • DavidTheSlayer

    Even console games are obtained illeagally due to piss poor service either by lack of translation or marketing efforts, so it’s the same on both sides as I personally found in China.

    However most developers that have decent games are still in profit to this day, but the UK government doesn’t really help with expensive employee labour and costs despite previous iniatives. On the customer hand, I remember the days when one could get a demo rather than buying a full £30-40 game now and having it released a very poor state. It would allow people to see if COD would really run without error of RAM and hardlock FOV, than paying for game and getting the middle finger. A quality release means more people buying a game, a shit one and well, they only have themselves to blame.

    Going by the chart above ISP’s actually suck by hammering everyones speed with a global hammer and stupid Internet bills when they should be focusing on those worst offending countries instead and developers need to work on proper global distribution and translation where needed. Even some game devs champion DRM free and it works – if your game is good.

    On the China note, they have rather strict import policies, so it’s the same in every industry, if you treat one region over the other instead of a simulatanous release, you will lose sales. For smaller developers/film makers that is part of every industry, for the bigger ones, they’ve really got no excuse in a proper quality release world-wide.