Piracy Eats Into Already-Slim Mac Game Sales Margins

Given the fact that the industry is much smaller than its Windows counterpart, Mac gaming has suffered from the ill effects of piracy in recent years, according to a recent article by MacCentralis Peter Cohen. "In many cases, [piracy is] the difference between being in the black and winding up in the red," he noted.

Mr. Cohen took a look at MacGameFiles.com and, using sales numbers confidentially revealed to him by Mac game publishers, compared the number of times a game update was downloaded versus its actual sales. "The difference was nothing short of staggering," he explained. "It wasnit at all unusual to see three or four times the number of downloads than retail sales.

"In one case, it was an order of magnitude -- thatis right, to the power of 10--higher than the manufactureris sell through."

He acknowledged that some gamers may download updates multiple times because theyive deleted and reinstalled games, but he believes theyire "in the minority. Whatis more, not everyone in the Mac game market goes to Macgamefiles.com to download updates -- that only represents a portion of the total game playing public. Common sense indicates that a significant portion of that difference must be related to piracy."

So whatis to be done? Ultimately, according to the Mac game publishers Mr. Cohen spoke with, copy protection schemes will become more rigid. For example, Half-Life 2 developer Valve Software created digital rights management that requires an online connection each time the player loads the game, in order to verify that they have a legitimate copy of the title.

Peter Tamte, founder and president of MacSoft parent company Destineer, told Mr. Cohen that another solution is to simply move to videogame consoles, where piracy is much less rampant and easier to control. He wrote: "Itis not impossible [to pirate console games] -- people have been able to ichipi game consoles to run pirated games -- but because of the barrier to entry, most people donit do it."