When "Madden 13" was released earlier this week the game was praised for the new developments producers made. It will probably be one of the most popular games of the year, but what critics and gamers failed to mention in the annual conversation is the game's availability online. Instead of stopping at Best Buy or Game Stop to pick up the game, many fans took to BitTorrent sites and peer-to-peer illegal downloads.
As of Thursday night -- two days after the game was released -- "Madden 13" was available on the Pirate Bay for Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii and three results appeared on Kick Ass Torrents, the most popular of which had more than 400 seeds. The number of seeds on the pirate site grew as the game was listed for five days, and it will be easy for any user even mildly familiar with BitTorrenting to snag a copy of the game.
Various other sites also hosted the game while more loaded up their headlines in order for gamers to click, recognizing the draw they would receive once fans sought free copies of the game online.
According to Yahoo, "Madden 13" sold a record 900,000 units in its first 24 hours on the market. That's a number that also saw a 7 percent increase in HD platforms while assuring a 28 percent jump in users playing online at once, reported EA Sports, the company behind the release.
It's too soon to know the specific piracy numbers behind "Madden 13," but big releases from the past have lost a lot of money in illegal online downloads. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" -- the best-selling game of 2009 -- sold a shade under 12 million legal. According to Havocscope.com, 4.1 million copies of the game were distributed illegally online in 2009 alone.
The same source estimates that over 70 percent of the video game industry could be lost to online piracy, although that exact number is difficult to determine. Part of the reason is almost certainly the astronomical price of the games in stores, which have soared over the years. "Madden 13" prices exceeded $60 in many locations.
The BBC estimated that the top five games from 2010 were pirated more than 1 million times and illegal game downloads had increased by 20 percent in five years. That number is almost sure to grow, with cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner failing to address the massive number of Internet users that download games, movies and music. The number of lawsuits doled out simply haven't intimidated potential pirates enough to make them spend on overpriced tickets at the box office or on a game at the store.
For many gamers that download "Madden 13," that $60 just isn't justified when they return the title for a number often around one-tenth of the original price. Meanwhile, Business Week reports that EA Sports posted a net revenue over $4.1 billion. As devoted as fans are to the "Madden" franchise, it won't be easy for EA Sports to find sympathy among the growing online download community.