What's that? Piracy could actually help EA's bottom line? It must be magic!
Piracy is often cited as the largest problem for any video game developer and publisher, particularly if it’s a PC game. EA’s recent release of the Sims 3 actually surpassed last year’s Spore for being the most-pirated game.
According to IndustryGamers, the Sims 3 was illegally downloaded around 200,000 times prior to the game’s release – but surprisingly, EA CEO John Riccitiello doesn’t mind one bit.
In fact, when reading in between the lines, it seems like piracy could help boost EA’s business in the long term. Those who downloaded the Sims 3 only have access to one city out of the two. The second city is only delivered via the Internet after product registration, along with other content and access to the community. Essentially, those who pirate Sims 3 only get a portion of the full game – which sounds a bit like the shareware days gone by.
“You identified our secret marketing campaign!” Riccitiello said facetiously to IndustryGamers. “It was only concentrated on Poland and China, but I think of it as not being that different than a demo.”
Rather than selling a simple product-on-a-disc, EA believes that the real money (and protection from piracy) is in selling the services that come after the gamer pops the disc into the tray.
Riccitiello continued, “I'm a longtime believer that we're moving to selling services that are disc-enabled as opposed to packages that have bolt-ons. ... If you see what we're doing with Madden Online, FIFA Ultimate Team or Sims 3, and Dragon Age is probably a 100-hour game by itself, but what comes post-release [for these games] is bigger still. So the point I'm making is, yes I think that's the answer [to piracy].”
Amusingly, Riccitiello made a comment in support of piracy of EA’s games. “By the way, if there are any pirates you're writing for, please encourage them to pirate FIFA Online, NBA Street Online, Battleforge, Battlefield Heroes... if they would just pirate lots of it I'd love them. [laughs] Because what's in the middle of the game is an opportunity to buy stuff.”
The EA CEO does back off a bit, but reiterates once more than it’s not about selling the disc, but rather selling a service.
“While we don't want to see people pirate Warhammer Online, if they're going to give us a year's subscription it's not exactly a total loss,” Riccitiello added.