EA CEO: Piracy Can Help Us Sell More Games

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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • Honis
    Isn't Battlefield Heros beginning released for free when if gets out of beta? Did it get out of beta? I stopped playing it after it found it to be just like 5 million other FPSs.
  • mitchmania
    i love the typo in the very first line!!!
  • wasteoftime
    mitchmaniai love the typo in the very first line!!!
    Your lack of surprise shocks and amazes me.
  • crisisavatar
    You get out of here EA, there is no room for common sense in this business !
  • trevorblain
    Great story, I love reading about companies with CEO's that really have brains. his stance is very logical and not without merit. There was a lot to be said for shareware and to a lesser extent demos. Their major drawback was usually the method in which the labels opted to cripple the software to create the "incentive" to purchase the full version, ie. expirations, reduced funtionality, banners, etc. Those aren't examples of incentives, those are irritations that I believe in large part pushed people to pirate.

    So here's a thought... release the game, a fully functional, playable and enjoyable piece of software in its own right. You know, something that leaves the end user actually WANTING MORE, without penalizing said user for not having actually bought a stupid box and disc to clutter up the desk. That way, if they made a good product, people will want to fork over the cash for the game in it's entirety... and if they made a crap game, well, they'll know it was their own fault.
  • accolite
    trevorblain Agreed!

    I made the mistake of buying Crysis, man that game sucks. Yeah it has nice graphics but game play just sucks.
  • the_garynator
    That's awesome...makes a ton of sense too...I pirated L4D and ended up buying it for multiplayer, same with Crysis. Refreshing to see a CEO in touch with consumers.
  • computabug
    Yea maybe the developers release their own 'pirated' version of the game embedded with some kind of bug/malware to get consumers to purchase the real thing :P I mean like some kinda malware that can won't do to much harm, probably just annoy the user to hell, something the the consumer would know the real game doesn't have, and it's just the torrented version that was infected.
  • ColMirage
    Oh, yeah, sure. That's why they sent a complaint to my ISP which in turn warned me about my download of RA3 : Uprising. I was wondering if it was worth the purchase, so I went ahead and torrented it, as I had no friends who got their hands on it.

    But, yeah, it's a smart move, imo. I usually download games before purchasing them. That way I don't spend a single cent of my very limited income on crappy games.
  • Liuqyn
    the problem with this strategy is that the day after sims3 was released you could pirate the whole game along with the other town and all the added content as well.