For every copy of the Witcher 2 sold, its developer CD Projekt says more than four copies have been pirated. That, estimates the company, amounts to roughly 4.5 million illegal downloads of the critically acclaimed dark fantasy roleplaying game.
Sound like a big number? CDP's Marcin Iwinski says it's actually not that bad, though it may be optimistic.
"I was checking regularly the number of concurrent downloads on torrent aggregating sites, and for the first 6-8 weeks there was around 20-30k ppl downloading it at the same time," Iwinksi told PC Gamer in a recent interview.
"Let’s take 20k as the average and let’s take 6 weeks. The game is 14GB, so let’s assume that on an average not-too-fast connection it will be 6 hours of download. 6 weeks is 56 days, which equals to 1344 hours; and with 6h of average download time to get the game it would give us 224 downloads, then let’s multiply it by 20k simultaneous downloaders."
The result, says Iwinski, adds up to about 4.5 million illicit downloads. Iwinski says the company's sold over one million copies of The Witcher 2 so far, but that "having only 4.5-5 illegal copies for each legal one would be not a bad ratio," though admitting "The reality is probably way worse."
It sounds like The Witcher 2 should've shipped with DRM, right? Wrong, says Iwinski, stating that DRM would be "cracked in no time" and that his company doesn't want to hassle legitimate paying customers.
"In my almost 20 years in the industry, I have not seen DRM that really worked (i.e. did not complicate the life of the legal gamer and at the same time protect the game)," says Iwinski. "We have seen a lot of different protections, but there are only two ways you can go: Either you use light DRM, which is cracked in no time and is not a major pain for the end-user, or you go the hard way and try to super-protect the game."
CDP also has the console version of The Witcher 2 to look forward to, exclusive (so far) to the Xbox 360. Since the PC version's 14GB, it stands to reason it'll ship on multiple discs, but console piracy's a major problem, too, and Xbox 360 games are routinely cracked and downloaded by users running modified consoles. Since The Witcher 2 is strictly single player, there's that incentive (or lack of a prohibitive disincentive) for illicit gamers, too.