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EA: Piracy didn't hurt 'Spore' sales

Electronic Arts seems to accept that some level of piracy will go on. Perhaps a better strategy is to offer a free version of its game?

There doesn't seem to be much disagreement that Electronic Arts botched the launch of Spore with heavy-handed digital rights management. However, the company reacted quickly and was able to update the game with a less oppressive scheme that calmed most of the masses.

One statistic that repeatedly popped up was the fact that more than 500,000 copies had been downloaded off BitTorrent sites. EA claims to have sold 1 million copies since launch, which would mean that there are potentially 1.5 million Spore instances. The big question is whether EA is losing money from this pirating.

The blog Game Set Watch talked about the matter with Mariam Sughayer of EA's corporate communications office:

Downplaying the piracy issue in this particular case, EA's Sughayer says: "We've talked to people that made several unsuccessful attempts to download the game and ended up with incomplete, slow, buggy or unusable code. In one case, a file identified as Spore contained a virus.

"To say that every download represents a successful copy of the game--or that there's been more than 500,000 copies downloaded--that's just not true."

"Stepping aside from the whole issue of DRM, people need to recognize that every BitTorrent download doesn't represent a successful copy of a game, let alone a lost sale," she tells Gamasutra.

What's interesting here is the acceptance from EA that there will be piracy and that maybe it's not affecting sales that dramatically.

In my original post suggesting that EA could learn from open source, I said "maybe a better approach for EA would have been to consider a 'community' and 'enterprise' version of Spore, where it's usable but not good until you pay," and I still think that's a good idea. If there are "users" and "customers" and they are both on your side, you always win.