Here's another idea I want to throw into the discussion, but first, a little blurb about me.
I used to pirate games a lot, but have ceased to do so. The reason for that was - surprisingly - Sins of a Solar Empire. I chanced upon the game via a torrent website while it was still in its very first beta, so I decided to give it a spin. The game's mechanics and the way it plays reminded me so much of Master of Orion that I used to love (and still have original copy of) that I decided that the game itself really warranted the price.
That also got me thinking - realistically speaking, how much money did I lose on that purchase compared to how much I spend each month. So, I've given myself a bit of a games budget, and I can safely say that bar one exception (that I'm going to talk about in a second), every game I played in the past two years, I have also bought. That having been said - I finished my university studies, and am fully employed now, so I DO have that kind of money to throw around. Working two part-time jobs and studying full-time (with horrendeous university fees) usually left me with NO money - hence my career of piracy during my university days.
And that's something that's important to keep in mind. Most pirates arent older men in well-to-do positions with big families - they are younger people who are in, or have just left university. They are probably the kind of men and women who dont have lots of money to throw around on games, music, and videos. Therefore, while I (no longer) approve of piracy, I can at least understand where some people might get their justification from. I mean - let me put it like this - Fallout 3 is a great game, and I've loved every second of it. Do I think that the GBP 30 or USD 45 price tag was warranted? No, I dont think so. Do I think that the Red Alert 3's Collector's Edition was worth USD 60? No, I really, really dont think so. Game prices are incredibly inflated - simply because now they CAN be inflated. Gaming has become mainstream, and there's a bigger audience. Companies are simply saying "There's people who will pay, dont worry" and then they raise the prices up.
Broadly speaking as well, if you stole something from a company, you would damage them more than if you were to pirate their content. If you steal a car, you are stealing something that someone has made using real resources. If you pirate digital content however, the WHOLE effort that has gone into that game isnt suddenly destroyed. If we were to put it into numbers, it would look something like this: If you steal a car, you steal 100% of the company's effort that has gone into that car (labour, parts, etc.) Out of everyone who owns a game, say that 80% bought it, and 20% pirated it. Theoretically speaking, the company is only losing 20% of the effort that went into that game. That's why digital companies can make a nice profit despite piracy. Again - this is not justification, it is more an explanation of the reasoning that goes into pirating.
Keeping in mind that I'm not a pirate anymore, nor do I approve of it - listen to my experiences of a few weeks ago. I live in the UK, and yes, I do own a credit card. Came across a game called Legion Arena a few weeks ago (game was released in 2005), and I decided I wanted to buy it. You'd think that would be an easy task, no? Well, as it turns out - none of my local retailers stock it (because it's really not mainstream), and I could not find it on Amazon or eBay, even second-hand. So, I turned to digital distribution, and I DID find the game online. The problem was, for some reason, the company refused to take transactions from the UK. Don't ask me how or why - but I attempted using two of my credit cards, as well as two of my friends' respective credit cards, and it all backfired. In the end, in my frustration, I logged onto a torrent site and downloaded the bastard game. Turned out to be only okay to be honest... So - honest question - did I do the wrong thing? The game was three years old, so unlikely to make any more profit realistically speaking. Furthermore, my intent was to pay for it and give the money to the rightful owners - but they certainly did not make that an easy task. If the purchasing page was to be any judge, then the people who made the game certainly didnt care about it that much anymore.
What I'm getting at is this - piracy and sharing sometimes CAN be useful, if done properly. Imagine a company leaking an early beta to a torrent website. People download it like crazy, realise its a great game, get hooked on it - and then - HOPEFULLY - go out and purchase it once its out properly. Unless, of course, they have no moral fibre and simply download the full game and crack it.
In which case I say we nuke Planet Earth and start again with amoebas.