The Witcher 2 has now sold over one million legal copies, including a well publicised success on Good Old Games.com, and all without any form of DRM. However, developer CD Projekt RED estimates that over 4.5 million copies have been illegally pirated.
Speaking in an interview with PC Gamer, CEO and co-founder Marcin Iwinski spoke about that figure, revealing that it was probably a 'conservative' estimate, but that it would not change the company's position on DRM use.
"There are no stats available, but let's make a quick calculation," says Iwinski of the 4.5 million number.
"I was checking regularly the number of concurrent downloads on torrent aggregating sites, and for the first 6-8 weeks there was around 20-30 thousand people downloading it at the same time. Let's take 20 thousand 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 6 hours of average download time to get the game it would give us 224 downloads, then let's multiply it by 20 thousand simultaneous downloaders.
"The result is roughly 4.5 million illegal downloads. This is only an estimation, and I would say that's rather on the optimistic side of things; as of today we have sold over 1 million legal copies, so having only 4.5-5 illegal copies for each legal one would be not a bad ratio. The reality is probably way worse."
But Iwinski is adamant about refusing to bring any DRM measures on board, largely because they are notoriously ineffective, but also because they tend to disadvantage legitimate players even more than they do pirates.
"From the very beginning our main competitors on the market were pirates. The question was really not if company x or y had better marketing or better releases, but more like 'How can we convince gamers to go and buy the legit version and not to go to a local street vendor and buy a pirated one?' We of course experimented with all available DRM/copy protection, but frankly nothing worked. Whatever we used was cracked within a day or two, massively copied and immediately available on the streets for a fraction of our price.
"We did not give up, but came up with new strategy: we started offering high value with the product - like enhancing the game with additional collectors' items like soundtracks, making-of DVDs, books, walkthroughs, etc. This, together with a long process of educating local gamers about why it makes sense to actually buy games legally, worked. And today, we have a reasonably healthy games market.
"In any case, I am not saying that we have eliminated piracy or there is not piracy in the case of TW2. There is, and TW2 was [illegally] downloaded by tens of thousands of people during the first two weeks after release. Still, DRM does not work and however you would protect it, it will be cracked in no time. Plus, the DRM itself is a pain for your legal gamers - this group of honest people, who decided that your game was worth the $50 or Euro and went and bought it. Why would you want to make their lives more difficult?"