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EU Commission: "No evidence that piracy affects video games sales"

Report suggests illegal consumption actually benefits legal sales, lowering prices will not affect piracy rates

A new report from the European Commission has stated there's no statistical evidence that illegal downloads affect legal sales for video games or other forms of entertainment.

The survey was carried out by research firm Ecorys and the results have been published in a lengthy 307-page report. It investigated the illicit consumption of games, films, TV, books and music across the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

The report found that in 2014, an average of 51% of all EU adults and 72% of all EU minors illegally downloaded or streamed forms of creative content. Of the six countries studied, Poland and Spain were found to have the highest rates of piracy.

Looking specifically at games, there is a table further into the report that shows only 18% of respondents admitted to illegally downloading or streaming games, while only 16% admitted to playing on a chipped console.

However, while the report acknowledges that such piracy takes place, it disputes the widely spread notion that it deters consumers from purchasing these products legally.

"In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements," the report reads. "That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect."

Films proved to be the exception to this, with the report showing a 40% displacement rate for the most recent releases. This means four out of every ten viewings for new films are illegal.

It was also discovered that cutting prices would not affect people's propensity for piracy. The report investigated consumers' willingness to pay and found that for video games, prices "are at a level broadly corresponding" to what those who downloaded or streamed titles would have paid - in fact, more than half (55%) of respondents were willing to pay the market price or higher for their most recently illegal online transaction.

As such, the report claims that lowering the price of these products "would not change piracy rates". This was also true for books and music, but prices were deemed to have an effect on displacement rates for films and TV series.

The report later added: "For books, music and games, the price setting alone cannot explain piracy levels because most pirates of those content are willing to pay more than extremely low prices."

One section of the report actually claims that piracy has a positive effect on legal sales in the games industry. A table shows the displacement rate for video games is +24%, "implying that illegal consumption leads to increased legal consumption."

The report continues: "This positive effect of illegal downloads and streams on the sales of games may be explained by the industry being successful in converting illegal users to paying users. Tactics used by the industry include, for example, offering gameplay with extra bonuses or extra levels if consumers pay."

You can read through the rest of the report yourself here.

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