Pirates quizzed with Deus Ex

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Here’s an interesting note on piracy. Eurogamer reports that James Grimshaw, founder of Vigilant Defender, leaked a modified version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s preview to torrent sites.

The preview had already been leaked all the way back in May, but James made his version kick players out after a certain point in the game to an online questionnaire asking why they did what they did. In essence, he’s turned the preview into a unofficial demo.

Vigilant Defender, based out of Ireland, purportedly works to offer anti-piracy strategies to publishers and this experiment is but one way that they are trying to prove that pirates can be customers.

It’s an interesting use of torrents which, by themselves, aren’t illegal though the same cannot be said as to what is actually being torrented. Disguising the preview as the work of other piracy groups is also something that skirts several issues, not the least of which is that distributing the preview likely isn’t condoned by Square Enix despite having been leaked awhile back.

That said, it’s an interesting if not very grey method in being able to tap pirates on the shoulder and ask for their opinion. For instance, the article mentions that of the 26,000 that declared their interest to pay for the game in the questionnaire, Grimshaw discovered that the average price that seemed fair to them was around 14.49 euros.

It’s an incredibly low price for what is considered a AAA title, yet it also begs the question of whether low prices would actually move more product to recoup costs versus the present $60 USD model typically used for big console releases. It’s no secret that when Steam launches one of their special seasonal specials, downloaded product flies through the door, so to speak, thanks largely to the temporary fire sale.

Software piracy has been around since the first games had been copied to floppies and despite many efforts to curb it, it’s still an unfortunate reality to publishers and developers. There are many reasons as to why pirates do what they do, but Grimshaw and his company seem determined to shed some light on why – and in the long run, how to better deal with it.