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Is India really moving away from piracy?

We in India like to buy things that are cheap. So much so that we are even willing to sacrifice on quality a little bit to get things cheap. As a result, piracy has always been rampant in our country. It’s become second nature to us. We would rather pay Rs 50 for a pirated PC game with the packaging of another game (if you’re lucky), than Rs 299 for an original PC game.

Now that gaming is starting to pick up in India, obviously the sale of legitimate game software is picking up as well. But does that mean that India is moving away from piracy? A recent article by MCV, a leading industry publication, recognises the tremendous growth potential of the Indian gaming industry. That’s great, but they attribute this to an Ernst and Young study that has found that the Indian gaming market is turning its back on grey and black market trading.

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Really? That doesn’t seem right. In fact, if you spend enough time at the IndianVideoGamer forums, you’ll find that that’s not the case at all. Every time a game’s release is delayed in India, you’ll see a handful of comments from members about how they’re just going to get themselves a pirated copy (not in those words, of course, because we don’t allow discussions on piracy on the forums) rather than wait for its Indian release.

Now, these forum members are the knowledgeable bunch; they know how the industry works and how grey market and pirated software affects the Indian industry. And I’m no one to pass judgement on them; it’s totally their decision. But if these guys can’t turn their backs on piracy, what chance does a middle-class father with a fixed-income have when he goes to buy his son a PC game and a bevy of pirated games costing Rs 50 are thrust in his face, while the original games (that carry a smaller profit margin for the seller) are stowed away in the back?

Then again, sales are picking up, which means that people are buying legitimate games. This is also in evidence on our forums. The way I see it, this situation is similar to the emergence of casual gaming. Millions upon millions of people around the world are buying the Wii. But looking at Wii sales figures, it would be inaccurate to say that hardcore gaming is dying out. Its just that the Wii has created this new demographic of gamers, rather than drawing people away from the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC platforms, although it may have done that to an extent.

Similarly, the increase in original software sales in India can be attributed to the fact that more people are discovering gaming as a viable entertainment option, rather than existing gamers (experts in the art of piracy ever since the 90s when the games industry in India was non-existent) giving up pirated games and ‘seeing the light’. Many of these new gamers have the disposable income to actually buy original games. So although many of us have given up piracy, for most part, the increase in original software sales is probably coming for this new crop of gamers, while the pirates have continued to pirate.

Tell us what you think. Is India really moving away from piracy?

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