You couldn't make this up. The widely-distributed cracked version of Football Manager 2013 contained a flaw that automatically connected to Sports Interactive's servers, allowing them to record the IP address of everyone who played it. They've now published their findings, as opposed to sending round big strapping lads with cricket bats.
Sports Interactive studio director Miles Jacobson discussed the bizarre situation during a London Games Conference presentation today, the results of which were emailed to Dealspwn.com. The team used various analytical tools to compile an accurate picture of how many gamers pirated Football Manager 2013, and how much money they might have lost had the cracked version been made available on day one.
In terms of legitimate purchases and activations, the magic number was 1,184,652, well over a third of which occurred right here in the UK. Break out the bunting!
Football Manager 2013 remained uncracked until May 12th, 2013, after which the pirated version started doing the rounds. Due to the aforementioned flaw, it "called home" upon activation... revealing that over 10,000,000 players had opted to download it for free - and that 1.8 million users played it five times or more. In the following table, Sports Interactive demonstrates that legal activations plummeted in all but two territories following its distribution.
Sports Interactive also estimated what might have happened given the best and worst case scenarios: i.e. had the cracked version never released, or had released on day one. The financial difference between the two is a whopping $3,700,000. I'll let Jacobson show his working:
In the period since the illegal version became available, the overall legitimate activation rate has fallen by 17 per cent. Our calculations suggest that 1.74 per cent of illegal downloaders would purchase the game if no cracked version was available.
We believe that Football Manager 2013 enjoyed an uplift of 144,000 units prior to the crack and lost a potential 32,000 extra sales post-crack. Therefore, the difference between the game never being cracked and being cracked on day one can be calculated as 176,000 in unit sales or, in financial terms, a potential variance of $3,700,000 in net revenue.
Sorry, that was a lot of maths for a Thursday afternoon. Either way, it's clear that piracy is still a major issue for many developers and publishers... but is it a battle worth fighting when the most devastating DRM weapons either punish legitimate consumers or end up circumvented anyway?