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A Closer Look At Why People Are Pirating The Witness

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The Witness has been illegally downloaded by thousands of people since it was released last month, but did you know pirates have their own forums? Comments sections? Technical support questions? Yeah, I was surprised, too.

It’s news that a popular game is being pirated, but The Witness designer Jonathan Blow has been actively talking about his interactions with piracy.


When I saw this, it got me thinking about what drives people to piracy, and how they feel about their actions. One popular torrent site showed the game had been downloaded 26,134 times. That was when I checked it on Monday. Since then, that number rose to 28,022, and doesn’t include a separate torrent that’s been downloaded 7,464 times. While I can’t assume every pirated copy is a lost sale, we’re still talking about an excess of losses well north of $1 million.


Here’s a video breaking down what I found, as I went deeper and deeper:

I’ve been experimenting with video reporting, let me know what you think!

Oh, and a few caveats about this video:

  • Tomb Raider hasn’t been cracked, but a version exists where people can “family share” on Steam without the other person getting kicked off. This is because it and many other games are using a hardcore new form of DRM.
  • Yes, again, I know a pirated copy isn’t equivalent to a lost sale.
  • I blurred out names and links because I’m interested in talking about piracy, not exposing bad behavior. (But if you do pirate lots of games—especially if you’re the kind of person who uploads torrents—I’d love to speak with you. You’d be kept completely anonymous. Here’s my email.)

When I published this yesterday, a few developers chimed in with thoughts:


There’s lots to chew on here, and piracy can get complicated. Chime in below!

You can reach the author of this post at or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.