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For as long as video game piracy has existed, gamers and the industry have argued about whether the practice really hurts sales of legitimate games.
In 2010, the Business Software Alliance estimated that generalized software piracy costs the world $51 billion annually and half a million jobs.

Even most people who doubt every pirated download is equivalent to a lost sale will admit that illegal downloads have some negative effect on overall game sales.
So it’s more than a bit surprising that an exhaustive study of piracy’s effects by the European Commission found that “illegal consumption [of games] leads to increased legal consumption.” To be more precise, the study estimates that for every 100 games that are downloaded illegally, players actually legally obtain 24 more games (including free games) than they would in a world in which piracy didn’t exist.
The 306-page “Estimating Displacement Rates of Copyrighted Content in the EU” report (PDF) points out a number of caveats for this headline number, not least of which is a 45-percent error margin that makes the results less than statistically significant (i.e. indistinguishable from noise).

That said, the same study finds that piracy has the more-expected negative effects on sales of films and books (and a neutral effect on music), singling out games as one area where piracy really does seem to work differently.
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