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> Leaked: Grand Theft Auto IV Hits the Torrents
post Apr 25 2008, 02:30 PM
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Leaked: Grand Theft Auto IV Hits the Torrents
by: Jennifer LeClaire

While the buzz is building that Grand Theft Auto IV will be the biggest video game release ever, the leaked copies of the software are making it onto the Internet.

The pirated copy is reportedly available for the PAL version of the Xbox 360. A group that calls itself iCON is making the pirated files available. Bootlegged copies of Grand Theft Auto IV are finding their way to torrent sites across the Internet.

Although it is yet unclear if the 6.32 GB download is the entire game, and while only a PAL version is currently available, the rumor mill is churning about an NTSC version of the pirated program coming online in the next few days. ICON warns downloaders not to play the game while connected to Xbox Live until next week.

Piracy's Impact on the Gaming Industry

U.S. computer and video game software sales grew six percent in 2007 to $9.5 billion -- more than tripling industry software sales since 1996, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). But the group says piracy is threatening its growth.

The ESA in February asked for assistance from the U.S. Trade Representative. The report highlights persistent problems in countries like Canada, China, Malaysia, Russia, and parts of Europe that thwart healthy game industry growth and development.

"In 2007, our industry had a record-breaking year with receipts totaling $18.85 billion, but piracy closes off promising markets, artificially limiting our industry's ability to contribute even more economic growth to the American high-tech economy and economies of our trading partners," Michael D. Gallagher, CEO of the ESA, said in a statement.

Michael Goodman, a Yankee Group video game analyst, agrees that piracy restricts sales, particularly at the launch of new video games. Six months after launch, pirated copies are often downloaded by folks who wouldn't have paid for the program anyway, he said. But at launch every pirated copy takes money out of the developer's pocket.

"The online component becomes increasingly more critical because you can put keys into the legitimate copy that can be checked against in order to help prevent piracy," Goodman said. "Basically, you prevent them from playing the online version and getting access to online content if they are playing pirated versions."

The Biggest Video Game Release Ever?

Grand Theft Auto will be officially released on April 29. Some are saying it's going to be the biggest video game launch ever, with at least 6 million sold. Of course, Goodman pointed out, many of those sales are pre-orders. Goodman, though, is concerned about making apples to oranges comparisons between Grand Theft Auto and Hollywood movie releases.

"You have to be careful with that math. It's also somewhat misleading when you say the launch of Grand Theft Auto IV is bigger than the launch of this movie or that movie," he said. "If you want to make that comparison, take six months of that movie sales and compare it to Grand Theft Auto. Now you have an apples to apples comparison. It may still win, or it may not, but it's extremely disingenuous to compare based on pre-orders."

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