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Swarm of file sharers spurred UK crackdown

Earth 2160 - straw that broke the camel's back

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Pinball game publisher Zuxxez decided to chase down British file sharers after discovering that illegal downloads of its best-selling Earth 2160 outstripped its retail sales 35 times, clocking up nearly one million Jolly Rogers.

Zuxxez found 891,414 people who had attempted to download Earth 2160 between its release on 1 June 2005 and 18 December 2006. The firm has sold 25,000 units of Earth 2160 in the UK, a volume that got it to number four in the games charts. The trawl found 10,000 UK uploaders.

Zuxxez sales director Dirk Hassinger said he wanted to clamp down on file sharers but was daunted by the potential costs of going after 10,000 people, so he opted to try it out on the less popular game, Pinball 3D.

Five hundred sharers of the Zuxxez game Dream Pinball 3D are being pursued by law firm Davenport Lyons on the publisher's behalf.

This is small fry compared to those Zuxxez nabbed in Germany.

Schutt-Waetke, another law firm, swooped on 18,000 German file sharers of Earth 2160, 8,000 of whom have already signed agreements to stop file sharing and paid a penalty.

"In the UK, pirates are lucky because we get the address from the ISPs," said Hassinger, "In Germany we have to request with the police - and the state prosecutors go after them immediately."

He said Zuxxez had no intention of making a business out of pursuing file sharers, an accusation that was made after the German crackdown. But he refused to say how much money the firm made out of legit sales of Earth 2160 other than it had turned a profit. The game has sold half a million units across Europe but has been on budget sale in Germany.

Neither was he certain that file sharers lost him business: "Normally, if you discuss this with file sharers, they say they wouldn't have bought the game anyway," he said.

But he added, you might as well say, "I never would have bought a Ferrari if I hadn't pinched one".

It cost a firm £3m to £10m to develop an A-list game, he said. If you're lucky, its a good game and if the marketing's right, you might just make a margin on it. ®

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