Piracy up 20 per cent over last five years

The number of games being downloaded illegally has gone up by almost 20 per cent In the past five years alone, according to research firm Envisional.

The findings will raise tensions in the traditional debate between some in the game industry and the downloaders, with the former group saying that piracy massively impacts the industry - while the latter insists it gives them a feature length demo to try before they buy.

BBC Newsbeat has been talking with a gamer, 'Sam', who says that he often buys after downloading illegally: "I buy games because I've pirated them; if I don't get to try them I never would have bothered picking them up."

Apparently for 'Sam' it's about 50/50, downloading 100 or so games a year and buying about half of them. "Games that I enjoy I purchase, ones that I don't enjoy, I delete," he said.

Andy Payne, chairman of the Association of UK Interactive Entertainment, was at pains to press the other side of the argument.

"Two hundred, 250 people sat in a studio for two years building the latest Modern Warfare 3," he said. "This costs real money."

In the instance he's mentioning, it's a game that's thought to have sold around nine million copies on its first day. Others have suggested that retailers might manage to shift upwards of 18 million units by the end of the year.

However, Payne stopped short of condemning downloaders outright - they still represent part of the customer base for game developers, after all - instead saying that he felt the way forward was to offer innovative and affordable ways to give users access to games that had plenty of value.

"Look at FIFA, Modern Warfare, Black Ops... those games people are playing all the time. That's great value."