I must say I'm fed up with some of the anti-piracy measures taken. Web connection required to play a single-player game offline, e.g. - Portal, anyone? I played that game for one day, finished the main mode, but never got around to the bonuses. And I won't. Because there's no way I'm letting Steam stay on my harddrive. I have better things to take up my disk space. So I uninstalled them both on the same day, and I'm taking it back to GameStop. Getting some of my money back, due to their buyback policy ("We buy your used games!"). That means I end up paying less for it. Due to antipiracy. I've had games straight-up refuse to run. Legitimately bought copies! Because the piracy tests were defective. That is also theft. The companies' piracy policies essentially steal money from the customers, and here, at least, that is a legal offense much graver than software piracy.
I admit, I have downloaded illegal copies of games for myself. I once downloaded Born of Blood from a web page. I also once downloaded Space Rangers II. In the last case, I got a message saying "This is a pirated copy, and will only run for 1 hour". I was overjoyed! That was exactly what I wanted. Turned out the combat was too fiddly, and so I uninstalled it at the 15-minute mark. A simple demo would have been preferable, but since that's what I got anyway and it would have taken a lot less time. And rest assured, had the game been good enough to pay for, I'd have uninstalled it, ordered it online, and reinstalled it - because I'd want a 'clean' install. As for Born of Blood, it met my standards. It got uninstalled after ~1 hour, and I ordered it online. The same pattern repeats for every single instance of piracy in my life, because sitting on a pirated copy of anything makes me feel dirty.
Ergo, in my case, universal availability of demos would have completely stymied my involvement in piracy (Which ended when I realized the speed of my computer was going down in part because of it). Worth thinking about for game developers, maybe? At least, implementing SR2's method of anti-piracy instead of Starforce or Steam's might encourage more gamers to go from pirating any specific title to buying it. As it happens, I have bought more games due to the demo being good than I have ever downloaded games, legit or otherwise.
As for piracy being theft, the company loses nothing if the player wouldn't have bought the game in any case. Heck, I'm sure there are instances when a would-be pirate downloads a game, goes "Hey! this is good.", and then goes out and buys it. Is it wrong to download illegal copies of software? Indubitably. If for no other reason, then because innocent piracy begets malignant piracy - the type that does affect developer incomes.
In the end, malware was only part of the reason why I pirated games. Most of it was my conscience. I'm quite simply too damn responsible and civic-minded to make a good lawbreaker.
What is my point? Well, it may not be obvious, but there are two:
1) @ devs - make your games available for a free try-out before the purchase, and don't use DRMware that restricts your customers right and/or insult their honor.
2) @ gamers - don't pirate. Abstain from buying just that game instead, and support more liberal companied like SD.
[/confessions of an ex-small-time-pirate]
Postscript: You can watch movies, read books and listen to music for free legally (TV, the library and the radio). Why shouldn't that apply to games?