Are Games Moving to Legal Torrents?

Thursday, 1/21/2010, someone uploaded Mass Effects 2 to a torrent site. Between then and today, it has bounded to the top of The Pirate Bay’s PC Games category and #4 in the overall top 100. Today, the official game release date, the 14.35GB download has 1,877 seeders and 28,448 leechers according to TPB.

The retail version of this game comes with access to downloadable content. While this additional content can be purchased for $15 if the game comes second hand, that doesn’t help those that download the game illegally. The retail PC version can be found for at little as $43.

My theory is simple: This game was leaked by BioWare. They want to see how many people buy the game vs how many download it, when buying the game comes with extra content. The leak is just like an old school demo; the ones where you got the whole game, but just one level.

The business model makes perfect sense. The more people that download via BitTorrent, the more money saved from manufacturing. On top of that, removing retailers from the financial pyramid makes products cheaper for the consumer and more revenue directly to the producer.

Could we be returning to these earlier days? Could this be the future? Game makers releasing a low content version via BitTorrent and charging for additional content?