Pirate servers often offered 4x leveling speed, and the ability to go up to level 120.
Many features didn't work, etc etc, you had to upgrade to a specific version of (unmentionable MMO), and all sorts of things.
In the end, it was pretty lame, since you essentially playing (unmentionable MMO) as a single player rpg, without the benefit of having enough people on. Like playing on a dead server in the middle of the night, with no one else on.
It did wonders to show me the flaws of (unmentionable MMO)s leveling game.
Not to mention, these servers are run by people who get community support for the servers, so some people were paying MORE than $15 a month for this. (and the ones who paid were usually given GM powers).
I'm with Spitfires on this though, that maybe it's my getting older, but I'm much less inclined to pirate now, than I was when I was in my late teens/early 20s. Or perhaps its because I have money to spend.
Thing is, as far as I can tell, pirates aren't really removing THAT much revenue from the game companies (or music industry, or movie industry).
When I had anything, I wouldn't have bought it (I didn't have the money). I experienced something for free. But once I HAD money, if I liked something, I would buy it, and would never think to pirate it.
I need to find the story, but one author, put his story (in DRM free pdf format) for free on torrent, and several thousand people downloaded it. He became popular enough, that his books started selling.
The thing is, if you have a good product, it will generate buzz. Piracy is a buzz that you are not paying for, as it is a "free gift" to all the people who would NEVER have paid for your product anyways (this would be considered pricing the item for each individual, in this case, free), which in turn can cause those who DO pay for things to be more apt to purchase something, as they are interested in the product, since so many people are talking about it.
At the same time, (unmentionable MMO) private servers do not serve that function at all. But would those people really be paying for (unmentionable MMO)? I know for the month that I played on a private server all those years ago, that I wouldn't have paid for (unmentionable MMO) then. But if the server wasn't complete crap, would I have come back to (unmentionable MMO)?
As far as I can tell, I came back to (unmentionable MMO) to play with friends, and not necessarily to play the game. Now, most of the friends I'd be interested in playing with no longer play, so that made things easier for me.
So I know it was anecdotal, but that is my "evidence" of the effect of piracy.