It should come as no surprise to anyone that the first episode of the third season of Game of Thrones was incredibly popular. What you may not have known was that it both broke ratings and piracy records, and guaranteed itself a fourth season in the process.If you haven’t been watching the Game of Thrones, you might not have been aware of the massive following the show has gained in the two years it has been on the air. HBO has worked hard to give people a reason to come back every week instead of pirating, even though they say that sort of thing doesn’t bother them. The heavy promotion before the beginning of the season included Xbox Live exclusives and one of the largest multi-page newspaper ads in recent memory.All the hard work has paid off, as the company announced the single largest ratings event in HBO’s history. 6.7 million viewers caught the show on opening night, if you count the tho repeat plays later that night. Those numbers don’t include DVR watches, those who will watch through HBO Go and SmartGlass, or piracy numbers either.Speaking of piracy, TorrentFreak reported never before seen download numbers for the episode. In fact, just one version of Game of Thrones was shared over 160,000 times in the first night. As more upload files hit the web, the number grew increasingly difficult to count. Previous seasons of Game of Thrones were downloaded nearly four million times, or nearly once for every active US subscriber. This level of piracy doesn’t concern HBO — recently a comment was made expressing concern for the quality of download some users were accessing by HBO chief of programming Michael Lombardo. In fact, he considers downloading the show to be a compliment.One thing about opening night for Game of Thrones is certain, and that is the results of this explosive popularity have guaranteed a fourth season. HBO has confirmed a ten episode fourth season for Game of Thrones, likely to be based on the second half of A Storm of Swords and other creative bits. There’s no confirmed release time frame, but its pretty safe to assume it is only about a year away. It will be interesting to see how Game of Thrones grows over the next year, and how HBO will adapt over that time.