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App Store Developer Speaks Out On Game Piracy 762

theguythatwrotethisthing sends in a write-up of his experience releasing an iPhone game on the App Store. By using a software flag to distinguish between high scores submitted by pirates and those submitted by users who purchased the game, the piracy rate is estimated at around 80% during the first week after release. Since a common excuse for piracy is "try before you buy," they also looked at the related iPhone DeviceIDs to see how many of the pirates went on to purchase the game. None of them did.
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App Store Developer Speaks Out On Game Piracy

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  • by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:42AM (#29855119)

    Well, I didn't choose to bother with the Apple App store, I've only used it on my girlfriends phone. I'm holding out for an Android phone for myself. I haven't used their market yet but rumor has it that they do allow trial periods.

  • Another example (Score:5, Informative)

    by happy ( 7659 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:46AM (#29855123) Homepage

    I am the iPhone developer for the Notifications app (see []). On the first day my app was published on appulous (that happened very quickly after my app was on the appstore), the piracy rate was 99.3%. On that 99.3% I had about 1% who bought the application after trying it.

    That was in the beginning of September, I now have a total piracy rate of about 50%. My app requires network and connects on my server, therefor my stats are pretty accurate. I think the piracy rate would be way higher than 50% if my app did not have to connect to my server.

  • Re:flagged? (Score:4, Informative)

    by raynet ( 51803 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:21AM (#29855455) Homepage

    I think Apple delivers some kind of deviceid with the sales report so you can easily compare that to the deviceid you send with the highscores. The reason why this cannot be used for piracy prevention is that it takes weeks for Apple to deliver those reports so by the time you get them, a pirate has already finished playing the game.

  • Re:Another example (Score:2, Informative)

    by happy ( 7659 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:45AM (#29855545) Homepage

    I do, they can use it a bit then the notifications are hidden.

  • Re:First pirate! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:37AM (#29855805) Homepage

    TFA is about a small company and a $2 game.

    Try again.

  • Re:right and wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:55AM (#29855895) Homepage

    When you use the analogy you used, you stepped off into the "it's stealing" territory. The moment you used "I cant first order the food and drinks and only after that decide if it was good enough to be paid." you conflated the act of infringement with theft- making an unauthorized copy isn't really the same thing as what you compare it to.

    In what you gave as an analogy, the hypothetical person STOLE food from the restaurant- the restaurant is out the food and drink the person took by not paying. In the case of infringement, someone merely takes a copy thereof- and nobody's out anything save maybe a cash transaction that might or might not have happened. They're not out their original copy, so it's not theft. There is a reason why the laws are written the way they are and define the actions differently. If you're going to be discussing the subject without people calling you out on things, you should perhaps choose your analogies with some better precision.

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @11:41AM (#29857003)

    His game didnt sell well because the game "TAP-FU" sucks. Word of mouth traveled fast as soon as it released on and others. Many had felt that it had too few levels, and variation to its gameplay. You actually repeat the first level 3 times. Honestly i gave up after the 3rd level so i dont know if there is anything different after. Why? BECAUSE THE GAME IS BORING.

    He says pirates use the excuse of "Try before you buy" but he fails to tell you that he did not provide a trial version version on itunes for people to try before buying. Typically this is known as a "lite" version, that is free on iTunes for people to demo before they buy.

    So his try before you buy statement is incorrect. There was no way to "Try before you buy" his game, unless you pirated it.

    Now what happened, is most people that pirated probably had the same experience as those who paid for it (such as myself).... and that is... IT WASNT WORTH BUYING.

    Lets go back to the fact that there was no Trial version on iTunes. When a paying customer finds out that he bought something he is not satisfied with, and he understands that he cant get a refund due to itunes no return policy... even for $1.99, an unsatisfied customer will spread the word of his dissatisfaction. Multiply that by X amount of early adopters and factor in the great power of word of mouth on the internet.

    The game was bad. I'm sorry. There are PLENTY of game companies that have started up just because of the success of the App Store on iTunes. Many developers have quit their day jobs and have written very succesful apps that have made them a great deal of money. Some as much as $250,000 in two months (Trisms game dev... and others... just google it)

    App developers are making a good deal of money on their Apps. Dont blaim piracy for your poorly designed game that is a rip off of Street Fighters artwork, and a poor attempt at remaking nintendo's Kung-Fu. I admire your efforts to develop the game, and there is potential for it to be good... but there wasnt enough content, the animations were poor, and it lacked finish.

    Pirates may have not paid for it, and they may even continue to play it as you state by your scoreboard data... but that doesnt mean it was worth it to them to buy.

    OF COURSE... piracy is a concern to all developers... however one must have a piece of software worth buying before you start complaining that no one bought it.

    Tap-Fu has 8 reviews on iTunes... and Fieldrunners has 2583 reviews. Granted Fieldrunners has been out for a while now, but it was an instant success that climbed to the top of the iphone app sales list the second it was available. It has made the developer a lot of money, and it is being ported to other platforms...

    Piracy didnt stop Fieldrunners. It faced the same circumstances.... except, it was an incredible game worth buying.

  • Re:First pirate! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anarchduke ( 1551707 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @01:12PM (#29857685)
    Apple's fault lies with a statement the author made in the article.

    Once the phone is rebooted, all you have to do is download a cracked version of the app from one of the MANY places on the internet, add it to iTunes, sync, and you are done.
    NOTE: Surprisingly this is MUCH easier than actually buying it on iTunes!!

    The game is 1.99 on Itunes. If it were easier to buy on Itunes than to pirate it, people wouldn't be pirating it as much. Perhaps the reason the piracy is so prevalent is that people find it easier to pirate than to purchase.
    If you remember, people who had bought Spore were using pirated copies of it in order to avoid the machine crashing DRM that came bundled, or rather bungled, along with the game. In addition, there were new stories about the piracy increasing as a result of the inconvenient DRM issues [].

    When it is easier to pirate a game than buy it, what do you think people are going to do? Apple gets 30% of the gross from those games on the app store, so its their fault that the process of buying an app isn't easier than just pirating.

  • Re:First pirate! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spy der Mann ( 805235 ) <> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @01:31PM (#29857815) Homepage Journal

    If copying bits is never wrong, I suppose you won't mind copying the bits that spell out the url for your bank, your username and password and your credit cards to Slashdot.

    If copying bits is never wrong, then company data leaks are no big deal.

    If copying bits is never wrong, why don't you make a video of your neighbor masturbating and post it to you tube.

    OBJECTION! (Cue Phoenix Wright pic)

    You're confusing breach of privacy with software/media piracy. Very different things indeed.

    Why? Simple. A game was meant to be enjoyed by people. Movies are made to be watched. Music is meant to be listened.

    Private personal information is meant to be KEPT SECRET. And that includes a video of your neighbor masturbating, your hotmail userid/password, or your bank account password.

    This is why people who tape things that shouldn't be taped often find themselves in trouble (insert your favorite celebrity sex video). The moment they're taping themselves, they're crossing the realm of "private matters" and moving to the public affairs zone. And that's the problem with your analogy.

    Yes, there are bits that are more important that others. But you don't say in which way they're meant to be important, and fail to make the difference.

    Just in case, I'll specify it for you:

    Movies. Games. Software. They're MEANT TO BE DISTRIBUTED TO THE PUBLIC.
    Passwords. NIPs. Private matters. Private software source code. They're MEANT TO BE KEPT SECRET.

    Understand now? The only thing piracy does with bits is removing the economic factor in bits already meant for public distribution. Failing to tell the difference between the two is equating pirates with black hat hackers.

  • Re:First pirate! (Score:4, Informative)

    by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @02:34PM (#29858427)

    And by copying you are "taking" an intangible property that provides revenue to the maker of the software. Property can either be tangible or intangible. The notion of intangible property is an ancient, time honored one.

    Citation needed.

  • Re:First pirate! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @03:50PM (#29859021) Homepage

    It's a nice thought, but even the big name publishers don't have any luck going over 9.99.
    That used to be the price for "premium" big budget titles, and now the app store won't even support that price.

Where there's a will, there's a relative.