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iPhone Game Piracy "the Rule Rather Than the Exception" 268

An anonymous reader writes "Many game developers don't think of the iPhone as being a system which has extensive game piracy. But recent comments by developers and analysts have shown otherwise, and Gamasutra speaks to multiple parties to evaluate the size of the problem and whether there's anything that can be done about it. Quoting: 'Greg Yardley confirms that getting ripped off by pirates is the rule rather than the exception. Yardley is co-founder and CEO of Manhattan-based Pinch Media, a company that provides analytic software for iPhone games. ... "What we've determined is that over 60% of iPhone applications have definitively been pirated based on our checks," he reveals, "and the number is probably higher than that." While it's impossible to estimate how much money developers are losing, it involves more than the price of the game, he says. "What developers lose is not necessarily the sale," he explains, "because I don't believe pirates would have bought the game if they hadn't stolen it. But when there is a back-end infrastructure associated with a game, that is an ongoing incremental cost that becomes a straight loss for the developer."'"
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iPhone Game Piracy "the Rule Rather Than the Exception"

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  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:59PM (#30180496)

    I wonder if maybe he is being clever with his phrasing, and instead of 60% of all app installations being cases of piracy, the fact he is trying to state is that of the apps in the app store (more probably, the apps that they instrument), 60% of them have been pirated at least once.

  • Re:Conflicted (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <> on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:05PM (#30180566)

    Simple reality.

    All software sucks, it's just a matter of matching strengths and weaknesses to your own needs.

  • by Amorya ( 741253 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:06PM (#30180578)
    Overpriced to begin with? Rubbish. They cost loads less than on any competing platform. It's almost laughable how consumers will argue about how a $2 app is only worth $1 or even should be free.
  • by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:09PM (#30180604)

    Whenever a developer claims to be "losing money" to piracy, one has to wonder... are the developers losing this money trying to combat piracy directly (lawsuits and DRM tactics), or is it simply a case of self-flattery, where the developer is grossly over-estimating the value of their software, thinking "If my software isn't great, then why would anyone pirate it?"

    Perhaps its time for some self-reflection. You are just another pawn in an industry wide problem spanning over 30 years. Chances are, you and your app aren't special. The piracy was likely nothing more than a bulk job handled indescriminately with no concern for you or anyone else.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:22PM (#30180692)

    Actually reading the article, I was right, quoting from approximately the fifth paragraph:

    Just over 60% of paid apps using Pinch have been pirated. This estimate is also low, since application pirates occasionally disable our tracking. When an application is pirated, an average of 34% of all installs are cracked -- in other words, about half of legitimate paid downloads.

    He says that for apps that have seen piracy, an average of 34% of the installs are pirated.

    So the 60% was just their way of stating the biggest possible percentage.

  • Hey, Submitter! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cliffiecee ( 136220 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:22PM (#30180698) Homepage Journal

    Don't change the meaning of the article when summarizing.

    over 60% of iPhone applications have definitively been pirated
    as submitted

    60% of paid apps using Pinch have been pirated.
    (as written in the article, bolding included)

    Let's "reverse-bold" that...
    60% of paid apps using Pinch have been pirated.
    (emphasis mine)

    It might be relevant to non-pinch-using apps, it might not. But let's not delete that relevant bit of data.

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:26PM (#30180744)
    The same could be said about music, but that doesn't go over so well :)
  • by anethema ( 99553 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:31PM (#30180770) Homepage
    I take it you don't know what 'sic' means.

    The gist of it is that he is reproducing someone else's text who has the spelling error in it. He is showing he knows its wrong and that it is the other guy's mistake not his.

    Of course, if TFA doesn't say who's in the wrong context then he's just being a smartass.
  • by dagamer34 ( 1012833 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:39PM (#30180838)
    If an app is "over-priced" at a $1, then I think the App Store has done you a disservice in terms of the REAL value of hard work. If you think it's too expensive, and yet you still want it, I think it stands to reason that while you may not want to pay as much as they are asking for, it certainly shouldn't be free. And anyone who complains about $1 apps needs to re-evaluate their budget. If you feel even a $1 app is too much, DON'T BUY IT. But that doesn't entitle you to "trial periods", where you will have a sudden epiphany that an app is of value to you. For more expensive apps (in general, not just the app store), there are often trial versions to evaluate whether it's right for you or not. If you've never written a line of code in your life, you have absolutely NO idea how much hard work goes into an app you might think is "simple" or "not worth a dollar".
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:52PM (#30180942)

    Does pirating an iphone app require a jailbroken phone?

    Yes, that is the case. So that means 2-3 million devices that can potentially pirate apps (of course not all people that jailbreak do so to pirate apps), out of a field of 30 million+ devices.

    If so, does that mean the "rule" is that there are more jailbroken phone users out there using these pirated applications than there are non-jailbroken phone users using them?

    Not at all. This statistic is really misleading, because they are just saying that 60% total of the apps HAVE PIRATED VERSIONS. Actually I would be really surprised if it was that low, I thought it was closer to 90% since it's easily automated - but someone has to buy the app in the first place to pirate it....

    But that number says nothing at all about the number of users of any application. That number is NOT saying that 60% of the users of any given app have pirated it.

    However there's even more to it that that. As I said the pirating is really easily automated, so it's not like the traditional pirating where applications are really cracked - code signing is just removed. This is actually really easy for an application developer to check for and so lots of apps now check to see (a) if they are on a jailbroken device or (b) if the app is pirated or not. Lots of developers monitor that but do nothing about it, some issue gentle notices after a few weeks saying "hey, why not buy me now". So any developer that cares about the pirating can make the job a lot harder if they really want by preventing functionality on pirated copies.

  • War of the memes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:55PM (#30180958)

    What's up the past few days. Stories about iPhone development sucks, Android development rules, no wait Android development sucks and iPhone development rules, no wait iPhone owners are a bunch of pirates.

    What you are seeing is a battle over memespace, two sides trying to convince a technical populace that the other side sucks.

    Happily slashdot readers are more savvy than this, and there are well reasoned responses in each of these articles that lay out what is going on, despite very misleading article summaries - like this story implying 60% of iPhone users pirate, when in reality it's about 5% and the 60% figure is only the percentage of apps that have pirated VERSIONS, which says nothing about number of users who are pirating any given app.

  • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:55PM (#30180966)

    It's nice to see a big name admit that 1 pirated copy != 1 lost sale.

    Now let's see if we can get someone on the other side to admit that software houses lose a lot of revenue from piracy, even if 1 pirate copy != 1 lost sale.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:02PM (#30181032)

    So jailbreaking an iphone, which takes almost no technical know how is done by 10% of users and pirating apps, which takes more know how, results in 60% of games being pirated?

    The thing is it's very, very easy to automate this pirating. That is to say, the supply of pirated apps is what the 60% figure comes from - 60% of apps they track have pirated versions run at one time or another.

    It's not saying 60% of users are running pirated apps, or that any one app has 60% of users running a pirated version.

    I would actually estimate the real number of apps that have pirated versions to be much higher, more like 90% - there are places dedicated to downloading and then readying pirated versions of app store apps. But again that doesn't mean more than 10% of iPhone owners (as you said, an estimate for jailbroken phones) are going to be able to run them, and not all those users will pirate apps 100% of the time.

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:21PM (#30181170)

    Ok, wait a second

    - In order to pirate an iphone app, you have to jailbreak your phone. Only a small percentage of the user base have done this

    - By measuring the total number of "phone homes", you can figure out how many copies of your app are out in the wild, INCLUDING copies on jailbroken phones.

    So if you find out that your app has 1000 copies in the wild.

    600 of those copies are on the jailbroken iphones that make up maybe 5% of the total phones.

    Therefore, you're out the revenue from those 600 copies? Nope, because if those users hadn't hacked their phones, they probably WOULD NOT have paid for your app. The reason you only have 400 sales in this scenario is that the 95% of users who are eligible to buy it weren't interested enough in your app. The jailbreaking users just grab whatever they want whenever they want, but wouldn't behave like that if they had to pay.

  • Re:Finally (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:27PM (#30181208)

    It's nice to see a big name admit that 1 pirated copy != 1 lost sale.

    What is equally rediculous is the assumption that pirates would never buy a game if they had to pay for them. It obviously isn't a 1:1 loss but there are losses involved and developing for the iPhone is very risky given the volume of apps. When it's debatable if it's worth developing a game for iPhone in the first place a 10% to 25% loss could be a 100% of your profits. Also why should some people pay and pirates get away without paying?

  • by khchung ( 462899 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:51PM (#30181360) Journal


    Even if you ignore for the fact that owners of jailbroken iPhones are even less likely to pay for apps, i.e. assume the same percentage as normal iPhones.

    So 400 apps sold to 95% normal iPhone owners. Extrapolate to the remaining 5% means 400x5/95~=21 people with jailbroken iPhone would would have bought the app if cracked version not available.

    So it means at most ~5% (21/400) of "sales lost". Less if you take in account that fact that jailbreakers are not likely to buy any app anyway.

    Strange that for /., when it comes to iPhone, all the flawed calculation from BSA are suddenly valid.

  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:15PM (#30181472) Homepage Journal

    I encourage would-be-pirates people to simply write it themselves.

    The same could be said about music, but that doesn't go over so well :)

    With software, United States case law recognizes methods of "reverse engineering", or copying only the (uncopyrightable) functionality of a program without copying the (copyrighted) expression of the program. Music and other non-software works don't have a corresponding exception; even if you "write it yourself", you might still infringe. George Harrison found out about this the hard way when he wrote a song only to learn later that he would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to someone else who had written the same song years earlier (Bright Tunes Music v. Harrisongs Music).

  • by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:23PM (#30181508)

    The reason is, of course, that Slashdotters, as a general rule, understand what goes into programming an application. We have empathy and respect for programmers for the simple reason that for some of us, it's our profession.

    Not so much with musicians. We (again -- as a general rule) characterize them as untalented and spoiled. Some people are more equal than others, and in the eyes of many Slashdotters, musicians are the least equal of all.

    We don't pirate applications because we respect the work that programmers perform. However, we elevate music piracy to a social cause worthy of Rosa Parks. Hurting musicians? No -- we're putting them in their place. They should get a day job! They should make a living selling t-shirts! They should just stop being so greedy! We deserve to use modern technology to copy their work, but how dare they try to use modern technology to make a living?

    And if that's not enough of a rationalization of music piracy, we're eager to suggest others. Just watch.

  • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:22AM (#30181860)

    Yes. People hear the kids practicing in the garage next door and think "music is easy." No, it isn't. If it were, everyone would make it. It's extremely time-consuming, laborious, and expensive. It is no different from software.

  • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:36AM (#30181934)
    I totally agree. I won't lose any sleep over a $2 purchase. But at some point beyond that, there are a great number of apps which really should offer a trial period or lite version so you know what in the world you're buying before you purchase it. Too often all you get are some screenshots and a vague description, and I don't want to have to spend an hour Googling it.

    That's not a defense of stealing it! Just a suggestion that the existing process -- which works pretty well -- has room for improvement.
  • by Fex303 ( 557896 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @03:55AM (#30182680)

    There's no reason at all not to believe these numbers, as Pinch Media gains nothing by the numbers being higher or lower

    Not so. Pinch media make money from apps which sell advertising space. Apps which are ad funded don't care about (or even benefit from) piracy.

    As such, it's in Pinch Media's interests to make piracy seem more common, because app devs will make ad supported apps, which means Pinch get more business.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @04:42AM (#30182828)

    Not so much with musicians. We (again -- as a general rule) characterize them as untalented and spoiled.

    That part is true.

    I play the Guitar and most people who actually care about music do not manage to make it anywhere as the industry is set up to support generic factory produced music, not anything that is actually created. Instead of going to the latest Shitney Spears concert, try finding a local bar that has a live Jazz or Rock band playing and you will quickly notice the difference, granted these places are not that easy to find these days.

    It's unfortunate that the truly talented musicians are giving lessons and performing at parties for less then A$500 a night.

    OTOH, I've met developers that have such an entitlement complex they would make most pop stars look like Mother Theresa, this is not the rule but there are an inordinate amount of dev's who think because they've put out a crappy program they deserve to get paid and paid well for it. Often this is expressed in anti-piracy rants that ignores the fact that people are not forced to buy their products and often don't as their offering doesn't have enough value to the price they are asking for it.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen