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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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  • Conflicted (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DesertBlade ( 741219 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @08:59PM (#30180486)
    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.
  • Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delta419 ( 1227406 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:00PM (#30180502)
    It's nice to see a big name admit that 1 pirated copy != 1 lost sale.
  • News at 11 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:01PM (#30180524)

    Our headlines today:

    * DRM doesn't work
    * People are assholes
    * iPhone the same as any other platform shocker

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:02PM (#30180526)

    My company also tracks iphone piracy rates. And while the piracy rate is in line with the OP there's more to it than that. Apps with demos generally have lower piracy rates. Also we track usage rate, pirates tend to only launch once or twice, as if they're sampling the app. So it's not as bad as the article makes it sound.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:42PM (#30180870)

    In this case, they're losing money because they have to pay for bandwidth and server resources that unpaid app users are utilizing.

    What the developers should do is utilize in-app purchase capability, that produces a unique transaction id# kept on their servers for each purchase, username/password, that the developer gets associated with the unique device ID.

    Cut the initial cost of the app, and charge a consumable fee.

    A fee for "X hours" of app usage, which gets tracked by the server, e.g. 1000 hours of app usage.

    If multiple iPhones are using the same ID# at the same time, it deducts the time associated with both sessions.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @09:58PM (#30180986) Homepage

    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".

    Effort does not correlate with value. I can spend thirty years building something and still end up with something worthless, and I can spend half an hour building a million dollar app. It's all about ho

    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.

    How is he supposed to know if the app is expensive or not, by its name? He said he paid if he wants to use it, he'll delete it if he doesn't.

    But that doesn't entitle you to "trial periods", where you will have a sudden epiphany that an app is of value to you.

    And building an app doesn't entitle the developer to expect people to buy it without ever trying it, only by name.

    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.

    Well, maybe those apps should have trial versions too.

  • by WarlockD ( 623872 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:08PM (#30181068)
    Its easy enough. I spent a good 2 weeks trying to figure out how to create my own personal "registration" system. The old type where your given a license key and it says "Yea you bought it" Most of the time I have a root seed value thats hashed with some random data. Sure, a cracker can make a key gen once they figure out the hash method and seed value (not that hard), but it was resonantly simple to set up. Using public key cryptography you could make sure that a key gen is not possible, but at that point your authentication program is getting more complex than your $1 fart app

    Doesn't stop a pirate from changing a MOV op-code in your executable to avoid the whole authentication anyway.

    While I haven't create anything for the Apple store, I suspect that some key value is created when the app is sold and stuck somewhere in the config files. To authenticate a user's high score online, I would send that key, name and score and record the IP. Hell, maybe the first thing the game does, when it turns on, is send a high score of 0. Doing this you can tell exactly how many people has pirated the game, how many times people have played the game, and generally how long they play it for every time a score is sent in. Heck, you could even match the IP information regionally to see how your game has spread. Its good data to make your next game reach a wider audience.
  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @10:59PM (#30181400)

    The problem is that "micro-transactions" have crept into every aspect of life.

    If take the time to add up all your "buck here, buck there" transactions, you may be surprised just how much you spend.

    The entire system is set up to maximize impulse buys and hide the total cost of purchases by splitting it up into bits.

    People go for free because it is less than $1 or 25 cents or even 1 cent. Isn't it exactly that fact why so many things are outsourced to China, India, etc? To save just a little bit on each transaction?

    It's real just the whole "pot meet kettle" issue. Everybody will go will spending as little as they can. The only difference is that businesses have an easier time making their cost cutting measures legal and those of individuals illegal, and then trying to use words like "intellectual property" and "piracy" to give a moralistic tone to the debate along with their stacked legal deck.

    It's a bunch of dishonesty, ultimately, and it's obvious that lots normal people aren't convinced that this "priracy" is so terrible.. Nor should they be.

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:03PM (#30181416) Homepage

    the developer is grossly over-estimating the value of their software, thinking "If my software isn't great, then why would anyone pirate it?"

    I once worked for a small company with a semi-popular application. Sales were almost all of the form of pay pal purchases off the website. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was enough to pay one developer. But piracy was a huge problem. It was quite obvious that more than 90% of the copies running were pirated.

    The company changed directions and started bundling the application for free with online services. The service provider would pay for the application and the customers would get the software for use only with the service. But the company was worried about piracy, so they asked me to write DRM that tied the application to the service. They would continue to sell an untied version off the website, but with "call home" DRM (it's an internet app, so it's not quite as draconian as it sounds). I very reluctantly agreed (i.e., I had to decide whether it was worth quitting over -- if I had to do it again, I'd quit).

    The end result was that all piracy stopped. In fact, all usage stopped. Instead of selling 2 or 3 copies a day off the website, not one copy of the DRM version was ever sold. And due to very poor choices of service provider partners, the company received no revenue at all. Within a year the company had folded.

    The thing is, the new version was head and shoulders better than then non-DRMed version. And the DRM was truly unobtrusive (think DRM in WoW). Paying customers wouldn't even know it existed. But sales are generated by popularity, not quality. Piracy, like it or not generates popularity. The company was very small and had no means of effective advertising. By cutting off the pirates, they shut off their only revenue source.

    What always kills me about this story is this: The app we were making was *perfect* for an open software model. Ask the service providers to each spend a small amount of money to cover development and give them the app for free. Give them branding in the app to thank them for their help. But the "sales" people were always quick to point out that the service providers they found had no money and couldn't afford to pay us up front. How on earth did we fail? :-P

  • by BLKMGK ( 34057 ) <morejunk4me@@@hotmail...com> on Friday November 20, 2009 @11:53PM (#30181694) Homepage Journal

    Look, I and almost ALL of my friends have iPhones. We're all geeks and I think almost all of us have jailbroken our phones at least once and I for one have kept up and stayed jailbroken since the very beginning. We're not the sort who wouldn't pirate an app or two, if nothing just to try it out, but so far as I know NONE of us have. Apparently it's not very hard, I've heard there are torrents out there full of them, but come on - for .99 why bother? Hell I even bought the Navigon mapping app for full price and THAT stung! But pirating never crossed my mind and I know that the two other friends of mine that have it have paid for it too. If the rate of pirating were really as high as 60% then I'm pretty sure my friends would be chattering about it quite a bit or at least asking me about it. I will admit that with all of this talk about it I'm tempted to go learn more about how to do it and maybe try an app or two but most games these days have a trial version and that has satisfied me. This isn't like PC games that often turn out to be crap and if you watch the store you can often find apps on sale - wish there was an app to tell me about THAT! It's like MP3s, I used to pirate the heck out of them and had ripped ALL of my friends CDs and vice versa. I refused to buy anything DRM'd! Now I use Shazam to pickup on any songs I like and then about once every couple of weeks I sit down and download all the ones I like from Amazon at a buck apiece. At THAT price with no DRM it's simply not worth my while to ask around to find out who has the song and it feels good to not download it from some cheezy torrent. I might even buy a used CD once in awhile too but sorry no new ones RIAA.

    So, I'm sort of the demographic that would consider this and frankly I've just not been tempted and I don't think any of the ten+ iPhone owners I know have been either. I think these guys may be pushing an agenda here, maybe next week they will release an app designed to halt this. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if that's what this was about....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:06AM (#30181776)

    Here I will play your typical Slashtard response...

    "what do you work for the RIAA you corporate whore!"

    *head spinning* with +5 Hypocrites

    Go make the movie yourselves if you think the movie industry is that awful to you.

    Maybe places like Sweden where piracy laws are lax they should work on improving their own film industry and stop sucking off the tit of the American/British creativity.
    More like a bunch of materialistic bitches, get some priorities in life besides being a leech.

  • Re:News at 11 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nbates ( 1049990 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @01:18AM (#30182148)

    Not all piracy is because people are assholes. See, iTunes is not available in my country (Argentina) without an international credit card. They won't even take my paypal account unless it has a valid US address. Most of the time they won't even allow me to subscribe to free podcasts (!!!).

    So I went to a Mac Store and asked them if they sold Gift cards, nope...

    Then I contacted the company who makes the app I wanted (I was willing to pay the $2 they asked, using paypal) but nope... They only do business through Apple.

    Ok, screw them. I just downloaded the app, uploaded it to my iPhone and run it.

    Something similar happens with the Wiistore. And don't get me started about PC games, that cost several times their US cost.

    No wonder piracy is so widespread.

  • by Software Geek ( 1097883 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @03:06AM (#30182542)

    Don't conflate the issue of whether the price is fair with the issue of whether a free trial is necessary.

    I will agree with you that $1 is a ridiculously low price for a software application, and someone unwilling to pay that much should just not use the app.

    The problem is that when producers get paid in full every time a consumer evaluates the product and decides it is unusable, they start creating products that look just good enough to try out, but don't actually work. The revenues are the same, and the margins are better.

    I simply won't pay for software until I have finished evaluating it, no matter what the price. Many times, that means that I walk away from good products that I can't get for evaluation. Too bad for them.

    As a professional software developer, I understand just how much goes into creating an application. I also understand that the difference between an excellent application and a useless one can be as small as one line of code.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @08:12AM (#30183470) Journal

    Whether you can afford $1 is not the same as whether something is worth $1. Would you pay $1 for me to come and punch you in the face? The amount of effort involved for me to find out where you are, get there, and punch you in the face is a lot greater than $1. The $1 cost to you is not much. But I'd be quite surprised if you actually wanted to pay me $1 to punch you in the face.

    The question of worth is whether that $1 could improve your life more if spent on something else. Will your life be better if you buy a cup of coffee, or if you pay me to punch you in the face? Will it be better if you buy a cup of coffee or a $1 iPhone app. More importantly, will your life be better if you buy a $1 iPhone app, or a very similar $1 iPhone app with more features and a better UI?

    There are lots of things that I can afford but choose not to buy. It doesn't mean that no effort went into producing them, it means that their value to me is lower than their cost.

  • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['eve' in gap]> on Saturday November 21, 2009 @11:59AM (#30184814) Homepage

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

    The problem there isn't that those musicians are underpaid. $500 a night for 5 hours of work and maybe 20 hours of practice, a week, is entirely reasonable. Plenty of us make half that for an actual 40 hour week.

    I'm not trying to compare the hours worked, musicians usually can't work 'more' and hence a couple of hours a week of performance does need to pay for their living expensive, but the numbers you just mentioned are fine, at least if they can pull $500 every week, or even every other week.

    They only seem bad when you compare them to the absurdly overpaid famous 'musicians', many of whom are not musicians at all.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Saturday November 21, 2009 @12:23PM (#30185048)

    The problem there isn't that those musicians are underpaid. $500 a night for 5 hours of work and maybe 20 hours of practice

    A$20 an hour may seem reasonable. That's A$20 an hour or judging by a 40 hour week and 48 week year (standard here in AU) thats A$38,000 which is not a good wage but not a bad wage for a 20 to 25 year old.

    The problem is that you need 1.6 acts per week to get that and that it takes more then 20 hours of practice to be performance ready. You're also not counting equipment which is per person A$1500 for a cheap performance grade guitar and A$1000 for a cheap performance grade amplifier.

    The point I was trying to make is that the people who play local gigs and teach music locally do it because they love to do it (much like OSS dev's) but the music industry only attracts those who want money, not the love of music. OK a bit OTT but tell me it's not true.

    Every musician who does gigs for A$500 also has a full time job, normally not a good one like IT but stuff like retail or teaching with pays less then A$20 an hour (minimum wage is under A$15 an hour).

    They only seem bad when you compare them to the absurdly overpaid famous 'musicians', many of whom are not musicians at all.

    This is a good point, both of them which is why I said it's unfortunate. Good musicians get passed over, make up and plastic surgery gets plastered all over the telly.

    As a side note, assuming a 40 hour week at A$20, it's legally impossible to earn half of that as the minimum wage here is A$14.40. If we're comparing to other nations then we also need to compare the cost of living which is quite high here in Australia.

System checkpoint complete.