Dev Says Pirates Outnumber Customers 20 To 1 on Game Center

Dev Says Pirates Outnumber Customers 20 To 1 on Game Center

Image courtesy of Flickr user nitot

Apple’s App Store is a wonderful thing. When it launched in 2008, it opened up a world now home to 450,000 apps and games available to our iOS devices. There was nothing else like it. Never before had it been so easy for customers to discover and download mobile software, and for developers to distribute and sell it.

Developing for the App Store and the iOS platform isn’t without its flaws, however. As one iOS developer has recently learned, one of the biggest downsides to iOS development is piracy.

GAMEized is the team behind a soccer game for iOS called FingerKicks — a simple yet addictive game in which a player attempts to score as many goals as possible within a certain time limit. The app currently has a 4.5 star rating on the App Store and enjoys glowing reviews from fans.

When it first launched, GAMEized were proud of their release and were eagerly anticipating some of that App Store success that you occasionally hear about. However, things got off to a rocky start.

According to Apple’s sales data, FingerKicks’ first day in the App Store only racked up $97 in sales, and day after day that figure slowly decreased. After checking out the Game Center leader boards, however, GAMEized noticed that their game had picked up an impressive 5,000 players during its first weekend, and they couldn’t have been happier. Even at just $0.99, 5,000 sales was sure to bring in a pretty impressive pay check for just a few days in the App Store.

That elation was dampened, however, by Apple’s official sales numbers for that weekend. Despite 5,000 players on Game Center, FingerKicks had only managed 160 App Store downloads. So where had all these players come from?

Well, it seems FingerKicks was on the “featured” page of AppTrackr, a website from Hackulo.us that’s incredibly popular with certain jailbreakers who are keen to get their hands on “cracked” or pirated apps. Using this service and a certain app users can download and install almost any App Store title for free.

After only a short time in the App Store, FingerKicks had attracted over 17,000 players, but it had only collected a “bitterly disappointing” $800 in sales. It seems that despite its popularity with iOS gamers, the sad news for GAMEized is that only around 1 in 20 users were actually paying for the game.

Despite their love for the iOS platform and the App Store, which they declare in a post on their blog, GAMEized feel Apple could do more to prevent software piracy:

Apple apparently has no functional counter-piracy safeguards in place on their Game Center – essentially permitting users to play pirated software on their Game Center without any fear of reprisals or consequence.

I’ve heard a number of App Store success stories that detail the platform’s unique ability to make small-time developers incredibly wealthy in a short space of time, but it’s not often you hear the other side of things. The reality of it is that without any kind of piracy prevention measures in place, it’s incredibly easy to steal iOS software, which has a detrimental affect on many developers.

Should Apple be introducing a system to prevent App Store piracy?

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  • Allan Robertson

    For a game at $0.99, these cheapskate jail breakers don’t have much of an excuse.

  • Skratchy Cat

    This is what happened to the Nintendo DS with the r4, it drove developers away quickly. It lead them to the PSP for awhile and some to try out the iPhone/Android markets. It also lead to the early birth of the 3DS which has much better Piracy counter measure.  If Apple isn’t careful and do something it will get out and hurt there platform too.

  • AlterThending

    They’ll just find another way to crack them it’s like mp3 downloads once it starts you just can’t stop it. There will always be other sites, other applications to get what they want. 

  • Josh Oldenburg

    YES!

  • quietstorms

    Every pirate and malware maker gives Apple a reason to keep users from sideloading apps on iOS. The simple fact is that when you give a person a choice they will likely make the bad choice.      Not wanting to pay $.99 for an app proves that.

  • Hampus

    Please, do say cheapskate pirates. Not all jailbreakers pirate.

  • Hampus

    While I can’t really say I approve of piracy, when it comes to DS I can see why people would want to do it, all games had price tags $30-40+ (Converted from local prices, Sweden. Don’t know what US prices where) but the quality of most of these games are less than what you get for two bucks in the AppStore…

  • MattSTKC

    it’s people like this that make douchebags like BeatWeek say nasty and stupid shit about jailbreakers..

  • mahimahimahi

    He didn’t blame all jailbreakers.

  • KillianBell

    People like who?

  • KillianBell

    I agree. Not all jailbreakers pirate apps.

  • huyett

    Sounds like a good time to implement try-before-you-buy, maybe they’ll at least grab a few more sales.
    It’s a shame how little people appreciate the time and effort required to build any app.

  • RawBob

    Interesting that this is an article on piracy and the image that you’ve used:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/n

    is licensed under the condition that it not be used for commercial purposes:

    http://creativecommons.org/lic

    Have you contacted the owner to secure permission for your commercial use?

  • Wayne_Luke

    Are all of those pirates though. The way the App Store works now is that I can pay 99 cents for an app and put it on all of my iDevices whether I have 1 or 5. Just so happens that we have 5 currently.

    Yes, there should be some piracy controls but it is difficult to tell who is actually a pirate with the current system.

  • Oh Yabz

    I hate to lump all jail breakers in the same category but the only reason to jailbreak a phone is to put something on it that the original manufacturer did not want on the device (in most cases apps and in most cases pirated apps) Before you start yelling not me you may want to check to make sure all those jail broken apps you have on you ISO device are truly legit. I would imagine (because I have seen it to be true) that most jail broken devices have at least 1 piece of pirated code or software on them.

    So much of society does not see a problem with STEALING any more and if you think some adults are bad look at the kids and pre teens doing it…. 

    Wake up and smell the coffee jail breaking leads to theft IMHO.

  • Mike Rathjen

    I hate to lump all water drinkers in the same category, but it’s been my observation that 100% of murderers drink water.

    Wake up and smell the coffee, drinking water leads to murder.

    P.S. Causation and correlation are two different things.

  • R.W. Elti

    Wow, I had no idea about AppTrackr website. I was skeptical of how easy and how many apps there would be.

    I just went there and selected a random app out of thousands of well-organized categories and downloaded it and double clicked it and installed it into iTunes, in 5 minutes.  Don’t worry, I chose “10,000 German Verbs”, an app I have no use for whatever.

    It is in essence a well-done app store, en par with the official Android one, except no app ratings. (Why when Apple graciously supplies that? )

    The “About” link in lower right gives the guy’s defensive rationale for why it’s OK.

    He points out that he only links to these apps, he does not host them himself. That’s true and his best defense. He facilitates pirating.

    But I disagree with his contention that very, very few pirates are lost sales.  How can he be sure. If a person goes to the App Store, reads the reviews, notices all the five star ratings, and then thinks to them self “I want that. Should I buy it here or just get it for free?”, You don’t mean that a significant number will opt for the free app??

    And he also says the point of it is for free trials, where the person is expected to buy the app if they like it.  Yeah right.

    I hope Apple do something about this. Maybe not aggressive action, but revise the App Store so that you have 1 day to request a refund (addressing the trial issue), and if you double-click a .ipa file (the format my test pirated app came in), you should have to authenticate with iTunes and verify the purchase before it installs.

  • Oh Yabz

    Take the post for what it is and while all murders drink water not all water drinkers are murders and although you argument may hold water to a degree the fact still remains, what valid reason is there to jailbreak your device?

    You can argue causation and correlation but it could just be a matter of semantics, but my use of big and complicated words does not to a lesser degree refute my assertion that most jail broken phones have at least 1 piece of pirated code on it and the reason for jail breaking a phone is to add items to the device the the manufacturer did not intend to be on the device.

  • Rob Thompson

    “and if you double-click a .ipa file (the format my test pirated app came in), you should have to authenticate with iTunes and verify the purchase before it installs.”
    Excellent Idea. I think that would make a big difference.
    And as for the pirate thinking they are not doing any real damage or sticking it 
    to big ol’ Apple. Thats BS.
    They should realize that it’s often the little developer getting hurt.

  • Mike Rathjen

    “What valid reason is there to jailbreak your device?”

    There are many valid reasons for jailbreaking, and it has been confirmed as legal by the United States Library of Congress, the authority that examines such issues. Here are some of the valid reasons:

    1) To use hardware you purchased as you see fit.
    2) To install applications from competitive app stores that may charge less to programmers or have less onerous and arbitrary restrictions than Apple’s app store.
    3) To customize your OS in ways that are blocked by Apple.
    4) To enable features that are artificially blocked by Apple.
    5) To get updates to applications that I previous bought on the Apple App Store, but have subsequently been yanked by Apple and are only available elsewhere now.

    Some of the most popular features that were innovated by jailbreak developers are later implemented by Apple.

    I don’t have pirated apps on my jailbroken iPhone. I don’t even know how to do that. I purchase apps in the Apple App Store and on Cydia.

  • Brandon Dillon

    Wow… you’re a douche. Is this how you spend your time?

  • TastySlowCooker

    Which is why Angry Birds is now covered in a layer of in-app purchasing despite me paying for the game. What pirates can’t seem to get their thick heads around is that most people produce things so they can make money. So they can eat. That’s how economics works. Take away the incentive and you either take away the product, or innovation happens so they can make money, and eat, in another way.

    The irony of piracy is that it increases the barrier to entry into a market. To be competitive in a market not only do you have to make a particular product cheaply, but you now have to protect yourself against people who steal as well. And so those who can’t afford the extra cost get knocked out of the market, and only the wealthy who can afford such protection, get to play. So piracy reinforces the classes, without making those who participate in it much wealthier at all.

    Great job, pirates. Give yourselves a hand.

  • rattyuk

    hmmm. like if, say, piracy really is like 20:1 which is actually in keeping with my dev friends, then doesn’t he actually have a point?

  • rattyuk

    Actually it isn’t. But as you are a developer you wouldn’t understand that. Far easier to say that people don’t know what is going on.

  • rattyuk

    Just out of interest, when you by on Cydia how do you know you are buying from the people that actually authored the project? Just asking.

  • TastySlowCooker

    I agree with your point regarding lost sales. The argument you reference does not take into consideration that what someone might value today and tomorrow may be different. Today they may not think an app is worth buying, tomorrow, for whatever reason, that might change. Piracy creates a culture where people feel entitled to get whatever they want without paying for it, so that value is not considered at all. So people who would have paid for apps have now been conditioned to believe they *deserve* them for nothing. As the taboo of stealing is removed and the feeling of entitlement grows, people pirate apps even if they would have paid for them, because the culture has convinced them that the worth of a product is irrelevant.

    Unfortunately, because this culture already exists, it’s going to be very difficult to fight against it. This is part of people’s worldview. It’s almost impossible to convince someone they should pay for something they are conditioned to think they should get for nothing. Hard tactics forcing people to stop stealing have some short-term effect, but because they don’t deal with the underlying feeling of entitlement they tend to leave people with a lot of resentment and searching for a workaround. Soft tactics, such as creating awareness and education about the hidden costs, are just as important and are the long-term answer to this problem.

  • imajoebob

    Never mid the moral obligation for Apple, how about their obligation to shareholders?  That’s about $5K they’ve left on the table. That’s not even chump change for somebody with $65B in the bank, but multiply that by a few thousand other apps that are likely being pirated and it suddenly makes it a decimal place or two.  And since Apple doesn’t allow Apps being sold anyplace else, they have a fiduciary responsibility to their developers.  Smells like class action if they sit on this.

  • Skratchy Cat

    Umm most the games actually range from $5-30 in the US and I have played both.  The majority of the games on the app store are not deep in any sense of the word other than ports from other system where the brunt of the cost for development so you bitter like your advocating piracy.  Many of the games remind me of the free games I would get with Computes Gazette, I use to play on the Commodore 64 with better graphics.

    $19 is the average for a DS game though.

  • RawBob

    Let’s see…

    “Cult of Mac” is a commercial endeavour whose “journalists” cull information and photos and artwork from the internet to create “articles” that bring in ad revenue.  These photos and artwork consititute a significant portion of the “value” of these articles, making the articles “derivative works” of the photos and artwork.

    Often the photos and artwork are from Flickr users who have explicitly stated that their work (intellectual property) is not to be used for commercial purposes.

    I asked an honest question.  Does “Cult of Mac” secure permission from the owners of this intellectual property before it uses it in its commercial product?

    It’s a simple question that could be answered very quickly and succinctly by “Cult of Mac.”  They have chosen to not to respond.

    If that makes me a “douche,” then so be it.  What does that make you?  More importantly, what does that make “Cult of Mac?”

  • Chris Wilson

    A ratio of 20 pirated copies to each legitimate one suggests to me the app is a failure. 1 Steffen Itterheim discussed this (with a nice graph) http://www.learn-cocos2d.com/2… a while back.

  • Oh Yabz

    That is my point exactly…

  • Oh Yabz

    I never questioned the legality of jailbreaking a device I know it has been deemed legal. And I did state earlier that the reason folks jailbreak their phones was to do things to the device that the manufacturer did not want done.

    Let me bring 2 points here that kind of tie things together.

    First by your own admission you jaibreak to skirt the rules put in place by the manufacturer of the product, rules put into place to either protect the manufacturer its vendors or even the end users. This in itself is one reason so many manufacturers cringe at the thought of their products being hacked or jailbroken. What is worse is that by skirting the rules it causes other users to have to pay more or suffer the consequences of your actions (data usage and tethering come to mind).

    Second when you or anyone jailbreaks a device you have the ability to harm the reputation of the company making that device. There have been cases where companies reputations are hurt because someone has altered a device in a way that the manufacturer had not intended it to be, the product fails or causes harm and the company pays the price in reputation and in sales.

    Finally it may be me but I liken third party apps site to warez type sites but with a twist of now charging for some of the software.

    I may be old fashioned in my thinking but I have seen enough with jailbreaking and hacking to say I have a more then valid opinion.

  • Ivonne Spinoza

    From the moment you BUY a device, the manufacturer no longer owns it. So while Apple has all the right to remove support and/or void your warranty, they have no right to tell you how you can use YOUR device that YOU bought with YOUR money
    .
    An argument based on “the manufacturer did not want done” only helps the big companies and erodes the customer’s rights. This is why jailbreaking was deemed LEGAL by the US authorities.

    If you think jailbreaking your phone/ipod/ipad/whatever is wrong, then don’t do it, but stop telling others what they should or shouldn’t do with THEIR devices.

    (BTW, no. I haven’t jailbroken any of my devices).

  • Oh Yabz

    Although the company no longer owns a device once it is bought by a consumer there are liabilities attached to the manufacturer of said device. Lets face it we live in a litigious society in most cases the manufacturer is trying to keep from dealing with law suits.

    No one said you could not do what yo would like with a product you own but the use of customer rights may be stretching it (although I may have missed that right in the last consumers congress).
    What about the rights of those individuals that build software that is pirated and put up on these jailbreak sites? Do we have a tight to steal their work? You look at this from the large manufacturers side but how bout that guy trying to make an independent living, doesn’t he have the right to not have his work ripped off so jailbreakers can their rights?
    I don’t believe I ever stated that you should or should not jailbreak your device. 
    If you have read anything into my post I would hope that you see that I am against stealing other peoples work and not necessarily jailbreakers. But as I stated before most jailbroken phones have 1 piece of pirated or code or software on it (jailbreakers even steal others jailbreaking code).

  • Mike Rathjen

    This just doesn’t make any sense. Jailbreaking is the equivalent of allowing me to use my iPhone like I use a Mac. Yes I can run software that isn’t approved by Apple on my iPhone now… just like I can run software that isn’t approved by Apple on my Mac.

    Apple is not liable for anyone’s misuse of Mac software they didn’t write and they wouldn’t be liable for anyone’s misuse of iPhone software they didn’t write.

    In fact, Apple is far more liable by approving code they may not understand. Many times now we’ve seen articles about apps on the App Store that purported to do one thing, but does another, and slipped under Apple’s radar, yet was given the stamp of approval.

  • Mike Rathjen

    I don’t know, but this is true of any software you buy from anywhere, including the App Store. Some App Store apps have been proven to include stolen code. Even Windows made the news for including stolen code.

    So, just out of interest, when buying software for your computers, how do you know you are buying from the people that actually authored the project? Just asking.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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