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Piracy. Is it now just a silly habit?
by Paul Johnson on 08/20/14 04:45:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


It's been a busy time for us over at Rubicon Towers. We've started working now on our next "proper" game, but for a while we've been punting out a number of smaller titles just for the crack, and the hope of getting lucky. Flappy Bird lucky.

I'm trying to maintain some credibility and not fill this post with ad spam so I won't be linking them, but a description isn't hard - slots games, coin dozer games and something we're very proud of - Zombies: Dead in 20.

(Sorry, had to.)

Prior to zombies (paid), all those other quickie titles were free to play affairs containing very optional iap's but mainly funded by advertising. They had no cover price and we'd gotten used to tracking progress by looking at chartboost instead of store stats. We've not released a paid app for quite a while now.

Zombies is a no-brainer game developed in a couple of weeks. It's very simple, looks decent, has zombies. It has a cover price so people who hate freemium won't diss it. We hoped it might get lucky.

We were wrong. Despite all these plus points, and the built-in twitter and facebook options, we've not done well at all. £40 worth of sales over the "launch" weekend. This isn't a gripe btw, the game took almost no time to make and doesn't deserve to earn on merit, it was all about rolling the dice and hoping for the best so fair enough.

But I still want the game to do well even if it isn't to be the next Flappy or 2048 craze. So every day I've been doing a "search all" on twitter to see if that one customer of ours is posting any scores.

Not initially. But finally, tonight, I saw a ton of hits. Twitter is starting to finally light up about Zombies: Dead in 20 after several days of silence. W00T!!!!

Only they're not scores. They're all links to places you can download a cracked version of the game. Yeah, seriously. It costs a buck.

As a developer of many long years, I'm very familiar with piracy and have made arguments against it many times. And you've heard them many times. And possibly argued against them many times. It's old and I'm not going there again.

No, this too-long-winded post has one single point only.

I'm not going to preach to that person that he shouldn't steal. Not going to remind him that he's taking food from my family's mouths. Not even gonna tell him he's an asshole. No, I have just one thing to say.

It's a dollar. You should be embarrassed.

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Michael Joseph
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" for a while we've been punting out a number of smaller titles just for the crack..."

plenty of embarrassment to go around. I know you're venting (and you'll get no sympathy from me) but you should be careful with posts like these. Some people (including players) are likely to compose an unfavorable opinion of you and your company.

Paul Johnson
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Really? What's happening....

John Flush
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People on mobile think .99 is too much... The only people ashamed for diving on that train should be developers. Mobile is the game development lottery. Just some win and win big... but for the most part it is just a 'stupid person tax'... just like the lottery.

Paul Johnson
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Can't argue with that logic. No, I mean I really wouldn't know where to start!

John Flush
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and on a more rational aspect, yeah, piracy is pretty stupid too. And I do agree with your logic, there just isn't much thought with the Mobile market when it comes to pricing though.

Kyle Redd
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It's only a dollar, yes. But that's not the only consideration. Other factors like ads and data collection could be an influence. I've pretty much stopped playing mobile games completely for this reason. I got tired of trying to decipher the list of permissions every game seemingly had to get from me in order to play any game.

On services like Steam and GOG, and on consoles for the most part, this is not a problem. I know that when I buy a game like Eldritch, I won't have to give the developer access to my friends list and phone number before I can play.

I don't know if any of this applies to your game, so sorry if this is all irrelevant. I would never pirate it. But for those that have, it may be part of their motivation for why they wouldn't pay even a single dollar.

Paul Johnson
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There are no ads or data collection in any of our paid games. In fact the permissions required to install any app on Android are thrust in your face before you start.

Fear of this might still be a factor, but it's no excuse to pirate stuff. For starters, a pirated version would still have that stuff in it too if there was any.

Kyle Redd
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No, there's no excuse for piracy. I didn't intend to demonstrate that.

My original post wasn't really relevant, then. The thought had crossed my mind, because it's something that has bothered me about mobile gaming for a while, but piracy is still piracy.

Joe Lamont-Fisher
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Do you have any kind of analytics in your game? We're seeing a similar thing with our new game: APK links everywhere etc. We're also seeing around 1000 downloads daily of these links while our game is barely shifting!

We've noticed that this is primarily China (although significant in other parts too) and, something we've learnt since launch is that Google Play doesn't release your paid app in China (whoops) so in a lot of ways I cant blame people.

We're also wondering whether our cheap $2 game is incredibly overpriced in other parts of the world when you just let google work out the currency conversion for you.

Dunno, I'm just trying to work out whether this is normal and what, if anything, can be done to monetize this! I feel a blog post coming on!

Codrut Nedelcu
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Take it as a joke, but I've heard this line - and variations - for real (from Android users - guess why, no offense intended): "greedy bastards, not only they asked for tons of money for the phone and (subscription) plan, now they are asking for money for these little games".

Then it's a phrase a guy from telecom told me "once you give something for free to people (i.e. extra minutes), you can't take it back. Ever!".

Some people will not pay for games (and more likely for mobile games) based on a principle; these products don't hold real value in their eyes and/or not perceive it as a theft (a DIGITAL products you can't hold in your hands...?).

I don't know if there is any increase in usage for your game, but I guess the pirated versions are there for the sake of it, not many people downloading it; the pirates create a pirated version for every digital product in this world (even for a game I once launched unfinished) this would be interesting to share with us.

I don't believe in "arguing" with customers; they will take the path of least resistance - that being specific to each person: either accessibility (easy to find/install/play) or financial (F2P vs. upfront payment). I had a look at your game, it looks good and promising, but given the current state chances you'll get people paying for it upfront are..hmm, close to 40 pounds a launch-weekend. I'd say make it F2P with $0.99 to $6.99 character skins that provide a small gameplay advantage and tell me the numbers. You'll not make a fortune, but there will be something.

Christian Nutt
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In the end pirates are building collections just for the sake of building collections, not for the sake of actually playing the games. They simply want every game because that makes the collection complete. I saw this behavior in people I knew when I was an adolescent, myself, and have since read about it.

Paul Johnson
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I could see that mentality in some spheres, but every game on google play? :)

Actually, what am I saying. There does seem to be that level of cracking going on so this must be exactly it!