Sometimes, I just can’t imagine being a game developer. It’s not so much all of the time and effort that’s required to go into a game that scares me, but rather the fact that it will get pirated out the wazoo. There’s no denying that piracy is a big problem for content developers, thanks to its sheer ease. We even see rampant piracy on games that cost just a couple of dollars.
Examples of where piracy has become a real problem in gaming has been well-documented over the years, with some developers becoming a little creative in trying to battle it. Earlier this year, we saw Game Dev Tycoon developer Greenheart Games make it impossible to succeed in the pirated game, thanks to, of all things, piracy killing your virtual game sales. To date, my favorite example of pirate trolling comes from Croteam, which caused an impossible-to-kill monster to appear in pirated copies of the game. Because this mechanic is so intriguing, I have little doubt that some people who own a legal copy of the game tried a pirated version just to experience it.
The reason some developers go to such lengths to try to prove a point becomes clear when examples rise of games that are pirated way more than copies are sold. Take the latest example (via Kotaku), of Gentlemen!. This game has a built-in analytics system, so it’s able to track various statistics, including unique players.
In the first three weeks of the game’s release, the game had been played by 50,000 different people. This, despite the game selling a mere 144 copies on Android, and 1,114 copies on the iPad.
It could be assumed that the game just might not be that good, but it’s it’s actually been receiving some great reviews from sites that specialize on mobile games, generally scoring 80%+.
Why the massive delta between paid-for and pirated copies? As mentioned above, pirates just pirate because pirating is easy. I am not sure much can be done about that.
The developer does admit that a small detail did thwart potential success, however. At around the same time of the game’s release, Korean pop star Psy released a song by the exact same name of the game. If you’ve ever perused an app store, you’re likely well aware that anything popular can and will spawn a number of unofficial apps. If it’s popular, after all, people will download it. When searching for “Gentlemen”, just take a look at the results:
Yup – it’s easy to see how that might be a problem.
It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of the pirated copies of Gentlemen! were bound to Russia and China – only a relative handful were pirated in North America. Even so, this sort of problem does make you wonder what the future of mobile apps will be, or games in general. As one commenter at Gamesutra points out, it might not be a half-bad idea to trigger a donate recommendation on pirated copies for a lower cost than a legit copy. That’d surely be better than nothing at all, to some developers.