Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Monday, March 1, 2010

iPhone App Piracy

An interesting post on Gizmodo looks into the piracy situation for iPhone apps. While many publishers deplore piracy and blame it for significant lost sales, that may not be true for the iPhone. Apple's locked-down distribution methods have kept piracy to a minimum; it's somewhere under 10%, and probably significantly below that. The new ability to sell products from within apps also seems to be helping keep piracy down.

I think the low pricing of the apps also has a lot to do with it. The incentive to pirate are significantly less when a game is 99 cents than when it's $60. Even the games that sell for $10 are a bargain compared to their counterparts on other platforms (some of which may be nearly identical). The larger concern for publishers should be finding the buyers rather than worrying about piracy.

This is the reason, probably, behind ngmoco's move away from selling games to free-to-play games. They are looking for revenue from upgrades and the sale of digital objects, which is a fast-growing area. We'll see if this works for them.


  1. That 10% number is pretty cherry-picked, with other numbers off-handedly dismissed. Translation: crappy jounralism.

    Here's a game publisher who's actually done statistical analysis of their own products and seen rates in the 50%-75% range (averaging 71%):

    Another game developer says 74%:

    Given that you're talking about game marketing it'd make sense to talk about game piracy stats, not the stats for some "organizational app".

  2. Other sources I've seen have shown high rates of piracy immediately after release, and then the rate drops dramatically. Apparently some pirates like to collect everything they can get their hands on, even if they don't play it much or more than once.

    It's worth noting, too, that a high rate of piracy on a title is not the same thing as a high rate of piracy overall. I find the numbers from Flurry to be compelling, as they track a large number of apps.

    For me the bottom line is that the overall amount of piracy is irrelevant to the individual publisher. What matters is how many copies they can sell of their title. Since stopping pirates is a feat beyond any small developer, you have to figure out how to make money from your game regardless of the existence of the pirates.

    Whether it's ads, selling additional content, or just be able to target the users willing and able to pay, that's where the focus should be. Spending time wishing piracy would go away doesn't make you any money.