An independent developer is suggesting that its latest $1.99 iPhone title has been illegitimately downloaded by as many as 90 per cent of its players.
Smells Like Donkey – an iPhone studio founded in 2008 – discovered that an overwhelming majority of players submitting scores on its latest game, Tap-Fu, are using a pirated copy.
During Tap-Fu’s first sale week on the App Store, score submissions from all users showed that an average of 80 per cent had been playing with an illegitimate copy, with that rate peaking at 90 per cent.
The developer said it is “very surprised and concerned at how easy it is” to pirate iPhone games, and even claims that illegally downloading a bogus iPhone title is easier than buying it on iTunes.
Smells Like Donkey then discovered from its own research that zero per cent of the pirate-users went on to purchase the $1.99 game – a telling exposé on the hollow claim that pirates “try before we buy”.
The iPhone developer added that Apple has been “fairly slow to respond” to the issue.
“We’re predicting that developers will be taking it into their own hands to try and prevent it,” read the developer’s blog post.
“Detecting a pirated app is quite simple to do so I wouldn’t blame [other developers to do so] at all.”
Smells Like Donkey said it would likely message users of bogus copies, “reminding people that they really should buy the game if they like it and conveniently provide links to do so. It’ll be an interesting test to do so we’ll let you know when it’s done.”
The group added that a DLC system could be a beneficial measure to curb piracy.
“Give away the base app for free and charge for content. This forces the pirates to change their strategy significantly and it might be a while before it becomes feasible to attack this system.”
Like Microsoft has done with the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, Smells Like Donkey also suggested that other developers working on online-multiplayer games could verify each player’s copy and kick the pirate-users.
“Fair is fair and if someone isn’t paying for your app, they maybe shouldn’t be allowed to use your service.”
The developer took philosophical stance on the issue in general.
“Now that all that is said and done, are we really concerned about it? Maybe a bit,” read the blog.
“We like to think that it’s not us specifically that is losing sales to these people, it’s every developer that is losing sales to these people. The pirates have essentially removed themselves from the iTunes economy and that hurts everyone.
“How much does it hurt? Probably not a whole lot. There’s probably a few of these people that would have bought our game in the first place so it’s not really a big deal.
“But as a developer, looking at that high scores chart, it is kind of depressing. Yet we are glad that there are plenty of paying customers out there, and we will do our best to reach them.”