Some people e-mailed me asking for more information about the piracy situation. I can’t share our exact numbers, but here’s the overall message.
In the first week piracy outpaced sales almost 3 to 1. For every copy sold in the app store, just about 3 were downloaded for free from one of a number of pirate app sites.
By the end of the week piracy was starting to slow down while sales held steady, so in the long term I’m guessing this will level out. But at least for now this is a disturbing trend that deserves some analysis.
Is the iPhone piracy problem really that bad?
When I first looked at these numbers I was sure something was wrong with them. There is no way to get an exact count of sales vs. pirates – it’s an interpreted number. However looking at download counts on popular app pirate sites validated what our internal numbers are showing. Pirates apparently like My Balls.
Thinking about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. I’ve heard from many sources that free apps outpace paid apps by almost 10-1. Given the pirate marketplace is free, you’d expect a big multiplier here. In addition, the pirate download sites are a more level playing field; unlike the App Store where the highlighted apps are either hand-picked by Apple or have extraordinary sales, on the pirate sites every app is at the same level.
So is this good or bad for the game?
Remember that the goal of the game was to make people laugh. Whether you’re a pirate or a scallywag you’re still probably going to laugh when you see Joe get kicked in the balls. So in the grand scheme of things, with humor as the goal, this doesn’t really matter.
But let’s be frank, sales are important. To continue developing out this game we need revenue. However I don’t think that piracy really hurts there either. The people stealing the game probably wouldn’t have paid for it in the first place, but maybe they’ll show it to a friend who will pay for it.
On some metaphoric level, there is something really bad about this. Imagine if a farmer brought 1000lbs of nuts to a local supermarket for sale. The farmer comes back to collect his income a week later and the store says “Hey, here’s the money for 250lbs of nuts. We’re sorry but people stole the other 750lbs.” This would never fly. But this is software, not nut farming, and the dynamics just aren’t the same.
So in summation, it’s probably not a bad thing that all this theft is happening. I’m more bitter about the fact that I had to spend an extraordinary amount of time dealing with the Apple code signing system which is designed in part to prevent piracy. For the days of time I spent dealing with code signing issues, this comes back as a big kick in the balls.
So lets serve one back up to the app pirates of the world… this is in thanks for your support of independent developers. ARRR PIRATE NUTS!
For more insight on iPhone piracy and how to prevent it, check out this article.