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Benefiting From Piracy

As an indy developer it's important to maximize every cent that your product could potentially generate

As an indy developer it's important that you can maximize every cent that your product could potentially generate. There are already multiple avenues at little or no cost that are already available at your disposal to help you correctly identify potential income leaks that may exist with your product. Granted, application security and analytics tracking may not be the most interesting aspect of game development, but it is an important one none the less.

One inevitable problem that exists for all developers to track is software piracy. With the speed of modern search engines, it has become increasingly easy to search for illegal priate version of nearly any software that you would need. Due to this fact piracy has become a real problem for developers of all sizes. Fortunately for the indy developer we can implement several features that will limit our exposure to revenue losses due to piracy, if not stopping them outright. 

Where do they all come from?

In my opinon Google Analytics has become an invaluable tool for tracking traffic sources as well as information about how your consumers are using your product. With the advanced tools that are given withing the analytics algorithm you can even see how you are converting players into paying customers. 

Google Analytics graph

 There is more length documentation on google analytics on thier site, but it's about as easy to implement as adding a single java snipet. By using Analytics or other tools that track your users, you can see both trusted and untrusted partners who are distrbuting your game successfully. By determining who these parties are, you can better utilize your advertising budget to gain more exposure in the areas where you are converting the most sales. 

Locking your Doors and Windows

Currently the most popular method of maintaining control of unauthorized access to your applications is throught a web based user login. It is relatively easy to implement a system which requires users to login before accessing the main features of your game. Like all security even this is not infallable, as it can be broken by a skilled pirate who is curious enough to decomplile your code and find the login code, but a login will allow you easily monitor access to your game and will prevent illegal users from accessing your latest updates and patches. This type of system is not without it's shortcomings however. First, users will be required to have access to the internet at the time that they want to play your game, which might be a point of contention for gamers who travel a lot or don't have ready access to the internet for some reason. For simple casual games, users are likely to abandon the process of loading your game if they get wind that it will require a login. Additionally you will require an additional level of support for the constant slow of support emails from users who loose thier password or don't understant the process (yes, they are out there).

A Game Login 

Dont Be Humble

It is really important to insert your comapny name and/or site link into your application as much as possible. Ideally, this is a direct point of sale to any other products that your company has already developed. In the least it is a watermark which directs legal and illegal users alike back to your network and gives you a second opportunity to monetize these users into paying customers. Even in cases where pirates have circumvented your primary securit, in game links are a successful way to benefit from users who continue to play your game. Generally the amount of time for a pirate to search and remove each and every link in your game will be too great an effort.  I am constantly amazed at how many free games in the android and iTunes stores do not even bother to imbed links into thier applications. A user will almost never take the time to type in an address or follow more than three clicks to get to your company info, so make it easy for them. If you successfully imbed your links even pirated versions of your game and lead to sales. 

Make sure to Cross your T's and dot your I's

One final security measure that we have begun to implement at babesoul.com (warning!! : NSFW) is the inclusion of a hard coded website authorization that checks that the game is running at the appropriate location. This is more easily done in games which are played in a web browser, such as flash and unity. Adding this level of security helps ensure that your game does not get displayed in URLs which you have not specifially designated. In the case of our latest games, we would publish 2 versions of the game. One version would act as the demo version does not include the web authorization code. This version would be distributed to sales partners which we wanted to display our game freely to drive visitors to our paid version. The other version would include the security measures and resides on our premium members site which can only be accessed be paid customers.

Use Your Best Judgement

One thing to remember is that there is no hard and fast rule to game security. Only you can determine which avenues will best serve your product and cause the least amount of headaches for your customers. Through systematic practice of some level of security during the course of your devlopment, you will ensure that you can effectively reap the true rewards of your hard work. 
 

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