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How Android piracy is affecting a free game

Everybody knows Android piracy is a real issue, especially for game developers. In this post I’m going to discuss the piracy which affected my game during the first month on Google Play, the official Android store.

Davide Coppola, Blogger

July 21, 2016

5 Min Read

Everybody knows Android piracy is a real issue, especially for game developers. In this post I’m going to discuss the piracy which affected my latest mobile project during its first month on Google Play, the official Android store.

Android piracy

The game I'm going to talk you about in this post is called Sim Betting Football. It is a free Android game available for download on Google Play since the 15th of June 2016.

It’s easy to think that because the game is free it can’t be affected by piracy. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Android piracy doesn’t stop to illegally downloading paid apps, but it goes way beyond that especially with users running custom Android versions.

The type of piracy which affects Sim Betting Football involves fake In App Purchases. Basically some apps can trick Google services to use a “virtual” credit card allowing users to spend infinite “virtual” money on any IAP in games and other apps. There are also other systems to pirate IAPs, but despite the way they work the end result is the same.

The users

Before talking about piracy numbers, it’s probably better adding some context to this story starting with the game’s userbase.

As you can see in the chart below, most of our users are from Italy (33.2%), the UK (12.7%) , Egypt (5.2%) and Romania (4.6%).

Sim Betting Football users by country

Considering Sim Betting Football is a game about football and gambling, those numbers are not particularly surprising, especially when looking at the top country. After all the game is also localised in Italian.

The IAPs

At the time of writing Sim Betting Football offers 5 different IAPs ranging from £0.72/0.92€/$0.99 for the cheapest to £40/51€/$47 for the most expensive one.

These IAPs give gamers virtual coins they can spend within the game to unlock content or gamble on the simulated football matches (core gameplay).

Gamers can also get free virtual coins by simply playing the game or watching video ads, which means gamers can play the full game for free as long as they want.

Piracy stats

As anticipated earlier, the type of piracy affecting Sim Betting Football involves fake IAPs.

During the first month on Google Play 99.8% of all IAPs have been pirated or obtained without paying any money. In terms of userbase, 2.2% of the users have pirated IAPs.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the game offers 5 different IAPs. As expected, the most pirated IAP is the most expensive virtual coins pack (74%).

Sim Betting Football pirated IAPs

Something I was not expecting is that the second most pirated IAP is the cheapest one (17.9%). Maybe people feel less guilty for pirating something cheap.

Thanks to Google Analytics I found out that most of the piracy comes from 3 countries: Italy (72.7%), Nigeria (10.4%) and the USA (6.9%). Together they cover 90% of the total piracy affecting the game.

Sim Betting Football piracy by country

It is also possible to know that the cities which generate most piracy are Naples (45%), Rome (18.6%), Lagos (10.4%) and San Jose (6.9%). Together they cover almost 81% of the total piracy affecting Sim Betting Football.

Sim Betting Football piracy by city

This is particularly disappointing, because despite the fact I’ve now been living in London a quarter of my life, Naples is my hometown. The place were I was born and raised. This is making things much worse to accept.

Fighting piracy

Would it be possible to fight piracy and to stop this?

Not really, at least not completely, but it would be possible to make things harder for pirates and to reduce those numbers quite a lot.

The reason why I am not dedicating resources to fight piracy is that I am the only developer working on this game. My time and resources are limited. For now I prefer to focus on new features and fixes rather than to fight a battle against people who would probably never spend money anyway.

A message to pirates

I don’t justify piracy, but I do understand how sometimes it can be the only way to get what you want.

At the same time I hope you’ll understand that Vindicta Games is not King or Supercell and that piracy means game over for me and no more Sim Betting Football for you.

I listen to a lot of music from Youtube because I can’t afford to pay for every single album I wanted, but at the same time I do not use ad-blockers and I regularly go to gigs and buy merchandising. Quite often I also share videos of my favourite bands on social networks to try to give them some extra visibility.

Long story short, you can get stuff for free and help creators at the same time.

Obviously I am not asking you to come to see me singing (you would not like that) or to buy anything.

If you are playing and enjoying Sim Betting Football you can still support the game for free. For example you can watch video ads while playing the game and spread the word with your friends and on social networks. Simply follow and share any of the social pages of the game like FacebookGoogle+Instagram or Twitter and the link to Google Play to download the game.

If you have to or want to be a pirate be one with a conscience at least.


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