The Android piracy problem

The piracy on Android train continues to roll on, with developers continually favoring iOS as a result. And there doesn't appear to be much being done on Google's end to quell the piracy fears, either.
The piracy on Android train continues to roll on, with developers continually favoring iOS as a result. And there doesn't appear to be much being done on Google's end to quell the piracy fears, either. One huge issue is that the average smartphone gamer doesn't even realize that piracy is as bad as it is on Android, and subsequently may accidentally download a pirated version of a game, Misha Lyalin, CEO of Cut the Rope developer ZeptoLab tells Gamasutra. "Users ofter search for 'Cut the Rope' through a search engine and end up downloading a pirated version," Lyalin says. "That's just an honest mistake. "While we do try to take down most copycats and pirates, a lot of ways to protect our games would be not very user-friendly or won't meet our quality standards. Because the user is the most important piece of our puzzle, we generally choose to focus on adopting our business model -- utilizing ads and in-app purchases - rather than taking on pirates," he says. The iOS platform is still Zeptolab's top priority as a result of Android's issues, Lyalin admits, although the Android platform still allows his studio to deliver its games to a huge number of players, despite whether they actually pay for the products or not. "Ultimately, that is what's most important to us," he says.

Dead on arrival

Madfinger Games marketing boss Anna Porizkova isn't so sure that the piracy issue is a problem of Android itself. "To us, piracy is a general contemporary problem. It is so easy to get a pirated copy everywhere for free that people don't even think about buying it," says the Dead Trigger and Shadowgun developer. "This is the norm nowadays. It's normal not to pay for anything you can have for free and nobody cares. All developers are tackling this problem, and so we are." Madfinger recently made its zombie shooter Dead Trigger free-to-play as a result of terrible piracy rates -- however, this wasn't the first time that the studio had fallen foul to piracy on the platform. Dead-Trigger.jpg"The piracy rate for Shadowgun was actually even higher," she tells us. "It reached 90 percent, then after a few months decreased to 80 percent and now it is falling bit by bit and averaging at 78 percent. Being sold for $8 and $5 later, there was no effective way of defending against piracy." And yet, the studio believes that "Android is just as important as iOS. Both platforms have their pros and cons anyway. As for development issues, there are no differences between these platforms. We do not prefer one of them to the other." She goes on to note, "The Android install base is so big that it can't be cold-shouldered by developers - especially when using the Unity engine makes this process considerably easier," Porizkova isn't sure yet whether Madfinger's next game will also be made free-to-play, although she is aware of the current popularity of the model. "Let's see how it will be doing in couple months," she adds.

Shock of the new

Sports Interactive's dabble with the Android space was well documented earlier this year, when its game Football Manager Handheld saw a piracy ratio of 9:1 on the Google platform. The studio's director Miles Jacobson noted that he has never seen piracy rates that bad before -- Football Manager 2009 had a 5:1 piracy rate, but that's about as bad as it had been before Football Manager Handheld hit Android. "We are well aware of piracy on all platforms, and were expecting it to be bad on Android," he added. "But it's still a shock when you see just how bad it is! It has had an effect on the company - there are costs, both financial and opportunity wise, for each person playing the game, and each hurdle that we face." Jacobson believes that the Android platform simply cannot stay in the same way that is currently is otherwise all Google Play users are going to be left with is free-to-play titles. "Someone clever will come along and do something to help fix it," he adds. "Piracy will never go away though - it hasn't on any format in the last 30 years."

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