Fishlabs: Piracy Threatens App Store’s Future

When Ngmoco’s VP Alan Yu claimed that some iPhone games suffer piracy rates of up to 90 per cent in their first week on sale at the end of last month, some were keen to dismiss his view as an overestimation. But now it would appear that the wagons are circling, with Fishlabs’ CEO Michael Schade claiming that 95 per cent of the people playing the studio’s recent hit Rally Master Pro on its first day were using illegal, pirated copies.

Speaking on the TouchArcade.com forums, Schade mentioned the figure almost in passing, the meat of his post actually concerning the game’s recent price-drop in Europe.

‘We think Rally Master Pro is a polished game… but we don’t want to argue with our customers,’ he said on the site. ‘However, it feels kind of strange to be facing a discussion… about international price points on a game that we have spent 5,000 working hours on. In combination with 95 per cent piracy on the first day, this makes it very hard to believe in the future of the App Store, sometimes.’

Schade went on to tell Mobile Entertainment that Fishlabs estimated that ‘thousands’ of pirated copies of Rally Master Pro were being played on day one, the studio tracking ‘unique device identifiers anonymously per day’ to ‘deduct the reported sales and we have the number of pirated downloads.”

Though Schade’s statement has no real bearing on how many pirated copies are making the rounds now-’“ or even any other games beyond Rally Master Pro, in truth-’“ the fact that he believes it’s having a detrimental effect on the App Store, which is the lifeblood of a multitude of independent studios, should send waves throughout the industry. It’s a sign of the iPhone coming of age, the naive notion that it’s miracle cure for all of gaming’s ills finally being blown away.

But just what can be done about such potent piracy remains up in the air. “There are a lot of possibilities to encrypt the applications stronger,” Schade concluded to Mobile Entertainment. “Apple told us in-app purchase is one key against piracy, but I doubt that. We will see in the future how well in-app purchases fight piracy.”