Back when the manufacturing of pirated games literally meant the production of carts with game code on them (or, at least, carts the dodgy guy behind the stall assured you had game code on them), dealing with the sale of illegal copies of titles was less of an issue. Though there are always exceptions to every rule, good games generally sold well, the chaff was pushed to the side, and pirated copies were a very very small thorn in gaming’s side.
Now, with many games being distributed digitally, piracy is a much bigger issue, and one that seems to be gaining an ever greater presence on the iPhone. Following claims from developers that piracy rates can reach as high as 90 per cent, PR outfit Triple Point– responsible for the promotion of the rather excellent Orbital– has made public the problems it’s having getting gamers to download games. Well, legally, anyway.
‘The reviews are unanimous. Orbital is one of the best games on the iPhone,’ Triple Point’s blog declares. ‘This game must have sold like a million units right? The developers must be on a beach somewhere buying Ferraris on eBay and having Scottish castles airlifted to Brazilian mountaintops, right? Not quite.’
The blog continues, ‘Orbital’s sales figures are somewhat more modest than the reviews would suggest. As of this writing the game has still sold far less than 100,000 units. That’s not even a gold record.’
According to Triple Point, piracy is the main reason behind the game’s commercial “failure”, the company going as far as to warn others considering moving into iPhone development of the format’s pitfalls.
‘In its first week on the iTunes App Store, the game saw a piracy rate of 80 per cent,’ the entry continues. ‘Today, the piracy rate is down to 24 per cent because they attached cannons to it. Even so, all those pirates grab the dollar candy, stuff their pockets, and don’t pay. Whether or not that really represents lost revenue depends on if you believe the pirates would have paid in a checkout system with better security guards. 5.8 hours of entertainment is worth two bucks whoever you are, guaranteed.
‘So before you take out that second mortgage, sell your car, and bet it all on iPhone development, keep in mind that even the best apps are no guarantee of commercial success. App Store success isn’t so much about catching lightning in a bottle as it is about when your lightning strikes and what other bolts are coming down at the same time.’
Amongst all this talk of rising iPhone sales and an influx of apps and customers alike to the App Store, it’s somewhat sobering to hear about the problems such games are having, especially when the games in question are rather good.