Dev Talk: Is Piracy Still an Issue for Mobile Game Devs? (Part 1)

Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, a new weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.

This week I posed the following question: “Is piracy still a big issue for mobile game developers?”

Here’s what the devs had to say…

Rami Ismail, Vlambeer


Sam Coster, Butterscotch Shenanigans

Yes and no. There is still a ridiculous amount of it, which is certainly aggravating as a dev, but the growth in the paying userbase has been substantial over the last few years. You just have to ignore it.

Mat Loz, Lozenge Lab

Piracy is an issue in all entertainment industries; movies, music, apps and video games are no exception. Google recently announced they will take measures on Google Play. I’m curious to see what they are building.

Honestly, I wouldn’t know. 10tons is a multiplatform developer, so we probably don’t have the deepest, most detailed picture of every nook and cranny of every platform and the phenomena that are involved. Two other points: Paid mobile games, which I assume are the hardest hit with piracy, haven’t been a huge business for several years generally speaking, so that alone limits any impact to certain level. Piracy has also always been there, and in spite of significant effort, it’s not showing signs of going away. As with other facts of life, it’s questionable how much one should stress over it.

That said, as soon as we run a beta of a Steam game or an Android game, we see a handful of warez/APK links pop up. Or at the very latest when the game is released. Without fail, every time. And we can see in analytics that the pirated versions are being played. I think the ballpark is something like 10-20% of legit copy amount. That kind of sounds significant, but I don’t think at all that it equals 10-20% lost sales, not by a long shot. I think it mostly represents the fact that some people pirate games, but most buy them. We have practically no anti-piracy measures in any of our games.

My games aren’t popular enough to be pirated! 🙂
Yes I believe it is. Personally however my game has yet to be pirated thankfully. I think that it mostly due to the (as of yet) lack of traction, but it also might be due to my conscious awareness of the problem and the steps I took to combat it (obfuscation of code to make it difficult to pirate).

Trent Gamblin, Nooskewl

Most mobile games have turned to the F2P model because of piracy. Piracy is still an issue for premium games. We’ve been bitten by this significantly because we release premium games with no DRM. The Google dashboard shows several times as many players using the game features than have legally bought our games. I’m not certain the problem is as big on iOS though. I come across pirated copies for Android far more often.

Goktug Yilmaz

According to our data roughly 50% of players pirate the game. Is that a big issue? I’m not sure.

Thairine Santos, Cookie Pixel

Piracy is prevalent in the mobile game market. It is expected and must be taken into account before development. However, we believe that any attempt to defeat it from the developers’ side will be in vain. So, yes, it is an issue, but there is not much we can do about it. For a game studio like Cookie Pixel that tends toward the hobbyist end of the indie spectrum, we can only hope that piracy will be a form of free marketing.

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