Earlier this week, Pocket Gamer reported on Appy Entertainment’s claim that the recently released FaceFighter game has been pirated at a ratio of 70:1 on the Android versus 3:1 on the iOS. Appy’s Executive Producer Steven Sargent commented on the situation and said, “That’s crippling.”
Gaming Bus contacted Steven Sargent to ask how they had reached these figures. His response was as follows:
“The process was pretty simple: We know how many people paid for the App from the receipts from the different stores. We know how many people have downloaded and and run the App. I can’t really give more specifics than that as I don’t want to give out our actual sales figures.”
Piracy isn’t the only problem plaguing the Android platform as several compatibility issues surrounding the game exist as well. Steve went into some detail about these hurdles:
“We had around half the memory compared to iOS, but we didn’t know there wasn’t unified compression across Android devices. We had to brute force textures to 25 percent just to get the game to run, although this wasn’t an option for the final release. The audio was very buggy, and we couldn’t work out how to fix it, so we didn’t.”
These were not the only problems that Appy faced, either, as he later said:
“Android 2.3 came out and broke everything. There are too many devices for a company of our size to deal with the compatibility on Android. Compatibility was a real nightmare.”
Analysis: I don’t believe this statement about the Android platform being difficult to work with is the whole story. While I’m not a programmer, I do have many friends who are, and they’ve said something very similar to this statement by Mugunth Kumar over at Quora.com:
“The argument that Android is easier than iPhone is too specious. You don’t learn a language. You learn the platform. Just knowing Java doesn’t automatically mean you know Android. On both the platforms, you should know what is technically possible and what is not.”
This is what I think happened: they just wanted to port their app from the iOS to the Android. This leads me to speculate that they didn’t try to support the Android platform from the ground up, and this decision proved to be disastrous. Steve has not hidden the fact that they’re an Apple-friendly company and that iOS has more to offer, technically speaking, compared to Android.
The epic piracy problem, I believe, happened in part because of poor support for the Android platform. Now, I don’t have a mobile phone because I don’t need one, so I’m not going to say I know the mindset of a mobile gamer, but I’ve heard this argument about piracy on the PC and when people have pointed out the technical issues for a ported game. The sales never picked up, and so the piracy numbers are given as the reason why it’s not doing well. The customers aren’t going to buy a broken ported game. They’ll try and see if it works by pirating it, and if it doesn’t, they won’t pay for it. It’s that simple.
I don’t condone piracy at all. I think everyone should be paid for the work they do, and this is why I advocate trying a demo or a time-based trial for a game before I buy it for my PC. I know that there’s a free trial for the FaceFighter game, but the personal comments and scoring back up what I said: people are saying, “Don’t download this because it’s broken.”
In the end, the blame for the piracy rate falls on both sides of the fence. Appy took a blow to the face, and even though piracy hurts, this is how people will respond when they feel like they’re being screwed. As for the pirates, they do have their chances to play a game before buying it, so they ought to use it more. This game may not be worth people’s money for the full version, but if pirates keep actively screwing developers like this, either they’ll start implementing more aggressive DRM on the mobile platform or they won’t support it at all. Either way, it won’t be pretty.