An iPhone App Developer's Take on Piracy: Work With Pirates, Not Against Them

Illustration for article titled An iPhone App Developer's Take on Piracy: Work With Pirates, Not Against Them

The creator of iCombat weighed in with his thoughts on newly-popular piracy of iPhone apps with an interesting conclusion: It's not worth the trouble to police the pirates, and they might even prove helpful.

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iCombat, a take on Combat for Atari (that we quite liked), suffered from a huge ratio of pirates to legitimate users: Nearly 5:1 for the app's first week before levelling out to about 1:1 later. That's right, five times as many pirates as paying users.

Yet the app's creator isn't furiously chasing after pirates. He implemented a sort of trick version for pirates that only reaches level 5 (of 20) before displaying a button leading to a page on his site that reads:

Hi if you have been directed to this page it's because we see that you have a pirated copy. While we are glad you are interested please understand that we want to continue making it better, but to do that we need people to each pay for their copy. If you want to continue using please purchase today.

He reasons that word of mouth is word of mouth, and pirates represent an opportunity to upsell the full app. Besides, just because someone pirates an app doesn't mean you're losing money; many pirates have no intention of paying for an app, so it's not like you would have gotten their money anyway. If the app can't be pirated, many would just go without.

It's an interesting read, for sure. Seeing as how some of us are pirates ourselves, we like the idea of working around the issue rather than attacking it as if it'll go away. [iCombat]

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DISCUSSION

Brdf
Brdf

I know a guy who has hundreds (well, whatever the max is) of apps pirated on his iPhone, and takes every opportunity he can to show them off to whoever will look. Many of those he shows have iPhones, but none, as far as I know, has gone through the trouble of jailbreaking. However, they have been quite ready to buy apps, and indeed seem to do so when they see something they like. It's much easier to buy something after actually playing it, than searching through the overwhelmingly large and ill-organized store. Even free lite versions aren't nearly as useful, since the pirated examples have been pre-selected and there's no need to go through the (mild, but still deterring) hassle of downloading it into their own iPhones. And indeed, most of the apps people try are of no appeal to them, so this is quite a useful service for them, and to the developers they do choose to purchase from. And since most of his pirated apps I'm sure he would never have bought, had that been the only option (like most hackers, he's a cheapskate), this method, for all its illegality, is clearly generating more revenue for developers than would be the case in a jailbreakless world.

(On a totally separate note: why does Gizmodo log me out after only 5 minutes? It's really annoying if, for instance, I go away from the computer mid-comment, come back, hit submit, and it says "You don't have permission to do that" and eats my comment. Very bad form, Giz.)