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Another Developer Slams Google Over Android Piracy

By - Source: Matt Gemmell | B 51 comments

A closed platform like iOS is the only way developers can make money on a mobile platform.

Last week, developer Madfinger Games said that it made its recent zombie FPS, Dead Trigger, a free-to-play game because of the "unbelievably high" piracy on Android. It was originally priced at a mere $0.99, a price point thought low enough to attract business. But the ratio of pirated versions outnumbered the paid copies, so the company decided to offer it for free. Either way, the developer will still make money thanks to in-game purchases.

As if striking a nerve, another developer has come forth, saying that there's no money to be made on the Android platform because of the rampant piracy issue. He even goes so far as to saying that Android is designed for piracy from the ground up because users can simply enable non-Market apps, copy the apk file onto the device, install it, and then run it without any kind of DRM. Thus, pirating Android apps is easy because the platform was built with an open mentality.

"You can say what you like about handset share, or first-party/carrier development: that’s only one piece of the puzzle," writes Matt Gemmell, an iOS developer. "Another piece is community contributions to the OS codebase. On the first point, iOS devices are doing just fine. On the second, a closed OS has only strengthened the brand, cohesion of direction, integration, usability and design standard of the product."

The third factor, he says, is the software ecosystem. It’s about whether or not, when the user picks up the handset and decides he/she wants to do something, there’s an app for that. "To have apps, you need developers. To have developers, you need enthusiasm and an investment of time and talent. Enthusiasm and effort can be driven by many motivations, but the most reliable and consistent of those is money. Yes, there it is: the m-word. It’s not a dirty word. You wouldn’t have your shiny handset without it, not because you wouldn’t have been able to afford it, but because it wouldn’t exist," he adds.

He says that in order for 3rd-party developers to get paid, the operating system needs to be locked down. Just like in real life, closing the door and locking it helps make sure thieves don't walk in and steal money. Bad behavior must be more difficult than good behavior - and good behavior means paying for the software.

"Open is an ideal, like true democracy, that’s warm and comforting but also impossible in a practical sense. It’s self-limiting," he says. "You’re spending today to pay for tomorrow, and we all know how that usually turns out. I want the futuristic, liberal, socialized utopia as much as you do, but I acknowledge that what we actually get is the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Capitalism wins, and it’ll drown you in the process if you stand in the way."

To read the full piracy rant, head here. Ultimately this iOS developer concludes that closed is better for business.

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , July 30, 2012 7:18 AM
    Don`t think like Sony! Preventing people to do what they want with their hardware is not the solution!
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2012 7:54 AM
    You suck at writing un-biased articles. If you do the actual research on where the piracy is coming from, you will see that most of it comes from China where they can't legally purchase apps. Not only that but Google has even supplied a solution for developers that are whining about this android Piracy problem.
    From developer.android.com:
    "The Google Play Licensing service is primarily intended for paid applications that wish to verify that the current user did in fact pay for the application on Google Play."

    That comes from the official page for the Android Application Licensing service. It's a digital-rights-management platform provided by Google. It's real, it exists, and it doesn't really fit the narrative that Android is built for piracy.

    Sure, this doesn't change the fact that piracy is a problem on the OS, but a viable solution is available. Perhaps Gemmell should be asking his Android counterparts why they don't use the tools available to them to fight this age-old issue with all software."
  • 14 Hide
    tobalaz , July 30, 2012 9:04 AM
    Wow, people pirate on iOS all the time, it's called jailbreaking, it exists, its easy to do and I know just as many people with jailbroken iPhones/ iPod touches/ iPads as I do with rooted Android phones and tablets, and you know what, they don't pay for squat.
    The people that are bitching are the guys that can afford to pay Apple to put their apps on market, not the little guy who develops a "free app" that does just as much or more as the paid app.
    I have an Android phone and love it, I don't have to pirate jack because the thousands upon thousands of free apps and games available, again, some just as good or better than a paid app.
    You want to make money on Android?
    Release your app twice, one free and add supported and one add free with a price tag, most users will pay to remove the ads if they like the app, and that way it can be tried without purchase that still leaves a purchase route open unlike where the only way to try a purchase only app is to side load it on the phone/ tablet, by then, they already have it and you just lost a potential sale.
    You want to make money on a game? Micro transactions. Everyone is already nickle and dimming us to death with DLC on the games we paid $60 for on a console, so a free game where we purchase a few boosts or items works and we're happy about it because if we enjoy the game, we can pay, again, giving us the opportunity to get our feet wet and see if we want to continue to play.
    People are lazy, they will suffer add supported apps if its a quick install without any work on their part, some people will hack in an app, but not as many as these "poor developers" would have us believe.
    Face it, Google made its money with ADDS, they designed their FREE OS around ADDS. It's NOT iOS, and you're a damn fool if you think the same business model is going to work on both Android and iOS. You're behind times just like the people that screamed iTunes was going to kill CD sales and AVI and MP4 was going to kill DVDs.
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    Kami3k , July 30, 2012 7:10 AM
    Most apps suck anyway. And guess who are the people complaining!

    That's right folks, the same people making those crappy apps!
  • 1 Hide
    sylvez , July 30, 2012 7:13 AM
    As an Android user (and lover) the first thought that ran through my mind was 'shut up and stop whining' but we can cover our ears and sing 'lalalalalalala' all we want he does make sense.
    A completely closed system like Apple is definitely not the way, but Google needs to make installing external apps a little bit harder. This can also weed out those peeps who just download everything off the net without thinking and running on their phones and then crying when something bad happens to their phone.
  • 24 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , July 30, 2012 7:18 AM
    Don`t think like Sony! Preventing people to do what they want with their hardware is not the solution!
  • 10 Hide
    Vorador2 , July 30, 2012 7:29 AM
    Customer freedom is evil, true democracy is fake, rampant capitalism FTW, yadda yadda yadda. What an idiot. Guys like them deserve to be booted out of business altogether if you treat your customers like your enemies.

    It also reads like they're too lazy to develop an anti-piracy system on their own, and want it given to them. Also they seem to fall in the mistake of thinking that a pirated copy equals to a lost sale, something that it is not true at all.

    Sideloading, who they think is the biggest problem, for me is a godsend. I can make individual backups of apps with data, change my ROM and then load them back the way they were.
  • 11 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2012 7:47 AM
    "A closed platform like iOS is the only way developers can make money on a mobile platform." really guys......... really ? Six guns and dead trigger, with their in-game cash shop items, are making more money than they ever did pay2play. I promise.

    Just like Microsoft and Windows. No money for developers there. This site obviously makes no money from the tons of users on pirated software visiting it. Fml, this is stupid and the person who wrote this article is worse off
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2012 7:54 AM
    You suck at writing un-biased articles. If you do the actual research on where the piracy is coming from, you will see that most of it comes from China where they can't legally purchase apps. Not only that but Google has even supplied a solution for developers that are whining about this android Piracy problem.
    From developer.android.com:
    "The Google Play Licensing service is primarily intended for paid applications that wish to verify that the current user did in fact pay for the application on Google Play."

    That comes from the official page for the Android Application Licensing service. It's a digital-rights-management platform provided by Google. It's real, it exists, and it doesn't really fit the narrative that Android is built for piracy.

    Sure, this doesn't change the fact that piracy is a problem on the OS, but a viable solution is available. Perhaps Gemmell should be asking his Android counterparts why they don't use the tools available to them to fight this age-old issue with all software."
  • 2 Hide
    hannibal , July 30, 2012 8:17 AM
    The problem may be that developers abandon android platform, and that would mean hard time to get any programs to Android devices.
    Hmm.. In long run it would kill Android devices.
  • 4 Hide
    megahustler , July 30, 2012 8:19 AM
    I'm consistently disappointed with the low number of available programs for my Windows 7 PC.

    Until now, I didn't realize it's because I can just get software from anywhere and not just from a Microsoft App Store that sells only Microsoft approved programs.
  • 6 Hide
    tului , July 30, 2012 8:48 AM
    They don't need to make installing external apks harder. They need to make installing pirated apks harder.
  • 14 Hide
    tobalaz , July 30, 2012 9:04 AM
    Wow, people pirate on iOS all the time, it's called jailbreaking, it exists, its easy to do and I know just as many people with jailbroken iPhones/ iPod touches/ iPads as I do with rooted Android phones and tablets, and you know what, they don't pay for squat.
    The people that are bitching are the guys that can afford to pay Apple to put their apps on market, not the little guy who develops a "free app" that does just as much or more as the paid app.
    I have an Android phone and love it, I don't have to pirate jack because the thousands upon thousands of free apps and games available, again, some just as good or better than a paid app.
    You want to make money on Android?
    Release your app twice, one free and add supported and one add free with a price tag, most users will pay to remove the ads if they like the app, and that way it can be tried without purchase that still leaves a purchase route open unlike where the only way to try a purchase only app is to side load it on the phone/ tablet, by then, they already have it and you just lost a potential sale.
    You want to make money on a game? Micro transactions. Everyone is already nickle and dimming us to death with DLC on the games we paid $60 for on a console, so a free game where we purchase a few boosts or items works and we're happy about it because if we enjoy the game, we can pay, again, giving us the opportunity to get our feet wet and see if we want to continue to play.
    People are lazy, they will suffer add supported apps if its a quick install without any work on their part, some people will hack in an app, but not as many as these "poor developers" would have us believe.
    Face it, Google made its money with ADDS, they designed their FREE OS around ADDS. It's NOT iOS, and you're a damn fool if you think the same business model is going to work on both Android and iOS. You're behind times just like the people that screamed iTunes was going to kill CD sales and AVI and MP4 was going to kill DVDs.
  • -3 Hide
    belardo , July 30, 2012 9:09 AM
    And its also not in Google's best interests to let piracy run free on their system... that is also how they make money.

    If Malcolmest is correct, then google already has a solution. I will admit, I've never bought an Android app... or even an apple app... I just use the free stuff. But hey, $1 for a game is a good deal and cheaper than any Nintendo DS game.

    People SHOULD pay for the software that is for sale. If you can afford a $200 phone, but pirate because you are broke, then something is wrong.

    Any developer that makes software for iOS and Android can tell you "We make money selling the APPS on iOS, but make little to no money with Android unless its with add-banners" - including the Angry Birds series.

    As most of us know, WP7 is pretty much a failure... and MS is really pushing for the close Metro OS system across the PC/tablet/Phone markets. Want to drive business to that model?
  • -1 Hide
    RealityClash , July 30, 2012 9:09 AM
    Gotta love how i bought Dead Trigger only a few days before it became free, then after emailing Madfinger Games asking to get a refund or some sort of in app purchase for free I don't get any sort of reply...
  • 6 Hide
    Chasepoes , July 30, 2012 9:13 AM
    Closing the system, or making it harder to install apk's is not the way t go. I love the freedom my Android device gives me. I do buy official apps, as long as they are indeed delivering (there are a lot of crappy apps out there). There are lots of options (even provided by Google) to counter piracy. The apps I've purchased deliver what they promise, work well and get frequent updates or enhancements. For that I'm willing to pay and not having the hassle of waiting for a pirated update every time and running the risk of getting some kind of malware infected crap on my device. But paying for a poorly designed app, with almost no updates or support...naahh..I don't even want the pirated version of that.

    So don't blame Android..Use it well, develop well and make users want to buy something.
  • -9 Hide
    randomizer , July 30, 2012 9:16 AM
    The bandwagon has plenty of room. Who's wants to be the next whiner to jump on?
  • 8 Hide
    razor512 , July 30, 2012 9:28 AM
    Most android games are crap, and even worst, most of the games have no demo's, and the few that have demos, provide such a limited experience that it makes the game look bad.


    free to play, if done right, can be very profitable, but if you are greedy with it and go crazy with pushing micro transactions, then people will leave you in droves.

    Most free to play mobile games are set up in a way where you are punished for not paying, or if it is multiplayer then you are in a situation where someone who has paid for a few extra items has an unfair advantage.

    DRM is not the way to stop piracy, the way to stop it, is to offer something that the pirates cant offer, and that is features that increases the ease of use. (for example, steam games have less piracy even though they are easier to crack, and that is because of the convenience of how steam manages the games, and even saves disk space by consolidating files that are used in between games).

    At my work place, I helped set up a firewall (that was very expensive to handle all of the users and has a monthly fee that is not exactly small business friendly. but they wanted it because when I find a issue with the firewall, I can simply call someone up or e-mail them, and I will be taken seriously and in a few days, I will have a update sent out that fixes the issue.

    If you are a developer and are charging people for your software, then you have to have the right mindset for providing customer service. If someone is having an error message when downloading the game content and they contact you for support and your first response is to accuse them of piracy, then when they provide proof of purchase, you then offer no help and never get back to the person on your efforts to research the issue and fix it, then what do you expect.



    if you want to sell games, then provide a good way for people to sample the game, let them play like 1/4th or 1/3rd of the game with no limitations compared to the full paid copy.
    if it is a MMO then let them play the same as a paid copy until a certain level.

    (if people can put the effort to go through a large portion of the game then they pretty much want to see the whole thing through)

    A demo should allow a user to demo the full experience of a game. Stop releasing crippled ones as idiots like the complaining developers that do it, poison the well for demoing software, and thus more people are likely to pirate the game, and thus more likely to forget to pay for it if they really like the game..



    Also be ready to offer good customer service. (I am not saying it is easy, but it is a must). A dev team that supports the customers will attract more customers. if someone has an issue and contacts you about it, providing s**t service (eg a generic response and never getting back to them, or accusing them of pirating until they can prove that the copy is paid for, or any other thing that does not involve acknowledging the issue and responding with a solution, or offering a blog post update if many are having the issue, and if no solution is available, then being proactive with updates on fixing the issue, then don't complain when people fail to see the value in paying for the software.

    For me, I don't really game, I only played one game on android (free copy of angry birds which kinda sucked) there are just no good indepth games like you would find on the PSP, or nintendo DS or other portable consoles, and while they are not priced as such, for those portable consoles, those good indepth games eventually become just as cheap when they hit the bargain bin but offer many times more value.

    also don't expect some 2D game that becomes repetitive after a few minutes to sell as well as a game such as elder scrolls skyrim, and don't blame it on piracy when you don't hit your goal of 500000 billion sales or some other unrealistic expectation for your buggy game that you want people to pay for and have faith that you will someday release a patch.
  • 2 Hide
    lamorpa , July 30, 2012 11:38 AM
    I see the game stealers use the same BS arguments at the music and movie stealers.

    (now watch the nonsense arguments to follow:
    1) It 'crap' so I shouldn't have to pay (then what business do you have getting it?)
    2) I'm only making a copy so nothing it taken (just point-blank stupid)
    3) 'they' make too much money (no one cares about your childish envy)
    Can you add any more?)
  • -2 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , July 30, 2012 11:50 AM
    tobalazWow, people pirate on iOS all the time, it's called jailbreaking, it exists, its easy to do and I know just as many people with jailbroken iPhones/ iPod touches/ iPads as I do with rooted Android phones and tablets, and you know what, they don't pay for squat.The people that are bitching are the guys that can afford to pay Apple to put their apps on market, not the little guy who develops a "free app" that does just as much or more as the paid app.I have an Android phone and love it, I don't have to pirate jack because the thousands upon thousands of free apps and games available, again, some just as good or better than a paid app.You want to make money on Android? Release your app twice, one free and add supported and one add free with a price tag, most users will pay to remove the ads if they like the app, and that way it can be tried without purchase that still leaves a purchase route open unlike where the only way to try a purchase only app is to side load it on the phone/ tablet, by then, they already have it and you just lost a potential sale.You want to make money on a game? Micro transactions. Everyone is already nickle and dimming us to death with DLC on the games we paid $60 for on a console, so a free game where we purchase a few boosts or items works and we're happy about it because if we enjoy the game, we can pay, again, giving us the opportunity to get our feet wet and see if we want to continue to play.People are lazy, they will suffer add supported apps if its a quick install without any work on their part, some people will hack in an app, but not as many as these "poor developers" would have us believe.Face it, Google made its money with ADDS, they designed their FREE OS around ADDS. It's NOT iOS, and you're a damn fool if you think the same business model is going to work on both Android and iOS. You're behind times just like the people that screamed iTunes was going to kill CD sales and AVI and MP4 was going to kill DVDs.



    Facts are not supporting your Ad versus non-Ad Android App business model. These Apps do exists but still get pirated. Android in terms of generating revenue and profit for developers is a complete flop compared to iOS. Piracy is the main reason. Unless you think Android has completely inferior apps or if you think Android users are substantially cheaper / broke than iOS users, which I don't think either is the case.

    You can take a look at all sorts of metrics for mobile profit levels of the various mobile markets. iOS is clearly the winner and by a huge margin.

    Jailbreaking is a long process (for most people) or not worth it for other, thus the vast majority of iOS devices are not jailbroken. Hence the reason for huge discrepancy in profits of iOS over Android.

    Android is just way to easy to put pirated software on it.
  • 1 Hide
    izmanq , July 30, 2012 11:52 AM
    if even at 0.99 people rather pirate than buying it legally, perhaps there's something wrong, may be it's harder to buy it legally than to copy/pirate the app, OR the app is not worthed 0.99 USD :D 
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2012 12:10 PM
    Did the author just blame the global financial crisis on socialism, while praising capitalism? I don't think you could have it more backwards. And where the "sponsored by Apple" disclaimer on this article?
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